March 13, 2009

Hebrew College Serves Entire Community

Your February 27 article “Hebrew College’s Big Plans Yield Big Debts” noted some of the challenges facing Hebrew College and other Jewish colleges.

It is true that the academic landscape has changed, as secular universities have increased their Jewish studies offerings. But while some conclude that we have become an anachronism, nothing could be further from the truth.

Make no mistake about it. The Jewish people’s greatest resource is our tradition of learning. Without study and teaching, Jewish identity grows thin, and assimilation becomes inevitable. For the Diaspora, Jewish survival and Jewish education are one and the same.

Hebrew College is a hothouse of innovation for Jewish education and leadership — it cannot be allowed to fail. We have pioneered serious adult Jewish learning, pluralistic rabbinical and cantorial training, and Jewish high school education. We are breaking new ground in Jewish special education and interfaith dialogue as a cornerstone of clergy training.

We have always accepted a wide range of students, from Orthodox to secular — a pluralistic legacy that dovetails with the growing demand for leaders of inclusive Jewish communities.

This academic environment cannot be replicated in a university Jewish studies department. Universities are committed, above all, to critical, objective study of cultural materials. When it comes to religion, they must set firm boundaries. By contrast, a Jewish institution’s first commitment is to the Jewish future. A Jewish institution lives by the Jewish calendar, celebrates Jewish creativity and values. We study the Jewish past in order to build a rich, contemporary Jewish life, one that will be attractive to the next generation, one they will want to carry forward.

Hebrew College is implementing a sustainable business model, having learned from past mistakes. As an institution serving the entire Jewish people, we need broader national support. We ask the great family foundations and Jewish philanthropists, even in the face of their own losses, to help in this critical venture.

Who needs Hebrew College? We, the Jewish people, do.

Rabbi Arthur Green
Rector
Rabbinical School of Hebrew College
Newton, Mass.

For Chavez, Ideology Trumps Practicality

Regarding your February 27 editorial “Chavez and the Jews,” Venezuela is nowhere near Israel and has no quarrel with it. President Hugo Chavez, however, is a Marxist and therefore a member of the de facto Marxist-Islamic alliance. The alliance makes no sense, since Marxists and Islamists agree on nothing at all — nothing, that is, except their opposition to Israel’s existence. Chavez and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have visited each other’s countries and have become the greatest of friends. One would think that politicians are practical, but practicality takes a back seat to anti-Zionism. And, as so often happens, anti-Zionism in Venezuela and much of the rest of the world has led to open antisemitism.

Venezuela is an oil-rich country. Nevertheless, if Chavez remains in power, his country will surely be threatened by famine. Marxism has always meant famine. Stalin deliberately engineered a famine as part of his struggle against the kulaks. Between the years of 1959 and 1961 tens of millions of Chinese died from famine as a result of Mao’s Great Leap Forward campaign. It was the worst famine in recorded history. During the famine, China continued to export grain to the Soviet Union.

If practicality took a back seat to ideology in the days of Mao, we shouldn’t be surprised that Venezuela is engaging in pointless anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Ideology typically triumphs over all else.

George Jochnowitz
New York, N.Y.
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March 13, 2009

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