Letters

Jewish Action Article Leads to Expansion of Chesed Program
Your article, “Smart Chesed: Four Ways Anyone Can Make a Difference,” by Zevy Wolman (spring 2021) has already made a real impact in numerous communities.

Among the organizations mentioned was Bobbie’s Place, the children’s clothing charity that I am privileged to lead. As a result of the article, several communities reached out to us to discuss how we can work together to bring Bobbie’s Place to their area. We were able to get one new program up and running in time for the Yamim Noraim, and we will iy”H be operational in at least one additional location before this coming Pesach.

That means that several hundred families will see their Shabbos and yom tov enhanced and their stress diminished because Zevy Wolman took the initiative to spread the message that it is not necessary to “recreate the wheel,” as there are opportunities to “leverage existing organizational infrastructure.”

When Jewish Action speaks, people listen and communities benefit. Keep up the great work!

Michal Schick 
Director, Bobbie’s Place
Brooklyn, New York

 

Is Language a Barrier to Aliyah?
While I enjoyed reading the “Covid Aliyah” section (fall 2021), I feel the articles underemphasized the barrier that language can pose to making aliyah successfully. I know several individuals who despite taking ulpan and spending years in Israel either did not quickly achieve or never achieved a level of Hebrew that enabled them to work in their professional field. The resulting language barrier meant years of unemployment, under-employment or employment in areas outside their expertise. All of which led to financial and emotional stress on the families.

In one of the articles, one of the olim mentioned that she is relicensing as a fertility nurse, without acknowledging the sophistication of Hebrew that that requires. Writer Aviva Engel describes the Aliyah Risk Calculator, the online resource designed by Rabbi Dr. Avidan Milevsky [which helps families assess their likelihood of aliyah success]. The article mentioned several factors that the Aliyah Risk Calculator considers, none of which is fluency with Hebrew.

My grandfather escaped Hitler’s Europe and settled in Brooklyn. While he lived more years in America than in his native Poland, language was a barrier for the rest of his life. My father tells stories of going to the bank for his parents when he was a child because they were not comfortable enough speaking English to do that themselves.

Obviously living in Israel is beautiful, but not everyone can telecommute or has the language skills to learn Hebrew well enough to work in their field in Israel. Without mentioning the potential language barrier, perhaps the articles put too rosy a gloss on aliyah.

David Green 
Baltimore, Maryland

Rabbi Dr. Avidan Milevsky Responds
David, thank you for your letter. You are very correct, language issues are an important part of aliyah success. In fact, our studies clearly show a direct correlation between language proficiency and immigration success. The Aliyah Risk Calculator takes this into account with several items inquiring about language abilities. It should have been highlighted in the article as well.

 

The Economics of Frum Life
The articles about money management in the section “Rethinking the Economics of Frum Life” (fall 2021), especially the one by Rabbi Naftali Horowitz, should be given to every engaged couple. Thanks for great reading.

Sara Goldstein
Brooklyn, New York

After reading the articles on the economics of frum life, I feel that the recommended solutions miss some important considerations.

First, many of the articles focused on entrepreneurship and stressed that starting one’s own business is a path to economic success. I would argue that a steady job working in a corporation is a career path that should be more strongly considered by frum individuals. While it may not lead to fame and fortune, it will provide a steady income, reasonable benefits and the ability to maintain a strong work-life balance that is so important to our culture.

Second, the articles don’t provide a more reasonable solution to the economic problems related to living in New York City. Leave! There are many wonderful communities throughout the Midwest and Southeast that offer all the amenities a frum family needs. Minneapolis has the full gamut of sports teams and entertainment options that New York has, but at the same time, it offers all the resources a frum family could want—(relatively) affordable housing, wonderful Torah-based schools, yeshivot and learning options galore, and best of all, none of the social and economic nonsense that drives too many frum families into the depths of financial despair that your articles describe.

Third—the concept of needing an annual income of $150K for an adequate lifestyle is simply unrealistic. Everyone wants to be a macher, but the best donation one can make to frum society is to set an example for your family of what true Torah values engender—living a simple life free from external social pressure, and focusing on being a light of holiness to everyone around you, both Jews and non-Jews.

With intelligent choices, frum Jews can live the life they want at a price they can afford.

Daniel Shertok 
Minneapolis, Minnesota

I was disappointed by the articles in the cover story “Rethinking the Economics of Frum Life.” I was looking forward to reading about innovative thinking for how the frum community could reduce the cost of living and make the economics of frum life work. Instead the articles were focused on how we should try to make more money and reduce our expenses due to the implication that the cost of our schools, shuls, mikvahs and real estate will not come down. The trouble with this approach is that it leads to resentment of the frum lifestyle. As parents with four young children and a good family income, my wife and I have been very concerned about the cost of Jewish day school.

Prior to the pandemic, we were seriously thinking of aliyah, primarily due to the cost of tuition. The pandemic completely changed our outlook on schooling, because we discovered that homeschooling works well for our family. We had written it off as something we would never do, but it has turned out to be a huge blessing for our family. I would like to challenge the community to think outside the box and try things that are outside of our comfort zones. There are ways to make frum life work without needing to significantly boost our income and reduce our quality of life. We must do this because the status-quo is not sustainable.

Yair Treister
Silver Spring, Maryland

 

Replacing Headstones for Jewish Heroes
I read “Finally, a Star of David for Jewish Heroes” by Dr. Rafael Medoff (fall 2021) [about an initiative to locate Jewish personnel at American military cemeteries all over the world who were buried under markers incorrectly representing their religion and working to correct that]. Coincidentally, that same week I finished reading The Panzer Killers, which tells the story of how Major General Maurice Rose heroically led the US  Army 3rd Armored Division from its landing in Normandy through Belgium and across the Rhine, only to be killed in action as he led his unit deeper into Germany.

In March 1955, after basic training, I boarded a ship for assignment to an infantry regiment based outside Fürth, Germany as part of the post-war occupation of that country. That ship, one of a fleet of troop carriers named after army generals, was named the Maurice Rose. I only found out when I read The Panzer Killers that Maurice Rose was the son and grandson of rabbis and that while he had married outside the religion, he had gone to great lengths, although he was living on a military base, to find a mohel and make a bris for his newborn son.

General Rose was buried under a military-erected wartime cross in Ittenbach, Germany on April 2, 1945, at a ceremony where eleven US Army generals served as pallbearers. Maurice Rose, a true hero, is now eligible, through the efforts of Operation Benjamin led by Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, to have his grave re-marked with a Star of David.

Avrum Hyman 
Riverdale, New York

Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter Responds
I want to commend Mr. Hyman for his service to America. All Americans are deeply grateful to you.

Daniel Bolger’s book, The Panzer Killers, is, indeed, an excellent recounting of the brilliant military leadership of Major General Maurice Rose during World War II. Major General Rose was not only the highest-ranking Jewish officer to be killed in the war, but the highest ranking of all US soldiers killed by enemy fire. Rose was buried under a Star of David for more than four years when the decision was suddenly made to replace that headstone with a Latin cross. It was a source of controversy then and has remained so ever since.

We in Operation Benjamin are honored to express our collective hakarat hatov to all of the soldiers who were interred under incorrect headstones. They no longer have the opportunity to fight for their own identities, and we are honored to pick up that flag, do the research, meet and work with the families, petition the government, and with the fabulous professionals of the American Battle Monuments Commission, replace the headstones of the crosses placed in error in beautiful ceremonies that are mekadesh Shem Shamayim.

To date, we have successfully been granted approvals to change eighteen headstones to Stars of David. We are currently working on more than thirty others. Many stories still remain to be told . . . including that of Major General Maurice Rose, with which we are very familiar.

To learn more about our work, visit our website, operationbenjamin.org, and click on the menu “Our Soldiers.”

Correction: In our fall 2021 issue, the caption under this image in “Finally, a Star of David for Jewish Heroes” (p. 27) was incorrect. The caption should have read: The headstone replacement ceremony of First Lieutenant Robert S. Fink on February 12, 2020 at Manila American Cemetery, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City (Manila), Philippines. Pictured from right to left are: Rabbi John Franken (nephew of Private Allan C. Franken, killed in action May 24, 1945); US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim; Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Rafael Harpaz; Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter; Steve Lamar; family and friends of the five soldiers killed in action who were being honored with headstone replacements on that day; and to the very left, Shalom Lamm.

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This article was featured in the Winter 2021 issue of Jewish Action.
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