July 22, 2024
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July 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

To the Editor:

In an effort to deflect the actual issues regarding metzitza bipeh, lawyer Akiva Shapiro (letters, September 25) accuses me of rendering, in an earlier letter, a medical opinion of my own. What I in fact did was to cite, by name and credentials, medical experts who happen to disagree with Mr. Shapiro’s clients, and who, after reviewing all available evidence, insist that the practice has never been proven to be related to, let alone a cause of HSV-1 in newborn infants.

Mr. Shapiro goes on to call those experts “partisan doctors and statisticians” who are “working for” Agudath Israel, and criticizes me for “fail[ing] to disclose” that fact. For the record, and for Mr. Shapiro’s information, the experts I cited, disturbed by what Mr. Shapiro’s clients were erroneously claiming to be fact, approached Agudath Israel and offered their expertise entirely pro bono, as I noted in my original letter.

Rabbi Avi Shafran
Director of Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America

To the Editor:

I will leave it to your readers to decide whether they trust the medical opinions of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and other leading national medical organizations, or those of a single medical doctor, a Ph.D./M.P.H. researcher, and a mathematician at a business school (compare the Sept. 11 and instant letters from Avi Shafran and my Sept. 25 letter). I write again only to correct Rabbi Shafran’s suggestion that his experts are not partisans for the Agudah because they are not being paid. I and my firm are working on the metzitzah b’peh case pro bono as well, because the threats to public health and parental rights raised by the Agudah’s misguided lawsuit are so significant. (Someone needs to stand up for informed parental consent–which is all the law requires; it does not ban metzitzah b’peh–and for reasonable, data-driven public health regulation.) Of course, pro bono or not, we are very much advocating and “working for” our clients. The lack of a paycheck doesn’t a disinterested third-party make. Unfortunately, Rabbi Shafran is still unwilling to acknowledge that fact with respect to his own experts.

Akiva Shapiro
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

To the Editor:

During a recent visit to New York I stayed with friends in Manhattan. Having visited with them numerous times, the doorman in their building knows me. One morning as I was leaving for the day, it was clear he wanted to say something more than “Have a nice day.” I stopped.

What began as a simple question gave me pause to reflect on where we – all of Am Yisrael – are headed in 5775.

His question: “Why is Israel so aggressive to the Palestinians?”

My response included a gallery of pictures from my iPhone. Pictures and videos showing the amount of ammunition Hamas had in Gaza. Pictures of tunnels that begin under a kitchen sink. Body bags that are moving because the “victims” are still alive. Palestinians shooting rockets at Israel with children standing right next to them, and much more.

I explained that Israel tries its best not to target civilians but as the pictures and videos demonstrate, it is not easy when Hamas terrorists shoot while surrounded by children. He was touched but more than anything he felt deceived.

“They don’t show us any of this on CNN or any of the other news channels here,” he said. He asked me to forward the pictures so he could show them to friends who are Moslem and/or pro-Palestinian.

Later in the day he sent me a text message. “Thanks a lot for changing the way we American people see your world. Our media only shows us the bad and blames Israel. My humble apologies.”

During the afternoon I kept thinking about the fact that here is a non-Jewish American whose main news sources are CNN and Fox News. All he sees is how terrible Israel is.

In response to this reality, verses from Avinu Malkenu* (Our Father, Our King) kept coming to mind: “Our Father, Our King, cancel the plans of those who hate us. Our Father, Our King, thwart the counsel of our enemies.”

This summer’s Operation Protective Edge created a disturbing phenomenon. In addition to outright anti-Semitism, it often resulted in a situation where Jewish people who support Israel felt uncomfortable. All it took was a 15 minute conversation and photo gallery for a very good man to see the truth.

What this innocent exchange taught me is that a worthy goal for the New Year is to become ambassadors for Israel. Speak the truth with those special people you see every day but may think differently than you do.

If we do this, together we can create an outburst of grass roots activism. Self-starting initiatives. Volunteering in Israel and abroad. In social media and in person. Start by learning the facts from Israeli websites including the IDF. http://www.idf.il/English/

It deserves as least as much time as CNN and Fox News.

Rabbi Avi Berman
Executive Director, OU Israel


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