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February 2, 2007

Columnist Got It Wrong, Limmud Conference Is A Boon to Jewish World

Like David Klinghoffer, I had the opportunity to spend Martin Luther King Day weekend serving as a presenter at this year’s Limmud New York conference. But unlike your columnist, I found my initial experience with Limmud both enlightening and inspiring (“The Limitations of Liberal Pluralism,” January 19).

I was therefore surprised and saddened that Klinghoffer characterized this enormously powerful Jewish immersion experience as “a funeral” and “an act of mourning for what liberalism will do to our future.” His article had far more to do with his personal views regarding the future of Judaism than what actually transpired in this diverse celebration of Jewish history, culture and religion.

Beginning with the seven different services welcoming Shabbat, the weekend was an affirmation of the diversity that comprises the Jewish people. Participants came from all denominations and cultures. Our family met Jews of Ethiopian, Indian, British and Spanish descent. We participated in Ashkenazic as well as Sephardic traditions and rituals. Hardly a day went by when we didn’t experience something, or someone, that was new and different.

Attending a service in which the hazan was accompanied by a guitar and drums, my 7-year-old daughter and I discussed the diversity of traditions and rituals that make prayer meaningful for all Jews. Late Friday night, at a progressive Oneg Shabbat, my 11-year-old son was mesmerized by an African-American Hasidic rapper named Y-Love.

But the weekend was also filled with much more traditional sessions focused on a variety of issues including, but by no means limited to: theology, philosophy, history and advocacy. I attended Blu and Yitz Greenberg’s session “Exploring Pluralism and Dialogue” and left with insights into the importance of not only interdenominational but also interfaith dialogue. I experienced David Solomon’s “The Whole of Jewish History in One Hour” and learned more about Jewish history than I want to admit. I went to David Klinghoffer’s session entitled “Shattered Tablets: Why We Ignore the Ten Commandments at Our Peril” and left with insights into the challenges facing modern-day society. I was deeply moved by Ruth Messinger’s presentations on Darfur and the need for universal access to education as a means of combating global poverty.

In truth, I could spend pages trying to describe the impact of the weekend, just as I could probably have spent days attending all the sessions I wanted to experience. But I now realize that Limmud New York is a tribute to the enormous power of Jewish learning and its ability to transform people’s lives.

For the more than 800 of us who gathered three weeks ago to study and learn, discuss and debate, experience and reflect, we have been enriched and ennobled by the experience. Are we more knowledgeable? Are we more committed? I’m pretty sure for almost all of us the answer is, undoubtedly, yes.

Joseph Hyman
Center for Entrepreneurial
Jewish Philanthropy
New York, N.Y.


I am the man who said to opinion columnist David Klinghoffer, “You’re off-topic!” when he spoke at the recent Limmud conference. According to his account, this was my response to his question of whether Jews would reject Jesus if he had appeared today as a charismatic Jewish teacher.

Klinghoffer, however, is mistaken. If he had in fact raised that question, I would have been very interested in hearing his answer. My frustration with his talk was that he seemed to be talking about everything but the topic of why Jews rejected Jesus. For more than half of his presentation he spoke about why Jews rejected Christianity, which is not the same thing. At the time that I first raised my voice to say that he was off-topic, Klinghoffer was bemoaning the fact that the Anti-Defamation League was the dominant voice in the American Jewish community.

According to his account, I stormed out of the room when he began talking about the lack of understanding among contemporary Jews of the nature of our covenant with God. Again, this is not true. I listened with great interest to that part of his presentation. It was when he again veered off topic to rail against the ADL’s Abraham Foxman that I left.

Neil Litt
Princeton, N.J.


I wish to thank David Klinghoffer for his reflections on his recent Limmud conference experience. The term “pluralism” is truly a liberal Jewish buzzword, and its true context is limited to a pluralism of liberalism.

There is no tolerance for conservatism, and so few seem to acknowledge this truth publicly.

Oliver Wellington
Norwalk, Conn.


Carter’s Israeli Chorus

Yossi Beilin assures the Forward’s readers that the rhetoric in Jimmy Carter’s book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” “is entirely harmonious with the kind of criticism that Israelis themselves voice about their own country. There is nothing in the criticism that Carter has for Israel that has not been said by Israelis themselves” (“Carter Is No More Critical of Israel Than Israelis Themselves,” January 19). Beilin is being more than a bit duplicitous.

The Israelis who do bandy about terms like “apartheid,” “imperialism” and worse are extreme radicals from the fringes of the left. These borderline post-Zionists are not your average Israelis. Indeed, they are just as wrong, malicious and immoral as Carter. Diatribes do not contribute to a rational debate in Israel, even when they are loud enough for a peanut farmer in Georgia to hear.

Yisrael Medad
Shiloh, West Bank


‘Pork’ Line in Poor Taste

The Forward published an informative article about the possible difference the votes of the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel made in the election of John Hall to Congress (“The Secret Behind a Rocker’s Election to Congress: Hasidim,” January 19). It is a pity that the article ended with the words: “Because in Kiryas Joel, it’s all about the pork.” Had this same article been written about a small Muslim village that voted en masse for someone who might help their community, I suspect the Forward would not have used that last sentence.

Ezra Franken
Toronto, Ontario

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