Readers respond to Warshal commentary

Betty Tannenbaum Richmond Heights

I am proud to say that I am a Chabad Lubavitch member and attend services and activities at Chabad of Chesterfield. I do not profess to be a learned all-knowing expert on all things Lubavitch, but I do know that many of the things stated by Rabbi Warshal are untrue and I find them to be inflammatory. I ask Rabbi Warshal this question; don’t we have enough people swiping at us without swiping and picking at each other? Also, did Rabbi Warshal not read the front page article that states that anti-Semitism is rising locally? What doesn’t he get? Why incite disdain of any Jewish group? The Chabad center I frequent has never pushed anything on me, except food and knowledge. They have never spoken of Rebbe Schneerson, of blessed memory, as the Moshiach — not once. We study together, we eat together and we rejoice together. I have found the Chabad community to not only be welcoming, but to be warm, loving, non-judgmental and just plain Jewish.

I would like to address a couple of specific things that Rabbi Warshal stated in his letter. Regarding the statement that Lubavitchers regard Rabbi Schneerson as the Moshiach. I have this to say to Rabbi Warshal, “You never asked me if I do, nor anyone else I personally know.” We do not. I know not one Lubavitch who does. He was a great teacher, leader and a talented author. I read his books to this day and find them enlightening. As for hanging his picture. My husband and I went to Europe a couple of years ago and found pictures and statues of many great authors and painters hanging in homes. Do these people worship that person? No. When they look at the painting/picture they remember what that person stood for. The same holds true for the Rebbe. All the picture represents is just that — to remember what he stood for. If we had a photograph of Moses we would hang that. What’s wrong with that? Why does the rabbi ridicule this practice without talking to someone like me or my rabbi? I guess it is easier to shoot into the dark and hope something is hit.

Within each group of our Jewish community I would venture to guess that there are “factions” that take things to the extreme one direction or the other. Why? I guess it is normal human behavior. One of us leans left and one of us leans right. Is one wrong and the other right? Who knows? Who cares? I do not feel it correct to judge, condemn and ridicule an entire group of Jews without knowing what they are about. Talk to us, attend a service, eat Shabbos dinner with us, we won’t bite or try to sway you in any way.

I do not doubt that Rabbi Warshal received the material he claims to have received, but I will guarantee you it did not originate at 770. The Lubavitch Headquarters does not promote nor condone this practice. I was personally there a couple of months ago for a week and did not once hear anyone speak of this issue. As for the issue of women, what a distorted representation of the truth. The Lubavitch movement does not teach the things stated in Rabbi Warshal’s piece.

The Lubavitch movement uplifts women. I am very certain this didn’t set well with my rebbetzen who works full time and takes care of two small boys. I am certain she has no time to worry if her curtains match the furniture. How silly.

Lastly and most importantly to compare Chabad with the “Jews” for Jesus sickens me.

I won’t even dignify that statement with a rebuttal.

Lynda Wood

Ballwin

Wow, you struck a raw nerve. Personally, I love Rabbi Landa. Like many Jews, I am concerned about the ongoing legal and moshiach battles which are ripping through the Chabad community in some painful ways.

In my opinion, it is very difficult to deal with the question of messianism with a leaflet or an op-ed. Judaism has had its share of fanatics and false messiahs. Caution and moderation are important in matters concerning faith, spirit, and religion.

For instance, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto, the Ramchal, was under rabbinic edict not to make public statements till he turned forty years of age. He died right before he turned forty. He had established a group around himself with some very mystical leanings with respect to one being a maggid, the other a Moshiach Ben Joseph, etc. Yet, today, his Mesillas Yesharim (Path of the Just) text is treated with tremendous respect and devotion by those amongst us searching out a revived spiritual relationship to HaShem. We accept what we accept; and, try to figure out the other stuff, when we have time.

So, the shlita versus zichron-tzaddik-l’vracha: is he alive or dead? argument will be around for a long time, in my opinion. Does that take away from the quality and dimension of the work which Chabad has pioneered?

Do the mystics who believe that the Torah can be deciphered to document who killed JFK or the anti-Zionist Charedi in Iran or the accusations that Singer was using World Jewish Congress money for personal purposes, detract from the importance of reaching out to other people and other Jews with a message of chesed and tzedakah?

Do crazy people mean that the Torah is silly code?

Do crazy people mean that Iran is not a threat to Israel?

Do poorly motivated people mean that the World Jewish Congress has done no good or that all their efforts are now suspect?

Excitement sells newspapers. Maybe Rabbi Warshal has created the opportunity for the Jewish Light to put together an historical analysis of messianism: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Otherwise, in my opinion you owe some apologies, retractions, and a little love.

Ronnie Y. Fredman

University City

I am writing you in response to the article that was published in the Jewish Light on March 21, concerning Chabad and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. First, let me preface with the statement that this is not a usual course of action for me.

However, I felt I so passionately about this that I could not let the article go without response.

I am not sure why a rabbi would feel the need to write such an article in the first place. Even more importantly, why would the Jewish Light choose to print/ publish this article in its paper? It is simply beyond my comprehension.

For what purpose was this article printed? Was it a slow news week? I hardly think so. This article was inflammatory, disrespectful, and untrue.

It served no purpose except to discredit the wonderful work that Chabad does throughout the world.

I was shocked at the content and the uneducated assumptions, made by a rabbi no less. Chabad all over the world and even more specifically in our own St. Louis community embraces every Jew, no matter his or her beliefs or background, whether he or she are practicing, or don’t know the first thing about their Judaism. They would never turn someone away, proselytize their views, or make someone uncomfortable.

I understand everyone has a right to their opinion, freedom of speech and press. I understand the need to question as that is what we Jews are taught to do. What I don’t understand is the need to write and publish an article, that although it may very well be the views of a rogue few, are not the intent or the mission of Chabad Lubavitch, nor the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It just seems so negative and self defeating. When things like this happen, we all lose.

My last question is simply this — why would someone ever write or publish an article that disrespected the blessed memory of a person whose only mission in life was to bring Jews together?

I sincerely hope you will think twice before printing/ publishing an article like this going forward. Thank you for your time.

Wendy Armstrong

University City

Struggling with the concept of the messiah is essential to all forms of Judaism. When we sing Yigdal, based on Maimonides 13 Fundamentals, we are reminded that we have wrestled with this concept for a long time. Within Judaism it would serve us best to agree to disagree on many issues and to deepen in our relationships and our learning with each other. For example, Rabbi Warshal’s article takes on the notion of the Rebbe in Chasidic Judaism in general, not confined to Chabad. The place of the Rebbe has been a subject of misunderstanding and controversy since the beginning of Chasidism. It needs a class, not a paragraph, to discuss it properly. We are not doubting that these burlesqued encounters described in the article happened, but they did not happen here.

This is what happens here. In St. Louis both Chabad and Chabad on Campus provide wonderful opportunities for learning and celebrating Jewish life. We are grateful for the numerous collaborations, the study opportunities and our personal relationships with the Chabad rabbis and their families.

Central Reform’s confirmation class has been warmly welcomed to Chabad headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway for the past 10 years and Shalvah, Neve Shalom’s addiction outreach has recently added a meeting at the Chabad house at Washington University to name just a few of our connections.

We have become friends throughout the years and we respect each other’s work.

We are writing to attempt to heal from the hurt caused by the divisive tone of the article that appeared in the Jewish Light. We all benefit from the unity of our community and the contributions of each member organization. Our hope is that the conversation sparked by the article will not tarnish the good work of our friends at Chabad.

James Stone Goodman

Rabbi, Neve Shalom

Susan Talve

Rabbi, Central Reform

I am a recent subscriber to the Jewish Light, a long time St. Louis resident and a member of Congregation Shaare Emeth. I found the commentary by Rabbi Warshal that you recently published most disturbing.

Whether he correctly reflected the views of the Chabad organization or its members is not my concern.

What is my concern is that it wrong for one Jew to criticize the beliefs (assuming that those are their beliefs) of another Jew. Rabbi Warshal’s commentary is no different than if an Orthodox rabbi had written a commentary mocking the beliefs of Reform congregations. I don’t believe you would have published such a commentary and you should not have published Rabbi Warshal’s commentary.

Barry Bloch

Saint Louis

Shame on you. Shame on the Jewish Light. And shame on any member of the local Jewish community which does not cancel his or her (free) subscription to this disgraceful “news” paper, or pull his or her advertising dollars from this rag, after granting op-ed space to Mr. Warshal’s despicable and defamatory article.

Chabad Lubavitch, the many thousands of Chabad Chasidim around the world, and the hundreds of thousands of Jews they positively influence are not responsible for a pamphlet simply because it purports to speak for them. Just as world Jewry is not responsible for the statements of irresponsible rabbis who claim to speak for them.

“Rabbi” Warshal is, of course, responsible for idiotic statements he signs his name to with the organization Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, and should be held equally responsible for his blanket defamation of Chabad Lubavitch worldwide, which he justifies from, by his own words, a flyer allegedly originating at 770 Eastern Parkway.

All Missouri Jews should make their voice heard — boycott the Jewish Light. It is a disgrace.

Matthew S. Chase

University City

I am not a member of the Chabad, but I nonetheless am greatly offended by your recent publication of an op-ed that smeared the Chabad community. The “progressive” Jewish community talks a good game about “social justice, respect for diversity and tolerance” toward gays, blacks, Muslims and all of God’s creatures. Apparently fellow Jews are not included in this mandate.

The article ridiculing Chabad was “hate speech” in the extreme, couched in the language that the South Florida rabbi probably would not even use against suicide bombers. It made no mention of the good that Chabad does in the Jewish community and beyond. The question remains, why would the Jewish Light publish such hate speech? What is your agenda here? Have you no shame?

J. Martin Rochester

Clayton

Your recent commentary about the Rebbe of Lubavitch and Chabad was way off the mark and falsely depicted a very great man and a very worthwhile organization.

I was very disappointed in the Light for printing such outrageous nonsense.

Chabad is a very reputable organization that does a remarkable job in helping Jews of all denominations all over the world and your depiction of them as one of ridicule was not only shameless but untrue and insulting.

I think Chabad deserves a retraction and an apology.

Alice Brown

University City

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