Life lesson learned at Beth Samuel
I live in Palo Alto now, but I used to live in Ambridge and I went to religious school at Beth Samuel Jewish Center until I was 15. Beth Samuel was a storefront synagogue to begin with. Its former location is now an Ambridge institution, the Maple Restaurant, known for its roast beef sandwich. What used to be the bimah is now the kitchen. When it became a restaurant instead of a synagogue, my father sent the owners, the Pappas family, a good luck horseshoe which is still there. I was about 12 when Beth Samuel moved into the new building at its current location.
My friend in Pittsburgh, one of the handful of girls that made up my entire religious school class, sent me the article from the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle via Facebook. I was so charmed by it, by Beth Samuel’s religious school still being a functioning institution. More than anything, I was charmed by the students repairing the world with animal treats. It was at Beth Samuel that I learned that Jews must care for animals, and anyone who has known me, knows that the dog eats before we sit down to dinner because the Torah and the Talmud say so. They shrug their shoulders with a “there-goes-Natalie-again” gesture, but I know I answer to a higher authority. I learned that at Beth Samuel.
Natalie Krauss Bivas
Palo Alto, California
In remembrance of Rabbi Abraham Twerski
In the early 1980s, I was a young lawyer when a young man charged with vehicular homicide while drunk was referred to me as a client.
The car exploded, incinerating his best friend and sister. As his charred body was inserted into a bag, his hand moved.
When I eventually met the client, he was virtually unrecognizable, given the burns he had suffered from careening into a telephone pole. After dozens of surgeries he was two-sided: One side of his body looked normal, with the other side resembling a skeleton, given the burns.
Given the circumstances, he faced a mandatory three-year jail sentence. No excuses. No exceptions. However, for him prison would be a death sentence. I simply dreaded his court date.
Someone recommended that I contact Rabbi Abraham Twerski. It was then that I learned of his approach and of his clinic, Gateway Rehabilitation Center.
Now, 40 years later, I explicitly remember my one telephone call with the rabbi. I was spent and nervous, but his simple response was: “We’ll take care of him.” I had a host of questions. The rabbi’s response was always, “We’ll take care of him.” He never asked for money. It was just that simple refrain.
In court, I argued that no jail could handle my client. When asked by the judge if there was any alternative, I mentioned Rabbi Twerski and Gateway Rehabilitation Center. My client’s life was spared. Dr. Rabbi Abraham Twerski took good care of him and countless others.
Mark D. Schwartz
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Nikki Haley let us down
There are two articles of importance in the Feb. 19 edition of the Chronicle for those of us who are fascinated with politics. The first is “Nikki Haley broke with Trump. It could make her a Jewish GOP favorite in 2024.” Ambassador Haley will get no support from me as she clearly positions herself to run for the Republican nomination in the next presidential election.
Haley supported Trump through one atrocity after another. She stood by him through the Nov. 3 election and she surely would have remained with him if he had won. Only now, with Trump out of the White House, has she purportedly changed her tune: “He let us down…he went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have listened to him.” I did not ever listen to him or follow him down that path, Ambassador. Why did you?
In her moving opinion essay, “A deep abiding thank you to Rep. Jamie Raskin,” author Elinor S. Nathanson tells us why patriotic Americans did not follow Trump, his “vicious lies, virulent hatred, white supremacist glorification and incitement of deadly violence.” Why did the ambassador close her eyes to the many ways in which Trump sought to bring down our country and savage our ideals and values, all of the noble tenets that our country has represented and espoused throughout our history?
A newspaper article recently featured an interview with a professor who has specialized in the study of white supremacist groups. The piece featured a chilling photograph of hundreds of robed Ku Klux Klan members marching in Washington, D.C. in 1925. The professor noted the similarities between that movement and those of similar ilk who have rallied around the Trump presidency. He noted that bigotry is more accepted and out in the open today in significant part because of the tenor of the past four years. The haters no longer feel the need to shield their identities. It is a chilling phenomenon.
There is a level of hypocrisy in both major political parties and in every human being. I try to identify the worst of the hypocrites. Ambassador Nikki Haley is among them. She is the one who let us down because she knew better.