I fully understand and identify with the great service that young charedi scholars contribute to the State of Israel and to all Jews with their intensive Torah study. However, I strongly believe that their greatest service to Klal Yisroel could be the sharing of their vast Torah knowledge and enthusiasm for study with Jews who are less fervent and knowledgeable than they. In my opinion, this would help to provide the ultimate guaranty of Jewish identity and the preservation of the Jewishness of the Jewish State. (A kiddish ha Shem.)
This is the reason for my support of the Israeli government’s move to draft young charedi scholars into military service. I believe that these young men would exert a strong positive Jewish influence on their fellow soldiers. They would serve as Torah chaplains.
I appreciate that Marsha Greenberg Motzen takes the mitzvah of tefillin very seriously, as she has conveyed in two letters to the editor (Letters, March 14, February 28).
However, I do not appreciate the multiple assumptions she makes about me, somebody she has not met. One assumption is quite offensive: that I would allow my students to “make a mockery of a mitzvah.” That’s ludicrous.
It’s clear that we have different philosophies about how to educate kids about tefillin, but I’m fine with that. I believe that hands-on, experiential learning makes mitzvot more accessible and personal. I hear that synagogues of all backgrounds, including Orthodox, encourage kids to make their own chanukiyah, write their own Torah, decorate their siddur, and shake a plush lulav and etrog, among other projects.
Indeed, separate instruction is needed to convey their sanctity. This is precisely why we had several lessons with the sixth-graders discussing tefillin’s meaning, symbols, and sacredness before they wore their hand-made tefillin, l’shem chinuch, for the purpose of education. A photo can capture only one moment of this extended process.
I ask her to end this back-and-forth in this paper. Instead, I invite her to have a real conversation with me, perhaps at our synagogue. She’ll get to know me in person and see our religious school in action.
Temple Emanu-El, Closter
Regarding Rabbi Sirbu and the content on his Facebook page (Letters, March 14): The lesson to be learned here is one that I have tried to impress upon my kids, who spend their life using electronic media. I tell them to be careful when they write an email or post and then press the send button. There should be no expectation of privacy.
Anything that goes out with your name is open to the public and can be copied and pasted in any way, shape or form. The rabbi is lucky that the Standard has the integrity to say “We are sorry.” Not everyone would do that.
Last week’s issue quoted my personal Facebook page without my permission (Noshes, page 5). The quote lacked the appropriate context for your readers to necessarily understand that I was joking.
The quote identified me as the rabbi of Temple Emeth, but I do not use my personal Facebook page to promote or comment on Temple Emeth. Yet the way the quote appears improperly conflates my personal political affiliation with my nonpartisan role as the rabbi of a congregation.
As a citizen of New Jersey, I am closely watching the allegations and investigations that have arisen from “Bridgegate,” but I have never been targeted or intimidated by the Christie administration.
In the season of Purim, the Standard certainly has the right to tell jokes. But the jokes should be their own, and they should have enough context to be funny.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Rabbi Sirbu is right. We should not have taken his quote without getting his permission, and we are sorry.]
In response to my letter of the previous week, I very much appreciated the letter from Rabbi Alex Freedman (“Hands-on approach to tefillin,” March 7), clarifying that the picture of Temple Emanuel students wearing homemade tefillin was for, as we’d say “chinuch purposes only.”
However, I must take issue with him that the way to introduce students to that mitzvah was to have the students make their own, not halachically kosher, tefillin. If Rabbi Freedman read Rabbi Menachem Genack op-ed (“Tzit, tefillin, and the halachic process,” February 28), he would have learned that tefillin hold the same sacred status as a sefer Torah, maybe even more so. I doubt that Rabbi Freedman would introduce his students to the Torah by having them write one. Most likely, he would bring in a learned, practiced sofer, who would bring in all of the requisite materials for producing a sefer Torah, and show them how it’s done. By bringing in a sofer to show the students how tefillin are made, he would be showing them the sanctity of tefillin. What the students were shown was a nice arts and crafts project. But what have they been taught about the sanctity of tefillin by such a project?
I enjoyed reading about the artist Tobi Kahn (“Looking at Israeli art from the inside,” March 7). The article says that his work is found in museums and galleries around the world. Many of us living in Bergen County feel blessed to appreciate Mr. Kahn’s work close to home. In 2007, Temple Beth El of Northern Valley commissioned Mr. Kahn to create several one-of-a-kind pieces to be used in our worship service. These ceremonial objects are on permanent display in our Elliot Binder Chapel.
Art lovers, we invite you to come for a visit to view the work. We’re certain you’ll stay for the ruach elohim.
President, Temple Beth El
of Northern Valley
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
While most Jews are aware of the genetically inherited diseases that affect our community, such as Tay-Sachs, few are aware of the increased risk posed by colon cancer to Ashkenasi Jews. While the average American has a 6 percent risk of developing colon cancer, this statistic is just a starting point for Jews.
A genetic mutation on the “colon cancer” gene is found in over 6 percent of all Ashkenasi Jews in America. This mutation is present in 28 percent of those Jews with a family history of colorectal cancer. Given the increased incidence of inflammatory bowel disease in the Jewish population — Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which also predisposes to a higher colon cancer rate — it can be asserted confidently that the average Ashkenasi Jew in America is at a higher than average risk for colorectal cancer.
This would qualify Jewish patients for a more appropriate screening strategy for colorectal cancer, one reserved for people at a higher-than-normal risk. This would include a screening colonoscopy at least by age 50. If any relatives have had colon cancer or colon polyps, then the first colonoscopy should be done by at least age 40. Jews should view this as nothing more than routine screening, like prostate exams, PAP smears, and mammographies.
If you are due for a colonoscopy, now is the time. If someone you love is due, it is time to start reminding them!
(The writer is a board certified gastroenterologist.)
In response to the sharp comments in a letter called “Tefillingate?” (February 28):
Two weeks ago Temple Emanu-El of Closter sixth graders were pictured in these pages, proudly wearing hand-decorated tefillin. These colorful tefillin, which are not kosher, were introduced l’shem hinuch — for the sake of education. This annual hands-on project culminates an engaging curriculum of the history and mitzvah of tefillin. We introduce this project to students before their b’nai mitzvah celebration, with the hope of making real tefillin more accessible, familiar, and meaningful.
Wearing tefillin is a mitzvah we encourage from men and women in our community.
Training wheels assist many in learning how to ride a bicycle; we believe the same idea is true with the sacred mitzvah of tefillin.
Assistant Rabbi, Temple Emanu-El