Don’t conflate Torah values with conservative Republican values
Hunter Memories [Mountain Jews / Issue 972]
Yosef Herz’s excellent article on Hunter, New York, brought back great memories of my youth.
My father, Rav Meir Cohen, who was the menahel of the Agudath Harabonim, bought a home in Hunter the early 1950s. The home was previously known as Mandel’s Rooming House on Wyndham Road in Hunter and was built around 1910. For about ten years, my family used to spend the summer up in Hunter.
I remember the Hunter Shul very well; it served as the center of Jewish life in the community. It was there that a number of very choshuve rabbanim and chassidishe rebbes would congregate on a daily basis to daven and learn, including Rav Moshe Bunim Pirutinsky, mechaber Sefer HaBris; Rav Eliezer Perlow, mechaber Imrei Eliezer; Rav Naftoli Friedler, Rosh Yeshivah of Breuer’s; Rav Dovid Singer, Rav of the Sefardishe Shul in Boro Park; the Bluzhever Rebbe, the Bobover Rebbe, and others.
My father was especially close to Rabbi Herbert Goldstein, the son-in-law of renowned philanthropist Harry Fischel, since he was a student in Rabbi Goldstein’s Rabbinic Homiletics class in Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon shortly after he came to America in the early 1920s.
The sister of the shul president, Mrs. Dorothy Slutzky, used to drive my mother to nearby Tannersville to buy kosher food, as there was no kosher food at the time in Hunter. I remember the “gala” celebration in the shul on the Shabbos that Mrs. Regina Margareten celebrated her 90th birthday. The kiddush had jars and jars of gefilte fish made by, you guessed it, Horowitz-Margareten.
Even years after my parents sold their home in Hunter, I used to come with my wife and children to spend a day or two and visit Hunter Mountain. By that time the shul had become a mini-BMG beis medrash during bein hazmanim with a beautiful kol Torah day and night.
I was happy to read that the shul is still being used, thanks to Neal Harris, owner of the kosher bed and breakfast down the road.
Rabbi Chaim Cohen
Eloquent and Informative [Mountain Jews / Issue 972]
I have published various references to the Hunter Jewish community in a book and in articles, but I still learned a lot about the Hunter Jewish community from the eloquent, moving, and informative article by Yosef Herz.
Permit me to add some clarifications:
My title at the Harry and Jane Fischel Foundation is not executive director, but rather administrator.
In the days of Harry Fischel, the house did not have 10 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms. There was a huge undeveloped room on the second floor, and the always forward-thinking and efficient Harry Fischel decided he would subdivide the room and develop smaller rooms if his children would visit often enough to use them, but this never happened, or so I was told. Once the house was converted to a bed and breakfast, the additional rooms and bathrooms were created.
The Bluzhever Rebbe ztz”l wasn’t the only person to insist that the shul remain Orthodox, at least when the summer people were there. I believe almost all of the summer visitors wanted the shul to remain Orthodox.
The story about the Rebbe instructing me to include a reference to him in my book, The Maverick Rabbi, upon thanking his grandson for his assistance reflects the fact that he was undoubtedly aware of my grandfather’s activities on behalf of Holocaust evaders and survivors and on behalf of Jewish life in America in many areas.
The story about Mr. Margareten giving out baseball tickets to boys who attended the minyan should be understood as his expression of appreciation and maybe chizuk or encouragement, but to my knowledge none of the boys who attended the minyan needed the incentive of a baseball game ticket to attend.
Once again, I believe the article in Mishpacha Magazine was very beautifully written and very informative, even to me!
Rabbi Aaron I. Reichel, Esq.
Kew Gardens, NY
From Cooperation to Collaboration [History Desk / Issue 971]
Gedalia Guttentag’s fascinating piece discussing the Holocaust on the British island of Alderney raises an intriguing question: “What would the Holocaust have looked like if the Nazis had conquered Britain?”
Madeleine Bunting’s excellent book “The Model Occupation: The Channel Islands Under German Rule, 1940-1945” (HarperCollins 1995) may shed some light on this matter.
In September 1940 the Germans ordered British officials on the islands to register all Jews, and only one official, Sir Abraham Laine, refused to cooperate. In 1992, the fate of three Jewish women, Therese Steiner, Auguste Spitz, and Marianne Grunfeld, was revealed: they were sent from Guernsey (one of the islands) to Auschwitz, where they were killed.
(It is remarkable how the Nazis went to such great lengths to uncover a handful of Jews.)
Ms. Bunting remarks (pp. 113-114):
“The Jewish issue is one of the most sensitive aspects of the Occupation. In 1992, when official documents detailing the fate of Therese Steiner, Auguste Spitz, and Marianne Grunfeld were made public, islanders defensively claimed that no one had any idea of what was happening to the Jews in Europe. They may not have known of the horror of the Holocaust, but they did know that Jews were in grave danger, as Ambrose Sherwill’s (one of the British officials on the islands) memoirs indicate. The truth is that no official in either Guernsey or Jersey considered the welfare of a handful of Jews sufficiently important to jeopordise good relations with the Germans.... The Jewish issue is the most clear-cut example of where the island government’s cooperation with the Germans tipped into outright collaboration.”
Perfect Recall [For the Record / Issue 971]
I read the “For the Record” column about Rav Henkin not only with great interest, but with personal memories as well. My father a”h grew up in the Lower East Side, in the very next building to Rav Henkin, and the families were very close.
My father noted that wherever Rav Henkin davened — Chassidish, Litvish, or any other Orthodox shul — he was given the utmost respect. I recall in later years after they moved to the co-ops, my grandmother a”h would bring her sh’eilos to Rav Henkin.
Finally, a personal recollection. On Purim during Rav Henkin’s final year, several of us from the MTJ beis medrash went up to Rav Henkin. Although he was blind, his mind was very sharp. His home attendant helped him to the table where we all sat around.
He asked us to each state their last name. When I said, “Katz,” Rav Henkin’s face lit up and he asked “fun Dritte street (Yiddish for Third street)?” Realizing that he clearly recognized the family name and location, I responded affirmatively. Rav Henkin then asked about each of the family by first name — from my grandfather down to my father and his sister.
Yehi zichro baruch.
Indescribable Role [Iron Will, Soft Heart / Issue 970]
I was very touched and gratified to see the beautiful article in your magazine regarding the much admired and respected Rabbi Pinchas A. Weberman. The article was thorough and served as an appropriate tribute to a man who accomplished so much, and laid the foundation in the South Florida community that enabled it to become almost unrecognizable today, in comparison to the type of community it was when Rabbi Weberman moved here 60 years ago.
Besides the obvious role he played in his shul, as so eloquently described in your article, Rabbi Weberman’s impact on the beis din, the eiruv, the mikveh, and all the other necessary hallmarks of a frum community cannot be overstated.
However, there was one other area of great import in the South Florida community where Rabbi Weberman played an indescribable role, and it was barely mentioned. I feel that it is necessary to mention this to give true recognition to this multifaceted leader.
When Bais Yaakov of Miami started 40 years ago, as a small school servicing seven girls led by Rabbi Ephraim Leizerson, the community might not have known how badly Miami needed a Bais Yaakov, but Rabbi Weberman sure did, and he invested significant effort to support this fledgling institution in numerous ways, both big and small.
His shul physically hosted this small in quantity (yet outsized in quality) Bais Yaakov, with classes spilling over to the shul’s kitchen. He sent his own daughters to the school, when few families had the strength to buck the trend of the local day schools. Rabbi Weberman taught halachah classes to the students for decades, and when he was no longer able to, continued to visit the school every Rosh Chodesh to present a session on “sh’eilos and teshuvos” with the entire student body.
At these sessions, no questions were off limits, and no halachic or hashkafic controversies too complex to discuss. The impact of these sessions on the Bais Yaakov student body is immeasurable, and the image it gave the girls — of having a rav and consulting daas Torah — is unquantifiable.
For many years, Rabbi Weberman was the guest speaker at the 12th grade graduation, escorting the students as they exited the Koslei Bais Yaakov with messages that expressed his belief in the innate power of the Jewish women.
Now, 40 years later, as Bais Yaakov has hit a student population of 450 talmidos, it is clear that this was a school worth investing in. But the gadlus of Rabbi Weberman was that he didn’t care about brands or popularity or success. He cared about Torah, and he cared about mesorah, and he cared about emes. That’s what led him to support Bais Yaakov almost a half century ago, and I believe that these actions and their immeasurable impact on dorei doros will serve as an everlasting zechus for Rabbi Pinchas Aharon Weberman.
Bais Yaakov of Miami
Missing Context [Shifting Ground / Issue 970]
It is disappointing (though not unexpected) to see how quick we are to align with the current political right and jump on the anti-woke, liberal doomsday, progressive-bashing bandwagon.
While it is certainly important to stand up for and to defend Torah values, as well as to highlight to the world the beauty and goodness of Yiddishkeit (and to fight for a positive representation of that), here are a few points to keep in mind, and hopefully lead to a more nuanced and Torah-true perspective.
Firstly, it is wrong to discuss (and more specifically to bash) the “horrible progressive agenda” without understanding some extremely important pieces of context. This agenda is the direct extension of the progressivism that ensured that Jews were freed from oppression and discrimination.
If there were more countries throughout history that adhered to this “horrible progressive agenda” there would be far fewer tragedies in Jewish history and significantly fewer Jewish lives lost. Even if you don’t like some specific expressions of progressivism (or don’t like who it’s trying to help), it is important to understand both how helpful it has been to the Jewish people and how much better the world as a whole is as a result. Furthermore, today’s progressive America is the single biggest “chesed organization” in the history of the world, and a little hakaras hatov is important.
Second, it is disingenuous to pretend that the woke progressive agenda’s goal is to eradicate Yiddishkeit and distance us all from Torah and mitzvos. Yes, there are a small number of specific points of conflict (the examples mentioned in the article were metzitzah b’peh, enhanced regulation of education, minyan during Covid, and alternative lifestyle inclusion). These progressive stances are quite clearly attempting to protect vulnerable groups from something they believe is harmful and have nothing to do with trying to eradicate frumkeit. The progressive agenda has no issue whatsoever with Shabbos or tzitzis or arba minim or mezuzah or 99 percent of mitzvos or Jewish life. In fact, the liberal world is extremely respectful toward religious practice, culture, and accommodations, as anyone who’s worked in a liberal workforce can likely attest to.
Third, don’t conflate Torah values with conservative Republican values. Even if you feel that the Torah requires taking a stand on a specific issue, that should by no means lead you to decide that liberal values are evil and conservative values are the word of G-d. The Torah should absolutely not be forced into the conservative worldview (or even into the country’s understanding of Judeo-Christian values).
Nowhere in recently read Chazon Yeshayahu will you find the importance of gun ownership, or lower taxes. What you will find is the necessity to build a society based on tzedek, mishpat, caring for the disadvantaged, and helping the oppressed. This is literally the word of Hashem explaining His values, and these are all liberal values which we risk cheapening and throwing out in an anti-progressive tirade.
Y. S., a Liberal Yid from Monsey
Support for Lyme [Bugs in the System / Issue 969]
Thank you so much for your article on tick bites and Lyme disease. I appreciate you raising awareness, especially at this time of year.
Unfortunately, so many people experience symptoms but don’t know to check for Lyme. Generally, if it is detected and treated right away, the recovery is simple and straightforward.
I unfortunately suffered for many years before even thinking about testing for Lyme disease and suffer tremendously from chronic Lyme disease. I started a support group for frum women like me who are going through this, recovered from Lyme or have a child who is suffering from chronic Lyme disease and its co-infections.
If you would like to join, please be in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Fellow Sufferer
Safe Therapy in the UK [Warning Bells / Issue 968]
Thank you for your feature “Warning Bells” on red flags in therapy. For a long time I’ve sensed some confusion bordering on alarm among my own clients, as well as among the general lay public here in the UK, and I’d like to address this.
There is no article about psychotherapy that doesn’t address the importance of a therapist being licensed, yet in England there is no such thing.
Psychotherapy in the UK isn’t regulated by statutory law, which means licensure is nonexistent. The only form of regulation, if you can call it that, are independent professional bodies that oversee ethical and professional practice, if a therapist chooses to become a member. While relatively lacking in oversight, it’s the closest we have to licensing.
So what do you look out for, first and foremost, when seeking a therapist in the UK?
Find out if the therapist in question is a member of any professional body. Popular ones (for talk therapy) are the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (popularly known as the BACP), and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (the UKCP). If the practitioner isn’t a member, find out why not.
Lesser known among lay people is that there are different levels of membership provided by each professional body that align with a practitioner’s training and experience. Find out what level of membership the therapist has, if that is something that matters to you.
Perhaps most importantly, do your best informal research. Talk to people you trust. Get references if you can. Find out what training the therapist has undertaken and with whom. Not all courses are created equal. Call Relief UK and find out if the therapist in question is in their database. Then ask for a trial session or two.
If you’re not comfortable at any point, or if you have questions, bring up your concerns and pay attention to how the therapist resolves them.
Always be vigilant, although there’s no need to be startled if you hear that the therapist you’ve been seeing is unlicensed. He or she is hopefully many great things, including fully qualified and skilled, and feel free to ask away about these, but licensed in the UK she cannot be.
Lots of luck on this journey.
Miriam Bloch, MBACP
Golders Green, UK
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 973)
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