December 14, 2007

Published December 14, 2007, issue of December 14, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Emergent Communities Attract the Experienced

One can scarcely begrudge opinion writer Shawn Landres his computer-infused enthusiasm for alternative emergent communities (“Breaking the Code of Ritual Observance,” December 7). However, a note of caution is in order.

As a news article in the same issue indicates, such groups tend to attract Jews who have already had intensive Jewish educations (“Study Looks Beyond Shul”). This can lead to a certain smugness, and an elitist and exclusionary approach. One person’s graceful operating system is another person’s difficulty in keeping up.

Independent minyanim benefit from investments made by the wider community — most obviously in rabbinical education — but their comparative lack of structure and dues means that they don’t pay back into the system so much. Synagogue bureaucracy might be tedious, but it keeps the wheels of education and charity turning.

Joe Bord
Via email

What an interesting counterpoint provided by two December 7 opinion articles. One, by Shawn Landres, is hip, using familiar technological relationship language to describe new alternatives in Jewish communal worship. The other, by Yulia Khabinsky, is simple, direct and uses common Jewish phrases (“My Parents Barely Knew About Shabbat”).

One sentence in particular from Khabinsky’s piece will stay with me: “It seems impossible to erase years of not knowing about Judaism, but my parents do their best.”

Do their best — what a wonderful approach to breaking the code of ritual observance. Maybe we should all try to.

Sol Zalcgendler
New York, N.Y.

Set Up Fund for Building A Library in Lithuania

It was amazing to read a November 30 article on Wyman Brent’s effort to create a Jewish library in Lithuania (“Baptist From Virginia Toils for Jewish Library in Vilnius”).

Once upon a time the Forverts used to not just report the news but also actively involve itself in the community. Maybe now it is time for the Forward to step forward and support a worthy cause.

How about setting up a fund to help revive Jewish culture in Lithuania? How about bringing back the community activism that was the trademark of a great newspaper?

Martin Seligman
Via email

It was a pleasant surprise to read a positive story related to Eastern Europe. For far too long, the news has been about the continuing decline of Jewish life and the rise of antisemitism.

Whatever possessed Wyman Brent to come up with the idea of a library in Lithuania? It will be a pleasure to see something new being created in Europe other than the repetition of more memorials to the past. All I can say is more power to Brent.

Howard Solomon
Via email

Democracy Requires More Than Elections

Among the many problems created by the Bush administration, those caused by its misunderstanding of democracy are among the most dangerous (“America Must Stay Focused on Pakistan,” December 7). Democracy is not primarily about free elections; that is a very small part of what it means to be a democracy. A true democracy entails democratic institutions, such as a free press, an independent judiciary and universities in which free inquiry is protected. It includes functioning school systems, law enforcement agencies that actually work for the good of the people, a single armed forces under civilian control that has no credible possibility of leading a coup, and a myriad of other institutions as well.

Mere elections without these institutions are often very little different in effect than an outright totalitarian government. What good are oppressive democracies to the people who elect their oppressors?

Rabbi Avi Winokur
Society Hill Synagogue
Philadelphia, Pa.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.