Letters to the editor 8-1-08


Issue of August 1, 2008

Missing the point

To the Editor:

Rivi Schiffer wrote an interesting letter to the editor (On being machmir; July 25, 2008) in response to an In My View article (Being machmir; July 18, 2008). I read both and am frankly perturbed by Ms. Schiffer’s letter.

The original article seemed to me a plea for understanding and warmth. While I did not agree with all aspects of that article, the author clearly indicated that her daughter was being told “that she was not good enough” because she was not wearing socks. The message that her daughter was receiving was that if she did not partake in this form of dress, then she would be excluded.

This is a painful situation for an adolescent, particularly one who is rigidly and halachically compliant in all other areas. From Ms. Schiffer’s letter, it would appear that she either did not see that part of the original article or was content to gloss over it. Instead she debated the halachic issues and strenuously defended a more stringent position.

Too often, teachers, camp counselors and even neighbors impose a perspective on others that may not be applicable. That forceful imposition tends not to educate and draw near, but to push people away. Ms. Schiffer’s letter is accurate in stating that there exists a possible machloket, but the suggestion that only the more rigid position is the correct one is highly debatable.

Tzniut, as Rav Yehuda Henkin notes in his excellent book on this topic, “Understanding Tzniut” (Urim Publications, 2008), is an ill suited topic in halacha for general standardization. I wonder if Ms. Schiffer would hold according to the Oz ve-Hadar Levushah’s position that suggests for a woman to properly practice tzniut, she could not give a dvar Torah.

The real danger here is that we are losing sight of the deeper issues of tzniut in particular and halacha in general. The period during the three weeks should be a time for understanding and support toward one another, not a time to focus on minor differences in minhagim. To miss the point of the original article is to miss this point completely.

Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D., FICPP

Senior Psychologist/Director

Adult Developmental Center


All the news that’s fit to print

To the Editor:

Your poignant message in “When will we learn to stick together?” (Editorial; July 18, 2008) has reconfirmed for me that which I’ve suspected for some time now. We, as a community, have not yet found our comfort zone within the world of the press. We are an “Am Chacham V’Navon” and it behooves us to know what news is halachically fit to print and what is just outright inappropriate.

Why is The Jewish Star the forum for the highly offensive and silly critique of a dramatized story in a supplemental publication by a worthy tzedakah? If Chananya Weissman has a problem with the story or its implications, he can take it up with them. The Jewish Star or any other paper need not waste our time and insult our intelligence by such matters.

A newspaper, the internet or whatever means of news one is connected to should not be a dumping ground of opinions on matters which have been made known by a third source. Arguments and respectful debates have been flying from the newspapers about issues stemming from Williamsburg and possibly never intended for this readership at all.

My friend from Far Rockaway visited a shul in the Five Towns where the rabbi gave a drasha with a criticism of the more ‘frum.’ My friend went over to him after shul to say ‘good Shabbos’ and give him a ‘yasher koach’ on the speech. He said, “It was a great Drasha, but you gave it to the wrong crowd. You should have given it on the other side of the 878.”

If one is at odds with a certain behavior, a published story, or a rav on Har HaBayis, give your drasha to those people, not the local newspaper. Rabbonim in Borough Park who opposed the Lipa concert are not reading this newspaper.

For these reasons I’m writing to the readership of The Jewish Star, not Hamodia. Being raised in America we value our constitutional right of free speech. Bilaam’s donkey also had free speech, yet it made many attempts to undermine Bilaam’s plan of verbal abuse. At this time of year Am Yisroel would benefit greatly from more positive news and opinions.

We should merit seeing the fulfillment of Bilaam’s words: “Dorach Kochav MiYaakov” – a star issued from Yaakov. The Jewish Star we’ve been davening for should come hot off the press and lead us to Yerushalayim.

Matis Friedman