November 27, 2013
How very disappointed I was to read Max Kleinman’s comments from his op-ed in the Star-Ledger regarding Iran (“Local leadership fears any deal easing sanctions on Iranians,” Nov. 21).
There has to be a starting point for peace somewhere, whether with Iran or the Palestinians. When the United States was fighting the Cold War, we communicated with the USSR and China despite our differences. The countries that we cut off communication with, Cuba, North Korea, and now Iran and Syria, are the only countries that we still have intractable differences with. The key to problem solving will always be communication, not sanctions.
November 27, 2013
Re “The spirit of inclusion,”
Thank you for your recent editorial on “The spirit of inclusion” (Nov. 14). The article highlights the new initiative, Hineinu, a national, inter-denominational effort to create inclusive Jewish communities.
The emphasis on the inclusion of individuals with disabilities and their families has been on the forefront of the Greater MetroWest community for the past five years, with the implementation of MetroWest ABLE, a program of our Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ that has been nationally recognized for its work in supporting and advocating for individuals with disabilities and their families.
MetroWest ABLE helps families make connections to community resources and assists our local congregations in being more inclusive. MetroWest ABLE envisions a community that is made whole through the active and meaningful participation of all its members, with opportunities for access to every aspect of Jewish life.
MetroWest ABLE is here as an ongoing resource to our families, synagogues, and agencies.Hineinu — We are here.
For more information on MetroWest ABLE, visit http://www.metrowestABLE.org or contact 973-929-3129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Inclusion Coordinator,
November 27, 2013
Re “Half full or half empty?,”
I shall always be dismayed by the decision in 2005 by what was then United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ to discontinue the very successful PATHWAYS program for intermarried families. No wonder that “Half Full or Half Empty? Survey of U.S. Jews roils local experts” (Oct. 10). At the forefront of addressing the situation in 1990, UJCMW inaugurated a two-year Sunday school program for families not yet ready to join synagogues but having a desire to raise their children as Jews. Our successes were outstanding:
• More than 75 percent of attendees joined synagogues at the end of their two-year commitment.
• 90 percent of families went on to raise Jewish children.
• Each year saw more families enroll, from 15 to 35 in the 14 years the program existed.
Programs like this don’t attract hundreds at the beginning but open a door for those willing to begin the journey. Unfortunately, the less-thansix-figure expenditure by UJCMW was thought to be “not enough bang for the buck.”
How many more demographic studies do we need to state the obvious?
Can’t this kind of programming be done again?
Mentor and coordinator,
Intermarriage/ Keruv Initiative
Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs
(formerly: Director of Outreach to Intermarried Families, PATHWAYS United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ)
Walnut Creek, Calif.
November 27, 2013
Re “Helping shul groups improve pastoral care,”
I want to take this opportunity to commend the NJ Jewish News for the thorough coverage of our new project, Creating a Caring Community Together (“Helping shul groups improve pastoral care,” Oct. 17).
We are very excited to partner and collaborate with synagogues, organizations, and individuals in creating or enhancing caring, hesed, bikur holim, and mitzva committees in the Greater MetroWest community. However, I want to point out to the entire community that we are indebted to Atlantic Health for making this project possible. It was through our involvement with the Interfaith Council of Atlantic Health that we were able to partner, cooperate, and collaborate with them to help put this program on the community agenda.
The support of Atlantic Healthcannot be underestimated.
Cecille Allman Asekoff
DirectorJoint Chaplaincy Committee of Greater MetroWest
November 27, 2013
My last stop before arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport on Oct. 28 was to join the massive rally at Ofer prison protesting the release of 26 more Arab terrorists. Speaker after speaker talked about the brutal murder or maiming of a loved one, of innocent children, sons, daughters, husbands, and wives. Another 52 prisoners are to be released in the near future. All of this simply toget the Arabs to get to the table to negotiate.
And what gestures are the Arabs making? Continued calls for the destruction of Israel. Continued preaching of hatred, particularly tochildren. Continued glorification of martyrdom. The reality of the situation is revealed by the Palestinian emblems showing all of Israel as the future state of “Palestine.” The only result of this absurd, insane ‘gesture’ is the justification of more terror against Jews. Why wouldn’t a jihadist be encouraged to commit more terrorist acts? What would he or she be risking if he knows that even if he is captured, he will eventually be released from prison as a “gesture for peace”?
One can only wonder what horrific, useless pressure Kerry has forced upon Bibi to proceed with this mind-boggling absurdity. There is no “peace partner.” God forbid a Palestinian state will become a reality; we know that it will simply be another Arab terrorist state dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
New York, NY
October 30, 2013
If I had any doubts about the decline of Conservative Judaism, they have been sadly confirmed by Rabbi Steven Wernick’s opening remarks in “The
Conversation of the Century.” He calls for us to unite on “...the scourge of gun violence in the U.S., or social justice matters, or the environment, or access and acceptance for people with disabilities and special needs...” This is not a Jewish agenda; it’s a Liberal agenda. The Conservative movement is desperately casting about for a reason to exist and rather than focus on the Jewish trinity of God, Torah, and Israel, it has adopted the liberal fad-of-the-moment. And they wonder why they are dying?
October 30, 2013
In 2008, the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University held a competition inviting fresh ideas for Judaism. Among the 280 submissions was my own project, on the topic of intermarriage and growing the Jewish population.
I am not a scholar or even a writer. My grandparents were Israel Bond fund raisers in the Catskills, my mother was a Hadassah president in Staten Island and Lakewood. I am a graduate of Yeshiva Haichel Hatorah High School in New York, a past president of Monmouth College Hillel, a Rutgers graduate, a UJA volunteer for 35-plus years and a U.S. patent holding inventor. My wife Joanne lost much of her family in the Holocaust.
For this project, I was endorsed by what was then the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ and Montclair Hadassah. In the event that I won the contest, my wife and I were willing to make the sacrifice for me to relocate from New Jersey to Brandeis.
Many people do not want to discuss intermarriage because, at nearly 60 percent, it has already touched their lives and they understandably don’t want to seem disloyal to family members. But having a Jewish population with a strong sense of identity is crucial to maintaining our influence, affluence, the ability to shape and defend our destiny, and that of the Jewish State of Israel. We are a tiny American and global minority.Each intermarriage is a potentially deep loss to our population’s critical mass and survival.
Whether they are followed in varying degrees or not, the 613 Torah principles and scruples are the core of Judaism and what has bound us together through history. My project would have been to discover and recommend practical measures that would achieve significant improvements in Jewish family building — how to instill Jewish family values and bring marriage-minded Jews together. I outlined some initial thoughts, but the real ideas would have come from the two-year project’s interviews and research.
The core problem is, after college age, it becomes like a desert out there for finding a Jewish spouse. During the long, lonely years until marriageable Jews may find each other, there is little Jewish community assistance to facilitate this process. The Internet is a new spouse-finding tool, but since its inception, intermarriage has increased. Judaism needs a positive marketing direction.
A few months after submission, I received a thank-you letter and project rejection. The winner used the time to write a book on “personal narrative and collective memory.” I would be joyous if someone else had submitted a more articulate and cogent plan to preserve the Jewish people than mine. Preserving Jewry ought to be pretty close to a top priority and the winning project. If the high intermarriage rate isn’t effectively addressed, Jewry will evaporate and all the other issues will likewise go away.
Charles Hillel Rosendorf
October 9, 2013
It was a delight to read the fine article about Rabbi Ronald Kaplan and his exit from the pulpit to become a “Jew in the pew” (“Two-rabbi family, but now just one pulpit,” Oct. 3). The residents of Jewish Federation Plaza in West Orange have been part of a meaningful Oneg Shabbat Rabbi Kaplan has conducted at our facility for several years. It is held Friday afternoon at one o’clock, and it has been an experience that has enriched our lives. Rabbi Kaplan gives the residents who have had minimal knowledge of Jewish ritual, as well as those who are proficient, an opportunity to light the Sabbath candles, make blessings over the wine and the hallah, and understand the scriptural portion of the week as only a learned teacher can do. Sabbath songs are sung, prayers expressed for loved ones who are ill, and thanks expressed for the simhas in our lives. Truly a spiritual hour. Rabbi Kaplan recognizes all the individuals who attend, remembers our names, and is aware of a missing member.
We wish him a joyous and productive retirement from the pulpit, and a happy continuance of our Oneg Shabbat.
October 9, 2013
I have always wondered how the loyal synagogue attendee who separates himself, consciously, from Jewish service organizations such as federations and the myriad ofJewish alphabet organizations adds to the strength of the Jewish communityin the United States. What a great contribution the secular Jews of yesteryear made, as stated in the essay, to Zionism, the labor movement,and Yiddish culture, at a time when the “shared sense of pride and grievance” kept Jews together. Do we mourn the loss of earlier grievances? Do we mourn the fact that our society is more open and has “diluted” our Jewish connections? I, for one, don’t.
Is marrying in and having Jewish children the ultimate value or is living a Jewish life, within or outside of the synagogue, the real expression of Jewish values? The argument, of course, is that with intermarriage the connection weakens. But opening the synagogue to the intermarried apparently has not been successful. What needs to be promoted by synagogues and other Jewish community groups is education of Jewish history, of Jewish leaders, of Jewish influence in the development of democracy, of Jewish artists and authors and what they are saying. The history is so rich as to be irresistible. With knowledge one must be proud to be a Jew and to manifest that pride by participating in and supporting the institutions that provide a sense of community and connection while advocating for a better life for all Americans and for supporting Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.
October 2, 2013
Re “Outreach or inreach?,”
In a perfect world, I would agree that more Jewish education and creative positive Jewish experiences would stem the trend of intermarriage. (Editorial, “Outreach or inreach?” Sept. 19). Logically this sounds right, but I can tell you with 40 years’ experience in Conservative synagogues, the reality is that even the children with positive experiences and who excelled in Hebrew school intermarry.
Many intermarry simply because they attend college away from home, fall in love, and believe love will conquer all. A rabbi can speak himself blue in the face about the non-Jewish partner converting, but usually it makes no difference. The non-Jewish partner does not wish to convert and the Jewish partner feels compromise and accommodation will work things out. The pain and anguish occurs when the intermarried couple has children and there is a baptism. This tears the hearts out of the grandparents who have no choice; they do not want to lose their children or grandchildren.
The children of a non-Jewish mother are not Jewish. We have now lost them forever. One suggestion for Conservative Judaism, which I believe will happen in the future, is for the movement to join Reform in accepting patrilineal descent with provisions encouraging Jewish education for the children. I have problems accepting this solution.
I know of at least one Orthodox rabbi, Jack Simcha Cohen, who wrote a responsa in 1987 arguing for the acceptance of the conversion of a child born to a non-Jewish mother and a Jewish father even without observance.
I do not have the answer; I believe no one does. But I do know that if individuals do not believe they are Jewish according to Halacha, they will not seek Judaism but will follow the non-Jewish mother’s religion.
Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg
Temple Beth El
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