A Public Thank-You

Dear Editor,

We would like to express our tremendous gratitude to the community for the gracious and unparalleled kindness they have shown us during these last couple of weeks after the fire in our home. We would like to thank the fire marshals and police department, who worked tirelessly and professionally, putting out the fire and keeping everyone safe.

In our community, we have a tremendous group of chesed organizations including RCSP, Hatzalah, and Achiezer. They were at the scene from the time the fire started at 9 p.m. until the morning hours. We are also grateful to our local shuls that came to support us in every way. We would like to specifically acknowledge the outstanding members of Cong. Ahavas Yisroel. It is difficult to put into words how incredibly helpful they have been during this time.

In addition, we would personally like to thank the families who welcomed us into their homes as we put all the pieces together and resume a normal lifestyle, namely the Gade, Lowinger, and Pockriss families. So many people have offered to help us in so many ways. We couldn’t possibly list all the wonderful people. We are so appreciative for all the help and support.

It’s an absolute privilege for our family to reside in this wonderful community. Mi ka’amcha Yisrael. We would like to take this opportunity to express our hakaras ha’tov to the Ribbono Shel Olam for all the chesed and rachamim that he has shown us.

With much gratitude,

The Silver Family

Friendly Skies

Dear Editor,

Oftentimes when flight attendants hear that they are going to be working on a mostly Orthodox flight, they grimace, just thinking of what they are going to have to put up with. We unfortunately don’t have such a great reputation as being easy-to-please customers, whether it is due to the number of children we have or our special meals, or perhaps even the idea that we tend to form minyanim at inconvenient times in inconvenient places.

However, on November 20—21, the flight attendants for US Airways flight 796 from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv were pleasantly surprised by what they observed. For nearly six hours, our flight–consisting of many frum families and couples–was delayed once we got on the plane, with quite a few false starts. While we were supposed to take off at 9:10 p.m., our plane didn’t actually lift off the ground until almost 3:00 a.m. The flight attendants were amazed, though, at the attitude of those of us on the flight. There was no yelling or complaining, even when they told us that they would have to go wake up a TSA agent in order to let us switch planes, further delaying our flight by two hours. Instead, all the attendants as well as the ground crew were on the receiving end of compassion. Many of my fellow fliers apologized to the crew for the long hours they had to work and expressed their sympathies, resulting in a huge kiddush Hashem. Even the babies were quiet most of the time, allowing for everything to take place in a very calm and orderly fashion. Yasher koach to the members of Flight 796!

A fellow 796 flier

Where Is The Love?

Dear Editor,

I was taken aback by your decision to print Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum’s piece about the bitter dispute now raging among leading chareidi rabbanim in Israel (Machberes, “Ripping the Chadera Yeshiva Apart,” December 20). Although I had heard snippets about such a battle, heretofore I had managed to avoid reading the details. I am uncertain, given the laws of lashon ha’ra, how one can justify printing such an article.

But now that the cat is out of the bag, I can only hope that Rabbi Tannenbaum was misinformed, and that gedolei Eretz Yisrael have not resorted to the base ad hominem attacks described therein. Even worse, if the article is accurate, a minor argument over politics has resulted in the sundering of the Chadera Yeshiva, causing a great chillul Hashem.

According to the article, certain revered rabbanim disagreed regarding which of two parties to support in recent elections: B’nei Torah or Degel HaTorah. This debate erupted into a full-scale war of words and threats (primarily, it seems, from Degel HaTorah). The dispute soon involved the Chadera Yeshiva, whose mashgiach recommended that “eligible students cast their votes for the B’nei Torah party in recent elections.” This led Degel HaTorah’s rabbanim to make the insidious claim that Chadera’s method of learning was inferior, with the result that many students and teachers left to attend a newly founded institute.

Have we lost all sense of perspective? Are we supposed to blindly accept that a debate over politics is a legitimate reason to destroy a Torah citadel? Is this the true state of chareidi Torah leadership in Israel today?

Those involved in the dispute will likely claim that they are engaged in a machlokes l’shem shamayim, a disagreement for the sake of Heaven. Perhaps, but keep in mind that non-Jews and non-religious Jews also read your paper. How will they respond to this childish bickering? I believe they will conclude that Torah leaders are quite capable of sinking to name-calling and threats, and that these leaders are fundamentally flawed. And in truth, I would have no rejoinder, because the conclusion would be correct! Torah leaders who act in this fashion are not true Torah leaders.

The attacks by chareidi leaders have not been limited to internecine matters. Rabbi David Stav, a recent nominee for chief rabbi from the Religious Zionist camp, was vilified and physically assaulted during his candidacy. These onslaughts came after he was viciously denounced by certain chareidi rabbanim. Astonishingly, these attacks were justified in an unfortunate piece in the magazine Ami, an article that implied that the great gaon HaRav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik would have been party to the sort of invective that has become the norm. I believe that Ami owes the Rav an apology. Further, I believe that if we look back to the Rav’s era, we will find that while he and his fellow gedolim, including HaRav Moshe Feinstein and HaRav Aharon Kotler, strongly rebuked heterodox groups, these gedolim did not incite the sort of behavior that today threatens to blemish the chareidi world.

Let us pray that any rupture that has occurred will be quickly healed, and that gedolei Yisrael will get back to the business of advancing ahavas chinam instead of sinas chinam.

Avi Goldstein

Far Rockaway

Rabbi Tannenbaum Replies

Dear Mr. Goldstein,

Thank you very much for your intense interest in my Machberes column, “Ripping the Chadera Yeshiva Apart,” of December 20. Sadly, you are correct in that the entire matter is and should be repugnant to the entire international frum community. My writing about it follows public attention, specifically Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon’s Chanukah mussar speech at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, where he serves as mashgiach (see Machberes, December 13). Rabbi Salomon severely criticized the machlokes. The sharp censure was carried by much of the frum media both here and in Eretz Yisrael.

I join you in sincere prayers for ahavas chinam.


Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum

The Butterfly Effect

In Religion

Dear Editor,

Many years ago I heard a story, purportedly from the Baal HaTanya, who said the fact that Jews intermarry in France starts with a Chasid in Latvia who is not careful with chalav Yisrael, which causes a Jew in Minsk not to bentch all the time, and a Jew in Germany not to eat kosher, which causes the Jew in France to marry a shickse. In chaos theory, this is called the “butterfly effect”–small local actions can have worldwide effects.

Many years ago, it seemed to me that when Orthodox Jews behaved badly, I was able to blame it on their lack of mussar and yeshiva training. Even later, when I saw principals at yeshivos kick out young people because they dressed inappropriately outside school or went to the wrong camps, I ascribed the principals’ lack of a worldview to the fact that anybody can open a yeshiva, and that does not mean they were paying attention or even attending Mussar Seder.

Things have gotten worse, like 10 years ago, when I was in Suffolk County Supreme Court and an Irish judge said to me, “Novak, what is up with the Teitelbaum brothers?” It took me a good 10 seconds to realize what he was talking about, and just how far and embarrassingly the Satmar Rebbe succession fight had traveled.

But the 5TJT’s article last week about the goings-on between the Degel HaTorah political party and Rav Kanievsky and Rav Shteinman against the B’nai Torah political party and Rav Auerbach in connection with the Chadera Yeshiva left me feeling sick to my stomach. These were my heroes, my role models, and my poskim. I am not sure how much longer their pictures will be gracing the walls of my house. The animosity between these great gedolim and their minions opens the doors to chilonim hating us, the Arabs hating the Israelis, and the world despising world Jewry. Until they make shalom, I cannot in good conscience give money to charities which prominently use their pictures as validation of their causes.

The children of Bais Hillel and Bais Shammai married each other and kept their halachic differences away from impinging on their ahavas Yisrael. Let’s learn from their example.

Abba S. Novak


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