Why Wheels-For Meals matters

There are many natural born athletes in this world, people who excel at a particular sport, or even in all sports.

I am not one of those people.

I am more of a plodder. I keep at it until I am relatively proficient in whatever I’m working at. In the story of the tortoise and the hare, I am definitely the tortoise, except somehow I still manage to lose the race.

Once I ran in a 10K race in Ridgewood. My wife, Chana, came to meet me, and when she couldn’t find me afterward, she went to take a peek at my race results. She was amazed to see that I had completed the race in 49 minutes, a personal best for me by an order of magnitude! It was only a few minutes later that she realized she had been looking not at the times but at the “Age” column.

I took up bicycling when my middle-aged knees told me it was time to hang up the running shoes. I went to the Cosmic Wheel in Ridgefield Park and got myself a nice road bike. I’m still on that bike, and the staff at the Cosmic Wheel always tell me they want to buy my bicycle from me, because it’s some kind of precious antique. Still, it gets me where I’m going just fine, thank you.

Now I spend my Sunday mornings on 9W with the rest of the cyclists. I will not be setting any speed records, but I’m very happy.

A few years ago I began participating in a charity ride in Israel that raises money for Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem. It gave my riding new purpose, helped me raise money for a worthy cause, and gave me an excuse to pop over to the Holy Land once a year.

This year I have decided to ride in the Wheels-for-Meals Ride to Fight Hunger on June 19 — Father’s Day — to benefit Jewish Family Service of Bergen and North Hudson. I am very excited about participating in this event with my entire family. It’s my Father’s Day gift from my kids.

It is written in the Talmud (Bava Metzia 71A) that when it comes to the needs of the community, the needs of your local town come first. Jewish Family Service has been filling that need for many years. JFS has been providing food to more than 800 people this year through its food pantry. That’s an increase of more than sixty percent from last year. Its Meals on Wheels program delivers more than 40,000 meals per year to homebound seniors in our community. JFS works with great sensitivity, managing the needs of the people it supports with privacy and respect.

The Wheels-for-Meals Ride funds local programs for community members in our area. Those funds are feeding your neighbors, your children’s schoolmates, and the seniors in our community. It is definitely a cause for which I am eager to work up a sweat, and I am proud that my practice, Tenafly Pediatrics, is one of the sponsors of the ride this year.

By participating in the Wheels-for-Meals Ride, you are showing your support for one of the premier organizations that supports the less fortunate in our community. Please consider joining us on the ride. There are 50-, 35-, 25-, 10-, and 3-mile routes to ride, so there is a length for every level of rider.

Don’t worry. If I can do it, anyone can.

Please join us. For info, you can go to www.ridetofighthunger.com

Dr. Larry Stiefel

Yes, Donald Trump!

Your thinly veiled dig at Donald Trump (“Unleashed anti-Semitism,” May 22) left me wondering why you could not find fault in anything Trump has said or done beyond accusing him of being an anti-Semite.

While I am not much of a Trump supporter, the Democratic alternative leaves much to be desired. Instead of such trivial jabs why not examine what the two parties stand for?

Like it or not, Bernie Sanders will have a great influence on the Democratic Party’s national platform. He and his millions of followers have nominated pro-Palestinian activists and virulent critics of Israel as their representatives to the DNC, and they will be actively trying to steer the Democratic Party away from its support for Israel. While Clinton nominee and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is pro-Israel, she is also a co-author of the Iranian nuclear appeasement deal, which was opposed by a majority in both houses of Congress, and her hold on the DNC chairmanship seems to be in danger because of her outward attempts to crush the Sanders campaign which, like it or not, is a legitimate voice in the Democratic process. Sanders’ representatives will seek to elevate the issue of Palestinian rights just as the Democrats sought to expunge the mention of Jerusalem in the 2012 convention, so get ready.

As Clinton edged to her eventual lock on the Democratic nomination, President Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, pushed a platform to help the opposition Zionist Party of Yitchak Herzog, directly trying to manipulate the internal politics of a U.S. ally. Fortunately, as with everything Obama gets involved with, the plan failed. Yet, we must remember that Hillary Clinton vowed to continue the Obama policies while on the campaign trail. So expect more interference, more deals, with the enemies of Israel, and more platitudes instead of actions.

While Hillary Clinton promises to help Israel keep its “qualitative edge” in terms of its defenses, Donald Trump has said that the “bond between the U.S. and Israel is absolutely, totally unbreakable.” The Palestinians “must come to the table willing and able to stop the terror being committed on a daily basis against Israel.” And “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”

His unequivocal support should speak for itself. Furthermore, while a Clinton administration will continue to back the Iran deal, Trump has called for a scrapping of the deal and a renegotiation; his position is more favorable to Israel than the status quo.

Looking further into the divide between the parties, a Gallup poll released in early spring found that most Americans were more sympathetic to Israel than to the Palestinians. Another poll from the Brookings Institute last December showed that 76 percent of Republicans believed that a candidate’s position on Israel was important, but only 49 percent of Democrats felt the same way. Also, about half of Democrats believed that Israel had too much influence on U.S. policy, but only half as many Republicans shared that sentiment. The same can be said regarding Israeli settlements; while nearly half of Democrats believe that the U.S. should sanction Israel over its settlement policy, only 26 percent of Republicans shared that sentiment.

When considering which candidate is more likely to benefit Israel, look carefully at the candidates, but also look at their party platforms, and listen to what they say. I do not agree with your assessment that he has anti-Semitic leanings, and while I may not think that Trump is the best candidate, he shows great potential. Given the choices this election, he is certainly the best we’ve got and deserves our support.

Steven Starkman

Still not understanding Orthodoxy

I would like to comment on two articles by Rabbi Goldin, which appeared in the March 11 and May 20 issues of the Standard. They were called “Understanding Orthodoxy.”

The professed aim of these articles were, in the words of Rabbi Goldin, to bridge the gap between the Orthodox community and the Jewish community at large. Some of the position taken by Rabbi Goldin in these articles goes, in my opinion, contrary to historical evidence, as I am aware of. Hopefully, our discussion may clarify somewhat the many misapprehensions that endure in the various segments of contemporary Jewish life and beliefs.

I believe that the most important difference between Rabbi Goldin and myself lies in his statement “You can’t judge Judaism by the Jews.” He clarifies this by emphasizing that “A true understanding of Judaism requires knowledge of what Judaism preaches and not what the Jews practice.” In legal terms: Judaism versus Jews. Regretfully, I cannot accept this position. Not only is it contrary to the Psalms’ Hashamaim shamaim laadoni ve haarez natan l’bney adam, it is also contradicted by history. Though he does not offer a definition of Judaism, I would offer mine, as the evolution of halacha throughout history. Accordingly, halacha, and by extension Judaism, was considered that which was believed and practiced by Jews in any given time and in different geographical locations. Although clearly commanded in the Torah, we no longer practice animal sacrifice, nor slavery, nor stoning of adulterous women, nor an eye for an eye, nor killing of recalcitrant sons, to list a few.

Jews stopped observing these rules outright in the face of changing moral, practical, or political requirements. Others were changed or modified by means of applying legal fiction, such as in the case of eruvs or selling chametz to non-Jews.

Rabbi Goldin refers to “Jewish law,” to the “tenets of Orthodox Judaism”, to “core principles” that you cannot deviate from. But which Jewish law? Is it the full set of rules included in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch? It is for this reason that it would be beneficial to clarify his position, and the position of modern Orthodoxy, with regard to some of the halachic rules that the majority of Jews no longer consider morally acceptable, such as the status of the agunah in the face of the unilateral right of the recalcitrant husband to refuse to grant divorce, or the demeaning spectacle of the chalitsa, or not taking evidence from a woman, and many more similarly irrelevant and offensive rules.

Rabbi Goldin brings up the issue of the matrilineal descent, which he considers the sine qua non of Jewish identity. He states that his position is based on the “binding acceptance of Jewish law”. And then he ups the ante by adding that “the proliferation of conversions to Judaism absent the critical component of kabalat kol mitzvot, the binding acceptance of Jewish law, have created populations within the Jewish community that [he] and [his ] Orthodox colleagues simply cannot consider to be Jewish.” With this statement, by including the additional requirement of kabalat kol mitzvot to the prerequisite of matrilineal descent, he has denied the validity not only of Reform but also all Conservative conversions where the kabalat col mitzvot is not an absolute requirement.

So, in the hypothetical case, he would not accept the marriage of his grandson to my granddaughter, whose mother underwent a full Conservative conversion prior to her traditional Jewish marriage to my son. Consequently, in light of his position, his hypothetical question as to whether I would allow my granddaughter to marry a patrilineal Jew, whose mother went through no conversion, becomes moot.

My position may amount to the relativism that Rabbi Goldin decries so strongly, but so be it. Jewish law is what was created by the Jews throughout history and that will continue in the future too. Needless to say, Orthodoxy has all the right to practice exactly according to the beliefs of its adherents, but it would be useful, for the purpose of “Understanding Orthodoxy,” if it would clarify its position on those rules that the general Jewish population finds morally unacceptable or practically irrelevant.

Andre Friedman
Woodcliff Lake

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rabbi Goldin will not reply to letters about his columns in this column. He plans instead to answer letters sent either to him, at rgoldin@ahavathtorah.org, or to us at jstandardletters@gmail.com, in his upcoming columns.

Remembering Ida Kaminska

Thank you for the excellent story about the Yiddish movie “The Legend of Vilna,” starring Ida Kaminska and her mother, Esther Rachel Kaminska (“Elijah in Vilna,” May 20). I saw the movie for the first time on July 5, and I was deeply moved and touched and emotional watching it.

I was Ida Kaminska’s personal manager, promoter, and publicist in the last years of her life. It was an honor and a unique cultural experience to have known and worked with her. I would like to see Hollywood film her life story.

Ida Kaminska was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress in 1967 for her role in the 1966 Czech movie “The Shop on Main Street.” For 76 years, Ida Kaminska entertained audiences all over the world. She was a greatest actress in the history of the Jewish people.

Claude Bienstock
Fair Lawn