Letters

GIVING CREDIT

The article on Jack Lunzer’s Valmadonna Trust Library by David Olivestone (“The Custodian,” winter 2017) failed to mention Brad Sabin Hill, a key researcher and advisor to Mr. Lunzer who had curated a major exhibition of the collection at the prestigious Morgan Library in New York City in 1989; he also prepared various publications connected with the Trust.

A footnote in the article refers to the November 2017 sale at the Kestenbaum & Company Auction House without noting that the catalogue introduction was written by Mr. Hill.

Mr. Hill had a long and productive relationship with Jack Lunzer and the Valmadonna, having lectured and published on parts of the collection over the course of many years. He is integral to its history.

Esther Nussbaum
Retired librarian, Ramaz Upper School
Manhattan, New York

 

OVERLOOKING THE PIONEER OF ORTHODOX WEEKLIES

In your latest issue where you focus on Orthodox media, you inexplicably ignore the fact that nearly sixty years ago, after meeting with several gedolei Yisrael including Rav Moshe Feinstein—and at their urging—my father, Rabbi Sholom Klass, launched The Jewish Press, a weekly newspaper chock-full of Torah content.

At the time, there was no other weekly, mass-circulation English-language Jewish newspaper geared to the Orthodox community.

From the start The Jewish Press offered—as it continues to offer to this day—a wide variety of news stories, features and columns from writers spanning the spectrum of Orthodoxy, from Chassidic and Chareidi to Centrist and Modern. And the paper’s readership has always reflected that eclectic mix.

I would have hoped for more from your articles purporting to provide historical context—albeit a passing and, frankly, superficial context—to the rise of Orthodox media in America.

Naomi Klass Mauer
Publisher
The Jewish Press
Brooklyn, New York

In an otherwise all-inclusive and well-researched section on the topic of Orthodox media, to my amazement there was no feature on the “grand-daddy” of all American Torah newspapers, The Jewish Press, established by Rabbi Sholom Klass circa 1960. How was this overlooked (other than a little picture of an issue on the front page of the section)? The Jewish Press has been the mainstay of virtually all observant homes for decades, whether receiving it by mail for those living outside the metropolitan New York area or buying a copy every week on the newsstand. It has certainly been a source of in-depth coverage of Israel and all political news affecting the Jewish community. There has always been outstanding Torah content by well-known and learned rabbis over the decades—too many to list here—to say nothing of the forum accorded Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, a”h, whose columns affected multitudes of Jews in ways no other author could.

Your magazine is so outstanding. How did this egregious omission occur?

I enjoy and read many of the outstanding magazines that we now have in English, but if I miss one issue of The Jewish Press, my Shabbat is lacking a certain “geshmak” flavor!

Miriam Fishman
Los Angeles, California

Editors Note:
Jewish Action deeply regrets omitting mention of The Jewish Press, a true pioneer in Anglo-Jewish journalism that continues to bring readers closer to Jewish tradition and disseminate Torah to thousands.

 

REFLECTIONS FROM A RETIREE

I’m writing in response to OU President Moishe Bane’s excellent article (“What If We Actually Had the Chance?” winter 2017). I am currently winding down a forty-plus-year career in advertising and marketing.

Mr. Bane points out that often retirees cannot return to yeshivah because they never had the yeshivah experience in the first place. There is a Dirshu branch in Toronto, where I live, but most likely the learning is way above my skills. There is a “senior” kollel I’m aware of, and I plan to try it out when I stop going to the office in a few weeks. Mr. Bane notes that the beit midrash can effectively replace the social opportunities of business life. The need to have a rich social life is the main reason I continued working into my late 60s.

More importantly he discusses gemilut chasadim— not just volunteering, but using one’s life and business experience to meaningfully contribute to the community. I agree that the community needs to set up a formalized process to identify seniors’ skills and match them up with appropriate chesed opportunities.

Thank you, Mr. Bane, for your article; you’ve given me chizuk when I needed it.

Raphael Adams
Toronto, Canada

 

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HEBREW?

In the fall 2017 issue, OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin discusses aliyah (“Aliyah—Fulfilling the Dream”) and raises the question of whether “we, as a community, view yishuv Ha’aretz as a basic tenet of our spiritual aspirations.”

Having made aliyah forty-eight years years ago, and b”H already seeing our third frum Israeli generation here, I was pleased to see Mr. Fagin touch upon the subject of teaching the Hebrew language. As he mentions, Hebrew language instruction has unfortunately almost disappeared from American day schools. Even worse, he correctly points out the lack of knowledge among day school students about the geography of Israel.

In the same issue, you explore the power of prayer. The two articles in the issue are, in fact, related. Knowledge of the Hebrew language is basic to fulfilling the mitzvah of prayer, as only via understanding the holy words can we become emotionally and spiritually connected to our davening. Understanding Hebrew is critical for tefillah, for learning Torah, and for feeling a personal commitment to the Land of Israel.

Anna Thee
Shoresh, Israel

 

GREAT MAGAZINE

I recently came across a copy of Jewish Action, and instantly became a fan, devouring article after article. When I get the opportunity, I read an article from Jewish Action at the Shabbat table. I am extremely impressed with the standard and quality of writing and have learned so much. Thank you for your excellent magazine.

Ruth Yael Ben-Adir
Gush Etzion, Israel

 

GREEK PHILOSOPHY IN JEWISH THOUGHT?

In Rabbi Rafi Eis’ interesting article “Praying to the Wrong God” (fall 2017), the questions he asks and the solutions he proposes are important not only for tefillah, but for Jewish belief in general.

The author does, however, make a few troubling comments, revealing a leaning toward Biblical revisionism. In the view of the revisionists, the Torah evolved over a long period of time. Accordingly, classical Jewish commentators do not have any more authority than later commentators, irrespective of whether they are discussing halachic or hashkafic issues. This approach is obviously inconsistent with mainstream Orthodoxy.

In his article, Rabbi Eis, for instance, drawing upon a dilemma addressed in Sefer Ikkarim, implies that the great medieval Spanish philosophers derived their insights into God from Greek rather than Torah sources. He states that “the great works of the medieval Spanish philosophers, . . . generally begin with an Aristotelian orientation that defines God as the prime or unmoved mover. This God is emotionless, perfect and unchanging, which does not correspond to the way we think of God in the Bible or with our perceptions of tefillah.”

Similarly, he writes: “We find the infectious and seductive nature of Greek epistemology seeping into the thought of Rabbi Albo. Greek philosophy tries to delineate God: perfect, unchanging, necessary, all-powerful, all-knowing, et cetera . . . In contrast, the Bible presents a picture of a God engaged with humanity, caring about world affairs and One who sometimes changes the status quo in response to prayer and the raw human cry. This is how God wants us to relate to Him.”

I question whether Jewish Action should be publishing material that seems to adhere to an approach that is inconsistent with traditional Judaism.

Yechiel Reit, MD
Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel

Rabbi Rafi Eis Responds:
Thank you to the editorial leadership of Jewish Action for allowing me to present a deeply traditional Torah approach that is perhaps less familiar to general readers, which therefore runs a risk of being misunderstood. While the larger point of how we daven could have been made without describing the roots of Rabbi Albo’s philosophy, my goal was to highlight that our approach to tefillah is conditioned by our understanding of Hashem and His world. Dr. Reit’s argument is not with me. The observation that some respected Jewish medieval philosophers were significantly influenced by Greek philosophy is made by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in The Nineteen Letters (p. 118-9), and the Rav in The Halakhic Mind (p. 100-102), both of whom then advocate building a pure Jewish philosophy. My aim was to explain these observations and apply them to tefillah using the Gemara. Continuing this approach will hopefully guide and inspire generations to come in Torah.

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This article was featured in the Spring 2018 issue of Jewish Action.
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