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August 29, 2008

Train Teachers To Talk About Torah Authorship

How to improve supplementary schools (“Study Provides Snapshot of Struggling Supplementary Schools,” August 22)?

I recommend encouraging and training educators and rabbis to discuss authorship of the Torah, including archaeological findings, in order to listen to the theological beliefs and doubts of their congregants. And they shouldn’t forget to share openly about their own reflections.

Not discussing the diversity of God beliefs, doing so but inadequately or assuming that simply using a progressive Siddur or service will adequately address such matters — these are huge and overlooked reasons for why Hebrew school has received a bad rap among generations of non-traditional Jews.

For more than 20 years, I have directed an under-the-radar service called The Hebrew Home Study Program. An eclectic group of educators facilitates individual and small-group learning in the home for Manhattan independent-school students ages 6-14 in Judaica, Hebrew and bar mitzvah preparation.

More than half of the families are dues-paying members of congregations. Parents and children consistently highlight this problem in extensive family interviews I conduct as part of the intake process. Creating opportunities to discuss the origin of the source of Judaism will be transforming for brick-and-mortar institutions and for so-called Jewish continuity.

Jonathan Gould
Director and Founder
Hebrew Home Study Program
New York, N.Y.

Give Postville Workers More Than Water Bottles

As a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, I was dismayed by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz’s attack on our union in his August 22 opinion article (“What We Saw in Postville”).

It is shocking that even after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s raid of Agriprocessors in May, some members of our community continue to defend the slaughterhouse. Lipschutz seems to question whether abuses occurred in Postville, even though they have been well documented by the Forward, the UFCW and the federal government.

Apparently, Lipschutz prefers to maintain the delusion that Postville’s workers were a happy lot, rejoicing over free bottled water and excited about overtime. Rather than defending his discredited fact-finding mission, Lipschutz instead launches an unfair broadside against the UFCW.

I’m sure that the readers of the Forward — and the Jewish community as a whole — can see through such a reactionary diatribe.

Joseph Huennekens
Arlington, Va.

Sans Army, West Bank Would Be Like Gaza

Opinion writer Daniel Levy presses the misconceived idea that establishing a Palestinian state under current conditions is a vital Israeli interest (“Civil War in Gaza Isn’t in Israel’s Interests,” August 15).

In Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, schools, streets and sports teams are named in honor of suicide bombers and other mass-murderers of Israelis. In some P.A. maps and atlases, meanwhile, a country called “Israel” does not appear. In Hamas-controlled Gaza, there has been incessant bombardment of rockets upon Israel’s cities and towns, and smuggling in of offensive weaponry continues and increases.

If Israel were to permit the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank under Abbas’s Fatah party, the situation would look similar to Gaza under Hamas. Why? Because the only thing preventing the West Bank from looking the same as Gaza is the presence of the Israeli military in much of the territory — and creating a Palestinian state would involve the speedy withdrawal of Israeli troops.

Levy should explain why he believes that peace must be built on the idea of a Palestinian state, in the heart of the historic Jewish heartland, being empty of Jews. After all, Arabs form some 20% of Israel’s population as enfranchised citizens.

Is Levy suggesting that all Jews be uprooted from their homes in any future Palestinian state, and if so, could that be because he knows that a Palestinian regime will not accord democratic rights and protection to Jews in the same way Israel does to its Muslim and Christian minorities?

Or is Levy unprepared to admit that a Palestinian state under present conditions would be simply an illiberal, terrorist state?

Michael Goldblatt
Chairman, Board of Directors
Zionist Organization of America
New York, N.Y.


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