Advice found wanting
Rabbis Zahavy’s May 4 response to the query in his talmudic advice column regarding “showrooming,” while correct, was quite narrow and ignored the chance to teach a broader lesson that, yes, merely looking at products in a store and ordering them online is not unethical, but utilizing the time of a salesperson at a brick and mortar establishment and then ordering the product elsewhere is not talmudically acceptable.
One of the big 10, as we all know, is “Thou shall not steal,” which has a broad application, including the misleading or thievery of people’s minds for personal gain. Accordingly, asking a salesperson or storeowner about a product that you have no intention of purchasing at that store is proscribed by the Talmud, as the salesperson would have been deceived and have wasted his time, which might have been used to serve an actual paying customer. The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 228:4) speaks to the prohibition of verbal exploitation, and specifically notes that one may not inquire about the price of an item if he has no intention on making a purchase. I know that this column needs to appeal to a broad spectrum; nevertheless, rabbis are expected to teach and guide, and the limited response seems like a lost opportunity.
Identifying the right rabbi
In your May 11 edition, in the calendar section, you incorrectly stated that Rabbi Isaac L. Swift, z’l, was the founding rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood.
The founding rabbi was Moishe Gold, z’l, who died in 1951. He was the brother of Zev Gold, z’l, a signatory to Israel’s declaration of independence. Rabbi Gold was succeeded by Rabbi Bernard Walfish, z’l, who was succeeded by Rabbi Swift.
While you are correct in saying that Rabbi Swift was rabbi emeritus, he was not the founding rabbi .
Thank a police officer
On Tuesday, May 15, flags across the United States were flown at half-staff in recognition of Peace Officers Memorial Day and in memory of all those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.
In 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which May 15 falls (May 13 to 19 this year) as National Police Week.
It is only appropriate for all of us to take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice these men and women have made, remember the friends and family they have left behind, and also recognize the ongoing service of our current public safety personnel who protect and safeguard our rights and property each and every day.
Next week, or any week, when you see a police officer, please take a minute to say “thanks” and let them know that you value their service and commitment. Both you and they will be happy that you did.
Israel is wrong on refugees
As I absorbed the news of Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau’s informal apology to the passengers of the MS St. Louis, I could not help but reflect on the recent immigration policies of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel.
Trudeau stated in early May that the country would be offering a formal apology in the House of Commons for turning away the MS St. Louis, a passenger ship full of Jewish refugees fleeing from the Holocaust in Germany, in 1939. The United States and Cuba turned away the same ship that year, and the passengers were sent back to Europe, where one quarter of the 907 passengers perished in the Holocaust. Yet, as Canada prepares to issue its formal apology to the remaining passengers and their descendants, Israel’s immigration policies for those not claiming the “right of return” bring shame upon the country and the reputation of the Jewish people. Starting in 2006, large numbers of Eritreans were escaping civil war, and Sudanese were fleeing the starvation and violence of the Darfur region of the country. These asylum-seeking refugees of Christian descent have had children in Israel, roughly 5,000 in number currently. Yet, the parents of these “Dreamers” were only given conditional release visas: and the Israeli Interior Ministry under Netanyahu is refusing to renew many of these visas. Beginning on April 1, the second day of Pesach, these African refugees were given a choice: self-deportation to either Rwanda or Uganda, or “infinite detention” in a camp in the Negev. Yet, neither Rwanda and Uganda are safe places to return, and those who have left have been reported to have been denied working papers and are subject to being taken advantage of by gangs in those countries.
Israel does not have a naturalization process similar to Canada’s or Italy’s, for example, where a naturalization process begins after a few years of residency in the country, providing a pathway to citizenship. On the other hand, the only people given immediate citizenship status in Israel are Jews, under the 1950 Law of Return, and permanent residency status, much less citizenship, is offered far more sparsely to those who don’t have Jewish roots. As we reflect on Yom Yerushalyaim and Yom Ha’atzmaut, it is crucial that we as Jews take our own experiences as a persecuted people and apply it to others who are currently suffering. We have Israel, and are comforted by the fact that if we ever experienced anti-Semitism anywhere else, we would be able to return to our homeland. And while Yom Yerushalyaim celebrates Israel as a religious center, that is not all that it is — it is also a bastion of democracy in an area where chaos and violence is rampant.
Thanks to God, the Jewish people have been able to survive immeasurable suffering, but still return to Israel, our homeland. It is time that the historically persecuted people take refugees of all faiths in and allow them to be part of a nation as well. Prime Minister Trudeau stated on May 7 that “When Canada denied asylum to the 907 German Jews on board the MS St. Louis, we failed not only those passengers, but also their descendants and community.” Holocaust survivors in Israel who are calling for the country to naturalize these African refugees said: “We who know what it means to be a refugee cannot understand how a Jewish government can expel refugees and asylum seekers to a journey of pain, suffering, and death.” We as Jews know what it feels like to be cast away in times of immeasurable pain, to be told we do not belong. As Canada rectifies its past transgressions to the Jewish people, Israel would do well to take a leaf out of Canada’s book. Just because the country is the homeland of the Jewish people, that does not mean that it should deny a feeling of belonging and security to others, simply because they do not follow the creed that we, the eternal refugees as Jews, do.