Wow! That was an amazing “Your Say” section of the Queens Jewish Link last week. First off, I loved Jason Stark’s response to David Pecoraro. Although I enjoy the multitude of opinions that appear weekly in the QJL, I was somewhat surprised at the nature of the content of Mr. Pecoraro’s letter that appeared in the paper two weeks ago. Mr. Stark’s response, which included a staunch defense of our Torah and halachah, while expressing compassion for those navigating a transgender or LGBTQ issue was the perfectly balanced response in my opinion.
I was not sure what to make of Samuel Mark’s letter on the state of Modern Orthodoxy. I consider myself to be between modern and chareidi, yet I do not know of any mikvah lady who permits women to tovel with nail polish on. He discusses going to non-musical movies during aveilus, but given the filth in today’s movies, one likely should refrain from this even when not in aveilus. He laments the loss of respectful interactions between male and female teens. I’m not sure what intergender teen get-togethers would accomplish; however, the current system does not allow for respectful interactions between male and female adults outside of a shidduch date, and that in my opinion is a huge mistake.
After I finish reading the Letters to the Editor, I enjoy my guilty pleasure for the week by reading Warren Hecht’s “For What It’s Worth” column to know what I shouldn’t be thinking. I, too, was disgusted last week by the moral equivalency drawn between commonplace Arab terror incidents to the extremely rare incidents of Jewish terrorism. Thank you, Rabbi Schonfeld, Eric Rubin, and Doniel Behar for writing what I and many others were thinking last week. Putting politics aside, Mr. Behar’s point of Imo anochi b’tzarah hit the nail on the head for the way we should all be feeling about the latest spate of attacks on Jews.
I wish you continued success with your wonderful publication.
I was born in Middle Village but moved to Kew Gardens Hills in 1974, shortly before my bar mitzvah. Even though the community was new to me, I had many friends because I attended YCQ since first grade and knew most of the kids. We loved going to shul but found ourselves incredibly bored on Shabbos afternoon, between Minchah and Maariv. Our fathers all went to “shalosh seudos” in the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, and my father z”l especially loved the words of Torah spoken by Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld zt”l – but we were bored out of our minds.
One Shabbos, as my friends and I sat in the shul talking nonsense while waiting for Maariv, a young man named “Pinky” Brody came by and asked if we wanted to learn how to read Megillas Esther. Pinky – now known as Dr. Paul – had started reading the Megillah in the YIKGH in 1973 and was loved by all. He had a beautiful voice and was always fun to be around. My friends and I decided to give it a try and, baruch Hashem, we did! Dr. Brody sat with us every Shabbos and, pasuk by pasuk, perek by perek, taught us how to read the Megillah! It’s hard to believe that this was almost 50 years ago!
I am writing these words because I never publicly thanked Dr. Paul Brody for the time he spent teaching us. He never took any money and was just happy knowing that – instead of wasting our time – my friends and I were busy with learning Torah – which is exactly what it was. We didn’t simply learn the melody and tunes; we learned the story in great depth. Once you know how to properly read the Megillah, the story comes to life. You feel Haman’s hatred, Esther’s pain, and Mordechai’s heroism. The Megillah is no longer just a nice story with a happy ending – it’s m’siras nefesh at the highest level and unprecedented faith in Hashem. My friends and I were just 13-14 years old, but Dr. Brody’s Megillah teaching gave us a new look on the miracle of Purim and opened the doors to one of the greatest events in Jewish history.
Since those days, Dr. Brody has taught hundreds of kids, especially in the North Shore Hebrew Academy, where he started teaching the Megillah back in 2002. As a matter of fact, in 2022, the NSHA Middle School Megillah Reader’s Program was named in Dr. Brody’s honor – something he rightfully deserved!
As we enter the Purim season, I had to pause and write this public letter of thanks to Dr. Brody, in the name of all those he taught and inspired. Baruch Hashem for such a wonderful person. May Hashem bless him, his wife Drora, and their children with good health and Yiddishe nachas until 120.
Happy Purim, and enjoy the Megillah reading!
My Worst Shabbos, My Best Shabbos
Yesterday, my father, the person I most admired in this world, passed away after a brief illness. My dad was my role model, my guide, my teacher, my friend. He led me by his incredible example. People sometimes ask, “If you had to choose one person to be in a foxhole with you, who would it be?” And my answer was always “my dad.” His devotion, loyalty, wisdom, selflessness, humor, and compassion made him invaluable to me (and he was also the best shot I ever saw). If I had to be shoulder-to-shoulder or back-to-back with someone in this world, it was always him. And so many times he had my back. I reflected as he lay in his hospital bed that there have been so many times when my view of him was from the opposite side of the bedrail; times that made me wonder whether I would one day sit shiv’ah for him, or he would one day sit shiv’ah for me. All those times he rubbed my back and said calming words or told me a joke.
My father went into the hospital last Shabbos with congestive heart failure, having some moderate shortness of breath. But once he was there, things deteriorated quickly. The congestion got worse, and his kidneys failed. The medicines they were giving him weren’t working and he had to make a choice to undergo a procedure that had a chance of saving him. Unfortunately, it could not. But before he went into the procedure, he told each of us, my mom, to whom he was married for 62 years, my sister Barbara and me, and my uncle, in person, and other people, including his grandchildren and sons-in-law by phone, how much he loved us and shared special words with each person. We, in turn, got to tell him how much we loved him when we knew he could hear and understand us and answer us. Although my sister Annette wasn’t able to make it to him from Israel before the procedure, he recorded a message to her telling her the same kinds of things. That was a huge blessing.
When the procedure failed, we knew that his time was short. He was intubated and could not communicate with us, but it was clear he was hearing, reactive, and understanding us. When Annette reached the hospital, his pulse raced when he heard her voice, and he squeezed her hand. When I made a joke, his eyebrows lifted the way they always did when he laughed. He moved his lips as if trying to answer us.
Come this Shabbos, we decided that someone should stay with him in the hospital, and that that someone should be me. I knew it would be his last Shabbos, and I resolved to make it as joyous for him as it could be. I davened out loud, standing next to his bed, singing the prayers in tunes I knew he would enjoy. Joined by my nephew, we sang Kabbalas Shabbos, made Kiddush and HaMotzi for him, and placed electric Shabbos candles and the Kiddush cup beside his bed. When Kiddush was done, I dipped my finger in the cup and placed a drop on his tongue, just enough for him to, perhaps, have a final taste of a Shabbos with me. I sang z’miros to him and sang Birkas HaMazon out loud. I knew he was hearing me.
On Shabbos day, his condition worsened, and I davened an early Minchah because I realized that he might not make it to the end of Shabbos and that I would not be able to make Havdalah for him. Even though his face was no longer showing his responses, I believe he heard and understood me, and I kept imploring him, “Wait, dad; Mom and Annette and Barbara are coming. They will be here soon; wait for them.” And he did. We all got to tell him again how much we loved him, how much we will miss him, and to thank him for everything he has given to us and been for us all of these years. Hashem took him gently.
While losing my father makes this past Shabbos the worst of my life, it also gave me the chance to do a final chesed for him in life: to sing to him, pray with him, try to comfort him, reassure him that he was not alone, tell him how much he meant to me, and how much I will miss him, and ask him to forgive me for not living up to the incredible example he set – to give him at least one day in exchange for all the days he gave to me. Perhaps my presence helped ease his final hours and helped buoy him up sufficiently to last, so that he could be surrounded by his loved ones in his final minutes. When they came, we kissed him goodbye, wept on his chest, and implored his soul to go in peace. I will miss him every day of my life, and I thank him for the gift of this past Shabbos. The last gift he gave me was the most valuable.
Howard L. Bressler
I noticed an advertisement in last week’s Queens Jewish Link for Volume 1 of the Touro University New York Medical College Medical Annual Halachah. The book includes essays from some of the top names in the areas of medicine and halachah. I confess that I have not read Volume 1, but I compiled a short list of topics for Volume 2 on the off-chance that these issues have not already been addressed in the first volume:
1) Given the inherent conflict of interest of having 75% of the Food and Drug Administration’s funding come from the very same pharmaceutical companies they are charged with regulating, do they have ne’emanus, or any level of trust when they deem a product “safe and effective”?
2) How halachah views large pharmaceutical companies lobbying Congress for legislation that is favorable to big pharma (e.g., mandating people to get COVID shots) at the expense of the public (squashing any recourse one would have for a COVID shot-related injury).
3) The ethical ramifications of touting an experimental vaccine as preventive of infection and transmission of COVID, when in reality no such proof of concept was even tested during research.
4) The ethical dilemma of doctors recommending the COVID vaccine for children despite the pharmaceutical companies’ lack of an answer for why myocarditis is much more prevalent in younger recipients of the COVID shot than older ones.
5) Does the FDA’s recommendation of COVID shots for everyone override a doctor’s obligation to provide informed consent to patients re COVID vaccines, which would include a disclosure of risks both known and unknown for the COVID shot?
6) An explanation for why halachah permits doctors to rely on the pharmaceutical companies’ claims of the safety of the COVID shot when, to date, they have conducted no studies on the deaths of people that have occurred within days, weeks, or a month of receiving the COVID shot.
Having these issues addressed by our medical and halachah leaders would certainly make for a compelling read.
While I originally wrote in to express my disgust that you printed yet another terrible letter from Mr. Pecorano, I must now add Mr. Mark to the list. The former appears to be a non-Orthodox Jew who holds views completely contrary to the Torah. Although he is certainly entitled to his beliefs, I again urge you not to print his apikorsus-laden letters in your newspaper. Please refer him to The New York Times, which would probably be happy to help another Torah-hating Jew get printed.
As for Mr. Mark, who speaks of “prevailing interpretations of halachah,” such sentiments have no place in an Orthodox newspaper either. We who are Orthodox, Torah-true Jews do not speak so dismissively about our mesorah of p’sak. It isn’t something that changes with the times (his prozbul example only indicates a lack of education on the matter).
Both of these opinions represent a great danger to authentic Yiddishkeit, and I urge you to seek guidance from your rabbinical board before printing such disgusting garbage in what you brand as an Orthodox newspaper.
Rabbi Oren Kagan
So now we see where the administration’s priorities are: definitely not with the American people. In just this past week, one can see this to be true. There is a domestic disaster going on in East Palestine, Ohio. It’s clear this President holds regular, hard-working Americans in contempt, or he’d have made it his business to go to the spot of the train derailment and demonstrate some leadership. Going to that town was of no political gain, as that town voted over 70% Republican. But as President of the United States, that shouldn’t matter. Unfortunately, in this case, it does. President Bush went to Ground Zero after 9/11. President Obama showed up in Flint, Michigan, after their water crisis. Biden is a coward, not a leader.
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg also did not go until shamed into going, because President Trump went first. Secretary Buttigieg has Presidential aspirations, and so he, too, knew there was nothing to gain politically from going.
President Trump made his visit this past week, two weeks after the derailment and “controlled burn” of the toxic chemicals it was hauling. He brought truckloads of bottled water with him for the local residents. When he went into the local McDonald’s, he bought food for the fire department, police department, and those sitting and eating in the restaurant. After all the investigations and the lefty media going after him, I still haven’t heard one story of a disgruntled builder employee. You’d have thought there’d be hundreds. Say what you want about him personally, and I’d agree he is a pig and a scoundrel. Just goes to show you, he’s a blue-collar guy who empathizes with the blue-collar worker. He doesn’t take them for granted, like the others.
President Biden was busy making “history,” as the press secretary likes to call it. He was making such a pathetic propaganda stunt. Joseph Goebbels would be jealous. Here you have President Biden and President Zelensky walking in the streets of Ukraine while an air raid siren is going off. You don’t have to be a Mensa member to know that was staged. When BLM and Antifa were rioting in Washington, DC, and came within feet of the White House grounds, the Secret Service took President Trump and his family to the nuclear bunker. Here, not only is the President not running, but the Secret Service is a good 10-15 feet away from him. If a bomb was going to drop imminently, wouldn’t they want to find shelter and protect the President?
We are in big trouble. It started with the horrific withdrawal from Afghanistan. Russia clearly saw weakness in Biden. We should be all in to defeat our enemies. Not boots on the ground. Not just sending hard-earned taxpayer money. Weapons and necessary war planes. Demonstrate to the whole world that we protect our allies. Now China sees the weakness and is making their move. They’re selling weapons and other munitions to Russia. Another progressive Democrat in the Oval Office, another World War. When you are a globalist and show weakness, the enemy moves. Biden kowtows to Soros, yimach sh’mo, Klaus Schwab’s WEF, and the World Health Organization. Pray it doesn’t escalate to that.
“Have a blessed day and stay safe.” You mean, “Stay sane” after being on the phone with you for 30 minutes and making no progress. First, it was this company that will remain nameless that wanted me to fax over 11 papers proving I was who I said I was. I politely explained to them that I had already faxed these papers to them three times, and I wasn’t going to do it a fourth time. (It wasn’t the IRS.) My voice rose each time I spoke to someone, and I was assured that they understood my frustration, but rules are rules.
Then there was the issue with The Wall Street Journal. I know it’s a fairly pro-Israel paper, but it lacks a good sports and obituary section. Nevertheless, I get it delivered six days a week, except on federal holidays, which seem to occur every “Monday and Thursday.” Well, last week, I received my paper in a timely fashion, but it was “The Journal” instead of The Wall Street Journal. That wouldn’t have been a problem except for the fact that “The Journal” is a Chinese paper! After calling two different phone numbers, I was told that there had been some confusion. “You think?” Finally, after two days of attempting to learn Chinese, I got my English paper.
All of this is my response to the question, “Now that you are retired (furloughed, terminated – any term that indicates it wasn’t by choice), what do you do? In addition to the above problems, I am soon to be faced with another quandary. Starting March 1, I must use that brown garbage can that’s been hiding behind my other garbage cans. I started reading everything that needs to be disposed of in that can, and I decided to get a dog and feed him all the detritus that is pictured on the lid. However, I then remembered the problems involved in owning a dog (the walks, the mess, the food, and the expense) and decided to make certain changes. For example, I’ll give up eating bananas and apples (no problem there), and I’ll use plastic plates instead of paper plates. But paper towels? What am I going to do with the 500 rolls of paper towels that I got at Costco?
All in all, time is short, and I have a lot to get done, so please stop asking me what I do now.