Friday, November 22, 2013

God Delivered the Pilgrims—and My People

The congregants of Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in NY City, are installing their 10th rabbi in 360 years. As this op-ed from the Wall Street Journal demonstrates, they chose wisely in selecting R. Soloveichik.

Being second generation born here, I was brought up a in public school environment in Middle Village, Queens, New York.  Although my grandmother spoke with a slight European accent and I knew the family came from Polish Russia, when I sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," I felt it in my bones then, and feel it now, that I, too, shared in the "pilgrims' pride."

R. Soloveichik reminds us that we all have something to be thankful to God for, and it's not just a big fat turkey.

Well, that's what I think.

Stephen M. Flatow

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik: God Delivered the Pilgrims and My People

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Nishmat - Landmark US program graduates first female halachic advisers | The Times of Israel

Way to go Nishmat!  Halachic advisors have a place in Judaism, and the newest group of women to be certified as such was trained right here in New Jersey!

In Israel, Nishmat houses many different programs including the Alisa Flatow Overseas Program which educates women from around the world.

Landmark US program graduates first female halachic advisers | The Times of Israel

Monday, October 14, 2013

So this is how Conservative Judaism expresses its values? Barking up the right tree - The Jewish Standard

At first one wants to laugh when he reads this article from New Jersey's The Jewish Standard about the bestowing of Hebrew names on pet dogs.  Then one wants to cry when he realizes that the role of the Conservative rabbi has become more of a performer than a dispenser of Jewish law, lore and kindness.

I have known, and prayed with, several Conservative rabbis in my lifetime.  And I was proud to be a member of their congregations.  Each showed himself to be concerned about the foundations of Judaism - Torah and halacha.  They could teach a course in either based upon traditional viewpoints and explain why Conservative Judaism has moved away from the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law adhered to by the Orthodox.

Says the sponsoring rabbi, Arthur Wiener-
“This was not a bark mitzvah.” That is, it was not a joke, and it was not an opportunity to be cutesy. Instead, “I had a specific purpose in mind,” he continued.
“This was an opportunity to talk about names — about the importance of names in Jewish tradition — and also to try to build from the connection many people have with their pets to a larger conversation about Jewish values. The truth — or at least my truth — is that it’s often very difficult to start a conversation about Jewish values. So we are duty bound to try to find new ways of engaging them with Jewish values, with mitzvot, with those things that previous generations can take for granted but we cannot.
“This event had no straight lines, no sitting in rows,” Weiner went on. “It was in the shul backyard, and there was a lot of laughter.”
It also allowed people the “opportunity to talk about some of the great Jewish values, which we believe we originally shared with the world, about the responsibility of human beings toward animals. That ethos is now very much part of American values and culture, but it is a relatively new advance in human history. It comes from our Torah and teachers.
No people, it is a joke when you cannot have a conversation as outlined by the rabbi without stretching the bounds of common sense in order to attract listeners.  Is that what Conservative Judaism had in mind when it was founded?

Read the full article from the Jewish Standard: Barking up the right tree.

All I can say is gevalt!!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler - What happens when you've lost your ethics

Why did God flood the earth?  Robbery was out of control.  Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler of Congregation Ahawas Achim B'nai Jacob and David in West Orange, New Jersey reminds us that ethics in business is just as important as being certain the chicken is kosher.  And I agree.
Stephen M. Flatow

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Red Apple Rest

I was pleasantly surprised to read an article about the Red Apple Rest in the Rockland Jewish Reporter. I have many memories of the Red Apple both as a customer in the 1950s on the way to and from the mountains and in the 1960s as an employee at the outside stand. I can close my eyes and see your father slowly walking in the cafeteria and outside the stand to see if things were up to his standards. My father was Gil Flatow, we lived in Monsey in those days. He was a salesman for Maryland Cup; Herb Freid, an owner, was at my wedding.

I’m not sure what my favorite memory is. I worked a half-day—usually from 4 PM to 2 AM. And in my second summer, 1969, I believe, as night manager I had 12 hour shifts. But the money was great, the food was great, and some of the people I met there, characters out of a Damon Runyon novel, I remember to this day.

By and large, as a college kid, I was impressed by the way some of the long time hands would watch out for us. I remember Sal yelling at me when I asked him for macaroni and cheese with a side order of fries. He told me “no fries” if I had the macaroni and cheese.

You mention important people stopping by. I remember serving a vodka and milk to George Jessel one very early morning when he was on his way down from the mountains. He was dressed in the quasi-military looking outfit he wore in later years and had everyone on the bar side of the cafeteria in stitches with his craziness.

I remember the swarms of kids who came down after the Woodstock festival. They were famished because they hadn’t eaten in two days.

I remember the buses creating temporary havoc, as they would pull in 2 or 3 at a time on their way to Peg Leg Bates’s Hotel. The inside restaurant and outside stand looked like bee hives, there would be lines coming out of the bathrooms and, then, 30 minutes later they were gone. Then, early Sunday morning there would be the buses coming down from Monticello Raceway with the winners and losers creating a tumult in the cafeteria.

I remember Herb mumbling when the high school graduates would leave earlier than they promised him they would, usually a good 2 weeks before Labor Day. I remember going down into the walk-in box and carrying up those racks of frankfurters for the grills.

When I first started, on a Sunday afternoon we would have as many as three grills going but it soon dwindled to two and then one. I can hear the counter people yelling “two off, three off, four back” and I can hear the sound of the hamburgers sizzling on the grill. We used to sell beer from reach in coolers, too, and I remember Bob—the day manager who worked with his wife—yelling, “When you take one out, put one in” so there would always be a full cooler.

I remember the rowdy customers and sometimes the kitchen help, who had to be put on the Short Line bus back to the City by the Tuxedo Police Chief. And I remember the men who had family in the City that they would see only for one day a week during the entire summer. They’d leave on a Monday or Tuesday night and be back in a day and a half.

It was the first time I had heard of Louie’s agency in the Bowery where a lot of the kitchen help signed on for jobs at the Red Apple. I was surprised at the amount of after hours drinking that went on among the help—I was naive, I guess.

It was hard work but the pay was good for a college kid. I don’t long for those days, but I won’t forget them.

Well, that's what I have to say. Stephen M. Flatow

Monday, June 17, 2013

Anthony Weiner

We as a society have lost the ability to blush.  What else demonstrates that fact other than the announcement by Anthony Weiner that he's running for mayor of New York City.  Have you no shame Mr. Weiner?  You will recall that Weiner resigned in disgrace from the House of Representatives because he was caught sending sexy texts to women via his Twitter account.

Michelle Malkin has blasted Anthony Weiner in a recent posting.
Touchy, touchy. Despite Team Anthony Weiner’s best efforts at political rehabilitation, there’s just no way to shore up his sorest scandal spot. As the New York Post reported this week, Weiner had a bit of a snit fit when a local Democratic official boldly slammed his sexting habits with underage girls.

Chris Owens, the Dems’ state committee member in northwest Brooklyn, called out the skeezy ex-congressman at a mayoral candidate forum. “I am outraged and disgusted by you,” Owens told Weiner. “Both by what you did and by the fact that you have the arrogance to run for mayor. I want to understand how you explain to us how you used a public facility to tweet offensive material to … minors you did not know, you then lied about it … and now you come back.”
And this is the nice part of the post.  Basically, Anthony Weiner is an ego-centric politician (OK, a redundancy) who does not blush over his past deeds.

Shame on him and shame and shame on those who are trying to get this reprobate elected mayor of New York City.
Well, that's what I have to say. Stephen M. Flatow

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I doubt Anat Hoffman will be happy as Sharansky Urges Equal Prayer At Western Wall

Much has been made over the past months about the alleged discrimination against so-called women's prayer at the Western Wall. So, now Israel's Natan Sharansky has come up with a solution.

But, will it be acceptable to protesters such as Anat Hoffman? I doubt it as I don't see her goal as equality for women at the Kotel but as a tearing down of traditional Judaism's boundaries. At least that's what I think.

You can read the full story at Sharansky Urges Equal Prayer At Western Wall

What do you think?