Where’s the dignity?

I was sad and disappointed to read your account of the closing of the Bergen County YJCC (“What happened?” August 14). I am a 14-year veteran employee of the YJCC and proud to have been a part of the Jewish community. Unfortunately, your account of the demise of the Y was inaccurate and misleading. There was no severance pay and there will be no health coverage. Is that how you treat “treasured employees” in a dignified way? Is the president, Mr. Tucker, proud to have commanded a ship that he ultimately sank? Will he be accommodating the seniors and special needs people that relied on the services provided? What about the dedicated membership and staff that he so willingly abandoned? A future for the Y? Hardly. Mr. Tucker should only share in the suffering and sorrow that he left in his wake.

The actions taken were not only abominable and disgraceful, but everlasting.

Yvonne Olenek

We’re all at fault

Thank you for providing some context about the closing of the Washington Township YJCC (“What happened?” August 14).

Like so many others in our community, I was stunned and heartbroken when I heard the news. The CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, Jason Shames, summed it up well with his four main reasons for this — an outdated building, a less than ideal location, passive leadership, and a monumental lack of communication with the past and present members of the Y and the larger Pascack area Jewish community.

When the board realized that the major donors who in the past have provided the necessary funds for another year were no longer willing to give they decided to immediately cease all operations, to preserve whatever capital was remaining. One can make various arguments for and against this action. Certainly the manner in which this was executed should have been handled much better. Either way, even if this act was ultimately the right decision, how can this same board, which was unresponsive for so many years, now take on the new task of reinventing the Y again? There must be new leadership at the Y.

But we just can’t blame others. All ex members (including myself) share responsibility for this loss. We all had a sense the place was failing by our own increasing lack of connection to it — but refused to inquire further. The next incarnation of the Y board must be more inclusive and less insulated.

There was a wonderful talmudic expression in Hebrew and English in the former lobby of the Washington Township YJCC – “As My Fathers Planted for Me, So Do I For My Children.” This saying beautifully reflected the optimism and caring of its founders. As you outlined in your article, during its 30-year history there were many programs at the Y that were very special to individuals, families, and the larger community. We will all miss them.

In order for the next incarnation of the Y to succeed, the next leaders must aggressively communicate their message and mission to the larger community. Many more lay volunteers (especially young people) must be recruited. All of us must take more responsibility to preserve the Y and make it flourish. One of my favorite sayings from the 60s was “If you’re not part of the solution – you are part of the problem.”

We all need to remember that the next time around.

Craig Padover, Woodcliff Lake

Time runs out for S.A.I.L.

Contrary to your August 5 breaking news piece about the YJCC (“YJCC to close immediately) , no arrangements were made or discussed to relocate the S.A.I.L. program. Your omission of their story in your August 14 cover story, which could have provided a powerful advocacy to finding a new home for this wonderful program, feeds on the complacency of the community, suggesting that all is well with the YJCC membership because new venues have been found for their programs.

The board of the YJCC did not have the courtesy to provide any specific communications to the S.A.I.L. families, whose lives now face a serious disruption. The families only received news by word of mouth/email between the families. These families are now trying to organize to advocate and find a home for the program.

The greatest task at hand is to find a new home for our S.A.I.L. program and move participants and staff to a state approved provider with space. S.A.I.L. was scheduled to resume on September 16.

There are 15 participants in the program. They are a diverse, very cohesive group, ranging in age from 21 to 40. Many are extremely high functioning cognitively and many have very serious physical handicaps. There is no similar adult rehabilitative program that matches S.A.I.L. in our community.

The summer program ends on August 27. The group is effectively homeless after that date. No organization has stepped forward to assist this special program and special participants.

Everyone likes to read feel-good articles in the Standard. Our community likes to be charitable with feel-good organizations and events. It is time to make the entire community aware of this dire situation to help mobilize the necessary action to provide a home for S.A.I.L.

Nancy and Larry Bravman, Fair Lawn

[EDITOR’S NOTE: S.A.I.L. stands for Self-determination, Advocacy, Independence, Living. It is a day program for adults with developmental disabilities.]

Bittersweet marriage

It was very bittersweet for me to read “A Community Marriage” about Temple Beth El of North Bergen and Temple Israel of Cliffside Park uniting (August 7). Your article was beautifully written, showing the sadness in closing the temple after 93 years, the people who worked hard to keep Temple Beth El alive, the reason for the merger, and the beautiful ceremony of closure.

I grew up in West New York and my parents joined Temple Beth El in 1940. I attended Sunday school there and was confirmed there in 1950. I was married there in 1961.

What was missing in your article and made me sad was that there was no mention of Rabbi Sidney Nissenbaum and Cantor Irving Obstbaum, who served the synagogue for 40 years. With this omission, the history of this wonderful institution was lost. They were so much a part of my childhood, and more importantly they were the heart and soul of Temple Beth El. Their inspired leadership made Temple Beth El a wonderful Jewish home for more than 500 members.

I will add that the rabbi’s retirement did not end his association with his congregants. My mother died in Florida in 1990, and Rabbi Nissenbaum happened to be vacationing in Florida at that time. It took just one phone call, and he was there immediately for my family and me.

With a fond farewell to Temple Beth El and best wishes to Congregation Beth Israel.

Peggy Weil Kabakow, Demarest

The deal’s a good one

Dr. Leonard Cole explains his “Doubts about the Iranian nuclear deal” (July 24) and Ben Cohen has “questions” about the deal (July 31). But I have not seen any article about what would happen if the deal fell through, so I would like to present some.

According to the agreement, Iran is prevented from developing a nuclear weapon for 15 years. Inspectors will ensure that this agreement is kept. Of course Iran could attempt to evade inspection, but if found out consequences would be dire. If the deal fell through, Iran could develop nuclear weapons in 9 months to a year. Surely the longer time is better than the shorter one.

The agreement would end the sanctions and Iran would have money to support terrorist organizations aimed at Israel. But if the deal fell through, that would also end the sanctions. This deal was worked out with many countries involved, including China and Russia. Many of them depend on Iranian oil and other goods. They agreed with the sanctions because they believed that a deal would be worked out, as it has. These countries would then resume commerce with Iran anyway if the deal fell through. In addition the U.S. position in the world would take a serious blow, as other countries could no longer count on the U.S. for leadership.

Another argument is that the result of the negotiations are not the best we could hope for, and not exactly what was originally intended. Alternatively some hope that if the deal falls through Congress would demand a tougher one. These were negotiations. It is a bit of a fantasy to believe that Iran would give in on everything and totally dismantle its nuclear capabilities. And can any one seriously believe that Iran and the other countries would resume negotiations? We did, however, get most of what we wanted and it is seen by many that we got a pretty good deal. If the deal fell through there is serious possibility that war would ensue.

Bombing alone has never solved anything — remember Vietnam? If it was easy to wipe out Iran’s nuclear capability Israel probably would have done it already.

Stuart Kaplan, Teaneck

Wishing opponents shalom

Thank you for publishing Dr. Leonard Cole’s article on the Iranian nuclear deal (July 24). After laying out some of the reasonable arguments of both sides in this controversy, this past president of the JFNNJ conveyed an entirely different tone from that presented by the JFNNJ at its rally in Temple Emanuel in Closter on July 22. In contrast to that one-sided presentation, Dr. Cole writes, “For many in the American Jewish community, the choices are vexing.” And, in contrast to the Federation’s urgent plea to have everyone immediately call their representatives to “Stop Iran,” Dr. Cole advised that “These issues will continue to be debated in the coming weeks in various forums.” As they should.

Since Dr. Cole is a learned and wise man, it is my pleasure to differ with him on his views of the three “false assumptions” of the Obama administration that he cited. First, he wrote that there is “massive support for his [PM Netanyahu’s] position across the Israeli political spectrum.” He then cited Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog’s alarm at the consequences this deal might bring. But Mr. Herzog has announced that Israel should regard the P5+1 deal as a done deal, accept that fact, and take steps to put itself in the best possible position under the current conditions. He plans to lobby Congress and the administration this month to take further steps to increase Israel’s security.

Dr. Cole then cited Secretary John Kerry’s assertion that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.” This was indeed an unfortunate formulation for deriding PM Netanyahu’s position. But, Netanyahu is not Israel. Many of Netanyahu’s military and intelligence advisers have warned him not to take unilateral military action against Iran. And many echo former general, PM, and Netanyahu’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, in saying that “this is a deal Israel can live with”, and advocating that Israel take steps such as those proposed by Isaac Herzog.

Dr. Cole then reported that “a recent poll of Israelis shows that nearly half the respondents favor such action [military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities] if it is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.” But what do more than half of Israelis say? The pollsters asked a conditional question, including the assumption that there is no alternative. But, perhaps there is. Maybe it’s Obama’s deal, or something very much like it.

Recently, I (along with over 100 others) attended a demonstration in front of Senator  Charles Schumer’s Manhattan office on Third Avenue. The great majority of those attending were outraged that Senator Schumer had announced that he would oppose the deal. But there were many people there who were thanking him for protecting Israel’s very existence. Police barricades were erected along the entire length of the block. Many people, from both camps, stood with their signs and shouted slogans on the curb side of the barricades. Even more, from both camps, joined the one moving picket line on the other side of the barricades. The demonstration lasted an hour.

It was a wonderfully Jewish event. The sun was shining, but it was not too hot. The police kept very nice order among the mostly senior citizens. Even better was that both camps were interspersed, standing along the barricades and within the picket line. Most people shouted at each other, some attempted to dialogue with their opponents. But there were no fistfights, and the police had no need to keep the two Jewish camps apart.

The only other person there who I recognized, other than the friend I came with, was Rabbi Avi Weiss. One of my greatest living heroes. But he was in the wrong camp! As I passed him the first time, I informed him that my mother-in-law had been his neighbor at Montefiore Hospital many years ago. He had spoken to her with great respect, and she was honored to get to know him. He said he remembered her. On my second pass in front of him, I informed him that when he and his followers jumped the fence at Bitburg to protest President Reagan’s being at a Nazi cemetery, I was with a less bold group of children of survivors who protested in our hometown, the Bergen-Belsen DP Camp. On my third pass, I suggested that we all devote the month of Elul to further study of the Iran Nuclear Deal, and our sins in attacking each other. He smiled and nodded. We all want what’s best for Israel, for our families and friends who live there, and for the United States. When the organizers announced that the demonstration would end, I again passed Rabbi Weiss. He stretched out his arms to give me a hug, and we wished each other shalom.

Stephen Tencer, New Milford

Dershowitz challenged

There is so much to be discussed concerning the proposed agreement on keeping Iran from nuclear weapons that it is hard to address everything, but I will concentrate on two objections raised by Alan Dershowitz (“Dershowitz on the deal,” August 14).

Dershowitz’s first objection is that the deal only “postpones…Iran from developing a nuclear weapon…for 10 or 12 or 15 years.” Actually, the agreement permanently obliges Iran to never develop a nuclear weapon, and to maintain transparency on this obligation in perpetuity. But it’s true that important provisions will expire after 10, 12, and 15 years.

What I want to argue is that even if it’s only 10 years, 10 years is a long time — especially since the agreement empowers those in Iran who want to reach out to and join the modern democratic world. The deal will strengthen their hand in Iran’s politics. And it could be that in 10 years they could even have the upper hand. This is one explanation for Iran’s hard-liners opposing the agreement as much as our own hard-liners are.

Or, in 10 years, something else may have come up to change Iran’s focus on a nuclear weapon. Who knows? By that time the world’s nuclear powers and potential nuclear powers may have decided to give up their nukes and spend their treasure on something rational — like a competition to see which country can come up with a cure for cancer. (Okay, more realistically, on who has the best soccer team.)

Dershowitz’s second objection is that the agreement “allow[s] 24 days between demand and inspection.” But this involves sites that are not yet known. According to the agreement, all known sites will be crawling with inspectors 24/7. Concerning newly suspected sites, inspectors can be there within 2 hours.

The 24 days comes into play if the Iranians appeal to stall the new site inspections. Actually they can delay for two weeks. Then the Joint Commission (on which the U.S. and its allies have a majority) has seven days to reject the appeal. But the Joint Commission can reject the appeal immediately. Then the Iranians have 3 days to comply or the deal is off. (Oh! The U.S. itself can declare the deal off, obliging, according to the agreement, all parties to re-impose sanctions.)

So the Iranians could stall for 18 days, not 24. And all this time, the intelligence services of the U.S. and other powers would be surveying the site through satellite and covert means to see if any cover-up activity is going on. And, inspection technology is said to be able to detect such activity even after the cover-up attempt — no matter how long it has gone on.

Meanwhile, even before all this, according to the agreement, Iran has destroyed all of its weapons grade uranium, taken two thirds of its centrifuges off line, terminated its enrichment activities, and made its enrichment apparatus inoperable. And, since its supply chain will be under surveillance — even the provisioning of suspected sites will be discoverable.

In the Jewish Standard article, Dershowitz makes a closing point, objecting to Obama’s criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for “try[ing] to help his own country,” having “lobbied American politicians” to reject the agreement.

I agree that Prime Minister Netanyahu should be helping Israel. I just think that his anti-Iran deal lobbying and his pro-settlement policies are not helping.

Arthur J. Lerman, Teaneck

Really, rabbi?

Rabbi Zahavy’s statement “I have no idea where my [Orthodox] colleagues got the notion that wearing a bikini at the beach is a bad thing” (“Dear Rabbi,” August 7) leaves me with two very opposing reactions. My first reaction is disappointment. Is the rabbi being honest? I am not ordained and not learned enough to cite all the sources on this matter, but I do know that there is plenty of literature on this subject. The young lady asked for Orthodox rabbinic sources, and I don’t think an honest answer was given.

My second reaction is amusement. How clever for the rabbi to get his message of modesty across by painting himself as an old man gazing at young ladies on the boardwalk as he mumbles blessings and incantations regarding their beauty. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words!

Yechiel Rotblat, Teaneck

read more: