How a Minhag Evolved
I have followed with interest the discussion concerning standing for a chatan and kallah as they walk down the aisle (“What’s the Truth about Standing for a Chatan and Kallah?,” by Ari Zivotofsky [winter 2016]). This now-universal practice was virtually unheard of until the late 1980s. It is difficult to imagine that from the 1940s until the 1980s, when thousands of weddings were presided over by rabbanim and roshei yeshivah of a generation ago, the then-universal practice of remaining seated was halachically problematic. In fact, I have read that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky and Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, zichronam livrachah, all did not stand during the chuppah procession. I would ask the following of Jewish Action readers: If you were married before 1990, take out your wedding album. Most likely, you will not see anyone standing while you and your spouse walked down the aisle. This is a fascinating demonstration of how minhagim evolve.
Brooklyn, New York
The Effects of Divorce
Thank you for your excellent coverage of a topic that needs to be addressed—divorce and its effects on children (spring 2017). I especially appreciated Avigail Rosenberg’s “Children After Divorce,” which was practical and encouraging. “The Data on Divorce” interview with clinical psychologist Dr. Yitzchak Schechter was helpful as well—hard facts are indisputable. However, statistics do not reflect the whole story. For example, in the study cited, when questioned, many divorced people said that they were doing well. How was that measured? Are their children not suffering from the breakup of their homes? Thanks again for your wonderful magazine.
Parental alienation is a significant problem in the Orthodox community that should have been addressed in your articles on divorce. Unfortunately, the topic is rarely acknowledged by the community or by community leaders. Too many parents suffer silently each day, hoping that someday their children will realize that there is another side to the story, and that the alienated parent still loves and cares for them, despite what they may have been told. I am hopeful that one day I will reconnect with my children.
Dr. Yitzchak Schechter Responds
I thank the letter writers for their important comments. It is gratifying to see that the article is generating much discussion. Parental alienation and the effects of divorce on children are two very important aspects that require further analysis and study. As I mentioned in the interview, we have only begun to release the findings of our study of divorce in the Orthodox community. Data is essential to turn insight into action. As important as data is, however, it is not the be all and end all of decision-making nor the sum total of people’s experiences. There are many other pieces to consider with regard to divorce, and we do not pretend that our current understanding is comprehensive. There is much work for us and others to do, and I look forward to keeping Jewish Action readers updated as further findings emerge.
IVF, Gender Selection and halachah
In “The Future of Reproductive Medicine: What Does Halachah Say?” (spring 2017), the authors write: “Regarding sex selection using IVF, only when there are medical reasons to engage in IVF can sex selection be considered as a halachic option.”
Rabbi Dr. Avraham Steinberg, author of the Encyclopedia Hilchatit Refuit (Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics), recently wrote the following in an e-mail to me: “I spoke with Rabbi Asher Weiss and Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg and both clearly stated that there is no halachic prohibition to [engage in] IVF-PGD in order to have the other gender in [the] case of [a family] with four or five children [of the same gender]. Rabbi Weiss added that he does not encourage a couple to do so, but if asked—and there is a strong [desire from the parents] to have the other gender—he allows it.”
Richard V. Grazi, MD
Genesis Fertility and Reproductive Medicine
Brooklyn, New York
Memories of the Six-Day War
I very much appreciated your section on the Six-Day War (“Jerusalem Reunited: 50 Years” [spring 2017]).
In my mind, Yom Yerushalayim is tied to a different time and place. Fifty years ago, my husband, Rabbi Saul Koss, was an American army chaplain and we were stationed in Germany. Several times a year, a retreat would be held for Jewish personnel and their families stationed throughout Europe; these were held at Hitler’s famous mountain retreat center in Berchtesgaden, Germany, which had been taken over by the US military.
On the evening of June 7, 1967, in the midst of one such retreat, a number of us were sitting in a local café, discussing the escalating war in Israel when the conductor of an Austrian band that had been playing came over to our table (the kippot revealed our identity). He cried: “Jerusalem is in your hands!” Suddenly, the band suddenly began playing Hava Nagilah and we, full of emotion, celebrated this extraordinary victory, while stamping our feet on the ashes of Hitler. Here we were in the heartland of Nazism and we were not only still around, but we had won!
Silver Spring, Maryland