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YANKY OS DRAMATICTREICHER: 2-YEAR CA END TO PTIVITY CHIEF RABBI BLEICH: UKRAINIAN JEWS NOT IN DANGER PEDIATRICIAN’S GUILT OVER HER PATIENT’S DEATH DID CHINA ORDER KIM JONG UN TO EXECUTE HIS UNCLE? LUNCHBREAK WITH ABE BIDERMAN

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12.18.2013 15 TEVES 5774

Departments

8 12 14

 EDITORIAL A little shrill satire LETTERS

 NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL NEWS

18 20 22

YOS SI KRAUSZ

 IN THE NEWS TURX

 SIGHTINGS AND CITINGS BEN ROSEN

 JEWISH NEWS Jews in Ukraine—Meron transfer— Historic gathering YOSSI KRAUSZ, NESANEL GANTZ AND DOVID LAPINSKY

30

 JEWISH LIVING IN: East Brunswick, New Jersey

32

JEFFREY TAUB

 BUSINESS YEDI DA WOLFE

52

Features

34

 LUNCH BREAK With Avraham Biderman  NE SANEL GANTZ

36

 PARNOOOSA Onward to the next project  MAURICE STEI N

66

 THE JOURNEY Collecting history

68

RABBI SHAI S TAUB

 MY WORD! ASH ER V. FI NN

T  HE SHUL CHRONICLES A mourner at the chuppah

74

RABBI MOSH E TAUB

 THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE Death and the doctor

78

S  PYVIEW: KOREAN FAMILY FEUD The demise of General Jang and North Korea’s path forward JOHN LOFTUS

48

F  INALLY FREE Yanky Ostreicher returns from his long ordeal in Bolivia. AVRAHAM SHALEIM AND RAFAEL BORGES

RABBI SHOLOM FRI EDMANN

 ASK My son is making my mistakes

71 72

38

AS TOLD TO SARAH PACHTER

 STREETS OF LIFE Shabbos-friendly RABBI MORDECHAI KAM ENETZKY

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

52

S  NOW IN YERUSHALAYIM Havoc descended on the Holy City together with the snowflakes. CHANANYA BLEICH

62

F  RIENDSHIP UNDER WRAPS Israelis and Palestinians help each other out during the recent snow emergency. AVI TUCHMAYER


RABBI YITZCHOK FRANKFURTER

A Little Shrill Satire

H

ere are some of the official statistics on chareidim as compiled by Israeli demographers. When the State of Israel was first established in 1948, there were 30,000 chareidim living in Eretz Yisrael. By 1980, their number had risen to 140,000. Yet as late as 1990, chareidim still constituted only three percent of Israel’s Jewish population. Today there are between 750,000 and 800,000 chareidim in Israel, ten percent of the entire population and 13 percent of the Jewish population. The numbers of chareidim have been going up six percent annually, while Israel’s general population is only increasing by 1.8 percent per annum. It is estimated that by 2030, chareidim will constitute 20 percent of the Jewish populace in the country. If you were a Tel Aviv hedonist, you would probably be concerned by these statistics, especially by the likelihood that as the chareidi population grows, so too will their aspiration to incorporate halachah and Yahadus into Israeli society. And in fact, Tel Aviv hedonists are very concerned. They are also determined to do something about it. As a result, much attention is now being given in Israeli academic circles to the chareidi issue. Various proposals have been put forth by scholars and adopted by politicians for how best to integrate them into the larger society. Of course, removing talmidim from the yeshivos and inducting them into the Israeli military ranks high on this list. As the chareidi community demonstrates its resoluteness and opposition to this reformist campaign, it is not surprising that the criticism is growing shriller. There have also been attempts to introduce “a little clever satire” into this dialogue. And what is wrong, you may ask, with a little satire? Well, misplaced satire can have serious consequences. Chazal proclaimed, “All mockery is prohibited except for mockery directed at idol worship” (Megillah 25b; Sanhedrin 63b; see also Igros Moshe, Yoreh Dei’ah 2:53). Our Sages believed mockery to be so destructive 8 AMI MAGAZINE // DECEMBER 18, 2013 // 15 TEVES 5774

that it may only be used against something that is absolutely evil. The Talmud (Sotah 42a) enumerates four groups of people who will not “receive the Divine Presence” in the World to Come. The first is the category of leitzim, those who scoff. And there is a good reason for this. As the author E. L. Doctorow wrote, “Satire’s nature is to be one-sided, contemptuous of ambiguity, and so unfairly selective as to find in the purity of ridicule an inarguable moral truth.” Those who try to poke fun at the chareidim’s resolve are more than just one-sided. In fact, they deliberately gloss over a few essential points. Firstly, even the smallest infraction can sometimes fall into the category of “yeihareig v’al yaavor,” a transgression a Jew must allow himself to be killed for rather than commit, even changing the color of his shoelaces if it is in the context of “shaas hashmad,” when there is an overall drive to reform Yiddishkeit (Sanhedrin 74b).  This is so because under such circumstances a minor infraction ultimately leads to far more serious consequences, even the abandonment and rejection of Judaism in its entirety. While halachah views life as intrinsically and infinitely valuable, there are certain halachic parameters for when one is permitted and even obligated to take the ultimate stand. What we are dealing with here is more than just how chareidim should tie their shoelaces, but how their youth should be educated. Thus, even putting aside Israel’s motivation, the practical issue at hand is what the results would be if Israeli yeshivos were emptied of their students. If our critics think that removing talmidim from the beis hamidrash and inducting them into the IDF will not irreversibly affect the essential character of the Orthodox world, there is a tragic disconnect from reality somewhere in their psyches. And that is one of the reasons why our critics’ jokes fall flat these days.


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LETTERS EXECUTIVE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter

CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD

Chesky Kauftheil EDITORIAL

EDITOR IN CHIEF

Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter SENIOR EDITOR

Rechy Frankfurter MANAGING EDITOR

Yossi Krausz

RABBINIC EDITOR

Rabbi Moshe Taub CONTRIBUTORS

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

Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum FOOD EDITORS

Victoria Dwek•Leah Schapira EDITORIAL COORDINATOR

Toby Worch

COPY EDITORS

Basha Majerczyk Dina Schreiber Rabbi Yisroel Benedek ART

ACTIVE IN ALLENTOWN

An overlooked community resource In reference to Jewish Living In, Issue 146

Dear Editor: I am a big fan of your magazine, and I enjoy all the different articles, on various topics. I am glad to see that you are a balanced magazine that shares articles from all different areas and backgrounds of religious Judaism. Your magazine has introduced kosher reading to our home. As such I was very surprised by your article on Jewish living in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Your article made no mention of the very successful Chabad Center in Allentown. My sister and brother-in-law Rabbi Yaakov and Devorah Halperin are the Chabad shluchim to the Lehigh Valley and Allentown. They have a very successful shul with minyanim on Shabbos. My sister runs a preschool with 20-plus students. Every Sunday, 50 children join them for their very popular Chabad Hebrew school. Each summer they run a very successful camp with over 100 campers. My brother-in-law gives a Torah shiur every Wednesday evening to over 30 people. They host guests every Shabbos at their home for meals and more. This is just to name a few things that they do in that area. I’ve seen past articles in Jewish Living and Chabad is mentioned, yet here there was nothing? Raizel Schusterman Peabody, Massachusetts

ART DIRECTORS

David Kniazuk Alex Katalkin

ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE ACCOUNT MANAGER

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EXECUTIVE SALES DIRECTORS

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ADVERTISING COORDINATOR

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Ami Magazine P: 718.534.8800 F: 718.484.7731 info@amimagazine.org 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.

AMI MAGAZINE 1575 50th St., Brooklyn, NY 11219 letters@amimagazine.org Phone: (718) 534-8800 Fax: (718) 484-7731


LETTERS ALL GREEK TO ME

A response to a barbaric article In reference to “My Word!” Issue 145

We are in the middle of learning Greek history in school, and our teacher told us that the Greeks considered all other nations as “barbaroi,” a Greek word which literally meant people who don’t speak Greek, but did have slightly negative (or racial, as we call it) connotation. “Barbaroi” later evolved into having a connotation of cruelty. She also said that the English word “barbaric” most likely came from the Greek language. This very Shabbos, I was flipping through an English Haggadah, and I noticed that it said that “mei’am lo’eiz” means “from a nation that speaks a foreign tongue.” But in Aramaic, “lo’eiz” is translated as barbara’ei—a cruel and barbaric nation (i.e., Mitzrayim). So I figured that now I would have an interesting question for my history teacher: Was this Greek word taken from Aramaic, or was the Aramaic word taken from Greek? This morning, when I read the article in Ami entitled “All Greek to Me,” I found my answer! Thank you, Mr. Finn! RK, age 14 Lakewood, NJ

THANKS TO A LETTER WRITER Your story is mine as well In reference to Ask, Issue 145

Dear Editor: To the writer of the letter in Issue 145’s Ask Rabbi Shais Taub article, in an emotionally abusive marriage, I can only say, “Thank you for writing.” I gasped when I read your letter, because so many details were familiar from my own life. I have also thought of my marital stress as a kapparah and daven that, in its place, my children should have only shalom bayis in their own homes. By writing, you help women (and men) everywhere by knowing they are not alone. Name withheld

RHETORICAL QUESTION? A credo worth recording

In reference to “The Lonely Man of Faith May Be Lonelier Than Ever,” Issue 146

Dear Editor: Anyone who is familiar with YU and its history knows that the question referenced on your recent cover about the RCA [“Has the RCA abandoned the teachings of Rabbi Soloveitchik?”] is rhetorical at best. Nevertheless, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for printing Rabbi Soloveitchik’s Credo About Torah. I have never in my life read such a magnificent, all-encompassing and breathtaking paean to limmud ha’Torah. I hope to read it again and again and again, b’ezras Hashem. Sincerely, Yechiel Nakdimen Lakewood, NJ


NEWS

NATIONAL AND WORLD

ANALYZING THE NEWS THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Could a Water Agreement Bring Peace to the Middle East? A NEW DEAL MAY POINT TO A NEW STRATEGY FOR DEAL-MAKING

A

new agreement between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority about water projects and allocations will dramatically change the distribution of a precious resource—and may be presenting a new model for negotiations in the region. Water in the Middle East is often scarce, and control of water resources around Israel has long been a source of contention. This new deal is a significant move toward ending some of the conflicts. The agreement really consists of three parts. One involves a new desalination plant that will open in Aqaba, Jordan, on the shore of the Red Sea. The plant will produce about 80 million cubic meters of drinkable water a year from an intake of about 175 million cubic meters of seawater. About 50 to 60 percent of the drinking water will be piped over the border to Israel. The salty brine from the plant—

almost 100 million cubic meters worth a year—will be pumped up to the Dead Sea, to begin an attempt to revitalize that shrinking body of water. The second part is a doubling of the amount of water that Israel will be selling to Jordan from Lake Kinneret. Each year, about 50 million cubic meters is sold; now that will be 100 million cubic meters. Finally, Israel will be increasing its sale of water to the Palestinian Authority by 20 million cubic meters a year. That would raise yearly Israeli water sales to the PA to about 72 million cubic meters. A price has not yet been set on the additional water. Environmental groups have been challenging the idea of moving Red Sea brine to the Dead Sea, because they believe that it will alter the special chemistry of the Dead Sea. This proposed plan is actually a trial for an even larger proposed pipeline to the Dead Sea from the Red Sea, which

14 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4

would bring 400 million cubic meters a year of brine. The deal has been presented as uncommon, because of the relative rarity of cooperation between Israel and its neighbors. The head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Shaddad Attili, attempted to make light of the PA’s involvement, telling The New York Times that the deal was essentially between Jordan and Israel and only involved the PA because of their border with the Dead Sea. To get an idea of the meaning of this agreement and its importance, we spoke with Oded Eran, a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies. He previously held a number of high-level diplomatic positions, including as a World Jewish Congress representative, as Israeli ambassador to the European Union, and as Israeli ambassador to Jordan.


BY YOSSI KRAUSZ

Oded Eran

To Eran, the deal is meaningful: “I think this a very important development in the trilateral relations between Israel and Jordan and Israel and the Palestinians,” he said. “It is a novelty especially given the background of the region generally speaking, and the uprising or civil war which goes in different countries in the region. It shows that beyond politics there are human needs that have to be taken care of by governments. And Israel, Jordan and the PA acted in this case in a very responsible way and it’s a very encouraging development.” He explained that there are specific reasons that Israel felt it could make a deal now and that the other signatories felt they needed to. “For Israel, there are no more water problems. Israel was recycling 80 percent of its used water. Israel is desalinating water at will. We had both water in the Mediterranean and energy for desalinating that water that is generated by natural gas we found off the coast. “For Jordan, there is a new need to supply the almost one million Syrian refugees who fled the massacre in Syria. For the Palestinians there is a real shortage of water. This is why it was possible—because of the need and because of the availability of water on the Israeli side—to conclude this agreement.” He says there are no losers here. “There’s no giving in. All three are benefitting from this agreement. The Israelis will get desalinated water [from] the Gulf of Aqaba, above Eilat, where we need fresh water. The Palestinians will get water in the West Bank, where they need water. The Jordanians will get water from Israel in the north for the additional popula-

tion created by the refugees. So everyone benefits from this agreement. This is the beauty of it.” As far as revitalization of the Dead Sea is concerned, Eran is a skeptic. “I doubt this will revitalize the Dead Sea. The whole issue of the Dead Sea in this is a side issue. It’s still very much in question whether the brine which will be taken from the desalination of the Red Sea will be dropped in the Dead Sea. I’m not so sure that this would be a positive development. It was part of the deal. But it probably won’t revive the Dead Sea. What the Dead Sea needs—and this is being done anyway, regardless of this—is to have water flowing from the Sea of Galilee down south to the Dead Sea.” This deal doesn’t fix all the water disputes between Israel and the Palestinians, particularly in regard to the two large aquifers under the West Bank. “The issue of aquifers is put on hold. This is not a comprehensive water agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. There are still outstanding issues that could eventually be part of a comprehensive agreement between Israel and the Palestinians or that could be covered by a stand-alone agreement. You could call that Plan B, if a comprehensive agreement is not reachable. All the other issues pertaining to water between Israel and the Palestinians are still to be solved.” But he says that the cooperation shown here is a good sign. “I think this a very important and very constructive precedent which may lead to further agreements on the water and it may lead to other agreements on other issues of infrastructure. That could be an agreement on energy, electricity or other modes of cooperation. “This agreement shows that there could be agreements and progress towards greater stability, even if we can’t reach a comprehensive agreement in the IsraeliPalestinian conflict.”

Troubled Water It’s not only land that causes conflicts between Israel and its neighbors. There are a number of bodies of water that have been disputed in the region. Sea of Galilee—One of the tensions during the years prior to the Six Day War was the attempt by Syria to divert waters flowing into the Sea of Galilee. When Israel captured the Golan Heights, it also captured the headwaters draining into the Sea. Jordan River— Syria, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians have all diverted water from the Jordan and its tributaries. Those diversions have not just sparked conflict; they’ve also dried up the Dead Sea. Dead Sea—There haven’t only been conflicts over the mineral resources of the Dead Sea. Even the dried bed of the Dead Sea has been a bone of contention, with Israel and the Palestinians claiming the newly dry land. West Bank aquifers—The large bodies of underground water that partially or totally lie under the West Bank are used by Israelis and Palestinians. Who uses how much has been a constant dispute. Mediterranean Sea—Israel and Lebanon argue where their borders end to the west. That dispute became even more important when natural gas was discovered on the seafloor.

15 TEVES 5774 // DECEMBER 18, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE

15


NATIONAL AND WORLD

NEWS

LIFE IN NUMBERS

How We Get from Here to There 107,460,210

Oil has been one of the most consistently troublesome natural resources for the Western world. It has shaped foreign policy to an extent unmatched by any other imported material or good. The terribly turbulent Middle East has become the problem of the United States and Europe to a large part because of their dependence on that region’s oil. Oil, unlike natural gas and coal, goes mainly not for power supply but for fueling motor vehicles. In the US, the biggest user of oil in the world, a long debate has waxed and waned about the ways to reduce the use of oil—and consequently the country’s dependence on foreign oil. Part of that huge use of oil is because of the huge herds of cars and trucks going back and forth every day, carrying people to and from work. With increased suburbanization in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, commute times lengthened and the gallons of oil kept pouring. In recent years, however, there’s been a reduction in commuting in the US, as found in a recent study by the US Public Research Interest Group. But census data about people’s commutes still shows that the vast majority of the American people get to work by driving, all alone in the car.  Source: Atlantic

100,000,000

80,000,000

60,000,000

OUT OF THE TOP 100 METROPOLITAN AREAS: In 99 areas, the numbers of commuters by car fell in recent years

40,000,000

In 86 areas, the number of two-car households has decreased In 85 areas, the number of commuters by bicycle has increased In 84 areas, the number of households without cars has increased

Carpool Work Walk at home

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

Taxi

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06 4 40 ,

09 6 85 ,

,9 05 16 1

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Ferry

A Hidden Mission Finally Revealed

DID A JEWISH AMERICAN GET CAPTURED AS PART OF A ROGUE CIA PLOT? In 2011, the family of Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent and private detective, received several photos. In one, Levinson, with long hair and a scraggly beard and wearing an orange jumpsuit, held a sign reading, “4TH YEAR… You Cant [sic] or you don’t want…?” Six years ago, Levinson had gone missing in Iran, while ostensibly on a business trip. That picture was the last his family has heard of him. But last week his case took on a new dimension, when the Associated Press revealed that he had been working for a CIA group that was conducting unauthorized surveillance inside Iran. The US government has continued to deny the report. But it has also become clear that the AP has been sitting on the information about Levinson’s rogue mission since 2010, and agreed three times to delay the story to avoid jeopardizing rescue efforts. Now that American officials have told the AP that Levinson’s captors almost surely know about his connection with the CIA and that there has been no further evidence that he is alive since the 2011 photo, the AP ran the story. The political fallout in Washington may just be starting, though some has already happened secretly. Three CIA analysts were fired after a closed-door congressional investigation, and several were disciplined. The government paid Levinson’s


BY YOSSI KRAUSZ

family $2.5 million to keep them from filing a lawsuit that would publicly reveal the embarrassing facts. Now that the circumstances behind his disappearance are out in the open, his family has become openly critical of the government’s response. In a statement, they said, “There are those in the US government who have done their duty in their efforts to find Bob, but there are those who have not. It is time for the US government to step up and take care of one of its own.” Secretary of State John Kerry claimed on Sunday that he has pressed the case with the highest level Iranian diplomats he has met. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javid Zarif said the same day, in an interview: “What we know is that he is not incarcerated in Iran. If he is, he’s not incarcerated by the government, and I believe the government runs the, pretty much [sic], good control of the country.”

unleash your miles {Corporate accounts our specialty}

U P D AT E S New Info on Stories We’ve Run The latest leaks published from Edward Snowden’s treasure trove of NSA documents—published last week in The Washington Post—showed that the electronic spy agency can crack the encryption on most cell phone calls and texts. Meanwhile, top NSA officials have floated the idea of amnesty for Edward Snowden if he’ll return to the US with the remainder of the data that he stole. Though they seem to be giving the idea a good deal of consideration, it’s unclear whether Snowden really has control over the documents anymore, since he gave copies of everything to renegade journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. When the interim deal with Iran was first announced, the monetary benefit the Iranians would be garnering was supposed to be in the range of $6 billion, as we reported. But signs that they would get much more than the frozen moneys being released came almost right away, with a sudden rise in the value of the Iranian currency. And the P5+1 countries ended up relaxing more sanctions than they had originally been planning to. Last week, Haaretz reported that Israeli security officials have been told by American counterparts that the benefits to Iran had been underestimated. The real gains to Iran? About 20 to 25 billion dollars. In other news regarding the Iranian deal, a move by the Obama administration to attempt to stave off new sanctions by Congress angered Tehran last week. The Treasury Department announced a new set of measures against specific companies that have illegally evaded sanctions and traded with Iran. In response, Iranian officials left negotiations in Geneva on Thursday, saying that the move violated the spirit of the interim agreement. By Sunday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was already saying that Iran was still committed to the deal. A pity, that.

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IN THE NEWS

BY TURX

After It’s All Said and Spun… THE CHINESE CREATION THAT CAN ACTUALLY BE SEEN FROM SPACE

S

ome stories sound so ridiculous that people think they’ve been made up. This story, however, is not one of those stories at all. It’s about China and the epic proportions of its outrageously bizarre smog problem. “Newsflash: Pollution, as it turns out, is actually good for you!” According to Time Magazine, China claims breathing in smog is beneficial— and for very peculiar reasons, too. Have a look for yourselves. Here is their rationale, straight from the propaganda agent’s gagging mouth (post-translation, of course, with my analysis to follow). It unifies the Chinese people. (Yeah. This is perhaps the greatest unifier of the Chinese people since the invention of modern slavery.) It makes China more equal. (All right, fine. But…wouldn’t clean air make China more equal too?) It raises citizen awareness of the cost of China’s economic development. (Because

now slave laborers in sweatshops can judge how much their bosses are raking in based on that day’s particular volume of smog density. Yes, it makes it almost impossible to breathe, but guess what—slavery wasn’t meant to be easy.) It makes people funnier. (True, it makes people funnier, but those funnier folks are not in China. They are the people making fun of China, from the comfort of outside China.) It makes people more knowledgeable (of things like meteorology and the English word “haze”). (Or…or…they could have

learned those same words from reading this

article without having to asphyxiate themselves and their non-aquatic pets to death.) The first thought to go through my mind when I read this list was “Other than the pollution in the air, what is this propaganda guy smoking?” My second thought was “Okay, these five points prove that breathing in pollution is significantly worse than we first thought.” Oh, but wait, it gets even better. According to China’s state-run news outlet Global Times, smog has a real-life benefit, and the higher the pollution, the better off the Chinese people are. “In the event of war,” the article makes sure to explain, “the enemy will have a difficult time spotting their targets as a result of all this pollution.” (Additionally, how could civilians die in war if most will be dead from lung-related illness well in advance of the war’s outbreak?) But wait, doesn’t smog also make it harder for China to shoot down enemy planes? Enemy planes just have to drop their payloads and go home. They get paid whether

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they hit their targets or not. It’s not like those enemy pilots have to worry about landing in all that thick air. And now we segue into our next segment: It turns out that despite the Chinese government’s friendly assurances, not everyone is better off with smog. According to multiple reports, heavy pollution is forcing pilots in China to learn special landing maneuvers in the event of heavy pollution, which is practically everywhere, always. That’s right—pollution levels in some parts of China are denser than the head of the governmental official who hand- delivered this list to the propaganda bureau in the first place. (They did try faxing the report at first but all the fax machines they could find had been “made in China,” so they tried sending carrier pigeons, but they dropped dead from all the pollution. In the end they just stuck with hand-delivering the “news item.”) You know, instead of teaching pilots how to land better, perhaps they should not be teaching pilots how to take off. Because perhaps then there will be slightly less pollution. Though the good news is, at least airplanes in China never have to worry about carrier pigeons getting stuck in their engines ever again. Up next: Why Chinese lead-laced toothpaste is actually better than originally thought. No, no, it’s not better for your teeth, it’s better for the guy whose slaves work hard to package the toothpaste. And this is the nation America is about to become enslaved to over its national debt? Hey, wait a second…if the Chinese people love smog so much, can America perhaps pay back its debt to China one smog-filled bottle at a time?


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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 FARCICAL FACIAL FINANCES The complex complexions of Congress? Fox News reported last week that Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) are attempting to introduce a bill to reform the official painting of congressmen’s portraits. The paintings can cost more than $50,000 each. Coburn commented: “Hardworking taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for lavish official portraits, especially when government officials spend more on paintings of themselves than some Americans make in a year.” It’s not just Congress getting painted. The Obama administration reportedly spent nearly $400,000 on paintings of officials within a two-year period. The senators’ bill would allow only $20,000 of taxpayer money to be spent on each painting, and only paintings of congressmen in the line of succession for the presidency would be allowed. Private Sorry, Denmark. You can get a seat with the US and the UK, but you’re still an unknown.

money would be allowed to be spent on the paintings after the taxpayer money was spent. The bizarre implication: Congressmen think we want to be reminded of their faces.

PRESERVING THEIR TRADITIONAL CULTURE Not very subtle there in Romania JTA reported that a new Romanian television station for aired an Xmas carol praising the burning of Jews during its inaugural transmission. TVR3 Verde aired the song on December 5. It contained the lyrics “The kikes, holy G-d would not leave the kike alive, neither in heaven nor on earth, only in the chimney as smoke, this is what the kike is good for, to make kike smoke through the chimney on the street.” The TV station said afterward that it hadn’t chosen the music but had played songs compiled by the Center for Preservation and Promotion of Traditional Cul-

ture from the county of Cluj. The station said that it had notified the Cluj city council that the selection was “uninspired.” U  ninspired, maybe. But it’s certainly inspiring.

TRANSLATION DIFFICULTIES Unsecure signing at Mandela memorial The sign-language interpreter at the recent Nelson Mandela memorial, Thamsanqa Jantjie, was widely criticized for not actually signing and instead making a series of unintelligible hand motions. The company he worked for “vanished into thin air,” according to reports. Then came the revelation that the interpreter was schizophrenic and claimed to have seen angels during the service. All of which doesn’t make it surprising that the South African news agency eNCA reported late last week that Jantjie had faced a series of criminal charges for a number of crimes, including kidnapping, attempted murder and murder, but was never con-

THE (NO) NAME GAME

STANDING OVATION OF A SNEAK “[H]e behaved so arrogantly and insolently as unwillingly standing up from his seat and half-heartedly clapping...” North Korean official news agency KCNA explaining the reasons for the trial and execution of Jang Song Thaek, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s uncle, described in the report as “despicable human scum” and “worse than a dog.”

victed, apparently because of his mental health status. Jantjie, who told eNCA that he becomes violent “a lot,” stood next to a number of world leaders, including President Obama, while he made his repetitive hand motions. B  ut compared to South African security, he was doing a great job.

“President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a picture with an unidentified official during the memorial service for South African former president Nelson Mandela.” —The caption on a photo by AFP of Obama, Cameron and Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt —who was sitting between them—taking a picture of themselves.

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JEWISHNEWS

Face to Face in the Streets of Kiev

AS THE PROTESTS IN UKRAINE CONTINUE, WHERE DO THE JEWS STAND?

O

n November 21, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych changed his mind about a trade pact with the European Union. The agreement, which had taken years to arrange and draft, would have moved Ukraine further out of the Russian orbit it has occupied since becoming an independent country, and closer to the EU nations. Yanukovych’s choice to move closer to Russia set off what is now almost a month worth of protests, in which hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took control of government buildings in Kiev— 22 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4

including City Hall—and engaged in bloody clashes with police. Despite the devastation wreaked on the Ukrainian Jewish population by the Nazis during their World War II occupation of Ukraine, the later Soviet repression of Jewish life, and heavy emigration to Israel after the fall of the USSR, Ukraine’s Jewish population remains the third largest in Europe, at about 100,000. During the recent turmoil, Jews have remained in an uneasy position. While closer ties with Europe are popular, the central role of an anti-Semitic nationalist group, Svoboda, in the protests have made many concerned.


BY YOSSI KRAUSZ

Alexander Feldman, a prominent Jewish member of the Ukrainian parliament and president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, told Ami (in translation through his spokesman Eduard Dolinsky): “Sure, we are highly concerned that the party Svoboda is one of the main forces behind the protest. Also, it is alarming that Bandera slogans are [being chanted] widely among protesters,” referring to World War II-era nationalist figure Stepan Bandera, who collaborated with the Nazis in hunting down Jews. Feldman says that Jewish institutions have remained neutral during the political upheaval. “But we communicated a message to all Jewish communities to increase security measures,” he said. He says that he thinks that the present chaos will lead to talks. “There will be negotiations between protesters and government. Yesterday, President Yanukovych already called all the parties, including civil Alexander Feldman society and religious leaders, to a dialogue.” One of the attendees and speakers at that event was Chief Rabbi Yaakov Bleich. He described it to Ami: “The meeting was chaired by the former presidents of Ukraine: the first president, Leonid Kravtchuk, and the second president, Leonid Kuchma. It really was to bring all the players to the table, including members of civil society like religious leaders. “The chairman of the parliament was there. The deputy prime minister was there, the deputy minister of internal affairs, the head of the coalition, the mayor of Kiev [who was suspended by the president at the end of last week because of the violence used in the crackdown on the protestors]. From the government side, it was very well represented. “From the side of civil society were people who were at the demonstrations. The political leaders of the opposition did not

come. I think they didn’t come because they didn’t want things to be resolved around the table. They’d much rather have things resolved in the streets by demonstration.” (Their ability to resolve matters through demonstrations came under question over this past weekend. Turnout at a pro-EU rally on Sunday was lower than the opposition had hoped for, at only about 20,000.) The meeting exposed questions about the meaning of the protests, Rabbi Bleich says. “One of the representatives of the demonstrators told us that in a poll that was taken of the demonstrators 94 percent said they don’t support any of the political powers—neither the government nor the opposition. So it’s not like the opposition are the ones that brought the people out. People came out to demonstrate because they want to have a better life. They want change. “One of the people who came said it’s the third revoRabbi Yaakov Bleich lution in the Ukraine in the past 20 years. He said it’s a catastrophe, having three revolutions in 20 years! When I spoke I said that the opposite is true. Having three revolutions in 20 years shows the willpower of the people. They aren’t willing to sit back and just take whatever they get. They want change. And they’ll get out there and demonstrate for it and talk about it.” Rabbi Bleich says that support for closer ties to Europe is strong in the Jewish community. But there has been a question about how to go about achieving that. “The question is what the fight is. Everyone wants to go to Europe. This government in the past three years has done more to bring Ukraine to Europe than any government in the past. Jews are united in wanting to move close to Europe because it looks like there’s a better future for everyone in Europe, including the Jewish community. The question is how we’re going to Europe. “For three years, Yanukovych has been saying that we’re going

“The older and younger Jews all want to be part of Europe. The question is if we should do it now or wait.”

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JEWISHNEWS Protestors in Kiev smash a statue of Lenin.

“We understand that we have to be prepared for different scenarios, including the worst.” to Europe. For the last year, they’ve been passing laws, and there was a date when they were supposed to sign an agreement with Europe. That’s what we were waiting for. “A couple of days before the actual signing he said he’s not signing and he’s going to examine cross-relations with Russia. Why would he do that? For three years he’s saying he’s going to Europe and now he changed his mind? The reason he changed his mind, in my opinion and the opinion of many others, is that Russia controls the gas. Had he signed now before winter they would have shut off the gas. As it is, Ukraine is paying the highest price for gas from Russia of any country in Europe—which by the way is the reason the former prime minister is sitting in jail. “So he was worried that if he signed with Europe, Russia will shut off the gas and people would go cold and the factories would close and he’d have people out in the street in two months in any case. He was trying to delay the signing with Europe so that he could get through the winter. “What he got in the end is that now Europe is coming begging him to come, rather than Ukraine begging Europe. So he succeeded in aligning himself with Europe in a much more politically powerful position. The problem was that he didn’t explain it to the people. One of the big problems politicians in the Ukraine have is they’re detached from the people in the street. They don’t get out and explain themselves. There’s no transparency. Suddenly, we hear that he flew to Russia to have a secret meeting with Putin. Nobody knew about it beforehand. Nobody knew what he went for. People feel that they were betrayed. That’s the issue here. “The older and younger Jews all want to be part of Europe. Nobody sees the future as being part of Russia. The question is if we should do it now or wait until Ukraine is a stronger country before we make an alignment with Europe. The main question is: 24 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4

What’s in this association agreement for the Ukraine? Besides the formality of being associated with Europe, is this going to help the economy and how? Will it attract foreign investment? Will it make for less corruption and more transparency? Will it allow Ukrainian society to move forward towards Europe? “All Jews are in favor of moving towards Europe. Nobody’s out at the demonstration because that’s not a very Jewish thing to do.” He says that there is another factor. “Jews have a good relationship with the current government. The current government did a lot for the country moving towards Europe. And they also have a good relationship with part of the opposition. There is, however, one party (Svoboda) within the opposition that is openly anti-Semitic.” Rabbi Bleich says that despite the involvement of Svoboda, there has not been any blaming of the Jews for the country’s woes. “Not at all. The people are being very careful that there should be no anti-Semitic provocations. “There was one priest in Western Ukraine who got up and gave a speech about chasing the Zhids and Moskals (Russian slurs for Jews) out of Russia. But this man immediately was called to order by his church and his position as a priest was revoked and they’re working to take his ordination away. “I’m in close contact with the head of the church and I spoke to him yesterday. There’s a lot of coordination. The Council of Churches and Religious Organizations of the Ukraine is a very strong body. And I’m a co-chair of that council. There’s a very close and open coordination.” Rabbi Bleich says that despite the violent clashes with the police, the demonstrations have mostly been peaceful. “I passed by the demonstration last night and twice today. There’s no wildness or chaos.” Rabbi Bleich has lived in Ukraine for 24 years, and he says he


How could Moshe Rabbeinu have risen to his incredible spiritual level while he was reared among all the impure influences of Pharaoh’s palace?

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has never even experienced anti-Semitic remarks directed towards himself. But the demonstrations in Kiev are in proximity to a large proportion of the country’s Jews; Jewish life in the capital has been growing. Rabbi Bleich told Ami: “Approximately 60-70,000 Jews live in Kiev today. “My kehillah itself has a few hundred families of shomrei Torah u’mitzvos. We have a yeshivah, a kollel, and a cheder with 160 children. Plus we have another 125 children in a day school not from frum families. The community is growing, baruch Hashem. “There are three or four different shechitos here. It’s an agricultural country. The food industry in the Ukraine is very strong. So we have a lot of locally produced food.” The possible threat to Jewish life that the unrest represents has been considered by Jewish leaders. Alexander Feldman says: “We all pray that these protests will resolve peacefully. At the same time, we understand that we have to be prepared for different scenarios, including the worst. Some of us have already started preparations for such a scenario. We will soon—in cooperation with Israel and international Jewish organizations—prepare a comprehensive security plan for every Jewish institution, including synagogues, schools, kindergartens. The plan will reach every Jew.” The emotions being expressed at protests, he says, are something that foreign countries should respect. “The people of Ukraine have every right to decide their own destiny, and it is of interest [to the] US and Russia to support this path.” At the same time, he says that Jews from other countries shouldn’t forget the Jews of Ukraine. “We are one of the biggest Jewish communities in the world. We are still reviving after the Shoah, after facing huge challenges, and without our brothers overseas, especially in the US, we would never have done it.”

‫מנין היו למשה השגות‬ ‫ כבר‬,'‫בנבואה ובידיעת ה‬ ?‫בינקותו כשגדל בבית פרעה‬

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JEWISHNEWS

Outrage in Meron OWNERSHIP OF KEVER RASHBI TRANSFERRED TO STATE AUTHORITIES; CONCERNS ABOUT POSSIBLE CHANGES TO HOLY SITE

W

ith the flourish of a pen, Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid recently signed a decree transferring authority over the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai to the State. This means that the responsibility for its upkeep will no longer be in the hands of the religious body, the “Vaad Hachamishah,” that was in charge of it until now. Instead, the Israeli government will have absolute control. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who flock to Meron on Lag Ba’Omer— the yahrzeit of the Rashbi—the grave is visited by tens of thousands throughout the year. The official reason for the transfer is concern for the site’s physical condition, citing the conclusion of former State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss that the building is neglected and the area cannot properly accommodate the large number of visitors it receives. Various conditions that were supposed to be fixed were not, and the government hopes to finally get the work done. “The State does not intend to change its character or tamper with its holiness,” declared Lapid. “The site will continue to be run according to the rulings of the appointed rav, as dictated by law, while conditions will be improved according to the needs of the community.” In order to understand the implications of the change, Ami spoke to Rabbi Mordechai Dov Kaplan, a rosh yeshivah in Tzefas and a member of the Vaad Hachamishah. (There are five members of the Vaad: two Ashkenazim, two Sefardim, and a representative of the government.)

“Up until now,” he explained, “the site was listed in the official Land Registry as being the property of the hekdesh of the Sefardim and Ashkenazim, which also owns other properties in the area. Ownership will now be listed as ‘the State of Israel.’ “In the immediate future, its day-to-day affairs will still be run by the Vaad, so on a practical level nothing will change as of yet. But our concern is that this is only a prelude to the State assuming full decision-making responsibility. The only reason I’m a member of the Vaad is that I represent the hekdeshos listed in the official Land Registry. But now that that has changed, we suspect that in another week, month, or year, those in charge will also be changed. That is our fear.”

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Rabbi Mordechai Dov Kaplan


T•R•A•V•E•L

BY DOVID LAPINSKY T• R• A• V • E • L

When asked why this would be problematic, he replied, “There are several issues. Not everyone knows that the site was previously administered by the government for several decades, and it remained in the same neglected condition for all those years. The Vaad Hachamishah, which has only been in existence for five years, implemented tremendous changes compared to what it was like before. The first item on the agenda was the renovation of the kever. It cost tens of millions of Israeli shekels, and almost all of it was hekdesh money. Security was improved and the place was cleaned up. Together with the Ministry of Tourism, the Vaad also pushed for the construction of a bridge opposite the site for use by the general population. We also made special provisions so that kohanim can visit. This was also done with hekdesh funds. This shows that there are people here who really care. A lot of issues were taken care of with the State’s help. But if we’ve been successful till now, why ruin it? “Officially, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Holy Sites of Israel, will assume responsibility. But who knows what will happen next? What’s to prevent the government from putting it in the hands of a chiloni or even a Druze? Or turning it into a tourist attraction? And what happens if the ‘Women of the Wall’ decide to make a group called ‘Women of Meron’ and institute all sorts of reforms? Look at the precedent at the Kosel. Rabbi Rabinowitz’s hands are tied. He can’t do anything about the ‘Women of the Wall’ assembling there every Rosh Chodesh. The High Court of Justice can theoretically authorize all sorts of changes we never dreamed of. “And don’t think that this all began with Yair Lapid. It started about three years ago, when Yuval Steinitz was Finance Minister. One day out of the blue he decided

to requisition the site, but it was pushed off until Lapid signed the order. What’s to prevent them from taking over the other holy places in the country? “It seems as if the intent is to appoint someone from the Ministry of Tourism as overseer. They were the ones behind pushing it through, along with Yisrael Beiteinu. They’ve been working on this for years.” According to Rabbi Kaplan, the Vaad is planning to hold the Lag Ba’Omer festivities exactly as it has in the past. “How is it written?” he asked rhetorically. “‘You can rely on Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in an emergency,’ and this is a real one. We do not intend to accept this quietly and plan on fighting through legal channels.”

“Our concern is that this is only a prelude to the State assuming full decisionmaking responsibility.” When Ami spoke to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rav of the Kosel and other holy sites, he said, “I am just learning of the decision now, and in the coming days I will speak to all of the parties involved in order to understand the significance of the decision. “I assure you that I will do my utmost to prevent any offence to the holiness of the site. Some of the halachic issues are very complex, even more than at the Kosel; it’s impossible to equate the two. I will assist the Vaad Hachamishah for as long as they are in charge. I have offered my help in the past, but up until now it wasn’t necessary. I believe that regardless of who’s in charge, the ruchniyus issues need to be dealt with. Some are always there, and some come and go. I really hope that the ‘Women of the Wall’ don’t come to Meron, but if they do, the Vaad will not be able to solve the problem so easily, because they are now bound by the decisions of the court.”

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The Battle Cry of the Bnei Torah The Asifa of the Roshei Yeshivah ver 100 roshei yeshivah gathered this week for a meeting called by Maran Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shlita. The invitation, extended to roshei yeshivah throughout Eretz Yisrael, originally stated that the meeting would take place in Rav Shteinman’s home, but due to the large number of participants it was decided to convene the event in a nearby hall. The focus of the meeting was to show unity among the gedolei hador and the roshei yeshivah against the anti-Torah sentiments being broadcast by the Israeli government. The meeting specifically focused on the drafting of bnei yeshivah and the fact that no compromise will be made in this area. Several short words of chizzuk were (L-R) Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Rav delivered by several roshei yeshivah, Aryeh Finkel, Rav Yitzchok Scheiner, Maran including Rav Aviezer Piltz of Tifrach Rav Ahron Leib Steinman (speaking), Rav and Rav Berel Povarsky of Ponovezh. Dov Landau, Rav Berel Povarski All speakers echoed one theme: unity in defiance of the enemies of Torah. After Tehillim, the room was pindrop silent as Rav Shteinman spoke: “Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon said, ‘Ein umaseinu umah ela b’Soraso,’” he began. “All other nations are considered nations because of their land and areas of power. Klal Yisrael, however, is a nation only through the Torah, and without the Torah it Rav Eliezer Kahaneman is not a nation. In truth, klal Yisrael throughout all of the generations— from Matan Torah until today—followed this path of ‘b’Soraso.’ meantime we have to do all we can to uphold the Torah, for our “And what is ‘Toraso’? It’s not enough that there is a sefer Torah nation is not a nation without the Torah!” in the aron kodesh. Rather, it requires that klal Yisrael live a life of Rav Yigal Rozen, rosh yeshivah of Ohr Yisrael, delivered a lengthTorah, that is, that they live through the Torah. They learn and ier address based on an earlier talk he had with Rav Shteinman. teach others Torah—this is the life of klal Yisrael. Without Torah He said: “The Torah is our wall, our fortress, and the war is there is no nation! Without Torah, without learning Torah, with- against our protective wall. When there is a war against the wall, out fulfilling the Torah, there is no nation! Only through Torah you need to strengthen the wall and the roots of the wall so that is there living—Toras chayim. And this is how it was throughout the enemy cannot breach it. When there is an attack against the all of the generations. protective wall, you do not go out and fight the enemy. It’s too “Today, there are those who, chas v’shalom, want to wipe out klal dangerous! You must remain inside and strengthen the wall. Yisrael, to eradicate the Torah! If people aren’t learning Torah, this “The ones responsible for upholding this wall are the gedolei is, chas v’shalom, the eradication of klal Yisrael. Regarding this, we hador and everyone gathered here today. We have to do all we have to daven that these things should not occur, chas v’shalom, can so that there is not one tiny breach in the wall, that there is and that they should not be able to wipe out klal Yisrael. For our no change in the situation of one ben Torah. [We need] to make nation is not a nation without Torah! sure that not one ben Torah, chas v’shalom, will leave the walls of “This is what we have to do until we merit the geulah. In the the beis midrash. 28 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4

PHOTOS BY ELI COBIN

O

A HISTORIC GATHERING OF OVER 100 ROSHEI YESHIVAH


BY NESANEL GANTZ

“For this we will be moser nefesh. We will go against whoever it may be. There will be no compromise. The olam ha’Torah will remain beautiful and will continue to grow and bloom.” Ami spoke to one of the invitees, Rav Eliezer Kahaneman, nasi of Ponovezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, who explained the importance and purpose of the asifah. “What was very clear,” Rav Kahaneman said, “is that we have to sit and learn. That’s the number one thing we have to do to get rid of the gezeirah. “First of al, the roshei yeshivah stressed that they must see to it that their talmidim sit and learn. The talmidim must know that learning Torah is the main weapon against this decree. There was a kol [rumor] that if somehow things don’t go as they should, then we’ll have to do other things that are being considered. “We need to show that all the roshei yeshivah are backing the concept of not, chas v’shalom, entertaining any pesharos [compromises] or allowing even one talmid chacham to stop learning. That’s something everybody should know. This wasn’t a discussion, questioning what we should do. It was a call of achdus to show everyone is together.” As far as whether bachurim should go to the conscription centers and only then not sign up, Rav Kahaneman added, “It was mentioned that those who did like the Rosh Yeshivah [Rav

Shteinman] said, to [go to the centers and not sign up], had no problems or had everything taken care of.” Rav Kahaneman concluded with a message: “It had to be made clear that our position is that not even one talmid chacham be denied the ability to learn Torah. Until now it was understood that we [the roshei yeshivah] are against something. We’re actually not against anything. We’re for learning Torah. And we’re opposed to anything that disturbs Torah.” At the same time that the kinus under Rav Shteinman’s leadership was going on, a kinus was held with the attendance of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah of Agudas Yisrael, the leading admorim of Eretz Yisrael who, besides coming out in unity against the draft, spoke about coming to America to foster intercontinental unity. Rav David Cohen, rosh yeshivah of Chevron, speaking at the meeting with Rav Shteinman, mentioned the simultaneous gatherings: “At this very same time, the gedolei ha’Torah of Torah and chasidus, the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah of Agudas Yisrael, are meeting to unite the whole olam ha’Torah, to unite all of chareidi Jewry, to express both an outcry [against the draft] and a chizzuk, to establish like a reinforced wall the groundworks we maintain the Torah on in klal Yisrael, and not to give up on even one talmid chacham, not one ben Torah”—this is the joint call of the leaders of klal Yisrael.

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29


JEWISH LIVING IN

East Brunswick, N Warm, friendly community in the heart of central Jersey

REAL ESTATE Many houses are within walking distance of the Young Israel of East Brunswick.

T

he Jewish community has been proud to call East Brunswick home for the last half-century. Located along the southern shore of the Raritan River, this established commuter suburb in central New Jersey offers all the amenities a Jewish family needs: a shul, day schools, camps, kosher food, jobs, parks and spacious homes. Approximately 15,000 Jews live in 5,000 Jewish households in East Brunswick. Many families and young professionals moved here for various reasons;

some were raised in northern and central New Jersey, while others desired a suburban lifestyle within commuting distance of New York City. The first Orthodox congregation, the Young Israel of East Brunswick, was founded in 1975. In 1982, the congregation purchased a home on Dunhams Corner Road—the present site of the Young Israel—and has since built a synagogue, social hall, beis midrash and school building serving more than 200 frum/ shomer Shabbos families. The Young Israel prides itself on fostering a diverse yet close-knit community.

30 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4

RENTALS One-bedroom apartments rent for $1,100 to $1,500 per month with utilities; two-bedroom apartments rent for $1,450 to $1,900 per month with utilities. PURCHASE Twenty homes are currently on the market, ranging from $325,000 to $1,375,000 (six newly constructed homes range from $700,000 to $790,000). Fifty-six homes have sold in the past year, from $280,000 to $900,000.


BY JEFFREY TAUB

New Jersey 

WEATHER

The average winter (January) temperature in East Brunswick ranges from 22 to 39°F.; the average summer (July) temperature ranges from 65 to 86°F. The average precipitation in East Brunswick ranges from 2.98 inches in February to 5.08 inches in July.

TUITION Tuition and compulsory expenses in several local Jewish kindergartens range from $9,600 to $12,000, and in several local Jewish preschools from $7,400 to $9,500. Tuition and compulsory expenses in local yeshivah day schools range from $13,900 to $15,000 per year for elementary school. FOOD A half-gallon of chalav Yisrael milk costs between $2.59 and $3.79. A 64-ounce bottle of Kedem concord grape juice costs $3.99.

Getting there From New York: 45 minutes by car; about an hour by train from New York Penn Station to New Jersey Transit’s New Brunswick station.

In one shul you can find members who have a religious background as well as members who come from less observant backgrounds. While the majority of the members are Ashkenazim, there is a small group of Sephardic Jews. Some members wear knitted yarmulkes while others wear velvet yarmulkes or hats. What makes the Young Israel a special place is the unity, tolerance and respect shown to each person.  The “one-shul” community is incredibly warm and friendly. Because residents congregate in the same shul each Shabbos, they all know and support each other. The shul has an active sisterhood and popular programs for people of all ages. The youth department offers family programs, hosts regional shabbatonim, coordinates community charity projects, and runs social and educational programs. Adults can avail themselves of an extensive library along with weekly learning opportunities, scholar-in-residence programs and social events. The Young Israel has attracted an influx of young families in recent years, drawn mostly by the “one-shul” community, great schools, great jobs and affordable property. The shul’s dynamic young leaders, Rabbi Jay and Rebbetzin Sharon Weinstein, and its sizable group of young members and families are important factors in the community’s growing popularity. Like any

modern Jewish community, some of the young people who grow up in East Brunswick choose to make their home here; two such families have recently done so. Many others live in neighboring communities or elsewhere in the greater New York/New Jersey area. The Highland Park Community Kollel, about 15 minutes away, is open to community members who wish to learn there. The kollel also provides a weekly Gemara shiur at the Young Israel. Convenient access to kosher food, strong local day schools, an eruv, and an in-town mikvah make East Brunswick an ideal place to call home. Residents can shop for kosher food in three local supermarkets, including a kosher bakery, and enjoy eight kosher dairy or meat restaurants within a 12-mile radius. The nearest Hatzolah chapter is located in Lakewood, about 30 miles away. There are also chesed opportunities for young people through the Tween/Teen Leadership and Chesed (TLC) program at Camp Keshet, the Young Israel’s summer day camp. The program is open to those entering sixth through ninth grades and focuses on leadership skills and chesed work, including feeding the hungry, caring for the environment, integrating those with special needs into the community, and bikur cholim. The Center for Early Learning at the Young Israel—developed and operated

Cost of Living

From Israel: Nonstop flights (11 hours) are available daily to Newark Airport on El Al.

in partnership with the Yeshiva at the Jersey Shore—features programs for two-, three- and four-year-olds and kindergarteners. Synagogue members also attend over a half-dozen other preschool and elementary schools. One educational option unique to East Brunswick is the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School, now in its fourth year of operation, one of the few dual-language Hebrew-immersion charter schools in the United States. East Brunswick residents go on to attend high schools and yeshivos throughout New York and New Jersey.

To submit a community’s story or to have your community featured here, please contact us at submissions@amimagazine.org. 15 TEVES 5774 // DECEMBER 18, 2013 // AMI MAGAZINE

31


BUSINESS

l NEWS

B Y Y E D I DA WO LF E

HOW TO KEEP

Will E-Commerce Really Spell the End of Retail?

YOUR COOL

WHAT WE DON’T BUY ONLINE Despite the hype that traditional retail is dead, online sales represent only 6 percent of total US retail. That’s double what it was at the end of the recession. But some things you just don’t buy online, like cars, car parts, gas and food. Also, stores offer something e-retailers can’t—a fully social experience. Eighty percent of teenagers shop online and yet the same percentage of teenagers prefer shopping in stores. (Source: The Atlantic)

Data Point Ignoring Bernie Madoff cost JPMorgan $2 billion. (Source: UPI)

$2billion.

America’s Oil Output Takes OPEC by Surprise PUMPING IT OUT

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said oil supply growth from non-member countries increased more than expected. The US and Canada contributed about half of the increase, mostly from shale deposits. In fact, US oil production is the highest it’s been since 1989. OPEC reported that demand for its crude oil fell by 600,000 barrels per day in 2013 and will continue to fall next year. (Source: UPI)

Farewell to the Age of Free Trade BEHIND THE SLOWDOWN

International trade trailed world economic growth for the first time since the late 1940s. One reason, economists explain, is that the world’s largest economies, like the US, China and Germany, face domestic problems. Technology is also to blame as companies produce their own products with 3D printers instead of outsourcing production. Consolidation in telecommunications, oil, and mining has led to state-owned companies, which have little incentive to pursue free trade. (Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

My Spending Is Your Income

WHY AMERICANS’ SAVING HABITS ARE BAD FOR THE ECONOMY The number of Americans sitting on cash has soared since the 2008 recession. That’s not good news. While everyone should have some liquid savings, historical data shows investing in productive companies has a much higher yield than savings accounts, certificates of deposit, or money-market funds. If enough people decide to save, it can hurt the economy. British economist John Maynard Keynes called this the “paradox of thrift.” Keynes’ theory says any reduction in spending in the economy is a reduction in income. The good news is Americans are increasing their spending. In 2010, 57 percent reported saving more; 17 percent reported spending more. Today, only 40 percent are spending less, while 28 percent are spending more. (Source: TheWeek.com) 32 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4

WHEN INSPECTORS SHOW UP AT YOUR BUSINESS

Stay positive. Welcome officials and ask to accompany them on inspections.

Remain calm. Remain calm, attentive, and respectful when you ask for credentials. Make sure you understand the purpose of their visit.

Answer questions. Answer questions and follow up promptly. Code violations can trigger daily fines and other penalties.

Free help. Take advantage of free help. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers free consultations for small business owners, offering a one-year exemption from routine inspections.

Don’t panic. Don’t panic if the visit doesn’t go well. If the inspector seems arrogant or makes unusual demands, complain to your state representative or congressman.

Involve professionals. Don’t hesitate to involve professionals. Contact a safety consultant or an attorney if the corrective action is extremely burdensome or seems unfair.


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l TALK // WEEKLY INSIGHTS FROM BUSINESS LEADERS

BUSINESS

B Y N E S A NE L G A NT Z

Name: Avraham (Abe) Biderman

Company: Eagle Advisers, LLC

Age: 65

Position: Founder and chairman

Lives: Boro Park

Offices Located: Midtown Manhattan

Shul: Novominsk Founded: 2003 Background: Avraham Biderman is the founder and chairman of Eagle Advisers, LLC, a money management firm. Before opening his own firm, Mr. Biderman held several high-level political positions in New York City, including stints as chairman of the NYC Housing Development Corp. and of NYC’s Retirement Systems. He was also the city’s finance commissioner and housing commissioner. After a career in government, he managed hedge funds for close to a decade before opening Eagle Advisers in 2003. A noted askan and Agudah activist, Mr. Biderman is involved in numerous mosdos, including Shuvu, and was recently announced as co-chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization.

LUNCH BREAK with Avraham Biderman How did you get into the money management business? While I’m an accountant by profession, I learned money management when I was in government service as the finance commissioner of New York, as well as chairman of the City Retirement System, which is the fourth-largest pension system in the United States. I had no choice but to learn quickly how to manage money, which in that case was about $100 billion. Although I had a background in finance, as far as money managing, it was very much on-the-job training.

Should everybody invest his money? No. Unless he has a meaning-

ful amount of money to invest, most people are better off just putting their money in the bank. Investments only make sense for people who can afford to take risks and lose. Often, the best investment is your own home. Housing prices, especially in the right neighborhood, will definitely appreciate over time, even if you bought it at a high point in the cycle.

into schemes that promise oversized rewards.

following: Before you decide what you want to make, figure out what you can afford to lose. Something that seems too good to be true is almost always not true. Be very careful about going

The general rule of thumb is that you need to put away money to live for six months, all expenses paid. If you have a six-month nest, then you can start to research ways to invest that

Aren't successful business people those who take risks? True. But if you have a family and bills to pay and only $20,000 to invest, you don’t want to take risks. If you want to take risks, buy a lottery ticket.

Is there a minimum amount What’s the best financial advice a person should have before doing serious financial planyou ever received? The best advice I ever heard was the ning?

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


extra money. If you’ll need the money in a year or 18 months, your time horizon is too short to take any risk.

tant gives you ideas for how to invest your money yourself; he won’t have the ability to invest it for you.

What’s the best way to learn about Should people start with financial investing? consulting before moving on to Read the financial columns. Learn about money management? the markets. Learn about projections for the economy. Learn about the interest rate outlook for the US and related countries.

Unless you have a meaningful amount of money, there’s almost no choice but to do that.

What advice can you give someone Can anybody be a money manwho is planning to start investing? ager? Diversify! If you decide you like technology, don’t put all your money in technology stocks. Even if you only buy technology stocks, don’t put all your money in one stock like Apple or Google, no matter how good you think they are. The Gemara says to diversify: “[Put] “a third in karka…” Diversification is the safest strategy anyone can recommend. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Invest in different stocks and different industries. That way you might limit your upside, but you won’t be sorry. Caution is very much the buzzword.

You generally have to have some formal education in the field and some business experience. It’s difficult to reach reasonable decisions for other people if you don’t have experience yourself.

How do you balance your askanus with your career? Baruch Hashem, my children are grown and out of the house, so I have a lot more available time than a young person with a growing family. At my age there’s no need to focus on doing homework and taking care of little children, so I can take more opportunities to be involved in askanus.

People who don’t know much about money management will have a hard time opening up the How do you deal with stress? newspaper and figuring out what The best way to deal with stress is bitato do. Who can help them out? chon. I remember going to Rav Elyashiv, A money manager probably won’t give much attention to someone with a very small amount of money to invest. Speak to a friend or colleague in the industry. But it doesn’t mean you have to follow whatever you're told. Don’t rush into anything. Don’t be impulsive. If you talk to a lot of people, you’ll get an idea of the difference between right and wrong. Chazal say, “Teshuah b’rov yoeitz.”

What’s the difference between a financial consultant and a money manager? A money manager usually invests people’s money for them. A financial consul-

zt”l, when I had a particularly challenging issue. After I kept asking him the same question, he said, “Lernt zich ois tzu zogen (teach yourself to say), ‘Gam zu l’tovah.’”

Is there any common denominator you’ve seen among the successful people that you advise? Yes. It’s called mazal. Most of the people I consult with and who are successful are very focused, not lazy at all. They have to be very driven, ready to put in the hours and the time… But the common denominator is mazal. Hatzlachah is a function of many things, but mazal is the dominant factor.


BUSINESS

l PARNOOOSA

PARNOOOSA!

BY MAURICE STEIN

Onward to the Next Project SOME OF THE CRITERIA WE’RE LOOKING FOR

While the deadline to submit applications has passed, I’m still receiving submissions from readers who would like their businesses to be the next project featured in Ami. It’s inspiring to see how many people have founded their own companies despite not having any formal business education. I have constantly striven to prove that anyone with a vision can succeed if he is sufficiently dedicated to doing whatever it takes to achieve his goal. This does not mean that every business will succeed. There are many first attempts that fail, but if a person is truly committed he will not be deterred and will get up and try again, doing it better the next time around. Choosing the subject for our next

We’re looking for people with positive energy, those who create an upbeat environment whenever they walk into a room.

project is not an easy task because so many of the applications are intriguing. Let’s review some of the main criteria we are looking for: The entrepreneur The first thing to be considered is the person or people behind the business. Regardless of how good an idea might be, there’s an awful lot of work involved in making a business succeed, and I’ll be working closely with whoever is chosen on a daily or weekly basis. What we are looking for are people with positive energy and a great attitude, those who create an upbeat environment whenever they walk into a room. These are people everyone wants to be around because they make others feel good. Their positive outlook and excitement are contagious. I’m not saying that having the right attitude is a requirement for success; some of the most successful people in the world have had very bad attitudes. But I really wouldn’t enjoy working with them as we are generally affected by those around us. Current stage of the idea or business There are generally three different points in the development of a busi-

36 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4

ness when people reach out for help: 1) You have an idea and you’d like to turn it into a business. 2) You’ve already launched it and are now trying to make it profitable. 3) You’ve already been in business for several years and the company is struggling. The candidate we are looking for is someone in the second stage, who has already done the basic groundwork and now needs help to make his business grow. My reason is that when a business is still at the conceptual level, there are many unknown factors that have to be figured out before starting. Right now I’m working with a few clients like that, and it isn’t easy. You have to do a lot of research into things you aren’t familiar with and make sure your idea isn’t infringing on registered patents, which can take a very long time. Then, if you’re manufacturing a product, you have to create a prototype in order to find out if it can be made for a reasonable cost that will enable you to sell it for a profit. Such a project wouldn’t lend itself well to this column because each step could take weeks. It also turns out occasionally that an idea isn’t executable the way it was envisioned and you have to start from scratch.


Potential for success There are only a certain number of hours in a day, so if we’re going to invest time and money to help a business grow, we want to feel it has potential that’s worth the investment. Sometimes people have great ideas with only limited application, like how to improve a hotplate for Shabbos or something else that only relates to our community. There’s nothing wrong

with working on these ideas, but if I have to choose one idea out of many, I’d rather work on one with a broader potential. In some cases a bigger idea means more work, but in others the work is the same; it just has a bigger audience. We also consider the investment we think will be necessary to take the business to the next level. Every time you invest in something, there’s

a risk it might not work out, so you always want to find an idea where the investment needed to bring it to the marketplace is low and the potential for profit is big. We’ve scheduled a number of meetings with people whose ideas we are considering, and we hope to have a winner by next week. Until then, make it a great week. Maurice

UPDAT ES on som e

Embroidex Embroidex continues to grow, showing increased sales every month and constantly expanding into new product lines. Its main sales channels are still Amazon and eBay. We tried to entice eBay customers to the website we created for them, but not many steady customers were willing to abandon a way of shopping that was already familiar to them. I’m not really sure of the reason. It could be that people didn’t realize it was the same company they’d been dealing with on eBay, or maybe the discount we were offering for a first-time order wasn’t enough to make them switch. Some people are just very set in their ways and aren’t willing to try something new just to save a few dollars.

of our p revious project s

Howie & Sally’s Sales at Howie & Sally’s are going strong and feedback from consumers is great. People love it as a midday snack with their coffee or enjoy it in the office any time they’re hungry and want something to crunch on. Right now we’re still working on the packaging since the cellophane window in the bag they’re currently using sometimes gets a little streaked by the chocolate. That’s because Howie & Sally’s uses real chocolate, unlike other companies using a lower-grade product that doesn’t melt as easily. We’re probably going to have to dispense with the window. We’re also starting our first ad campaign to promote biscotti as the perfect choice for a break.


by John Loftus

F n a e r H Ko


d u e F y l i m a F The demise of General Jang and North Korea’s path


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r ’ c H A i m l e s H ko w i t z r ’ r A pH A e l l i e B e r m A n r’ Jeffrey meHl r’ cHAim miller r ’ n o s s o n m ot e c H i n dr. Joel rosensHein r ’ yA A ko v r u B i n s c H o n B e r g e r fA m i ly r ’ J o s e pH l . s e t to n r ’ y i t zc H o k s H i n d l e r r’ dudi spir A r ’ H e rt z y t e p f e r r’ zvi weinreB r’ moisHe weiser r’ dovid wenger r ’ m o s H e y u d ko w s k y m r . yo e l z A g e l BAu m , e s q . r ’ Av r o H o m z lot n i c k


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An n o u n ci n g

thE glEnnEr sEfEr torah in honor of thE Mashgiach ‫הרב הגאון ר' מתתיהו‬ ‫סלומון של יט " א‬ D e D i c at e D by

Rabbi Sidney & LiSa GLenneR and FamiLy


by John Loftus

G

eneral Jang Soeng Taek, the number two boss in North Korea, has been publicly humiliated, convicted of treason and allegedly executed. Yeah, I said allegedly. Generals in North Korea have a funny way of returning from the dead. Sometimes deposed North Koreans live out their lives in rural Chinese exile, which is probably the same thing as dying. The Mindless Mainstream Media (MMM) has seized upon the details of General Jang’s conviction that included a charge of betraying his wife. A .38 caliber round to the head is the usual method of divorce for the North Korean elite. That’s how the first President Kim’s first wife died. Kim Il Sung knew all about a real quickie divorce, North Korean style. So does his grandson, Kim Jong Un.

The Popular Story If Kim version 3.0 was upset enough with General Jang to purge him, what was the real reason? The Mindless Mainstream Media next opines that young Kim, at age 30, was tired of his Auntie and Uncle telling him what to do, so he killed one and soon will kill the other. Yeah, that ain’t gonna happen. Kim the Third’s Auntie is none other than Kim Kyong Hui (rhymes with King Kong Phooey), daughter of the founder Kim Il Sung, and sister to Kim Jong Il, the second dictator, making her the aunt of the cur-

Kim Jong Un with his uncle General Jang Soeng Taek

rent Kim. Nope, Kim Jong Un isn’t likely to murder a member of his blood family, especially since old Auntie has been living apart from her husband, General Jang, for the last few years Nobody was ever beloved of Auntie Kim. Even her own brother, Kim Jong mentally Ill, was afraid of her. His son, Kim Jong Un, promoted Auntie to General. Blood is blood after all. Still, the MMM may be partially correct. Auntie Kim and General Jang were presented as sort of North Korean regents, who would keep the 20-year-old Crown Prince Kim in line, and train him for a few years to be a true North Korean dictator. The problem was that General Jang and Auntie Kim did not seem too willing to let their regency end. Well, it might be partly true. The Mindless Mainstream Media predicts that Auntie Kim is next for the firing squad, and she will be replaced by Kim Jong Un’s sister as part of the purge of generations. We’ll see. Old Auntie Kim hasn’t been seen out of doors a lot lately, but is scheduled for a public appearance in mid-December. It is a bit unlikely that she would be allowed out in public if she were next for the firing squad. So if Kim the Third’s aunt and wife are both allowed out for televised government events, that would sort of undercut the MMM’s theory du jour. Coup-plotters usually do not receive parole and access to television podiums before their trial and execution.

42 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4

The Fall of the Old Guard Still, the idea of the youthful Kim breaking free of his jealous elders does provide a plausible motive for a general purge. And it is reasonable to suspect that General Jang may have liked the throne too much, and may have been planning to eliminate his rivals for power. An awful lot of North Korean generals have gone to meet their ancestors recently. In fact, of the “Great Eight” who carried Kim Jong Il’s coffin a few years ago, five have been removed violently from power. Last year, 65 bodyguards were killed as Jang took out one of his rivals who objected to retirement. At the beginning of 2013, General Jang was number two in the nation, but only recently had risen to become numero uno in charge of the Presidium. That august body would take over the dictatorship if young Kim were to pass on. General Jang was one heartbeat away from the presidency, so young Kim killed him first. That’s the theory. Well the theory has a few holes in it. In order to become dictator, General Jang would definitely need the support of the military. Killing off old generals would only help Kim seize control while antagonizing Jang’s base of support. Worse, Jang broke the military’s rice bowl. He stripped them of their rights to sleazy profits off of foreign arms sales, and eliminated their foreign trade rights altogether. Jang even removed the entire military board that supervised their sector of the


economy. That would have been a crazy move for someone who would have needed other generals’ help in a military coup against the Kim dynasty and all their cronies. The military used to control 20-30% of the entire North Korean economy due to the lavish patronage of the Kims. General Jang wiped out the military’s access to illegal profits from gun-running, missile sales, and narcotics. Jang made a lot of military enemies but he seemed to be acting on orders of the Kims. Jang was acting like a crazy liberal, trying to modernize and reform the North Korean economy on the backs of military profit and prestige. The generals wanted Jang to go all right. The only question is: Why would Kim?

General Jang Soeng Taek

Corrupt Proxy Leaders Maybe Kim plotted for General Jang to take the blame for any economic failure. The last time the Kims tried economic reform was back in 2009 when they dabbled in currency reform. Inflation went screaming through the roof. The North Korean currency became almost worthless overnight. The nation suffered so cruelly under the last reform attempt that the Kims had to execute the politician in charge. If Jang was marching to Kim’s orders, then it was Jang who would attract all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. In a sense, Jang would take all the blame for reform if it failed while Kim would take all the credit if it worked. But here’s the curious thing. General Jang’s reforms have not been repealed. In fact, two more free trade zone agreements were signed the day after he was executed. Why would Kim kill his own proxy? Was Jang’s conviction a ploy to appease the remaining generals, a sop to the military to preserve the Kims in power? Or is North Korea so desperate for reform that the Kims will crush anyone who gets in their way? The Congressional Research Service says the previous trade zone projects crashed under Kim’s father because his proxy was also a crook: “The DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] also established the Sinuiju Special Administrative Region (SAR) on the northwestern border with China. Since being established in 2002, the development of the Sinuiju SAR has been stymied partly because of the arrest by Beijing of Chinese businessman Yang Bin, a Chinese-Dutch entrepreneur who was named as its governor, on charges of illegal land use, bribery and fraud. After Kim Jong Il’s visit to China in 2006, Sinuiju appears to be receiving new attention. Foreign currency management groups reportedly have moved in…” So the middle Kim had a scandal because his reform leader took bribes from Chinese

investors. Did the same thing happen to the youngest Kim? General Jang was also accused with taking bribes and making bad business deals with the Chinese. Were the Kims, father and son, each cursed by fate into hiring two traitors to the economy? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I don’t think the Kims make the same economic mistake decade after decade. I think they are repeating the same strategy again and again because this pseudo-purge ploy always works. These were not purges; methinks they were price negotiations and power wars.

The Making of the Kims In order to get to the root of the problem, you have to understand the secret roots of North Korean power. Your status in society depends upon where your father or grandfather lived during the Japanese occupation of Korea during WWII. The Kims led the “guerilla” faction because they fought against the Japanese in Manchuria before retreating to Russia and joining the Red Army. After WWII, the guerillas had the best public relations and made themselves out to be war heroes who never stopped fighting. Kim Il Sung was the leader of this mostly fictional effort. The “domestic” faction stayed at home in North Korea and didn’t mount much of a resistance to the Japanese. Kind of the Korean equivalent of the Vichy, they always had the scent of guilty collaboration. They were soon taken over by the Kims. The “Russian” faction was made of Koreans who had emigrated to Russia in the 1870s, became communists, and were sent back home to found the Korean Communist Party. Since Soviet Russia shared a border with North Korea and gave it a ton of foreign aid, the Russian faction held big power after WWII. Kim Il Sung wanted to be more Stalinist than Stalin. When Stalin died, the Kims had huge problems with the Russians.

Many analysts are starting to suspect that the Kims are only puppets, merely the figurehead rulers of a North Korean colony of the Chinese Army.


The last faction, the Yanan, was named after the rural province in China where Mao Tse Tung and the infant Red Army hid out after the “Long March” of the 1930s. Korean refugees who hid out in China during WWII were called the “Yanan” faction in their honor. General Jang was a Yanan. This is important, class; take notes. Although Kim Il Sung was selected as the leader of Communist North Korea, his guerilla faction held the fewest seats. The Russian faction, who originally supported Kim (under orders from Moscow), changed sides as soon as Stalin died. North Korea was a creature of Russia, but Nikita Khrushchev was the new boss of all communist bosses. At the 20th Party Congress of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev gave his famous secret speech denouncing his predecessor Stalin for pursuing a cult of personality, favoring military heavy industry over consumer goods and food production, and for opposing economic reform. Khrushchev called in all the old communist bosses who had modeled their careers on Stalin. They were told to change their ways or resign. Kim Il Sung was summoned to Moscow for chastisement in the summer of 1956. While he was away, the leaders of the other factions planned to curtail his power and enact Khrushchev’s reforms. Ironically, they intended not only to let Kim Il Sung live, but keep him in power. Big mistake. When Kim returned from his six weeks in the Soviet paradise, he was seething but kept it to himself. He promised to go along with all of Khrushchev’s new economic reforms. What he actually did was plan a purge. He denounced the Korean politicians for the crime of “factionalism.” They were trying to destroy the unity of the communist Workers’ Party of North Korea. The penalty, of course, was death or exile. As with the case of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, Kim’s minority faction was suddenly in charge of everything. The dictatorship had begun. The Chinese communist faction in Korea, the Yanan, secretly opposed Russia, as did China herself. Yanan officers like General Jang secretly backed the Kims, which is how Jang became a general. The Kim family played China against Russia over the years for their own profit. Both superpower communist nations gave money to these impoverished nut jobs mostly because they did not want the other superpower to gain more influence. After the collapse of communism in Russia, China became the dominant partner of the Kims. Communist China supplied 90% of North Korea’s oil, and most of its imports. If the Kims did not do exactly as the Chinese asked, the oil pipelines would be shut down for repairs. North Korea became the candy store for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The Chinese PLA used NK as a cut-out for illegal shipments of narcotics, counterfeit currency, weapons, missiles, even nuclear components. General Jang, because of his family’s long-standing “Yanan” connection with the Chinese, became one of the leaders of the proChina policy. On behalf of the Kims, he leased North Korea’s coal and mineral deposits to China’s miners. Then he rented out whole border regions of free trade zones at below market prices to Chinese businessmen in return for hefty bribes that he split with the Kims. Yes, Jang was a crook, but he was always the Kims’ crook, a loyal


lap dog. He never cheated them; they were his partners. What Jang did not realize was that behind his back, China had changed, and suddenly the Kims had changed sides, again.

Chinese Hunger for Money The Chinese are not a stupid people. They soon realized that Marxism was economic buffoonery, but at least Mao had unified the people. As had happened in Russia, there was a polite civil war inside the Communist Party. On the left were the reformers and economic innovators, practical men who recognized that in peacetime the people wanted consumer goods, not more sacrifice. It was time to make washing machines, not weapons of war. On the right were the hardliners, the military and the heavy industrialists. They wanted most of Russia’s feeble economy diverted to preparation for another war. Let the people freeze or starve; let them eat tanks. Eventually, the reformers won in China. From Deng Xiaoping forward, China was all about the money, honey. Capitalism had won and it was wonderful. Economic reform meant more wealth for all, and incredible wealth for a few. The civilian economy burgeoned while the Chinese military went begging. Eventually, the pendulum swung back. The civilian reformers had begun to empower the people and that was a threat to the Communist Party. The Chinese military threw their support away from Hu Jintao and towards the pro-military Xi Jinping, the current Chinese ruler. In North Korea, General Jang and the Yanan faction continued to follow the path to economic reform laid down by the reformers Deng and Hu. The new Chinese civilians treated the old Stalinist Kims with disdain. The new Chinese bosses supported sanctions in the UN against North Korea’s nuclear adventurism. The civilian government ordered the Chinese military to embargo shipments to North Korea of items prohibited by the UN. When the PLA tried to sneak a load of vanadium across the border, it was seized on orders of the Chinese civilian government. Vanadium was a key ingredient in hardening missile casings. Without vanadium, there would be no more missiles to sell to Iran. It was clear to the Chinese general staff that what General Jang was doing to the military in North Korea would soon happen to them. No more military-owned factories, or weapons exports, or narcotics, or huge profits. The Chinese civilians had increased the military budget, but the PLA wanted more. They wanted their candy store back. They wanted Korea under military control. They wanted General Jang dead. General Jang had minimized North Korean military power and pursued Chinese-style economic reform under the direct orders of the Kim family. Jang may have been a Yanan but he was no liberal. He directed the troops who kept brutal order during the famine as several millions of his countrymen died. It should be noted that all Chinese food shipments go directly to the North Korean military. They know who writes their paychecks, and it is not the Kims. Many analysts are starting to suspect that the Kims are only puppets, merely the figurehead rulers of a North Korean colony of the Chinese Army. The Red Army has told the Kims to dismiss Jang and end the reforms, and the scary part is, the civilian government of


by John Loftus

An awful lot of North Korean Generals have gone to meet their ancestors recently. In fact, of the “Great Eight” who carried Kim Jong Il’s coffin a few years ago, five have been removed violently from power. General Jang Soeng Taek being brought to the military tribunal

China delivered the message. Xi was elected with the backing of the hardline military. He owes them. Korea is part of the payoff. The Kims have no choice but to do their master’s bidding. If the Chinese Army tells them to test nukes, they will, and the heck with what the civilians in Beijing want.

Korean War Game If these analysts are right, and I think they could be, then the North Korean purges are the least of our problems. The Chinese military is quietly exercising the levers of power in Beijing, and we may soon see a military clique as the effective ruler in Beijing. You don’t think such a radical change is possible? Neither did General Jang. He thought he was pro-Chinese, following the prescribed path. His death means that the balance of power has shifted, and China has begun to tilt towards the radical right with its poli46 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4

General Jang Soeng Taek being dragged away

cies of military adventurism. That is the most frightening development of all. On the other hand, I pray that the uber-greedy Kims are just playing a game to raise their cut of Chinese profits. I noticed that the indictment included very specific charges that General Jang took bribes from unnamed businessmen and had sold off North Korea’s resources to “a foreign power” at prices below market level. That could only mean the sale of coal and rare mineral exploration rights to the Chinese. The fact that the Kims were still willing to sign more Chinese trade zone deals the day after Jang was shot shows there are no hard feelings. It’s just business. If the Chinese pay the Kims a bigger slice, then all will be well again. Until the next time the Kims are short of funds… That kind of power play against a superpower like China takes a lot of guts. I really think the Kims used Jang to squeeze the Chinese military so they could play them against the Chinese civilian reformers. Dangerous game that. I fear the Kims are desperate, because their feudal kingdom is about to go bankrupt and there are no more communist suckers willing to bail them out for old times’ sake. The Rand Corporation has floated a trial balloon: a war game study suggesting that if the Kim regime collapses this year, the South Korean Army and the Red Army will have to move into North Korea to preserve law and order, not to mention feed the starving population. The Rand study suggests dividing North Korea into temporary zones of occupation so that one army does not collide with the other. The fact that such a division of Kimland is even being discussed suggests that events are moving much more rapidly than most people know. Stay tuned for what happens to Auntie Kim and the rest of that wacky Kim family. I feel sorry for the poor people of that nation. I cannot help but recall that Auntie Kim and General Jang had one child, a beautiful teenager who went to school in Switzerland. She killed herself rather than come home.

Attorney John Loftus, author of America’s Nazi Secret, is a retired Army officer, intelligence analyst and federal prosecutor. He previously held a Q clearance for nuclear top secrets while working for the US government.


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Final BY AVRAHAM SHALEIM

T

he plight of Jacob Ostreicher has

been well-documented especially in the pages of Ami Magazine (See timeline on following page). Since 2011, after he was arrested on trumped-up charges of money laundering and drug trafficking, Yanky remained imprisoned in Bolivia. While first in the general prison populace in nightmarish Palmasola Prison, he was eventually transferred to house arrest, where his living conditions improved somewhat. His imprisonment led to the exposing of widespread corruption reaching into the upper echelons of the Bolivian government. In fact, many have postulated that it was precisely the fact that Yanky’s release might expose these corrupt officials that made them reluctant to release him. This past Monday afternoon, the news first began to surface that Yanky had made it to the safe shores of the United States and was no longer imprisoned in Bolivia. Rumors were aswirl as to the exact means and method that brought Yanky to safety. Was he kidnapped? Did he escape? Did the Bolivian government help him escape to cover up their corruption? The truth may never be revealed. What matters most and what is confirmed as of the time we go to press is this: Yanky Ostreicher is free. An anonymous US State Department official has confirmed that he is no longer in Bolivia, as have close family members. He is in safe hands. Steve Moore, the former FBI agent whose efforts helped get Yanky out of Palmasola Prison, told Ami that Yanky could not be more ecstatic. He said that for the moment he could not reveal how Yanky escaped from Bolivia. 48 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4

Yanky Ostreicher returns from his lengthy ordeal New York City Councilman David Greenfield also confirmed to me that Yanky had returned to the US. He said, “It’s a real neis.” Greenfield had spoken to Yanky regularly in recent weeks; he says that he last spoke to him before Shabbos. “When I spoke to him last, I told him, ‘Yanky, you’re a tzaddik gamur.’ No one in our generation has been through what he’s been through.” I reached out to Yanky’s family, who at the time of printing told us that they are also in the dark as to the exact details of how he came to the US. Yanky’s sister, Mrs. Schwartz, said, “I’ll tell you the truth. Even the family doesn’t know the details yet. We only know that he’s in the United States and that’s it; we don’t know anything else. I really would tell you otherwise, because I feel that Ami deserves it. We found out from my brother Ari that he was kidnapped, there was a ransom involved, which was paid, and now Yanky is safe in America.” Yanky’s mother, Mrs. Sheindy Ostreicher, kindly spoke to me on this special night for her son and her family. I asked Mrs. Ostreicher how she felt when she heard the news that her son is back on American soil. “I felt so overwhelmed, I felt very ill,” explained Mrs. Ostreicher. “I almost fainted. I was overcome with happiness from the news. I was as happy as when I had my children. It was hard for me to believe it at first. I was full of questions on how he made it here, but the truth is Hashem made everything happen.” Mrs. Ostreicher last spoke to Yanky several weeks ago; she says he never mentioned anything out of the ordinary to her. “He asked me how I was feeling,” she said. “It was the normal conversation we have when we speak.”


lly Free! Mrs. Ostreicher continued: “I always believed in Hashem, that it was going to happen [that he would return home], but the suddenness of it all was shocking to me. I don’t know where he is, and I haven’t spoken to him yet. But one thing I do know is that he is in the United States. I don’t think I will be able to fall asleep tonight.” Yanky’s daughter, Mrs. Gitty Weinberger, spoke to Ami as well. “I don’t know much,” Mrs. Weinberger said. “And I am anxiously waiting to speak to him. I know he was missing for the past few days, that he was kidnapped, a ransom was negotiated and he was dropped off in international waters in the Pacific. All I can tell you right now is that I am happy but extremely shocked that the great news we have been longing

for has come true.” Where is Yanky in America? Sources place him in Los Angeles, and rumors in LA are that Yanky is residing in actor Sean Penn’s home. Penn is the actor who many feel was a catalyst in exposing the corruption involved in Yanky’s arrest. While the United States does officially have an extradition treaty with Bolivia, signed into law by President Clinton in 1995, it is not generally enforced. In fact, extradition relations have recently been contentious; Bolivia refused to consider the American request to extradite former NSA agent Edward Snowden when he was seeking asylum in Bolivia. The bottom line is this: Yanky has come home.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN BOLIVIA…

The way Yanky Ostreicher’s story is going over in the country he escaped from BY RAFAEL BORGES Bolivian media gave the Yanky Ostreicher story prominence as news of his apparent escape from the country was publicized. Ostreicher’s Bolivian lawyer, Jimmy Montaño, told Radio Santa Cruz of Erbol Red that he didn’t believe that his client had left the country. “I don’t have this information; I don’t know; I haven’t spoken to him.” But he said that Ostreicher’s legal status would make it impossible to leave from any Bolivian airport. Several newspapers noted that various news outlets in Bolivia indicated that he, indeed, didn’t fly directly out of Bolivia, instead first entering a third country and flying from there. Erbol Red sent a reporter to the house in the Equipetrol neighborhood where Ostreicher was living; he reported that the armed guard who had previously been stationed outside was no longer there, and another security guard working in the area said that he had seen no signs of Ostreicher for five days. NYC Councilman David Greenfield

Sean Penn with Yanky at a court proceeding

said he had been in contact with Ostreicher within those five days, including this past Friday, and that he “sounded very nervous, and said that ‘things were happening.’” There has already been political fallout inside Bolivia, according to Bolivian news site El Día. The assemblyman for La Paz, Roberto De La Cruz, reacted angrily to reports on Jewish websites that Ostreicher had made it to the US. He accused

the Bolivian interior minister Carlos Romero and his deputy Jorge Perez of showing “total inefficiency” in controlling Ostreicher’s movements. He said that the escape was an “Xmas present from the imperialists” in the US to the Bolivian government for neglecting national security. Johnny Auza, a US journalist formerly from Bolivia who interviewed Yanky Ostreicher while he was in a Bolivian hospital, told Ami that he believes that heads will roll over the escape. The Bolivian president has not yet reacted to the news. But the Ostreicher escape comes on the heels of another high-profile escape from Bolivia. An opposition politician recently spent a year hiding in the Brazilian embassy in La Paz. He had escaped because he was being prosecuted, it is believed, because he was becoming too powerful; he eventually slipped out of the country and resurfaced in Brazil. This latest escape adds another black eye to Bolivian security forces.

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december

2013

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Finally


y Free!

May 20, 2013 A congressional hearing examines the case of Yanky Ostreicher. Chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), it includes testimony from actor Sean Penn, who called on sponsors of a road rally in Bolivia to withdraw their support of the event in support of Ostreicher.

April 2013 Fernando Rivera, a former director of the Ministry of Government jailed for extortion, said in a probation hearing that he would like to apologize to Ostreicher for his role in Ostreicher’s captivity, but that he was “only following orders.”

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— W O N — S C O V A H D

N A

S E V L S E R S A M C E D H N T A D N S E U O M F O S H I L R I E E A . H R T M S I R N I O D NOWST E P P A TR REAK S IN A F

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H C I E L B A Y N

A N A H C BY

IN

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arly last week, when residents of Bnei Brak heard forecasts of snow for Jerusalem towards the end of the week, many of them were green with envy. Who doesn’t enjoy watching the whiter than white flakes falling silently, creating breathtaking Switzerland-like scenes of a winter snow? But that was in the beginning of the week. Twenty-four hours after the snow began to fall, as reports began to circulate about the terrible trials and tribulations of people in Jerusalem, the north of the country and the Shomron, not many remained envious. The blizzard wrought havoc for three days. A snowstorm of such power had not visited Israel for over 90 years, leaving many thousands in Jerusalem helplessly trapped indoors, and over 10,000 others without electricity and no way to heat their homes even minimally during their snow-enforced captivity. On Friday, Asarah B’Teves, Jerusalem was again under siege, not from the Babylonian army but from a white carpet of precipitation. At its height, about 30,000 households around the country were without power (equaling about 100,000 people). Some of the homes were in Jerusalem; there was a mass electric outage in the yishuvim surrounding Jerusalem as well as in Yehudah and Shomron, and in the Tzefas area. The rest were scattered in various other parts of the country. (Some parts of the country that escaped the snow had a different problem: rain. Tel Aviv and other cities flooded, and two 54 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4

people died in what was apparently a flashflood. Floods in Gaza —exacerbated by Hamas' refusal to buy fuel from the Palestinian Authority, which meant that pumping stations sat silent—necessitating special efforts by Israel to transfer donations of gasoline by Qatar into the Strip.) The myriad personal stories that began to flow out of Jerusalem, Tzefas and the other besieged cities, towns and settlements pointed to the same lesson: The State of Israel did not know how to cope with the biggest storm to slam the country since its founding, and the results of this were borne by the citizens themselves. A few hours into the snowstorm, all roads leading to the capital and all the approaches to Jerusalem were closed, both by cars that had skidded and blocked the way, and by police orders. Thousands upon thousands of vehicles were stuck in humongous traffic jams. Some of the drivers were Jerusalem residents who were simply trying to get home, and others were curious parents with children who wanted to see and touch the snow. They didn’t dream that they would be stuck for hours and hours at the entrances to Jerusalem. Whereas the large, well-known neighborhoods in Jerusalem had teams from the Israel Electric Company working around the clock to repair lines downed by wind and falling branches, the situation in the neighborhoods on the periphery was many more times catastrophic. Yerach Tucker, a familiar chareidi public relations figure, was trapped with his wife and children. “We live in the Har Shmuel


o f e g e i er s

” . s y a d e e r h rt

d n u e r e w e W

neighb o rh o o d , a charming suburb on the mountainside between Givat Ze’ev and Jerusalem, where single-family homes were built some distance, one from the other. In the end this did us in,” he explained. “On Thursday night, all systems collapsed. No water, no electricity, and snow drifts in the yard up to 80 cm (over 2.5 feet). None of us could get out the door. I live two houses away from my brother and wanted to see how he and his family were faring, but a second after I set foot out the door, I actually sank in the snow, and I quickly got back inside. “We were under siege for three days. It wasn’t so bad to be stuck at home, but to be trapped without electricity and water, with no way to go out or to buy challos for Shabbos, and no way to bake them at home, because there was no working oven, was awful. We had no ability to warm the house, and we had to cope as best as we could with blankets. “We managed reasonably well, but there were families here with newborn babies, and for one of them it was just a few days after his bris. Those families suffered from a lack of electricity, showers, and any means of heating.

“There was also a problem with food. Whoever hadn’t had a chance to store food ahead of time also could not get help from neighbors, even when the neighbors wanted to help, because as I explained, in our area there was no way to get from family to family, as you can in an apartment building. On Erev Shabbos we lit candles and tried to have the usual family seudah by their light in the freezing cold, but after ten minutes we realized that it was impossible to continue and the whole family went to sleep in one room, huddled under seven or eight blankets.” What about davening in a minyan? Tucker says this was physically out of the question. On Shabbos morning the electricity returned for a few hours, during which the family members warmed themselves a bit, but then there was another electricity outage. “We had to manage with what we had. There was a small number of candles that we could use on Motzaei Shabbos for a little warmth. So after Havdalah, all the men gathered outside to discuss what to do. We heard that in another part of the neighborhood there was a baby who suffered from breathing difficulties, and no one could reach that family. The roads were covered with snow and ice, and there was no way to traverse them, even with a four-wheel drive car or jeep. During the night the situation deteriorated, so that we began to inquire about evacuating the baby by helicopter.” The heads of the Israel Electric Company informed Tuck-

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s m e t l sys

l a , t h g i n y a d

s r u h “On T

er’s neighbors that the main electric cable had fallen between Givat Ze’ev and Har Shmuel. They reported tremendous difficulty in reaching it, and said it might take several days to repair. There was also no flowing water because the water system uses electric pumps that were out. “We understood that even when the storm would be over, we might remain in this situation for a few days, many families freezing, with the possibility even of death. So on Motzaei Shabbos we hired a tractor, through a private contractor, to clear the snow from the access road. They cleared the main road, but by Sunday morning the road had to be cleared again so that private vehicles could leave the parking lot. We all became snow shovelers. “When we finally were able to extricate ourselves from the embattled Har Shmuel, police officers stopped us, saying that we could not get onto highway 443 (the main highway to Jerusalem) because it was too slippery. We responded, ‘We have been trapped for three days already without heat, without hot water and food. We are not turning back.’ The police finally per-

” . d e s p colla

mitted us to get on the highway, and thus we finally reached my parents’ home in Jerusalem, where the children could finally enjoy a hot shower after three days of frozen chaos.”

In Beitar Illit

In Beitar Illit, which lies just southwest of Jerusalem, the situation was not much better. In a large part of that town, the electricity was out for several hours on Shabbos. In addition, from Friday afternoon and through late Motzaei Shabbos cables of the electric company and the Bezeq landline phone company were down, so that in many parts of Beitar Illit you could neither make nor receive calls. In addition to the Bezeq outages, many antennas belonging to cell phone companies collapsed, so that the residents could not report to the authorities the extent of their problems, nor could they call for help. “The situation was, in one word, catastrophic,” resident Aaron Greenbaum says. “For hours my family and I were electricityless, phone-less. We could not make contact with our worried parents who live in Bnei Brak. Only in the end, late on Motzaei Shabbos, did we succeed in getting over to a neighbor in a nearby building whose phone lines were working. That way I could phone and reassure our worried parents that we were all alive and well, despite the situation not yet being resolved. But we hoped for the best.” An army tank seen clearing the snow-covered street in Jerusalem after a major snow storm hit the city

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Greenbaum further noted that several women gave birth in their homes, because it was impossible to get to hospitals in Jerusalem, and that Hatzalah staff trudged on foot among the apartment buildings to offer aid, since ambulances could not reach most of the buildings.

Twelve frozen hours on the road

Some of those in peril were Bnei Brak “tourists” to Jerusalem who intended on Thursday night to quickly head over with their children to see some snow and to return a few hours later to their homes. They regretted this decision several hours later, when they got stuck in icy traffic jams that snarled the highways to Jerusalem, which were closed down. “A few friends set out in several cars about seven in the evening on Thursday,” Zvi Fastag, an avrech with five children, says. He crowded his family into a large van that set out for Jerusalem. “We did not imagine that the snow would turn into a blizzard. Who could have thought of that? We drove along highway 443, and when the traffic started to clog up the road near Pisgat Ze’ev, we began to feel the full force of the storm. Torrents of snow pounded the car and made driving dangerous, and we began to feel trapped. “We stopped, and each time a four-wheel drive passed us, we tried to follow it, as it cleared the way for us. From there onwards, all along the way we saw abandoned cars strewn about the shoulders of the road, and even in the middle of the high-

way. There were cars abandoned on the roads whose owners had despaired after hours of trying to extricate themselves and hitched rides with jeeps sent especially for this purpose to bring them to Jerusalem. “The drive from Bnei Brak to Jerusalem, which usually takes an hour took us six hours, and our situation was very good, relatively speaking. Later, we got stuck several times inside Jerusalem: At the entrance to the city, near Har Hotzvim in the northern part, on Rehov Bar-Ilan—there were jams everywhere. And everywhere that we got stuck, there were kind people who helped and pushed our car out of the snow. “On each segment of our trip, it was impossible to follow the traffic signs and traffic rules. We had no choice; we and the other cars out on the streets were forced to drive through red lights, to traverse one-way streets in the wrong direction, and to drive on the sidewalks. We drove wherever we could, as long as we would be able to reach a safe haven, which for us was the Har Nof neighborhood where my parents live.” After the car that Fastag was in finally reached Har Nof, he spent Shabbos there and didn’t budge until Sunday. Then he began to think about returning home to Bnei Brak, after the children had missed two days of school, and the parents had also missed, unintentionally, days of work and kollel learning. Not everyone fared as well as Fastag. The situation of Ariel Bouhbut was much worse. Bouhbut also set out from the Tel Aviv area for Jerusalem along highway 443, but he got stuck at the 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4 / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / A M I M AG A Z I N E

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entrance to Jerusalem, with no possible way to extricate his car. “We could not move. The car simply could not drive in the snow and ice. It is an old model, and it was too dangerous to continue. No other people or cars could help us, because they were also stalled or stuck on the road.” He called various Hatzalah branches, but they said that they were using their resources for serious emergencies involving threats to life, and for anything short of that they could not spare the personnel and equipment. “My wife and I and our three children were in the car, and I turned on the heater and prayed that the gasoline would last. We had no choice. We slept in the car overnight, with some quilts and pillows that, baruch Hashem, we had brought along with us. Only at seven in the morning were we extricated from the place… not in our car which we abandoned, mired as it was in the snow and ice, but via a jeep that was in the area and came to our rescue.” Next year, he adds, even if he hears about snow predicted for the capital, he will leave the pleasure to others. One frozen night in Jerusalem in an icy car was enough for him.

An entire town in the dark

In the town of Telshe Stone, they could only dream of such a “quick” rescue. From Friday until last Monday, the entire town was sunk in deep darkness, with no electricity and no heat. Yaakov Abouhav is a young father of two small children. He told Ami that “we did not have much we could do, since the entire

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town was without electricity. We could not take the children to warmer quarters in Jerusalem or other cities, because all the access roads out of Telshe Stone were blocked. We had no choice but to pile sweater upon sweater, coat upon coat, and tough it out.” For Shabbos, Abouhav has only an electric hotplate, and without electricity it was useless. He was forced to be creative. “On Friday afternoon I took the electric hotplate apart and made it into an old-fashioned blech to put on the gas burners, so that somehow we could have hot food on Shabbos. I realized at one point that all the frozen foods in the freezer might defrost and spoil since there was an outage. I took them out of the freezer and put them in a carton, and on that I piled snow. That was our substitute freezer. “The landline phone didn’t work. The one cell phone we had I used only for short, urgent calls, in order to extend the life of the battery, since we wouldn’t be able to recharge it. I made brief calls just to reassure our families that we were basically okay. “The little children were absolutely freezing. And when we finally used up the last of the few candles we had at home, which had given us some light and a little heat, we resorted to using olive oil that was left over from Chanukah.” Abouhav, a touch of sarcasm in his voice, says that he would happily exchange his experience for that of the coastal cities. “Who needs snow and how can you enjoy it when your whole body is shivering and no one knows what to do and when relief will come?”


What Happened? Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, seen at the situation room of the Jerusalem municipality in Jerusalem on December 14, 2013

Public figures respond to criticism of their handling of the storm o what really went on? What led to the great chaos that paralyzed Israel’s capital city? Is it true that Israel is not prepared for a storm such as the one that hit it this week, whereas people in the United States or Russia continue to work normally on days such as those? The Knesset is planning an investigation into the emergency response, and a debate has been raging over what the proper preparations should be for a storm the likes of which haven't occurred in more than a hundred years. On Sunday morning, after the storm had peaked and Jerusalem tried to return to business as usual, Ami spoke to Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who has faced accusations that he is one of the officials responsible for the “big failure,” that is, the unpreparedness of the Jerusalem municipality for the storm. He’s been accused of miscalculating the extent of the imminent snowstorm and failing to plan accordingly. Barkat agreed with some of the

criticism, but emphasized that “we are still in a state of emergency. Now we must put the media aside, and deal with the challenge.” Barkat maintains that the municipality knew in advance that they faced a snowstorm of several stages. Barkat: “It was clear that we would face the second stage [of the storm] on the night between Thursday and Friday, and that [stage] would be more severe. We deployed [snow] equipment. I personally was at a place where people were in distress. “When we saw how intensive the storm was and how it wasn’t letting up, we weren’t shy. We picked up the phone to the chief of staff and the defense minister and said that we have an emergency on our hands, and have to focus on saving lives.” In our talk, Barkat praised the quick response of the State to the emergency. He noted that the total commitment and cooperation of all the agents and entities involved was unprecedented. “After all emergencies, we sit and conduct

an investigation. I don’t know if people understand the size of the huge challenge we faced: ice on the roads, no studies or schools, people without electricity in their homes. According to the meteorologists, no such snowstorm has taken place in the city for the last 100 years. How can one be completely prepared for such a thing? We did everything we could with the means we had at our disposal.” The criticism aimed at Barkat and the municipality focused on the fact that despite meteorological warnings more than a week before the storm, the municipality and the Israel Electric Corporation were not prepared appropriately. On Sunday morning, Barkat preferred to respond mainly to what was happening at that point in time. “At this moment, we know of no people who are locked in their homes, and we are now able to deal with any hardships people are having that come to our attention. We also know how to reach places without power. We have thousands of people working to achieve the same goal: how to make cer-

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tain that things are getting back to normal as quickly as possible. We are opening up traffic routes and getting to all the people.” For now, he said, all their energies are focused on getting the city back to its routine. Additional criticism was leveled at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who conducted a meeting, broadcast live from the Jerusalem municipality, with all the high-level officials involved, while he was smiling and joking. “How can the prime minister smile and exchange jokes when he is heard by thousands of citizens suffering from the freezing cold, including elderly people who don’t know if they will wake up tomorrow morning?” wondered a broadcaster on one of the chareidi radio channels. Ami spoke with Eli Glickman, CEO of the Israel Electric Corporation, who stated that he feels that the electric company under his management deserves to be commended for its activities during the storm. Glickman told us, “Of course, there are lessons to be learned from every event and we

will learn them. But, all in all, we prepared well for the storm, and I can only praise the Electric Corporation’s employees and management. We are not magicians. If a tree falls on an electric pole, there’s nothing we can do. If a meter’s [3.3 feet] worth of snow accumulates on the poles and knocks them down, there is nothing we can do and no amount of pruning the trees will help.” We asked about criticism the Electric Corporation has faced because it failed to prune trees or bury electric lines to avoid the type of outages the country faced. “Such a project costs 100-200 billion shekels [28-57 billion dollars] at least,” Glickman said, “and would take many years. If someone will sign this check for me, we can do it.” Despite the forecasts, CEO Glickman chose to leave on a private vacation abroad before the weekend, and only cut short his vacation immediately before the storm. In response to the public criticism of his actions, Glickman told us that “in the initial days—Wednesday and Thursday—there were no electrical prob-

lems resulting from the storm. The problems began only on Friday, and it was then that I cut my vacation short and returned to Israel on the first plane I could catch. I arrived at midnight.” Over the weekend, it was publicized that the state comptroller will examine the issue of infrastructure collapse due to the storm, including electricity outages. Glickman told us that “I invite the Comptroller to check and investigate thoroughly, and I am convinced that he will have nothing but praise for the Electric Corporation. “No one could have anticipated such a storm; this was the kind of snowstorm that happens once in 100 years, and everyone was taken by surprise. I call on the state to evaluate the Electric Corporation. When I see the public’s response, I am filled with pride.” Regarding the failures of the Israel Electric Corporation, we also talked with Israel Electric Corporation chairman Yiftach Ron-Tal who argued that, “the Electric Corporation was well-prepared for the storm and functioned in a most commendable manner.”

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By Avi Tuchmayer

The Snow and the Good Neighbors


Israelis and Palestinians lend one another a hand during the recent snow emergency

E

very name and identifying detail in this story has been changed. For Arabs in and around West Bank cities like Chevron, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jenin there is no more explosive—and dangerous—issue than neighborly relations with the Jewish communities that dot the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Exposing the real names of the individuals and locations mentioned here could put them in danger of attack by Palestinian factions opposed to the friendly ties they have forged across ethnic lines for more than 40 years. But the story is true nonetheless. It begins with a poor decision by a man named Amin el-Sayad, a resident of Khoura, a Bedouin village north of Beer Sheva. Last Friday, as snow began to pile up in and around Jerusalem but with the worst of the storm still ahead, el-Sayad decided to make the journey north so he could see snow for the first time in his life. Riding a tractor, he set out to visit family friends in Bethlehem, about 100 kilometers away. It was an ill-advised decision. The journey took him the better part of the day, and before reaching his destination the snow was deep enough that he could no longer continue. As night fell, he bundled up inside the tractor’s cab and hoped for the best, but as hypothermia set in a few hours later he realized he wouldn’t survive the night. But instead of summoning help from the Red Crescent Society, located a short drive away in Palestinian Authoritycontrolled Hebron, el-Sayad called Israel’s 102 emergency hotline. An ambulance was dispatched from Kiryat Arba to Route 60, the main Jerusalem-Hebron-Beer Sheva highway, and paramedics brought him to a private emergency room in Pisgat Yehuda, a nearby Jewish settlement. There, local doctors treated el-Sayad for frostbite and extreme hypothermia, caring for the patient until his condition stabilized the next morning. “There is no question that el-Sayad would have died had he stayed in his tractor all night,” said Dr. Avraham Hakohen, director of the settlement’s medical services. “His body tem-

perature had dropped dramatically by the time he arrived in our clinic, and we had to stay with him most of the night in order to warm him and make sure he stabilized. “We released him at seven in the morning, but by that time all the roads in and out of the area had been closed. Another member of our community, Rivka Yekutieli, has enjoyed good relations with nearby Arab villages since our town was founded in the 1970s, so we asked if her family would host el-Sayad until the roads became passable and he could return home safely. She was happy to comply, and he stayed with the Yekutielis until ten o'clock Sunday morning, when enough snow had cleared for him to leave.”

History of coexistence

Amin el-Sayad’s story was only the latest example of Jewish-Arab cooperation in and around Pisgat Yehuda, as well as many other areas of Judea and Samaria. Indeed, cooperation and neighborly relations between Jews and their Palestinian neighbors in Judea and Samaria may be the best-kept secret on the planet. While it would certainly be a mistake to downplay the tensions and frequent outbreaks of violence between the two communities, it is important to note that there are pockets of positive interaction as well. Jewish towns are a critical source of employment for local Palestinians, and Israeli medical facilities across the region make no distinction between Jewish and Arab patients. Nor is the relationship one-directional: Every morning last week, road crews from Pisgat Yehuda braved icy roads and dangerous driving conditions to transport workers from Ariqa to Pisgat Yehuda, where they worked alongside Jewish teenaged volunteers to clear snow and ice from the local elementary school, Talmud Torah and kindergartens. When Arab workers from Deir el-Fatima, another local village, set about clearing their access roads, they took care to plow the road leading from Pisgat Yehuda to Route 60. Although efforts to coexist abound throughout Judea and Samaria—Tekoa’s late Rabbi Menachem Froman was one of Israel’s leading proponents of peace with the Palestinians—


Pisgat Yehuda is perhaps the most obvious proof that proactive outreach efforts can lead to positive results. Even before the community was founded in 1977, Rabbi Efraim Zimmerman began visiting the villages of Ariqa and Deir el-Fatima, today located just a few dozen meters from the eastern border of Pisgat Yehuda, to meet with local religious and civil leaders in order to lay the groundwork for a future of peaceful coexistence. “I believe in our right to live in every centimeter of the Land of Israel,” Rabbi Zimmerman told Ami. “But there is no mitzvah to be in conflict with the Palestinians if we don’t have to be. To the contrary, the Gemara (Gittin 60) says that ‘Jews must care for poor non-Jews just as they care for poor Jews. Jews must visit non-Jews who are sick, just as they visit Jews who are sick; they must bury non-Jews who die, just as they bury Jews who die.’ Based on that passage, the Ramban rules that we are even allowed to desecrate Shabbos to offer medical assistance to a ger toshav (resident alien).” [Notes on the Sefer Hamitzvos, positive mitzvah 16.] Long-time residents of Pisgat Yehuda and Ariqa say that the fruits of Zimmerman’s approach became noticeable soon after the town’s founding. In November 1983, several months after the first residents moved in, the mukhtar of Ariqa showed up with an invitation to his daughter’s wedding, and a pledge to provide kosher food if the rabbi saw fit to attend. The following year, Zimmerman returned the courtesy by inviting him to his son’s bar mitzvah, and the relationship was solidified. That relationship continued for more than a decade, surviving even after the first intifada exploded in 1987. As the first generation of Pisgat Yehuda teenagers were conscripted into the IDF, many found themselves patrolling nearby Bethlehem and Hebron, chasing down the Palestinian youths who routinely stoned Israeli cars driving through those towns. Fifteen years later, several Jews, including residents of Pisgat Yehuda, were killed in terror attacks on Route 60. Nonetheless, residents of Ariqa continued to work in Pisgat Yehuda, and some Jews continued to patronize Palestinian shops in Deir el-Fatima. When Rabbi Zimmerman’s father died during the massive snowstorm of 1992 (Israel’s largest snowstorm in memory until last week), the mukhtar, Abu Omar, trekked through the snow to pay a shivah call to the rabbi. Perhaps more telling is the fact that nobody in Pisgat Yehuda viewed the unaccompanied presence of the mukhtar in the settlement as unusual or threatening. 64 A M I M A G A Z I N E / / D E C E M B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 / / 1 5 T E V E S 5 7 7 4

In hindsight, Rabbi Zimmerman has said that his tight relations with the neighboring towns saw Pisgat Yehuda, and him personally, through the outbursts of violence that characterized the years from 1987 to 2003. In the early days of the second intifada, Pisgat Yehuda received notice from the Israeli Civil Administration that the West Bank security fence would run through the wadi between Pisgat Yehuda and Ariqa, effectively separating the two communities. Most members of the traumatized Jewish community accepted the move as a necessary precaution, but Abu Omar once again approached Rabbi Zimmerman, this time with a heartfelt request. “We rely on your help to get by,” said the mukhtar. “The Koran says that ‘a good neighbor is better than a bad brother.’ We are more than good neighbors; we are good brothers. Please don’t let them cut us off from you. I guarantee that you will never, ever have a problem from our village.” Looking back on that incident, Rabbi Zimmerman admitted that the mukhtar’s request was a “hard sell” to the local council and residents of Pisgat Yehuda. But he eventually prevailed upon the council to ask the IDF to change the proposed route of the fence. Army officials agreed, but warned that the community would bear full responsibility for any negative outcome. “For Arabs, friendship and honor mean everything,” said the rabbi, “so I asked the council to take a chance. Bli ayin hara, I can say with 100 percent confidence that we have never had even the slightest security incident emanating from either Ariqa or Deir el-Fatima.”

Friendships

Not surprisingly, Rabbi Zimmerman’s commitment to forging ties with non-Jewish communities has attracted likeminded people. As early as 1983, Pisgat Yehuda doctors began offering free medical care. Later, the rabbi introduced a group of residents to the mukhtar; eventually, Abu Omar took them to Ariqa, where they asked what role they could play in ensuring coexistence between the two communities. Sitting in the Pisgat Yehuda home of Chaim and Alit Sandler, their warm feelings for Abed Abu Rahman, a resident of Ariqa, seem genuine. Abu Rahman’s Hebrew is good enough to enjoy the banter of the Sandlers’ six children, and he obviously feels comfortable in their home. He says that there are few people who have demonstrated true friendship to him and to the people of his village like Chaim Sandler. “During the second intifada, we were shut out of most places to work. The majority of West Bank Palestinians aren’t allowed


to enter Israel, and when the intifada broke out most Jewish communities followed suit. But that sort of situation is when people really show their true colors. Chaim continued to visit and help us out whenever he could. When things were really bad, he would show up with food staples—oil, sugar, meat if he could get it—and he kept an eye out to see who in the village needed medical attention. Nobody here has health insurance, but doctors like Avraham Hakohen cared for people free of charge. I don’t know what we would have done in those years had it not been for the help we got from Pisgat Yehuda,” Abu Rahman said. Abu Rahman also said that whenever he heard news that a settler had been shot on the road, he called his friends in Pisgat Yehuda to make sure they were okay. “I wanted to hear that they hadn’t been hurt, but I also wanted them to know that nobody in Ariqa was responsible. Friends are friends are friends, no matter what they look like or what group they belong to,” he said. Chaim Sandler, who works as a chief technology officer at a hi-tech company, said that Rabbi Zimmerman’s style of activism caused him to take an interest in Pisgat Yehuda even before he moved there in 1990. Sandler had been active in cross-cultural projects since immigrating to Israel from his native Brazil in 1986, and had heard about Rabbi Zimmerman’s attempt to build a new community “along principles I strongly believe in.” Sandler set about getting to know the people of Ariqa and Deir el-Fatima immediately upon arrival. Eventually he set up a fund to provide medical and material assistance for his new neighbors. Those efforts have brought him into contact with the highest levels of the Israeli government, as well as a slew of Arab and Western leaders. Eventually he established a charitable fund to finance his activities, but he laments that the lack of publicity makes it hard to raise money. “When villagers need medicines or antibiotics, we’ve made contact with a pharmacist in a nearby Jewish community that sells us the drugs at cost. The fund pays for that. When people require more advanced medical treatment that isn’t available here, I’ve accompanied them to hospitals in Bethlehem or Jerusalem, or occasionally to Hadassah University Hospital at Ein Kerem.” Several Pisgat Yehuda residents have used their connections in Israel’s government and civil service to help the villagers; some hold high ranks in the IDF reserves, while others hold or have held influential positions in the Knesset and a variety

of government ministries. During “normal” times, this often means helping Ariqa residents obtain entry permits to Israel for medical treatment: Because they are officially residents of the Palestinian Authority, they are not usually permitted to enter Israel proper. As Ami went to press on Monday, Rabbi Zimmerman said he had received a call from Mukhtar Abu Omar to intercede with the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC). The Arab village had been without electricity since the storm began on Thursday. Could the rabbi use his influence to prod the IEC to make their village a priority?

Thrown to the dogs

Significantly, both sides stressed the need to blur all identifying information for this article because of the threat posed to the residents of Ariqa, Deir el-Fatima and other Arab villages who maintain positive relations with their Jewish neighbors. All of the individuals mentioned in this article were interviewed on condition of anonymity. Ironically, both sides also point to a watershed moment in history that forced them to hide the ties they had forged: the 1994 formation of the Palestinian Authority. Rabbi Zimmerman said that the open closeness the communities shared had to end when PLO founder Yasser Arafat arrived from Tunis, something that was even more exacerbated when Hamas took over Gaza. “If I have any complaint about Israel, it’s that you threw us to the dogs [by allowing the PLO to take over the administration of Judea and Samaria]. Arafat and his bullies came from Tunisia and couldn’t stand it that we were actually better off without them. I can’t say that life with Israel is always great, but the Jews are a lot better than the PLO will ever be,” said Abed Abu Rahman. Similarly, Rabbi Efraim Zimmerman rued the day that Israel agreed to negotiate with Arafat, and said he warned thenPrime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that dealing with him was a trap. “I’m sad to say that I was right about giving anything to Arafat,” Zimmerman says in hindsight. “On a local level, it’s caused our relationships with local Arabs to become muted. We still help each other when we can; residents of Ariqa still call me in the middle of the night if they need to. But they have to be careful. Both Hamas and Fatah are right to feel threatened by this positive story, and we know they could react violently. So we maintain our friendships, but we have to remain low-key. 

Cooperation between Jews and their Palestinian neighbors in Judea and Samaria may be the best-kept secret on the planet.

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O

r u

JOURNEY B Y R A B B I S H OL OM F R I E D M A N N

A W E E K LY L O O K A T T H E K L E I N M A N F A M I LY H O L O C A U S T E D U C A T I O N C E N T E R

Collecting History AUTHENTICATING ARTIFACTS FROM A BYGONE ERA

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y son and I have been collecting keychains for years. Whenever I travel abroad, I make sure to bring a keychain back for him. It is a reminder of all the places I’ve visited, and it is a pastime that brings us together. Did I also mention it’s affordable? There are as many reasons to collect as there are collections. Some do it as a hobby, others for profit, and still others for educational purposes. Although growing demand from all types of collectors has resulted in counterfeit pieces infiltrating the market, there are still large numbers of genuine artifacts that are continuously being discovered. Survivors who were never able to share their stories with their children are now bequeathing their meaningful possessions so that they will not be lost to history. Children of World War II veterans often inherit war relics such as flags, knives and Luger pistols that were brought home by the victorious GIs. It was not just individuals who brought home reminders of the war. In Aberdeen

Proving Ground, a United States Army facility in Aberdeen, Maryland, hundreds of captured German artillery pieces, Panzer tanks and even V-I and V-II rockets are displayed in neat rows. The largest train gun ever built, the German Leopold, sits on a track nearby. I don’t think someone took that home in his duffel bag.

items they are giving. For example, we recently received a metal badge with some German and Polish inscriptions. It did not take long to determine that it was a badge of the Jewish ghetto police, or Ordnungsdienst, but we were unsure if it was authentic. Our collections curator, Shoshana Greenwald, explains, “Sometimes there

As the KFHEC collection grows, I am reminded that the true value of these items lies in their ability to convey the enduring strength of klal Yisrael. We have found that collectors—even amateurs—amass a great deal of knowledge, and that information is extremely helpful in verifying the authenticity of what were once family memorabilia or keepsakes from difficult times. There are times, however, when donors are unable to identify or authenticate the

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are obvious signs of fraud, but often the object requires closer examination.” Turning the badge over, Shoshana points out certain key details. “Look at the quality of metal imprinting done by the Nazis; they were meticulous record-keepers, and their weapons were imprinted by Germany’s best companies. Metal pieces such as knives,


The Ordnungsdienst badge and the fabric from the DP camp.

helmets or badges that have unclear or inconsistent markings are suspicious. In this case, it’s the blue surface that might have been added to make it look more ‘Jewish.’” Another potential donor to the KFHEC offered rolls of fabric that her parents might have used as part of a vocational program in a DP (displaced persons) camp after the war. While it was clear that the material had not been purchased at Kmart, we must still confirm its origins. Shoshana consulted several scholars and experts who dated the fabric to the 1950s. Since that DP camp was still in operation several years after the war, her next job was to determine when the donor’s parents had left the camp. Shoshana also surveyed periodicals from the era containing fabric illustrations and swatches to verify the types of materials that were in circulation. Megan MacCall, our director of collections, elaborates. “A vast amount of effort and resources is invested in preserving and protecting each artifact donated. As a pro-

fessional institution, we must determine the authenticity of an item for historical integrity.” Because KFHEC is an education center, replicas also serve a genuine purpose. As our education director, Julie Golding, explains, “Even reproductions are valuable educational tools. While most artifacts in our collection can only be handled by professional staff, hands-on activities with reproductions encourage students to interact with history on a much deeper level.” As the KFHEC collection grows, I am reminded that the true value of these items lies in their ability to convey the enduring strength of klal Yisrael. Since its establishment, the Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center has received numerous items of interest from people who wish to participate in our mission. If you have something that may have some historical significance, our team is ready to help discover its story and make sure it gets the attention it deserves. To those who have already shared with us, we thank you for your contribution and hope that it will be an inspiration to future generations.

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 info@kfhec.org or (718) 759-6200.


I Don’t Want My Son Making My Mistakes Dear Rabbi Taub: A little background about where I am coming from: I am a man in my late 40s, I have been married twentyfive years, and my oldest son, baruch Hashem, was just married. I made a lot of mistakes in my marriage early on and had to learn how to be a husband. It took me at least ten years, but now, baruch Hashem, my marriage is wonderful. I think even my wife would agree! My oldest son who just got married was there for part of the phase when I wasn’t such a great husband, but he has also been there during the second phase when I was much better. I hoped he would pick up on the difference, and to a large extent, I think that he has. The problem is, I still see him making some of the mistakes with his kallah that I made when I was a young husband. I don’t want him to learn the hard way that which took me ten years. Here is my question: I know that I must speak to my son, but how do I appropriately tell him that I know what I know from experience? How much can I reveal to him about my own struggles? After all, I am talking about his father and mother. It may be awkward for him. Sincerely, Older and Wiser

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ear Older and Wiser:

Let me begin by thanking you from the bottom of my heart for being a man who worked on himself and decided it wasn’t too late to grow up. May there be many more like you! I can assure you that your letter has already given hope to many women and encouragement to many men. To you I say, yeyasher kochacha! Your letter touches upon several important ideas and I want to try to address them all. First, most marriage training is “onthe-job-training.” You said that you didn’t really get the hang of being a husband until ten years into your marriage, but I want to tell you that whether it’s one year or ten years or 50 years, there is a learning curve for us all. No man goes into marriage fully prepared. We try to help chasanim as much as possible, of course, but in the end, a yungerman never really knows how to be a husband until he is one. I say this about marriage, and I would add that the same is true—with a “kol shekein” and a “kal va’chomer”—about parenting (so get ready, as a grandfather, to watch your son make parenting blunders as well)! I think it’s possible that some of the mistakes you see your son making are really just part of the normal learning curve. I’m sure that he really did learn from you and that has helped him immensely, but there’s a difference between theory and practice. It seems like he’s had 15 years of watching you do the right things. I would trust that he’s got the right ideals now; he just has to learn how to implement them. That’s why I don’t think you should be so alarmed when you see him making mistakes. As for your concern that your son may have learned from your “old way” of being more than the way you are now, I don’t think your fears are grounded. You sound like a great role model for him. Actually,


you have been the best kind of example because—and I say this without a hint of sarcasm whatsoever—you showed him what to do and you showed him what not to do. That is truly b’makom shebaalei teshuvah omdim, afilu tzaddikim gemurim einam yecholim laamod bah. Of course, that’s not a “l’chatchilah.” In other words, one is not allowed to purposely mess up just so he can later have the advantage of one who has erred and mended his ways. But since by Divine Providence, your story is that you do know both sides, that makes you even more sensitive than you ever would have been if you had only known the right way. What

and sees someone talking during kaddish and is actually appalled. He can’t believe what he’s seeing. And yet, for better or worse, the guy who’s been davening at that shul all his life isn’t shocked at all. Likewise, because you are a baal teshuvah when it comes to marriage, you may notice things that other people do not. It’s a good way to be, but just remind yourself—like the baal teshuvah in shul needs to remind himself—not always do you need to directly address the “avlah” that you have witnessed. Sometimes it’s best to just let things slide. In other words, if you want to talk with your son, that is a fine thing, but I advise against doing so with any sense of

NO MAN GOES INTO MARRIAGE FULLY PREPARED. is teshuvah after all? It is an added sensitivity. Or as the Baal HaTanya describes it in chapter 7 of Tanya: “Since his soul had been, up until now, in a barren wilderness and in the shadow of death…far removed from the light of the Divine Countenance, in the greatest possible measure, his soul now thirsts [for holiness] even more intensely than the souls of the righteous [who have never sinned.]” Indeed, this may be why you are extra sensitive to your son’s mistakes. You are a “marriage baal teshuvah,” so in the area of marriage you have the extra sensitivity of the baal teshuvah. Remember though that extra sensitivity can also become hypervigilance, like the stereotypical baal teshuvah who is seen as being a little high-strung. Think of the newly observant guy who comes into shul

urgency. I’m not trying to minimize your fatherly concern, but I am trying to point out that since you do have an extra degree of sensitivity in this area, you run the risk of unintentionally coming off as alarmist or even self-righteous when you approach your son. Remember that telling your son how to be a husband is nothing compared to showing him day-in and day-out, and it sounds like you have already done exactly that—you have shown him how to be a man. In other words, you’ve done your job to be a living embodiment of your ideals and, at this point, I don’t think you need to do anything heavy-handed to try to impose those ideals on your son. When you say that you don’t want your son to “learn the hard way” as you did, I think that reflects a very responsible atti-

tude toward parenting. But as I also said, I believe that you have probably already raised your son the right way and shown him the proper path as a Jewish man. So, I guess the question now is this: Where is the line between handing your mistakes down to your child and merely allowing your child to make his own mistakes? I would like to share with you a fascinating midrash that, as hashgachah pratis would have it, relates to this very week’s Torah reading, Parshas Shemos. A very puzzling Mechilta seems to say that when Moshe asked to marry Yisro’s daughter, Tzipporah, Yisro made him vow that that “his firstborn son would be dedicated to avodah zarah and the next one for Hashem.” Yisro had already abandoned idolatry—and even suffered excommunication—in order to serve Hashem. Why would he want his firstborn grandson to be dedicated to the very false gods that he had rejected? The Chidushei Harim explains: Yisro had served every false deity known to man; thus, as Rashi explains, when he said, “Now I know that Hashem is the greatest of all the gods” (Shemos 18:11), he really meant it. He didn’t just believe, he knew how useless idolatry is. It was this special insight that Yisro wanted one of his grandsons to have; therefore, his plan was that the first grandson should study idolatry, see its falsehood, and then come to belief in Hashem on his own, while the second grandson should be untainted by this knowledge. In this way, Gershom, the firstborn, would have the unique advantages of a baal teshuvah, and Eliezer, the second-born, would have the unique advantages of a tzaddik.

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The Chidushei Harim thus points out that the proper reading of the Mechilta is not that the first grandson be for idolatry, and the next one for Hashem, but rather that the first grandson should be for idolatry and from then on for Hashem. It is talking about one child, Gershom. First he should be for idolatry and then he should be for Hashem. So what was wrong with this plan? The obvious answer is that there’s l’chatchilah (from the outset) and then there’s b’dieved (after the fact). You cannot purposely plan to become a baal teshuvah. So it is in your case. You did not purposely set out to make mistakes for your first ten years of marriage just so you could have a great marriage later. You would never have made that plan “l’chatchilah.” As with Yisro, it was hashgachah pratis;

and you, like Yisro, really know what you’re talking about when you say, “Now I know…” But unlike Yisro, you did not want your son to have to learn the hard way. To your credit, you wanted your firstborn son to be shown the right way. And that’s what you did. You did show him the right way because you would never purposely set him up to learn a hard lesson. But now that you have given him the right example, your son will have to make his own decisions—not as a Gershom but as a Yisro himself. You have not imposed a faulty model upon him, but completely the opposite. And lest you say that you did impose a faulty model upon your son by how you acted when he was much younger, I will point out that there is no problem with

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Yisro being in Gershom’s life as a role model. That’s a wonderful role model for him to have. The problem would only have been artificially imposing his own struggles onto his grandson. I want to thank you again for the work you have done as a Jewish father and husband. May you see nachas from your children and children’s 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 ask@amimagazine.org.


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.

Fightin’ Words

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urely you’ve heard of Spartaco Marciano Di Bella. He is the fellow accused of being part of a gang of eight young men who attacked a group of Jews one recent Shabbos night in Sydney, Australia, sending several of the victims to the hospital. The charge he’s facing is affray. No, “affray” has nothing to do with insurance or ducks. “Affray” (with the second syllable stressed) is a term used in some lands for what we Americans would call “ganging up on people” or “brawling.” The root of the word is the Latin exfridare, meaning “to break the peace.” And if you were thinking about making some joke about being afraid of an affray, don’t bother. It’s no joke; that’s exactly where the word “afraid” comes from. (And, incidentally, just for the record, “afraid” is an example of a rare animal: an adjective that never stands before a noun.) Needless to say (so why am I saying it? I don’t know), the word “fray” (as in “Fraidy almost lost her sheitel in the fray”) is directly derived from “affray.” Another interesting word that means much the same as “affray” is “row.” Not the “row” that little ducks (or students) sit in, or the row, row, row that one does to one’s boat. But rather a different “row,” this one pronounced so that it rhymes with thou. Well, it doesn’t rhyme with thou, the person, but rather with the word “thou.” No one really knows where “row” in that sense and pronunciation comes from. Dost thou? And so the rumble proceeds! Our next exhibit is the wonderful word “fracas.” It just sounds violent, doesn’t it? Well,

that’s no surprise, since it comes from the Italian fracasso, “to smash.” That Italian word, in turn, is rooted in the compounding of the Latin fra (meaning “among”) and cassare (“to break”). If you’re hungry, you are probably wondering about the word “fricassee,” and what relation it has to “fracas.” Well (and this is true even if you’re not hungry), a fricassee entails breaking or cutting up meat before sautéing it and then adding a sauce and cooking it more. Another word that means something similar to the descriptions of violence above is “altercation,” which refers to an “angry dispute.” The Latin alter means “other” (even if the other fellow’s name isn’t Alter). Were humans less violenceprone, the word might have come to mean an alternate choice of venue for a week away from work. But language goes its own way. Everyone’s (well, at least my) favorite word for a bunch of people swinging wildly at one another is, of course, “mêlée.” It carries the meaning of confusion and turmoil. Which isn’t surprising, since it is related to the words “mélange,” “meddle,” and “medley” and, like them, is rooted in the Old French word medlee, meaning “combination or mixture.” As to mêlée, think “mixing it up,” which is what a bored gang might decide to do when it spies a rival gang. What emerges from all the above is that the sentence “Alter was not afraid to order a mélange of dishes for his dinner, and so he began with a fricassee” is, at least looked at with an etymological eye, more violent than it might at first glance seem.

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A Mourner at the Chuppah A DIVORCED OR SURVIVING PARENT’S SECOND MARRIAGE IN HALACHAH: MAY CHILDREN ATTEND? PART 1

“F

ourteen months ago, my mother died. But it wasn’t until tonight, at my father’s wedding,

that I lost her.” So ended a recent “Our Days” story (AmiLiving, 10 Kislev/November 13 5774/2013, pages 54-55), in which a woman tells the story of attending the wedding of a parent’s second marriage and how bewildering it was for her. In response to this, Ami received a well-written and well-tempered letter seeking to correct an oversight regarding a fascinating issue of halachah and/ or minhag Yisrael: the question of a child attending the wedding of a surviving (or divorced) parent’s second marriage. The writer of this letter is a noted rav, and the letter was in Hebrew. What follows is a translation: “First, my thanks for your magazine… Although the magazine is not a sefer halachah, readers still assume that you would not, Heaven forfend, publish something against minhag [Yisrael]. Therefore, an impression exists [among readers] that if a story is published, the actions taken in it were appropriate. “The custom is that a child does not attend the chuppah of a parent’s second marriage, due to the fact that it goes against the proper kibud we are to have for the [deceased] mother or father by

seeing the surviving one marry another.” He goes on to describe the pain that this woman felt at the wedding, stating that it would be worthwhile to explain to readers that such pain can be avoided through this minhag. While the writer of the letter cites a very real minhag, not all of his points are universally accepted. My feeling is that this rav, too, was aware of this and was therefore not trying to correct Ami Magazine on an issue of halachah or minhag; rather, he was seeking to urge the magazine to publicize a tool that, in his mind, can be used at one’s discretion. In fact, it is very rare today for adult children not to make every effort to attend these weddings. I plainly lament not being able to go to Israel for just such a wedding in my family (my wife was in her ninth month), and most adults I questioned who were in this situation felt only joy for the parent. Nevertheless, it would not be unheard of for a child, especially a non-adult, to react in any number of ways, and we must be sensitive to that. Yet, as we shall see, not attending such a wedding leads to its own halachic issues. What makes this issue so fascinating is that it touches upon so many imponderables of halachah and minhag. These are issues about which many people have wondered but of whom few actually have

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an understanding. Let us first respond directly to the points this rav made. He asserts that there is a general custom as described; this is not exactly accurate. (In fairness, the term he used [“nohagin”] could have been a reference to his own Chasidic branch [i.e.,“we have a custom”]. However, this does not seem to be the point he was seeking to make, nor could I find any source showing that his Chasidic group is stricter than others about this custom; if anything, I found evidence to the contrary.) He implies that the custom is that the children not attend the chuppah specifically; this has no source that I am aware of. He also writes that this custom is due to kibud av va’eim; this too is just an assertion (although perhaps a good one). In addition, if indeed it is a real kibud issue, why call it a minhag? Should it not then be a halachah? The reason for this minhag, based on this writer’s final paragraph, could be inferred as applying only when there is a deceased parent, lo aleinu, as opposed to a divorced one. Would such a distinction exist? So what is the history of this minhag? What is its reason? To whom does it apply? The only source I am aware of is the eighteenth-century sefer Minhagei Var-


BY RABBI MOSHE TAUB

meisa, a book about the customs of the Jewish community of Worms. The full text of this custom can be found on page 51 of the aforementioned book where it is recorded, “… sons and daughters of a widow or widower do not go to the shul, all the more so they do not attend the chuppah, and they do not attend the (wedding) feast…” [I am unsure what is meant by ‘… do not go to the shul …’; perhaps this is where most weddings took place; cf; Shu"t Igros Moshe ev"h 1:93 who discusses the permissibility, if any, of chuppos in a shul. However the next sentence in Minhagim Varmeisa would imply that something else was being referred to, which eludes me] What becomes clear is that according to this custom, while attending the chuppah is a greater concern than the children ‘going to shul’, attending the wedding feast equally falls under the prohibition. Many questions remain, aside from the reason behind this minhag. Was the minhag meant just for the community of Worms, or for all of us? And even if it were meant for klal Yisrael, would this fact alone have the power to obligate us to follow it? The Chasam Sofer (Shu’t Chasam Sofer 6:52) explains that individuals can obligate themselves to do or not do anything through a neder or shevuah—even things explicitly allowed by the Torah; yet one certainly lacks the power to obligate someone else! The one exception to this would be the leader of the generation (whom Chazal, in a number of places, call the “gadol hador”), who can obli-

Noda B’Yehudah eh’z [2] siman 79; Radvaz in Shu’t Hon Yosef, siman 9. For further study on this subject, see Tzavaas Rebbe Yehudah Hechassid, Ham’ifour Gumbo/Otzar Haposkim edition; Cf. Shu’t Rashba 1:9, Shu’t Chasam Sofer 51 in oh’c, and Sdei Chemed, Mem, klal 38). Now, even if we momentarily postulate that this minhag is in effect for all of us, we must be careful; often a minhag is taken to its extreme. Even if a minhag is real—actually, because it is real—it would mean that, like all other issues of halachah, there are times when it would not be followed or when conflicting obligations would have to be weighed. It is incongruous to watch people rightfully consider when one must desecrate Shabbos but refuse to do the same for their group’s customs. As Taamei Haminhagim (siman 840) wonderfully states: “If only the Aseres Hadibros were written in the tzavaah (ethical will) of Rav Yehudah Hechassid, then certainly people would care for them more!” With all of this in mind, let us delve into this mysterious minhag and its reasons, application, and the many beguiling subjects it touches upon.  To be continued…

It is very rare today for adult children not to make every effort to attend their parents' weddings. gate others in new issurim and minhagim. The simplest example of this phenomenon, and the one the Chasam Sofer was addressing, is the Cherem Rabbeinu Gershom against marrying two wives. While any community can accept upon itself certain customs, one way that all Jews may become obligated in a new minhag or issur is if the vast majority of communities and their rabbanim all agree to something—say, prohibiting kitniyos on Pesach (see Magen Avraham 690:2, regarding a minhag heard from a noted posek). Even if one could get around these criteria, the reason for the custom, according to many, would have to be based on some other halachah that we are seeking to protect (see Rambam, end of hakdamah to Mishnayos: “Once the Talmud closed, one is not allowed to add to its laws”; Shu’t

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

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Death and the Doctor AN ANXIOUS MOTHER AND A HARRIED PEDIATRICIAN WERE A DISASTROUS COMBINATION

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ost children love fantasizing about what they want to be when they grow up. Some want to be firemen, others ballerinas, and most little girls want to be mommies. I always wanted to be a pediatrician. Born in Chicago to a traditional, lower-middleclass family, this dream was very much my own. My father, a blue-collar worker at a watch factory, had no such aspirations for his children, but he was proud of my

ambition and supported me every step of the way. My brother, though, teased me incessantly. He laughed at me when I was younger and tried to dissuade me as I grew older. “It’s not a profession for a woman,” he would say dismissively. “How are you going to juggle raising a family and being a doctor at the same time?” For the most part I ignored him and concentrated on achieving my goal. So while all my friends were out having a good time, I stayed home and sweated over my textbooks. It took years, but eventually my

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commitment and stamina paid off and I earned my medical degree. I cherished it with every fiber of my being. I had been a good student in medical school, but there was one thing they had forgotten to teach me, and I learned the hard way. Doctors can, and do, sometimes lose their licenses. On the day mine was revoked, I sat and cried for hours, not only for a shattered dream but for a guilty conscience that would torment me for the rest of my life. My first real work in the field was liter-


AS TOLD TO SARAH PACHTER

ally in the field. I joined a group of doctors headed for the Third World, where we vaccinated thousands of children, trying to combat malaria, polio and a host of other diseases. I did this with a sense of mission for several years until I returned to the United States and joined a group practice. The difference between the two types of patients was astounding. The Western world takes modern medicine for granted, and we aren’t accustomed to even the slightest discomfort. I had just come back from treating people who sometimes suffered the most debilitating diseases without a peep. Life was hard, and they learned to live with their various health issues without complaining. Coming home was something of an adjustment. I mention all this so as to give you a perspective on the events that followed. I had only been working for a short time when I was offered a job at a private practice with only one other partner. It was the job of my dreams. For starters, I would be earning quite a bit more at this new place. Plus, the modern, tastefully furnished office was in a good neighborhood, the receptionists were efficient, the clientele mostly Jewish, and best of all it was close to home. I felt I had really made it as a doctor. I loved my work, even on those hectic winter days that most pediatricians come to dread. Children are a world unto themselves, with their own language and capacity for imagination. I learned how to relate to them in a way they could understand and to allay their fears. They loved me in return and always came to the office with smiles on their faces. They called me “Dr. Rivi.” By contrast, I found that some of their mothers could be trying. While it is understood that first-time mothers can

be unnecessarily cautious, it was the hysterical, panicky ones who got under my skin. Thankfully, these were few and far between. And regardless of a mother’s parenting “style,” I always listened patiently and took her worries seriously. Leah Weinberger* was no exception. I first learned of her existence on a typical winter’s day. The waiting room was full of harried mothers and cranky children,

noticed she has a red rash on her cheeks. What should I do? “I can’t really see over the phone,” I said, “but I’m assuming her skin is just a little irritated from the cold weather. Give her a kiss and rub some moisturizer on her cheeks. It’s probably just dry skin,” I said politely. “Thank you, Doctor,” she said before hanging up.

I can still hear her slightly hysterical voice asking some inane question during the busiest time of day. one of whom had just thrown up on a fabric-covered chair. The phone in my office rang. When I picked it up, the receptionist told me that the caller had said the matter was urgent. “Hello, Doctor?” “Yes,” I answered “This is Leah Weinberger. My daughter Michal, who’s five months and three weeks old, has been sleeping for an hour longer than usual. I’m worried. Should I wake her up?” “If her breathing sounds normal, then don’t do anything. And when she wakes up, give her a kiss and feed her as usual,” I said lightly before replacing the handset. Obviously a first-time mother, I thought to myself. She probably needs a hand to hold until she acquires some self-confidence. That would be the first of many, many such calls. It was barely two days later when she called again. “Hello, Doctor. This is Michal’s mother. Michal is now five months, three weeks and four days old. I

Another few days passed before the next inquiry. “Hello, this is Leah Weinberger. Michal is now six months and one week old.” Doesn’t time fly? I thought to myself. “Michal had a nasty cough last night. She even spat up a little mucus. She settled down after I turned on the humidifier and woke up this morning feeling fine. But could this be the first sign of whooping cough, G-d forbid?” This time I felt myself growing impatient, but I tried not to show it. As a medical professional I knew I had to take every question seriously, so I answered her courteously and to the point. That was how the rest of the winter passed. Not a week went by without Leah calling at least once about something urgent. Each time it was always the same. I can still hear her slightly hysterical voice asking some inane question during the busiest time of day. At first I simply sighed whenever this conscientious mother who wanted to be

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safe rather than sorry called, but she soon became the bane of my existence and an absolute nuisance. She also became the laughingstock of the office, and the receptionists would titter whenever they transferred her calls. “Hello, this is Michal’s mother. Michal is nine months and three weeks old. She seems a little flushed today…” “Hello, this is Michal’s mother. Michal is ten months and one week old, and she won’t eat her vegetables. How do I make sure she’s getting her daily dose of vitamins so she can develop normally?” “Hello, this is Michal’s mother. Michal is now 11 months and one week old. She’s

strep throat, double ear infections and wheezing. It seemed that all of winter’s ills had decided to pay me a visit. My phone rang amidst all the goingson. The receptionist put the call through, saying it was very urgent. It was the call that would change my life. “Hello, this is Michal’s mother…” “Yes,” I said somewhat abruptly. Multicolored neon lights should have flashed the minute she started speaking. She began without mentioning Michal’s age! I should have noticed but I didn’t because I was so busy and overwhelmed and anxious to get off the phone. “Michal was playing on the floor hap-

I drove to the hospital, and as soon as the doors to the emergency room swung open, I knew what had happened. very unsettled today. I saw a little rash on her stomach, but she doesn’t have a fever.” We were saying goodbye to autumn, and without even feeling the nip in the air I knew winter had arrived by my overcrowded waiting room. That’s when trouble hit. Many of the patients, I noticed, had just shown up without appointments. Some had conditions that appeared to be real emergencies. Others were wrapped up in coats with hacking coughs. And of course, the wailing of babies was like a symphony in the background. “Good morning, everyone,” I said, clapping my hands as I walked in. “Something tells me we’re going to have a very busy day today!” A chuckle made its way around the room, lightening the atmosphere. Indeed, it was a hectic day, filled with

pily, but she suddenly started twitching. Her eyes are unfocused and she seems to be having trouble breathing. Doctor, I’m really worried. Maybe she put something in her mouth and she’s choking.” I could, and should, have told her any number of things. Call an ambulance. Do the Heimlich maneuver. Instead I said, “Give her a kiss, wash her face, and offer her something to drink. Have a wonderful day.” And with that I replaced the handset. I was so sure of myself that I didn’t give it another thought. Even thinking about it years later makes me feel nauseated. There was too much to do, and after all, Leah Weinberger was notorious for calling unnecessarily. It was only at the end of the day that I learned of my mistake. I was gathering my things together after the last patient had left when the telephone rang.

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“Dr. Rifka Neiman?” “Speaking,” I said. A cold and impersonal voice identified itself as an emergency-room doctor. They wanted to see me ASAP. I drove to the hospital, and as soon as the doors to the emergency room swung open, I knew what had happened. Shame and horror arced through my body like an electric current. Leah Weinberger was pacing the floors, screaming hysterically. Her sobs ripped through my heart. I didn’t have to ask what or why. Suddenly her call came back to me, almost crushing me under its weight. I knew in an instant that her beloved only child had choked to death—and I was to blame! The doctors and paramedics had done their best, but it was too late. It was my fault. Feeling physically ill, I held onto the wall and tried to steady myself, simultaneously feeling an urge to force my leadheavy legs to run. How could I look that woman in the eye? How would she get up in the morning—and how would I? The real fun started the next morning, when I was interrogated for hours. The investigation took over two months, during which time I was forced to take an extended leave. Everything I was accused of was true. Leah Weinberger had called me. She had given me the classic signs of a child in distress. I had told her to give her child a kiss. I, the medical professional, had not taken her seriously. The list of accusations seemed never-ending, the words echoing in my ears for hours. “Do you understand that you broke the law? Do you realize that you caused the death of a child? Do you understand the legal ramifications of the word ‘manslaughter’?” Naturally, I tried to defend myself somewhat by citing mitigating circumstances. My lawyer described the nature and volume of the phone calls that had preceded this final one. The receptionists also


AS TOLD TO SARAH PACHTER

gave testimony on my behalf, admitting that they too had no longer given credence to Leah’s calls because of her constant pestering. But it was a lost cause. And the medical board was right. Regardless of the circumstances, I was responsible for the death of a baby. It was an unforgivable sin. Awash with guilt, I found myself thrown into an abyss of loneliness and feelings of worthlessness. My family tried to comfort me but their words sounded hollow in my ears. Although charges were not filed, my medical license was revoked, and I knew it would never be reinstated. More pressing, however, was that I couldn’t rid myself of the mental image of Leah Weinberger crying over the death of her baby. Who more than I knew how precious Michal had been to her? Yet as much as I blame myself—and I do—I also point half a finger at Leah. Everyone knows the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. If you cry, “Wolf!” too many times, people stop believing you. This case was no different. Eventually, after I had wallowed in despair for months, a friend dragged me to see Rebbetzin Basya Katz, who was giving a series of inspirational classes for women. I told her my story and was glad that she made no effort to patronize me. Empty platitudes were not what I wanted. “Look,” she said, “this was obviously not a deliberate act of murder. Nevertheless, G-d allowed you to be His messenger for the loss of a life, and for this alone you need atonement. I suggest that you adopt a project that will right the wrong to some extent.” Like lightning, I knew what I wanted to do, and almost immediately I began putting my plan into action. First, I agreed to publicize my story. Second, I decided to do research into the phenomenon of overly-worried, hysterical parents and how to deal with them. I invested hours of study and painstakingly came to conclusions and formulated prac-

tical advice. Finally, I gathered all the material into a booklet and spent the next few years lecturing to medical students around the country. I’ve also been invited to medical conferences around the world and have learned not to shy away from telling my story. I hope my failings will enable other doctors to be more cautious. While there is no one answer for dealing with overprotective mothers who panic at the first sign of a runny nose, there are definitely tips that can smooth such doctorpatient relationships. People need to be taught when to call the doctor and when not to call, what’s a legitimate reason for concern and what isn’t. Not everyone is blessed with common sense. Others need to be taught to come into the office in person; a doctor cannot diagnose a rash or listen to someone’s chest over the phone. Regardless of the type of patient, however, doctors must be taught that every call is a cry for help and should be handled accordingly.

In the meantime, I have started smiling again. A few years later I forced myself to call Leah Weinberger. I was terrified of speaking to her and desperately sought some form of absolution. She agreed to meet me and our encounter was emotional; we both cried. I told her about my initiative, being careful not to shift the blame, and she admitted that in hindsight her behavior had also been over the top. At the end of our meeting she said that she was prepared to work on forgiving me, which in itself was a huge step in the right direction. Thank G-d, Leah has since given birth to three more children whom she is raising with love and care, never, of course, forgetting her Michal. And neither will I.

To submit your story for this column or to have your story featured here, please contact us at submissions@amimagazine.org.

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Shabbos-Friendly LESSONS FROM A SELTZER BOTTLE

I

was struggling with what to write about this week. The “Streets of Life” column is mostly apolitical and usually does not comment on events like the passing of a head of state (at least for the first 50 years after his demise) or of a former terrorist-turned-pacifisthero, or how an avowed Marxist was somberly memorialized by three former American presidents while producing a gleeful self-snapshot with buddies by the present one. Those topics are clearly too complex for the simplistic view of life I most often present. I was also pondering the impact of the last article I had written, the one about Shabbos inventions or Shabbos preventions or Shabbos intentions. I was curious about how my followers would view it, especially the die-hard “I only buy Ami for your column” fans. I was wondering if it was worthy of a sequel and how I would follow up. And then it hit me. Literally. Punmaster that I attempt to be, despite the groans and guffaws of my kids, I chuckle when I remember a pun that somebody once sent me: A ball player once said, “I was trying very hard to catch the screaming line drive that was speeding toward me, and then it hit me.” In this case, I stand corrected. Actually it did not hit me; it shpritzed me. Here’s what happened. I attended a seudas bar mitzvah at which was served the most kosher seltzer I had ever seen in my life. I know that kosher is kosher, and I guess

once something is as kosher as water, you can’t create a superlative (though I have already seen the attesting words “Glatt Kosher” on an ice cream product!). There was not one supervision symbol on the bottle attesting to its kashrus— there were three. Not three different affirmations from the same rabbi or agency; each one was from a different distinguished and reputable rav or agency attesting to the very same fact. The seltzer contained in the bottle was indeed kosher. Even for Passover. I am not sure why this seltzer needed three different authorities to verify its status, but it’s kind of astonishing if it’s because there are people out there who would not trust one or two of the aforementioned supervisors, and therefore the manufacturer set out to find a third, just to validate what the first two had already

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told him. It’s almost as if every single bubble had its own supervisor. I understand that our standards have clearly risen from the time we baby boomers judged kashrus solely by the ingredients on the label. We are way past the years when we said, “Hey, Mom! It doesn’t say lard on the label! I guess it’s kosher!” If seltzer needs three hashgachos, then I guess we’re now going to need about ten different supervision agencies for a piece of steak and at least five for a bag of pretzels. When I bring home something new from the grocery, a newly invented kasher l’mehadrin nosh that was made to be almost as good as those treif-looking chalav stam products manufactured for the ubiquitous overweight Walmart shoppers whom Mrs. Obama is so concerned about, someone in the house invariably asks me, “Is it kosher?” I am not sure what they are thinking. Maybe I snuck my way into a Walmart in Nebraska to pick out a chocolate-dipped ice cream fudge sundae or a package of pizza-flavored Cheez Whiz®, and then drove back to have some printer add a handsomely crafted label with a whole bunch of Hebrew words and heimish expressions with the word “geshmak” all over it. But I respond seriously, “I cannot attest that it’s kosher, but it does have someone on the label who claims it is.” That evening, despite my normal assumptions and my relying solely on a name and a beis din and that one witness is b’dieved for issurin, I was one thousand percent sure that I was drinking kosher


RABBI MORDECHAI KAMENETZKY

seltzer. This was not a bottle of some exotic grape-flavored liquid combined with coloring agent #7 or whichever bug brightens our soft drinks. It was seltzer! You know, the stuff that used to come in blue bulletproof bottles with a rusty metal shpritzer. You know, the stuff that graced the shalosh seudos tables of both chasidishe rebbes and Litvishe roshei yeshivah in days gone by, none of whom seemed to be concerned about whether or not there were one or two or even any supervision symbols on it. But that is not why I’m writing this. It was not the content of the bottle or its kashrus that hit or shpritzed me. It was something else entirely. I had driven close to two hours to get to the simchah and I was simply thirsty. So

boy’s friends were looking at me and giggling as if they knew something that I didn’t. “It’s a different type of cap,” one shouted as he stood up to help me. “You have to pull it up while you twist it!” And thus, having already shaken the bottle in my previous machinations, I gripped it very tightly and simultaneously twisted and pulled—and then POW! In a scene truly reminiscent of Old Faithful, the cap came flying off, accompanied by all its kosher bubbles and purified water, which shpritzed all over me. I looked at the kids cackling ever so mildly, and I shrugged in submission. How had they known the cap was defective? Actually it wasn’t. An adult pointed out to me another part of the seltzer label,

Meanwhile, a few of the bar mitzvah boy’s friends were looking at me and giggling. after seeing a bottle of my favorite drink, with its myriad approbations, I decided to open it up and make a Shehakol. That’s when the fun started. The cap looked the same as any other plastic cap, with a ring on the bottom. And so I twisted the cap the way that I had been programmed since we got rid of bottle openers along with the old beveled Cornell soda bottles. I expected the cap to separate from the ring and lift off gently. A seltzer aficionado, I had already mastered the art of avoiding the pent-up surge of carbon dioxide that mimics Old Faithful for the unskilled seltzer-bottle opener. But something was wrong. I twisted and twisted, clockwise and counterclockwise. No upward movement; the cap just spun round and round on its axis. For the life of me I could not get this bottle cap off. Meanwhile, a few of the bar mitzvah

another declaration I had never seen. In simple letters in a round circle were the words “Shabbos-Friendly Cap.” It was something else that I’ve never seen or heard of before, but I guess nothing fazes me anymore. As per a directive from my grandfather, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l, some 30 years ago, I personally don’t remove bottle caps on Shabbos if it will cause the cap to split from the ring below it. I understand that there are many poskim who allow this, and others who determine the permissibility based upon the construction of the cap and what is necessary to remove it. But this contraption of a cap was different. It was a ringless piece that had a ringlike foundation with a thinner piece of ringed plastic that gripped the perimeter of the bottle neck. Or something like that. I am sure the boys in the patent office had a ball with it. This geshpritzed writer

definitely did not. As I was wiping off the results of my klutzy adventure, I was thinking of how I would present this new kind of cap story. “It may be Shabbos-friendly, but it surely was not Wednesday-friendly.” What’s wrong with opening bottles before Shabbos anyway? Who’s afraid of losing a little fizz? Surely the inventor of the “Shabbosfriendly cap” was not worried about the diminished fizz in a pre-opened seltzer bottle. And why is that Shabbos-friendly? Can’t Shabbos-friendly mean remembering not to do something, or to prepare adequately beforehand? Not to be caustic, but I feel I am getting old and cranky. Really, if you had asked me as a little kid growing up in Woodmere what I thought of when I heard the words “Shabbosfriendly cap,” in all honesty I would have said, “It’s one of those furry things that my chasidishe uncles wear on their heads only on Shabbos.” Actually it could also have referred to the wider-brimmed fedora or Hamburg that we Litvaks usually reserve to top off the day. I thought about that, and then I remembered quite a number of disappointing Shabbos encounters. I would greet someone whom I did not know with a warm “Good Shabbos” only to receive a puzzled stare, as if to say, “Do I know you?” Some of those I attempted to greet wore “Shabbos-friendly caps” both furry and felt; others did not. But I transport myself into the present, and I wonder: Instead of soda bottle caps, maybe we should label ourselves “Shabbos-friendly” people. But that, my friends, is another walk on the Streets of Life.   Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky is the rosh yeshivah of Yeshiva Toras Chaim at South Shore, a weekly columnist for Yated Ne’eman, and the author of the Parsha Parable series. He can share your story through the “Streets of Life,” and he can be reached at editorial@amimagazine.org.

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