As the (unnamed) author of the (unprinted) letter at which Larry Gordon takes umbrage in “The Evangelical Equation” (May 25), kindly permit me to respond.
The specific issue at hand concerned what I felt was a disastrous sequence of events at the ceremony that opened the American embassy in Jerusalem, on May 14. The event was hosted by Ambassador David Friedman, an Orthodox Jew. Representing President Trump were Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, also observant Jews. Present in the mostly Jewish crowd were Israel’s political and religious leaders, including its chief rabbis.
Among the invited speakers were Pastor Robert Jeffress and Pastor John Hagee. Jeffress intoned the opening invocation; he was followed by my dear friend Rabbi Zalman Wolowik, of Chabad of the Five Towns. Hagee’s task was to close the proceedings with a prayer.
Jeffress, a controversial pastor who has stated that Jews and Muslims are doomed to hell because they do not accept Jesus, stepped up to the microphone as Rabbi Wolowik stood beside him. After extolling the virtues of Jerusalem and President Trump’s decision to move our embassy to Israel’s capital, Jeffress closed by saying, “And I believe, Father, I speak for every one of us when we say, we thank you every day that you have given us a president who boldly stands on the right side of history but, more importantly, stands on the right side of You, O God, when it comes to Israel. And now today, Father, we want to pray what the Psalmist prayed three thousand years ago: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May those who love her prosper. May peace dwell within her walls. And we pray this in the name and the spirit of the prince of peace, Jesus, our lord.” Jeffress is an accomplished orator, and he chooses he words with precision. He purposely used the pronoun “we,” inferring that everyone present was praying in the name of Jesus!
At that point, Jeffress concluded his remarks, and he and Rabbi Wolowik shook hands. Let us consider: many Lubavitchers will not even refer to San Francisco by its name, because “San” means saint; the website for the San Francisco Chabad house refers to “S. Francisco.” Yet here Rabbi Wolowik acknowledged a man who had falsely and cynically included him, and all the Jews in the room, among those who pray in Jesus’ name!
Perhaps Rabbi Wolowik was caught unawares; it is not an easy task to respond to a provocation with no forewarning, and it is certainly uncomfortable to be put in the position wherein he found himself. I do not envy Rabbi Wolowik’s dilemma. Yet I had hoped that somewhere he would find the resources to rebuke Jeffress. What a kiddush Hashem that would have been. The rabbi might have reminded Jeffress that with all due respect, Jews reject the idea that any human being can be divine, and that untold numbers of Jews have willingly been martyred rather than accept Christianity. Instead, Rabbi Wolowik simply delivered his prepared remarks. In the face of an unabashed provocation from Jeffress (who certainly knows the Jewish view that Christianity is, for a Jew, idol worship), the rabbi backed off.
To conclude the ceremony, John Hagee was called upon for the closing prayer. He asked everyone to rise, and best as I could tell, all the attendees stood, including the rabbanim. Now Hagee did not say anything untoward (he is a seasoned Israel-visitor and evidently knows better than to offend his hosts). Yet those in attendance could not have known what he would or would not say. How, in light of Jeffress’s impertinent remarks, could the audience stand up at Hagee’s request? What if, G-d forbid, he had invoked Jesus as hundreds of Jews stood in respect? One quakes at the notion of Israel’s chief rabbis standing for avodah zarah.
I take no issue with Jeffress’s right to believe that Jews and Muslims are doomed to eternal damnation. Contrary to what Mitt Romney (also doomed, since he is a Mormon) has claimed, this belief does not make Jeffress a bigot or an anti-Semite. As Jeffress has clarified, he is merely reflecting traditional Christian thought. We Jews also maintain that eternity is earned, in part, by the holding of certain core beliefs (although we do not believe that one must be Jewish to go to heaven).
I do take issue with the poor choice of Jeffress as a speaker at this ceremony. Technically this was an American event. However, as noted above, in practice it was a very Jewish ceremony, hosted by Ambassador Friedman and attended by hundreds of Jews, including Israel’s chief rabbis. Jeffress is a known quantity; just as I would not expect a Christian gathering to invite a rabbi who might denigrate Christian beliefs, so I would expect Jews to exercise the same discretion. And while it is true that the embassy event was not per se Jewish, it was a mostly Jewish-attended function in the Jewish capital of the Jewish state. Friedman should have picked someone else to deliver the opening prayer.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Perr, father of my rosh yeshiva, HaRav Yechiel Perr, was the rabbi of South Ozone Park. He was known for being prompt, yet one Memorial Day, as father and son made their way to an annual public ceremony, the elder Rabbi Perr walked very slowly. Questioned by his son, Rav Menachem Perr explained that at the event ten years earlier, a priest had asked everyone to stand for prayer. Disregarding the uncomfortable fact that all eyes were trained upon him, Rabbi Menachem Perr remained seated on the dais.
My rosh yeshiva, then a teenager, asked: “Dad, isn’t there any heter to stand up?” The father responded: “To stand up in honor of avodah zarah? Chalilah; it is yehareig v’al ya’avor (be killed rather than transgress)!” I believe that we must learn from the example set by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Perr.
I thank evangelicals for their unstinting support of Israel; they are a vital constituency. I do, however, recognize that they view the rise of the modern Jewish state as a building block in their theology. We can gratefully accept evangelical support, but if that support comes at the erosion of our spiritual bedrock, we must reject it.
Kudos for your expose on Yechiel Pearlstein and his outrageous activities directed at parents struggling with helping their children to find suitable matches (“Shidduch Fraud,” May 25). I feel like cutting out your article and hanging it up in every shul. What a shanda! I am sure there are more of his ilk still out there. I know there is nothing I can write to temper mothers’ desperation to give some credence to these scallywags. Nevertheless, our community must insist on giving only to persons who hold a valid, up to date, yellow license from the Vaad HaTzadaka of the Five Towns and Rockaway.
Larry, what I wish you had done in addition to the important public news service in your paper last week, was to contact the Nassau or Kings County DA or the FBI. Depositing the checks right away is indicia of fraud. People should try to insist that their bank reverse the charges. Just call the bank and tell them what happened. In Washington, D.C., the Justice Department has a special division which deals with “religious crimes.” I dealt with them before, and they are sympathetic with this kind of abuse. It is not restricted to us alone; this is affinity fraud. Anyone who was defrauded by this man or like this should call a posek and with his permission call the authorities. You will save other people from the same heartache.
Missing Israeli Flag!
I visited the U.S. Arlington destroyer ship docked at Pier 90 off the West Side Highway on Memorial Day. It was a beautiful sight, seeing both the outside of the ship and its interior. The sailors were nice and helpful by answering questions and showing off their weapons on display, and taking pictures with them as well, plus thanking them for their excellent service. The one sore point was that I noticed all the colorful flags from different allied countries, and could not find the Israeli flag! Missing — lost — not shown!
I guess I’ll have to go find it in the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. When Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a Jewish American, told Israel’s prime minister Golda Meir, “In our country, first comes America and then comes Israel,” she replied with a Yiddisher kup, “That’s ok, Mr. Kissinger, no problem, since in Israel, you see, we read from right to left!”
Rabbi Moshe Shochet
New Shidduch Initiative For Older Singles
It is no secret that the Orthodox community is awash with older singles. These include so many women and men who want nothing more than to find a suitable match. For reasons that vary, these individuals have not yet married, or they were married and now find themselves single again.
With a fervent prayer for success, I have founded an organization called One Jewish Match. I am in the preliminary stages of gathering qualified professionals and rabbanim to assist in this endeavor.
I am inviting men and women aged 28 and older to join One Jewish Match. We seek individuals who are committed to an Orthodox lifestyle and whose marriage will include keeping the laws of taharat hamishpachah and Shabbat.
If you are interested, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief letter about yourself. Ideally, include a “resume” with a representative photo. I will respond by e-mail. The letter must come from the single; we will not respond to letters from parents, friends, or rabbanim.
I stress that the purpose of One Jewish Match is to unite men and women in suitable marriages. Therefore, the response you receive from us will include a detailed list of criteria for membership. These criteria include, but are not limited to, a willingness to accept mentoring through the dating process, a willingness to go out at least three times in a short period, and the ability to be open to move out of one’s four cubits, that is, to be flexible. There is no charge to join One Jewish Match.
At this juncture, we have commenced gathering names of interested parties. Once we have a reasonable number of men and women, we will proceed to suggest shidduchim based on the information gathered. We hope to begin making these suggestions shortly.