I am writing in response to Rabbi David Eliezrie (“It’s Time to Talk,” Oct. 3). I don’t think he is being true to the teaching of the Torah when he manipulates facts and figures to attack other rabbis who are not Orthodox and says his way is the only way. How many times throughout history have we been told that.
Eliezrie says “you are guilty when accused.” He is certainly doing the accusing and judging in determining what the “liberal” rabbis will or should say. Our liberal rabbi spoke eloquent!y on Rosh Hashanah about “others”: How to live and care about others! How to help others live good lives, using Princess Diana, Mother Teresa and Victor Frankel as models to point the way for caring for others. Our congregants also have a bond with the Torah.
Eliezrie mentions that 80 percent of Israelis attend High Holiday services in Orthodox synagogues. What a blatant twisting of facts. The Orthodoxy in Israel has maintained the restriction on Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist places of worship to about 20, whereas there are about 20.000 Orthodox synagogues in Israel. In addition, they have prevented liberal rabbis from performing life-cycle events . Secular Israelis, if they want to maintain their tradition, go to the local synagogues as Eliezrie said — and then proceed to the beach or elsewhere to continue their holidays.
Joseph B. Gillerman
The divergent messages and feelings about the proper role of synagogue and rabbi were certainly driven home in your Oct. 10 issue. Chabad’s message was “love of one another” and “love of Israel.” In contrast, you quote Rabbi Fields of Wilshire Boulevard Temple as having “warned Israeli leaders” that “our support for them is conditional.”
The divisiveness and name-calling which came forth from several Reform pulpits throughout Los Angeles was carefully orchestrated and ill-conceived. Messages from the pulpit should be of love and unity. It is simply chutzpah for American rabbis to dictate conditions for support of Israel and urge their congregants not to support Orthodox charitable institutions. Our rabbis are our teachers. Some seem to have forgotten their responsibility to their congregation, including most specifically our children.
Marshall B. Grossman
How unfortunate that Robert Harris has seen fit to equate the Israeli victims of terror at the hands of the Arab extremists with Palestinian victims of the “eternal warrior,” Israel (“Turn Towards Peace,” Oct. 3). According to Harris, Israel is a nation “unable to recognize its place in the world.” His advice, unbelievable as it may seem to any viewer of events in the Middle East, is for Israel to “refrain from the terror they direct toward the Palestinians and the Lebanese.” He advises Israel to turn away from war, make peace, just as America had to make peace with Vietnam. The writer states that it is time for American Jews to tell the Israeli government of our weariness with its continual warrior posturing and terrorizing of Lebanese and Palestinians, while “whining” about being set upon by Arabs.
It is hard to believe that anyone other than an apologist for Hamas could be so misguided in his thinking. The situation in the Middle East is not similar to that of Vietnam where we knew that America would not be attacked if we simply withdrew. You cannot have peace unless all parties want peace. The PLO has never formerly repudiated the Israel-must-be-destroyed section of its charter.
Since the Oslo peace accords, Palestinian terrorist attacks have multiplied greatly. Even though Israel has pulled out of Gaza and virtually all of the Arab populated sections of the West Bank, the Israeli civilian population is still being randomly attacked without any similar response from Israel. On the other hand, the Palestinian authorities have repeatedly and murderously demonstrated an unwillingness to make any concessions to Israel.
The PLO, Hamas and other extremist groups are not reconciled to the existence of a secure Israel. Shame on Harris who describes himself as a “psychologist and as a Ph.D.” He should have his head examined.
Mitchell W. Egers
A Bitter Irony
Mr. Shalom Weiss thinks it is very simple: foreign Judaisms should go home because “out of Zion shall go forth the law — and not from Germany and the U.S.” (“Imported Judaism,” Oct. 3) But if every form of Judaism that was shaped in the Diaspora left Israel, Orthodoxy and its halacha would have to go too. The Babylonian Talmud, the Siddur, the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Schulchan Arukh, and most of the responsa literature are diasporic developments. The very name, “Orthodoxy” and the ideological position identified with it come from post-Enlightenment Germany and Eastern Europe.
According to Mr. Weiss, “[T]he Israeli rabbinate says, ‘you stay on your turf and we will stay on our turf.'” It is revealing that Weiss uses the term “turf” to describe the Orthodox hold on Israeli Judaism. “Turf” is what gangs call the area they control. Gangs maintain their turf by a reign of terror over the unlucky residents and defend it against incomers by intimidation and violence. By what right do any Jews claim Israel as “turf” and deny religious freedom to other Jews there?
The Jewish people has suffered long and cruelly from others who could not tolerate difference. It would be a bitter irony if the Jewish state became another place where Jews are persecuted because of their religion.
Rachel Adler, Ph.D.
Completing the Cycle
We wish to commend you on the story of the Siyyum HaShas and the Orthodox community for coming together in celebration (“Completing the Cycle,” Oct. 3). For those who participated, the feeling of unity with Jews from across the globe was indescribable.
The article insightfully mentioned that Orthodox Jewry was present in all its diversity that each branch from Modern to Haredi was represented. Indeed, the diversity displayed at the event reached beyond these categories. The celebration also included a category often left out: children with special needs.
The Etta Israel Center, which serves Jewish youth with special needs, brought students to the Siyyum from our Talmud Torah class for children with developmental disabilities. We are very pleased that the community understood that the Siyyum would be as meaningful to our students as to any other Jews.
While celebrating the end of a Torah-learning cycle, our community did not forget a principle from the beginning: we are all made in the image of G-d.
Dr. Michael Held,
Etta Israel Center
Paying to Pray
As the president of Congregation Am HaYam, the newest synagogue in West Ventura County, and a retired CPA, I can fully appreciate the need to ensure that a synagogue maintain a sound fiscal policy in order to be able to provide services to its members. However, as so eloquently stated by Michael Barclay (“If She Couldn’t Pay, She Couldn’t Pray,” Oct. 10), we must never forget those less fortunate Jews who cannot afford to pay for High Holy Day tickets.
I am proud to state that the policy of Congregation Am HaYam is to offer free tickets to members in the military and to college students who are not with their parents. In addition, those who stated that they could not pay the full amount of the stated cost of the tickets ($75.00), paid whatever they said they could afford. Seats were also made available to anyone who arrived without a ticket.
Because we are a Conservative synagogue, we could not write down the names of these people and no record was able to be maintained of their identity or address. It does not matter! We are able to hold our head high and have performed a mitzvahof bringing Judaism closer to members of the community.
The problem with synagogues who refuse admittance to anyone on the High Holy Days is that they let their boards of directors dictate their religious policy and their rabbis are not forceful enough, for whatever reason, to persuade them otherwise. Synagogues should not try to balance their budgets by refusing admittance to those who cannot afford to pay the full amount for High Holy Day tickets. They should also not be so paranoid to think that everyone who says that they cannot afford to pay the stated amount is lying. Besides, even if some are, it is not up to us to judge them.
Synagogues must always act in accordance with the religious and ethical teachings of Judaism at all times and especially during the High Holy Days. As lay leaders, and members of synagogues, we must always insist that they do.
Morton H. Resnick,
Congregation Am HaYam
First, the media refused to refer to “Judea and Samaria,” using only the Jordanian term, “The West Bank” — which effectively strips the land of its Judaic history.
Then, more recently, the media insisted on calling that place in Jerusalem, “Ras al-Amud,” not “Mount of Olives.” It was easier to attack Dr. Irving Moskowitz for developing property that sounds like its roots are in Arab soil, thus distancing Jews from their living connection with the land since biblical days.
Now, the media are castigating Dr. Moskowitz just because he deeply believes what even the Labor Party has consistently proclaimed, namely, that Jerusalem is the undivided, eternal capital of Israel, that indeed it was its capital 2,000 years before the birth of Islam — for whom Jerusalem was never a capital, nor even mentioned in the Koran. Why not buy land and/or build in your own sovereign State?
However, the media still persist in referring to “Arab East Jerusalem.” Soon, we no doubt shall see media references not to Jerusalem but to “Al-Quds” (the name the Arabs give to it) — more in line with “West Bank” and “Ras al-Amud,” more consistently anti-Israel. Unfortunately, the Israeli media perform no better.
Julian M. White
The Girls’ Drama Society of Yeshiva University High Schools of Los Angeles (YULA) have announced that their forthcoming theatrical production of Dianne Samuels’ Holocaust drama “Kindertransport” will take place on Jan. 3, 4, 10 and 11, 1998.
In an ongoing effort to educate the members of the cast and crew, and to ensure that our students will have a better understanding of the subject matter, we are trying to arrange a meeting between them and Kindertransport children currently living in Los Angeles. This meeting is scheduled to take place after the chagim.
Any of your readers that are, or know of, Kindertransport survivors, please contact us. We will sincerely appreciate hearing from as many “Kinder” as possible.
YULA Drama Director
In an illustration caption in the Oct. 3 issue (Detail from “Sabbath Afternoon,” Moritz Oppenheim, Frankfurt am Main ca. 1866, oil on canvas), credit should have been attributed to the HUC Skirball Cultural Center and Museum.
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