Letters to the Editor 3-19-10


Issue of March 19, 2010/ 4 Nissan 5770
Still screaming

To the Editor:

I just read your articles, “Brooklyn man guilty of abuse,” by Michael Orbach, and, “Still screaming — is anyone listening?” by Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman (Opinion; March 12, 2010). Each is hugely powerful.

Mr. Orbach’s article goes into great detail — he went into every angle, recreating the court case from every side — so that I felt like I was there. Unfortunately, many people are suffering. We know that not everybody is getting the proper support and this article can strengthen victims and familiarize them with legal strategies to obtain justice. I feel that this article will save lives.

Rabbi Eisenman’s article tells a story from Tanach that is horrifying. Tamar’s response to her abuse is to go public and scream. She succeeded in creating a ‘fence’ that hopefully created protection for others.
Thank you to the Jewish Star and other publications for screaming. There can be only one answer to Rabbi Eisenman’s question, ‘Are we listening?’

J. Pfeffer

Show up in court

To the Editor:
Kudos on the editorial (“Score one for the good guys;” March 12, 2010) and the article (“Brooklyn man guilty of abuse: A wake-up call for survivors and activists,” March 12, 2010) in last week’s issue about the recent conviction of Baruch Lebovits for child molestation.

Based on the turnout during the trial, it is reasonable to expect that friends and relatives of the molester will come out to support him at sentencing, even though it is scheduled for Erev Pesach. We all remember the chilul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name) which occurred last fall when a Brooklyn judge was moved to comment about the large number of people who turned out to support a ‘frum’ child molester at his sentencing and the huge number of character letters sent, with virtually nobody mentioning the pain of the victims or showing them support. The potential for chilul Hashem this time around has been greatly exacerbated by serious allegations that are now coming to light about respected rabbis and community leaders obstructing justice and even bribing witnesses to protect Lebovits. This could only happen in our community whose leaders openly say that the district attorney should not “give the impression of making a power grab from rabbinic authority,” and that Orthodox molesters should not have to go to jail due to “religious sensitivities.” (Rabbi C.D. Zwiebel, N.Y. Times, Oct. 14, 2009).

If you are planning to attend, please be in court by 9:30 am on Monday, March 29th to make sure you get a seat, although the exact time of the sentencing is not determined. The court is located at 320 Jay Street, Brooklyn, Courtroom: Part 85, Room 28, 15th Floor, Hon. Patricia M. Di Mango, Justice, Supreme Court, State of New York.

It is also important that as many letters as possible reach the judge expressing solidarity with the victims, outrage with the horrible crime, and concern for the safety of the community. Please address letters to: Hon. Patricia M. Di Mango, Supreme Court, Kings County 320 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11201. The appropriate manner of address is “Dear Justice Di Mango.” Letters should bear the reference line: “Re: Sentencing of Baruch Lebovits.”

Sherree Belsky, director, Kids Count Foundation
Rabbi Yosef Blau, Rabbinic Committee, Jewish Board of Advocates for Children
Rabbi Mark Dratch, JSAFE; Rabbinic Committee, Jewish Board of Advocates for Children
Ben Hirsch, president, Survivors for Justice
Kal Holczer, executive director, Voices of Dignity
Asher Lipner, vice president, Jewish Board of Advocates for Children
Elliot B. Pasik, president, Jewish Board of Advocates for Children
Vicki Polin, founder and CEO, The Awareness Center, Inc.
Rabbi Nochum Rosenberg, International Advisory Board, The Awareness Center, Inc.
Vivian Skolnick, Executive Committee, Jewish Board of Advocates for Children; International Advisory Board, The Awareness Center, Inc.

Streit’s ad ridiculed Rav Soloveitchik

To the Editor:
I was taken aback at the grave breach of kovod haTorah (respect for Torah) that inheres in the Streit’s matzo advertisement published in the most recent issue of the Star (March 12, 2010). In the ad, the late Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik z”l, the venerated scholar, teacher, author and philosopher is subjected to the indignity of having a cartoon “speech bubble” placed over a very old photo of him standing with several other people at a machine matzo bakery (presumably Streit’s matzo bakery) and by which he is imagined to favorably compare the kashrus of Streit’s matzo relative to hand-made matzos.

Putting aside the fact that the ad is totally unconvincing (you mean to tell me that a 50-year old photograph of a great rabbi in a matzo bakery is supposed to tell me anything useful about the kashrus standards that prevail today?), and ridicule-inducing (reminding me of the well-known joke about the photo of the long-bearded Yonah Schimmel that apparently hangs in the knish store bearing his name — “if you were on the wall and he was selling knishes...”), it is hard to believe that a company with the proud legacy of Aaron Streit would not instinctively recognize the impropriety of making a leading rabbi of the past generation an involuntary shill for its products, however laudable those products might otherwise be.

Shlomo Wilamowsky

‘Spoiling’ the Seder

To the Editor:
For many years I have felt that yeshivas “spoil” the Seder. From the Gemorah, it seems to me that younger children are not supposed to know very much about what to expect at the Seder. However, today they come home “armed” with thick booklets, ready to say the Torah of their teachers. They not only know what will happen, but, if allowed to say all that they have in their booklets, there would be no time for anything else. Now this may have been the way to go when many parents had limited Jewish educations, but it does not seem appropriate for children who come from homes where the parents are well educated Jewishly.

I found support for my position in this week’s Hamodia Magazine. It features a very well written and interesting article about Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, zt”l. The author writes:

Rav Yaakov had a novel, focused approach to the mitzvah of v’higadeta l’vincha, recounting the story of the Exodus from Egypt to one’s children on Pesach night. We are all familiar with the bulging notebooks and binders that children bring to the Pesach table - hours’ worth of divrei Torah, all seemingly set to music with refrains. Rav Yaakov was against this practice. He held that boys should not be prepared in advance, in any significant way, for the Seder.

“There are two mitzvos aseh, affirmative commandments, on Pesach. One is to eat matzo, and the other is v’higadeta l’vincha. If the child takes over the table, the father loses the mitzvah of sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim!”

Dare one suggest that it is time for the yeshivas to stop preparing their talmidim for the Seder and follow Reb Yaakov’s approach?

Yitzchok Levine

Five Towns Game Night

To the Editor:
March 13, 2010 was a night of untamed winds, fallen trees and power outages. For over 100 singles though, it was a night of fun and socializing. Shortly after Havdalah I heard that the power was still out at Congregation Ohr Torah, where the event was to be held. My own power was out, as it was in much of Woodmere, but the event was still scheduled to go on.

After getting ready by candlelight, and driving through an obstacle course of flooding and live wires lying in the streets, I arrived at Ohr Torah. Thank G-d, unlike most of North Woodmere, the shul had power and was ready for whoever was brave enough to face the storm. By 8:30, people started to trickle in, and soon enough over a hundred singles filled the room.

The night included icebreakers, an interactive trivia game mixed with a tinge of speed dating, time to socialize and plenty of food. I created the event based on experiences I have had ­— the good and the many disasters. The trivia game was based on a wonderful event I attended that was run by NCSY, which should be lauded for their efforts on behalf of the community.

The night was a success — but only because of the people involved. I would like to thank all of the singles that came — as the night could not have been anything without them. Thank you to all of the volunteers, our “wingmen,” and the facilitators who gave of their time, and continue to help out even now by contacting singles who are interested in each other and following up with them. A big thank you to our master of ceremonies, Adam Sigman, who kept the evening light and fun. Thank you to Ira Lillien for making arrangements with New Star Caterers and Ohr Torah, who created an environment of class and sophistication. Thank you to The Jewish Star for helping with the ad, and for listing the event in your calendar. Thank you to all of the establishments who allowed me to hang up posters, and a special thank you to those stores who left up my posters even after I walked out the door.

Overall, the night was a pleasure to run and be part of. I hope that more events can be created by others in the community, as there is a clear need for this. As I have said in the past: it’s enough talk about change, it’s time for action.

Lauren Lillien