Reelect Michael Fragin

Dear Editor,

As current and recent trustees of the Village of Lawrence, we feel well qualified with a unique perspective to comment on the upcoming elections in our village. We are very much in favor of our residents taking a serious interest in the operation of village government and even running in contested elections for village office.

We have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours over the last 8-10 years working on village matters and have had the opportunity to work with all the elected officials and village employees. Based on our knowledge, we wholeheartedly, and without any reservation, fully endorse Michael Fragin for reelection as village trustee. Michael brings significant expertise in government, having worked previously in the NY State Governor’s office, to a small village. His insights and knowledge on certain matters are generally not known by others in a small government environment. While we might not agree 100% of the time with Michael, we had serious, well-informed discussions on the issues in a respectful manner.

Michael comes to every meeting well prepared and has been a hardworking trustee. He has thoroughly examined and studied any issues that came before the board including reading all contracts, litigation matters, and financial issues. He has been responsive to all resident inquiries and has attempted to follow up on all matters. In addition, Michael has been creative and anticipatory of issues affecting our community and has been proactive in trying to solve them. During the first week after Superstorm Sandy, Michael and Joel Mael were the only elected officials in Village Hall every day trying to assist and direct even when their own homes had no power. In addition, on the night of the storm, Michael, as a longtime member of Hatzalah, participated in numerous rescue operations.

We have decided over the last year to not run for reelection when our respective terms expired. However, it is critical for the health and well-being of our village to have Michael continue as a trustee. His perspective is a needed one, and his youth and energy are real assets to the board and the village as a whole.

As stated, Michael can always be counted on to ask the tough questions on expenditures and ask the right questions on a myriad of proposals that come before the board. With his extensive government knowledge, he will continue to make sure that the village is complying with laws and requirements.

Although the other two candidates running for trustee are well-respected members of our community, and we would be very excited for them or anyone else to take an interest in village government, we wonder why they are running for this position when we do not recall them ever attending a village meeting in the last 10 years. We have no insight into their agenda and can form no judgments to how they might govern while in office.

Please, for the long-term health of our village, vote for Michael Fragin, village trustee, on Tuesday, June 18.

Ed Klar, Trustee

Village of Lawrence 2004—2012

Joel Mael, Trustee

Village of Lawrence 2003—2013

Further IDF Questions

Dear Editor,

As an extremely proud father of a soldier in the Israeli army who gave 18 months of his life in a tank unit to defend the country and protect those very yeshiva boys who refuse to serve, I can’t help but feel it’s no wonder Mashiach hasn’t come when I see chareidi attitudes towards the IDF.

Where is the discussion that half of the lone soldiers in Israel are from chareidi families whose parents abandon them because they chose to serve? Where is the discussion of dati soldiers working hand in hand with the chilonim to teach them about their heritage? Where is the discussion of the kollelim discussing the unique sheilos of a Jewish army? I could go on and on. I am just very sad that this is where we have come.


Chaim Leibtag


The Jewish State

Dear Editor,

After reading in the papers the events that took place at the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh, I was wondering why people are flocking to live there. Just for the record, I love Israel and would at some time move there. As things are right now, it probably would not happen until iy’H Mashiach comes.

Israel right now is not the Israel we all envision it to be. When frum people are blocked from going to daven at the Kotel, something is terribly wrong. Why is Israel in such danger always? Just take a look at its government right now. Anti-religion, they have no problem kicking their own citizens out of their homes to appease the Arabs. Torah means nothing. Do they not see that Torah learning is what is keeping them going right now?

Why would anyone want to live under those conditions? Please explain the logic behind spending all that money protecting the few dozen women who for spite want to cause disruption. Why not protect the sanctity and the holiness of the Kotel? Why not ban these women from the Kotel–not the frum people who respect the holy site? Something is out of whack. Israel is supposed to be a Jewish state; it is turning into a secular state. The government seems to be bending over backwards to accommodate all members of the state except the frum citizens. What is next? Right now you are barred from the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh, next if the women want to come on Mondays and Thursdays then you won’t be able to daven when you want then either. I think enough is enough. Those women were given a site away from the main section. Let them daven there. They don’t want to–too bad. We all have to daven and ask Hashem to protect our land and its people from the people that run its government before it is too late.


A Worried Jew

It May Be Tzedakah

Dear Rabbi Hoffman,

I don’t know the details of the specific young gentleman who was interviewed [“But Is It Tzedakah?” June 7], but I definitely think that it’s wrong to give his story as the poster boy for the question “Is there a communal obligation to support an individual who purposefully chooses not to work, but rather to collect charitable funds?”

The implication here is that the young man in the story purposefully chooses not to work, preferring to collect charity. This is an unfair assumption, and may not necessarily be the case. Perhaps he is interested in working but has limited skills which will pay him only minimum wages. While his salary will allow him to survive without having to resort to accepting charity, he’ll never be able to put together enough money to get married. He doesn’t have anybody who is capable of paying for his wedding and all the additional expenses of starting married life. The thought of a long life of loneliness is debilitating to him, which could seriously impact his ability to work and to function as a human being. He therefore sees resorting to charity as his only option.

That he hasn’t yet found a bride is of no consequence. He needs to have money in hand before he can “go shopping.” He can’t wait to start collecting until he gets engaged!

I would say that such a person is definitely an eligible candidate for receiving tzedakah.


An Israeli Reader


Dear Rabbi Hoffman,

I beg to differ with the label of “meshulachim.” That implies that they have been sent by someone else, like a yeshiva or organization. That might characterize a minority of the collectors. But most collectors are coming to America and our shuls for themselves or their families.

While your article is balanced, I believe that the first view is the only operative one here. Never before in Jewish history have we seen such institutionalized shnorring where it is acceptable to ask for handouts with no bushah. In our shul, we regularly have drivers drop off three or four collectors who do a sweep of each of our staggered minyanim, without any regard to the house rules of when during the davening it is allowed to collect and when not. Whether it’s for hachnasas kallah or shefa berachah v’hatzlachah, they swerve in and out of the aisles waving the laminated cards. Some are so brazen they either make noise or give you an evil eye if you shortchange them.

Is it their fault? Well, in many cases, yes. In other cases, they are merely the result of parents who never saw to it that they learned a trade or yeshivos who convinced them that learning indefinitely is the only valid lifestyle. Either way, we don’t need to be enabling that to continue. It’s on the parents and the roshei yeshivos’ cheshbon.

We are certainly not talking about the yechidim who may or may not have fallen on hard times–which has been the context of the halachic analysis of Rishonim and Acharonim you cite. This represents both a qualitative and quantitative difference between then and now. So, the discussion really ends there in my opinion.

An elderly Holocaust survivor in our shul once was solicited in his home. He responded that he had yard work to be done and that he would pay the person a fair wage for raking leaves, etc. The fellow declined inasmuch as he felt he could make more money collecting. While that story did not happen to all collectors, I am quite confident that the reaction of most would be similar.

There are certain dire situations based on no one’s fault both in our communities and in Eretz Yisrael which are truly deserving. But, most of the time, they are too overwhelmed emotionally and physically to collect. In most cases I have seen, the collectors seem able bodied to me.


Spiritual Boredom

Dear Editor,

With all due respect to my colleague Avi Goldstein, I offer comments on his recent letters chastising those who frequent shul but don’t daven in the main sanctuary. These brothers need to be encouraged and not humiliated. Criticism illustrates a lack of sensitivity to and understanding of the issue and could drive these people even further from our shuls.

The recent letter from “the Guy Wearing the Frock” provided a glimpse of the issue termed by sociologists as “spiritual boredom.” It is this boredom that affects so many, whether they congregate in the side rooms of our shuls or in the main sanctuary. To quote noted Jewish educator Dr. Erica Brown, “Our religious life has become so routine, stale, devoid of excitement, and makes us tired of that which holds obvious beauty and mystery.” For many, there is just nothing refreshing about shul, the sermons rarely comment on the challenges and real issues of the day, the tefillos are so routine and for many meaningless, and there’s no creativity. For many, spiritual leadership, in and out of the sanctuary, is absent. We need to worry that spiritual boredom can, little by little, corrode the blessings in our lives.

Just look around many shuls Shabbos morning, or any morning, and view the lack of seriousness paid to what should be a conversation with the Almighty. So few understand the words being articulated and so few concentrate on the holiness of the moment, space, and time. Shul talk about sports, politics, business, and the newest gadgets prevail. The monotony of routine minimizes the intensity for prayer, for learning, and hunger for wonder. We are suffering from a spiritual malaise.

There are so many who are searching for meaning, a spark of enthusiasm, religious creativity, and guidance. We need to understand the turn-offs in religious life today and help illuminate the darkness felt by so many. Criticism accomplishes nothing. We need to charge our spiritual leaders with the challenge, to develop creative programs to enrich our spiritual lives and help give birth to a new level of excitement, interest, introspection, and enthusiasm and bring all of us back to the main sanctuary. Perhaps it can begin with those rabbis who applauded Avi Goldstein’s letter.

Marvin Leff

Far Rockaway

Touching A Nerve

Dear Editor,

I would like to thank Avi Goldstein for his response last week to my response from the week earlier. I appreciated his “sympathy” even if it did last just a few moments. But I have to say I am disappointed at the response. I feel he is not really getting at the core issue here and keeps clouding it with his own ideals and principles.

This issue is something that each of us has to deal with on our own. A person’s personal struggle with davening or any other aspect of religion stems from his own relationship with Hashem. For some reason, Mr. Goldstein took it upon himself to become this crusader to change people into the way he would like. But he is not a rav or a rebbe who knows how to connect with a person in need. He states that he is doing this lishmah, but he is only pushing the people he is trying to help farther away from Yiddishkeit. The people that need to be brought closer have to be accepted as they are and to be told that with time they will all be better Yidden. I take away from his comments that he would have a problem with a guy learning with jeans or someone that works and doesn’t have time to learn daf yomi. The point is that each Jew must strive to be better for themselves and their own relationship with Hashem and not because someone is going to belittle them.

Furthermore, his suggestions for finding new ways to make the davening less burdensome is not the point at all. We all want to enjoy davening and are not looking for a way out of our responsibilities. As for the many rabbanim that have congratulated him on his work, I find it surprising that none of them have stepped forward before to talk to us. Even if they did, I feel like we would have respected their words because of the place where their intentions are coming from.

I understand that Mr. Goldstein has an issue with how we are dealing with connecting to Hashem through davening, but I think the right people helping us at the right time, and the understanding from our fellow Yidden that we are all different and serve Hashem in different ways, is what it will take for us all to overcome our difficulty.


The Guy Wearing the Frock

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