2007-08-17 / Letters

Wave Commentary Is Destructive

Dear Editor,

Dear Editor,

The commentary that you printed in the August 10 issue of your newspaper concerning the Rockaway Orthodox Jewish community is disturbing for many reasons. The language that you use is inflammatory; it is laced with inaccuracies; and is obviously written from ignorance.

Let me first correct the comment you made concerning what was said at the Urban Renewal Committee of the Community Board, which took place on August 1. I know what was said concerning the use of the pool because I was the one who said it. Executives of the YMCA of NYC stated that the pool should reflect the needs and desires of the community. They said that the approximately 20 Y facilities in NYC had different hours and offered different programs depending on the composition of the community. Based on this openness, I commented there are thousand of Orthodox Jews who live in the Rockaways, especially on the east end of the peninsula, who will only swim gender separately and in privacy. The citywide director of Y programs responded positively stating that they would take this into consideration. In no way did my comment constitute a "demand".

Also, the preference for separate swimming is known not be the preference of only Orthodox Jews. There are individuals of other persuasions who prefer to swim separately for religious and other reasons. I did not see you at the meeting so presume that what you wrote was second-hand information and included using the language you chose, only to rouse more response.

You state in your commentary that young people threw rocks at you car while you drove through the West Lawrence section of Far Rockaway. I do not know of any similar incidents in the NY metropolitan area. It may simply be boys acting extremely inappropriately and rocks not thrown in religious passion. You call it an aberration. Why could you not write the same thing about the other incidents you witnessed at the Carvel and bookstore in Cedarhurst? Since I was not there it is hard for me to comment with accuracy, but the conversation at the Carvel could simply have been a suggestion to retain rabbinical supervision from the more well known local group than one not as well known and, therefore, increase his business. You make it sound that the Carvel closed for that reason, but I would like to point out the Carvel store on Burnside Avenue in Inwood, an area not highly inhabited by Orthodox Jews, also closed. Could they have closed for other reasons?

The comment you make concerning the Satmar community in Bayswater is inaccurate. They are building one synagogue on one lot, not as you state in your commentary "the Satmar community is taking over, buying property and converting many of the large homes into synagogues". The entire Chasidic community in Bayswater numbers about 30 families.

Your comparison of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway Orthodox Jewish Communities is also feeble. You state that some people would say that the area is "ruined" because there is a growing Orthodox Jewish population in the Five Towns, but I have heard from many people that it is better. Even the way you frame the hypothetical question that a similar growth in our environs "could easily overtake Rockaway as it has the Five Towns area" is written to provoke.

There are many people from the Orthodox Jewish community who spend countless hours working for the betterment of the entire community. They are involved in the many communal and social service organizations and institutions in the Rockaways. The Rockaways constantly confronts difficult and serious issues concerning the quality of life for area residents, including fighting poverty, excellent schools, safe neighborhoods, and raising children with proper values. Although the Jewish Community Council of the Rockaway Peninsula is not a religious organization, I am proud to say that it is involved in all of these issues and more, to make our community a better place. Through our work providing social services to those in need and the Coalition of Far Rockaway, a ten year old group that identifies and works on the issues that faces the community, we have developed a net- work of friends that transcend religious, social and ethnic values.

Indeed, we are a community of communities; it is important to recognize our differences, but it is also important to recognize what we have in common and how we can work better together.

Your commentary does none of this, it is only destructive.

HARVEY GORDON

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

JEWISH COMMUNITY CORPORATION FOR THE ROCKWAWAY PENINSULA

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