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July 30, 2010

How Big of a Tent?

In his July 9 article “Peoplehood vs. Israel,” Jay Michaelson presents us with a stark choice. He states: “if we want a community that stands for something — for example, support for the existence of the State of Israel — then we are by definition excluding those who do not share that value.”

Michaelson states that this exclusion undermines the concept of Jewish peoplehood and would diminish our numbers significantly. But what about the price paid for including everyone? Is the ticket for admission to the big Jewish tent based solely on an accident of birth? Is there no word or deed that forfeits that ticket? Do most of us want to be in the same tent with people who actively work to destroy Israel? Michaelson seems unsure of the answer.

Yes, as Michaelson states, the “for us or against us” approach is a loser. While it is difficult to win back a disenchanted American Jewish community that has in many cases wandered far from anyone’s definition of peoplehood, we all need to work harder to explain to American Jews the dilemmas and difficulties faced by Israel.

And from inside the big Jewish tent, we need to hear and heed the voices of constructive criticism of Israel.

Joan and Robert Goldstein
Jerusalem, Israel

Equality Makes Sense

It was disturbing to read that the rabbi of the Bialystoker Synagogue disregarded the vote of its membership that would have allowed women to hold board of directors positions within the synagogue (“Rabbi of Historic Orthodox Synagogue Overturns Decision To Let Women Lead,” July 9).

Thankfully, such decisions have become exceedingly rare within Modern Orthodox synagogues because their leaders recognize that women holding such positions is not a halachic problem, and that the Jewish community is best served when all of its members, both women and men, are fully involved and engaged as members and leaders.

We urge the Bialystoker Synagogue to rethink a decision that goes against the wishes of its membership and is inconsistent with ensuring the best leadership possible. We commend all of the women who have taken on leadership roles within their synagogues and offer our support to all communities engaged in ensuring that women’s leadership roles continue to be expanded within our synagogues.

Allie Alperovich
New York, N.Y.

Audrey Trachtman
New Rochelle, N.Y.

The writers are members of the board of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.

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