November 4, 2005

Published November 04, 2005, issue of November 04, 2005.
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Magazine a Source of Connection for Youth

Rapper 50 Shekel is an embarrassment to the Jewish community (“Racy Pics Make Rapper Blush,” October 28). Heeb magazine, on the other hand, is a blessing to the Jewish community.

As a college student, I have seen many of my fellow students who claim to have a Jewish parent prove to be clueless about even the most basic of religious knowledge. Magazines like Heeb have helped a lot of teens and 20-somethings find a connection to Judaism. Its articles allow readers to touch on all aspects of Judaism.

50 Shekel seems to have good intentions at heart, but they are honestly lost on me — and, I’m sure, on many of my peers. Calling his listening audience “unsaved” is a poor way to keep their attention.

Jews for Jesus preys on religiously weak Jews and tries to enlighten them. In this day and age, we no longer can afford to give someone like 50 Shekel a constant spotlight. Instead, we should be supporting magazines like Heeb, which are helping to increase a sense of Jewishness among today’s youth.

Sara Rips

Omaha, Neb.

Keep Iraq Politics And Yom Kippur Separate

Rabbi Michael Lerner turned the Yom Kippur service at the University of San Francisco into a political rally when he brought in Cindy Sheehan (“Anti-war Activist Addresses Congregation,” October 21). Whatever we all may think about the war in Iraq, we all must sympathize with Sheehan over the loss of her son. However, Lerner cheapens and brings shame to himself by politicizing Yom Kippur.

Lawrence Briskin

Centerville, Ohio

Editorialist Evokes Cosmic Resonance

The October 21 editorials are powerfully eloquent evocations of the cycle of the Jewish year, and are moving, cosmically resonant expressions of the universal Jewish consciousness of the editorialist (“The Book of the People”; “In the Beginning”).

In particular, the Forward’s reminder about our human responsibility to face the global challenge resulting from our greedy or thoughtless activities in relation to the environment hit just the right note. It triggered a sense of the awesome chaos so often convulsing the universe, waiting to be tamed and transformed by the divine spirit.

Jacob Birnbaum

New York, N.Y.

Vatican Document’s Test Is in Its Implementation

I would like to suggest that no miracle took place October 28, 1965, with the publication of “Nostra Aetate” (“In Our Time,” October 28). The decision of the Second Vatican Council was rather the consequence of the belated reaction of the highest authorities of the church to 2,000 years of teaching of contempt against the Jews, which culminated in the Holocaust. The document is indeed a real theological revolution, but it does not go as far as recognizing the church’s responsibility for Nazi antisemitism.

It is true the document instructs that Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God. But the accusation of deicide has not been erased; it’s merely limited to the “authorities of the Jews” who “pressed for the death of Christ.” Some Jews remain directly responsible, according to the church, for killing Jesus in his time.

The same document recalls the old doctrine of Paulus, when it states that “the church believes that by His cross Christ, our Peace, reconciled Jew and Gentile, making them both one in Himself.” The kind of reconciliation meant here, I would argue, is none other than the conversion of Jews to Christianity. Moreover, the document of “Nostra Aetate” proclaimed again that “the church is the new people of God,” re-evoking the old theory of substitution.

But the main reason that pushes me to ask you to moderate the Forward’s enthusiasm is the implementation of “Nostra Aetate.”

The catechism has been rewritten but, in its last edition in 1994, chapter 846 is titled “Outside the Church There Is No Salvation,” and chapter 851 instructs that “the Church must be missionary.” The same idea was expressed by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in a 1998 article titled “Interreligious Dialogue and Jewish-Christian Relations.” “Does this mean that missionary activities must cease and be replaced by dialogue?” he asks rhetorically . “My answer is no.”

At that time, Ratzinger was the main theological authority for Pope John Paul II. Therefore, it cannot be true, as the Forward editorializes, that John Paul II “formally ended Catholicism’s ambition to convert Jews in order to save them.” And let us not forget that Pope John Paul II was personally involved in the canonization of Jewish convert Edith Stein.

“Nostra Aetate” is undoubtedly a big step forward, but we must be vigilant and check how it is implemented.

Sergio Izhak Minerbi

Jerusalem, Israel

Thank you for the splendid editorial commemorating the 40th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate.” There will doubtless be times of discord ahead between Catholics and Jews, but what matters most is that honest disagreements need not stand in the way of the mutual respect and friendship that has been achieved.

William Donohue

President

Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

New York, N.Y.

Red Wings’ Sid Abel Skated to Hall of Fame

Cecil Hart is not the only Jewish hockey player of note (“Rink Man Sits One Out,” October 21). For a long time, one of the toughest lines in the league was the Red Wings’ trio of Sid Abel, Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe. Abel, who was Jewish, played for about 15 years and coached for a couple more before ending up in the NHL Hall of Fame.

Stuart Kaback

Cranford, N.J.

Secular and Religious Alike Need Humility

I was surprised by the unsupported and dubious assertions in David Klinghoffer’s October 21 opinion column (“So Help Us God”). Klinghoffer writes that God determines the fate of the religious, but “secular societies are left to the workings of chance and nature.” The logical implication of his assertion is that God delivered religious Jews to the gas chambers and the Nazis acted by chance and nature.

It is neither logically nor empirically possible to show that God determines the destiny of some peoples based on their fidelity to His laws but leaves others to chance and nature. I can’t help wondering what besides hubris convinced Klinghoffer to publish such a dubious assertion.

Klinghoffer also asserts, without much evidence or argument, that “religious belief is a strong predictor of moral rectitude.” Really?

The men who flew passenger-laden aircraft into the World Trade Center were religious. So were the Crusaders who cruelly slaughtered Jews on their way to kill Saracens in the Holy Land. How about the Israelites who set out at God’s command to slaughter every man, woman and child among the seven nations?

Then there are the sad examples of religious Jews, including, alas, rabbis, who have defrauded their neighbors and the government — a sport that is of course not confined to the observant. These are mere anecdotes, but Klinghoffer’s article demonstrates that those who have sought to establish a correlation don’t agree with one another on the role of religion in promoting morality.

I think insulting and unsupported assertions like Klinghoffer’s ought to be avoided. They traduce a whole generation of non-religious Jewish socialists who were highly moral in both their personal and social lives. Inevitably, statements like Klinghoffer’s generate heated and unresolvable conflicts.

Besides, humility is both a religious and a secular virtue, and we ought to practice it. The proper path for those of us who take religion seriously is to strive to teach and embody the best in our religious teachings, not to go about trumpeting how much more virtuous we religious are.

Rabbi George Driesen

Bethesda, Md.






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