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Thank you, Mr. Kaplan

Many thanks to Joseph C. Kaplan for articulating so well what many of us have been saying for the last four years: Character matters, especially in our political leaders (“We. Need. To. Care.,” January 24). Some day, when our children and grandchildren challenge us to explain how we responded to this sad departure from decency in American politics, we can point to essays such as his.

David Zinberg
Teaneck

Thanks again, Mr. Kaplan

Finally, an Orthodox column speaking the truth! How so many moral Orthodox people can support that immature person in the White House is beyond me. I was so happy to finally see some smart thinking.

Marcia Chapman
Wayne

Blame Iran, not the U.S.

Mr. Weis is of the Blame America First crowd, so prevalent on the far Left and Right fringes (“Beware the hungry tiger,” January 24). In their version of history, the U.S. pushed Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor due to U.S. sanctions on Japanese energy supplies. They contort themselves trying to explain away Japanese aggression against China and the fact that U.S. sanctions only went into effect after Japan invaded China.

In addition, these Blame America Firsters love to talk about how Iran never directly invaded any of its neighbors, yet Mr. Weis gives Iran credit for “cleverly” provoking the West through proxies. These proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and Gaza are directly funded and controlled by Iran’s murderous leaders. To pretend this is some ingenious way for Iran to shirk responsibility for their actions is asinine. Victims of these proxies would also take issue with Mr. Weis’s assertion that Iran is not homicidal, as would the thousands of Iranian citizens killed protesting Iran’s leadership. While the U.S. is not perfect, it is Iranian leadership, motivated by apocalyptic Shiite prophecies, to blame for the current situation, not the U.S. or, as Mr. Weis may prefer, the Great Satan.

Josef Starcher
Oradell

Welcoming your neighbor

If only the world had listened to Fred Rogers’ mantra about being a good neighbor, or wanting to be someone’s neighbor, “The world would be a better place.” We live in a world where boundaries define who we are. We are restricted and confined by cultural biases, geographic predispositions, family preconceptions, and history, and by political considerations as well. Stereotyping, labeling, and plain prejudices run amok in our society. The “other” is too often seen as a threat and destabilizing force in our communities and in the country as a whole, and truth be told, in the world at large.

The world is comprised of many different countries, and within each country there are varieties of people. These people are differentiated by language, dress, pigmentation, religion, sexual orientation, political views, social class, and wealth. Perhaps it is messianic to think that we can all get along. If families argue and differ about a wide range of things, what hope is there for mankind? Do we always distinguish between petty issues and more serious philosophical differences or are we just prone to be obstreperously argumentative? Is there a gene for getting along? Are we destined to always be distrustful of those who are not like us?

Every country, with the possible exception of repressive regimes, offers basic freedoms to all. Tolerance and acceptance are built in to every constitution. Yet we still experience the spectacle of those who will not accept the “other” regardless of how that is defined. Every religion preaches the brotherhood of mankind, yet we have witnessed persecutions in history of those whose practices or nationality was considered to be different or inferior. It is still taking place in a number of countries today.

The very notion of the brotherhood of man is under attack, even in the United States. The Interfaith Brotherhood/Sisterhood of Bergen County will address the subject of “Welcoming Your Neighbor” at its 33rd annual brunch on Monday, February 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The keynote speaker is Imam Sohaib Sultan, the Muslim chaplain at Princeton University. The event takes place at Seasons, 644 Pascack Road in Washington Township. Tickets are $40 for adults and $30 for children 12 and under. Kosher food is available on request. Checks can be made out to the North Jersey Jewish Federation. Call (201) 337.0224 for more information and to order tickets.

As it is written in Psalms 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when brothers can dwell in unity.” If only.

Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene
Fair Lawn

Rabbi Greene is a member of the Interfaith
Brotherhood/Sisterhood Committee of Bergen County. He will deliver the invocation at the brunch.

School board president defends East Ramapo improvements

I read with interest Rabbi Paula Drill’s op-ed about the East Ramapo Central School District (“ERCSD”) (“Working for change in East Ramapo,” January 24).

While I appreciate Rabbi Drill’s apparent interest in helping to address and remedy the societal and educational issues we face in Rockland County, I am disappointed that the information cited is so outdated.

Moreover, consistent with Rabbi Drill’s suggestion that we learn from the example of Moses, I note that the Torah reports quite clearly how Moses dealt with communal discord and conflict. In response to the Korach rebellion which directly challenged Moses’ leadership, Moses chose the path of engagement. The Torah records that Moses met with, engaged, and debated those who were challenging his leadership, rather than simply criticizing them from afar.

I respectfully suggest that Rabbi Drill and her colleagues can learn from that leadership example, which encourages a path of engagement, collaboration, and efforts to work together, in order to address communal discord. But in my five years on the ERCSD board, neither Rabbi Drill nor Rockland Clergy for Social Justice has ever sought to engage the board in a meaningful discussion of the issues.

Beyond that, through such discussion and engagement, and a better understanding of the current realities in our school district, Rockland Clergy for Social Justice would have learned that the political situation regarding the ERCSD board and the educational and programmatic concerns about the district’s schools have changed dramatically. While things aren’t perfect, they are much better. And the level of animosity and concern has cooled significantly. That’s progress, and we are proud of those results.

In the last five years, the board has hired a new superintendent, who is universally respected, and credited with leading meaningful educational change in the district, including the achievement of several measured performance milestones that are impressive. For example, every elementary and middle school in the district has received state “good standing” recognition; the black and African American graduation rate in the district has increased to 81% (when the NYS average is 75%); the district has restored music, art, dance, drama in all of its schools, restored and increased sports and athletics programs, and seen graduates leave East Ramapo with college and AP course credits. In addition, voters in the district passed a $58 million bond to repair roofs, boilers and windows in all of the district’s public schools, and the installation of new football fields, tracks, and bleachers at both district high schools.

ERCSD has a lot to be proud of, and we would be pleased to share those stories of success. To that end, I would encourage Rabbi Drill and the members of Rockland Clergy to reach out to the district’s superintendent to arrange a meeting. They may learn a thing or two. After all, ERCSD is in the education business.

Sincerely,

Harry Grossman
New Hempstead

Harry Grossman is president of the East Ramapo Central School District’s board of education. All views expressed in this letter are Mr. Grossman’s personal views, and are not presented on behalf of the district or the board of education.

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