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Netanyahu and Obama’s Meeting on

IRAN’S CHARM OFFENSIVE An Exclusive Interview with Prof. Eytan Gilboa





ISSUE 137 OCTOBER 2, 2013 28 TISHREI 5774

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8 12 16


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 UNCH BREAK L With Yankie Kloc


 ARNOOOSA P First impressions  MAURICE STEI N

64 66

 HE JOURNEY T Ushering in the new year


 SK A Reading my daughter’s diary


 HE SHUL CHRONICLES T “Fad” to black



 EWISH NEWS J Rav Ovadia Yosef’s health NESANEL GANTZ






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S  PYVIEW: NEW GENERATION OF TERROR Africa’s merciless inheritors of Al-Qaeda’s power JOHN LOFTUS


T  HE GLASS HOUSE Carl Lutz saved tens of thousands of Jews. So why does no one know his name? ROIZY WALDMAN


O  BAMA, NETANYAHU AND ROUHANI The US-Iran phone call has changed the political situation. But has anything really changed? RABBI YITZCHOK FRANKFURTER AND YOSSI KRAUSZ


10 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / O C T O B E R 2 , 2 0 1 3 / / 2 8 T I S H R E I 5 7 7 4

Rav Reuven Elbaz with Rav Ovadia Yosef at a bris milah

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The Religious Zionism of Rabbi Soloveitchik


n 1946, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993), zt”l, a scion of the staunchly anti-Zionist Brisker dynasty and a formerly fervent Agudist, became honorary president of the Religious Zionist organization Mizrachi. In point of fact, he subsequently became one of the foremost proponents of Religious Zionism in the latter half of the 20th century. But perhaps even more startling than this volte-face was the reasoning he ascribed to it. While acknowledging that his break with family tradition caused him much angst and many sleepless nights, Rabbi Soloveitchik sought to explain how he was able to attribute theological significance to Zionism when most gedolei Yisrael, including his venerated grandfather, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, zt”l, of Brisk, did not. In a public address at a convention of the Religious Zionists of America (the “Mizrachi”) in the 1960s, which was subsequently transcribed as one the Chamesh Derashos, he made a distinction between the realm of halachah, Jewish law, and that of hashkafah, Jewish thought. Regarding halachic questions, once something becomes fixed as law, not even G-d Himself, kiveyachol (as it were), can alter it. In matters of hashkafah, however, there are no rules or logic, only the attempt to divine what G-d wants; everything is therefore in flux. In fact, he argued, outside the four cubits of halachah, where the focus is not on man’s insight or deduction but on what G-d expects of man, no single opinion is infallible. Since the truest way to determine what G-d wants is in hindsight, after ideas have been tested in the apparatus of history, there is no person who is exempt from the obligation to constantly reappraise and review his opinions to ensure that they align with the will of G-d. Rabbi Soloveitchik proclaimed that upon viewing the establishment of the State of Israel through the prism of the Second World War, it became clear to him that Divine Providence had determined that the previous generation’s opposition to Zionism was incorrect, prompting him to join Mizrachi. Needless to say, his assertion that opinions in matters of hashkafah are subject to reappraisal by succeeding generations is quite a controversial one, and it drew the ire and fire of various gedolei Yisrael, especially Rav Eliezer Schach, zt”l. But that contention 8 AMI MAGAZINE // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // 28 TISHREI 5774

is outside the purview of this editorial. Our focus here is on the conclusion one must draw when applying Rabbi Soloveitchik’s own standard to the present-day Religious Zionist camp. In light of the partnership of the Religious Zionist parties with Yesh Atid, and their joint determination to undermine Torah institutions and scholarship and scholars in Israel, Rabbi Soloveitchik would have undoubtedly reversed his support of Religious Zionism and announced, without fear or equivocation, that history had proven him wrong—or, at the very minimum, that the Religious Zionist movement of today has no semblance to the one of the past. In 1959, Elie Wiesel, then a young reporter for Yediot Aharonot, was dispatched to interview Rabbi Soloveitchik and write a profile of him. The article, which appeared in the Friday magazine supplement on November 13, 1959, was based on Wiesel’s meeting with Rabbi Soloveitchik at his apartment in the Yeshiva University dormitories. The conversation focused on the state of traditional Judaism in general and the yeshivos in particular. Rabbi Soloveitchik referred to the religious renaissance he was witnessing among young Orthodox Jews in America: “Young men who study electrical engineering, higher mathematics or nuclear physics, dedicate time to learn Shas and poskim,” he remarked with pride. Nonetheless, he noted with express disappointment the failure of American yeshivos to produce true gedolei Torah. There are many who study Torah, he said, and countless among them who can be considered talmidei chachamim. And yet, he confessed, there are no true Torah giants. While some American yeshivos may have failed in this regard, the Torah-only method of chinuch instituted in Eretz Yisrael by Rabbi Soloveitchik’s revered uncle, the Brisker Rav, zt”l, as well as numerous other Torah leaders, has been hugely successful, producing countless true gedolei Yisrael. Bnei Brak and Yerushalayim are brimming with gedolei Torah the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in many generations. However, nowadays, members of the Religious Zionist movement are conspiring together with the anti-religious Yesh Atid party to bring this to an abrupt end. Rabbi Soloveitchik has proven to have had the integrity and fortitude to acknowledge all this. The question is whether any of his noted disciples have the same courage.


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SHUL AND THE SHUSHERS Stop the talking

In reference to “Streets of Life,” Issue 136


Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter SENIOR EDITOR

Rechy Frankfurter MANAGING EDITOR

Yossi Krausz



Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky Nesanel Gantz • John Loftus • Shmuel Sokol Maurice Stein • Rabbi Shais Taub • Turx Yedida Wolfe FEATURE EDITOR

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Ami Magazine P: 718.534.8800 F: 718.484.7731 Ami Magazine. Published by Mezoogmag LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form without prior written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The publisher reserves the right to edit all articles for clarity, space, and editorial sensitivities. Ami Magazine assumes no responsibility for the content of articles or advertisements in the publication, nor for the contents of books that are referred to or excerpted herein.

Dear Editor: I found myself dismayed by my good friend Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky’s opinion piece regarding talking in shul (Streets of Life, Sept. 15). Briefly, he questioned the sincerity of those of us who try to “shush” the talkers. Permit me to articulate my objections. The synagogue is one place where, Chazal tell us, the Divine Presence still abides. I claim no ability to sense the Shechinah in shul, but I have faith in Chazal’s words. Talking in shul may very well cause the Shechinah to depart, thereby diminishing the power of our communal tefillah. For this reason alone, I have the right to object when fellow mispallelim talk. Moreover, at certain points in the tefillah there is a reasonable chance that the talker is disturbing others. How can one justify disturbing a fellow congregant’s concentration? A particularly egregious example occurs when someone finishes his silent Shemoneh Esrei and commences a conversation while others are still davening (I have observed that talkers tend to daven Shemoneh Esrei more quickly than nontalkers). Halachah forbids one from even davening above a whisper, lest he disturb others; certainly talking is a disturbance. Rabbi Kamenetzky admits that the Shulchan Aruch permits one to publicly rebuke

a talker. He wonders, though, why shushers do not focus on other mitzvos where public rebuke is permitted. I am affronted by this attack upon our sincerity. I actually am very uncomfortable when I ask talkers to extend the common courtesy of respecting my right to daven in a quiet atmosphere. My request for silence comes not from a sense of triumphalism, but from a sense of desperation. When someone’s talking interrupts my concentration, it is as if I am being punched by him. I object, just as I would object to being hit. If we were talking to the president of the United States, we would rightly expect that no one would interrupt us; is it so much to ask the same when we are talking to the King of kings? Rabbi Kamenetzky asks how we are so certain that a talker is not discussing a vital matter. He is correct that an occasional emergency may arise. He is also correct that a quick hello when walking into shul is not out of bounds (although if someone

LETTERS walks in late, I find it doubly disturbing if he senses the need to greet all his friends). And yes, it is much worse to talk during the Torah reading than, say, after the reading is completed. Further, I am not discussing an instance where a quick Torah conversation takes place during a break in the tefillah. Generally, if I see someone talking who does not usually talk, I will assume there is a special circumstance. Yet more often, the talker is a habitual offender, and I don’t see why we must extend the benefit of the doubt, especially if he has previously been asked to keep silent. At any rate, even an emer-

gency can generally be handled in a whisper or by stepping out of the sanctuary. Of course, it is highly preferred to request the required comportment with a smile. Rebuke should be a last resort, but sometimes it is necessary and justified. Rabbi Kamenetzky, rather than blaming the victim, let us focus on eradicating this scourge, so that we can truly claim before Hashem that we come before Him as a holy community. Avi Goldstein Far Rockaway, NY

RABBI KAMENETZKY RESPONDS: Dear Avi: I appreciate your most heartfelt words, and I wholeheartedly agree with your concerns regarding the scourge of talking during davening. In no way did I mean to diminish the severity of idle chatter in shul, but I have seen, too many times, where the personal angle, the “I am davening, so you are bothering me” angle becomes the motive for the vehement reaction. Indeed, to paraphrase, the talking “interrupts your concentration and it is as if you were being punched by him. And as you said, “I object, just as I would object to being hit.” I still wonder if one’s personal anger and furious reaction, which causes the Shechinah to depart as well, will not indeed bring about the same sad results of Shechinah abandonment. But my main point was that it’s not only about the individual and his personal reaction. It is about creating an atmosphere of kedushah and sanctity in a kehillah and a beis haknesses, and about ahavas Yisrael and ahavas Hashem. In this manner, we can understand the greatness of the Almighty to whom we pray and His people who are so often collectively included in our personal prayers.


Children of a Hatzolah pioneer comment In reference to “Hatzolah and the Satmar Rebbe,” Issue 135

Dear Editor: Thank you so much for the beautiful article “Hatzolah and Satmar,” in your wonderful magazine, featuring our father, amv”s. We grew up watching our father dedicate his life to Hatzolah and to chesed in general. To this day, most of us are involved in chesed one way or another (including two children who are Hatzolah volunteers). We must say that a lot of credit goes to our mother, amv”s, who truly embodies the phrase “behind every great man there is a great woman.” This is a shout-out to our parents as to how proud we are of them, and we hope to emulate their ways of chesed so they in return can be proud of us. Gmar chasimah tovah. The Schnitzler children

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LETTERS RABBI SOLOVEITCHIK ON SITTING IN THE SUKKAH What happened to Shemini Atzeres? In reference to “To Sit or Not to Sit,” Issue 136

Dear Editor: I read the article in Ami Magazine this week about the halachic aspects of the minhag of sitting in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeres, and I thought I would share a story with your readers that happened with my father and Harav J. B. Soleveitchik. This is a free translation of the encounter, as written by my father in Shaarei Yeshivah Gedolah, Vol. 23, p. 248. “I once met with Hagaon Harav J. B. Soleveitchik on the day after Sukkos, and I asked him whether he sat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeres (for there are many with the minhag not to), and he answered me, “Absolutely, as it is clearly written in the Gemara (Sukkah 47a), “The halachah is that we sit in the sukkah but we don’t make a brachah (Leisheiv Basukkah),” and as it is written in the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 668:1), “In the Diaspora we eat in the sukkah by night and by day because it is a safek that it is the seventh day, but we don’t make a brachah while sitting in the sukkah.” I told him that there are many explanations in the mefarshim on the Shulchan Aruch to explain the minhag for those who don’t sit in the sukkah. He answered me as follows: “‘Between me and you, the real reason why there are some who don’t sit in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeres is as follows. In the Gemara in Shabbos (23a), after ex-

plaining that on mitzvos d’rabbanan we also make a brachah, the Gemara asks why we don’t make a brachah when separating maaser from demai, which is a rabbinic requirement. Abaye answers that on vadai d’rabbanan (definite rabbinic mitzvos) we make a brachah, but on a safek d’rabbanan (possible rabbinic mitzvah) we don’t make a brachah. The Gemara asks further: Then why do we make a brachah (Kiddush) on the second day of Yom Tov, which is a safek d’rabbanan? The Gemara answers: In order that they should not come to be mezalzel (take lightly) the second day of Yom Tov. “‘What we see from this Gemara is that whenever there is a requirement to do something and it’s possible to make a brachah on it but nevertheless there is no brachah required, there is the possibility that people will be mezalzel.’ “Harav Soloveitchik finished: “‘This is in fact what happened regarding sitting in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeres— when the Gemara said that we sit in the sukkah but no brachah is recited, people started to be mezalzel in the mitzvah and eventually stopped sitting in the sukkah.’” My father is the rosh yeshivah of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva Gedolah in Miami Beach and the rav of the shul “Beis Menachem” in Miami Beach. Yosef Schapiro Brooklyn, NY

EXPLAINING WHAT’S NAGGING ME The secret of shushing

In reference to Streets of Life, Issue 136

Dear Editor: I was fascinated by Rabbi Kamenetzky’s recent column on the shushing of people during davening and during certain other activities (like going to the mikvah!). I’m sure there are people who read his article and wondered whether he was somehow advocating a free-forall for talkers in our shuls. But I found that he had subtly pointed to the real problem he sees with the people he calls the shushkeves towards the beginning of the article: They’re often too self-absorbed to be doing anything but reflexively attacking the people next to them for the audacity to talk in their presence. And the reaction of the person at the receiving end of their wrath, as Rabbi Kamenetzky pointed out, isn’t one of happiness to have been rebuked. Very far from it. Rabbi Kamenetzky verbalized something I think I’ve felt for some time, but hadn’t understood intellectually. Keep explaining, Rabbi Kamenetzky! I’ll certainly keep quiet to listen. Yossi Weisberg

Ami’s staff would like to wish Avrohom Yaakov and Simah Tarkleltaub a hearty mazal tov on the occasion of the birth of their son. 14 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / S E P T E M B E R 1 5 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 1 T I S H R E I 5 7 7 4

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A weekly look at the danger posed by Iran and radical Islam


The online world has long been a place for Islamic terrorists to recruit, and to maintain communications. But recently the world of social media sites has become an overtly open way for Islamists to find an audience—including in the midst of brutal attacks on civilians. During the attacks by members of AlShabaab on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, the terrorists continually tweeted about their activities. As one account was shut down by Twitter, the terrorists would open another account and continue tweeting. At one point the Kenyan police appealed for “all Kenyans to ignore the propaganda of those intent on dividing us and breaking us down.” Terrorists, of course, make themselves powerful through the application of terror, and the use of Twitter to increase terror is a logical extension of that. That’s why AlShabaab is hardly alone in its use of the social media site. Recently Twitter shut down the account of Al-Qaeda. Yes, that Al-Qaeda. But the shutdown came after five days of tweeting by the arch terrorist group. (Recall, also, that Al-Shabaab is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, and would have merged entirely with the group if not for Osama Bin Laden’s advice to keep their original name.) Twitter’s official comment? “We don’t comment on individual Twitter accounts, for security and privacy reasons.” But it turns out that they will suggest individual Twitter accounts even when they are asso-

ciated with killers. Journalist Bridget Johnson, writing at PJ Media, reported that she had been “following” Al-Qaeda’s account on Twitter, and received an e-mail from the website suggesting several other Twitter users she might like to follow. Researching the suggestions, she realized that Twitter had

suggested the feeds of an Al-Qaeda web forum, an Al-Qaeda training camp, a Kurdistani Al-Qaeda affiliate, an Al-Shabaab member and a former Guantanamo Bay detainee. The friends you’ll meet… v Another big Twitter client is the present president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, who most recently tweeted a rundown of his recent phone conversation with President Obama. But the Iranians don’t go on Twitter to hear what is going on in Israel. For that, they use spies, one of whom was allegedly captured this week in Tel Aviv.

16 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / O C T O B E R 2 , 2 0 1 3 / / 2 8 T I S H R E I 5 7 7 4

The alleged spy, Ali Mansouri, is a Belgian national. He was found to have photographed the US embassy in Tel Aviv. The Shin Bet announced that Mansouri was attempting to plan for a possible terrorist attack, and that he had been trying to establish business ties in the country to help in espionage. The Shin Bet refused to answer questions about whether the arrest had been publicized on purpose during the ongoing debate over increased USIranian ties. v Though the Iranians may have been caught using the low-tech method of actually sending a man to Israel, in the US they’ve made headlines by making trouble electronically. US officials revealed this week that Iranians had hacked into the Navy Marine Corps Intranet. (Lots of Iranian spying coincidentally being revealed this week, eh?) That system was described by The Wall Street Journal as “the majority of the Navy’s unclassified computer system,” and it contains “the email accounts for officials as senior as the secretary of the Navy, the chief of naval operations and commandant of the Marine Corps.” The officials don’t think that information of “significant value” was stolen. But considering the fact that it is on the open ocean that some of the most dangerous flashpoints could develop between the US and Iran (think Strait of Hormuz), this news isn’t hunky-dory.


Greece Cracks Down on Extremists

Does Cruz Have a Secret Strategy? THINKING ABOUT THE TEXAS SENATOR The battle over the funding of Obamacare and a possible government shutdown has one major villain in many people’s eyes: Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas. Cruz’s Tea Party politics and hammering on the president and the Democrats didn’t help him hamstring Obamacare in the Senate, despite a filibuster attempt. But Cruz’s influence is undeniable, as much as any of his House counterparts’, and he has therefore become the target of a great deal of hatred, both from the opposing side of the aisle and from other Republicans who dislike his brinkmanship. That attraction of enmity almost seems suicidal. But does Cruz actually have a secret plan? According to Jack M. Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School, the answer might be yes. Writing for The Atlantic, Balkin suggested this week that Cruz might be attempting to weed out ideological moderates from the Republican Party, knocking the party as a whole into Tea Party territory, as numerous revolutionary political figures have done in the past. (The title of Balkin’s article compares Cruz to Lenin, a comparison the socialism-averse Cruz would probably find distasteful. But in the article, he actually points to numerous American political movements as predecessors.) That would explain the rough time that Cruz has given his fellow Republicans during the recent Obamacare fight. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma? According to Cruz, he’s in the “surrender caucus.” Mitch McConnell? Cruz’s top political strategist says he’s just like Obama. And Cruz says that Republicans in general are just scared. Those fighting words might seem like a good way to get fellow Republicans to gang up on him—unless he thinks he has the advantage. And his popularity hasn’t gone down among everyone; he’s become a darling of the Tea Party, probably bigger than the other two contenders for the crown, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. As Balkin puts it, Cruz “is deliberately fracturing the Republican Party so he can take hold of the largest piece of it…. Once these squishes are gone, the Tea Party can exert even greater control over the more ideologically pure remnant, which will be known as—wait for it—the Republican Party. Cruz plans to be the political leader of that party.” It’s either crazy or gutsy. But it just might work.

GOLDEN DAWN MAY BE SETTING Right-wing extremism has been a worrisome phenomenon in Greece for some years now. The xenophobic political party Golden Dawn had made gains in the parliament, and the extreme behavior of its representatives shocked many Greeks. A physical assault on two female political opponents of Golden Dawn by a representative on a national television show was one of the most notorious acts. Graffiti on memorials to Greek Jews killed in the Holocaust has often contained the name of the party in recent years. But that behavior may soon change. The killing of an anti-fascist activist this past month has led to the arrests of five of Golden Dawn’s highest officials, and plans by the Greek government to introduce new legislation combating racist speech. Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos told reporters, “It will be submitted to parliament in a matter of days. It has symbolic and moral value.” Greek law makes outlawing a political party difficult. So the Greek government is looking at ways of removing Golden Dawn’s state funding, while putting its leadership on trial cuts off the hate group at the neck.

Members of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party hold shields with their party’s symbol

28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE





John McCain (R)


Voted Yes


Dick Durbin (D)


Tim Kaine (D) John Barrasso (R)

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Voted No

Ben Cardin (D)


Bob Corker (R)


Marco Rubio (R)


Bob Menendez (D)


Chris Murphy (D) Jeanne Shaheen (D) Jeff Flake (R) Barbara Boxer (D) Chris Coons (D)

$58,250 $41,872 $26,900 $24,150 $19,500

Ron Johnson (R)


Tom Udall (D)


Rand Paul (R)


Jim Risch (R)



Does Money Sway Senators’ Votes? The influence of money on politics is always of concern in a democracy. Is your elected representative in a parliament or congress voting based on strongly held principles and constituent concerns? Or is he or she voting based on the monetary benefits that will accrue from special interest groups? One of the most disturbing places to think that money would make a difference would be in cases of military action. Would a senator or member of parliament send soldiers out to kill or be killed just because of the gleam of lucre? Hard to fathom. Yet a recent International Business Times examination of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee votes on military action against Syria (action which was forestalled by the Russian plan to monitor Syria’s chemical weapons) turned up something disturbing: The senators who voted for action against Syria received an average of $72,850 from the defense industry. But those who voted against such military action received an average of $39,770, a difference of about 83 percent for voting “yes.” Correlation, of course, doesn’t mean causation. And the reason that the “yes” senators receive more money may be because they’re more likely—like the biggest donation recipient, John McCain—to support military action. But the numbers may give voters pause, as well, when they contemplate who is really pulling the strings.

18 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / O C T O B E R 2 , 2 0 1 3 / / 2 8 T I S H R E I 5 7 7 4


U P D AT E S New Info on Stories We’ve Run In our recent article on e-cigarettes, we discussed both the possibility that the devices could be used as a way of getting people to stop smoking tobacco cigarettes, and the possibility that they might be used by children who hadn’t previously been smoking. Two recent studies highlighted those issues. A study out of the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland in New Zealand found that e-cigarettes work at least as well as traditional smoking-cessation products, like nicotine patches or gum. Smokers in the study also liked e-cigarettes much better than other products. Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control reported that e-cigarette usage had doubled among teens from 2011 to 2012. Only one in five teens who use them, however, said that they had never used regular cigarettes. Still, that one out of five represents a significant number of first-time users.

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The plan for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons that we’ve reported on seems to be going forward. Russia announced that it would provide soldiers to guard the weapons sites during the process. It also said that the weapons would be destroyed on Syrian soil. The only two countries equipped to deal with such weapons are the US and Russia, but the US doesn’t permit the importation of chemical agents and Russia says that it will not bring them to its territory for destruction, either. The Syrian civil war continues, with a missile attack on a school in the city of Raqqa the latest occurrence of mass death. Sixteen people, mostly students, were killed. But at the UN General Assembly, the Syrian foreign minister said that there is no civil war. “It is a war against terror that recognizes no values, nor justice, nor equality, and disregards any rights or laws.” Unfortunately, it does seem true that Al-Qaeda’s forces in Syria are the most powerful of the fighters working there. We previously reported in a feature article on New York City’s bizarre discrimination case against Williamsburg store owners who had dress code signs in their store windows. Well, it’s still going on. An administrative judge has ruled that NYC’s lawsuit against the store owners can proceed. This abuse of government power will continue to drain time and money from upstanding citizens.



Ben Rosen

Sightings&Citings Synopses of, and excerpts from, interesting items that have recently appeared here and there —and sometimes way over there—in the media


percent of Obamacare must be funded in all instances.” Funding a bill that was passed by Congress: the new face of tyranny.

Ted passes the buck to Harry In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Republican senator Ted Cruz, who unsuccessfully filibustered Obamacare funding not long before House Republicans sent all government funding down a procedural rabbit hole, attempted to blame the impending government shutdown on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Cruz said that Reid had used “brute political force” to fund Obamacare, apparently a new code phrase for voting. “If we have a shutdown, it will be because Harry Reid holds that absolutist position and essentially holds the American people hostage,” Cruz said. “So far, Majority Leader Harry Reid has essentially told the House of Representatives and the American people, “Go jump in a lake.” He says, ‘I’m not willing to compromise, I’m not willing to even talk.’ His position is: 100 These phones already cost an arm and a leg. So why not a finger?

LOSING FAITH…IN THEMSELVES New poll finds key number low A recent poll by the Gallup polling organization found that trust by Americans in the various institutions of American politics is at a low mark. “Americans’ trust in the federal government to handle domestic and international problems, their trust in the news media, and their trust in the three branches of the federal government, and in state and local governments are all at or near historical lows,” said the company. Trust in politicians has also continued to fall recently, though previous polls did find an interesting spike: In September 2008, the two major-party candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, were viewed

better than any other recent pair of candidates. But what may be one of the most disturbing measures is the percent of Americans who have trust in “the American people,” which is at a historical low of only 61 percent. I don’t even trust how they answer polls.

SURPRISED ON THE RUNWAY That was a close one The French weekly, Le Nouvel Observateur, reported last week that President Obama’s decision not to attack Syria over its chemical weapons came as a shock to the French government. French president François Hollande had set up a meeting with his war group for directly after a scheduled 3:00 a.m. call from President Obama that was supposed to confirm the attacks. French war planes were even waiting on runways, ready to lift off when they received the word. Then Obama called and said


THE HORRENDOUS ROUTE TO WORLD PEACE “I wish you a safe and pleasant journey and apologize if you’re experiencing the [horrendous] traffic in #NYC” —Part of a tweet from Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s Twitter account, describing what President Obama told Rouhani in a recent phone call; it’s unclear whether the word “horrendous” was Obama’s or Rouhani’s. Obama comes to town, snarls traffic, then complains about it. Now that’s chutzpah! that the attack had been called off. Hollande reportedly tried to convince him to change his mind, but that didn’t work. And Hollande had started calling American cheese “freedom cheese.”

“Thieves…in some extreme cases have also mutilated victims in order to steal their fingerprint.” —Marc Rogers, a security expert quoted in multiple media sources, explaining that thieves might cut off people’s fingers to access the Apple iPhone 5S’s new fingerprint ID feature.

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Farsblundjet and Farsfetched



here seems to be more confusion over whether Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani denies the Holocaust than a room full of Republican congressmen trying to decide what they hate most about President Obama. The truth is that whatever Rouhani believes shouldn’t be difficult to determine because we can simply ask him. The problem is that CNN did just that, and that’s exactly where the confusion begins. The question was asked in English, the answer was provided in local Farsi, and then everyone got busy with their spin. Like searching for a pair of socks in a loaded, spinning drier, no two results came out the same. Did Rouhani deny that the Holocaust happened? Did he not? If it did happen, does he condemn or applaud it? Does he even have an alibi for the years 1939 through 1945 (so what if he was born in 1948)? And if he denies the Holocaust happened in the past, does he have plans for one in the future? Some in the American news media decided that he did not deny the Holocaust, while others in the media claim he totally did. Still others believe he denied it, but only moderately so (whatever that means). Around that time everyone realized that perhaps we should actually  ask someone who speaks Farsi to translate the statement! Ah, well. According to CNN’s translator, he acknowledged the Holocaust. According to the Wall Street Journal’s translator, he denied the Holocaust. Okay, so whom can we trust? Well, let’s check in with the Fars News Agency, which, by the way, is just like a regular news organization, only instead of publishing what’s actually going on, they just make up stuff in Farsi. In other words, they are to Iran what CNN is to America. The difference between the two is that Fars only writes what Iranian clerics tell them to write, while CNN would never think of doing anything like that...unless American clerics (sometimes read: the politicians in power from whom CNN’s directives are received) tell them to. 22 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / O C T O B E R 2 , 2 0 1 3 / / 2 8 T I S H R E I 5 7 7 4

So anyway, Fars denies their leader denied his Holocaust denial. They steadfastly maintain that he never admitted the Holocaust happened and he never will. Hooray for clarity! Uh, not so fast. On the one hand, whom better to trust than the Iranian leader’s own PR (sometimes read: news) agency? On the other hand, they are the Iranian leader’s own PR agency, whose job it is to put him in the worst light possible, thus endearing him to the Iranian public. And then there’s Al-Jazeera America (because that’s all America has ever needed), who accepted Rouhani’s acceptance of the Holocaust without betraying the slightest indication of their approval. Meanwhile, the Syrian Free Press Network (whomever they/he are/is) screams for Iran to get out there and sue CNN for libel. And thus our well-rounded model of confusion gets significantly enhanced. Fars claims CNN fabricated most of the quote. First of all, they say, Rouhani never made mention of or used the word “Holocaust.” Secondly, he made sure to point out that if certain events took place, then they are condemnable. He also made sure to point out that historians should decide what exactly went down and also that he’s not very good at history himself. Furthermore, he never did specify which “historians” he had in mind. Finally, he made sure to mention that if indeed something did happen between the Jews and Nazis, it doesn’t justify Israel’s existence; an existence he did not confirm nor deny. Of course this statement mirrors the exact position of previous Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with the exception of...nothing. It’s exactly what Ahmadinejad said, and if Iran successfully sues CNN, they should consider suing themselves as well, for stealing their own material from themselves. But I felt there was still a little room left for a teeny bit more confusion, so I went ahead and entered the exact Persian text of Rouhani’s statement into Google Translate. The result I got left my head spinning worse than a sock looking for its own match in a dryer full of bizarre analogies.



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his week’s verdict on Obama’s handling of the Syrian crisis is mostly mixed. Some commentators see Obama’s taking the decision to a hostile Congress as a wise move that has improbably catalyzed the issue to an unexpectedly better outcome. Other observers perceive this latest maneuver as one in a series of moves amounting to Hamlet-like dithering, which comes from weakness. My concern here is not about the wisdom of his decisions; one can make arguments for this position or that. It is not even about Obama having changed his mind repeatedly. One can be expected to vacillate somewhat when deliberating on grave matters. Rather, it concerns the way Obama detaches himself from himself. Listening to his speech from the Rose Garden, one gets a sinking feeling. The president seems to have a compulsion to collaborate and conciliate when confrontation would seem to be the right thing. Don’t get me wrong. It is a wonderful quality in a leader or father or in any person to try to make peace and smooth things over. But what accounts for the impulse to placate and appease when it is clear that your opponent wishes to thwart or even kill you? This has been the hallmark of the Obama presidency: an unwillingness to be angry and to hate and to stand alone when appropriate. It started early in his first term, when

he prostrated himself before the Emperor of Japan. (Remember the headline, “Superbower”?) Then came his refusal to confront Putin several years ago, or even the chairman of BP during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010. President Obama’s “bloodless” approach to people and events—an emotional detachment that his aides say allows him to see things more clearly—has instead obscured his vision. It has made him unable to understand things quickly on a visceral level, and therefore it puts him on the defensive when the country and world need him to be connected to his passion. Here is a man who diverts or even cuts off the blood flow between his heart and his head. What accounts for this behavior, and what can we learn from it? Of course, nothing can be known in certainty about another human being. But we can reasonably speculate that this has something to do with the president’s father—or lack thereof. Our president said most recently “I have always longed for my father to have been involved in my life.” Obama famously did not have much of a father to speak of. He was around during the first year or so of his existence and then for a month when he was teenager. His father had several wives and died at the age of 47. How does this work exactly? How does a man’s absent father affect his ability to function as a leader? While the dynamics are

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complicated, suffice it to say that the intimacy between fathers and sons is not a simple one. The famous psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut understood that contained in the love transmitted between the generations is also a power transfer, if you will. Even in the best of father-son relationships, love is given together with power so that the two are integrated in the personality. When the natural, normal need to merge with a powerful father is thwarted, as in the case of an absent father, the potential is there for a pathology to develop. In such a person, there may arise a skewed relationship to power and force. In order to be appropriately forceful, one must have received enough love and power from a father to be able to stand apart, to sustain what I call “the intimacy of hate.” Take Yankel, for example, a man I knew who grew up without a father. His father died when he was two or three years old and his mother subsequently remarried. Yankel had a very loving mother and a wonderful stepfather. He even became quite accomplished in his profession, but his career never took off. For some reason he was left behind in the dust by colleagues who earned far greater

DR. SIMON YISRAEL FEUERMAN is Director of the New Center for Advanced Psychotherapy Studies and is a psychotherapist in private practice.

affairs. No sooner does it look as if he might be willing to consider taking an unpopular and bold position, then he fragments into bloodless calculus and ineffective exhortations. He beseeches Congress to “do the right thing,” as though he were so lonely and afraid of being with himself that he will ally himself with anyone, as if even the devil could keep him company and be his friend. On our own much smaller level, each of us will eventually have to confront someone or something in our family, in our work environment or on an institutional level. So many times we are tempted to collude, to cover up and turn the other way and pretend that everything is all right, because it takes enormous power to separate and stand alone. In order to have this ability to be “alone with yourself,” as the British psychoanalyst D.W.

What accounts for the impulse to placate and appease when it is clear that your opponent wishes to thwart or even kill you? necessary it is to stand alone sometimes. Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l, spoke about the importance of bearing in mind that we stand alone when davening Shemoneh Esrei. Despite being part of a family, a chaburah, a community, or a chasidus, at that moment in the Silent Devotion we are alone with the Creator and must account for our lives to Him and to ourselves. It is frightful and inspirational at the same time. Our president is a man of great talents. He has captivated many of us with his dazzling oratory, charm and intellectual strengths. Nevertheless, he seems to have difficulty standing alone, particularly in international

Winnicott called it, one has to have been loved long and firmly enough as a child to achieve this state. With an absent father, Obama didn’t have that. Of course, no human being can get all he needs from his parents. And no parent has all the talent, ability or energy to meet all the needs of any one child. That’s just the way the world is built. The wise person will seek encouragement and strength when necessary. Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, with its unhurried ability to speak with love to the unconscious, to that part of a person he himself cannot see, is a vital tool in the maturation of a human being. 

distinction and income with less than half his talent. Forever frustrated as an “almost,” he could not apply enough force to get what he wanted in life. Of course, this doesn’t apply only to fathers and sons. Sooner or later we all have to confront someone in life. Sometimes it will be someone we love—a spouse with an ugly temper, an over-entitled brother, a sister who habitually oversteps her bounds, or a miserly father; sometimes an outright enemy or truly evil person, or maybe even some disgraceful aspect of ourselves which we must confront before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. To have a genuinely fruitful and effective confrontation, one has to be able to stand alone. We like to say in our circles, “Leben iz mit mentchen—life is with people,” but an evolved person knows how


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The crowd davening at the Kosel


Tefillos for Rav Ovadia


n Motzaei Shabbos Chol Hamoed, Maran Rav Ovadia Yosef was admitted to the hospital for the fourth time this month. On Monday, when his condition became life threatening, the name Chaim was added to his name in a ceremony led by his son and current Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Rav Yitzchak Yosef. This past Sunday, thousands of people gathered at the Kosel to daven for a refuah. Rav Reuven Elbaz, Rosh Yeshivat Ohr Hachaim in Eretz Yisrael and a close disciple of the Maran, spoke to Ami about his rebbe. “Maran’s situation is in need of much rachamei Shamayim. However, we have been zocheh to see miracles and wonders—miracles that were created for Maran. I was there right before Yom Tov when the doctors said that there is no chance, chas v’shalom, for Maran to pull through. They even informed us that it is a matter of hours—nora v’ayom. I almost fainted in the hospital upon hearing such words. I questioned the doctor further and he said to me, ‘It is a critical situation; however, by you, the datim—the religious—we cannot establish things for a

certainty because you are able to change the whole scenario of things with your prayers.’ “It is something to see here, the collective hitorerut of Klal Yisrael—Ashkenazim, Sephardim, all sectors of Klal Yisrael are mitpallelim, accepting upon themselves kabalot. It is difficult to describe what is going on here.” Rav Elbaz spoke to Ami literally moments after speaking at the gathering at the Kosel. “I have never seen the Kotel as full as I saw it today. People were standing until outside the Kotel boundaries … it was so full. There were more people than even the largest gathering for birkat kohanim on Chol Hamoed. Perhaps 100,000 people, even more. They cried to Shamayim, they cried and were mitpallel for Maran. During the tefillah, a member of Maran’s family received a message that Maran started to breathe on his own for the first time in almost a week— during the tefillah, a dvar pele! He started to cough, to open his eyes. We see from here the power of the tefillat rabim.” “Rav Ovadia established worlds of Torah throughout the world. In Eretz Yisrael, Spain, Mexico, Holland, Morocco, Egypt,

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New York—everywhere the Rav went he spread Torah in wondrous ways. There is no one like him in the world. He is the rarest of the rare when it comes to Torah learning. It is 56 years that I know Maran and am close to him—I am often by his side. His learning is mamash pele pla’ot. His Torah learning is blessed from Hashem. Look at his library of sefarim—sefarim that cover the broad spectrum of Torah learning from all sides. Look at his (shu”t) Yabia Omer, how he mentions thousands upon thousands of different sefarim, often even in passing and in abbreviation. Once, while standing in his library, I was looking at the rows and rows of sefarim, and Rabbanit Yosef told me, ‘You should know, every sefer you see here, if the Rav doesn’t know the entirety of the sefer in his head, he does not put it in his library.’ And there are thousands! You can ask Rav Ovadia anything written anywhere and he will know it. It is something to behold, his greatness in Torah. However, even with all of his greatness in Torah learning, he never lets go for a second or says to himself, ‘I know it anyway.’ Rather, every second is utilized to learn more and more Torah. If it


isn’t something concerning Torah, he isn’t interested in talking about it. The way he is connected to the Torah Hakedoshah—zeh mavhil (it’s astonishing).” When Rav Ovadia delivers his weekly Thursday night Torah lecture, which is broadcast to thousands of people, Rav Elbaz is often the one who delivers the opening shiur. He is often seen at Rav Ovadia’s side. He choked up as he recalled a recent incident: “Baruch Hashem, I was zocheh that in the past few years I saw him every day. I am a mohel and people will travel from far and wide so that Maran should be the sandek at the brit. I remember a brit that took place only shortly before the Rav was admitted into the hospital. It was the day of the hachtarah of the Rav’s son as Rishon L'Tzion— it was a special event. However, I had a brit that day and left the event to attend the brit. At the brit, I saw a large car arrive; I asked about it and was told, ‘Rav Ovadia came to be the sandek.’ As Rav Ovadia came near, I made my way to him. I bent down to kiss his hand like I usually do. However, Maran stuck out his hand and brought my face near his, turning my ear to close to his mouth. He kissed me on my cheek and he told me three times, ‘Hashem yevarech otcha, Hashem yevarech otcha, Hashem yevarech otcha’; the same day he went to the hospital. He knows what to say to every person.” Harav Ovadia Yosef has impacted secular Israelis as well. Israeli news stations carry constant updates on his condition. Members of the Knesset offer their wishes for a refuah sheleimah. Rav Elbaz commented, “It is amazing to see the different types of people [who] took Maran’s illness to heart. I know a certain Jew—he has a radio station in Tel Aviv and he always talks against the religious. He also spoke many times against the Rav as well. This same man, who spewed hatred on his radio show, recently asked his listening audience what they are willing to accept upon themselves to strengthen themselves in Yahadut as a zechut for Maran’s refuah sheleimah, whether it is putting on tefillin, saying Tehillim or something else. People called the radio station and asked him if he is doing this to make fun of the religious again, if he is making a

mockery of the situation. But no—he said iPhones and only use kosher cellphones he was serious, and he too wanted to do so they should not chas v’shalom be nichwhat he could. To see someone so far away shal in all sorts of aveirot and toeivot. It from Torah, to suddenly come close and will be a great zechut for Maran. Chazak do something so special—it must be some- ve’ematz.” Rav Elbaz delivered a brachah to the Ami readers: “Tizku legadel Torah thing directly from the Borei Olam. “From this we can see the power of Rav b’Yisrael u’leharbot chayalim lemaan kedushah Ovadia’s Torah learning in the world. As v’taharah. Amen!” it says, ‘He who learns Torah secretly, his The Maran’s son has publicly rebuked those who discuss matters related to the Torah will eventually be known to all.’ “Klal Yisrael is giving back to him but a future leadership of Shas. Of this controlittle right now, through their tefillot and versy Rav Elbaz says, “Acharei Maran, zeh accepting kabbalot upon themselves. Some Maran—after Maran, is Maran! He will get people wanted to learn Shas in zechut of Maran. So many people joined together to learn for two hours that they were able to finish Shas three times in one day!” I asked Rav Elbaz what the readers should accept upon themselves as a zechus for Maran. “Everyone knows the area in which he lacks,” he answered. “A person should seek ways to connect himself to the Torah—l’hitchaber la’Torah. Go to a shiur; those [who] are already involved in Torah learning should seek ways to be mezakeh harabim because this is the motto of Maran Rav Ovadia—to seek Rav Elbaz with Rav Ovadia to be mezakeh someone. If you are a talmid chacham, simply to speak to someone is to better, b’ezrat Hashem, and he will return bring him closer; go learn with someone or to his Torah learning and will live, b’ezrat invite [him] to bet knesset to learn or hear Shemo Yitbarach. The tefillot of klal Yisrael lo a shiur. There are many people out there yashuvu reikam. What we have to do now is simply waiting for you to talk to them a lehitpallel. May Hashem answer our tefillot bit in learning. People should be mechazek and the tefillot of all of klal Yisrael. “I am happy you are writing these words in regard to tzniut (modesty) and in regard to the topic of smartphones; this is a very that everyone should lehitpallel to be critical area. Chacham Shalom Cohen (Rosh mekayem chachmei Yisrael,” Rav Elbaz states Yeshivat Porat Yosef) spoke very strongly at the end of the conversation. Rav Chaim Ovadia ben Georgia—li’refuah about this topic today at an atzeret tefillah—that people should throw away their sheleimah!

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Orlando, Flori

Their community, known as the Orlando Torah Center, currently has 25 frum families


or many people, the name Orlando immediately conjures up images of a family vacation to the famous “Magic Kingdom” of Disney World. Yet there is far more to the inland Florida city than that. Orlando offers year-round sunshine; recreation; and proximity to beaches, lakes, lovely parks and world-class shopping. There’s no need for winter coats, scarves and boots here! The region’s amenities make Orlando a wonderful place to live and work. The Jewish community of Orlando dates back as far as the 1850s, when some Jewish pioneers were attracted by the cotton and cattle industries. Other Jews

followed and became involved in business and agriculture. More Jews came while in the military during the 1940s, and the postwar aerospace boom brought many more Jews to the area. When Disney World opened in 1971, Central Florida was permanently transformed. Tourism and the hotel industry mushroomed and Jewish professionals, businesspeople and service personnel made the community diverse and dynamic. The greatest period of growth was from 4,000 Jews in 1971 to about 30,000 today. There are three Orthodox congregations, Judaic Studies programs at the University of Central Florida and Rollins College, a chevrah kadisha, and Florida Kosher Services.

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REAL ESTATE Unlike many apartment-dwelling children in northern US cities, most of their cousins in Orlando live in houses with spacious backyards often containing a pool. It is actually cheaper now to buy rather than rent a typical three-bedroom house with a nice size backyard. Prices are rising, however, so it’s an opportune time for potential home buyers in Orlando. The price of a small, older three-bedroom house can be as low as $175,000. A large, newer house with spacious backyard averages $250,000. Rent for an average three-bedroom house is about $1,800 a month.


rida 

Cost of Living 64 oz. Kedem grape juice: $8.00 Half gallon chalav Yisrael milk (imported): $4.50 SCHOOL TUITION Kindergarten—$8,500.00; First through fourth grade—$10,000. For families who qualify, there is free tuition for one year.


Orlando has a subtropical climate, with mild, sunny winters (averaging 70 degrees Fahrenheit) and hot, humid, rainy summers (100°F). The weather is very pleasant from Sukkos through Pesach. Since Orlando is an inland city, it does not have the same risk of hurricanes as the coastal cities in Florida.

munity, which is warm, welcoming and tight-knit. “Everyone belongs here, feels part of something special, and wants to grow the kehillah,” states Rebbetzin Yachnes. For children, life in Orlando is wonderful but not because the fantastic Disney World is practically in their backyard. In fact, Rebbetzin Yachnes explains, “the novelty and excitement of the ‘Magic Kingdom’ quickly wears off. However, thanks to the balmy Florida climate, children can play outdoors almost all year round, enjoying nature activities and the many beautiful parks.” Regarding kashrus, basic kosher food products are available in the local supermarkets. In addition, Rebbetzin Yachnes organizes a bulk shipment of meat and dairy products from Miami, the closest frum community, about once a month. Chalav Yisrael milk is obtainable through Chabad. The one kosher restaurant, The Lower East Side Deli, an Orlando fixture for over 20 years, is popular with visitors as well as the locals. Other restaurants have opened and closed over the years but the frum families of Orlando are hoping to have a permanent kosher pizza restaurant. Rabbi and Rebbetzin Yachnes encourage more frum families to consider relocating to Orlando, especially young professionals in the medical and high-tech fields, or those involved with the tourist industry or geriatrics. There are many employment opportunities in these busi-

As Orlando attracts millions of tourists from around the world, there are frequent direct flights to its large international airport.

Chabad Rabbi Yosef Konikov explains that there are four Chabad Houses that have frum shuls in different areas of Orlando. One of them, in Maitland, has the only mikvah in the Greater Orlando area. The Shabbos minyanim, in communities where many people live within walking distance, draw about 50 people on an average Shabbos. On some Shabbasos there is another minyan closer to the hotels to make it easier for frum visitors. On the High Holydays they add a Sephardic minyan, and between both minyanim they have approximately 400 people on Yom Kippur. “Although our community is growing, the frum community is small and mostly a new growing community geared to Jews from nonobservant backgrounds. They are becoming inspired to Yiddishkeit and learning and becoming baalei teshuvah,” states Rabbi Konikov. Rabbi David and Rebbetzin Shifra Yachnes arrived in Orlando two years ago from Kew Gardens Hills, NY. Their small, optimistic community, known as the Orlando Torah Center, currently has 25 frum families whose goal is to reach out to the 30,000 unaffiliated Jewish families in the greater Orlando area. Their other goal is to maintain and expand the small elementary day school, which started four years ago with only 12 students. The Orlando Torah Academy now has over 40 children up to fourth grade, with a further grade added each year. The most positive aspect of living in Orlando is the small, family-friendly com-

Getting there Flying time from NY: 2.25 hours From London: 9.25 hours From Tel Aviv: 15.3 hours Driving time from Miami: 3.5 hours

nesses, as well as outreach options. Community events are widely publicized and all the Jewish holidays are celebrated in an attempt to attract the notyet-frum families towards a Torah lifestyle. Life in Orlando certainly has its challenges, such as the current lack of higher day-school education and the limited number of suitable friends for the children. However, most of these issues can be overcome if the number of frum families expands. Rabbi and Rebbetzin Yachnes, enthusiastic advocates of their kehillah, extend an invitation to families to “come on down” to visit not only Disney’s Magic Kingdom, but the Orlando Torah Center as well. As their slogan states, “Join Orlando’s growing Torah community: You just may find it magical!”

To submit a community’s story or to have your community featured here, please contact us at

28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE






Bringing Back Clothes



More than 97% of clothing sold in the US is made overseas, but rising production costs and a growing appetite for "Made in the US" goods are fueling a revival. As garment professionals age, efforts to preserve skills like lace-making, knitting and pattern-making are underway in both small cities and apparel capital New York City. So far, those committed to “Made in America” are not trying to compete with low-cost brands like Forever 21, but are instead utilizing unique technology or hand-made quality that sells for more. The owner of Annelore, a small women's apparel label whose hand-knit garments are made in New York City, says, “If we can do it, anyone can do it.” (Source: CNBC)

Data Point


The Small Business Administration defines a small business as an enterprise with fewer than 500 employees. (Source: Forbes)


Tales of customers returning backpacks for a broken zipper after five years of hard use breed worry whether or not consumers are “gaming” LL Bean’s liberal return policy. But LL Bean’s chief marketing officer, a “model of non-judgment,” explains, “If [a customer] believes her zippers should last a longer time, we’ll respect that and we’ll refund her money or give her a new product until she’s happy.” Competitor REI ended their “no questions asked” return policy after gaining the nickname “Return Every Item.” But LL Bean defends the company’s stance, noting, “How many times has your colleague talked about the fact that she’s returned that backpack and LL Bean gave her a new one without question?” Unlimited returns policy is an expensive business practice, but cheap advertising. (Source: NPR)


As the first stage of Obamacare goes into effect October 1, Medicare’s actuary predicts the new law will boost spending by $621 billion—which translates to $7,450 for a family of four. While the law’s supporters say the increase is worth the extra cost to taxpayers, opponents remain angry the higher spending doesn’t match the president’s promises. (Source: Forbes)

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QUESTIONS AMAZON: “[Founder] Jeff Bezos walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it?” MASTERCARD: “Can you say ‘Peter Piper Picked a Pickled Pepper’ and cross-sell a washing machine at the same time?” DELL: “What song best describes your work ethic?” JIFFY SOFTWARE: “Have you ever stolen a pen from work?” GOOGLE: “How many cows are in Canada?” KIMBERLY-CLARK: “If you had turned your cell phone to silent, and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent, what would you tell me?” ZAPPOS: “What superhero would you be, and would you dress up at work given the chance?” GALLOP: “What do you think about when you are alone in the car?”

JETBLUE: “How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State Building?” CLARK CONSTRUCTION GROUP: “A penguin walks through the door wearing a sombrero. What does he say, and why is he here?” PRICEWATERHOUSE COOPERS: “Where would you recommend going on vacation?” BAIN & CO.: “Estimate how many windows are in New York.” APPLE: “What kind of animal would you be and why?”(Source: BusinessInsider)



Should I take the plunge into the business world or study for a degree first? Is there a way to earn money while doing the things I enjoy? Any tips to improve my chances of getting hired?



Join us

for an insightful and exciting evening

job event

on the

Finding your niche in the fast-changing job market . Brought To You By:


5 Steps To Get the Job or Career You Want By Maurice Stein, business coach, Ami columnist and author of 10 Days To A Career You Love.

8:30 PM


Refreshments + Networking TTI advisors and graduates will be available to answer, guide and inform.



TTI, the leaders of education, will present an overview on the career options available for the Heimishe community



Two entrepreneurs will share their journey and what they learnt along the way


Call. 718.376.0974




Name: Yankie Kloc

Year Established: August 2008

Age: 43

Employees: 40+

Company: Airseal Insulation Systems

Lives: Flatbush

Industry: Commercial & Residential Insulation Background: Yankie Kloc is co-founder and co-owner of Airseal Insulation Systems, a multi-million dollar company specializing in spray foam insulation, as well as the founder of The Spray Market, Inc., a provider of spray foam insulation products, equipment and training. Yankie is an alumnus of the Adelphia and Passaic yeshivos and the Mirrer Kollel. He maintains a rigorous learning schedule despite intense working hours. On Sundays he learns in the Kollel Dirshu semichah program, and lives in Flatbush with his wife Tzipora and their children.

LUNCH BREAK with Yankie Kloc You were already running a successful construction firm. Why did you start a spray foam insulation company? About 13 years ago I joined a friend, Ari Gutman, in managing a small but growing construction company. I found that buildings were difficult to insulate, so I was always looking for better methods. We heard about a Canadian company that made spray foam insulation, and Ari suggested I see whether it was viable in the US. I looked into it, and we began to use their product. We were the first ones in the Tri-State area. Eventually we left construction and now sell and install all forms of insulation full time, injection foam for existing structures and roof cellulose for existing commercial buildings. We also do structural fire-

proofing using a spray-on fiber. With Hashem’s help, we now have many trucks doing multiple daily installations across several states.

Since you were the first to offer this type of insulation in our area, how did you come to promote a not-yet-popular form of spray insulation? Word of mouth by satisfied clients. We worked with construction companies, and our insulation saved their clients money. More importantly, it was better than traditional insulation. We held presentations for builders and real estate developers and even offered free spot insulation. We still do presentations to this day—never stop selling!

What was the turning point in

32 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / O C T O B E R 2 , 2 0 1 3 / / 2 8 T I S H R E I 5 7 7 4

your success? When other companies went into the spray insulation business and began to promote it, they helped us by creating a demand. As more and more people became aware of the product and competition increased, our business grew.

How can competition help your business? Unlike a product that’s already widely in use, in order to sell a relatively new one you have to create a need. Since spray insulation was relatively new and there was only so much promotion we could do, it was helpful that others were also promoting it, increasing the chance that potential clients were already aware of its benefits. All we had to do was convince

them why they should buy it from us.

Any tips on how to hire the right people? Here are three: In many industries, it’s difficult to find workers with experience in a particular field. I look for people with “solid work experience,” people who are dedicated to their jobs and expend effort, rather than experience in the field. A good worker can adapt. Secondly, workers are only as good as the training they receive. You have to have realistic expectations of your workers and dedicate significant time to training them properly. Finally, always

duct business (or enjoy financial support that allows full-time learning). You never lose by being a ben Torah. People sometimes feel they have to act like others to be successful; this is a mistake. Even in the non-Jewish world, someone who is connected to the Source is respected. They may not say it, but they respect anyone who has that level of commitment.

People often are frustrated by a lack of time to learn due to the pressure of running a business. How can one do both? It’s a matter of attitude. Understand that

Stick with what you believe in. In today’s world you can be a proud ben Torah in business. initially hire on a temporary basis, so you can see if he or she is a team player.

What's the best business advice you can give our readers? Always maintain your integrity and honesty. You might get hit with having to accept a loss, such as when a job ends up costing more than you originally thought. But in the end you'll sleep well at night knowing there's nothing to hide, and people will eventually trust you. Customer recommendations are the best form of advertising, but being ehrlich is the best business advice I can give.

How does one balance learning and business? It’s all one thing. From the Torah you learn how to conduct business, and in order to learn Torah you need to con-

you'll be able to accomplish more in business if you set aside time for learning. You need to have emunah that it will not take away from your income. From a business perspective, learning also provides mental satisfaction and clarity for the rest of the day. Everyone has his own kesher to Torah; regardless of how successful you are, you can make time to learn. Your whole life will benefit from it.

What's your advice for staying strong in business ethics? Stick with what you believe in. In today’s world you can be a proud ben Torah in business. We live in a free society and a medinah shel chesed. I once asked Rav Dovid Feinstein, shlita, about conducting business on Chol Hamoed. Reb Dovid told me, “Tell them you’ll speak to them after vacation; they’ll understand!” 





First Impressions TO A POTENTIAL EMPLOYER, YOU ARE WHAT YOU WRITE Applications for our next challenge are still coming in, but I would now like to address the first step in the process, which is usually emailing a potential employer to communicate the message that you are looking for a job. This email usually consists of two parts, the email itself (cover letter) and a work resume. Some people send the resume as an attachment, while others include it in the body of

the email. Personally, I think the first way works best. In my experience, I have found that the cover letter is the more important of the two. While a resume gives an employer some basic knowledge about your work history, it doesn’t really tell him who you are and how you can help him. The simple fact that you worked at a company for three years as a manager doesn’t tell me much, since I don’t know what

you did and how successful you were. Moreover, if I had to venture a guess, I’d say that you weren’t too good—the proof being that you are now unemployed! In short, a cover letter is an amazing opportunity to make a great first impression. Its only purpose is to give you a chance to make a second one, with a follow-up phone call or personal interview.



Make it as personal as you can. People are quick to decipher if your letter is written to them personally or as part of a mass email—and it makes a very big difference. For example, the salutation “Dear Sir” is too general, and if the potential employer is a woman she will immediately feel disconnected. Try to find out the recipient’s name, and start off with something personal to break the ice.


Focus on what you have to offer. Most people make the mistake of describing what they are looking for, but guess what? No one cares! The only thing an employer is interested in is what you can contribute to his or her organization.

34 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / O C T O B E R 2 , 2 0 1 3 / / 2 8 T I S H R E I 5 7 7 4


Focus on what you can do, and ignore what you can’t. No one is good at everything. Remember that you’re trying to convince someone to meet with you. There’s plenty of time to bring up your weak points later.


Proofread. Make sure your first impression is professional. Spelling and grammar mistakes are a big turn-off to most people.

Let’s look at some of the emails I received last week and rate them.

Email #1: hi maurice! although i didnt read read your past articles i heard all about it ! i whould love and appreciate your part in my job hunt experience . so my name is xxxxxxxxxxxxxx im 22 years old with an adorable babby girl bh .i learned in kollel till now and think the responsible way of moving forward with my life right now whould be to look into the job market begin training if need so so i can support my family as it grows i do not want to wait until my family is larger and then rush in to a job that is unsuitable for me just because i need parnassah now ok... so about me .... im a easy going person geshmak and very social. ppl like being around me as i dont get stressed out! im caring hardworking and very geshikt!!! i really belive any employer whould be lucky to have me as an employee .im also quite creative i thought or a business idea that i cant trash it now but im really open to any job that has a future. thanks for your time and hoping im one of the chosen candidates! i whould like to stay anonymous if you choose to print my letter thanks you please call me if you want dont email bec im not next to the computer all the times so my number is XXX.

Call me a stickler, but an email like this is completely unacceptable. My initial reaction was that whoever wrote it will be similarly incoherent, sloppy and unemployable. No one is asking you to channel William Shakespeare, but words matter. The only thing I can say in the writer’s favor is that the email was personal and focused on his strengths, but unfortunately, his weaknesses jumped off the page. Overall rating: 0.2 (for eagerness) out of 4

Email #2: Please see attached for my resume. Thank you.

Ho, hum. There is nothing personal about this whatsoever, and I still have no idea what this guy can or cannot do. Should I open the attachment? Only if nothing more interesting crosses my desk. Overall rating: 1 out of 4

Email #3: Okay, now we’re talking. This communication is personal, well written, and immediately tells me his area of expertise. It also reveals that he’s willing to swallow his pride and invest effort in something even if it isn’t his first choice. I like this guy. Overall rating: 4 out of 4

Hi Maurice, I have attached a copy of my resume for the Ami Magazine career challenge. I have an MBA in finance from Pace University but have been unable to enter the finance field. I am currently working full time at a large online retailer. Obviously, this is not what I went to school for and would very much like to switch career paths. I am married with one child and live in Brooklyn. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

TISHREI 28 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE






At midnight on Tuesday, October 1, the US federal government shutdown as a result of the ongoing fight between Democrats and Republicans over Obamacare, or as it is officially known, the Affordable Care Act. A deadline for a continuing resolution that would have allowed appropriations for the federal government to continue had been looming. House Republicans passed resolution after resolution that included amendments that would defund, postpone, or alter the Affordable Care Act. The Senate repeatedly refused to pass them. Without a continuing resolution, most government workers would be furloughed, national parks would close, people looking for gun permits and passports would be turned away, and a whole host of other government services would stop. Just before the clock struck 12, the Office of Management and Budget sent out a memo explaining the impending government shutdown, excluding “essential services,” to government agencies, and the juggernaut of Uncle Sam quietly turned most of itself off. Earlier on Monday, Ami spoke to US Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives, representing New York’s 8th Congressional District, about the political stalemate and the government shutdown. Why is the Affordable Care Act so contentious to the Republicans?

Speaker John Boehner made clear at the beginning of the year that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. So it’s unfortunate that we’re re-litigating an issue that we’ve already settled. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. It was signed into law by President Obama. The Supreme Court declared it constitutional last year. And the president was elected against an opponent, Mitt Romney, who argued that one of his first legislative acts would be to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In the face of all that governmental and electoral activity reaffirming the legitimacy and constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, time and time again, it really is baffling that we’re at this moment facing a government shutdown because of the obsession with the Affordable Care Act amongst some members of the House of Representatives and the junior Senator from Texas. If this may be counterproductive to the Republicans, why are they doing it?

It appears that some members of the House are being responsive to a very narrow base of Tea Party extrem-

ists who are opposed to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act at all costs, even if that means shutting down the government and hurting the American people. That is an unfortunate act of pandering and a dereliction of duty as it relates to what our constitutional responsibility in the Congress is from a governing standpoint. Our job is to keep the government open and functioning and to negotiate a pathway forward to help improve the economy and move this country in the right direction. We should move beyond being dictated to by a small number of Tea Party extremists in the House who are stopping the overwhelming majority of the members of Congress from governing in a responsible fashion. According to polls, the American people are very upset at those who want to shut down the government. Wouldn’t it be good for the Democrats to allow them to do just that in order to get people very, very upset at them?

Fortunately, members of Congress on the Democratic side of the aisle are less concerned about scoring a political victory and more concerned about moving an agenda forward that benefits the people we represent.

"There will be growing pains in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act" Certainly, Republicans will be hurt politically if there were to be a government shutdown. But that is not an outcome that I am hoping for, given the pain it will cause children of working families, senior citizens, civil servants, those in the military and our economy. The responsible thing to do is to pass the continuing resolution that keeps the government open, and then we can resume the intense political debates here in Congress about public issues such as health care, criminal justice and immigration—to name a few things. Do you find this to be an internal squabble now amongst the Republicans themselves?

There’s clearly an internal squabble in the House between the moderate members who believe that a shutdown is irresponsible and Tea Party extremists who are trying to stop the president and the Affordable Care Act at all costs, even when it hurts the constituents they were elected to represent. This is not constructive for our country and is exactly why a significant majority of American people view Congress with disdain. The people elected us to do their business and improve their lives. Instead, we have a significant group of people in the House majority reliving old battles and trying to settle political scores instead of doing the people’s business. So this may be hurtful to all of Congress including the Democrats?

This is not a healthy moment for our democracy, and that’s why I’m hopeful we can avoid a government shutdown. I didn’t seek to represent the people of the 8th District in the House of Representatives in order to become the most popular person in the City of New York—recognizing that Congress is a very unpopular institution for good reason. But it is our job to make decisions that we think are in the best interests of the constituents we were sent to represent in Washington. And in this particular instance the American people clearly agree that a government shutdown is not the way to go. What do you say to the charge that Obama shoved this bill down the throats of the members of Congress when he introduced it and gave no time for them to study it?

From the moment President Obama was sworn into office, a significant number of Republicans in Congress have done everything possible to embarrass him legislatively and defeat him politically. The president has advanced proposal after proposal that formally had the support of the Republican Party, only to have some members of Congress run away from it as soon as the policy was endorsed by the president. In fact, the Affordable Care Act as a legislative proposal was initially introduced into the public sphere by the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation as a market-based approach to providing health 38 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / O C T O B E R 2 , 2 0 1 3 / / 2 8 T I S H R E I 5 7 7 4

care insurance. Yet, when the president adopted it, modeled in some ways on the health care law put into place by Mitt Romney, another Republican, in Massachusetts, then it became something that many in the Republican Party all across the country were committed to stopping in its implementation. That’s problematic. Are you at all concerned with the bill itself?

Reasonable minds can disagree, and there’s always reason to be concerned about any significant change in public policy. There were growing pains when Social Security first came on the scene in the 1930s and Medicare in the 1960s. It should not be surprising that there will also be growing pains in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. But the prohibition against pre-existing conditions, the allowance for parents to keep their children on their health insurance plans until age 26, the closing of the Medicaid Part D doughnut hole, the assistance offered to small businesses to provide health insurance for their employees and any other number of provisions will all be tremendous for the American people, and that’s why I completely support the Affordable Care Act. Are the Democrats offering anything to the Republicans in exchange for their cooperation?

Democrats in Congress have already compromised on extremely significant budgetary issues. The continuing resolution assumes the government will operate absorbing a tremendous amount of the sequestration budget cuts that Democrats in the House and Senate strongly opposed. What’s interesting about this debate is that some in the Republican Party don’t seem to know how to accept “yes” for an answer. They have fought for the past several months to maintain sequestration, and in this continuing resolution Democrats are prepared to absorb some of these sequestration cuts that they themselves have advocated for during this entire year. We have already compromised, but there’s an unwillingness to go forward and include extraneous legislative issues. Will there be any movement at all on the debt ceiling?

A default on the debt of our country would be catastrophic for the economy, and people on both the left and right seem to agree that it would be extremely problematic to jeopardize the credit of the United States. Therefore, I’m hopeful we can avoid a showdown on the debt ceiling, that we’ll give the president the ability to pay bills that Congress has already heard, and then we can move forward with a discussion about solving our long-term deficit problems. Do you think Congress is becoming more divided along party lines?

Over the centuries there have been moments of intense partisanship and moments where Congress has worked well together. We’re obviously at a moment of intense partisanship, but it isn’t the first time in American history nor will it be the last. I’m confident that our democracy is strong and robust. We will get through this period and come out on the other side with a government that works together at the table for the American people.

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The most important lesson is that it’s irresponsible to shut down the government and particularly jeopardize the ability of military families, children, senior citizens and civil servants to move forward with any degree of normalcy in their lives. We’re in the midst of a fragile economic recovery, and we should have learned from the ’96 shutdown that this is a dangerous game to play. What message would you give your concerned constituents?

The message I’ve heard from my constituents is loud and clear: Continue to work hard to try to find common ground with people on the other side of the aisle to do the business of the American people, notwithstanding this manufactured government shutdown crisis. I continue to look forward to working with every elected member of Congress to address the problem of unemployment, lack of affordable housing, the absence of adequate health care and a number of [other] important issues that are important to the everyday lives of the people I represent. That is the reason I was sent to Congress, and I look forward to continuing to work day and night to execute on that mission.

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Seventeen years ago we had a partial government shutdown. Are there any lessons from that shutdown in your mind?

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January 15-23/2014

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What message would you have for the Republican congressmen?

I look forward to continuing to work with people on both sides of the aisle. Once election season is over, it’s time to govern. I will continue to look forward to governing with Democrats and Republicans in order to get real things accomplished on behalf of the people we were elected to represent. ď Ź

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by John Loftus

The New Generation of Terror 40 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / O C T O B E R 2 , 2 0 1 3 / / 2 8 T I S H R E I 5 7 7 4

Africa’s merciless inheritors of Al-Qaeda’s power


hen people ask me about the recent shopping mall atrocities against innocent children in Nairobi, Kenya, I tell them I am saddened but not at all surprised. I have seen this sort of thing before. Killing babies en masse has happened many times in many countries. Not all the monsters are religious maniacs. In the early days of the communist revolution, Lenin was once asked whether the Bolsheviks should permit western charities to provide free vaccination for Russian children. At the time, a score of illnesses from the Spanish flu to common measles were killing Russian kids by the millions. Free vaccinations could save most of their lives, if not all of them. Lenin said, “Nyet.” Lenin’s brutal dismissal of lifesaving help shocked some of the most hardened Bolsheviks. What would the Revolution gain by the deaths of millions of peasant babies? It would, Lenin explained, gain by stoking the hatred of Russian parents for the rich western capitalists who could afford to vaccinate their children while condemning the impoverished children of the Russian proletariat to a fevered death. The Russian Revolution would be built on the hatred of these parents of dead children, Lenin explained. Letting the western capitalists save a few babies here and there with free vaccinations would not only rob the revolution of its energy, it would teach the proletariat the false lesson that the capitalists cared for them and their children. The essence of Lenin’s thesis was that even the intentional murder of Russian babies could be justified as a necessary sacrifice on the sacred altar of the Russian Revolution.

Historic Radical Warfare

A soldier from the Kenya Defence Forces salutes to pay his respects as he and other Kenyans came to light candles, sing and pray, marking one week since the terrorist attack

My radical leftist friends (and I still have a few) are shocked and offended by my story of Lenin’s brutal indifference to killing babies. They suggest that it is western propaganda. I point out that this incident and many others were documented by the early German communists, such as Ruth Miller, who were utterly horrified that Lenin had twisted their genteel German Marxism into genocidal Russian terrorism. My leftist friends remain in full denial. Killing the babies of the proletariat was exactly the opposite of the communist ideal. But, I said, that is exactly my point. All ideologies that present 28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE


by John Loftus

themselves as the path to an absolute ideal eventually justify any atrocity that can help move them along that path. The enemies of Israel argue that mass infanticide was invented much earlier by the Jews, pointing to sections of the Bible where G-d told the ancient Israelites to smite an ancient village of Philistines and “kill them, every man, woman and child.” In every century, someone invents a sacred cause du jour that justifies the killing of babies. The sacred cause usually turns out to be someone’s own selfish aggrandizement or self-preservation. It is almost as if the higher the alleged sacred purpose, the lower the level of moral leadership. There seems to be an inverse correlation between hypocrisy and holy causes. The greater the ideological goal, the lower the permissible practices to achieve it. Like sewer water, the acts of absolute ideologues rapidly sink to the lowest levels. I suppose that the Prophet Muhammad did not intend for his religion to be responsible for the massacre of children in Nairobi. He probably would be disappointed but not surprised that the baby killing occurred in his name. In the early days of Islam, when only Arabs were Muslims, the combat practices of the Islamic forces were as cruel and barbaric as their desert culture.

Setting a New Standard Within a few centuries, the Islamic law of combat became the most enlightened in the world. Innocents were protected, and the wounded were spared. My cynical side says that this lofty elevation of the law of land warfare was much less due to the inherent qualities of the Islamic religion, than to the personal example set by one Islamic general who happened to be a very good human being as well as a very skilled military strategist. The general’s name was Salah Al-Adin, which the Christian armies shortened to Saladin. Saladin was Muslim, but not an Arab. He was a Kurd, and apparently Kurdish culture was very different from the Arab barbarism of the nomadic Bedouin. Don’t get me wrong, in peacetime I want to stay with the Bedouins, who are the most courteous people in the world to their guests. But in war, I want to be with the Kurds. If I have to fight, I want to fight with men like Saladin. The legends of Saladin’s courtesy are confirmed by soldiers from both sides of the battlefield. Once, Saladin saw that wounded Christian soldiers were dying of thirst by the hundreds on the hot battlefield. Saladin sent a courier under a flag of truce to invite the Christian general to stop fighting for a while and enjoy a game of chess. Under a tent set up in the middle of the battlefield, Saladin taught the general how to play. In an act of kindness, Saladin played the game out slowly enough that stretcher bearers could remove all the Christian wounded to safety and succor. Another legend has it that Saladin witnessed a horse being shot 42 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / O C T O B E R 2 , 2 0 1 3 / / 2 8 T I S H R E I 5 7 7 4

out from under a brave Christian general. Saladin raised a flag of truce, stopped the battle and sent one of his own horses over to his enemy as a gift, with the note that such a brave general should not have to fight on foot. When Saladin eventually recaptured Jerusalem, he did not raze the Jewish and Christian structures. He simply set an Islamic crescent atop the buildings and allowed each religious group to practice its own faith. Saladin’s example of military courtesy became famous among the Christian knights. They actually adopted Saladin’s code of honor as their own, and brought it back to European lands. Instead of its Islamic name, the Christian knights called this new code of honor “chivalry.” Over time, the Islamic gift of this chivalric code became a formal part of western legal code as the International Law of Land Warfare. By the mid-1800s the rules for protecting innocent women and children in time of war were formally (and rigidly) taught for the first time at American military colleges like West Point and the Citadel. The new “law of land warfare” was put to the test in the American Civil War of the 1860s. Nearly every officer in both the Union and Confederate Armies believed that he would personally be held responsible if troops under his command violated the law of land warfare.

Forgetting the Legacy of Saladin The legacy of Saladin endures today, but only in the military codes of non-Islamic nations. Women and children are to be protected in battle, the wounded given succor, and mercy granted to all prisoners. Saladin’s rules are still good soldiers’ law in the western armies. Despite occasional lapses by the Americans and British, atrocities committed by our nationals are few and due mostly to individuals with mental illness. These few instances are widely publicized by the free press and openly prosecuted by the American military. On the other hand, there is not an Islamic army in the world that can claim to be the heirs of Saladin’s honor. Indeed, the war code of General Saladin is an embarrassing topic studiously avoided by colleges in those Arab states who sponsor terrorist

organizations. There is only one Middle Eastern nation that requires the study of Saladin, and that is Israel. Among western professional soldiers, the ethical standards of the Israel Defense Forces are recognized as the best. Of course, strict adherence to an international code of honor in combat does not earn Israel any credit. In the modern Middle East, the humanistic norms of Islam have been all but replaced by nationalistic propaganda. Saddam is still more of a hero to the Arabs than Saladin. More is the pity. As a former prosecutor of Nazi war criminals, I once was asked whether there was any bright line test to distinguish terrorism from legitimate resistance. My answer was “killing babies.” Anyone who orders the intentional killing of infants has crossed the line to the dark place where no defense, no religion, no sacred cause can excuse his conduct. This is the line that must never be crossed. Islam used to recognize this line. Even the thug masters of Al-Qaeda, like Osama bin Laden and Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, repeatedly ordered their minions to abstain from any form of combat that would kill women and children. When Zarqawi of Iraq ignored their orders and continued the bombing of market places, hospitals and schools, Al-Qaeda threw him to the wolves.

The New Generation But now the wolves are in charge. The old-school Islamic extremists are dead or

are being ignored. The new-wave terrorist factions, like Al-Shabaab, have taken over Al-Qaeda’s name. The old restrictions are gone. Baby-killing is back. Like Lenin’s edict to refuse vaccinations, AlShabaab once refused international medical and food aid for the children of Sudan. A horrified President Clinton ordered that American troops protect the aid donors in order to save the children’s lives. The new wave groups like Al-Shabaab think that Al-Qaeda is too soft on terrorism. They believe that the western horror at the killing of women and children is a weakness to be exploited. In Nairobi, it was not the Israeli-owned mall that was the target of the attack. The building could have been blown up easily, but Al-Shabaab did not want that. They wanted the building to stand for as long as possible to protect them, so that their planned torture could continue as long as possible. The bodies of the victims show that the women and children who were captured by Al-Shabaab died slowly, under the most excruciatingly painful forms of torture. The torturers prolonged the children’s agony over a long period of time. American intelligence now believes that Al-Shabaab intended to show each one of these torture episodes on the Internet, and play the children’s death screams for every parent in the world to watch. Imagine a real-life horror channel where women and kids are tortured and killed before your eyes. The clumsy Nairobi army committed an accidental act of mercy. They stupidly shot out a supporting column that collapsed a three-story car garage down upon AlShabaab’s hiding place in the cellar. Thank G-d they did that before Al-Shabaab could get their torture videos on air. We know they had the video equipment. They just did not get a chance to upload their atrocity footage before the roof fell in. They will not make that mistake again. The death toll at the Westgate Mall is climbing up to two hundred, but it is

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by John Loftus

Al-Shabaab in the African Horn Al-Shabaab was not one of the original member groups of Al-Qaeda. It is more of a subsequent franchise operation that rented out the Al-Qaeda name for fundraising purposes among the wealthy Arab sheiks. First and foremost, Al-Shabaab was a national Sudanese organization with regional aspirations to dominate the entire horn of Africa. Its leaders were motivated more by money than religious imperatives. Apart from piracy, they smuggled opium from Afghanistan to Africa and Europe. Like most narcotics distributors, Al-Shabaab recruited muscular thugs with a tendency toward ferocity. Long before the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Al-Shabaab had a well-deserved reputation for extreme cruelty. But as the new “face” of Al-Qaeda in East Africa, Al-Shabaab is and remains a determined threat to American interests. Apart from President Clinton’s failed intervention in the Sudan, American Special Forces have organized, trained and supported an all-African opposition force that has driven Al-Shabaab out of the capital city and the major port, thus eliminating most of Al-Shabaab’s drug imports. The rural remnants of Al-Shabaab are reported to be under near constant attack from an American cargo plane equipped with an array of computer-directed cannons and machine guns. This airborne relic from the Vietnam War, nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon,” can literally put a bullet in every square foot of a football field in less than a second. The American military may not have “boots on the ground” in the Horn of Africa, but their air combat presence is one of the greatest threats to Al-Shabaab’s survival. Consequently, American-owned businesses in Africa will almost certainly be a major target for reprisal by Al-Shabaab.

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only the beginning. Nairobi marks a sea turn in tactics, a counterrevolution against the last restraints of Islamic mercy. Next time, they will do it better. They will rent a store inside a mall that will not collapse so easily. They will air their tortures 24/7 on the Internet. There are ways they will not be jammed. Next time, their baby killing videos will go viral. People will watch. You know they will, out of morbid curiosity if nothing else. Millions of human beings will watch innocent little children being pulled to pieces while the terrorists blame the Israelis or the Americans, or whomever, for not meeting their demands. Real atrocities will guarantee real ratings, and that is what Al-Shabaab wants. Al-Shabaab is the future of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. Al-Qaeda has given them carte blanche. They will strike at the soft, unprepared underbelly of Africa until the world reels from their horror. There will be no negotiations, no truces and no compromises. No matter what we do, they are going to go on killing babies and displaying their vile atrocities on the Internet. Al-Shabaab will go on killing babies until we kill Al-Shabaab. We will have to kill them all. Not just the lunatic soldiers who take over the shopping malls, but the satanic merchant princes in the Gulf States who fund their operations. I hope I am wrong, but I think that “next time” is coming very soon. We must deny them the victory of publicity even if they hide behind babies as hostages. The kindest thing we can do for the hostages is to kill them quickly, before the barbarity begins in front of the cameras. Yes, if we were to bomb a mall taken over by Al-Shabaab, we would be baby killers too. But at least we would give them a merciful death.  Attorney John Loftus, author of America’s Nazi Secret, is a former Army officer, intelligence analyst, and federal prosecutor. He previously held a Q clearance for nuclear top secrets while working for the U.S. government.

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Unlike the better-known Raoul Wallenberg, Oskar Schindler and Chiune Sugihara, Carl Lutz—a Swiss diplomat during By Avi Tuchmayer the war who only “sought to be of help” and ended up saving the lives of tens of thousands of Jews— isn’t a household name. But he should be.



By Roizy Waldman

s The Glass House today 47

28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE


his summer I decided to take a trip to Europe. Other than London, which I’d visited as a teenager, I had never been to any European city, so I was properly excited. Because I was only able to allot a week for this trip and wanted to cover as many important sites as possible, I hired Mr. Wurzberger, of Isaac Tours, to plan my itinerary. We discussed various options and eventually settled on a route that would take me from Prague to Nikolsburg, Bratislava, Budapest and finally to Croatia. Mr. Wurzberger promised me a tight itinerary, in which every hour would be taken advantage of. About a week later, I received his e-mail with “Itinerary” in the subject line. Excitedly, I reviewed the different places I would soon visit. Many sounded familiar: the Kazinczy Synagogue; the Altneueschul, where the Maharal had davened; the beis hachayim where the Noda Bi’Yehudah was buried; and the shoe memorial on the bank of the Danube River. All of these were destinations I’d heard about from friends who’d traveled. But among these familiar-sounding places was one I’d never heard of: the Glass House.

Carl Lutz at his desk in Budapest

“What’s this?” I asked Mr. Wurzberger. “Oh, the Glass House,” he said. “Your tour guide, Andrea, will take you there. She’ll explain its history. You’ll see. It’s very interesting.” Well, that wasn’t much help. But with so little information, I was able to let my imagination run loose. I envisioned a clean, modern structure, an exotic palace made of glass, with see-through glass furniture or even a glass maze where one could wander about in circles. Naturally, though, as I became caught up in the whirlwind of preparations, the Glass House slipped from my mind. That is, until the fourth day of my trip, when Andrea brought me there. Located on 29 Vadasz Street, not far from Budapest’s famous Parliament building, the Glass House looked nothing like the exotic palace I had imagined. Its façade was nondescript, similar to other houses along the street. To enter it, we walked down a narrow alley, at the end of which we turned right. I spotted a yellow star on a door and thus realized that the Glass House was connected to the Holocaust in some way. Andrea knocked on another door, and a young woman opened it. She was the sole employee at the Glass House. As I entered the single room that comprised the Glass House memorial museum,

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I had no inkling (certainly nothing about its external appearance portended it!) that out of all the places I would visit on this trip— the holy gravesites, the shuls imbued with history, the memorials drenched in immeasurable tears—this quiet, unremarkable looking house would touch me the most. I walked into the tiny museum and looked at Andrea. Where was I? What exactly was this place? “Have you ever heard of Carl Lutz?” Andrea asked me. I said, “Carl who?” and Andrea smiled knowingly. “Sadly,” she said, “many people have the same reaction. What a shame. Carl Lutz saved tens of thousands of Jews. And yet relatively few people have heard of him.” Over the next half hour I learned about Carl Lutz and his incredible operation. With a combination of brains, diplomacy, courage, and most of all humanity, he had saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from almost certain death. What I learned at the Glass House, however, was only a beginning for me. I was so intrigued that I couldn’t let it go. I purchased the two books sold at the museum, 1944 Glass House Memorial Room, published by the Carl Lutz Foundation of Budapest, and Carl Lutz: Swiss Diplomat in Budapest, a Righteous Among the Nations by Gyorgy Vamos. Then I embarked on my own journey of discovery. My search eventually led me to a discussion with the Hirsch family of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, whose father, the late Reb Avraham Abba Hirsch, z”l, survived the Holocaust thanks to Lutz and the Glass House. It also led me to a conversation with Agnes Hirschi, Carl Lutz’s daughter, who told me, among other things, how she keeps her father’s memory alive with exhibitions and talks all over the world. Mostly, though, it led me to a new understanding: Inside each of us is a lantern that lights the road we travel in life. And what an incredibly powerful light a single individual with compassion can produce!

Who was Carl Lutz? Born on March 30, 1895 in Walzenhausen, Switzerland, to a deeply religious Methodist family, Lutz grew up in relative poverty. In an effort to escape a future of almost certain economic

deprivation, he left for America in 1913 and worked while pursuing a higher education. In the summer of 1920, he landed a job as an English-German correspondent at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, DC. It was supposed to be a temporary summer job. But apparently Lutz impressed one of the higher-ups, who offered him a full-time, long-term position. That was the start of his consular service. In 1935 he was made head of the Consular Bureau at the Swiss Consulate in Palestine. Lutz was disappointed with the assignment, since he’d been led to believe he’d be appointed to a position in London. He couldn’t have known, of course, that the post would afford him numerous opportunities to work with and assist the German government, particularly in 1939, when Germany asked Switzerland to represent its interests in Palestine—a fact that would not only put him in Germany’s good graces later when he’d need it, but would actually form the basis of their trust in him. Were it not for the relationship Lutz forged with the Germans during his stint in Palestine, it is likely he could have never saved the tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews he saved. That same year Lutz married Gertrud Fankhauser, a fellow Swiss who had also immigrated to the United States. Together, they created a home in the city of Jaffa. Living in Palestine, a place rife with tension, the Lutzes often witnessed Jews being unjustly beaten or even murdered. The couple became progressively sympathetic toward Jews, a fact that may have played a role in his later efforts to save them. As the war progressed, neutral Switzerland began to take on a more important role as mediator among the sparring countries. It became increasingly important for Switzerland to be represented by a conscientious, diplomatic personality in a location that was close to the war’s hub. And so, at

The Lutz Memorial

the tail end of 1941, Vice-Consul Carl Lutz, who was both conscientious and a diplomat of the highest order, became head of the bureau of the Swiss Legation of Budapest. This bureau was in charge of protecting foreign citizens who were living in Hungary. Carl and Gertrud arrived in Budapest on January 2, 1942. At first glance, the city appeared to be peaceful. Although Jews were already being brutalized and murdered in Poland, in Budapest many people were still unaware (or refused to make themselves aware) of the atrocities being committed. Cafés, shops and theaters remained open and conducted business as usual. For all intents and purposes, it seemed to be a regular city in regular times. But the noose was growing tighter around the necks of Hungarian Jews. On March 19, 1944, the Wehrmacht occupied Hungary. The entire Hungarian government was now

pro-Nazi. Jews, especially those living in the countryside, had already lost all the rights to their possessions and businesses. Now their lives were also at stake. Carl Lutz realized this, and despite the fact that mediating in favor of the Jews could have perilous repercussions, he knew he had to act. On April 26, 1944, Lutz sent an official note to the Hungarian Embassy requesting that Jews holding Palestinian immigration permits be allowed to emigrate, and be placed under the protection of the Swiss government until then. In an article published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on June 30, 1961, Lutz explained the peril of interceding on behalf of Jews: “For me as a Christian, the crisis of the Jews was a matter of conscience; I sought to be of help to these thousands of people who were doomed to die. After due consideration, I decided to ask for a meet-

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A FIRST HAND REPORT from inside the Glass House, by Reb Abba Hirsch, z”l

Reb Abba Hirsch a"h, at the Glass House, flanked by his sons, R' Binyumin Hirsch (r) and R' Mier Hirsch (l)

Mr. Yanky Hirsch, son of the late Reb Avraham Abba and his wife Shevy, has produced a beautiful hardcover memoir of his father’s life, and was gracious enough to share it with me. It relates, in chilling detail, the miraculous circumstances that brought him there: “The days and weeks drew on. Finally, after Sukkos, four or five of us decided that we would flee together. We worked out a plan to escape quietly…so we would not have to identify ourselves to the police. We also hired a Hungarian soldier who accompanied us with weapons drawn; this way it appeared that he was leading us to work somewhere. “I took my tefillin and siddur and we set out for Pest. Miraculously, we reached the building. We arrived at Vadasz Street, where the consulate stood. When we got there, the entire street was besieged with people. There was a queue from here to eternity… I looked around and somehow got separated from my friends and the soldier. They had all disappeared. I stood there alone and didn’t know what to do next.” (He then goes on to describe his fear.) “I pushed forward till I reached the door of the building, which was ajar. If I wasn’t trembling enough till now, a fresh terror engulfed me when I saw two tall gendarmes dressed in the kind of feathered hats worn by Hungarian state troopers standing at the entrance. They were watching the people in line and checking out everyone who went in. “I, however, had nothing, no papers and no Schutzpass. But Hashem gave me wisdom. I noticed that the gendarmes kept stretching their necks forward to look at the very end of the queue; they weren’t looking very closely where they themselves were standing. So I

made a ‘va’anachnu korim’ [bowed down all the way to the ground] and, crawling on all fours, crept through the door right near them without their noticing me. I myself don’t know how this happened. Miracle of miracles… “I found myself in a small hallway that was blocked off by pieces of wood. I didn’t know where to proceed from there. But between the cracks I noticed a bachur I knew… I asked him where to go but he didn’t answer me; he was probably afraid. I was terrified that the gendarmes shouldn’t notice me. “Suddenly I saw an elderly Yid in front of me (I think he was a talmid of the Kedushas Yom Tov, zt”l). He called me over and said, ‘Go down to the cellar and hide there.’ I did, and that’s how I made it into the consulate without a Schutzpass. “A few minutes later a man from Mezfalva, Reb Shmaya Grunfeld, z”l, brought me some white bread and butter to eat. He calmed me down and told me not to worry because by evening I would have the necessary papers. Sure enough, that night he brought them to me. “At first there were only around 25-30 people in the building. Most of them were from Pest, like the new Pester Rav, zt”l, and a number of others from his kehillah. But later on it became overfilled, nearly as packed as matches in a matchbox. The crush was terrible, and every day we hoped to be liberated, because we wouldn’t be able to bear it for too long.” Other people mentioned by Reb Abba include Reb Shimon Yisroel Posen, zt”l, the Shoproner Rav; Reb Yosef Grunwald, zt”l, the Pupa Rav; Reb Cheskele Mertz, zt”l; and Reb Chananya Cohen, zt”l.

ing with the German Ambassador and the Hungarian Foreign Minister to present my plan for providing a safe haven for those Jews who wanted to emigrate to Palestine. Only someone who has experienced a volatile atmosphere of this kind can appreciate the magnitude of the insult involved in even bringing up the Jewish question in the tense atmosphere of those days, with its explicitly hostile attitude toward the Jews.” By nature, Lutz was quiet, disciplined and orderly: a man with very correct moral standards. His daughter Agnes Hirschi told me that throughout the years he worked in the capacity of diplomat, he always dressed in a manner that befitted his station: wellcut suit, pressed shirt, crisp tie and polished shoes. To him, acting on behalf of the Jews was simply the right thing to do. And he believed that every sane person would agree with him. Up until 1939, Hungarian Jews were allowed to emigrate freely; in fact, the antiSemitic Hungarians, wishing to rid their country of them, actually encouraged their emigration. But by 1944, when Lutz made his request, Jews had already lost the right to travel. Although Lutz sent his note in April, it wasn’t until July that he received a response from the Hungarian Embassy, mainly because its bureaucrats were complying with the wishes of Adolf Eichmann and Adolf Hezinger, who did not want the request to be honored. Due to a series of events beyond the scope of this article, the Hungarian government came under a lot of pressure from foreign countries, and thus didn’t acknowledge the request for several months. When Lutz had initially appealed for the right of Palestine certificate holders to emigrate, the German Reich official had asked him for the number of people this would involve. How many individuals, he wanted to know, were holding such certificates? Lutz told him that 1,450 families, comprising a total of 7,000 people plus 1,000 children under the age of 18, held these certificates. However, when Lutz began negotiating with the Hungarian and German officials in July, he realized that to them, Jews were mere numbers or objects, not actual humans, so he played their game to his advantage. He no longer spoke about “7,000 people,” but instead referred to them as 7,000 “units.”


PART OF MY MOTIVATION TO LEARN MORE STEMMED FROM MY AMAZEMENT THAT CARL LUTZ WASN’T WORLD-FAMOUS. Indeed, when Lutz’s request was finally approved, “7,000 units” were given the right to emigrate from Hungary, and would be placed under Swiss protection in the interim. This meant that Lutz now had some leeway in his interpretation of “units.” Lutz immediately set in motion a plan to issue 7,000 Schutzpassen (protective passports) for units, which he chose to interpret as “families.” Instead of a Schutzpass featuring a photo of a single individual, as the Hungarian/German government no doubt intended, each Schutzpass would feature a picture of an entire family: father, mother and children. To many family photos, a few “extras” were added, either orphaned children or single people without families in Hungary. In this way, even more people could be saved. And so, the original 7,000 turned into approximately 40,000 individuals who eventually received Schutzpassen from the Swiss. (As the situation became more critical, these Schutzpassen began to be counterfeited, increasing the number of people holding these documents. This may be why the current tally of lives saved by Lutz stands at around 62,000. Lutz knew about the forgeries but chose to turn a blind eye, presumably figuring that the possibility of even more people being rescued could only be a good thing.) Taking photos of all these people and issuing their Schutzpassen was a huge operation that required a large space. Lutz’s office was not appropriate. The Jewish Museum, established in 1932 as an annex to the Neolog Synagogue, was suggested. The building housed relics and important artifacts that celebrated Jewish culture, and was spacious enough to suit Lutz’s requirements. However, he declined the offer. It was important to him that the plan be viewed as an official Swiss procedure, part of his office’s duty to protect foreign citizens. Using the Jewish Museum building as its headquarters would surely cause the Hungarian government to

view it as a Jewish plan—definitely not a wise move under the circumstances. The building at 29 Vadasz Street was a wholesale glass dealership owned by Arthur Weiss and his family. The company boasted a spectacular showroom that included samples of every type of glassware they produced. Many specimens were even incorporated into its décor: walls, floor tiles, fixtures, and even the stairs were made of various kinds of glass. The Weiss family had hired Lajos Kozma, a renowned modernist architect, to design the unique building in the early 1930s. The façade of the Glass House, unlike any other structure in the neighborhood, was made of white sheet glass. No wonder it was named the “Glass House.” Sadly, that once magnificent feat of architecture and design has not survived. The building itself still stands and the museum room, located in what used to be a garage, memorializes its former glory somewhat, but the physical grandeur and beauty of the place were gradually destroyed in the postwar years. In the book, Jewish Budapest: Monuments, Rites, History, there is a wonderful excerpt from a handwritten Hungarian piece by Teri Gacz, one of the people who were saved in the Glass House. This shimmering description of the original Glass House was written in 1946: “The huge glass windows of the Glass House gleam peacefully in the silence of the street. After the past weeks, this shiny little jewel and its deserted entrance among the massive stone walls somehow soothe the nerves. As you enter, you are confronted with unexpected dimensions. Left of the entrance a huge hall opens; in the back an enormous door, almost a gate, leads to the courtyard. This is a store where customers must have been served. In the front corner of the room to the left of the entrance is a small cabin, maybe the doorman’s post or a tiny office. In the back, near the staircase, is another cabin

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Carl Lutz sitting among ruins in Budapest- impeccable as always. The picture is perhaps the work of his wife, or a friend.

with a simple table, and behind that a poster that reads: ‘Svdjci kovetsig idegen—Room made of glass.’ Doors, windows, walls— everything is immaculately clean, made of transparent glass. “…Narrow, winding glass steps lead from the spacious room to an improbably small passage. The walls of the staircase are covered with blocks of different colored marble. The walls of the foyer, glittering like black diamonds, are inscribed with the name of the owner in raised golden letters, ‘Gyula Weiss, Jr.,’ and the year his company came into existence. …To the left is the conference room, unexpectedly long and proportionately wide, with glass windows to the street as well as to the courtyard. The white of the walls merges with the white of the ceiling and built-in shelves and doors. There are only a few pieces of furniture, making the hall look even more elegant. In front of the glass wall facing the courtyard is a desk, and along the hall a long conference table with chairs. The door is white from inside but glittering black on the outside. …In the middle of [another room], a few meters from each other, are two mirrored pillars that reflect passersby so infinitely between their radiating frames that their function is hardly noticeable; they are actually coat racks. “…Here you can find everything that the glass industry has to offer, in actual use. It is undeniably elegant, but with concern for the functional. Everything is clean and well-

tended. The floor is bright and smooth; the ceiling, like snow-white marble. The windows open silently; their mirrors and metal parts glittering like diamonds, along with the opaque white and black glass countertops. The atmosphere is pleasant. It will be good to work here, to begin the hopeless on a journey to the land of hope.” This grand building, four stories high including an attic and a cellar, is the location Lutz chose for his operation. Arthur Weiss was approached, and agreed to give Lutz the space. Weiss asked for three things: that he and his family would be placed on the list of émigrés, that he be put in charge of the office administration, and that his beautiful property be protected. All of these requests were accommodated, and in fact, because the building was under Swiss protection, it survived the war. Sadly, Arthur Weiss himself did not. When word got out that the Swiss Legation would be providing protective passports, thousands of Jews who held emigration certificates lined up outside the Glass House, hoping to be among the lucky recipients. According to the testimony of the late Reb Avraham Abba Hirsch, most of the holders of these certificates to Palestine were Zionists or secular Jews, but some Orthodox Jews also managed to receive them through the initiative of Reb Chaim Roth, of blessed memory, a dedicated askan who worked tirelessly to obtain papers for many Jews.

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Carl Lutz declared the Glass House an annex of the Swiss Embassy, and placed an official sign on the building to confirm this fact. The sign read: “Emigration Section of the Office for Foreign Interests Representation of the Swiss Legation.” This was meant to ensure the safety of the people inside, since the Swiss Embassy and all its offshoots were off-limits to the Germans. As it turned out, the Schutzpassen were ultimately not worth much, because the Hungarian government refused to provide the Jews with transit visas. Nonetheless, the Schutzbriefen (which preceded the Schutzpassen) still functioned as official protection papers. Each one bore the official Swiss coat of arms and had a distinct serial number. The Germans, with their inflexible and dogmatic respect for order and authority, honored these official documents despite themselves. If a Jew holding a Schutzbrief was stopped on the street, he was generally let go. And so, the Glass House took on another role: that of safe haven itself. Between July, when the first passport was issued, and October, a number of people had lived in the Glass House for short periods of time. But on October 15, the extremist Ferenc Szalasi, leader of the fascist Arrow Cross Party, assumed power in Hungary. No Jew was safe on the streets of Budapest anymore. On the night of October 15, several people took refuge in the Glass House, hoping that the sign outside would protect them. They slept on chairs or on the carpets and waited for morning to come. By the next night some 60 people had moved into the Glass House, and by the third, the number had risen to 500. Day after day, more people arrived. The premises were becoming more and more overcrowded, but to force people out was equivalent to sending them to their death. Officially, only those who held Schutzpassen were permitted entry, but as the danger on the streets escalated, anyone who managed to sneak in was allowed to remain (see sidebar). Eventually the Glass House was so overfull that it became impossible to move. Arthur Weiss secretly arranged for the purchase of the adjacent building. It cost a fortune, but he couldn’t bear to send anyone away. Once the adjacent house was his, walls were torn down so that people could pass from one building to the other. By the war’s end, some 3,000 people were living in

the Glass House. To save even more Jews, Lutz managed to rent an office building in Budapest, which he also quickly placed under Swiss protection, and several hundred people ended up moving in there. (This version of events is based on the testimony of Reb Avraham Abba Hirsch. According to Gyorgy Vamos, however, the building next door, which had once been the headquarters of the Hungarian Football Association, was never purchased. Once the occupants of the Glass House realized that the Association had vacated the premises, they boldly knocked out the walls to give themselves more breathing space.) Gyorgy Vamos describes what it was like inside: “Each person could occupy only as much space as the width of his or her back. Sometimes people had to lie on their sides to ensure enough space for all… [Some] people sat on chairs for part of the night, chatting and singing, so that others could sleep. The first room of the big basement was soon transformed into a prayer room by the Orthodox… A kitchen was created on the ground floor of one of the warehouses. The Red Cross sent preserves, dried peas, marmalade and small pickled fish… Each day, one simple dish was prepared, usually cooked vegetables of some kind. The elderly and children occasionally got an apple and an onion.” The Glass House was overcrowded, it was true. But the people inside worked together to make things bearable. To solve the shortage of lavatories, they dug a latrine in the courtyard. In the middle of the attic they placed a huge wooden washtub, where men and women worked to wash everyone’s laundry. The few doctors on premises helped those who fell ill, and the learned and rabbis gave shiurim on the Talmud. There was even a choir. Death lay outside the door, but inside the Glass House there was life.

It states in the Talmud, “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” What can one say about a man who saved upwards of 60,000 souls? When I first heard the story of Carl Lutz and the Glass House, I couldn’t understand how it could be that this remarkable man and his extraordinary deeds were unknown to most people. Part of my motivation to

“WE REALIZED THAT MANY PEOPLE PROBABLY DIDN’T EVEN KNOW MY FATHER WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR SURVIVAL.” learn more stemmed from my amazement that he was not world-famous. “Well, here’s the reality,” said Andrea, my tour guide, in response to my inquiry. “Are you familiar with the name Raoul Wallenberg?” “Of course.” “Do you know why? Because he was captured by the Russians. Because his wife kept publicizing his plight and kept begging various governments to help find him. Because his disappearance was shrouded in mystery, and people are intrigued by mysteries. The fact is that it’s his sad fate that made him famous. Lutz merely went on living.” But what about the thousands of people he saved? Why hadn’t they written books about him or made films or otherwise clamored for his recognition? To help enlighten me, I went in search of Carl Lutz’s family. Lutz and Gertrud Fankhauser were divorced after the war, and in 1949 he married Magda Csanyi and adopted her young daughter, Agnes, both of whom had been recipients of the special Schutzpassen. Today, Agnes Hirschi, the mother of two sons, lives in Switzerland. Over the past 15 years she has been active in the organization of events and exhibitions honoring Carl Lutz all over the world. When I phoned her, one of the first questions I asked was, “Did any of the Glass House survivors remain in touch with your father or call him in later years to thank him?” “Very few,” she answered. “Almost no one.” “And why is that, do you think?” I wanted to know. She exhaled audibly. “Well,” she said, “we’ve thought about this a lot, and what we realized is that many of the people in the Glass House probably didn’t even know that my father was responsible for their survival. You see, my father was a quiet man, a very diligent worker. He worked behind the scenes. All they knew was that they were under the protection of the Swiss—that

they owed their lives to them. They didn’t necessarily put a specific name to the nebulous ‘Swiss’ who saved them.” “Did it bother him,” I continued, “that so few people remembered to thank him?” “It did, a little. But he understood. What really bothered him was that he never got recognition from the Swiss government. My father was a patriotic citizen. He believed that what he was doing in Budapest was the correct, moral thing to do. He expected his government to acknowledge that.” Instead, to Switzerland’s shame, they chose to reprimand him. Instead of giving him a hero’s welcome, they admonished him for misusing his authority. Switzerland was supposed to remain neutral, they claimed, not to take sides as he had done. Many years later, Switzerland finally understood what a source of pride Carl Lutz was to their country, and in 1958 officially recognized his achievements. But it was too little, too late, according to Hirschi. “Besides,” she says, “he was never given a promotion. His career pretty much stalled because of his courageous activities. And that rankled.” Others, however, were quicker to recognize Lutz’s valor. In 1965, Yad Vashem conferred the “Righteous Among the Nations” distinction upon Carl and Gertrud Lutz. The Federal Republic of Germany decorated him with the Cross of Honor, Order of Merit. A street in Haifa was named in his honor, and he attended the dedication ceremony. The Jewish National Fund added his name to its Golden Book. And he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. The story of Carl Lutz is one of physical might defeated by human courage. Or, as the preface to the Glass House Memorial Room relates: “The story of the Glass House is a model of honor and bravery. Our purpose is not for the memorial room to be a monument to the genocide, but a testimony to the continuity of humanity.” 

28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE


By Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter and Yossi Krausz

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Obama, Netanyahu and Rouhani’s

Long-Distance Handshake Experts explain what the new attempts at détente with Iran mean to the US and Israel

28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE



old phone company tag line used to be “Reach out and touch someone,” when they were only talking about a phone call. Apparently Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was paying attention. Rouhani’s entourage refused to arrange a meeting—and symbolic handshake—between the Iranian president and US president Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly last week. Rouhani has since claimed that there was simply not enough time to arrange a meeting that would have worked the way he liked, and the White House apparently sees that as an attempt to avoid angering hardliners in Iran, who greeted Rouhani with jeers and thrown eggs and shoes when he returned from the US. But a phone call between the two leaders did take place, on Friday, the highest level of diplomatic contact between the two countries in 30 years. That followed talks between US secretary of state John Kerry and Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif the day before, which the White House characterized as positive. It wasn’t just the US that seemed to be warming to Iran. In Rouhani’s speech to the UN, he called for immediate negotiations that would allow Iran to keep enriching uranium but would assuage international concerns about nuclear weapons, and it appears that foreign ministers of some European nations see the speech and the phone call as a new step forward. German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said, “The tone we have heard from President Rouhani is new…an alternative to that which has been seen in previous years,” and he said that guarded optimism

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This official White House photograph shows President Barack Obama speaking with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran on September 27th.

is called for. France has not been quite as enthralled. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told reporters that he had challenged Zarif to increase the pace of negotiations, since an extended process gives Iran the time to develop weapons while negotiating. Israel, not surprisingly, has viewed the new coziness between Obama and Rouhani with alarm. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopped on a plane to meet on Monday with Obama, while Knesset members back home bickered about Netanyahu’s strategy in dealing with Rouhani’s UN visit. In the US, there has been some criticism of Obama. Former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed: “Just as Vladimir Putin had played him for a fool over Syria, Mr. Obama was initially snubbed by Iranian President Hasan Rouhani despite frantic White House efforts to produce a handshake”; he says that Rouhani is merely buying time for an Iranian bomb. The new connections also come against a backdrop of news from Israel about the capture of an Iranian spy and the report by the US that Iran hacked American Navy computers in recent weeks. Ami spoke with Professor Eytan Gilboa, professor of international communication, director of the School of Communication, and director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University in Israel about the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Professor Gilboa is an expert on US-Israeli relations and previously served as an adviser to the Israeli prime minister’s office.

What’s your take on the Obama-Netanyahu meeting?

I think the president made an effort to emphasize the elements that the US and Israel agree on. This agreement—to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power— has been around for a long time. There is even some basic agreement about the means to achieve this goal. The president said that every means is still on the table including the use of military force, but diplomacy should be given a chance. Netanyahu repeated that after their meeting, although he is much more suspicious and skeptical about diplomacy than Obama. The two sides have agreed that sanctions won’t be removed until there is a good agreement with Iran. A good agreement means a transparent and verified method on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. There is also an agreement on timetable. Both the president and prime minister agree on a relatively short period of time. They also agree with Iranian President Rouhani that an agreement can be achieved in six months. The two issues that were of the most concern to Israel are sanctions—because Israel was afraid that the West will remove some sanctions in return for Iranian acceptance of negotiations. The second issue is the timetable because they know from past experiences that the Irani-

ans have manipulated time to develop nuclear material. So after the meeting it seems the sides have agreements on these two issues. I can tell you that from looking at the non-verbal communication part of the public statement, you can tell that Netanyahu is satisfied. Beyond that there is still strong suspicion in Israel about the Iranian public relations campaign. Netanyahu doesn’t believe that the Iranians are really interested and willing to dismantle the nuclear weapons program. He’s also a little worried about Obama’s policy and behavior. He’s afraid Obama would accept almost any agreement—even one with many holes— just to achieve the goals without any use of force. Are you surprised that the meeting wasn’t contentious?

No. I’m not surprised. And that is because we don’t know what happened in private. I’m sure in private there were more exchanges of disagreement. As I said before, Netanyahu doesn’t believe in diplomacy and Obama does. But externally Netanyahu had no other choice but to support diplomacy because otherwise he’d be seen as undermining American efforts. We also didn’t mention the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which I think could have been a disagreement that they discussed in private, although publicly Obama praised Netanyahu as being dedicated to peace. But in private I don’t think Netanyahu liked one bit the linkage Obama created between the need to resolve the Iranian nuclear weapons program and the Palestinian crisis. Do you think Obama really made any linkage between those two issues?

If you read Obama’s UN speech, the only conclusion you’ll have is that he linked them. He said the two main sources of friction and instability in the Middle East are the Iranian nuclear weapons program and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also placed them on equal footing, which I think really irritated a lot of people in Israel. How does it make sense to link the two unless you believe the US has no interest in Iranian nuclear weapons?

I think it was a mistake to link the two. I’ve said that many times that it assumes the US has no interest of its own. But, the US sees this as an opportunity and wants to use it. The president even said today that we don’t have much time. I think Obama is saying that we have an opportunity to apply some pressure on Israel. The argument has always been that you need my help on Iran, and I need your help on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Do you think it’s a diplomatic game?

Yes. I think that the president really believes there is an opportunity here and he wants to use it. But I think his use of a linkage may have created some false expectations, espeProfessor Eytan Gilboa 28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE


cially amongst the Palestinians who don’t seem to really be interested in negotiations and agreements. They may think again that Obama is applying pressure on Israel and they therefore don’t have to do anything. Are you surprised that the president is pushing for peace negotiations with the Palestinians?

This issue that came up in the UN speech and in his statement today, the Palestinian negotiations, is something we thought would be much lower on the MidEast agenda. We thought Iran number one, Syria number two, Egypt number three and Palestinians very low down on the list. For the president to say that Iranian nukes and Palestinian peace negotiations are the most important I think was a mistake, but I understand where it comes from. I think he sees an opportunity to use the Iranian issue to apply more pressure on Netanyahu. I don’t think the two sides are saying it out loud, but I think this is behind the motivation and is the issue of disagreement. But in their public statements they made no mention of disagreements. I think we should not be mistaken by the public statements because public statements really hide serious matters. This is why I said there may have been many more disagreements in private than in public. I think Obama wisely chose to emphasize those issues that the two sides agree on and downplay the issues they don’t agree on. What do you think really divides America and Israel regarding Iran?

Meeting in the Oval Office on September 30th

There’s a basic disagreement between the two sides as to whether or not Iran should be permitted to have a nuclear infrastructure. Obama has already recognized the Iranian right to have nuclear infrastructure for peaceful purposes. Israel has argued that once you have this the road to the bomb is very close. Israel is arguing that Obama made a major concession by acknowledging Iran’s right to nuclear infrastructure for peaceful purposes without getting anything from them in return. But isn’t the US saying that it needs to negotiate all these issues with Iran first?

Iran knows how to negotiate much better than the West. We know that from previous experiences, including the famous 1979-1980 hostage crisis. Carter negotiated for 144 days. It was a serious American negotiation strategy. And in recent

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years Iran was able to use negotiations as a cover for faster development towards the bomb. So there’s some concern in Israel that the US negotiations tactics seem to be inferior to the Iranians’. Do you think the US and Israel agree as to whether military strikes against nuclear weapons sites can produce the desired results?

I think Obama may think he could use the threat of military force, similar to what he used against Syria. In Netanyahu’s eyes this isn’t a serious threat. Regarding Syria, I think Russia didn’t believe Obama would really use military strikes against Syria but acted as if he was going to. And Russia did it in order to pull a major diplomatic victory for itself that helped Russia achieve its strategic goals in Syria. So I think an American military threat in the Middle East isn’t seen as credible. I think this worries Israel. Netanyahu said in his statement that military threats and even harsher sanctions could perhaps convince the Ayatollahs to stop the nuclear weapons program, while Obama thinks reconciliation and negotiations could achieve the same goal. Regarding military force: I think Obama is saying it but isn’t serious about it, while Netanyahu is very serious about it. Do you think though that military force can stop the Iranians from producing the bomb?

There’s a big debate about it. Those who oppose military force say all it would do is

delay their program for a few years and it would unify the Iranian people behind the Islamic regime. Those in favor say even a delay of a few years is important and it could bring down the regime in Tehran. Both in Israel and the US there are two camps based on all kinds of assumptions. Obviously nobody wants to use military force, but it seems to be crucial for applying enough pressure onto Tehran to change its policy. Sanctions and military force we call hard power. What Rouhani was doing in the US last week we call soft power— diplomacy and communication to get things from the West. When we talk about hard power: People say here in Israel and even in the US that the sanctions work. In my mind, the ultimate test of sanctions is simple: It is a change in Iranian nuclear policy– not just creating hardship and economic crisis in Iran. So far we have not seen a change in policy. We’ve just had statements about potential change. But I consider sanctions together with potential military strikes as the best means to acquire results in Iran. Do all military experts agree that those facilities can be taken out through strikes?

Yes. Especially by the US. Israel doesn’t have the military might the US has. But from what I understand from a military standpoint, substantial damage can be inflicted on Iranian nuclear facilities. The argument is how many years that will delay them and what kind of reaction you’ll get from Iran and if it’s worth it. Another question is how the Iranians will respond. Some argue that the response will be very costly and therefore the use of military force won’t be effective.

East in the first place was oil. Do you think the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu has been bad from the get-go?

Yes. The reason is simple. They come from different backgrounds. They subscribe to very different ideologies and world perceptions. They’ve had disagreements about critical issues in the Middle East—Israel-Palestinian negotiations, Egypt, Iran, Syria. So I think there have been a lot of disagreements. I think today we still see differences in approach as I mentioned before. List those differences.

I’ve said that Netanyahu opposes diplomacy, but has to make a show of going along with Obama’s diplomacy so he shouldn’t be seen as having Israel go against the whole world. I’ve said Netanyahu has a message but no audience. People want peace and reconciliation. They don’t want threats and crisis and possible use of force. If the Iranians are really engaging in one of the biggest programs of deception and manipulation in history, most of the world is falling for it and wants to believe they are willing to give up the nuclear weapons quest. But if I were to assign probability I’d say chances for failure are much greater than chances for success. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try diplomacy. But the question is what to do in the interim. I think once sanctions are removed Iran won’t do anything and will continue making as much nuclear materials as it wants. Sanctions are very important. The US seems to think some sanctions can be removed as a confidence building measure. This is something Netanyahu really opposes because once even some sanctions are removed there will be no way to restore them.

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Is oil playing a big role in all this?

No. I think in the last decade or so the US has reduced its dependency on Middle Eastern oil to the point that it doesn’t play a role anymore on foreign policy. Some argue that the US is beginning to disengage from the entire Middle East because of this. They believe the only motivation for the US in the Middle

Is there any argument between the US and Israel about whether restarting direct negotiations is a bad idea?

No. Israel is afraid simply that the Iranians will use the negotiations as cover for something else. They don’t oppose the process of direct negotiations. They fear the consequences of those negotia-

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tions. They fear they’re just buying time to continue their nuclear weapons program or they’ll say the US recognized their right to make nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and they’ll interpret the agreement very differently than the US does. I think this probably came up in the discussion. I think Netanyahu probably asked Obama, “What will you do if there’s no result in three or six months?” And I’m sure Obama answered but I don’t know what. Do you think military force is always good, when the Iraqi War may have triggered the entire Arab Spring?

I think it did contribute to it. I think what happened in Iraq was the removal of a brutal dictator from the outside by the US at a huge cost. People started thinking, “Maybe those dictators aren’t as strong as we thought. Maybe if we can just demonstrate enough and use non-violence and rebel, we can remove them.” This is what happened in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya… I think it removed one strong psychological barrier against uprising. People were encouraged.

Obama addresses the General Assembly on September 24th.

one believes diplomacy will work.

Why is Israel so anxious to make a move if the outcome is so unpredictable?

Does Israel believe the new regime in Iran is different at all from the previous one?

Because Israel believes only a credible military threat with harsh sanctions can change policy in Iran—nothing else. Also, Israel really believes a nuclear Iran represents an existential threat to them and they’re telling the world that if you don’t do anything about it we’ll have to. And they’re very serious about it. This message has become very difficult now after Rouhani’s successful media blitz. Now every-

I think it’s clear that Rouhani at least wants to create the perception that his policy is different. He presents change. But we know the Republican Guard and the extreme religious fanatics all opposed him. The question is how he and Khamenei as well will balance the conflicting conservatives and Israel. We don’t know if Rouhani really wants change, and even if he does, whether he’ll be able to implement change because of domestic

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pressure. We don’t know how much room Khamenei will give him. Rouhani was talking about “heroic flexibility.” What is that? Does it mean a willingness to change policy? The basic foundation of the government?

Some people feel the regime is making the choice between going nuclear and threatening its survival or giving some concessions and saving the regime. The question is how many concessions Rouhani can make if he wants to save the regime. Do you think his acknowledgement of the Holocaust was significant?

He didn’t really do that. His foreign minister did that and under pressure. You need to look at the Iranian ideological foundations. Iran says the Holocaust did not happen. Iran says Israel should not have been established. It was established only because of the Holocaust. If you remove the Holocaust, Israel has no right to exist. So Israel should be eliminated. If they acknowledge the Holocaust, you remove their ideological foundation against Israel. So it’s very difficult for them to acknowledge the Holocaust.

The Iranian foreign minister was very clever and said he acknowledges it but it doesn’t justify Israel’s existence and their handling of the Palestinians. So it doesn’t oppose basic Iranian ideology. I don’t think Rouhani acknowledged the Holocaust. All he said was, “I’m a prime minister, not a historian,” but the fact that he is perceived as acknowledging it is good for him. It represents the kind of change he’s trying to sell. Do you think Netanyahu has the Israeli public behind him on all this?

Yes. I think a poll showed about 2/3 think Rouhani doesn’t represent any change. What do you think?

I think he represents change compared to others, but I’m not sure how far he can go with it and how much is just tactical. Don’t you think the Iranians are sick and tired of the sanctions?

Of course. In Iran again you have two camps. Those who think Iran should make concessions to the US to remove the sanctions and those who say, “we should never reconcile with the US even if we have to suffer from sanctions.” I don’t know the size of the camps. But it seems the majority would support the termination of the nuclear weapons program in return for economic recovery. But we have only vague implications of that. Public opinion polls taken in Iran mean nothing because people can’t openly express opinions without fear. Overall what do you think of the USIsrael meeting today?

We’ve seen a public attempt to show as much agreement as possible, to reduce Israel’s anxiety and glean support for the president’s strategy. In terms of external presentation it went very well. But I think there’s some basic disagreements underneath that were repressed for the time being. And I think in tomorrow’s speech to the UN Netanyahu will be much more aggressive than today.

How do you think those disagreements will be ultimately resolved? Will the Israelis just have to give in to the Americans?

I think the answer to both of your questions is yes. Regardless, it is definitely historically significant that the US and Iran are finally speaking.

Yes, it is. There’s no question about it. The US wants reconciliation with the Iranian people as a way to end the nuclear weapons program. Israel thinks that this is premature. Before reconciliation, Iran must end its nuclear weapons program before it can glean the advantages of reconciliation. It’s a question of what must come first. The US made some reconciliation gestures, like returning an archeological piece from Iran and allowing him to fly into JFK. Each of these gestures is perhaps small, but the combination accumulates in the direction of reconciliation. It would be interesting to see how the fundamentalists in Iran who don’t want reconciliation reply to this. Since 1979, the US has been described as “the great Satan” and Israel as “the small Satan.” To reverse that is difficult. Isn’t it to Israel’s advantage if the US becomes friends with Iran?

Yes. As long as it will produce the necessary results. If Iran is just manipulating to receive its own goals it would obviously be counter-productive. But real reconciliation between Iran and the US through diplomacy would be very good. The only question is what will come out of it. We don’t know what will happen. It could be one of the major diplomatic achievements of recent history. It could be one of the biggest diplomatic failures. The line between the two is thin. We‘ll have to follow events over the next six months to really know. There are many questions for which we don’t have answers at this time.

Iran Experts Weigh In What does Rouhani’s new openness mean? And does he make a difference in a country that is governed by Supreme Leader Khamenei? Three experts on the Islamic Republic of Iran spoke to Ami about their views on the recent news. Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School. A former Pentagon official, his major research area is the Middle East, including a focus on Iran. He told Ami that he doesn’t see Rouhani’s overtures as a sign of real interest in negotiation. “Rouhani’s overtures are more likely tactical than sincere. Rouhani is under tremendous financial pressure. Iran’s official statistical center earlier this month announced that the Iranian economy had shrunk 5.4 percent over the previous year. Liquidity is at an all-time high, inflation continues to increase, and subsidies continue to increase, even as foreign reserves shrink. Rouhani has also made clear in his earlier writing and speeches that he sees diplomacy as a tactic to relieve pressure upon Iran rather than a means of conflict resolution. In an interview with the Iranian press about four years ago about his tenure as nuclear negotiator, he credited his willingness to negotiate with buying Iran the time and space to install new centrifuges.” Dr. S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana is a founding member and the associate director of Salam Institute for Peace and Justice. She is currently an adjunct assistant professor in the field of peace and conflict resolution at the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC. She told Ami that she sees the pressures on Iran

as having created sincere interest in negotiations. “The majority of Iranians are tired of the hostility between Iran and the West and have been suffering from international sanctions, which damaged its economy. Regional instability and conflicts also have the potential to impact Iranian internal stability and security as these regional conflicts involve ethnic, sectarian and ideological issues. Iranian society consists of different ethnicities and religious/sectarian groups, and these regional issues can easily have spillover into Iran. “Regional conflicts combined with devastating economic factors and discontent for the authoritarian regime can trigger mass movement and internal conflict in Iran as well. There is a deepening divide between moderate and more radical segments of the society in Iran. The 2009-2010 Green protests signaled the discontent of the Iranian population. Although the Green movement was crushed brutally, so-called Arab spring and anti-government protests in the region could reignite the momentum in the country. I think Iranian leaders, observing the developments in its region, are sincerely interested in preventing such developments and ending the sanctions. “Also, a potential attack on its nuclear facilities has been a serious concern for Iran and could further undermine the Iranian economy and infrastructure, among other effects. For that reason, I think Iranians are sincerely interested in improving their relations with the West in general and the US in particular, in order to avoid further internal strife and unrest.” Rouhani’s ability to change Iran’s policy is limited, Rubin says.

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“The presidency in Iran is about style; the Supreme Leader is the one who defines the substance and while his rhetoric has changed, both his aides and the Friday Prayer leaders (senior clerics appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to give weekly sermons in Tehran and provincial capitals) have bent over backwards to let it be known that diplomatic tactics might have changed, but Iran’s policy never would. “On top of that, the untold story of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) over the past decade is that they have effectively become financially independent of the central government and the official budget: their official budget is in the neighborhood of $5 billion, but they get an additional $12 billion annually through smuggling. Add to that the nearly $45 billion on no-bid contracts granted to IRGC companies during the Ahmadinejad administration (2005-2013), and they have the means to pursue their ideology irrespective of what Rouhani may do or say.” Kadayifci-Orellana thinks that Rouhani has the upper hand at the moment. “The election of Rouhani indicates that the Iranian public is tired of hardline rhetoric and wants to see a change in the relations between the West and Iran, and Rouhani is currently their best chance to make that change. Initial reactions from the Iranians indicate that there is a sincere interest in ending the hostility between the US and Iran. Also, both Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, seem to have the backing of the supreme leader, as well, to negotiate to find a solution to the issues. “However, one needs to be cautiously optimistic, as there are still many hardliners among the Iranian leadership and the population, who are watching carefully and could try to undermine any agreement. Many of these hard-liners are extremely suspicious of the US and also Israel. “The discontent over the recent developments and change of narrative were evident upon Rouhani’s return as many protesters threw eggs and a shoe at him and shouted: ‘We hate America.’ Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, tried to assure conservative factions who are quite skeptical about Washington’s intentions. There-

fore, Rouhani now needs to be careful, as these opposition groups could undermine the process. But if he succeeds in getting the sanctions removed, his power and support will be strengthened.” Professor Shireen T. Hunter is a visiting lecturer at Georgetown University and a distinguished scholar of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where she headed the Islam Project. She says that Rouhani has obviously been given permission to negotiate by the supreme leader. “What President Rouhani is doing he could not do if a decision had not been reached at a higher level. Of course, we don’t know if time goes on, whether the political dynamics may change. But at the moment, the green light has been given. Do you think otherwise President Rouhani could have talked to the president of the United States? No way! [Former Iranian president Mohammed] Khatami tried to speak to President Clinton in ’98 at the UN, but he couldn’t do so; he didn’t have the position. “In states’ relationships, it’s not a question of being sincere or not. One has to see whether it is in their interest or not. Clearly at this point in time, it is in their interest to get a deal with the United States, because Iran has been hurting.” Rubin sees the American steps at the moment as too quick: “There has to be far more verification, and far less trust. National security must be based on facts, not rhetoric. Obama has, for example, said that the supreme leader has issued a fatwa, a religious declaration, outlawing nuclear weapons, but nowhere on Khamenei’s website, which lists all his fatwas, is there any such declaration. Indeed, while Iranian officials have referred to that fatwa several times in recent years, if you put all their references together you see that the fatwa is constantly changing.” Obama is being cautious, Kadayifci-Orellana told Ami. “His approach was perceived to be constructive and optimistic by Rouhani and Zarif in general. Both sides are realistic in that they understand that 30 years of mistrust is not going to be changed with a single phone call or a handshake. President Obama will have to carefully weigh his options and consider the concerns of various stakeholders in this process. But I think

President Rouhani addressing the United Nations

his initial response was in the right direction. “Other actors also need to be taken into account in this process. For example, Israel is going to play an important role in this process. Israel deeply mistrusts Iran. Iran also has its own concerns regarding Israel. Rouhani also needs to play his cards right to continue to have the support of different segments of the society and juggle different audiences carefully. “Still, I think it is very important to take this chance and use this opening as a window of opportunity to try to address the outstanding issues between the US and Iran. Ending the hostility is in the interest of both countries in a volatile region.” Professor Hunter believes that Israel should view Iran’s overtures as a possible opportunity. “I have a firm belief that in the long term Iran and Israel have an interest, if not in cooperation, in having a non-hostile

relationship. I also think that sometimes, understandably, Israel lets its fears keep it from hearing the positive signals coming from Iran. They have to speak in code. I wish they could be more open, but they have domestic politics.” Rubin thinks, though, that hope for the end of that hostility may end up letting Iran off the hook. “It behooves us to assume the worst even as we hope for the best. Getting the Iranians to the negotiating table isn’t success; the Iranians verifiably abandoning their nuclear ambitions would be. And how much is there really to discuss? The UN Security Council resolutions demanding Iran cease uranium enrichment were not meant as the opening salvo in negotiations; rather, they were the very least expected of Tehran. Alas, it seems that US enthusiasm for negotiations risks snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” 

28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE


my word! A S H E R V. F I N N

Each week, “My Word!”—penned by the esteemed president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to English—highlights often-misused or misspelled phrases or words, common grammatical challenges, unusual expressions or neologisms. Or it just calls attention to curious or interesting locutions. So if you want to learn some new things about English—or are already expert in the language and want to prove it to yourself—you’ve come to the right place.

Tavern Under the Green


ukkos has come and gone and, having bidden fond farewells to our sukkos, we are back in our regular homes. Ah, but—even before Simchas Torah arrived—many a l’chaim was made over the course of the days of “the holiday of our joy” in our sukkos. Which is somehow fitting, considering that the English word “tabernacle”—which, pluralized and capitalized, is how the holiday of “Sukkos” is translated—is related to the word “tavern.” Really, it is. The original “tabernacle,” of course, was, the mishkan, the portable structure of prayer and sacrifices, the “proto-Bais Hamikdosh” around which our ancestors camped during their forty years’ sojourn in the Sinai desert after their exodus from Egypt. The use of the word “tabernacle” in English for both the mishkan and a sukkah is a little misleading, as a sukkah is rendered kosher only if its roof is made of unprocessed grown-from-the-ground material, whereas the mishkan’s roof was a multilayered affair of linen, wool, goathair and skins—decidedly passul for a sukkah. Go complain to Webster. In modern English usage, the word “tabernacle” has come to be used to refer to any house of religious worship, especially a large one. The most famous non-Jewish such structure is probably the Mormon Tabernacle, in Salt Lake City, Utah. But, alas, even when Moshiach arrives, that structure, too (l’havdil), will not, at least in its current state, be suited for a sukkah. Its roof’s elongated dome shape, which resembles an airplane 64 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / O C T O B E R 2 , 2 0 1 3 / / 2 8 T I S H R E I 5 7 7 4

hangar, prompted wags at the time of its erection, at the end of the nineteenth century, to dub it the “Church of the Holy Turtle.” So, there will be a need for major reconstruction. The root of “tabernacle” is the Late Latin word tabern¯aculum. The “—aculum” part of the word is a suffix, meaning “quarters,” as in the word “hibernaculum,” which means “winter quarters” (or “Miami,” where many non-bears are known to hibernate). And so the actual root of tabern¯aculum is tabern, which means a tent, hut, or stall—like those small establishments where ancient Romans would stop for a beer on the way home from a long day of gladiating. (Please, no letters to the editor; I’m allowed to make up words on occasion.) Of course, in our day, a tavern is usually referred to as a “bar,” which is short for “barroom,” and takes its name from the bars of the barrier or counter over which drinks or food are served to customers. That simple three-letter word has spawned other related ones, like “bartender,” the fellow who tends the tavern; “barstool,” the seat on which his customers park themselves; and “barfly,” a customer who considers that seat to be his main place of residence. We all have our own main places of residence. Yet we change them, as we just did, for about a week each year, opting, as per the Divine directive, for our personal tabernacles, our sukkos. Then there are those of us who take up other temporary residences at other times during the year. But we’re talking about tabernacula, not hibernacula, here. Even if you didn’t know about the word’s root I do hope your Tabernacles was a festive one!

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Ushering In the New Year at the KFHEC



hen most years draw to a close, they are ushered out by the mix of changing leaves and cool nights that signifies the arrival of autumn. Although the weather has some catching up to do this time around, the new year is already upon us. While my colleagues and I are grateful for the great work that’s been done at the Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center so far, we know that many more challenges and opportunities lie ahead. As an inspiring way to focus on our upcoming goals, we spoke with Mrs. Ethel Kleinman, the mother of Elly Kleinman, founder and president of KFHEC. As a Holocaust survivor, Mrs. Kleinman has always been a tremendous source of chizzuk for her family. Although it is hard for her to talk about her experience, Mrs. Kleinman is happy to do so. As she graciously welcomed me into her home, her humility was immediately apparent. “At first I thought, Why do you want to listen to me talk?” she says. “But if it helps more people learn, I will do it.”

Cattle car in Auschwitz

Before we begin, Mrs. Kleinman wants to know what KFHEC is up to nowadays. I describe our current projects including the collection of artifacts, research of hatzolah efforts and educational programs.

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She listens with interest, especially when I mention education. “That’s wonderful, so important,” she comments. “You must do what you can to help people learn.” Mrs. Kleinman begins her story by

“It is so important,” she tells me. “So many people, especially the younger ones, really don’t know what happened to us.” painting a verbal picture of a simple but happy childhood in Keresztur, Hungary. A small town of two thousand people, the Jews and non-Jews coexisted peacefully until the occupation. Her home was very busy because her father, Rav Elimelech Fischman, was gabbai of the famed Rav Shayale Kerestirer, whose home was always teeming with visitors. Rav Elimelech would arrange food and lodging for the constant stream of people seeking Rav Shayale’s wisdom and warmth. Even after the war started, Hungarian Jews had no idea of the atrocities being committed by the Nazis. “The newspapers didn’t mention it,” says Mrs. Kleinman. “And phones? There were two phones in Keresztur, one in the post office and one by the doctor’s house. To make a call, you had to sign up days ahead.” But in 1944, the Germans arrived, and the persecution began. Businesses were closed, food was rationed, and worst of all, men and older boys were taken away. After Pesach, the Jews were rounded up and sent to a ghetto in Ujhel, a small town nearby. “I remember one day two Jewish boys from Poland crept into the ghetto—they had jumped from the train to Auschwitz. They were trying to warn anyone who would listen about the mass murders. My father didn’t believe them. He said the Germans were so cultured, they wouldn’t do that! That’s what most people thought. Well, we soon realized how wrong we were. “In the ghetto, everyone was forced to work. If there was no work, we were forced to sweep the streets. At night we came home to a small one-room apartment, shared by several families.

“After a few months, we were forced onto railcars for a three-day trip to Auschwitz. You cannot imagine how terrible it was, no room to sit, children crying for food…many people just died on the train.” Mrs. Kleinman paused to wipe away her tears. “We arrived on Shavuos night. My father took out two small challah rolls, and I remember how he made Kiddush.” This memory is very emotional, and she does not elaborate. Another heartbreaking incident stands out in her mind. “When we got there, my little niece begged me to pick her up. I held her in my arms, but a kapo came and took the poor child away. He said, ‘If you hold her, you go there!’—pointing to the crematorium. Any mother with little children was killed right away.” It is impossible to convey the horror of Auschwitz. Mrs. Kleinman talks of the constant selections, and how she was directed to death several times, but miraculously slipped away. She was eventually transferred to a labor camp, where conditions were slightly better than in Auschwitz. “On the other side of the fence, there was the men’s labor camp,” she recalls. “They were doing much worse than us, so we used to throw pieces of our own bread over the fence for them. You understand, we would be killed if they saw us. One day, we saw them throw over some crumpled paper. We opened them and saw they had written pieces of the Haggadah for us to use on Pesach! Why? Because a Yid is always a Yid! At home, in the labor camp—always!” After liberation, she managed to locate some family members, and they made their way to these shores. “What I told you now,” she concludes,

“is just a drop. We have to remember as much as possible. And we shouldn’t think that now everything is fine, and it can’t happen again, chas v’shalom.” As her words sink in, I gained a new insight into how the KFHEC came to be. “Mrs. Kleinman,” I said, “now I see where Elly got the vision and drive for this project! You raised your children with such purpose, turning your struggles into lifelong lessons.” Before I leave, I ask what she thinks of her son’s work to open a Holocaust Education Center. “It is so important,” she tells me, smiling. “So many people, especially the younger ones, really don’t know what happened to us. When I went to the KFHEC Tishah B’Av event, I was so pleased to see such a big crowd, with people of all ages.” What is her advice to her son? “You know,” she says, “I am so fortunate, baruch Hashem. I’m very proud of all my children. But even Elly can’t do this himself! He needs more people who are also interested in this work to help him. I wish him much hatzlachah!” Leaving Mrs. Kleinman’s house, I feel enriched with new perspective. As I make my way through the maze of brake lights, school buses and double-parked Yom Tov shoppers, what may have once been irritation is replaced with an appreciation for the rebirth of vibrant Yiddishkeit here in America and around the world.

Rabbi Sholom Friedmann is the Director of the Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center, located in Brooklyn, NY. To learn more, visit kfhec. org. You can also contact the Center at or 718-759-6200.

28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE


I Read My Daughter’s Diary Dear Rabbi Taub: My 17-year-old daughter is smart, pretty, talented, accomplished, and popular among her friends. She was G.O., valedictorian, and graduated with honors. She recently returned from camp where she held a counselor position. Her trip home was an exhausting bus and plane ride, so she went to sleep soon after coming home. I started to unpack her luggage and discovered a diary that really shocked me. She has been writing in it for over two years, but I never knew it existed. Out of pure love for my daughter, I read the diary in its entirety, because I felt I had to know what was going on in her mind. From the journal I learned that she has many strong emotions that she has been hiding very well from everyone. I found her to be very judgmental about how people act and about what people say. I saw how other people’s problems really upset her. She wrote about her strong resentment toward her parents. She wrote about how her mother is critical, mentioning incidents from time to time. (I can be critical once in a while.) She talked about how her father is so cold. (He loves his kids but he is just not the mushy type.) She expressed her concerns about going to seminary in Israel—her worries about living in a dorm and making new friends. She also mentioned how she can’t wait to get away from home for the year. She even wrote about how concerned she is that no one will want to marry her because she has “so much

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baggage.” In hindsight, she did mention two or three times over the past two or three years that she did not sleep well or could not fall asleep the previous night. We didn’t make much of it because she is always so energetic, ambitious, on the go, never missing a day of school, and never sleeping late on Shabbos or Sunday mornings. In the diary she mentioned many times how she discussed issues with a niece of mine, who is quite a few years older than her. She wrote that the niece recommended she see a therapist, but she can’t do it because she would never want her parents to find out. My questions to you: Is she simply a typical teenager expressing her feelings and this is nothing to be nervous about? Does it sound like she needs professional help? Do I have to let her know I found the diary? Am I permitted to continue to read the diary (without her knowing)? Is it recommended to cancel all plans of her going to seminary in Israel, for which she is scheduled to leave in just two weeks? I would greatly appreciate a speedy reply. Worried Mother P.S. I wrote this e-mail in singular form, but my husband is just as concerned as I am. As soon as I found the diary I showed it to my husband. He read parts of it as well, and he is sending this e-mail with me.


ear Worried: I had an uncle who worked in the restaurant supply business his whole life. He used to say, “If you will stand in the kitchen of any restaurant for an hour, you will never eat there again.” But, of course, that’s the point. We don’t go back into the kitchen. We judge a restaurant on the experience we have at the table, and we don’t worry about what goes on in the kitchen. That’s for the mashgiach and the health inspector to worry about. So too, a glimpse of anyone’s true inner thoughts would likely paint a picture of turmoil and conflict. But that’s what people do. We work through our conflict inwardly and it’s often a grueling process. Most of us just don’t leave a written record. For those who do keep a diary or a journal, what would you expect it to contain? Of course it’s going to reflect the person’s secret fears and personal struggles. That’s why you mustn’t be alarmed by the tumultuous emotions you saw in her diary. Her diary is her outlet for working through her feelings. It’s a sounding board where she can give voice to conflicting emotions and try to sort things out. It’s bound to look messy. Remember also that she is a bright girl, so she is liable to feel things deeply as well. So I don’t want to “disappoint” you but I really see nothing alarming in any of the things you say your daughter writes about in her diary. What did she say after all? She resents her parents and she’s afraid she will never get married? This sounds like typical teenage angst to me. Don’t take it too seriously. We should all try to be better parents, but I wouldn’t be too devastated by any of the criticism of you or your husband that she writes. Like I said, she’s just working through her issues. For example, one minute she’s afraid of going to seminary in Israel. The next minute she

can’t wait to get away from the house. Feelings aren’t facts. What she writes doesn’t have to be the objective reality. The most you can say for it is that it’s what she was feeling at the moment when she wrote it. Also, you say that you find her to be judgmental of others in her diary? Well, okay, but it’s her diary. She’s is not censoring herself. She’s being brutally honest about how she feels about people because she doesn’t expect anyone else to ever find out how she feels. And nobody should be finding out. You should never look at her

a close relationship, then maybe just to allay your fears you can ask this niece how your daughter is. Just say that you want to make sure she’s in good spirits before sending her off to Israel. If this niece doesn’t say anything, then there is nothing for you to know. If she does speak up, the smartest thing you can do is not to pry for more information even if she starts to

YOU SHOULD NEVER LOOK AT HER DIARY AGAIN. diary again. Also, to help put things in perspective, I’d like to point out a contradiction in something you write. You say that she has “strong emotions that she’s been hiding very well from everyone.” But then you say that there is this niece who’s older than her in whom she confides. So she’s not hiding her emotions from everybody. She is just being selective about whom to confide in. That’s normal. Please don’t treat your daughter differently. Just continue to love and support her as I am sure you have been doing for 17 years already. If you still want to do something just to feel you’ve done “due diligence,” then maybe you can approach the niece that she is close to. Is it known that they are even close? Or did that come as a surprise to you? If it’s a known thing that they have

come forth with it. Say, “I am not looking to get information. Anything she told you is private between you. I am just asking for the bottom line. If she’s okay, then that’s great. If she’s going through some issues and needs help, then please tell her that I’m happy that she speaks to you and that she can always come to me if she wants.” That’s it. That’s all you do. May you have a lot of nachas from all of your children.

With blessing, RST Rabbi Shais Taub is a noted expert on Jewish spirituality and addiction. He is the author of the best-selling G-d of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction. Questions to Rabbi Shais Taub should be sent to

28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE




iving in Buffalo, I have often pointed out in these pages, leaves me somewhat behind on the yeshivah-world loop. I am reminded of the true story of the famous and looked-up-to rosh yeshivah who was searching for a new suit. He pointed to one in particular that he liked. Being so engrossed in his learning, he was unaware that this style was not (yet) worn by the bnei Torah. The clerk handed the suit to the rosh yeshivah and warned, “You know, this style is not very yeshivish.” The rosh yeshivah looked the clerk in the eye as he tried on the suit jacket, declaring, “Well, it is now.” Change is that easy. And where I live I usually only find out about such change through visitors, long after it has become accepted as the norm. Several weeks ago a sofer came to the shul to spend a few days fixing and checking peoples’ STa”M. Many sefarim bring the custom of doing this before Rosh Hashanah (see Hilchos Chag B’Chag, p. 8, in the name of the Matei Ephraim and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch). Over the years that he has been coming, I have noticed something that, to me at least, was peculiar. Along with standard retzuos—with black on one side and a more natural color on the other— he began to sell retzuos that were black through-and-through. As the years progressed, that roll kept getting bigger, because that became the one that customers are buying. This year I did not even see him selling the “old” type of retzuos! I was stunned by this change, and still am. Before I continue, I want to be very clear: Everyone should follow his own

rabbanim. I would not dare suggest, challilah, that such retzuos are pasul. I come simply as an outsider “thinking out loud.” While true that Rav Elyashiv is reported to have allowed these new retzuos, he only did so, he said, because it was already being done and it would be too much to ask people to buy new ones again. Change can be fine in Halachah. We pointed out several months ago, in our detailed accounting of the birth of “machine matzos,” that while some rejected even that change, others embraced it. But a critical distinction must be drawn: For example, had machines for baking matzos been around since the time of Rashi and yet not one rav utilized them, and then, suddenly, in the 18th century, some began to bake with it, then surely almost no supporters would be found. It is only when we have access to something that rishonim did not, or when some reality or need changes, that we can then say, “Halachah or minhag has changed due to new circumstances or need.” Another example: Had governments been inspecting milk processors for thousands of years, as well as issuing fines for false labeling, or what have you, and yet for all that time no one rav, not the Ramban, not the Shulchan Aruch, not the Taz, ever mentioned that these inspections are enough to create a chalav Yisrael status in such milk, then Rav Moshe would have never—and could have never—issued his leniency. It is when the reality is new that we can then, perhaps, come up with new results. The Chofetz Chaim (Likutei Halachos, Sotah) similarly explains how the Bais Yaakov movement was not “new;” rather,

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it was a new way to approach a standard whose reasons for how it was done in the past were known for certain, and where changes in reality demanded that those reasons be circumvented. Now, it is true that dyeing our retzuos in this way seems very wise, because it eliminates the very real risk of cracking or the like which can reveal the natural color underneath, and such peelings can, at times, even pasul the retzuos (see siman 33 with Biur Halachah s.v. HaRetzuos, who is very strict, cf. Pri Megadim ad loc., with the shu”t Salmas Chayim #43). In fact, the Rambam, for a separate reason (noi tefillin), rules that one should dye both sides of the retzuos. Yet, he is a daas yachid, and throughout the centuries this view has been rejected by the am and its gedolim. See Shulchan Aruch, siman 33:3, with Mishnah Berurah #21, “…we do not act like the Rambam here…” Techniques to dye both sides of tefillin’s retzuos black have always been available, and were rejected; this is especially notable considering that dyeing was a far more common skill years ago. While the dyeing done today is more than just on both sides—rather, it is

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through-and-through, which some argue was once impossible—this assertion is hard to accept. If proven true, however, it may persuade me to change, although the fact that this method was not suggested until now would still give me pause. The Magen Avraham writes, relating to another tefillin question, that it is better to enter into a doubt regarding the kashrus of our tefillin than to suggest our past leaders were doing it wrong (siman 32:48, as brought in the miluim of Inside STa”M, page 360, a brilliant sefer by Rav Reuvain Mendlowitz). 1. Tefillin especially are based solely on mesorah, and we therefore must be far more vigilant against change due to the fear that small changes beget other small changes, as we want to be confident that tefillin will look the same in 500 years. 2. The Sheivet HaLevi (9:16) states that our past gedolim must have had a reason why they did not dye their retzuos like this, and who are we to suggest that we know what that was? Rav Chaim Kanievsky even proves that in the times of the Gemara, too, their retzuos were dyed only on one side (Ibid., pg. 363). But I want the olam to consider another, third, concern, one that would remain true even if the dyeing done today was once impossible: Today, people are demanding change relating to minhag Yisrael. Some of the requests bring with them halachic arguments that seem impeccable, so how do you stop them? What tool does a rabbi like me have? Furthermore, why stop them? If they do not

run counter to Halachah, why should they be frowned upon? To assume why something was not done, and then assert why that very assumption is no longer applicable, is a precarious game to play with our mesorah, especially in America. Every generation has nisyonos. It is obvious to many that our challenges today include groups seeking to approach certain issues with a purely halachic, academic model. To ignore the cultural realities handed down to us, especially in our generation, limits the strength of our retort to many of these groups. One should also note that such a relaxed attitude toward “halachic custom” opens the door not just to more kulos, but to innumerable chumros that were not followed throughout the generations. Let me end by once again affirming that those who have such retzuos, especially if following the advice of a rav or sofer, have protected themselves against halachic concern and should not be questioned. Indeed, those whose rabbanim have made this switch may even be obligated to follow suit. I only ask that those who are still on the fence should consider another chumrah, that of our clinging dutifully to the past so as to have our eyes wide open for the future.

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Rabbi Moshe Taub has served as the rabbi of the Young Israel of Greater Buffalo since September 2003, and also serves as the rav hamachshir of the Buffalo Vaad Hakashrus.

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BRAIN STORM YITZY YABOK is the pen name of a young man who shares his life-altering experience in Ami’s exclusive serial. His story, which began almost 12 years ago and traverses several continents, has touched the hearts of people all over the world and been an inspiration to many who face challenges. He has lectured before all kinds of audiences, from medical doctors to kollel yungeleit, about

his nisyonos and salvation. He is currently a rebbe in the Midwest and a candidate for a license in clinical mental health counseling. With the blessings of gedolei Torah and tzaddikei Yisrael, he now shares the chasdei Hashem that were bestowed upon him, as both chizzuk and guidance for all those who may be dealing with traumatic illness.


When I walked from the waiting

room through the door of the radiation therapy wing at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for the first time, I was, please pardon my language, freaked out. I do not know how many radiation machines they had in the unit, but wherever I turned there was another technician. Finally, after walking through a mazelike hallway of twists and turns, Raymond, my machine’s technician, brought me to the vault where I was to undergo my treatments. Yes, radiation therapy is administered in a room called a vault. The amount of time and money that is spent designing each specific vault is unbelievable. I do not understand much of the physics or science behind it, but I do know that in between the first layer of wall and the last layer of wall there has to be a certain amount of earth, lead and high-density concrete. The ceiling specifications must be designed to a certain high degree of difficulty as well. The door, or entrance to the vault, must—by law and per the regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency

(the same one that officially keeps tabs on Iran’s nuclear facilities)—be a minimum of 150 inches thick if constructed from wood alone. Modern-day hospitals take no risks, though. There are numerous companies that manufacture specific entrance units for radiotherapy vaults. None employ wood. The door to my vault was made of lead coated with steel, and it must have been at least two feet thick. Also, the door may not be in the direct path of the primary beam of radiation. The beam must be scattered twice before it is able to hit the door. I do not know how the beam gets scattered but I do know that there was a maze-like design to the entrance of my room, which enabled the door’s thickness to be slightly lessened because of the scattering factor. When I walked into the room, there was a wall that had an arrow pointing to the right, which led to another wall that snaked back to the left, and then another left brought me to the actual room. There are myriad governmental regulations. Factors such as equipment type, workload, target dose,

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use factor and direction of primary beam all play a role in the safety and functionality of these high-tech therapy devices. Raymond was still not ready. He had yet to give me the final instructions before we would start the process that would hopefully eradicate and put an end to any possible remaining tumor cells. First of all, he reminded me that this was not a process to take lightly. I can assure you that he did not take his job lightly. He was always ready for me and took on kind of a strict demeanor. I, for one, did not appreciate it. Keep in mind that at these types of facilities, all the staff members usually go out of their way to smile and to accommodate every single patient as though the patient is the most important person in the world. Every time I complained to my father about Raymond and his harsh manner, my father always told me about what a nice guy he is. That’s because my father was able to shmooze with Raymond about other things that did not have anything to do with radiation therapy. With me, though, it was


strictly business. His big line was that he “put his health on the line every day by exposing himself to radiation,” so of course I should listen to him. Well, from the time he left the room to the time the radiation machine started, he could’ve been in New Jersey already, so as far as I knew he was hunkered down in some radiation-proof bunker controlling my machine. Second, he wore a radiationexposure monitor, whereby exposure to an excessive amount of radiation would trigger an alert of some sort that would require him to take a mandatory day off. And that never happened. Another quite obvious piece of instruction was to be careful on the table, because I would literally be bolted onto it. You may recall how I described it—my head would be bolted onto the table, and if I would try to get off the table I would essentially snap my neck. That was quite scary, given the situation. I was always deathly afraid of being left alone. In my younger years that fear manifested itself in a couple of ways but mainly, if I would be dropped off somewhere, I would be petrified that I would not be picked up and would then be left to fend for myself in who-knows-where. Once I grew older and started taking public transportation, I quickly grew out of that fear. Interestingly enough, the fear that most people must encounter when they enter an MRI machine is claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed, tight spaces. Some suffer claustrophobia in an elevator. However, even with the tight confines of the MRI machine, I was completely not affected, but the fear of being left alone in that machine—or the technician getting up to fetch a coffee or

In the radiation vault I was essentially locked up “chap a shmooze” with a coworker and forgetting about me—was a fear that I had and unfortunately experienced many times. I actually was instrumental in getting a negligent worker fired. Every time I would get an MRI at a particular facility and was given a specific technician (let’s call him Boris; he was Russian), it took significantly longer for my scans to finish. That’s when I realized a pattern. An MRI, at least of the brain, is made up of a series of scans that each

last about three to four minutes. Normally, in between scans there’s a period of about two to five seconds until the next scan starts. Well, with Boris the intervals between scans were far greater, sometimes even minutes before the next scan would start. I would get furious, and vowed to myself after three or four experiences that I would report him. And thankfully I was not the only one. Other patients had experienced the same phenomenon and the next time I went back for a scan he was no longer there. But even an MRI was better than this. At least you could climb out of an MRI machine. In the radiation vault I was essentially locked up, even though I was in a beautifully designed, high-tech room with ample lighting, a pleasant aroma and a great visual field. It was a question between the two: Which one was the greater evil? Was it the tiny, noisy, enclosed space of the MRI, in which, technically, if I did not care about the quality of the scans and got scared stiff, I could wiggle my way out, or was it the open “expanse” of the radiation vault, where I had the ability to move my arms and legs but not my head? Both then and now I know that they were both difficult but necessary steps on the path to my recovery, but needless to say, it was not an easy predicament for me. However, every time a new endeavor in my treatment started, I was genuinely optimistic. And as I said Yehi ratzon she’yehei eisek zeh li li’refuah and stepped up to the treatment table that Monday, I had a strange feeling. Somehow I just knew that it would be good... somehow.  To be continued...

28 TISHREI 5774 // OCOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE


The Shnorrer



ome people in America don’t realize what it means to be in need. And some of them express it bluntly: “We work hard for our money. Why don’t you?” I know this because not so long ago I spent seven months going from door to door and minyan to minyan collecting money for my upcoming chasunah. In truth, I was already working as a cheder rebbe’s assistant before my engagement. It gave me 2,000 shekels a month, which went straight to my wedding expenses. But that didn’t stem the tide of bills and high costs, and my father was still worried about the necessities. My mother still had that clamped-up look she’d gotten when I requested a replacement for my shoes, one of which was torn at the seam, as if the 200 shekels would drop her on the spot. The difference between hosting in America and Eretz Yisrael is that in America they give you a beautifully appointed guest room; here, they give you their own bed, because that’s all they have. But I don’t take American hachnasas orchim lightly. Nowadays, when someone comes to my house for a donation, I can’t just give him ten shekels and let him go. In America, people would invite me in, and miraculously an entire meal would materialize: bagels, lox, cream cheese, hot soup, coffee, orange juice—fit for a king. I also now make sure to serve solicitors a piece

of cake and something to drink. That’s what I got when I was in need. In the grocery store on Erev Shabbos I sometimes see a father telling his kids, “No, don’t touch the snacks.” “We’re not buying candy; put it back.” “Please don’t nudge me for ices.” “The answer is no.” I understand that this Yid has maybe a few shekels he needs to stretch in order to buy challos, grape juice, a jar of gefilte fish and possibly a few chicken bones. I’ll go over to him, give him 200 shekels and say, “Reb Yid, buy something lekavod Shabbos.” One New Yorker once accused me, “You Yerushalmim are always hungry. You always ask for seconds.” “I appreciate your wife’s food. Do you?” I replied with a wink. It wasn’t laziness that propelled me to pound the pavement from five in the morning until midnight. It was the only solution to a real need; my parents had no money. And now I’ve had to return to it

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again. I work as a melamed, and do sponja [janitorial work] in two schools. But my father is marrying off my youngest sister, and is adamant that he can only pay the barest minimum towards the wedding. I decided that my sister deserves more than a haphazard seudah served on plastic plates, without even any soda. This is my father’s youngest child. She’s 24. She waited a long time for my brother to get married; all her classmates are already mothers. Her chasan’s family is making a nice affair for the aufruf and invited my entire family. I don’t think I can allow her to be shamed. But my father is an old Yerushalmi with a wall of debt. I can’t blame him, but I can’t convince him either. All I can do is shell out whatever I can and go door to door again. I’ve already been on the road. The typical answer I get from donors is predictable. “I’m supposed to get you an apartment? I don’t even have one yet.” I say, “I want you to donate the soda for my sister’s sheva brachos. Just the soda.” Or the paper plates. Or the fish. I’m hoping to restore my sister to being the kallah she deserves to be. My own shnorring experience lasted for the better half of my engagement. I had seen that the atmosphere in our home was bitter. Every article of clothing I bought was a battle. Before every Yom Tov, when we needed to send something


to the kallah, my mother would sigh and straighten her shoulders as if bracing herself. I knew I had to do something. First, I tried my luck locally. I knocked on a door on Sorotzkin Street. A man opened it, threw 20 agarot on the floor and slammed it shut. It was Chanukah, and the delicious scent of frying wafted into the hallway. I did my rounds in the entire building and was ready to go home. Then I thought, I don’t deserve such humiliation. So I climbed the stairs again, knocked on the same door and asked for a drink. I said a brachah and asked for another one. By this time the man had invited me in and apologized for slamming the door. He offered me one of his piping-hot donuts. “How can I help you?” he asked. “I’m the ninth child in my family, and I’m getting married. It’s simple. I need money,” I explained. “Are you nuts? I’m a yungerman. I don’t have money for myself.” “I’m sure you know people who do,” I countered. “ He said he would ask his father and father-in-law. I called Rabbi Fuchs, our rav in Ramot, and they spoke for 15 minutes in American gibberish. A week later my father picked up $2,000 from Rabbi Fuchs’ house. I realized that if the situation continued like that, my wedding would be one sour affair. My parents reassured me that it wasn’t my business and they were taking care of the financials, but I knew what that meant: more debt and an even more oppressive atmosphere. Others warned me that collecting wasn’t lucrative and it only covered traveling expenses. Nobody in my shiur in yeshivah went out to shnor; it wasn’t the acceptable norm. But I was determined to go ahead with it. Someone donated a ticket. Then I grabbed a suitcase, packed my clothing,

self-confidence and some pride, and was off. On the plane, I hooked up with an American chasan who had learned in Tchebin and was traveling home to get married. A couple of Yerushalmi jokes from me and we were fast friends. “Do you have a place to sleep?” the

humor and remember who I really was. One morning I was in a small shul in Williamsburg when someone came over and asked me how much I’d already made. “Seventeen dollars.” “Wonderful. You’re rich. Now you can go home with full pockets.” “Right. I only need three more dollars

I did my rounds in the entire building and was ready to go home. Then I thought: I don’t deserve such humiliation. American chasan asked me. “No.” “How come you don’t look upset?” “Because I’m a chasan, and all I require is money. Nu?” The chasan’s father took me home with them. The chasan himself was moved to go around collecting with me, a day or two before his wedding. At the chasunah I was introduced to the mechutan, and was invited to all the sheva brachos, where I managed to collect a nice sum. That Shabbos a man asked me, “How much are you earning by eating here?” “If I come to you, how much will you pay?” I retorted. I ended up receiving $500. I could easily compartmentalize this experience into the good, the bad and the lessons learned. But if I was serious about making money, I needed to rise above the humiliation and insist on sizable donations. Most of the donations I received from strangers were a pittance, so getting to know people was pivotal; it opened them up to giving a respectable amount. I needed to stay strong, retain my sense of

for my breakfast.” “Breakfast? You buy breakfast with this money?” “Why not? Everyone has to eat.” “Go to Satmar. They have free breakfast. You can’t waste our money on breakfast.” “I do it for my self-esteem. I’m all alone here, and I walk around from morning till night with an outstretched palm. What should I buy, yogurt or cheese? A roll? A baguette?” “Oif yenem’s cheshbon.” “Would you rather I put this toward paying for a meal at the wedding? My uncle’s? My cousin’s?” “Just get lost.” The man was losing patience. “Get out of here. Don’t talk to me anymore. Bye-bye.” I would have done just that, but someone else who’d witnessed the exchange led me off to the shul’s rav. He recounted what had happened and how I’d been shamed. The rav summoned the first fellow. “Let’s make a lechayim. We have a chasan here,” he said, gesturing to me. “I’ve met him already. He was in shul this morning.”

28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE


“He’s leaving soon. You don’t want him to have a hakpadah.” “Do you forgive me?” the man asked me. “No. I work hard collecting money, and you embarrassed me. The answer is no.” “Make him feel good,” the rav instructed. “I don’t want to give him money. I have to buy him an apartment? Who says these Yerushalmim need apartments? Did I get an apartment for my wedding?” “So don’t buy me an apartment,” I said. “A wedding also costs money. The food costs money. The drummer costs money. You can pay for one of those.” The man took me up to his apartment and gave me a check for $500. “Are you giving it with a happy heart?” I asked. “Because I don’t want it if it’s forced. Money comes and goes, but feelings stay.” The man kissed the check before handing it to me. He then showered me with blessings while I stood and wept. We ended up parting ways with much warmth. Another time, I approached a man at a bus stop and asked him for tzedakah. “How dare you approach me on the street like a vagrant?” he yelled in the packed shelter. “You should be ashamed of yourself. If you want something, come to my house like a mentch instead of accosting me here.” I asked myself, Why? Why do I need to go through this humiliation? Gathering my courage I said, “Okay, I’ll come to your house.” The man paid for my bus fare and brought me to a very respectable building. “If you have money, why ride the bus?” I asked. “It’s more natural. I get to see other people instead of being locked in my own quiet car.” The man wrote me out a check for $100. “What should I buy with this, a house?” “You don’t expect me to give you an entire house, do you? You get a $100 from this one and $100 from that one. Together, it adds up.” “I’ve been rolling around for weeks, and it’s not so simple to get $100,” I told him. “If every door I knocked on resulted in

$100 I’d be home already.” The man offered to accompany me on my rounds. Together, we collected $1,000. Then he brought me to G&G and bought me a chalat and a bekeshe. He stood guard like a personal shopper, making sure that everything fit. He bought me shoes as well, advising me on the comfort of each pair. He also threw in an umbrella. After our shopping expedition he asked, “How are you going to carry all this?” So he bought me a suitcase, and the man’s daughter, who was travelling to Bnei Brak anyway soon, took it along with her. My father fetched it while I was still wandering about in America, and it waited for me until the wedding.

about it and realized it was all in my head. Whoever lived there didn’t open the door simply because he wasn’t available. But I was so accustomed to thinking that people didn’t like me that it seemed deliberate. My biggest lesson in skewed perspectives came from a one-minute elevator ride. I was in the elevator when a big black man entered. His hands were hovering near his pockets and I was sure he had a gun or a knife. I started feeling claustrophobic, trapped and scared. I had never seen such a tall dark man before. I must have looked like a chicken ready for shechitah, because he asked me something I didn’t understand. “Tzedakah. Wedding.” The words came

A single dollar bill flitted out of the mail slot after I announced my identity. I immediately inserted five dollars back in. “How did you get this irritable, stingy man to buy this stuff for you?” one of the salesmen we met whispered to me in surprise. I told him that after surmounting his initial ire, the doorway was open. “I made a cheshbon hanefesh [personal accounting]. Did I deserve so much pain? That’s what gave me the courage to persist until he was ready to give.” Some days were harder than others. I was so broken, I could have accepted kvitlach. One day, after waking up at five a.m. and making my rounds at the vasikin minyanim—the only place you see balebatim sitting and learning before going to work—I continued collecting until midnight. Yet I made only $72. I remember looking up at an apartment on the sixth floor and thinking, He won’t want to give me anything. He’ll think I’m only a shnorrer. But I decided to climb the stairs anyway. When there was no answer, at first it felt like a personal affront. Then I thought

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out of my mouth like a plea for my life. “Oh, tzedakah?” he replied, pulling out a $10 bill from his pocket and handing it to me. When the door finally opened, I sat down in the stairwell and cried. Other days, I realized that I could accomplish much more with self-confidence. “Why are you walking around in the freezing cold?” someone asked me. “My hands are frozen,” I said. “I can hardly feel anything. Maybe if you put in some green leaves I’ll start feeling again.” The man gave me $5, but I wasn’t stopping there. “My hands will only thaw from a $50 or $100.” It was true; some people’s generosity warmed me from the inside out. People sometimes asked me what kept me going. The truth is that I’m not particularly strong or robust. But every quarter, and especially every good word, gives me koach until the next one. As a melamed,

I’m often up until the middle of the night, preparing arts and crafts projects and writing notes to parents. I always tell parents that it’s their children, my students, who give me energy. Without their smiles and questions I wouldn’t be doing this. We gain koach from each other. On one round, a single dollar bill flitted out of the mail slot after I announced my identity. I immediately inserted five dollars back in. “What’s this?” The woman now cracked open the door. “I thought you needed change. I didn’t have less than this.” Another woman complained that I was already the 15th meshulach that day. “That is such hashgachah,” I said. “Perhaps you were meant to help the 15th person substantially.” I also used my trick of asking for a drink. (The idea behind it, aside from quenching my thirst, is that it allows the other person to be a giver and to get to know me, however slightly. People feel used when they give to a stranger, but everyone is happy to help a person they’ve become acquainted with, whom they see as human and as approachable.) The man of the house walked into the front hall just then, so I said, “I hear I’m the 15th person already.” “It’s not that we count,” he insisted. “It’s just that there’s a lot of traffic today.” I left with a nicer donation than my predecessors. Another time, I approached a philanthropist and asked him for a donation with a smile on my face. “I get a mazal tov. I’m a chasan. I need money for my wedding.” The man, whose hour for giving tzedakah brings in many a tear-stained face, told me, “They all come in bitter and sour. I never saw someone being so matter-offact about accepting my donation. Come up to my house.” I walked away with a check that really made me smile. I didn’t have anyone to help me. Not an askan, not a driver. I once met a friend who was also collecting. “You’re going around yourself? With-

out a driver? For nickels and dimes?” He was so disparaging. I felt like small change after that conversation. I decided to investigate and find out how much he was earning and called his father. “Regards from your son,” I told him. “I bumped into him recently. He seems to be doing well. Has he sent home $5,000 yet?” “Not more than two,” his father admitted. That’s all I needed to hear to restore my spirits. My daily rounds at the minyanim for nickels, dimes and quarters had already amassed more than $10,000, and would eventually tally up to $72,000. I would continue doing whatever I was doing. You have to realize how it works with drivers. They tell the chasan, “At this house, you should look miserable.” “At this house, you need to produce real tears.” “Here, you only need to crack a few jokes.” The driver sits in his car laughing while the Yerushalmi is crying. I got around on my own wits. I saw amazing things, people who not only donated money, but cared deeply for another Yid. I noticed that it was the younger families—the 20- to 40-year-old crowd—who were more forgiving and generous than the older people, who asked pointed questions. Yungeleit, insurance brokers, accountants and people with growing families gave me something to eat, a place to sleep and, of course, cash. One person bought me shirts, socks and a new hat; everything I still needed. He even bought a chocolate arrangement to send back to the kallah by mail. One person took me along on a trip to an amusement park; others took me out to eat with their chevra. Those who already knew me took me to vach nachts, where they introduced me to people. There are so many amazing people in America. The good feelings I garnered from all the caring people I met meant so much to me. There were three chasanim in the same family who had all gotten engaged at the same time. In America, they hooked up

with a big askan, who raises large sums for the needy. I met them in beis midrash, and they told me they were going to Monsey with this askan to see a wealthy man. “If we come out with $2,000, that’s over$600 for each of us.” I asked to be taken along, but was denied. There wasn’t room in the car, or wiggle space in their story to include mine. I was hurt, but decided to wait with them until the askan arrived. When the car honked and the chasanim piled in, I stood in front of the car and told the driver, “You’re not going.” “Move away. Just let us go.” But I wouldn’t budge. The driver, in exasperation, lifted his hand. “I’m only moving if you say a kapitel Tehillim for each of the chasanim,” I said. The driver complied, rattling off a perek. “I meant slowly. As you remember that every penny comes from Hashem.” The driver impatiently recited the Tehillim and finally got that pesky Yerushalmi off his back. They were off. When they arrived in Monsey, the wealthy man was standing at his door, taping mazal tov signs to it. “My wife just gave birth,” he said. “I haven’t even been home lately, so it’s good you caught me at the right time.” The chasanim, excited because of the hashgachah pratis, started dancing with the rich man and singing, “Siman tov u’mazal tov.” To their utter delight and shock they were given a check for $6,000. I heard about my “miracle” as soon as the chasanim could breathe. But that wasn’t all. The next time met the askan, he wanted to dance with me. I begged him not to make a scene. Then he offered to take me around collecting. I declined. I didn’t need his money. For me, it was enough that I got the recognition and respect, and that he wanted to help. That’s all I needed.

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28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE


Shlockless in Woodmere HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL


confess: My wife was right, and so was my son. Because I didn’t listen to my 13-year-old son, I now have a mallet finger. And because I didn’t listen to my rebbetzin, I have egg on my face, lots of water in my sukkah and a general feeling of ineptitude. One day I shall have to learn to listen. Last winter, my wife and I went away with the kids for a kosher program at a quaint resort in the Catskill Mountains. Although I had intended to do a bit of swimming, a lot of writing and learning, and some networking and shmoozing with fellow guests, I found myself being enticed by the lure of youthful pastimes. I decided to test my mettle with some of the more adventurous endeavors. I’m not sure why I was suddenly infused with youthful audacity. Perhaps I savored the opportunity to turn back the hands of time by doing things, or maybe I wanted to prove to the younger set, and more importantly to myself, that I wasn’t as old as the dates on my birth certificate would indicate. I decided to try my luck at skiing. “Abba,” my son immediately warned me, “you shouldn’t be doing kid stuff.” But I didn’t listen. The highest slope at the lodge was tiny compared to the ones I’d seen in pictures of “real” ski resorts. What could go wrong? The answer: everything. It literally did not take two minutes until I had fallen and ripped a tendon in one of my fingers. That was the end of my career of trying to do kid things. This Sukkos I was again taught a lesson about my limitations. This time it was my rebbetzin who gave me the “constructive” warning.

I am not sure when the bug first got into my head. Perhaps the seeds of my ambition were planted (and maybe even watered and germinated) after a torrential downpour on Sukkos three years ago, when all of our grandchildren’s amazing arts and crafts projects—the lush greens of the lulavim and bright yellows of the esrogim—were suddenly transformed into one runny glob of finger-painted goo dripping down the sides, turning it into a Jackson Pollock-like mess that only a Jew living on Park Avenue would appreciate. I didn’t. For me, it was painful. So despite all warnings to the contrary, I decided it was time for me to acquire “goyishe” carpenter-like skills. I was going to build a shlock [protective retractable awning over the sukkah]. Sukkah building is something that I leave to my children. It’s not that difficult an engineering feat, given that our sukkah is one of those sturdy fiberglass snap-and-

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lock models, assembled with methodical precision every year. For some reason, though, we had never ventured into the realm of shlocks. My rebbetzin, a simple Litvishe matriarch with roots in Kovno, Fall River and Detroit, always considered the shlock to be an unnecessary chore, a waste of time and effort, and something that should not be attempted by the unskilled hands of people like me. Nonetheless, seeing the dripping artwork and pictures of my revered gedolim lying in puddles spurred me to action. But what really cemented my resolve was my neighbor, a gentleman almost ten years older than I am, and undoubtedly a greater Torah scholar as well. Over the years I have watched his sukkah remain perfectly dry. Inclement weather? No problem: chikchok, on with the schlock. It’s a simple tarp that goes on and off without any visible gizmos, pulleys, ramps or levers. I don’t know how he does it, and I was always


too proud to ask. Numerous surreptitious inspections during rainstorms didn’t help much, and I never saw him actually put it on or take it off. He was always one step ahead of me. By hook or pulley, I was determined to be the protector of our family’s future artists and our sages’ honor. Memories of ruined projects were fresh in my mind when, the following year, I set out to do the shlock thing all by myself. And although I knew plenty of carpenters who, I am sure, could have set up a system in a flash, I had a certain masculine pride that would not allow me to ask for help. Now, my sukkah is situated on a backyard deck about four feet off the ground. As the walls of the sukkah are at least six feet tall, I suddenly realized that the shlock would have to be at least ten feet above ground in order to protect the sukkah. With hardly any footing on the sides, the only way to proceed would be to go upstairs to a bedroom window and work from there. I had no idea what I was doing. But I was on a mission. In my mind, I had it all figured out. I’d buy a tarp and get some hooks and somehow manage to throw it out the window and, and, and… Unfortunately, my mind went blank after that. Maybe the fellow in the Home Depot would be able to help, even though I didn’t have such great memories of my visits. I was always fascinated by the gadgets they sold in addition to all the standard tools, but I never seemed to have a shprach with the salesmen. A few years back, when the puptshickels that hold up the shelves in my sefarim shrank snapped, I was shocked to learn that “shrank,” “puptshickels” and “eppes ah zach” are words that for some reason aren’t in the hardware store lexicon. I am not going to bore you—if I haven’t already done so—with the miserable details, but the project was not the success I envisioned. I screwed a series of hooks onto the outside of the house about five feet above the schach, hooked a 20-foot

tarp into the hooks and waited for it to rain. I know that E=MC2, but that is where my physics prognostication ends. I hadn’t realized that there wasn’t enough pitch, and that the tarp wasn’t taut enough to allow the rain to run off. It wasn’t long before the center of the tarp began to fill with water. A giant blister formed in the middle that was soon heavy enough to cause the schach to collapse, followed by a torrent of water for good mea-

guess it sometimes takes a repeat performance to learn a lesson. This year, in my attempt to create a new and improved shlock, I installed wooden ramp slats with makeshift door hinges drilled to the side of the house, along with several other Rube Goldberg-esque innovations, including a couple of pulleys and a 20-foot PVC pipe attached to the end of the tarp to ensure a smooth roll and a taut slope. All of these ministrations, of course, required twisting my back in more directions than a rebbishe

My masculine pride was at stake. I would not ask for help. sure. It was actually my fault. I had decided to be proactive and poke the tarp with a broom handle, not taking into account that when two forces collide, tarps can rip. This can leave the poker of said tarp standing under gallons of shlock-accumulated cold water. Well, that was last year. This year I would get it right. Don’t ask me why I didn’t just quit; it must have been a flash of genius. A story is told of the late Albert Einstein. Having just finished writing a paper, he and an assistant searched the office for a paper clip, but the only one they found was too badly bent to use. After opening numerous drawers searching for an implement to straighten it, they finally came upon an entire box of paper clips. Einstein immediately picked one up, reshaped it and used it to straighten the clip that was bent. His assistant, puzzled, asked why he was doing this when there was a whole box of usable paper clips. “Once I am set upon a goal, it becomes difficult to deflect me,” he explained. I am well aware that I could have bought a prefab shlock and had it installed, but I

lulav shuklen while standing 20 feet off the ground on a borrowed industrial ladder. My wife was not amused by my refusal— yet again—to heed her better judgment. Why make even more of a mess than last year? I explained to her that the harder I worked to make the shlock, the less chance there was that it would rain! Once again, I was wrong. It poured. The shlock was an abject failure. The pipe snapped off the bottom, and all that was left was a crumpled 20-foot-wide blue tarp bunched up and flapping in the wind on top of a now uninhabitable section of the sukkah. I am still shlockless in Woodmere. Yet despite my promises (bli neder) to my family never to attempt such madness again, I remain determined. I just know that I’m going to get it right one day. And I also believe I’ll learn how to ski.  Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky is the rosh yeshivah of Yeshiva Toras Chaim at South Shore, a weekly columnist in Yated Ne’eman, and the author of the Parsha Parable series. He can share your story through the “Streets of Life,” and can be reached at

28 TISHREI 5774 // OCTOBER 2, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE


Issue 137