Biting hand that feeds them
The barrage of rockets, mortars and missiles from Gaza to Israel has escalated recently. Southern Israelis are feeling abandoned and increasingly getting traumatized, living in fear all the time. Children cannot sleep and need counselling. My old mother living in Ashdod is scared as never before.
Striking terror targets after the event has occurred is not helping. Nor are the verbal threats of Israeli politicians. It’s time to act differently. The Israeli government should try non-military measures to bring the Hamas government to its knees. Cut off the supply of electricity, water and daily supplies flowing into Gaza. Don’t let Gazans into Israel for medical treatment. Don’t let them bite the hand that feeds them. The Israeli government should try it for a week and stop being afraid of the world and the United Nations’ reaction. In any case, they don’t care about Israel (my government of Canada will always support you, please remember). People of Gaza will revolt against their rulers, and there should be peace.
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At a recent panel discussion, the August resolution by the United Church of Canada calling for a boycott of West Bank Israeli goods was discussed and the utility of interfaith dialogue was questioned (“Panellist take aim at United Church,” Oct. 25). Dialogue is not a guarantee that different faiths will always act in concert or even in a manner to which representative faiths can always ascribe. There will be and perhaps should be bumps on the road. After all, why would we ever need to talk if different faiths that have different fundamental beliefs saw the world identically? But to question the road itself, and therefore its raison d’etre, is surely a troubling development. Rather one might question not the road of dia-logue, but the radical voices that today appear ascendant along the way. Where are the voices of quiet discussion and compromise? Where are the voices of reason and respect? Cardinal Tom Collins, the keynote speaker at an event spon-sored and organized by the Christian Jewish Dialogue of Toronto on Nov. 26 at the Adath Israel Congregation, is such a voice. Would that there were more.
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Women at the Wall (1)
The scandalous arrest and humiliation of Anat Hoffman – an extraordinarily courageous and talented Jewish leader who has committed her professional life to improving human rights and civil liberties in Israel – is a sad commentary on the lack of religious freedom at Jerusalem’s Western Wall (“Reform leaders seek probe of Israeli colleague’s arrest, Oct. 25).
At the root of the problem lies the willingness of successive Israeli governments to allow ultra-Orthodox rabbis to dictate who may worship at the Wall, and how, and to hound those groups who have the temerity to insist on their right to assemble and pray in the fashion dictated by their convictions and beliefs. Though they may not realize it, the repressive conduct of the ultra-Orthodox leaders is not essentially different from the ruthless persecution of Marrano Jews by the Catholic Church in 15th-century Spain: both believe, or believed, that only they knew the true faith and had a divine mission to enforce it against those who dared to defy it.
So far as the juggernaut at the Western Wall is concerned, there are two imme-diate solutions that commend themselves. First, administration of the area should be taken out of the hands of the ultra-Orthodox and transferred to an in-dependent board with a clear remit to respect and advance free worship at the Wall by all bona fide groups. The second solution – actually a word of advice to the ultra-Orthodox – is this: if you can’t bear the sight of liberated Jewish women praying with the benefit of tallitot, avert your eyes or, if you deem this insufficient, put up a partition in your corner of the Wall so that, physically as well as figura-tively, you’ll be spared the indignity of recognizing and accepting the diversity of religious Jewish cultures in Israel.
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Women at the Wall (2)
In the Oct. 25 front-page story, “Kotel rabbi offers blessings to Canada,” it states that Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz came “to Canada to meet with the Jewish community and encourage everyone to visit the Kotel to strengthen their Jewish identity.” A story in the international section, “Reform leaders seek probe of Israeli colleagues arrest,” states that Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center and chair of Women of the Wall, was arrested, reportedly roughed up by police and detained overnight, after leading a women’s prayer group at the Western Wall. Hmm, I wonder if there is any connection between attendance at the Kotel and its consequences for more than half the Jewish population.
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Women at the Wall (3)
While Rabbi Jennifer Gorman recalls and laments that she could not put on tal-lit and tfillin at the Kotel, she recognizes at the end of her letter that there is now a part of the Kotel called Robinson’s Arch reserved for those women who wish to do so (“Girls, women alienated at Kotel, letters,” Nov. 8).
Jeff Denaberg complains that Anat Hoffman of Women Of the Wall was arrest-ed for reciting Shema, when she was in fact arrested for wearing a tallit at the Kotel’s main plaza – something she knew would upset most worshippers and some-thing Israeli courts have ruled is contrary to the Robinson’s Arch compromise (“Minority monopolizes holy site,” letters, Nov 8). As for his statement that our “holiest site is unwelcoming to most Jews,” Jews of all denominations or level of observance, and indeed people of all faiths, are always welcome at the Kotel – 24 hours a day, all year round.
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Dalton McGuinty’s resignation
I was very disappointed to see our community leaders warmly praising Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, the man who did more to undermine our families’ prosperity and our Jewish community’s collective well-being than any other Canadian leader in recent history (“Community bids farewell to McGuinty,” Oct. 25). Those who genuinely care about the continuity and sustainability of the Jewish community should be bidding the man good riddance.
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto chair Elizabeth Wolfe’s commendation of McGuinty’s “unwavering respect for human rights” is particularly bewildering, if such basic rights include equal treatment by one’s government, regardless of religion or ethnic background. Of course, McGuinty’s Ontario is the only place in the free world with state-funded religious education – for Catholic children only.
The premier’s commitment to our children’s equality ended upon his first election win in 2003. In a cynical and opportunistic political move, McGuinty turned his back on prior commitments to our community and retroactively oblit-erated a tax credit that was specifically implemented by the previous government to address this long-standing discrimination, and which had put Ontario on a similar footing with other provinces, including Quebec, Alberta and British Co-lumbia. This credit, when fully implemented, would have constituted indirect funding to our schools of about $40 million a year.
Our community leaders have forgotten that in 2007, McGuinty won an election, specifically by pledging to perpetuate this discrimination against our children. Not because it was right or just or equitable, but because extending fair education funding was the official policy of the leading opposition party.
Parents of day-school children, bearing the lion’s share of an annual $150-million drain on our community, are not as willing or able as our community leaders to ignore the hardship imposed by McGuinty’s legacy of discriminatory policies.
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Dr. Joe, ‘the people’s doctor’
Your story about the retirement of Dr. Joseph Greenberg brought back some great memories, not the least how I met him (“Dr. Joe retires after 60-year career,” Sept. 6). It was 1968. I had just returned from 18 years of living overseas and had decided to try my luck in Toronto. As things transpired, my luck held, I obtained a job in advertising and managed to find a place to live, but what I lacked was a doctor. A friend suggested hers, but for whatever reason I declined.
Not long after, it happened that I was in a taxi. I started a conversation with the driver and blurted out that I needed a doctor. Why I asked a cab driver and this particular one I will never know. Likely as his name on the driver’s identification sounded Jewish.
Sure he said, “Dr. Joe.”
“Yeah, Joe Greenberg, everyone one knows Joe Greenberg.”
“Well, his office is on Bathurst.”
Next day, I went to see Dr. Joe in what was his office-cum-home. Dr. Joe’s of-fice was a large ancient desk covered with piles of paper and notes. It was, by any definition, organized chaos. Patients’ information seemed to be on a mass of small file cards, and there was no secretary. It was Joe’s mantra that if someone wants to speak to a doctor, then they should be able to speak to the doctor, not a secretary.
Well, Dr. Joe was soon to be the doctor not only to me but to my wife, and he was our primary source of medical wisdom when my wife became pregnant with twins. It was only when we moved out of Toronto that we had to leave Dr. Joe’s care. But he remained part of our family’s history, and my wife or myself often recounted some incident of our time under the compassionate care of “the peo-ple’s doctor.” Thank you, Dr. Joe, for those years you took care of our family.