Last week was a banner week for me. I had two letters to the editor published. One was to The Wall Street Journal (under a pseudonym, due to its criticism of Arab terror). The other was to Mishpacha magazine.
My letter in Mishpacha was regarding an excellent article the week before written by Avi Schick. Mr. Schick wrote about the panning of Yeshiva University by The New York Times, something we have been referring to during the last couple of weeks. His main point was that The Times has now been exposed as having a special hatred against all of Orthodoxy. They started their mission with a series on what they claim are the failings of the chasidic yeshivos, especially for not having sufficient secular studies. Now that they’ve descended into singling out YU for scathing criticism, it becomes clear that The Times has a vendetta against all of Orthodoxy.
In my letter, I offered Avi Schick well-deserved compliments, but I did point to a major flaw in the Orthodox community. Yes, the Agudah has placed some well scripted billboards in parts of Manhattan pointing to The Times’ bias. But the real tachlis in getting The Times to back off of their bigotry is to hold a massive rally in front of The Times building with thousands of Jews attending. No company likes bad PR.
Indeed, all social revolutions, for good or bad, have only been accomplished by making noise. From the American Revolution to Civil Rights, arguably freeing Soviet Jewry or today’s leftist agenda, only being loud worked. But this can only be achieved if the OU, the Agudah, Young Israel, and even the chasidim make a joint effort to organize such a rally. We should easily be able to bring 50,000 people to such a rally.
In Baltimore where I now live, numerous people of all stripes came to me to give me a “yasher koach” for the letter and how true my words were.
I also received quite a few calls and voice messages. One of the messages was from an old friend, a very respected rabbi who directs a well-known Torah teaching program throughout the United States. The rabbi gave me a lot of encouragement and suggested that I be in touch with the organizational leadership to get them to work together. This rabbi knows a thing or two about what is beating in the hearts of Jews across America.
What I told him, he found disappointing. I mentioned that a few years ago I wrote an article for the Queens Jewish Link (“Unity Now! Just Do It My Way”) in which I urged the Orthodox organizations to find common ground and press for our agenda in a public fashion. A particular veteran leader in the Orthodox community (not from Queens) was so taken by the article that he held several conference phone calls with me and others to organize a group to meet with the Orthodox leadership. This gentleman is admired in the entire spectrum of Orthodox Jewry.
He first had a meeting on his own with the head of one organization who punted and said that of course they would be interested in joining with the others, but speak to the others first.
He went to the executive of the other organization, quite a few years his junior, whom he found to be very dismissive. That blew the wind out of his well-worn sails, and he did not pursue his mission. It truly is a sad statement.
Yes, each organization serves a very important purpose for its constituency. But they must also look beyond their own supporters and consider the general welfare of the Jewish people.
Reb Yehuda Leib (Fishman) Maimon was an early leader of the Mizrachi, Religious Zionist movement. He pointed to a pasuk in Megillah (2:19), which states, “And it was when they gathered the maidens again…” Why would they need to organize a second gathering of young women to be the wife of Achashveirosh when the first one succeeded in choosing Esther, asked Rabbi Maimon? Rabbi Maimon explained: “veil a moisad shtarbt nisht – because an organization does not die” – even after its mission has been accomplished. We need to make sure that our organizations operate beyond their own survival and keep the larger community of the Jewish People in mind.
So, it’s the broken record in me that keeps on shouting and pleading: Please, let’s unite! We talk about achdus, unity, all the time. Show that you really mean it. Get together for the sake of all of us!
A good start would be organizing against our common antagonists.
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Allow me to conclude with one unrelated thought. All the Democrats, including, unfortunately, our own Queens reps, voted for Ilhan Omar to be retained on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. (This is another example of people looking to perpetuate their organization, or political party in this case, beyond the broader concerns for the country and our Jewish community.)
Many argued that this action against Ilhan Omar was done by the Republicans only because she is female and dark-skinned (never mind that Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell were also removed, both male and white).
Here’s a question for you: If Nikki Haley runs for president and you do not support her, is that due to racism? She is, after all, dark-skinned, with Indian roots, and female. Just thought I would ask.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.