February 16, 2007

Published February 16, 2007, issue of February 16, 2007.
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Resolution on Iraq War To Incorporate Feedback

A February 2 article distorts the process by which the Union for Reform Judaism is going about deciding how to update its 2005 biennial convention resolution criticizing the war in Iraq in light of changing circumstances (“Reform Considers Call for Full Iraq Pullout”).

This decision will be made by the 80-person Union Board Executive Committee at its March 12 meeting. They will consider a resolution prepared by our national Commission on Social Action, which consists of 100 prominent lay and rabbinic leaders. Both groups consist of leaders representing every affiliate and agency of the Reform movement.

The draft resolution has been sent out to our congregations for their feedback, to allow for several weeks of feedback from our congregations, rabbis, presidents, boards and social action committees for the Union Board Executive Committee to consider. The article inadvertently left the misimpression that the movement was poised to take a position last week.

In addition, the article quotes me as saying that “Jewish traditions and values demand that the United States end its military presence there.” However, I made a far more general observation that rabbinic law and tradition has much to teach us about the means of conducting warfare, and that these lessons are a distinctive contribution that the American Jewish community can offer to the public debate.

Rabbi Marla Feldman
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
New York, N.Y.

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Saving Old Shuls Is a Communal Challenge

A January 26 article on synagogues in Romania highlights a sad piece of reality in Romania: As aging remnant Jewish communities die, their synagogues are left lifeless and their cemeteries in disrepair (“Coffers Empty, Romania’s Synagogues Languish”). However, another reality is the rebirth of Jewish communal life as a fabric that weaves together both young and old.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania is rising to the challenge of ensuring Jewish life, but is unable to meet the colossal expense of guarding the dead and their institutions. As the overseas arm of the American Jewish community, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has stood with Romania’s Jews during years of communist dictatorship, and then during the joyous liberating period that followed.

JDC attests to this truth: Such repairs are impossible for any of the small Jewish communities struggling in former communist Europe, nor should it be their responsibility. Saving old Jewish synagogues and cemeteries is the challenge and responsibility of the entire Jewish philanthropic world, particularly the descendants of Romania’s once vibrant Jewish community.

Steven Schwager
Executive Vice President
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
New York, N.Y.

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City College Firings

I would like to add to a February 2 article about my exhibit that most of the 50 faculty and staff at the City College of New York who lost their jobs as the result of the Rapp-Coudert Committee in the early 1940s were Jewish (“Free Speech at City College”). It would have been difficult for these faculty and staff to find employment at private colleges at that time.

Carol Smith
New York, N.Y.

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Article Off on Camera

A January 26 article about former president Jimmy Carter’s lecture at Brandeis University claims that the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America was protesting the former president’s visit outside the auditorium where he spoke (“Carter Wins Over Student Crowd at Brandeis, Receives Ovation”).

In fact, while we strongly disagree with the premise of Carter’s book, and although we believe that students would have benefited more from a debate than from a lecture, we were not at Brandeis to demonstrate against the visit itself. Carter certainly has the right to speak wherever he pleases.

But we do believe that if people use their freedom of speech to spread falsehoods, it is vital that the falsehoods be corrected. We went to Brandeis for that very reason: to distribute fliers with factual information refuting some of Carter’s more egregious inaccuracies.

He falsely relayed that the Palestine Liberation Organization never advocated the destruction of Israel; that Hamas meticulously observed a 16-month cease-fire, and that the Camp David accords demanded Israel withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines. Those errors were rebutted on the fliers we distributed at Brandeis.

Gilead Ini
Senior Research Analyst
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
Boston, Mass.

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Breaking Glass Ceiling

The tremendous contributions of Barbara Benioff Friedman, the recently appointed chairperson of the board of governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, are admirable (“Longtime Leader Breaks Glass Ceiling at Reform Seminary,” February 9). And HUC is to be commended for recognizing her talents and achievements.

It is a heartening sign for the Jewish community that women are attaining positions once held solely by men. For the sake of historical accuracy, at the Academy for Jewish Religion that glass ceiling was broken many years ago. We are proud not only that we have been ordaining women since 1981, but also that, just as significantly, a woman first held the position of president in 1994 and chairperson of the board in 2002. We look forward to the point when the appointments of gifted women to positions of leadership in Jewish educational institutions will no longer be newsworthy.

Ora Horn Prouser
Executive Vice President and Dean
Academy for Jewish Religion
Riverdale, N.Y.

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