2007-08-24 / Columnists

It's My Turn

By Rabbi Dr. Boaz Tomsky

Rabbi Dr. Boaz Tomsky is from Congregation Ohab Zedek and Principal of the Yeshiva of Belle Harbor.

In a recent article, editor Howard Schwach wrote that he overheard a conversation between an orthodox man and the owner of a Carvel that if he doesn't get a kosher certificate, nobody from his community would ever go back to his store. Three weeks later, the store was closed. Schwach said that it reminded him of the mafia or shakedown antics of the Chinatown gangs.

The first thing I did when I read this was I asked myself, "What really happened?" When I questioned Schwach if he had spoken to the owner about what he allegedly heard, he said, "no." I can't blame Schwach for listening to other people's conversations but I wonder why he didn't want to find out the truth of his story and Carvel in general before publishing this story in a community newspaper. I did. The New York Post on August 2, 2007 wrote, "Carvel unfortunately is not doing as well as it used to." In fact, the very first Carvel ice cream store in Hartsdale, New York (on Central Avenue, believe it or not) ALSO needed to close its doors 71 years after it was opened by company founder Tom Carvel. Was it the mafia or Chinatown gangs that had the owner close shop? Come on, Howard Schwach. Life is hardly so dramatic. Current owner Abdol Faghihi, who bought the franchise outlet 20 years ago, simply said that his customers have melted away. "The store space is too large to support just selling ice cream," he said. Sorry, it wasn't any organized religion or mafia that made him close his doors. It was a matter of dollars and cents.

In addition, in www.isolomon.com, we find some fascinating statistics. "Only two million of the kosher consumers are Jewish. The other eightplus million are people who choose to eat kosher for religious (Moslems), idealistic (Vegans and Vegetarians), and health reasons." This means only 20 percent of the people seeking kosher products are Jewish. The Jewish community clearly cannot sustain a business such as Carvel all on their own. For a business person, those are some hard facts. Trust me when I say I enjoyed Cookie Puss, Hug-Me-Bear and Fudgie the Whale as much as the next guy, but sometimes even Carvels can not stay in business. Just don't blame me for it.

You also mentioned The New York Times article entitled Orthodox Paradox, which stated that Noah Feldman was deliberately cropped out of a reunion picture from his school because he was with his fiancée who wasn't Jewish. Howard Schwach, you published this in The Wave on August 10, 2007. On August 3, 2007, a week BEFORE you wrote your article, The Jewish Week verified that Feldman was not deliberately cropped out at all. In fact, the photographer, Lenny Eisenberg, said that he had difficulty capturing as many as 60 reunion participants within a single frame. Eisenberg ended up taking several shots from one side, then the other, and several people on the far side not just Feldman and his fiancée, happened to be out of the picture when it finally appeared in the newsletter. In fact, Feldman himself admits that he was wrong for what he said of the photo, "I never knew any of this until I saw the contact sheets, about two weeks ago. All I knew when I had the experience described in the article is that [Eisenberg] took a bunch of group shots and then, sure enough, I wasn't in" the newsletter photo.

Unfortunately, this small, little detail, that was completely fabricated by Feldman, was not in your article. But don't you think it should have been? I do. The Jewish community does, as well. I was shocked when I read in The Wave that you want the masses to think that a Jewish doctor would not service a non-Jewish patient on the Sabbath. This is the furthest from the truth. All you need to do is attend any Sabbath service and you will see countless doctors on their cell phones, beepers going off, as they are on call. Ask them if they treat a non-Jew any differently. They will answer that such an idea is preposterous. What I found most fascinating was when Schwach asked me if what he wrote was true. Talking about shooting first and asking questions later. If you have questions or concerns, my door is always opened. I am happy to address any issues you may be having about Judaism. Let's talk about it. After all, I too am levelheaded. But don't publish falsities in a community newspaper. This does not promote harmony or good public relations. Nothing good comes from writing so ill about your friendly neighbors. Nothing that is, except for the fact that it does sell plenty of newspapers. I know that The Wave just like Carvel is a business and as you put it, that's the bottom line.

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