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Opinion: Letters
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Anger from the Reform world

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I was disappointed in “Do empty pockets make cold hearts?” (May 30), starting with the pejorative headline, subhead, and lead — “Can the bottom line be the only line for a Jewish organization?”

They draw a conclusion about the correctness of Temple Emeth’s decision better suited to an editorial piece, not a news article.

The subhead says “at last minute.” More than three months before the start of school is the last minute? When should such a decision be made, four years in advance?

As to the appropriateness of the synagogue’s decision, should an organization be forced to continue a program in which it loses money?

The article makes it clear that few members of Temple Emeth, or potential members, are being served by the program. One parent quoted in the article has another child in Solomon Schechter; the other is the rabbi of an Orthodox congregation.

You gave the latter, Rabbi Gavriel Bellino, an entire column — one-fourth of the article — to cast aspersions on Temple Emeth, including “this speaks of desperation and incompetence” and “They know their building in a few years will be either an Orthodox synagogue or a breakaway from the Korean church across the street.”

The Standard has a reputation among Reform Jews that the paper does not respect us. This article shows why.

 

Lloyd A. de Vries, Paramus
 
 

Anger from the Orthodox world

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I was very upset to see the entire Page 3 of last week’s Jewish Standard devoted to mocking the sensibilities, beliefs and practices of ultra-Orthodox Jews. There is enough Jew-hatred in the world without Jews deprecating the practices of other Jews with whom they might disagree. I am sure that there are many denominational practices in other Jewish belief systems that can easily lend themselves to ridicule by those not sharing those beliefs. Would an entire page be devoted to mocking the Amish for their beliefs ? The Hindus for theirs ? Etc. etc. The Jewish community deserves better from the Standard.

 

Dr. Wallace Greene, Fair Lawn
 
 

Volunteers demeaned

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With regard to the controversial decision of Temple Emeth to close their nursery school, I have no present or past affiliation with Temple Emeth, nor have my children ever attended the nursery school (“Do empty pockets make cold hearts,” May 30).

I am cognizant of the sometimes challenging decisions that synagogue boards must make; I served on the board of a local synagogue for many years. I believe that the overwhelming majority of synagogue board members take their charge seriously and are committed to acting in the best interest of the synagogue. Although synagogue boards are not perfect, the overriding objective when the board formulates a decision is for the process to be fair.

I particularly take exception to Rabbi Bellino, who was quoted as characterizing synagogue volunteers as “incompetent.” It would appear that the rabbi was speaking out of personal anger and certainly not with any measured restraint, as you would expect if he were speaking from the pulpit. His comments were demeaning and mean-spirited to all dedicated, committed, and responsible volunteer synagogue board members. Furthermore, he continued to vent by taking a cheap shot at the “irrelevant” future status of Temple Emeth, which serves no meaningful purpose other than to divide and inflame the very community in which he lives.

Perhaps some of the “incompetent” synagogue volunteers in this rabbi’s synagogue will have an opportunity to learn about his offensive and insensitive comments.

 

Marc Sapin
River Edge
 
 

FDR failed the Jews

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In “FDR and the Jews,” Breitman & Lichtman’s questionable conclusion is that FDR did more than any other world leader to save the Jews of Europe. Jonathan Lazarus offered a balanced review of the book (May 23).

FDR was revered by Jews during his lifetime and generally treated with kid gloves by most historians of the 20th century.

It’s not that FDR did nothing to save Jews, it’s that he did not do enough.

FDR was told about the genocidal plans of Hitler and his henchmen, so it was not for lack of knowledge. But tragically FDR failed to comprehend that he was dealing with the greatest crime in the history of mankind, and he failed to exert the moral leadership and take the necessary actions to save Jewish lives.

Britain had its Kindertransport, which saved 10,000 children. Sen. Wagner proposed a similar plan to bring 20,000 children to America but without FDR’s imprimatur, it never happened.

FDR and the U.S. Coast Guard knew about the St Louis as its heroic captain cruised Florida’s coast, desperately looking for a port of entry. With America’s doors shut tight, it was forced to return to Europe. Ultimately 254 passengers died.

In an unusual show of unity, 400 Orthodox rabbis peacefully marched on the White House in 1943 to plead for American help for the Jews of Europe. Roosevelt discreetly left through the back door, without meeting the delegation. (Vice President Wallace did meet them but was powerless.)

Breckinridge Long was an immigration obstructionist who amassed great power in the State Department. Immigration quotas were consistently underfilled while thousands clamored for entry. But Long was an old Roosevelt crony and political appointee who could and should have been axed.

There are many more examples I can cite. I urge every reader to do your own reading and careful study of documents that are available at FDR archives at Hyde Park, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, David Wyman Institute, and elsewhere, and come to your own conclusions.

FDR’s inaction and indifference on behalf of the Jews of Europe does not minimize the legislative accomplishments of the New Deal and FDR’s role as wartime commander in chief, but it does greatly tarnish Roosevelt’s reputation and brings to question his historical legacy.

 

Charles Cohen
Fair Lawn
 
 

Price of conformity

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I read with interest the story of one mother who is home-schooling her children (“No school like home,” May 23). My first thought was Power to her. Then came the usual Jewish narishkeit about “not wanting others to know,” because it will cause her and her family to be outside the Jewish mainstream day schools and yeshivot. Has Judaism made us a herd of sheep, trying to keep others from knowing what they do privately or what they do differently or whether or not their kids have special needs?

The secrecy attached to so many subjects in the Jewish community is frightening. It reeks of people hidden in attics if they were mentally ill. It reeks of the sin of having a baby without a father.

It reeks of not being observant enough, or not belonging to the right synagogue, or not having the biggest McMansion in town. It reeks of a mentality of conformity that is detrimental to the Jewish people.

No one dares step out of the line. If they do, they will be ostracized by their neighbors and so-called friends. People will borrow on their homes, to have the biggest and best b’nai mitvot and weddings, and then sadly spend their lives making up for it.

As much as so many things have come out of the closet, the Jews are so drawn to conformity that it surpasses religion, and turns instead to regulating personal choices, which have no place in a community that thrives on everyone being the same. I have never understood this mentality, and I live smack in the middle of it.

 

Sandra Steuer Cohen
Teaneck
 
 

Fighting back on campus

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It is commendable that there are programs to educate incoming college students about the anti-Israel arguments and movements that they will confront when they get to campus. But Bess Adler’s essay (“Tips for fighting campus anti-Israel activity”, May 23) is regrettably meager.

As reported, StandWithUs offered advice to address the canards about Israel and its relationship with the Palestinians. While their intent is noble, such responses are paltry and tepid. For examples, Ms. Adler wrote that “If there is an anti-Israel group … that brings a hate-filled speaker to campus … (then) “attend … the lecture with a group of friends and ask ... questions in a polite and non-inflammatory way.” Here’s another: “During ‘Israel Apartheid Week’… ‘apartheid walls’ are brought to campuses to whip up anti-Israel sentiment…” The recommended response? Hand out cups of SodaStream drinks!

Such anemic suggestions trivialize the sophistication as well as the danger of the anti-Israel campaigns. If this is the best that those of us who support Israel can offer our young adults as they head for increasingly hostile campuses, we are appallingly impotent.

Here is what we ought to be doing. There should be full-size posters of a bombed bus; there are many to choose from: #5, #37, #142, #960 are just a few, each graphically showing the very real danger that Israelis have had to live with. Every reference to the death of Rachel Corrie should be met with tall posters of all the Israeli Rachels who have been killed in terrorist attacks. Large posterboards should be erected showing the dramatic decrease in the number of Christians left in Bethlehem since the 2000 second intifada. Condemnations of the Israeli military should be compared with the vicious Syrian government attacks on its own people. A list of beheadings perpetrated by Islamic extremists on Christians — the numbers are in the many hundreds — should be distributed everywhere calls for BDS are made.

The pro-Israel community must be much more assertive in pointing out the rabid savagery of Islamic extremists and the duplicity of their defenders. Suggesting that our college students can refute bigotry with cordial conversation and letters to their college newspaper is a feeble and ineffectual response.

 

Norman Levin

Director, Emet u’Mishpat

Teaneck

 
 

Angry at Emeth

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I am writing because of shock, anger and profound sadness upon the news that Temple Emeth will be closing its doors come August 15. For the past six years, all three of my children have received an excellent education and a love for Judaism. My youngest child was in her last year of the program, so this sudden closure does not affect me in terms of her placement for next year, but it affects me as a human being. The way the president, Paula Dillon, Rabbi Sirbu, and the board of trustees went about informing the parents and staff about the closure was nothing less then deplorable.

An extremely cold, unfeeling email went out on Saturday night, May 17, informing parents that they “ apologize for the inconvenience” but the over-20-year-established school program would be closing at the end of the summer. No explanation was given — however, in the email they patted themselves on the back and took a dig at the Orthodox and Conservative community by saying how they have “adapted our curricula to the changing demographics and needs of the community.” Rabbi Sirbu himself is even quoted in a local paper as saying that since the school does not feed into the temple anymore, they see no need to continue it. It wasn’t until the next day that we found out the temple decided to rent the classroom space to the Bergenfield board of ed — a public school, not even in their town!

Yes, we understand the temple was having financial issues, but there is a way to go about closing a school — to be a mensch about it. That is to not close a school with only a few weeks left in the school year, where you have been running registration for the next year since October. When all surrounding programs are full. Where registration for public school has been closed for two weeks. When families have to now split their 2- 3- and 4-year-old children between 2 different school, because of space issues. Where teachers who have given you 10, 15 even 20 years of dedicated service will now be struggling to find jobs. Some of these teachers are the sole breadwinners in their family. How is it right to treat them like garbage? Board of educations are also not known for their snap decision-making — this process of seeking renters had to be going on for quite some time, at least months, perhaps years. Why did the temple allow registration at all? Had we been informed in September, or even January, that this would be the last year, people would be sad, but no one would have this sense of anger and injustice we are all feeling.

 

Rachel Jacobs
Teaneck
 
 

Angry at Emeth

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I am writing to express my feelings about the sudden closing of Temple Emeth’s Early Childhood Center. Last Saturday night, the board sent an email out to current and future parents stating that after 20 years, the early childhood center would be closing its doors in the fall. Many of us enrolled our children in November and were extremely shocked and saddened by this news.

We view ourselves as our own community, or even a family. With two children in Temple Emeth, I have forged extremely strong relationships with other parents as well as staff. The expression “It takes a village to raise a child” has come out of my mouth many times, and the best part is that I knew I had that built-in village in Temple Emeth. We truly feel as if our family is being torn apart.

Temple Emeth was so unique because Sharon Floch, the director, was flexible and understanding of every family’s needs. Now parents scrambling for spots in other programs are no longer afforded that luxury. The biggest embarrassment is that this was done so late in the year. Parents are not able to research programs and enroll where their children’s needs will be best met. Empty spots in programs are a rarity in late May. There is new economic hardship as many programs are significantly more expensive. I have experienced scheduling conflicts as plans for my other children were based on Temple Emeth’s hours for next year. Teachers are left unemployed and are seeking new jobs. They are literally in competition with each other for the few early childhood spots that are available.

The community has been so supportive. Many schools are opening new sections and doing everything that they can to accommodate entire classes so late in the game. Early childhood directors were answering their phones and emails late Saturday night and through the weekend. We even hope that they will employ some of our teachers to teach the new sections.

The Temple Emeth board should be embarrassed that they have abandoned their community. They are losing young membership. In the past I have made sure that my family has attended and supported the religious school’s events, such as the Purim carnival, because we were a part of this special community.

While this deal may have been necessary, the timing of it truly feels like a betrayal of the early childhood staff and students.

 

Jennifer Babich
Teaneck
 
 
 
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