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April 25, 2008

Make Seder for Adults

I enjoyed the East Village Mamele’s April 11 Fast Forward column, but it raises some issues that she probably did not intend to raise (“A Kid-Friendly Seder”). Being a regular at our local Conservative synagogue and having belonged to several other synagogues over the years, I have become very concerned about the juvenilization of Judaism.

I agree it is important to hold a Seder in such a way that the kids enjoy and have fun. However, there is a line beyond which the entire Seder become a juvenile enterprise.

Passover, like Purim, has some very significant issues to talk and think about. If the entire Seder is devoted to looking for frogs under the bed, then the adult issues never get discussed.

When I still conducted Seders way back when, I, too, tried to make them kid friendly. But somehow the Seders never moved on to the adult issues as my sons grew older. Soon my sons started conducting the Seders for the family, and of course they wanted to make them friendly to the kids as well. Now that our grandchildren are young adults, my sons have still not gotten around to an adult Seder.

Religion is for adults and children — not just children. I am hoping that since we will all be adults at our family Seder this year we can really discuss some of the important subjects that the Passover story raises.

Irving Zlotnik
Newhall, Calif.

Have Faith in the Pope

Opinion columnist David Klinghoffer takes the Vatican to task for inviting astrophysicist Stephen Hawking to take part in a conference (“The Return of the Aristotelian Repressed,” April 4). In fact, according to the Web site, to commemorate 2009 as the “International Year of Astronomy” the Vatican will go even further in the direction of rationality by commissioning a statue of Galileo. As readers will recall, Galileo suffered greatly at the hands of the Church for daring to suggest what is now a commonplace.

Almost 400 years after turning its back on science, the Church is trying to make reparations by keeping an open mind about the central investigation into knowledge in our modern world, religious knowledge excepted.

Klinghoffer describes his disappointment in “the Vatican’s strange embrace of Hawking.” Apparently, talking to the presumed enemy is tantamount to surrender.

Invoking William James, Klinghoffer says individuals embrace ideas based “not on a judicious weighing of evidence, but rather on the prestige of the ideas in question.” If he thinks Pope Benedict XVI will reject his faith in God by breaking bread with Stephen Hawking, he underestimates this pope and completely misunderstands this brilliant man’s epistemology.

William Weinstein
New Paltz, N.Y.

The Chosen Word

On occasion some goyim do peruse the Forward, and I, for one, was not pleased at the appearance of the word “shiksa” in an April 11 Fast Forward article (“My Chosen People”). Such an offensive word — with a hateful etymology — has no place in civilized discourse.

Jonathan Ekman
New York, N.Y.

West Bank Building

I am surprised to see the Forward endorse the canard that building apartments for Jews in Jerusalem or the West Bank is illegal under the Geneva Conventions (“Settlement Freeze,” April 11). The fact that Israel’s enemies say this is no reason for a Jewish — or any — newspaper to repeat it.

The Geneva Convention aims to prevent a repetition of the forced deportations of the Nazi period. As such, it prohibits the forcible transfer of people of one state to the territory of another state that it has occupied as a result of a war. But no Jews are forced to move to the West Bank, nor are Palestinians deported from it.

These territories are unallocated territory under international law and especially because it is part of the area designated for Jewish settlement under the League of Nations, Jews have as much right to live there are anyone else. Moreover, what sort of law makes it illegal only for Jews to live somewhere?

The fact that other countries believe that the West Bank, and even Jerusalem, should be off limits to Jewish residence only means that they see it as being more important for them to appease Palestinians than stand by the rights of Jews.

Morton Klein
National President
Zionist Organization of America
New York, N.Y.

Brotherhood’s History

Essam El Erian’s April 11 opinion article is presented without any historical background or analysis, let alone criticism, of the Muslim Brotherhood. El Erian details the moderate, pro-democracy efforts the Brotherhood has made in an attempt to become an integral part of Egyptian political life, and recounts the repressive and brutal response to these efforts by the Egyptian government.

In doing so, he presents the Muslim Brotherhood as a purely democratic political movement.

But he fails to mention that Article 2 of the Hamas Charter states: “The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” He also fails to mention that eminent scholar Bernard Lewis links the Muslim Brotherhood to such peace-loving groups as the Brotherhood of Syria, the Wahhabis and the Taliban.

Egypt surely needs a great deal of democratic reform, but the last thing the Middle East or Egypt needs is the strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood. Just being a dissident voice does not make one a friend of democracy or someone qualified to govern.

Remember, Hitler, too, was considered a dissident and jailed as such. To some, the ballot box is only the route to tyranny.

Sheldon Braverman
San Antonio, Texas

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