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December 15, 2006

Boston Study Question Did Not Bias Results

As the principal researchers who conducted the recently released Boston Jewish community study, we appreciate the comments by opinion writers Steven M. Cohen, Jack Ukeles and Ron Miller regarding our finding that the majority of children in intermarried homes are being raised as Jews (“Read Boston Study on Intermarriage With Caution,” December 8). We concur that there are likely other communities that have had similar success as Boston, but we take issue with the view that our question may have resulted in a bias.

Our colleagues suggest that because we did not ask directly whether parents were raising their children “Jewish and something else,” our conclusions are inaccurate. In fact, our question — that asked parents to identify in which “religion” that they are raising their children and allowed for multiple responses — creates a more stringent criterion for Jewish identification. In contrast, Ukeles and Miller ask about childrearing only in terms of Jewish identification, not religion, in their studies of Jewish communities.

Evidence that our question did not bias the results is provided by our respondents’ description of the Jewish education their children are receiving. Children of in-married and intermarried families are just as likely to receive formal Jewish education. (Children of intermarried parents are, however, less likely to continue after bar mitzvah.)

Cohen and his colleagues encourage those who read the Boston findings to interpret them with caution. In general, that is a good prescription for dealing with social science. In the case of the Boston study, we hope that the quantitative findings do not divert attention from efforts to understand how to engage Jews of all backgrounds.

Leonard Saxe
Principal Investigator

Charles Kadushin
Senior Methodologist

Benjamin Phillips
Project Manager

Steinhardt Social Research Institute
Brandeis University
Waltham, Mass.

How About Drawing Burlesque Comics?

I hope that cartoonist Drew Friedman didn’t overlook those comics who toured the Burlesque circuits (“Legendary Laughs,” December 1). My favorites were Herbie Faye and Mike Sachs. Mike was blind, and worked with his lady friend Alice Kennedy.

This was my favorite laugh: Alice would innocently reach into Mike’s pocket for a handkerchief. She would yank out her hand, with a loud shriek, hollered: “What have you got in your pocket?!”

Mike would look out at the audience, with an angelic look on his face, and answer: “So… who’s got pockets?”

Irv Jacobs
La Mesa, Calif.

John Bolton’s Departure Is a Lamentable Loss

A December 8 editorial screed against John Bolton and Jewish organizations for supporting him is particularly astonishing for getting wrong assessments both of the community’s interests and what Bolton did at the United Nations (“Dear John”).

Probably the most absurd part was the Forward’s criticism of American Jews for seeing defense of Israel as its No. 1 issue. This comment is especially egregious when it comes to the U.N., for if American Jews are not to think about U.N. policy toward Israel as a priority — considering the very dangerous directions the U.N. would go in if not for the United States — then what you are doing is asking the community not to care about its own interests.

In terms of the Israel agenda, Bolton was not just another ambassador. He not only voted the right way on Israel, he was a leader and a strong voice for Israel at a difficult time, and his role in bringing about Resolution 1701 at the end of the war in Lebanon was a significant personal accomplishment.

None of which is to say that American Jews only care about Israel. We think U.N. reform is important for America’s interest and for world peace.

As to your criticism of Bolton on U.N. reform, his so-called “inflexibility” is looking better all the time as we observe the work of the allegedly reformed Human Rights Council. Rather than being rigid, Bolton demanded real change and not a facade of change. Anyone who is serious about U.N. reform and serious about fairness and values that we hold dear will have to pay attention to Bolton’s words.

American Jews were right to lament Bolton’s departure. We have lost a reliable friend, one who sought to make the U.N. a more hospitable place to value of fairness and balance that most Americans hold dear.

Abraham Foxman
National Director
Anti-Defamation League
New York, N.Y.

Secular Humanism Addresses Spirituality

In a December 8 opinion column, Leonard Fein somewhat dismissively refers to “something called ‘The Center for Inquiry’” and nowhere in the piece does he use the words “secular humanism” (“The Questions That Might Otherwise Be Lost”).

The Center for Inquiry is a worldwide secular humanist organization, supported by world-renowned philosophers, scientists and other academics as well as common folk like myself. As with other similar organizations, it advocates and promotes the furthering of humanistic values and actions, unencumbered by the myths and apologetics of ancient and present religion.

Yes, in the ever-ongoing pursuit for answers to the very questions that concern Fein, science is relied upon as a method of rational investigation. But to insinuate that secular humanism is constrained by cold or reductionist scientism is plain wrong. An unbiased glimpse of its writings and teachings will show that everything human is addressed, including the longing for mystery and spiritualism.

Secular humanists approach the world with an emphasis on discovery and the betterment of humanity, for the individual and collective. Its quarrel with religion concerns the roadblocks that religious dogma present, both to its own brilliant and talented adherents and to secular humanism.

Philip Brogadir
Williamsville, N.Y.

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