Thank you for this lovely tribute to Catherine Taub. She was a friend of mine also. I came to know Catherine through my book about Varian Fry. She was kind and gracious. I will miss her.
I am one of the nurses at Villa Marie Claire, and on a very busy night I went down to Catherine Taub’s room because her bell was going off (“Catherine Taub: ‘A Hometown Hero,’” June 7). In the bed was this beautiful women, who was sitting up and trying to catch her breath. Her nurse, Cecilia, and her aide, Karlene, were also in the room. Catherine settled down and we all stayed in the room with her. On the windowsill was a picture of Catherine at her daughter’s wedding. Catherine was wearing an elegant strapless gown with a scarf around her neck. It was not your typical mother-of-the-bride dress.
Her eyes lit up as she talked about the wedding and her family, and also about the dress. I was drawn to her immediately, and I wanted to know more about this women. We stayed in the room for awhile, and I am forever grateful that God blessed us with meeting this beautiful women.
God is always working through others and tonight once again I felt his presence. Catherine was shining bright! I went home that morning and kept thinking about this beautiful women. A few days later I learned that she had died and I read her obituary and your article. What was revealed to me was her inner beauty. May we always shine our lights bright like Catherine!
I have always been a fan of Chaka Kahn, most recently enamored with Taylor Swift and resolved that yes, Beyoncé can in fact sing. I guess I feel that I’m keeping up with the “new” — but what about the “old”? I am unabashed to admit the Barry Sister always, get me up doing the hora, and Yossela Rosenblatt (of blessed memory) is without doubt the man I want to hear chanting or belting out a few, if the urge arises. This is yet another example of how I merge or, shall I say, coexist in both worlds.
My closest friends would wonder how and why I didn’t let my child watch television, or go the movies, yet I must confess I haven’t missed an episode of Mad Men.
So what gives? Who am I? Even my clothes don’t correctly identify who I think I am. They serve to confuse anyone who knows me. When I lived in Lynn, Massachusetts, I was president of Mikva B’not Yisrael there. I believe these questions are asked before the person realizes that I have a deep profound love of Torah and are simply wild about the Creator.
So why don’t I have the typical religious demeanor? I am one thing for certain — a walking dichotomy. Some people call it hypocrisy. I don’t. I light candles to bring light into the world and my home. I believe 100 percent that God determines when every leaf shall turn and, of course, who shall live and who shall die. I never forget to do the Sh’ma before I retire, and I work extremely hard on doing the right thing day to day.
My house is strictly kosher, yet I have had to explain to my child, as it became clear to her I wasn’t covering my hair, that I am doing the best I can to keep God’s wishes, and God realizes that I am not perfect, only He is. I also have told her I do not stay in one place. I am constantly moving forward to do mitzvahs, even the ones I find difficult.
It was not so long ago that I wore a micro mini skirt to an orthodox rabbi’s house, unaware of the laws of modesty. I had not the faintest idea that my black fishnet stockings, pumps, and miniskirt might make him and his wife blush. In retrospect, I’m glad it happened though, for that was my entrance into a new world, a frum world, the world I chose to give over to my daughter because of the purity and sensitivity of it all.
I walk both paths comfortably, the one I hope to have my daughter inherit would be the one that adheres strictly to halachah, but sometimes cranks up the Aerosmith.
Thank you to Rabbi Korff for citing my writing on tikkun olam in his recent editorial on the subject.
However, based on the citations he chooses, I fear that readers may come away with the mistaken impression that I reject the use of this term out of hand. Rather, the article he cites, as well as the more extensive treatment in my book, “There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law and Tradition” (Jewish Lights), constitute attempts to reclaim this term in all of its richness and complexity. Through analyzing the evolution of this term from ancient through modern times, I show that the rabbis of the Talmud used this principle as a tool for resolving major social and economic problems, that the kabbalists referred to this principle to assert the power of human beings to transform the cosmos, and that each generation has added new meaning to this ancient idea.
Even more crucially, I argue in all of my work that the Jewish community has an obligation to act on our thousands of years of wisdom about how to create a more just world, whether we choose to describe this work as tikkun olam, or use other words.
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
New York, N.Y.
So according to Rabbi Yitzhak Aharon Korff (“Enough with the tikkun olam,” June 7), the use and understandings of terms and concepts in the Jewish tradition cannot evolve, even if that evolution would promote social justice — i.e., tikkun olam, expanded to mean, in Rabbi Ashira Konigsburg’s words, “[w]orking to fix our broken world.”
And, he tells us, such expansion to promote social justice is profoundly un-Jewish. As Rabbi Korff writes: “…the pursuit of virtuous goals and principles which may be applicable to general society and civilization [are] a poor substitute for authentic religious observance… We cannot, and are not instructed to save the world, or even to repair it. Judaism teaches no such thing.”
Rabbi, come now, and let us reason together…
You mean that as long as we faithfully attend Shacharit, Minchah, and Ma’ariv, keep kosher homes, and scrupulously observe the holidays, God alone will address the scourges of poverty and disease? Direct action on our part (as God’s partners) to clothe the naked, support the fallen and heal the sick, (yes, social justice), would be unnecessary — and would not be a profound part of our Torah observance?
It’s sad to read actions for social justice being dismissed as “a poor substitute for authentic religious observance … petty moral concerns … pseudo-religion … social action fetishism … a vulgar misuse and distortion by assimilationists… [and] a trendy socioeconomic or political [notion].”
You mean that according to our scriptures it’s okay to grind the faces of the poor, ignore the needs of the oppressed, the widow and the orphan, and build our houses without righteousness? You mean it’s not profoundly Jewish to take action when our neighbor is bleeding, to help those in need toward economic self-sufficiency, to seek peace and pursue it?
You say, “[f]or Jews who truly do want to engage in tikkun olam, the only honest and authentic Jewish way to do that is to encourage observance of the Torah across the entire spectrum of the Jewish community…the rest is up to G-d — if we do our part, so will G-d.”
And since when are socioeconomic and political notions foreign to Judaism anyway?
One more thing. You quote Steven Plaut as follows: “It would be an exaggeration, but only a small one, to say that nothing in Judaism directs us to the pursuit of social (as opposed to judicial) justice.” But, Rabbi Korff, readers, Professor Plaut, can judicial justice really be separated from social justice?
Sen. Frank Lautenberg was a decent, devoted, and dedicated public servant (“You can take the kid out of Paterson…” June 7). He was a strong supporter of the state of Israel and peace in the Middle East. He proposed and supported the transfer station in Secaucus and he proposed strong legislation to end smoking on airplanes. A caring, sincere person, he helped a lot of people.
I met Sen. Lautenberg a few times. I was impressed by his candor, honesty, and decency, and by his willingness to help people. In all of my endeavors selling real estate and my effort to sell three World War II movies to Hollywood, he always had a positive and kind work of encouragement.
Even in ill health, he was still fighting to help the people of New Jersey. He advocated strongly for the ARC Tunnel and for financial relief for the people affected by Hurricanes Floyd, Irene, and Sandy. He fought hard in World War II in Europe as a member of our “greatest generation.”
Senator Lautenberg, a very kind and modest person, will be deeply missed by all the people of the State of New Jersey and our country.
I have to respectfully disagree with Dr. Medoff in “Is China trying to co-opt the Holocaust?” (May 16). I am one of the German Jewish refugees who was in Shanghai at that time. I fully agree that the Japanese allowed us in and were on the whole fairly good to us. But let us remember we were in China, which was occupied by Japan. The Japanese ruled over the Chinese people with an iron fist. I lived with Chinese people in the restricted area who suffered a great deal. Therefore, if the Chinese government wants to take credit, I give them permission as they have a right to.
Many thanks for Rabbi Zahavy’s and Mr. Sutton’s thoughtful responses to my May 24 letter on the issue of the efficacy of prayer, particularly the Kaddish (“More on angels,” June 2). I would be grateful if any reader would care to respond to my question concerning the Kedusha: Why, in the Kedusha, does the Creator of the Universe need to hear words of praise from angels, beings who have no free will, and therefore no choice in the matter?