07 May 2008

Rabbi Belsky, Mishpacha Magazine and Chabad

Background and commentary to this story can be found on the Life of Rubin blog. The short version is that Mishpacha Magazine ran an interview with Rabbi Belsky (and Rav Miller, Rav Heinemann) where Rabbi Belsky made some very disparaging remarks about Chabad using broad generalizations and sterotypes. (The remarks, in full appear at the bottom of the post as they were published on Shmais)

The following letter was received by Shamis News Service

SHMAIS.COM EXCLUSIVE: 11 questions for Rabbi Yisroel Belsky

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Not a week had passed since Pesach, and already Rav Belsky, Rosh Yeshivah in Torah VoDaas and official Posek for the OU causes us to ask so many new questions.

1) Why, so soon after celebrating the birth of Am Yisroel, are we trying to break our nation further apart?

2) Why, barely two weeks into Sefiras HaOmer, when we mourn the passing of Rabbi Akiva’s Talmidim because they were not noheig kavod ze bazeh, are we fanning the flames of Sinas Yisroel?

3) Why, just as we begin our preparation for Matan Torah, is such blatant disrespect being shown to an entire community of Yereim Ushleimim, including the strongest Marbitzei Torah in the world?

4) Why, Davka in the week that we learn in the first Perek of Pirkei Avos “Chachomim Hizoharu Bedivreichem”, would the popular Mishpacha magazine irresponsibly publish inflammatory statements not based on fact?

I will only challenge Rav Belsky’s careless dismissal of Lubavitch as a whole having no place in Yiddishkeit and that present-day Chabad “has nothing to do with bringing the masses back to Judaism”. (Every angle of “the Moshiach issue” has already been discussed and regurgitated).

5) Is Rav Belsky really not aware of the work of Chabad-Lubavitch around the world?

6) Does Rav Belsky not know of the Shiurei Torah given by Shluchim every day in Tanach, Halacha, Hashkafa, Daf Yomi, and more?

7) Is Rav Belsky oblivious to the fact that dozens of Chabad Shluchim serve as reliable, dependable Mashgichim for the OU, in many cases because they are available, having devoted their lives to helping their fellow Jews in the remote areas? Are all those Mashgichim Pasul? Does that, by extent, place the reliability of the OU in question?

8) Is Rav Belsky not aware of the thousands of Lubavitcher Yeshiva Bochurim who spend their free time on Friday afternoon being Mezake fellow Yidden with some Divrei Torah, Tefillah, and chance to connect to Hakadosh Baruch Hu by putting on Tefiolin?

9) Is Rav Belsky not aware that once a week hundreds of Lubavitcher Yeshiva Bochurim spend time with Jewish children in New York City who are currently in public school, teaching them how to say Brachos, about Torah, and encouraging their parents to send them to Jewish schools?

10) Does Rav Belsky not know of the hundreds of Lubavitcher yeshiva Bochurim who gave up their Bein Hazmanim to assist Shluchim in conducting public Sedorim, being Mezakeh hundreds of Yidden, kein yirbu, with fulfilling the Mitzvos of Pesach?

11) Does Rav Belsky not know this from his own Talmidim who rely on Chabad Shluchim for a place to stay for Shabbos, a Minyan, and Kosher food when they travel “on business”?

Anyone wanting to know what Chabad-Lubavitch is doing today, can easily visit www.Lubavitch.com or www.chabad.org/news, the official websites of Chabad-Lubavitch. Would it not be a reasonable thing to do before publishing such incendiary remarks?

And whatever reason or excuse one might find for Rav Belsky’s skewed view of Chabad-Lubavitch today, is there any reason that Mishpacha magazine saw a need to publish this?!

Is there really nothing more pressing to the Chareidi community today?! Is the Jewish periodical market so competitive, that Mishpacha must resort to such controversial sensationalism to engender sales, at the cost of the irreparable damage this will do?!

At a time when so many barriers between communities have been removed, as Chassidim of all stripes, Yeshivishe, Yekke, Litvishe, Ashkenazim and Sefardim etc. etc. work together on so many issues of common concern (youth at risk, Shalom Bayis issues, Chinuch, Kashrus, safety in our communities, and all types of Chessed organizations) was it really necessary?!

The basic answer to the Mah Nishtanah is “Avadim Hayinu”. Isn’t it time to free ourselves?!

Name withheld upon request

Rabbi Belsky's comment as it appears on Shmais.com:

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What Words Offend Arabs? The Truth.

Children's Poetry Booklet Recalled After Arabs Complain
(Israeli censorship kowtows to Arabs.
When Will We Tell The Truth Without Fear)

(IsraelNN.com 7 Sivan 5768/June 10, '08) Ynet's web site and Arab complaints against a ten-year-old boy's poem about terrorists has resulted in the recall of all of the Nes Ziona municipality's children's poetry booklets.

Ynet boasts that its coverage of the poem resulted in its being recalled.

The text of the poem (Ynet's translation):

Ahmed's bunker has surprises galore: Grenades, rifles are hung on the wall. Ahmed is planning another bombing!What a bunker Ahmed has, who causes daily harm.Ahmed knows how to make a bomb. Ahmed is Ahmed, that's who he is, so don't forget to be careful of him.We get blasted while they have a blast!Ahmed and his friends could be wealthy and sunny, if only they wouldn't buy rockets with all their money.

Poetry competition director Marika Berkowitz, who published the booklet, was surprised at the protests and told Ynet: "This is the boy's creation and this is what he wanted to express. Of course there should be a limit, but I think the there is no racism here. 'Ahmed' is a general term for the enemy. These are the murmurings of an innocent child."

The Education Ministry told Ynet: "The local authority that published the booklet should have guided the students in a more correct manner through the schools. The district will investigate the issue with the local authorities."
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