Letters week of July 24, 2008



Rabbi's Behavior: It's Not Related to Renewal

I want to balance an impression I received from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency article about Rabbi Mordechai Gafni (Nation & World: "Disgraced Rabbi Seeks to Relaunch Career, Despite Sex Allegations," July 17). The voices presented in this article are not reflections of the Jewish Renewal movement and its teachings.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s had a great effect on the world and, not surprisingly, on Judaism. Nonetheless, all Jewish denominations, including students of the teachings of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, have recognized the need for the kashrut of committed loving.

One will find nothing in Reb Zalman's teachings or example that would suggest that paths of holiness and eros require deviating from committed marriage. Any implications that Reb Zalman, as the leader of Renewal, was somehow an influence on Rabbi Gershon Winkler's and Gafni's actions and opinions are inappropriate.

Regardless of affiliation, Jews must ensure safety for our children from abusers.

I think it is unfortunate that Rabbi Gafni has decided to go the route of relaunching a career as a spiritual leader. From the article, it seems clear to me that both he and his defender, Rabbi Winkler, have personal problems of which they are apparently unaware.

Seth Fishman 

Needed: A Fannie-Mae for Alternative Energies

I agree with Jonathan Tobin's column on energy independence (A Matter of Opinion: " 'Alternatives' to Logic Won't Work," July 10). Still, it does not go far enough.

In the matter of opening up new oil fields, what good would it do under the present conditions? Would international oil companies be allowed to operate the wells? Would that include foreign companies owned by the Arabs or/and the Russians? Sovereign wealth funds?

Would drilling more decrease the outflow of dollars from this country or alter our balance of payments?

We have a problem with a cartel. And the way to affect it is not through feeding it, but through alternatives.

One alternative not mentioned is to have an energy corporation, like a Fannie Mae, government-sponsored company, but run by stockholders. It can start out in increasing the petroleum and possibly the refining capacity, but must also invest in alternative energy.

There is a historic role for this type of intervention. The credit unions made the consumer banking field what it is today. And the rural electric cooperatives were indispensable in electrifying rural America.

The problem with oil prices is not supply; the cartel won't pump enough to keep up with demand. This occurs in periods of presidential weakness and divisiveness.

Stanley Yarkin 
Delray Beach, Fla. 

'Suicide Bombers' Make Them Seem Sympathetic

In the final lines of your article about Michael Horowitz's lecture about "suicide bombers" (City & Suburb: "Speaker Looks at Suicide Bombings as a Military Strategy," July 3), Horowitz seems to dismiss the public-relations benefit of calling these murderers "homicide bombers."

However, if one considers that the targets of modern "suicide bombers" are civilians with no military value, and that the goal of "suicide bombers" is to attract media attention, then one quickly realizes that the best way to discourage "suicide bombers" is to remove the public-relations benefits of their media coverage.

In other words, if the language we use to describe these vile murderous acts is cleansed of any sympathy for the perpetrators, then we will have done our part in, at least, not encouraging them.

Roddy Frankel 

Ultimately Illogical: The Shoah as an Act of God

The letter by Nahum Duker, M.D., invoking a Holocaust martyr to provide a kosher "spin" on Rev. John Hagee's tacit celebration of the Nazis as heroes of Zionism "doing the Lord's work" is a new one (Letters: "Hagee's Words Echo Text of Martyred Shoah Rabbi," July 3).

Never mind the vitriol and lashon hara unleashed against Reform Rabbi Eric Yoffie, it attacks the messenger, rather than the message.

However, for the sake of argument, let's follow through on the Hagee/Duker line of reasoning:

If the Holocaust embodies the will of God, doesn't this make it a supreme act of God?

Morally, and even legally/ insurance-wise, don't "acts of God" convey immunity from both personal and corporate liability?

Therefore, shouldn't Israel have to return the hundreds of billions of dollars in reparations it's gotten from Germany? Shouldn't Holocaust survivors who have received restitution funds be made to pay that money back?

That's the logical conclusion to be drawn from Duker's perverse diagnosis.

"Physician, heal thyself!"

Luke Sanders 
Washington, D.C. 

Prison Torah Remains in Graterford, Not Rockview

We here at SCI-Graterford read with great interest the letter from Rabbi Tuvia Abramson of SCI-Rockview claiming that the Eastern State Penitentiary Torah had been removed to Rockview from Graterford under the influence of inmate Victor Hassine in the late 1980s (Letters: "That Lost Prison Torah: It's Safe and Sound in Pa.," July 10).

We would dispute this.

Records show that Hassine was transferred to Rockview in August 1989. I was already on staff as chaplain at Graterford, and can state that no Torah was removed from Graterford at that time or since.

I have also spoken to Larry Karlin, who was a longtime volunteer here at Graterford, a correspondent of Hassine's and coordinator of the Jewish congregation's activities. He informs me that he hand-delivered the Torah to Rockview, and that he had, in fact, personally retrieved it from Byberry State Hospital, not from Graterford nor Eastern State.

It is his understanding that the Eastern State Torah remains at Graterford in the possession of the Jewish congregation.

Rev. Edward A. Neiderheiser 
Facility chaplaincy/ 
Program director 
State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pa.


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