Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, is being described as a moderate in the American press. Compared to his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, maybe he is. After all, while Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and openly and repeatedly called for doing away with Israel, so far Rouhani, appearing at an Al Quds Day event in Iran on Friday where marchers shout “Death to Israel,” “only” referred to the Jewish state as “a sore that has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years.”
Ironically, the victory by the haredi candidates in last week’s once-a-decade election of the two chief rabbis in Israel may, in the long run, lead to a more liberal and open approach to religious life in the Jewish state.
It shouldn’t have to be said at this point, but let’s say it anyway: After too many wars, Israelis want nothing more than peace. One would be hard-pressed to think of any “gestures” for peace that Israel was asked to make that weren’t made, most recently this past week’s approval of the release of 104 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails.
The news that Ryan Braun, the star Milwaukee Brewers outfielder who won the National League Most Valuable Player award last year, has been suspended for the rest of the season for violating baseball’s drug policy, is disappointing for baseball fans everywhere. Perhaps more so for those who embraced him as “The Hebrew Hammer,” one of the finest Jewish players in the game in many years.
With the once-a-decade election of Israel’s two chief rabbis scheduled for July 24, Rabbi David Stav, the 53-year-old Religious Zionist candidate for the Ashkenazi post who is attempting to end the two-decade-long reign of the fervently Orthodox, has already achieved a significant victory. Through his long and very public campaign this year he has shed light on a process that has long been kept in the shadows, understandably, because it is ugly, nasty and an embarrassment to Judaism.
Among our Lamentations this week was the news on Tisha b’Av that the European Union would cease all funding and cooperation with Israeli activity beyond the Green Line (1967 borders). This diplomatic and economic ostracism includes not only the entirety of the West Bank but even the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem — the place, of course, of the Temple Mount and Kotel, our holiest sites.
For the last two decades, at least, there has been a widespread perception in some circles that Jewish federations were on their way to becoming dinosaurs, the victims of declining attachment to Jewish organizational institutions in general and centralized giving in particular, and accelerated by the serious decline in the economy. That may all be true in some communities, but not in New York, where UJA-Federation continues to set the standard not only for dollars raised but for exemplifying the kind of reach and depth that only a communal charity of its size and savvy can command.
With her persistent and meticulous reporting, Hella Winston has shed light in these pages not only on a number of egregious examples of sexual abuse in certain segments of the Orthodox community in Brooklyn, but on the troublesome actions, or non-actions, on the part of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, and his office, in dealing with the problem.
For many years advocates on behalf of agunot (observant Jewish women trapped in unwanted marriages) have sought to resolve the problem through their rabbis. And while many rabbinic authorities have expressed personal empathy and anguish for the plight of these women, the rabbis collectively have insisted that they are powerless in the face of halacha, or Jewish law, which says the husband has the absolute right to determine if and when to end a marriage.