Volume 9 Number 94
                       Produced: Thu Nov 11 18:59:27 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

German Jewish Emigration
         [Marc Shapiro]
Holocaust and Israel
         [Eli Turkel]
Holocaust and Rabbi Zemba
         [Benjamin Svetitsky]
Rabbi Menachem Zemba hy"d
         [Percy Mett]
Syrian Jews and Conversion
         [Hillel Silvera]
Syrians and Conversions
         [Anthony Fiorino]


From: Marc Shapiro <mshapiro@...>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 93 14:20:49 -0500
Subject: Re: German Jewish Emigration

To say that there was no place for German Jews to go is only partly
true.  After Kristallnacht when everyone wanted to leave there was no
place of refuge but in the years before this many people did leave. In
fact, most of the people who left immediately after Hitler came to power
returned within a few years. See the Leo Baeck Institute Year Book from
a few years ago for a lengthy article on Jewish emigration. Hindsight is
perfect and no one is trying to judge people, but we certainly can make
observations.  E. g. the Lubavitcher Rebbe (R. Joseph Isaac) urged his
followers to remain in the Soviet Union (in the 1920's). He did not
believe that the government was anti-religious. Whereas other roshe
yeshiva and rebbes were urging their followers to leave, the Lubavitcher
rebbe was telling them to stay. We are not judging him if we point out
how misguided he was. What this teaches us is that great scholars and
rebbes don't have all the answers. The implications of this re. the
peace accords are obvious.


From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 93 22:29:59 +0200
Subject: Holocaust and Israel

    Issac Balbin writes
>>  It is a brave person that can imply that a Psak under these 
>>  circumstances was an error of Shikul Hada'as. Indeed, it is 
>>  also a brave person that will adduce that Rav Velvel Soloveitchik Z"TL 
>>  erred in Shikul Hada'as when his fears about the destruction of the 
>>  yishuv did not materialise.

>>  I maintain that when it comes to Piskei Din of this nature, a Rov must
>>  take into account the risks *as he sees them, and as portrayed by
>>  experts* and make a Psak. The Rov is not proved right or wrong by *what
>>  actually happens*. This is a dangerous line of thought and one which
>>  also gives rise to the notion that children die in bus accidents because
>>  Mezuzos were not checked.

      I strongly disagree with these statements. I feel that it is clear
that Rav Velvel Soloveitchik did err. The situation of the Jews in the
world, Russia and Israel would be much worse if Israel were currently
ruled by the British. If the arabs had (chas ve-shalom) destroyed the
Jews in Israel in 1948 everyone would have concluded that Ben Gurion
(and the rabbis who sided with him) were wrong. What I object to the
most is the implication that if one feels that Rav Velvel erred then one
is reducing his status as a gadol. All I am saying is that Rav Velvel
was human and not a prophet and had no access to the Urim Ve-tumim.  As
such he ruled on the basis of the facts as saw them to the best of his
ability. The fact that the declaration of Independence by Ben Gurion was
a correct choice does not mean that Rav Velvel was less of a gaon.  Rav
Joseph Baer Soloveitchik (Rav Velvel's nephew) had the highest of
opinions of his uncle (as seen in his hesped) and still felt that God
(through history) "paskened" that the establishment of the state of
Israel was correct.
      I fail to see any correlation between possible errors by Rav
Velvel Soloveitchik on the future of Israel and connecting bus
accidents with sins of the general populace.
      In terms of the holocaust it is indeed difficult to judge people
who lived under very difficult times. My wife was just talking with an
acquaintance who mentioned that she grew up in Poland religious.  When
the Germans came to the town the rabbi announced that this was the will
of God and ordered everyone out where they were all shot by the Nazis.
This girl was not there at the time and escaped and came to Israel were
she gave up religion because of this incident. She felt the jews should
have tried something and not just given up. I have heard numerous
stories of rabbis in Hungary in the early 1940s telling the people to
stay in Hungary and that it was safe. When the nazis finally did come it
was too late for most of the people but these rabbis escaped to Israel.
Many of the others who did escape somehow also abandonded religion.

      Esther Posen says that we must understand that the holocaust was
an act of God that we cannot comprehend. While I accept this I cannot
accept those who feel that losing 6 million Jews was an act of God but
when 600,000 Jews survived the attack of the arabs in 1948 it was an act
of the devil (sitra achra). Somehow Jews dying is fine by Jews
triumphing is the devil's work. I would expect that more from
anti-semites than from a Jewish sect.

Eli Turkel


From: Benjamin Svetitsky <bqs@...>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 93 14:21:51 -0500
Subject: Re: Holocaust and Rabbi Zemba

Wait a minute, who ever said that a posek can never be wrong??  As
somebody pointed out in this forum, this is exactly the reason for par
ha'alem davar, an offering brought if the Sanhedrin errs!  The study of
errors by poskim is a legitimate inquiry, for both practical and
philosophical reasons.  The Gemara in Gittin discusses the grave errors
committed by Chazal at the time of the destruction of Beit haMikdash:
God clouded their judgment as part of the divine plan of destruction.

The events of our century, full of tragedy and hope, decision and error,
should be treated the same way.  Mass immigration to Israel was possible
in the decade following the Balfour Declaration, and one reason it
didn't happen was the opposition of European poskim.  (While there were
economic difficulties as well, I can't believe that explicit piskei
halacha containing the imperative of shivat Tzion would have fallen on
deaf ears.)  It is quite possible that this would have saved hundreds of
thousands or millions of lives.  It would also have prevented the influx
of Arabs which created the "Palestinians" ex nihilo.  Naturally, all
this was fulfillment of God's plan, which evidently included the
Holocaust.  Nevertheless, as a son of survivors and a grandson and
nephew of victims, I have a right to follow the sequence of events and
note its causal structure -- without attempting judgment, because
judgment is the Almighty's.

Ben Svetitsky       <bqs@...>


From: <P.Mett@...> (Percy Mett)
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 93 08:26:12 -0500
Subject: Rabbi Menachem Zemba hy"d

 Morris Podolak <morris@...> writes [mail.jewish Vol. 9 #85]
>Subject: Peace Accords
>I don't necessarily agree with the government's actions in the peace
>accords, and I certainly don't want to get into flaming arguments about
>them, but I have to comment on the posting quoted below.
>> Rabbi Menachem Zemba hy"d speaking at a meeting of Agudat Israel before WWII
>> said in response to the Partition resolution by the Peel commission (1937):
>> Only those who are willing to cut out parts of the Torah are willing
>> to agree to cutting out parts of Eretz Israel.
>Rabbi Menachem Zemba was indeed a great man.  A giant both in Torah and
>in actions.  He refused to be rescued from the Warsaw Ghetto and
>remained with the other Jews there.  He did not survive.  I can't help
>wondering whether he and many other Jews would have survived if they had
>been more ready to live in a smaller Israel, rather than holding out for
>the whole thing.

This comment is unworthy. Harav Menachem Zemba z.ts.l. hy"d did not say
he was unwilling to live in a smaller Israel. At that time Palestine was
under a British mandate and the Peel Commission made proposals to
partition Palestine. Having a different opinion on these proposals would
not have incresed his chances of survival. In common with many other
spiritual leaders of the time, Harav Zemba remained to give support to
the multitude of Jews who lived in the Warsaw Ghetto, rather than be
rescued personally at the expense of the spriritual needs of his

Perets Mett  


From: Hillel Silvera <hsilvera@...>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 93 09:54:06 EST
Subject: Syrian Jews and Conversion

     I read Susan Slusky's submission to mail-jewish in Vol. 9, digest
#79 regarding the position of the Syrian Jewish community on converts
and conversions, and I'll tell you what I know.  My only credential is
that I am a Syrian Jew, but I did not grow up in the community in

     Some time in the early part of this century when the community was
first beginning to empty out of Syria to places like New York, Mexico
City Buenos Aires the Rabbis discovered an alarming trend in the pattern
of emigration.  Young men were the first to leave to make their fortune
in the new world, sending home later for their families, nuclear and
extended.  Due to the dearth of young single Syrian Jewish women
available for these men to marry, it was feared that they would start
bringing goyish (read Italian) gils to the rabbis for conversion on one
pretext or another for marriage.  It is not clear to me whether this was
a fear of the Rabbinate or if it actually became a major problem in
practice.  I seem to think that the Rabbis decided to take preemptive
action and not wait for their fears to materialize.

     In any case, the Rabbis got together and issued an community-wide
decree sometime in the 1930's, I seem to remember 1935, forbidding
conversions and converts into the community for any reason, for the
express purpose of preventing conversion for the sake of marriage which
is of course halakhicly impermissible.  Essentially, this measure was a
fence-building measure to protect against breach of halackah proper.
Similar decrees were enacted in the communities of Mexico and Argentina.

     Due (in my humble opinion) to a combination of the community's
insular nature and halakhic inertia, these decrees have been
periodically clarified and reaffirmed.  The last reaffirmation in the
community of New York (and Deal, New Jersey) took place quite recently,
certainly within the last ten years.  Neither the Rabbis or the
community members are apologetic about their admittedly harsh position
regarding converts and conversion.  It is critically important to note,
however, that the community *does* recognize a legitimate convert's
halakhic status as a full-fledged Jew, and it is simply a matter of not
accpeting them as "members of the community".  No one would deny that a
convert who undergoes a "kosher" orthodox conversion is Jewish in every
respect, it is just that it doesn't count within the orbit of the
community and its religious and social institutions.

     I hope this answers some of your questions and clears some of your

Hillel Silvera


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 93 14:21:55 -0500
Subject: Syrians and Conversions

Marc Shapiro wrote

> . . . however, once the conversion has been properly carried out by the
> Jerusalem Bet Din, I do not understand how they can reject the convert.
> This seems to go against explicit halakhot re. how one treats converts.

The Syrians do not "reject converts" -- rather, the American Syrian
(perhaps NY-only) rabbinate does not perform conversions.  They justify
this decision on the grounds that it is permissable for a community to
take upon itself a gezeira.  However, it is certainly *not* the case
that the Syrians do not recognize converts as Jews.

Eitan Fiorino

(who considered for a while being a sefard but decided to hold like the
Rema in the end . . . and second-guesses himself every pesach :-) )


End of Volume 9 Issue 94