No place for blasphemy

During this extremely difficult period since October 7th, the Jewish nation has been united in prayer, charity and good deeds.

Which is why when one of our own,  a “rabbi” / public figure , attempts to weaken our unity by maliciously defaming a group of us with inaccurate information, and encouraging us away from God in a distorted and very public way, I see it as antisemitic and blasphemous (“Where was God on October 7?” January 12). I feel that his opinions and beliefs have no place in a Jewish newspaper, especially in times like these.

Marci Spiro

Call it by name — antisemitism

Let’s skip the charade and the construction of facades to hide the antisemitism that pervades much of the fabric nationally within the U.S. and globally. To honestly entitle a “Systemic Racism,” within the U.S., one must use the term, “Anti-Semitism.” It is present in media portrayals of Jews and Israel, within the world of academia from pre-K to post graduate studies, and politically from school board meetings to the halls of Congress and all areas between.

“NEVER AGAIN” has become an almost meaningless half phrase.  It has become, more succinctly, “NEVER AGAIN UNTIL THE NEXT TIME.” Hate crimes against Jews and their supporters have become accepted as part of our “freedoms.” The accusations of genocide, indiscriminate murders, and war crimes are printed, claimed, and accepted as truths.

The “ProPalestinian Rallies” are not pro-Palestinian, they are Pro-Hamas, a return to the 1930s rallies in support of Hitler and his policies. We have the repeated whitewashing of the term, “From the river to the sea,” denying that it is the call for the eradication of the State of Israel and those infidels living within it, unless they accept living as Dhimmis. Who is organizing and financing these rallies/riots? Why do our law enforcement agencies allow them to take place, when they break the law?

We have anti-Semitism alive and well within the halls of academia.  Colleges and universities get the most attention, but they are not unique. How much of the millions of dollars of foreign money pouring into their coffers is coloring their policies. I shouldn’t state the names of those countries because that would call down the accusation of “Islamophobia” on my head. Has one noticed that after anti-Semitic acts are called to be denounced, anti-Islamic condemnations are demanded to be added on to the statements?

If it wasn’t so tragic, the congressional hearing where the presidents of three major universities denied that the anti-Semitic actions on their campuses violated their Codes of Conduct would be a cruel joke. The calls for genocide  were not violations, because genocide did not actually occur.

A good part of my condemnation of the lack of aggressive fighting against anti-Semitism and the anti-Semites falls almost universally on the major “Jewish” organizations who go through the motions of condemnations. They request that the leaders of academia take actions to protect those suffering from anti-Semitism.  What do they get in return? Letters stating that these accusations will be looked into and actions taken. Meaningless words and denials that anti-Semitism even took place. Jews were told to hide their “Jewishness,” don’t wear a kippah, or have any Jewish symbols showing, don’t speak Hebrew, watch what you are saying in class. All of these requests are anti-Semitic actions. Those institutes of higher education taking these actions or not taking any actions, should be sued and taken to court. Federal violations should be filed by those organizations whose charters and bylaws state that they are organized to protect and fight for the Jewish people. Why hasn’t this taken place?

It’s long overdue to stop being passive and begging others to protect us. The world has shown that when it comes to protecting ourselves, it is largely, “We Alone.” If we don’t protect ourselves, why should others?

Howard J. Cohn
New Milford

Chabad’s infinite kindness

Concerning Shammai Englemayer’s column denigrating the Chabad movement, I, having been raised Reform (and now Conservative), and experiencing Chabad’s infinite kindness and outreach around the world along with hundreds of thousands of other Jews, wanted to respond.

There are so many mitzvahs Chabad does for Jews around the world, from secular to Orthodox, from non-observant to strictly so, that I hardly know where to begin. Having a presence in 100 countries and with over 5,000 full-time emissary families, you are welcomed as a member of the Jewish family at any and all Chabad homes — whether you are a practicing Jew or not. Whether it’s putting on tefillin, sharing a meal, having a place to spend the night, or just stopping by to kibitz and relax, there’s almost always a Chabad emissary in that area waiting to warmly welcome you.

Mr. Englemeyer ignores the unfathomable good Chabad has done and continues to actively do, from arranging 100 flights to transport thousands of kids and provide treatment from the radiation-infested Chernobyl blast (see “Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl” and the heartwarming stories of their transport and treatment as told by the people themselves), to arranging a Passover seder in Nepal for 1500 hikers. What other Jewish, let alone any other organization, can claim such a record? The cost of attending a Chabad service anywhere in the world? Not one penny. And should you arrive early, even on the High Holy Days, you’re welcome to sit in the front row or anywhere else you please — even if it’s your first time and haven’t donated. It’s about mitzvahs, not money. Chabad does receive plenty of generous donations, to be sure, much of them from non-Orthodox Jews who’ve found a vibrant home there.  As anyone who has attended a service can attest, you’re immediately greeted warmly, and if it’s you’re first time, usually offered an Aliyah. For some it’s the first time they’ve had one in years.

I’ve witnessed firsthand how our local Chabad provided a minyan in the middle of the summer when our local Reform shul was short several people for a minyan in order for a local resident to recite kaddish. I’ve watched the thousands of folks on a Sunday waiting to receive a dollar from the Rebbe (my wife and I were a part of it as we received his wedding blessing, me in English and my wife in French among the seven or so languages the Rebbe spoke), as he stood for multiple hours every Sunday — even in his later years. Giving the dollars creates the spark of Tzedakah, with folks usually keeping the Rebbe’s dollar and giving another to charity in its place.  He answered every one of the thousands of letters written to him from all corners of the world, and regularly received world leaders who sought his counsel. The stories written about encounters with him would seem fantasy if they weren’t true. To quote Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (OBM): “Just as Hitler sought out every Jew in hate with the intent to eradicate Judaism, the Rebbe sought them out in love with the goal to bring them closer to Judaism.”

A peek at the Rebbe’s Wikopedia page reveals that his work has been recognized by every U.S. president from Richard Nixon to Joe Biden, and in 1978 the Rebbe became the first rabbi to have a U.S. national day proclaimed in his honor. In 1982, Ronald Reagan proclaimed the Rebbe’s birthday as a “National Day of Reflection”, and President Bill Clinton penned a condolence letter “to the Chabad-Lubavitch community and to world Jewry” and spoke of the Rebbe as “a monumental man who as much as any other individual, was responsible over the last half a century for advancing the instruction of ethics and morality to our young people.” Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin cited the Rebbe’s great scholarship and contribution to the entire Jewish people and proclaimed, “The Rebbe’s loss is a loss for all the Jewish people.”. Elie Wiesel said of the Rebbe, “When the Rebbe was alone with anyone, it was an opening. He opened doors for his visitor, or his student or Chasid—secret doors that we all have. It wasn’t a break-in. It was just an invitation. And that was really the greatness of the Rebbe. I think the Rebbe had a great talent for that—one of the greatest and the best that Judaism has ever seen.” I wish Mr. Englemeyer all the best, but sincerely think that he should consider, especially during these emotionally gut-wrenching time for klal Israel, espousing the “glass is half full” approach. Reading his pieces regularly despite my disagreement with their lopsidedly negative and lecturing tone based on his own interpretation, I would ask him to consider writing an occasional upbeat piece. There’s so much that he, and that all Jews from every stripe, can be proud of. Unity should be our watchword first and foremost at this vitally important juncture in our history.

Jeff Weiss

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