letters to the editor

Dear Editor,

Hewlett-Woodmere (District 14) school board elections are being held on Tuesday, May 17 and you should be frightened. Legislation is being considered in Albany right now that will give oversight of the private school curriculum and compliance with state standards to the local school boards. While we hope this policy never sees the light of day, we need to prepare for the strong possibility that it will. Right now, even though 40% of the district children attend private schools, not a single board member comes from one of those families. This needs to change, and you have an opportunity to help effect that change this coming Tuesday.

Do you have children who rely on buses to get to school? If you are like me, and nearly everyone else I know in the district, you have been driving your kids to school every day so that they don’t miss davening or first period. Yes, there is currently a nationwide bus driver shortage. But are the public-school kids arriving late every day? They are not.

The average Nassau County public school district spends approximately $28,000 per student per year. That is more than twice what the yeshivos spend. District 14 spends $46,000, the highest of any district in the county. While the quality of the education is certainly excellent, there are higher-ranked districts that spend far less money to achieve that outcome. All of this is occurring at the same time that enrollment has been declining every year for the past 10 years.

With declining enrollment, and families hurting financially due to the pandemic, inflation, and the recent federal cap on property tax deduction, how is the current board responding?

They are proposing another budget increase this year!

If you are content to have your kids show up late for school, want your taxes to increase, your money to be wasted, and your children to be taught about gender identity in yeshiva, by all means, stay home on May 17. I am planning on voting for Jack Shafran and Chana Jeter this Tuesday at One Johnson Place (polls are open 7:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.) and will vote “NO” on the budget. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it has to start somewhere.

Each of these candidates brings a great perspective to the table and is eager to start addressing these issues.

Anonymous

Cause For Concern

Dear Ms. Sebrow,

I have been reading your column for quite some time. Often, your advice is “spot on,” as we say in London. Your latest offering, though, “not so much,” as they say in America.

At the outset of your May 5 column, you tell your petitioner that you hope he has not “reached out to anyone else yet” because “too often … when people in your circumstances ask for advice, the results can be tragic.” This is because, you write, folks will end an engagement “before investigating the situation from an objective and broadminded view.” Really now?

There are always the exceptions to the rule. You cite instances when you claim this was the case. Even if they don’t fully pass the “smell test,” they still appear to involve those with minimal life experience. Or lack of authentically Jewish acculturation.

More importantly, though, is your certainty that said questioner is suffering from “cold feet.” You still assert this even when the evidence given seems to indicate the opposite. When a practitioner of halachah sees a fraud and fears he almost certainly will be expected to go along with it (or be considered an infidel to his wife’s family), his objecting is not “ranting” but of the utmost concern.

Maybe, as you write for a Five Towns paper, you have become desensitized to this faux frum lifestyle. It’s all around us here and, no doubt, spreading.

Lastly, when a couple gets engaged, it is understood that their compatibility is all-encompassing. Adherence to halachah is usually priority one. Given the writer’s cultural references—from his catchphrases used to his referencing a popular chareidi singer—pairing him with a woman who embraces a very different reality would just be positioning him for an inevitable divorce, or, at the very least, years of hell.

In this case, the “ranter” is open-eyed. You are blind.

Disappointed,

Woodmere

Dear Disappointed,

Thank you for your letter. It is clear that you read the question in its entirety. Yet, it is also very clear that you did not read my response in its entirety.

I will therefore summarize my published response so that perhaps you might gain a better understanding of what I advised him.

The young man, without doubt, is feeling hesitant about going ahead with the marriage, and I normalized those feelings he is experiencing. “Cold feet” can be felt whether there is a valid reason or not. In the example he cited, regarding the tallis zeckel and that the kallah and her family feel the need to keep up an image in their community, it would be an issue—if there are monetary expectations directed at him.

He did not indicate that gifting anything extravagant above his means was ever suggested to him. Moreover, I addressed the issue that if he really does not feel ready to marry his kallah, then he would be doing a grave disservice to himself and to her by going ahead with the wedding. And most importantly, I did not advise him to overlook his feelings and grievances and marry her anyway. 

I did tell him to not go around seeking advice until someone tells him to break his engagement. However, I strongly urged him to reach out to a trained therapist, and go there with his kallah and be completely honest about all his feelings. Whatever the result may turn out to be, the most important aspect is that it should ultimately serve to benefit both him and his kallah.

That was my message to him. I hope that clarifies any misconceptions you had about my response.

I appreciate your readership, and please feel free to reach out to me with any other questions or comments.

Best Regards,

Baila Sebrow

Columnist, Dating Forum

No Cold Feet Here

Dear Ms. Sebrow,

Am I the only one who read your May 5 Dating Forum column and was left thinking: “Did we just read the same opening letter?”

Larry Gordon has previously written about “production issues” being caused by complications in Ukraine. Did the reader’s query somehow get attached to a different column’s reply? Other than that, or, possibly, a pressing deadline, how could something so obvious be so wrong?

The fellow writing is not having “cold feet.” Rather, he is recognizing that his kallah and her family are what I call “fake frum,” or Orthodox Jews who publicly go through the motions of living a morally elevated life but in private will manipulate that observance to justify their own untoward behavior.

Almost anybody who lives or associates with Orthodox communities—“Modern,” “middle of the road,” and “chareidi”—has encountered these folks, unfortunately.

There are lots of couples who become engaged and legitimately develop “cold feet.” And, yes, too often the powers-that-be assess them that way. Why not? It’s easy enough.

But our chassan’s self-description clearly indicates otherwise. Further, his anecdote about his father-in-law was not, as your columnist described it, a “rant”—defined as “writing in an angry or emotionally charged manner”—but served as an eye-opening observation of “fake frum” depravity—and a darn good reason as to why his children should be wary of spending too much time with him and those who model his behavior.

Been There,

Flatbush

Dating Dilemma

Dear Ms. Sebrow,

I am a 22-year-old who has recently gone through a challenging (dating) situation that had many similarities to last week’s dating forum and I genuinely appreciated the substance of your response. I wish I would have written to you when I had a problem. Although my relationship is no longer active, I still believe there is work to be done on my end to better understand what went wrong and to figure out how to correctly move forward. I was wondering if you could possibly steer me in the right direction so I can speak to someone who is knowledgeable, affordable, and proficient on a situation like this.

Thank you for all the help that you do!

Best Regards,

DP

Ukraine Crisis

Dear Editor,

In the March 25 edition, you let “both sides” say its word … one side focusing on the humanitarian crisis and the other on the fact that Ukrainians were terrible war criminals in World War II and we should not have mercy on them. Then it went back and forth to stipulating that today’s Ukrainians are not their grandfathers and that the Russians were killing innocent civilians.

The truth, in my opinion, is that today’s Ukrainians and Russians treat the Jews with respect. Are any of them angels? Highly unlikely. Both the Russians and Ukrainians have had their share in anti-Semitism over the centuries. The fact that the Holocaust is so fresh in your memory does not take away the pogroms and Jewish persecution of the czars or from the Soviet communists afterwards.

Do children have to suffer for the misdeeds of their ancestors? I don’t know. All I know is that I observe Hashem killing thousands of Russians and destroying a vast part of Ukraine and killing some of its people.

I also observe that Jews not so recently had to pay the price for the false accusation of killing Jesus 2,000 years ago, and that the Roman Emperor made the 10 martyrs pay for selling Yosef HaTzaddik into slavery some 1,500 years earlier.

But while Russians have anti-Semitic history, they don’t have statues of their hero Bogdan Chmeljenitsjy who killed many Jews, for which we commemorate Tach v’Tat.

…זו נבילה וזו טריפה; Putin is loyal to the Jews and treats Israel with respect while Ukraine has a Jew (albeit baptized) as its president.

And it’s true that before the current war, the highest number of neo-Nazi groups worldwide was in Ukraine.

To round it up, I have one last question: If China were to place missiles or weapons along the Mexican border, would the U.S. sit idly by?

And war atrocities aside, which could be an indirect result of misinformation to the Russian soldiers by their leadership, is/was Putin so wrong to try to protect his sovereignty from having NATO in his backyard by his Ukrainian neighbor?

Would the U.S. give up its only access to a port on its southern front if its neighbor joined the Communist party?

Anyone remember the Bay of Pigs debacle in 1961 between Cuba and John F. Kennedy?

Elchanan Weiss

Miami

Heroes And Victims

Dear Editor,

This is the first time I’ve seen someone mention the anti-Semitism of the Ukrainians. But you don’t need to go back 80 years for their anti-Semitism. I have heard of anti-Semitism coming from them up until a couple of years ago.

Additionally, I don’t understand why the Jewish community around the world is so desperate to save the Jews of Ukraine from Putin. They didn’t try saving the Jews currently living in Russia.

Maybe we are falling into the trap of believing propaganda.

Jacob

Perspectives

Dear Editor,

I find it surprising your newspaper would publish Jager’s view as a counterweight to Rabbi Moshe Taragin’s. Rabbi Taragin bases himself on Torah, Jager on nekamah. He does not justify his view from any Torah perspective, just his own bitterness. Is this a Jewish perspective on things, to be indifferent and unconcerned about human suffering? Are any of the murdered children guilty of harming Jews 80 years ago? What motivates Jager? Surely nothing Jewish and not Torah. The 5TJT shouldn’t be publishing something like this and presenting it as a balance to a well-written, well-thought-out Torah perspective from Rabbi Taragin. We should all applaud R’ Taragin for standing up for genuine Jewish values and a Torah view.

Ephraim Jacobson

What You Don’t Know About IDAs Can Hurt You

Dear Editor,

Thank you! This is an excellent primer for the uninitiated. [March 11 issue] And, for some, likely a jarring look into the people and processes that define our communities. We should, however, not be blind to the fact that much of the over-development, crowding, and continued deterioration of the suburban quality of life here in our Five Towns is the very doing of our own neighbors.

The endless expansion of home footprints, building variances handed out like candy on Purim, town and village zoning boards on the take, illegal garage conversions into habitable spaces, the desired (not the needed) ownership of multiple vehicles, and driving because we just don’t feel like walking are just some of the most common happenings that have indelibly altered our community for the worse.

Theodore G.

A Taxing Conversation

Dear Editor,

I believe that your article about Michelle Zangari (From the Editor, “Calm, Casual, Hateful Words,” April 15–21) missed the thrust of her anti-Semitic speech at the recent Rockville Centre’s board meeting. I believe that Michelle was concerned about a future proliferation of shtiebels in Rockville Centre primarily because she thought that that would result in a large increase in her property taxes by virtue of the fact that the shtiebels are exempt from property taxes, thus raising property taxes on the non-exempt houses. I suppose that’s a somewhat valid concern. However, I’m not sure that one’s property taxes would necessarily increase after shtiebels are created. The reason I say that is that Orthodox families almost always send their children to yeshivas, which means that public-school enrollment declines as do school budgets, so there is actually a possibility that one’s property taxes might decline, or they may simply stay the same. I think that if Michelle Zangari were assured that her property taxes would not increase after shtiebels are created, she might not mind the shtiebels. But then again, if she’s a true anti-Semite who doesn’t want to live among Orthodox Jews, that’s another story.

Herbert Kraut

Woodmere, NY

The Convention Of States Project

Dear Editor,

Are you alarmed by the political trajectory of the United States? Are you apprehensive about the growing leviathan that is the federal government? Do you consider it disquieting that the federal government has exceeded its constitutional mandate many times over, and poses an existential threat to the states and individual liberty? While we wallow away in gloom and despondency, while we convince ourselves that there’s no tool at our disposal to rein in these federal abuses, I’m here to inform you that there is indeed a tool available to us that we can use to restore our constitutional republic to its former glory. It’s not some mysterious or obscure tool that nobody has heard of, because it’s been staring us right in the face this entire time. In fact, it’s enshrined in our very own Constitution of the United States. Allow me to explain.

Article V of the Constitution provides that before the states ratify an amendment, it first must be formally proposed. It provides four methods of amending the Constitution, as follows: (1) Proposal by two-thirds of each house of Congress, then ratification by state legislatures. This method was used for all the amendments, except for the Twenty-First Amendment. (2) Proposal by two-thirds of each house of Congress, followed by ratification by popular conventions in each state. This method was used to adopt the Twenty-First Amendment, which repealed Prohibition. (3) Proposal by a “Convention for proposing Amendments,” then ratification by popular conventions in each state. (4) Proposal by a “Convention for proposing Amendments,” then ratification by state legislatures.

One of the methods of amending the Constitution is called a Convention of the States or a Convention of States. The Convention of States procedure begins when two-thirds of the state legislatures (34) adopt applications demanding that Congress call a Convention on a particular subject. As soon as both chambers of the state legislature pass the application, that state becomes one of the required 34 states calling for a Convention. In order for the applications to be aggregated—counted together towards the 34-state threshold—they must all cover the same topic or set of topics for a Convention. Once the states reach the 34-state threshold, Congress must call the Convention and designate the location and time of the Convention. If it fails to exercise this power reasonably or at all, the states are at liberty to designate the location and time themselves.

The states then start the process of choosing their respective delegates or commissioners for the Convention. States are free to develop their own selection process for choosing their delegates. Historically, the most common method used was an election by a joint session of both chambers of the state legislature. Each state’s delegation participates in discussing, drafting, and voting on amendment proposals germane to the topic(s) stated in the 34 applications that triggered the Convention. According to historical precedent, each state has one vote at the Convention. Amendments sent to the states are merely suggestions and have no authority until ratified by the states.

Thirty-eight states must ratify any proposed amendments before they become part of the Constitution. Each proposed amendment is ratified separately by the states even if proposed as a package (like the Bill of Rights). Ratification may be done by state legislatures or by state ratification conventions, which represent the people more directly. Historically, ratification has been by state legislatures (with the exception of the Twenty-First Amendment, as mentioned previously).

So, what is so unique about a Convention of States? Why have I expended this much time explaining the process? It’s because this is the tool that I referenced earlier in my letter that the framers of the Constitution provided to us to rein in the abuses of the federal government—by bypassing the federal government entirely. The framers understood that the federal government would, sooner or later, extend its claws beyond the boundaries set for it by the Constitution. They heeded the lessons of history, which were twofold: (1) that government power invariably grows and will continue to grow if it isn’t restrained by those who created it in the first place; and (2) that governments do not voluntarily restrain their own power and authority. Do you honestly believe that Congress will adopt any amendment that constrains its powers, such as term limits or a cap on spending? Obviously, it will not.

I recently became involved with an organization that has been expending a copious amount of time and energy working on this very subject, called the Convention of States Project, whose president is Mark Meckler. COS was founded to address some of the most pressing issues of our day—from the spending and debt crisis to the regulatory crisis, to congressional attacks on state sovereignty, to limiting the jurisdiction of the federal government generally. Over the past decade alone, a plethora of historical data and evidence has been published documenting the process of a convention of states. Variations of a Convention of States have been documented in many states throughout our nation’s history, and there are dozens of decisions from the Supreme Court on the subject as well.

We are confident that this process works. We know that it’s the most effective means at our disposal to rein in the federal government. But we can’t do it alone. We need to rally the troops, and we need the support of every patriotic American who loves and supports our Constitution and Bill of Rights. So, I’m asking you, my fellow Americans, to please join me as we fight to preserve our liberty and freedom. Nothing less is at stake.

If you are interested in volunteering for this amazing cause, please contact me at rafi.metz@cosaction.com. 

Rafi Metz

District Captain, State Content Writer

The Convention of States Project

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