Without Ulterior Motives
Rabbi Aryeh Ginzberg’s article in last week’s issue, “A Communal Apology,” brings up the importance of kiruv. I greatly appreciate his raising readers’ awareness of Jews who are not religious and reaching out to them. However, I was disturbed by the way he formulated his point. He writes that the woman he was speaking with felt that “Orthodox Jews only care about Orthodox Jews,” and that he “could not shake the feeling that I had about her experiences with Orthodox Jews.” And what was his feeling about her experiences? It bothered him that other people such as this woman might never have a chance to experience a Shabbos due to Orthodox Jews’ rudeness.
I believe there is something fundamentally missing from this picture. Yes, kiruv and other Jews’ nitzchiyus, as Rav Ginzberg puts it, are hugely important. I myself was involved in NCSY for a number of years and agree that we must take this into consideration when interacting with non-religious or non-Orthodox Jews. However, to link basic mentschlechkeit with an agenda to make someone frum is mistaken. Our achdus and caring about our Jewish brothers and sisters, religious and non-religious alike, must come with no strings attached. As a teacher of Jewish history, I think of pre-Churban Bayis Sheini times, when different factions of Jews fought, spreading sinas chinam and leading to the destruction. The main problem, as we know, was the split between different factions and lack of achdus, not the failure of everyone to keep Shabbos.
If we only focus on caring about other Jews’ spiritual well-being and not their other aspects (physical, emotional, etc.), those very spiritual goals may be compromised. For example, someone who is not religious may feel that the Orthodox have an agenda to “convert” everyone to be like them and don’t really care about them as people. This type of impression could very well turn people off from Yiddishkeit. In contrast, many a Jewish soul has been ignited by everyday kindnesses performed by Orthodox Jews that made a kiddush Hashem without ulterior motives.
While Rav Ginzberg’s “communal apology” is a nice idea, I think the apology needs to be for seeing our brothers and sisters one-dimensionally, as yet-unredeemed souls, instead of human beings who deserve our unconditional attention and love. Indeed, “please accept our forgiveness for ignoring your existence all these years.”
For Our Community
The Simone Corporation proposes to turn the vacant building formerly known as the Number Six School into a medical facility. This affects every resident.
How can anyone trust people who saw to it that the vote be scheduled for March 20? Many residents will still be in Florida and, as Pesach is just four days later, everyone else is busy getting ready at home.
There are many reasons to vote No!
1. Rockaway Turnpike, already heavily trafficked, will be even busier, as hordes of people from neighboring areas find their way to this facility in search of urgent care.
2. School taxes are based on the number of families in all of District 15, which includes Atlantic Beach, Inwood, Cedarhurst, Lawrence, and parts of Woodmere. The calculations have been done for you. Savings will amount to $35 a year.
3. Your local doctors will not join because that would mean losing all autonomy. Physicians would no longer be working for themselves but for the corporation instead. And why would any of them want to do that? The corporation will need to fill their vacant offices with newer and less-experienced doctors. Does anyone think a NYC doctor will relocate his practice to this area, only to lose his autonomy?
4. We will lose the ball field and playground, both of which are in active use by hundreds of neighborhood youngsters. The appearance of this lovely residential area will be destroyed as both the ball field and playground will be replaced by a large parking lot.
We must all care about what happens in this neighborhood. And we must vote No. There are no certainties here. We might liken it to an appearance before a jury, where an obviously guilty man might walk free. Just as we can never be sure about the outcome of a jury trial, we can also never be sure what voters will do. We may find ourselves with an unhappy surprise on our hands. We must not be complacent. For the sake of the integrity of the community that we love, we must vote, regardless of how many stumbling blocks are placed in our path. Get your absentee ballots, and get them in before the March 13 deadline.
As this is a vote which will affect everyone in the community, the maximum number of voters should be present and able to cast their ballot.
Absentee ballots may be obtained by going online to www.Lawrence.org or one may secure such a ballot at the office of the district clerk, located in the Lawrence Middle School, 195 Broadway in Lawrence. Those of you who have friends and family currently in Florida must get those absentee ballots for them ASAP.
Anyone who is not currently registered to vote may do so on Tuesday, March 12, between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m. or on Wednesday, March 13, between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. at the office of the district clerk located at the Lawrence Middle School. Do the right thing!
Hannah Reich Berman
Preserving What We Have
I am writing this open letter to our wonderful Five Towns and Rockaways community to discuss the upcoming vote on March 20, when the community will vote on the sale of the Number Six school property to Mt. Sinai Medical Center. As I sit here and write this letter, I will have you know that I am currently surrounded by things that are not my own in a home that I do not own. While I am a resident of Woodmere, I currently do not live there, as Superstorm Sandy decided to oust my family along with many others from our home of many years.
The past four months have been very difficult for my family and my neighbors, and although many of you may have moved on from the storm that forever changed this community, many still have not. I have not had normalcy in four months, as my home was completely destroyed and insurance still did not come to our aid. Every day we struggle to return our lives to what they once were before Sandy, and now the threat of having Mt. Sinai Medical Center move right in to our residential safe haven will make that completely impossible.
When the storm hit on October 29, 2012, and I watched my material possessions float away before my very eyes, I did not cry. When I sifted through the rubbish that was once the contents of my home, I did not cry. But when the people of this amazing community came together as one, as only Am Yisrael can, to help their fellow Jews in their time of need, I cried. I was so touched that my friends, neighbors, members of my shul and strangers whom I never met gave of themselves to make my problem theirs, and let me know that they will help our family get through this tremendously difficult time. And it is this coming together that I will never forget.
More than ever, this community needs to finish what it started. We need to stand together and let Mt. Sinai know that while their concept is great, this is not the place to set up a medical center. These are people’s homes, their safe havens, their lives that they are still trying to rebuild. We cannot stand another blow to our community. We cannot worry that when we finally return to our homes, they will no longer be a neighborhood that we recognize. Will we have to worry about our kids riding their bikes because we don’t know who is roaming our streets? Will we have to allot ourselves extra time to get from point A to point B because the increase in traffic will rob our community of the residential nature it once had? Will we have to worry on Shabbos that our kids cannot play in the so-called park Mt. Sinai plans to “enhance” because cars will be pulling in and out of the adjacent parking lots all day and night?
Dear community, please realize that no matter if you live one block from the Number Six School property or all the way in Lawrence, this will affect you. Traffic will never be the same. The element of people in this area will never be the same. The residential beauty will never be the same.
I truly believe that Hashem was very proud of His children after Hurricane Sandy, as he saw the chessed and ahavas Yisrael that made this community come together as one. Let us continue to remain as one on March 20, and show Mt. Sinai that while their idea may be a good one, we as a community have had enough change. We do not need more. We need to return to the familiarity that we had before–the safe haven of our quiet residential community. Please show your support on March 20 by voting no to the proposed sale. Allow us to heal and rebuild. Let’s finish what we started and remain one.