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August 17, 2007

Keep Debate Over Shul Renovation Civil

As president of the board of directors of Holy Blossom Temple, I write this letter to let readers know that the board firmly supports our senior rabbi, John Moscowitz, and the role he has played thus far in our renewal process (“Renovation of Storied Toronto Synagogue Opens Cracks in Congregation,” July 27).

Renewal is not only a historic time in the life of a congregation. It can also be a contentious one. This was the case in 1937 when our synagogue made the difficult but ultimately wise decision to move from its former location in downtown Toronto to its present address on Bathurst Street — and so it is today. It is precisely these times when a congregation requires leadership and vision. Rabbi Moscowitz has appropriately provided both, in abundance. That there is debate over decisions made by the board and the direction our renewal has taken is to be expected. That is the nature of an open process.

But as we’ve maintained throughout, we would hope that how we speak to each other is considered every bit as carefully as what we have to say. Some of the commentary and personal attacks on our rabbi, particularly in Internet postings, simply go beyond what constitutes civil discourse or respectful debate. We are a proud Jewish community. This sort of lashon hara, much of it anonymous, is profoundly disappointing.

Barry Silver
Holy Blossom Temple
Toronto, Ontario

JNF Lands Bill Is No ‘Apartheid’ Measure

Columnist Leonard Fein criticizes the overwhelming Israeli Knesset vote (64 to 16) reaffirming that private land purchased by the Jewish National Fund should be reserved for Jews. He suggests that this action lends support to the charge that “Israel practices apartheid” (“No, You May Not Live in Our Midst,” August 10).

This is nonsense. Like Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs serve in the Cabinet and Knesset, and they are judges in Israel’s courts; they are consuls-general, and they attend and teach at Israeli colleges and medical, law and graduate schools; they have full voting rights and citizenship, and they participate in Israeli medical insurance and pension plans. They enjoy freedom of speech and press, more so than Arabs do in Arab countries. And they’re not even required to perform military service (although they can if they want to). If blacks in South Africa had enjoyed the same rights as the Arabs in Israel, the term “apartheid” would not be part of our lexicon.

This JNF land, constituting about 13% of Israel, is private land. Similarly, the Catholic Church and Muslim Waqf own private land in Israel and do with it as they please. Israeli Arabs have same rights as other citizens to lease state-owned lands, which amount to about 80% of Israel.

For thousands of years, the Jews yearned to reestablish a Jewish homeland. There are many laws, institutions and practices in Israel that we all support which promote and protect the Jewishness of the state, such as the aliyah laws, Jewish education in schools, the Jewish-starred flag and the national anthem, which speaks of the Jewish soul.

JNF land has been purchased by and for Jews from around the world for more than 100 years. Jews placed their small change into the famous blue-and-white JNF boxes in their homes, schools and synagogues. Jews understood the sacred JNF promise that their money would buy land in Eretz Yisrael for Jews to immigrate there and build a Jewish state in our ancient homeland. This was the contract between the JNF and the Jewish people. As the JNF’s president (and former Conference of Presidents chairman), Ronald Lauder, said, “We are a people linked to our land. This Knesset bill deserves the support of all American Jewish organizations.”

Morton A. Klein
Irwin Hochberg
Vice Chairman
Zionist Organization of America
New York, N.Y.

Maryland Hasn’t Given Up on Iran Divestment

Your July 27 article “Campaign To Divest From Iran Struggles With Costs of Making Portfolio ‘Terror-Free’” stated that Iran divestment legislation “fell through” in Maryland this year. In fact, the only Iran-related bill in 2007 would have divested Maryland not only from Iran, but also from Sudan, Syria and North Korea. It was submitted after the legislative deadlines, and it was withdrawn by its sponsor before a vote could occur — although another bill dealing only with Sudan did pass, with strong support from the Jewish community.

The Maryland Jewish community will fight next year for the state’s first true Iran divestment legislation. We look forward to seeing Maryland join Missouri, Florida and Louisiana — and hopefully California and others — in building pressure against Iran to halt its support of terrorism and its threats against the United States and other democracies.

David Conn
Deputy Director
Baltimore Jewish Council
Baltimore, Md.

Bugs Bunny’s Elul Message to All of Us

Congratulations to David Kaufmann for his extrapolation on the “Jewishness” of “that cwazy wabbit” (“Carrot and Shtick,” August 10).

As a lifelong devotee of “Looney Tunes,” (not even “The Simpsons” can touch them for wit and sophistication), I consider it to be beshert that I read Kaufmann’s article on Rosh Chodesh Elul, when we begin the season of teshuva, returning. As I read Kaufmann’s piece, I thought of as many quotes from Bugs as I could remember. And the one for Rosh Chodesh Elul that came to mind was one that pretty much sums up the message of the season: “You’ll be sahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-ry!!”

Rabbi Cary Kozberg
Columbus, Ohio


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