Romney Made a Mistake
A March 16 letter to the editor ignores Henry Ford’s shameful legacy of antisemitism and the influence that his publications continue to have on modern-day antisemitic rhetoric and writings (“Ford Motor Co. Helped Israel in the Early Years”).
The letter writer is correct in asserting that “when we forget history we lose our identity.” Here is what the Anti-Defamation League has written about the history of Ford’s bigotry: “Due to the fame of its publisher, Henry Ford Sr., ‘The International Jew,’ a four-volume antisemitic work first published in the 1920s, has been a particularly powerful tool for haters trying to validate their hostile beliefs.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council never implicated the Ford Motor Company or the Ford family in its criticism of Governor Mitt Romney or Henry Ford. In fact, on numerous occasions we proactively affirmed that neither the company nor the family is implicated in Henry Ford’s legacy of bigotry.
As for Ford himself, his vicious antisemitism is a matter of historic record. We stand by our comments that a presidential announcement is all about symbolism, and that Romney’s judgment was severely flawed.
National Jewish Democratic Council
Revise Book Revision
A March 16 article reports that Scholastic Inc. will be changing its book “Enchantment of the World” to reflect the opinion of an Orthodox rabbi (“Rabbi’s Letter Leads to Textbook Change”). The new wording will remove language saying Orthodox Jews deny the Jewishness of Reform and Conservative Jews.
If only this new wording were accurate. In fact, a non-Jew who converts with a beit din, or rabbinic court, of non-Orthodox rabbis is not considered to be a Jew by Orthodox rabbis. Scholastic Inc. may have jumped too quickly on this one. Some Jews are still more equal than others.
Revisit Steinhardt Study
In a March 9 opinion column on a recent report by Brandeis University’s Steinhardt Institute on the American Jewish population, Bethamie Horowitz errs in referring to an overcounting of Orthodox Jews (“Finally, a Jewish Population Study Worth Studying”).
Since the Steinhardt people relied significantly on research that I conducted, it is necessary to indicate that what they found or claimed to have found is that previous studies indicated a higher percentage of Orthodox Jews than is the case, and, in turn, this resulted in an undercounting of the total American Jewish population.
However, Steinhardt does not claim that the number of Orthodox is lower than previous estimates.
Avi Chai Foundation
Soros’s Jewish Cause
A March 23 article reports that while George Soros “has given hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade to democratization in the former communist bloc, he has given almost nothing to Jewish causes” (“Soros and Media Heavyweights Attack Pro-Israel Lobby’s Influence on U.S. Policy”).
While Soros may not have donated to specific Jewish organizations, it’s untrue to say he has given almost nothing to Jewish causes. Every time he gives money for education or schools or textbooks in the former Soviet bloc countries, he does so with a proviso that the truth about the atrocities of the Holocaust be taught as part of the curriculum.
We in America may think this should be de rigueur, but in many of these countries they would prefer to gloss over much of this sad and shameful chapter of their history.
George Soros’s efforts in this respect are a great service to the Jewish people.
Kindred Academic Spirit
A March 16 article provides an extremely informative overview of the post-denominational rabbinic program at Hebrew College in Newton, Mass. (“Boston Rabbinical Program Challenges Denominational Boundaries”). We do not agree, however, with the musing that the program’s educational approach is a new experiment.
The pluralistic approach to the training of Jewish clergy has been around for many years and fostered in great measure through the efforts of the Academy for Jewish Religion in Riverdale New York. In fact, this is our jubilee year serving the Jewish community as a pluralistic, inclusive rabbinic and cantorial seminary. In terms of philosophy and practical implementation, the Hebrew College is indeed a kindred academic spirit, following in the pathways we have blazed.
The Academy for Jewish Religion began in 1956 as a community that transcended rigid and partisan denominational camps. Our approach is authentically traditional and yet very modern, faithful to the vision of the original rabbinic academies of old that were uniquely responsive to contemporary reality. By this year’s end, we will have ordained more than 50 accomplished rabbis and cantors since 2000. Our growth is testament to the prescience of the academy’s founders, who were in many ways ahead of their time.
Ora Horn Prouser
Executive Vice President and Dean Rabbi David Greenstein
Academy for Jewish Religion
A March 16 article reports that “The Reform and Conservative movements have agreed to let Hebrew College students apply for membership in their rabbinical associations; the Orthodox and Reconstructionist movements have not.”
For the record, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association has not made any decisions regarding rabbinic graduates of the Hebrew College, and we have indicated to the administration at Hebrew College that rabbinic graduates of their program certainly may apply to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.
This does not mean that our membership committee will endorse either the program or the individual rabbinic applicant. That remains to be decided if and when someone applies.
Rabbi Richard Hirsh
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association