February 23, 2007

Must Our Own Level Blood Libel Charge?

Nearly 100 years ago, my grandfather Mendel Beilis was accused of blood libel in Kiev, Ukraine (“Scholar Pulls Book Revisiting Blood Libel,” February 16). After being dragged out of his house by the police in the middle of the night and placed in prison for 27 months, he was found not guilty following a five-week trial.

Several weeks after my grandfather’s trial, Sholom Aleichem visited him at his home and told him that the weight of 12 million Jews had been on his shoulders while he was imprisoned. We know what happened to half of them.

It is one thing for the Arab world to use the blood libel to further its goals, but for one of our own to suggest such nonsense is quite disturbing.

Jay Beilis
via e-mail . .

Torah Does Not Want A Part-time Lover

I am appalled by the East Village Mamele’s paean to her gay brother Andy and his partner upon their adoption of a child (“My Niece Has Two Daddies,” February 9). The Mamele’s endorsement of an immoral lifestyle and her attempt to reconcile it with Torah values are deplorable.

She writes that at little Shirley’s welcome ceremony, Andy and his partner, Neal, prayed that she would become “a lover of Torah…. May she see having two gay fathers not as a challenge but as a gift.”

The Torah unequivocally categorizes homosexual conduct as an abomination. But homosexuality is markedly worse than other sins, because it undermines the foundations of society. Indeed, homosexuality is the transgression that led to the destruction of Sodom.

If the Torah is the word of God, then one who loves Torah cannot cherry-pick from its precepts. If the Torah is not the word of God, then why should we care about its laws? Shirley can be raised to accept two gay fathers as a gift, but she cannot simultaneously be raised to love Torah.

It is one thing to tolerate immoral conduct that goes on behind closed doors. It is quite another when our laws grant an imprimatur to such conduct. The more entrenched in law that immorality becomes, the more we become like Sodom.

I, too, want Shirley to love Torah, but the Torah cannot be manipulated to satisfy the mores of the day. I am sorry, Mamele, but the Torah does not want a part-time lover.

Avi Goldstein
Far Rockaway, N.Y. . .

My partner, Jack, and I have been together for 11 years and are expecting our first child via surrogacy on April 23. One of us is the sperm donor and biological father. The woman who is our egg donor is an American Jew of Israeli descent who lives in Los Angeles.

The woman who is the gestational carrier lives in Columbus, Ohio, and is not Jewish, which does present us with the need to undergo a formal Orthodox conversion, since halachically the child is not Jewish. My partner and I have both spent a lot of time in Israel and want our child to do the same. For this reason and the possibility that he or she may choose to make aliya some day, we want to remove any potential obstacle from the start.

We live in Lambertville, N.J., and are so happy that we live in such a progressive state that will fully welcome this child.

Although New Jersey does not yet call our relationship what it really is — marriage — we are confident that the state will change course in this regard soon. The political winds seem to be moving in the right direction, and we have great political leadership and community activists and leaders who are fighting for all of us. This is so important not only for us but also for our child. We must eliminate as much ignorance and prejudice as possible in society in order for our child to grow up in a state, and someday maybe in a country, that shows love and support to all its citizens, and most importantly treats everyone as equals under the law.

Jack, who was born in Mexico but is now a naturalized citizen of the United States, will probably be called Papi, and I will be called Aba. We will observe the Sabbath and the Jewish holidays, and most likely enroll our child in a Jewish day school. We’ve both had such rich Jewish upbringings that we want to make sure to give our child the same.

Lee Rosenfield
Lambertville, N.J. . .

Recognize Unheralded Maimonides Scholar

The possibility of a Maimonidean critique of contemporary orthodoxy suggested by Menachem Kellner’s new book “Maimonides’ Confrontation With Mysticism” has an important precursor in the life and work of the late Yeshayahu Leibowitz (“The Radical Rationalism of Maimonides,” February 16).

Leibowitz, who passed away in 1994, was an observant Jew, an accomplished biochemist and a combative political activist. He delivered withering critiques of the magical thinking found in some religious circles, which he considered a perversion of Judaism.

Without sentimentality or nostalgia, he lambasted what he viewed as the idolatrous worship of the state, the holy places and the Jewish people itself. And he propounded his distinctive account of Maimonides’s teachings in thousands of pages of dialogues that have been published since his death.

No proper biography of Leibowitz has yet been written, but his short book on “The Faith of Maimonides” is available in English.

Steven Aftergood
Washington, D.C.
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February 23, 2007

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