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March 13, 1981 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-03-13

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2 Friday, March 13, 1981


Purely Commentary

Youth and Halakhic Concern:
Inspiration Evidenced in Eruv

Students of public opinion techniques, the concerned in
matters involving the Halakha, whoever also relates to the
pleadings for youth in identification in Jewish communal
matters, were combined in the interest stimulated in the
debate over Eruv proposals which were debated here at the
stimulating meeting over the issue in the Young Israel
environment in Oak Park on March 4.
It was apparent from the pilpulistic discussions, and
the earnest desire to avoid unnecessary entanglements,
that there was an eager aim to arrive at a just as well as
amicable solution of a problem involving the Orthodox
Indeed, the division of opinion puzzled many, espe-
cially in view of the facts presented that some 60 American
Jewish communities have Eruvin: What mattered espe-
cially, however, was that the youth in the community,
those in the very dedicated and knowledgeable Young Is-
rael movement, made the matter a cause for concern. They
propagated the need for themselves and for their fellow
citizens who are anxious not to be obstacled by Halakhic
restrictions in their craving for the Sabbath solace, in their
wish to participate in synagogue services on the Holy Day
of Rest which beckons them to be part of their spiritual
communal life.
It was evident from the developing debates that if
rabbis can differ they can klso be overruled in a public
opinion poll, and the future deliberations over the need of
avoiding restrictions on carrying taleisim or being pushed
in wheelchairs if illness demands it, on the Sabbath, may
yet be resolved here for those adhering to the restrictive
Halakhic rules.
The interest of the youth is what impresses the
analysts of the Eruv debate. The Orthodox communal con-
troversy points to a wholesome sentiment, especially when
rabbis and laymen meet on equal ground and question each
other. The result is much more than pilpul (subtle, casuistic
argumentation): it is a craving for the democratic ideals
that are emphasized in the Talmudic and Biblical ideals
pursued by the knowledgeable and observant.
It is an ideal to be encouraged and whatever the sub-
sequent reactions to the emergent debate, the interest that
arose as an emphasis in the devotional and the dedicated is
to be highly commended.

A Basic Lesson: Respect for
Differing Views Peacefully Purued

The debate over the Eruv suggests something that
could be applied to other issues in Jewish communal ex-
Differences of opinion must never be bedevilled by
violence. In some ranks this is yet to be learned.
In the Williamsburg region of Brooklyn, N.Y., where
*he Hasidim have their centers, there has been violence.
The Satmar anti-Zionist extremists (they are the counter-
part of the Neturei Karta) have attacked Lubavitch follow-
ers bodily. There was bloodshed and the abusive tactics
created a problem for the New York police forces.
The arrival in New York last week of Grand Rabbi
Yisucher Dov Rokeach of Belz, who heads the Belz commu-
nity in Israel, was occasion for fright among the
Lubavitcher. There were threats that the Belz followers
would be molested. There actually was physical violence
and a visiting rabbi needed police protection.
This, fortunately, does not happen too often. But it has
occurred. The Lubavitch are known as peaceful people who
never force their views on anyone. Perhaps this is why they
succeed with many. But they have a militant Jewish oppo-
nent who does not hesitate to cause bodily harm.
This is a problem for New York Jewish leadership — to
strive to avert the disgrace that emanates from violence
among people who do not know the value of respecting
differences of opinion.
That's the point: that differing views are vital to any
form of pilpul. This is a principle that must continue to rule
in Jewish disputes, no matter how extreme the differing
approaches to Jewish issues.

Concern for Russian Jewry:
Inerasable, Undeniable Priority

Russian Jewry's plight, concern for the Refusniks, the
organized movement to assist those seeking exit visas for
settlement in Israel, have been and remain matters of
grave concern for American Jewry.
Assistance for Jews applying for emigration from the
USSR became so extensive that American Jews enlisted
the aid of members of Congress and eventually secured
financial assistance from the U.S. government in behalf of
the emigres.
The controversially depressive dispute is over the fail-
ure of most of the emigres to fulfill the basis on which they
secured visas — that of proceeding to Israel, and are instead
defecting to other countries, especially the United States.
But the adherence to the principle of assisting those desir-
ing to leave the land where they are abused for their
Jewishness continues as a basic principle for human rights.

Democratizing the Ranks, Assuring the Cooperative Spirit
Linking Rabbinate With Laity ... Record of American Jewish
Aid for USSR Jewry ... the Notre Dame President's Comfort

This is why the complaint that was 'uttered by Yosef Men-
delevich, upon his arrival in Israel, that there is a lack of
interest in the plight of Russian Jews, was unjustified.
He was a hero for a day. The demonstrated welcome for
him at Ben-Gurion Airport, the greeting by Prime Minister
Menahem Begin, the cheers from the populace, the echoed
rejoicing over his liberation throughout the world, indi-
cated an inerasable interest.
The progress that has been made in behalf of the
movement to assist Russian Jews' emigration was well-
defined in an editorial in the New York Times, which
showed the extent of the rescue efforts. The Feb. 22
NYTimes editorial, "What Price a Soviet Jew?" lists many
important facts, asserting:
Without a word of explanation, the Soviet
Union is again letting Jews leave in large num-
bers. It may be only an illusion that Moscow
regulates the flow of this human traffic with its
expectations of American trade or other reward.
But the record of a decade and the newest signal
suggest such a correlation — a purposeful bar-
tering with a people's fate. It cries out for Ameri-
can authorities to investigate Moscow's price.
The emigres' themselves have no consistent
explanation for the oscillations in their extra
permits. Though many are well versed in Soviet
political affairs, they have been reduced to
speculating about the work loads of the Soviet
security police, the whims of regional party
organizations, the climate of Soviet relations
with Arab nations.
But the most consistent correlation is with
Soviet-American commerce. Most of the 250,000
Jewish emigrants since 1971 have been cleared
for travel to Israel — yet two-thirds of them have
ended up in America _ . And given the vociferous
concern for them by American Jewish organiza-
tions, by Congress and Presidential candidates,
it is not unreasonable for the Kremlin to have
concluded that the pace of emigration can be a
valuable currency in dealings with the United
Just look at the pattern since 13,000 Soviet
Jews were unexpectedly allowed to leave in
1971: With the signing of SALT I, the first big
wheat deal and the promise of more trade, the
number rose in 1972 and 1973 to 32,000 and
35,000. Then came the Jackson-Vanik amend-
ment, impeding trade unless Jews were allowed
to leave freely, and the departures declined
sharply, to 21,000 in 1974, 13,000 in 1975, 14,000 in
1976 and 17,000 in 1977. The amendment remains
in force, but with progress toward SALT II and a
further wheat deal, emigration rose again to
29,000 in 1978 and to a record total of 51,000 in
1979. Then came Afghanistan, the wheat em-
bargo and other trade restrictions, and the 1980
figure fell to 21,000.
Just coincidence? Perhaps. But if trade is not
the explanation, there must be another. These
patterns are not accidental in such a centralized
society, where the Politburo often takes up the
case of a single individual's emigration — and
where the right of exodus for an entire ethnic
group of two million must be a sore point in the
authorities' dealings with other, larger
At the end of the Carter Administration, fewer
than 1,000 Jews a month were being allowed to
leave. Then, at the appioach of President
Reagan's inauguration in mid-January, the visa
stampers suddenly began working overtime —
not only in Moscow but in many Soviet cities.
Departures soared again to a rate of 36,000 a
year, though no one knows how long it will con-
Someone high in the United States govern-
ment ought to ask, and keep probing for the
price in commerce. No one in Moscow is foolish
enough to have thought that a tough-sounding
new President would alter his basic diplomacy
or military spending to purchase freedom for
some Jews. But some signal is apparently in-
If there is a chance for an unacknowledged
barter, of emigres in exchange for wheat or
other products, the price ought to be shrewdly
surmised. It is not enough to condemn those who
would thus sell human beings if those in a posi-
tion to buy their freedom fail to recognize the
opportunity and responsibility.
The emigration from the USSR was practically halted
for a time. It seems to be renewing. The efforts to keep the
migration moving will not subside. Perhaps the new
emigres will choose to be more concerned with the stated
reason for their flight — settlement in Israel — than their
predecessors. Meanwhile, the human rights factor will not
be disturbed. It will surely be appreciated to the degree that
there is dekcation to it.

By Philip

Eminent Catholic Educator's
Role for Undivided Jerusalem

Retirement from the presidency of Notre Dame Uni-
versity of the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh is of more than
passing interest. The eminence of the educator who is retir-
ing from a post he has held with distinction for 30 years
lends significance to the Catholic role in many tasks for
human rights, in ecumenism, in the ranks of the National
Conference of Christians and Jews, for his interest in Israel
and especially in Jewish rights in Jerusalem.
Dr. Hesburgh was co-host
recently, with Jerusalem
Mayor Teddy Kollek, of thAnk
Jerusalem Committee whi
met at Notre Dame UnivelliF,
sity, South Bend, Ind. The 23
noted theologians and other
eminent personalities who
form the committee issued a
statement which has great
importance at a time when
prejudice affects the status of
the Holy City. The Rev. Hesburgh was among those who
inspired the declaration of the Jerusalem Committee. It
A remarkable improvement in neighborly re-
lations has already taken place in Jerusalem. A
further extension of this development must be
based on a continued substantial raising of the
level of educational, cultural and social services,
and economic opportunities for the city's Arab
The meeting expressed special satisfaction with
the full freedom of access to the sites holy to the
three major religions and the unhindered worship
at these sites, both clearly facilitated by the inde-
pendent control of the holy places by representa-
tives of the respective faiths. This is further demon-
strated by the increasing numbers — over a million
each year — of Christian, Jewish and Moslem pil-
groms to the city, including more than 150,000
Arabs from countries not recognizing Israel.
The group noted the achievements in the sensi-
tive and sophisticated restoration and rehabilita-
tion of historic and archeological sites as well as
places of worship accomplished since the last
committee meeting and was impressed by the at-
tention which has been paid to the committee's ear-
ner recommendations. The participants regard
these as major contributionstoward enhancing the
universal character of the city. The creation of
parks, the formation of a green belt around the Old
City walls and the sensitivity to nature in the urban
environment have helped to create a vibrant city
while preserving the historical mosaic of cultures
that have sustained Jerusalem.
At the impressive meeting of the 23 scholars of the
Jerusalem Committee, Mayor Kollek made an important
statement exposing the events which preceded the current
free atmosphere in Jerusalem. He said:
There is more tolerance in Jerusalem now
than there has ever been. Under the 19 years of
Jordanian rule Christians and Jews weren't
allowed to visit their holy places; there was no
free Christian education; 58 synagogues were
Now the holy places are meticulously taken
care of; Arabs are allowed the citizenship they
desire and the education system they want. Each
religion administers its own holy places; there is
free acess to the Arab countries, and everyone
can participate in the local democratic elections.
Dr. Hesburgh's concurrence with the justice-seeking
humanists in defense of Israel's position in Jerusalem adds
glory to an already distinguished career of the retiring
president of a great university. His role will be remembered
with the blessings for good years to encourage him to cc
tinue his contributions to this nation and to mankind.

Jacob Marcus the Humorist

Dr. Jacob R. Marcus is not only an historian and ar-
chivist of great distinction: he also has a splendid sense of
humor. Here is how he accepted this commentator's greet-
ing to him last week on his 85th birthday:
A thousand thanks to you for the lovely writeup
you gave me on the occasion of my 85th birthday.
As you well know, I taught Hebrew here at the
(Hebrew Union) College for many years and ac-
cordingly, as a good Jew, I always read from right
. to left. Under the circumstances, we are really
celebrating my 58th birthday.
This is welcome spirit in an age of gloom. Jake Marcus
is always a welcome guest everywhere — his sense of
humor emphasizes it and the hospitality for him is the
blessing for those who are his hosts. More blessings to you,
Jake, on your 85th!

` 41P


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