letters to the editor

An Open Letter To The OU

Dear Rabbanim and Lay Leaders:

I have always reserved a special place in my heart for the Orthodox Union. Perhaps this relates to the fact that my great-grandfather and namesake, Abraham Goldstein, founded the OU’s kashrus division. In the early part of the last century, he spearheaded the OU’s growth as a reliable hechsher, before leaving to found Organized Kashruth Laboratories (the OK).

The OU’s roles in areas as diverse as youth services (NCSY) and governmental advocacy for causes we hold dear are supremely admirable.

It is thus with a heavy heart that I must report my shock at discovering that the OU now certifies a brand called Big Gay Ice Cream. This company was specifically named in a provocative manner in order to normalize same-sex behavior. Its products (some, not all, are certified by the OU) feature a prominent rainbow, making clear that its mission transcends the production of ice cream.

There is no reason that the OU must accept any and all companies for certification, even if their products meet OU standards. And yet you found nothing wrong with approving the display of your symbol on a brand that seeks to undermine our society’s moral fabric.

Some weeks ago, I challenged one of the OU’s principal lay leaders regarding this matter. He noted that mine was not the only complaint. However, he claimed, if the OU refused to certify Big Gay Ice Cream, “It would be the end of kashrus in America.” Sensing my incredulity at this lame excuse, he explained that such a refusal would lead to wide-scale protests by gay-rights groups, with the result that a cascade of products would drop their kosher supervision.

This reasoning defies logic. No such protest would succeed (or would even ensue), because there is no law that forces the OU to certify any particular company. Moreover, brands undertake kosher supervision because it affords them access to a large audience of consumers. This commercial interest will not subside simply due to a few protestors.

I ask: How would the OU respond to a request for certification by “Intermarriage Ice Cream,” featuring a photo of a chassid kissing an obviously gentile woman? I have no doubt that you would decline to certify a product of this nature. Why, then, is Big Gay Ice Cream different?

I suspect, sadly, that the answer lies in the wearing down of our aversion to same-sex couplings. Even in the Orthodox community, many no longer find homosexuality objectionable. If this sentiment is accurate, then we have indeed lost our moral compass.

I call upon the Orthodox Union to immediately withdraw its certification of Big Gay Ice Cream and to thereby return to the moral high ground that, over the decades, has been one of its defining characteristics.

Avi Goldstein

‘Lies And Broken Ties:’ The Plight Of Batya Goffstein

Dear Editor,

This written piece is both critical as well as a wake-up call to our communities (Halachic Musings, “Woman Who Lost Her Sons Deserves Our Help,” January 11). The plight of Batya Goffstein as written, uncovers a wound throughout our towns, Teaneck, Monsey (very heavy bleeding there), and chevrot too numerous to list. I write to you, as the former chairman of Justice for Families, a charitable and nonprofit organization that was involved with several families going through matrimonial “wars.” I say “wars” because once either one or both members of a couple decides that a marriage is over, in my lay opinion, 80% of the parties go to war with each other.

Some of these wars are smaller fires that rage for several months, and then when the spouses are literally exhausted in this early stage from near-daily battles, they just want to end it peacefully. However, as I am sure many of you know, there are matrimonial bonfires that burn out of control, destroying everyone in their path — the kids, the spouses themselves, and oftentimes, siblings and grandparents. As Tom Cruise lamented regarding one of his failed relationships in the movie Cocktail, “Everything ends badly, otherwise it would never end.” I just read in the New York Post on Tuesday, January 15 that more than four incidents of divorce-related violence are published in one day alone.

I have personally seen a man, ensconced in his villa in Back Lawrence over Shabbos Nachamu. The “fire” raged in family court in a war over the three children, and that same husband was living in a two-room unrenovated apartment in Cedarhurst by Yom Kippur that same year. Then there was a woman in Lawrence, a good and a perfect dugma as a mother to her children, who lost custody of her young daughter for almost a year! She received a “stay-away” order from Nassau County, meaning, that the mother is to have no contact with her youngest baby girl. And a father (I dealt with this three times in our town) who still battled his wife through four years of high school, who was prevented by court order from attending his eldest child’s graduation. His wife hired security guards, posted at each entrance to the school gymnasium, to prevent the boy’s father from attending this important event.

My best friend was unfortunately homeless right here in Back Woodmere, from June through September of 1996. Now, all is real, genuine peace. But the damage, well, as Neil Young sang to the world in his album Harvest, “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done, A little part of it in everyone.”

Yes, I plan b’n to send a check to Rav Wolowik to help Batya. But her plight is a nothing short of “a call to arms” for our entire community. Please note my suggestions, as a former and current “firefighter” to burning homes, cars, and shalom bayis.

An organization needs to be founded and sustained that is specifically designed to deal with matrimonial crisis situations. There exists a slew of wealthy divorced, single men (and women) in the Five Towns who could foster such a group in a heartbeat. We would need social workers on call, as well as auxiliary police. These police, may, in “911” situations, act as a buffer, prior to the actual calling of the police, to try to tone-down the fight before everyone gets swept into it. And attorneys—not cash registers, but dedicated, concerned professionals. Finally, like Achiezer, this organization must be registered and have an advisory board. Once it grows legs, it could be incorporated into Achiezer, provided that it continues to operate with the finite mission set forth above.

It would also include involved, concerned, merciful rabbanim who are nonpartisan. Too many rabbanim are just too “overwhelmed” to serve anyone, especially the children. The message to Batya and to “All the lonely people” (The Beatles, 1967) is work to forge a group of friends, rabbis, gvirim, and social workers. And yes, with no limit, contrary to any halachic matters quoted in the rabbi’s article, because we can always exceed the limit. As we all know, “Eich la’asos laHashem, haifairu Torasecha,” When it comes time to act on Hashem’s behalf, even your Torah you may violate.”

And then, we will have acted with real “chesed shel emes” for every single “Batya”—women, men, boys, girls, zaydes, and bubbes, both now and (I fear) in the future.

(P.S. Two years ago, a “Vietnam-level” firefight to gain joint custody for a mom and her 5 children raged in Monsey. A Rockland County Family Court judge came within an inch of holding me in contempt of court and throwing me into jail for my good-faith advocacy for the children’s mother.)

Paul Freedman
Former Chairman, Justice for Families, Inc.
The Leader Family Foundation, October, 1996

Kiddush On Schnapps

Dear Editor,

The second half of volume 2 of Shabbos Beis Ropshitz contains a massive kuntrus compiling and discussing virtually every opinion on this matter.

The top of page 445 contains the following story, related to the Radomsker Rebbe, zt’l, as to the heavenly origin of schnapps, and hence, its healing attributes:

At the time of the Spanish expulsion, the issue was raised in the heavenly court “How will Jews now have parnassah?”

And the reply was that a new drink will be introduced to the world, gentiles will love it, and this will be the major source of Jewish income. Hence the Arenda.

I naturally assumed this to be “rebbisheh” stories. So I looked up whiskey in the Britannica (pre-Google days). Lo and behold, Scotch/Irish whiskey was not produced or existed until 1493.

Meyer M. Lieber
Wesley Hills, NY

5TJT No Place for Ocasio-Cortez

Dear Editor,

I am shocked that your paper, which advocated support for President Trump’s policies for Jews and Israel last week, provides space for Ocasio-Cortez to “spew” her anti-Trump rhetoric. The JTA “news” article that you printed had a misleading headline: “Jewish Community Needs To Be Protected, Ocasio-Cortez Says.” She is the last person who would offer Jews protection, as evidenced by her statements and actions. She was marching in the Women’s March, from which even the Democratic Party withdrew support because of the antisemitism of its leadership who unrepentantly embraced Farrakhan.

Lighting Chanukah candles and her announced Converso status does not make up for her comments about Israeli occupation and support for many Palestinian leaders including Rashida Tlaib, who wrapped herself in a Palestinian flag and declared her avowed mission to get the “M-F” out of the White House. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she got Rashida Tlaib’s back.

Anonymous

Spoiler Alert Needed

Dear Editor,

As a longtime reader of your paper and columns, I was disappointed that your otherwise fine article about Shtisel included significant plot points about the series that viewers would otherwise need to watch the series in full to be aware about.

I happen to be in the midst of watching the first season, and I would have preferred not to know in advance about certain events and character incidents. Knowing the results in advance lessens enjoyment of watching any series, and you should have realized that, especially for viewers who have never watched it at all, which presumably includes most of your readers. At the very least, there should have been a “spoiler alert” at the beginning of the article. That is a basic journalistic approach that you failed to follow, and your failure to do so, or recognize that you needed to do so, was disappointing. Although some people may like knowing the ending of a book or series before reading it or watching it, I am decidedly not one of them.

Anonymous

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