In the last edition of the Queens Jewish Link, Mr. Ari Solomon, Executive Director of HAFTR, questioned the decision of the paper to publish the “foul” opinion of Warren Hecht, who was critical of the announcement that HAFTR graduate Jacob Steinmetz was drafted by a Major League Baseball team, considering the many challenges that being Sabbath-observant poses.
Although in my article on the topic, “Sacrifice Fly or Foul Ball,” I took a more moderate stance, there is no question that Mr. Hecht was entitled to his very valid opinion on the matter. Certainly, the Queens Jewish Link has the obligation of a fair-minded publication to publish any article on a topic that is within Torah guidelines and not written with rancor or disrespect. In fact, I am sure that many readers object to the paper’s decision to run a full-page ad by HAFTR congratulating Mr. Steinmetz. Jewish opinion goes in all directions.
I think it would be commendable for HAFTR to regularly place an ad for its many graduates who go on to become stars as rabbanim or roshei yeshivah. This would be a good way to show that the yeshivah is as proud of its students who make great strides in the Torah field as it is for those in the sports arena.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld
Warren Hecht’s article, entitled “struck Out,” is, at best, an embarrassment to you and your paper. You did a wonderful job turning a kiddush Hashem into a chilul Hashem.
Here is a kid who was raised in a strictly Orthodox environment, only eats kosher, went to yeshivah all his life, davens three times a day, and is a kind boy who doesn’t judge others. G-d is the only judge, and Jacob, as opposed to you, understands that.
You prejudge everything that he will be doing in the future. Who died and made you G-d? Do you know anything about him and his family? Have you interviewed him, his parents, his grandparents, his great-grandfather? Did you interview his rabbis at HAFTR to ask them what kind of a child he is? Did you speak to the rabbis at the Young Israel of Woodmere where he spent every Shabbos for the last 18 years? Did you speak to his baseball and basketball coaches or Athletic Director at HAFTR?
I was his high school basketball coach. We davened together every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. at HAFTR before practice – yes, with a minyan and with t’filin. Jacob was always one of the first at minyan. That’s just the start of his Jewish convictions. Midos, which you don’t seem to have or understand, is Jacob’s forte. You couldn’t find a kid with better midos and won’t find a yeshivah boy who is a better role model. You could learn a lot from Jacob and his entire family.
To your point that “you cannot be a frum Jew and a professional baseball player,” I assume you’re stating this fact since you have tried and failed at it. Who are you to judge that he, or any other Orthodox player, can’t be a frum Jew and play? Please tell me who else who grew up Orthodox who has been drafted by any professional team and given a contract? I know Dave Kufeld, a great YU basketball player in the 1970s, was drafted by Portland but did not make the team. Have there been others? I have been around the Orthodox sports world for many decades, and I don’t know of any other Orthodox athletes who had the G-d-given talent to make it to the pros. You seem to state it as a fact, so please back up your words.
Your “kosher food” comment is, as expected, way off base. Once again, who are you to judge that he won’t eat kosher? Is it a bit more challenging? Sure, but certainly not impossible. With kosher products in every supermarket in the US and with the ability to buy and store packaged meals, keeping kosher is not as challenging as it used to be. Orthodox people travel all over the world for business and pleasure and seem to figure out the kashrus issue. I assume Jacob will navigate it, as well. But thanks for giving Jacob a “kaf z’chus.” Again, your prejudging him is arrogant, to say the least.
And finally, regarding your knocking HAFTR for proudly wishing him a Mazal Tov and your obnoxious comment that you would’ve expected it from a secular school is just an uneducated comment. HAFTR appreciates all accomplishments and will continue to do so – whether it’s an unprecedented sports accomplishment or an acceptance to a “secular” college. All are wonderful accomplishments, which you are obviously blinded to.
Indeed, it is you, Warren S. Hecht, who has “Struck Out.”
A proud Orthodox Jew, a proud HAFTR parent and Athletic Director, and even prouder now because of Jacob Steinmetz
I am not a fan of Mr. Hecht whatsoever. I disagree with almost everything he writes, and I have long since stopped reading his articles. However, when I saw that he had written about this young baseball player, I was intrigued enough to read on. I fully expected another fluff piece about how wonderful it is, but I was pleasantly surprised: He laid out a well-reasoned opinion to the contrary, without maligning the young man personally. Mr. Hecht very correctly points out the obvious religious challenges involved and wonders aloud about how his choice fits into the proper hashkafah of an Orthodox Jew.
I agree with him, and I think it’s an important idea to think about and respectfully debate. He did not write maliciously (as he does about President Trump). Mr. Solomon’s hot-headed response this week was way out of line. He was clearly angry when he wrote it, but nothing he wrote is of real value. It is completely irrelevant how nice Mr. Steinmetz or his family is, nor should we care about his shul’s emails.
Mr. Hecht broached a topic worthy of discussion, and the particulars are beside the point. Also, it was certainly not lashon ha’ra to point out the obvious here, but he may have violated motzi sheim ra on Mr. Hecht. No one should throw around such accusations before learning the halachos very well.
Rabbi Oren Kagan
Cedarhurst, New York
I’m shocked, too!
In my recent Letters to the Editor to the QJL, I frequently argued with Warren Hecht’s viewpoints. However, this past week, he actually criticized left-leaning CNN for their biased and non-factual TV series “Jerusalem.”
Warren also pointed out the attack on religion currently being unchallenged in the media in shows like “My Unorthodox Life.” Kudos to Warren: We actually agree on something!
I don’t agree with Mr. Hecht that an Orthodox baseball player is a strikeout, but Mr. Solomon definitely struck out here. Not only was HAFTR wrong to take out a full-page ad congratulating Jacob Steinmetz, but Mr. Solomon was also wrong in writing a letter belittling Mr. Hecht.
The yeshivah that I chose to send my children to demonstrates values. Their jerseys do not have players’ names because the players play a team sport. We are all one team, and we are all one family. In the commencement program, the school highlights every student planning to spend a gap year in Israel; these are the students whom the school chooses to spotlight. Standing on stage, as “Hatikvah” is sung, are the students who have enlisted in the IDF. I am always so proud to honor, stand, and salute these brave and committed young adults. This past year, it was an inspiration to watch a student, the same age as Jacob Steinmetz, as he stood on stage – for this student was a star athlete, an academic achiever, and he chose to delay his education and career to serve in the IDF.
Even if HAFTR did not have any students enlist in the IDF this year, a full-page ad should not be taken out just for one student who has been drafted into the MLB, as I would hope that many of their graduates achieved goals that we should be proud to celebrate, such as studying in Israel or engaging in chesed activities.
Congratulations to Jacob Steinmetz! I hope to cheer you on, and I hope that your entire family (including me) will continue to be proud of you, but I am sure some of your classmates deserve recognition, too, and, in the words of Goldy Krantz, “hatzlachah to you all.”
Remember the Jimmy Stewart movie Harvey, where he stared as Elwood P. Dowd? The only one able to see the invisible rabbit Harvey was Stewart’s character.
When it comes to growing inflation, President Biden can’t seem to see the rabbit. The rest of us can.
Great Neck, New York
I would like to thank Warren Hecht for the d’var Torah in his past article (“Inside, Outside”). In his article, Warren brings down a very meaningful d’var Torah by Rabbi Mordechai Katz on the parshah of Balak. Rabbi Mordechai explains that in some way, Balak was better than Bil’am in that Balak was open about his hatred for the Israelites, and Bil’am “pretended to be a holy man” but was actually evil.
This can be applied to the Democratic Party, which consists of two groups. The first group is openly anti-Semitic, such as the “Squad,” Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy, Maxine Waters, and others. The second group claims to be pro-Israel but, in reality, supports Hamas. They include Menendez, Schumer, Nadler, Schiff, and others. Biden says that he is against anti-Semitism, but he praised Tlaib for her anti-Semitic tirade and called her a “fighter.” Biden also undermined the Abraham Accords. Biden is also funding terrorism against Israel. Pelosi praised Omar and the rest of the “Squad” for their anti-Semitism. This second group is more dangerous, because they have more credibility than the first group.
Warren attempts to apply the d’var Torah to the radical left-wing group Antifa and the January 6 protestors. Warren states that Antifa was better, because they were honest about their desire to destroy this country. He argues that patriots raise the American flag and say they support this country and the police, but their actions on January 6 indicate otherwise. I would like to correct the record on this. Trump held a rally a good distance away from the Capitol building. This group was peaceful. At the end of Trump’s speech, he stated that we should all make a peaceful march toward the Capitol. These protesters are guilty of taking selfies of themselves at the Capitol. Photographs reveal that the Capitol Police invited these protesters to enter the Capitol. These protesters are being vigorously prosecuted while the Antifa and BLM rioters are praised.
At the same time, a small group of radicals (about 45 people) participated in a violent attack on the building. There is much controversy as to who comprised this second group. At least one member of this group was a member of Black Lives Matter. Some of these rioters were not charged with any crimes. It is suggested that theses uncharged rioters may have been working for the FBI. The FBI hates Trump and it is not inconceivable that they would incite a riot to make Trump look bad. One thing I am sure of: The vast majority of the protestors were peaceful and patriotic. By painting all protesters with a broad brush, Warren is being disingenuous.
Warren utilizes a statement from General Mark A. Milley to prove that all the protesters were violent and full of “white rage.” Milley is a strong proponent of the critical race theory, which states that all white people are racists. He also states that the military should focus more on LGBT rights than on China’s military aggression. He suggests that denying rights to LGBT is worse than nuclear war with China. No sane person would support that. The military has gone woke. The Navy now requires all of its personnel to read How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibrahim Kendi. This book is full of anti-American propaganda.
I challenge Warren to explain this nonsense to me, because I cannot understand it. I think it means that all white people are racists and must be punished. I do not care what Milley has to say. I am a white Jew, and I am not ashamed of it. This country is one of the best countries in the world. The Democratic Party and their allies are trying to divide this country and turn it into a failed Marxist state. I pray to Hashem that this does not happen.