Creating Community

06/04/2013 - 20:00

Kudos to Ted Merwin and the Hillel directors implementing the Peer Network Engagement Initiative (“Jewish Identity, One On One,” Back Of The Book, April 26).

Hard Truths, Half Truths

06/04/2013 - 20:00

It is incredible that two Ivy League-educated individuals [Steven Povich and Axel Hufford] with “strong Jewish upbringings, including K-12 attendance at Jewish schools,” would be so lacking in their understanding of Jewish legacy and history (“Birthright Tells Only Half The Story,” May 17).

Wrong On Birthright

06/04/2013 - 20:00

Before criticizing Birthright Israel and embracing the biased narrative of J Street, the Opinion writers Axel Hufford and Steven Povich should take a “Birthright America” trip (“Birthright Tells Only Half The Story,” May 17). They might visit Native American reservations, where there is far more poverty and lack of medical care than they will find in the Palestinian Authority. They might find lots of places where the American story is far different than what they experience in Dartmouth or their own communities.

Kotel Problem Not Haredi Extremism

05/27/2013 - 20:00

While I agree with Rabbi Yitz Greenberg’s advocacy of the Sharansky compromise in regard to the Western Wall, there are two elements in his Opinion article with which I disagree (“Time For Modern Orthodox Leaders To Speak Out On Kotel Proposal,” Opinion, April 26).

First, he intimates that opposition to the Women of the Wall is due to haredi extremism. In reality, the actions of the Women of the Wall were offensive to a far larger group of Orthodox Jews and traditional Israelis who viewed the incident as an attempt to inflict feminist American values on a site holy to all Jews.

Belle Harbor Will Come Back

05/27/2013 - 20:00

Thank you for highlighting Belle Harbor, Queens, in your continued coverage of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy (“Families, Synagogues Still Reeling Seven Months After Hurricane Sandy,” May 24).

Off Base On Bris Ritual

05/27/2013 - 20:00

Jonathan Mark is way off target in his article “First Amendment Group Joins Bris Fight,” May 10. The author conflates true cases of anti-Orthodox sentiment, like opposition to the Tenafly eruv, with government intervention in a potentially life-threatening non-consensual practice in which an eight-day-old child may be an unwitting victim — metzitzah b’peh (oral suction).

The Talmudic rabbis instituted metzitzah b’peh as a medical practice to protect the child’s health, not as a ritual act. 

Shuls And Changing Demographics

05/27/2013 - 20:00

The May 10 article “Dying L.I. Synagogue Finds A, Well, Savior” certainly portrays a unique situation. As the demographics of the American Jewish community continue to change, you will see many more of these sort of “creative” endeavors.

Unclear Role Of AJCongress

05/21/2013 - 20:00

It is particularly troubling that the initial goals of AJCongress have become marginalized or uncertain (“Is AJCongress Jack Rosen’s One-Man Show?” May 10).

In Praise Of Women Clergy

05/21/2013 - 20:00

As an addendum to your recent coverage on the upcoming graduation ceremony of
the first graduates of Yeshivat Maharat, and reactions in the Orthodox
community, please note the statement issued several weeks ago by the
International Rabbinic Fellowship, the Modern Orthodox rabbinical
organization based in New York City.

‘Retail Engagement’ Not New

05/21/2013 - 20:00

While all should be delighted at the success of Hillel’s Peer Network
Engagement Initiative, Ted Merwin’s April 26 tribute (“Jewish Identity, One
On One”) fails to mention that this approach was pioneered and widely utilized
on campus long before Hillel embraced it five years ago.

The notion of
“people before programs” has been the essence of Chabad’s success on
campus, and “one-on-one conversations” is at the heart of AEPi’s
successful rush strategy. “Retail engagement” has been the cornerstone of
AIPAC’s highly successful student program for more than a decade, and the
maxim “speakers don’t engage people, people engage people” has been the
central tenet of AIPAC Campus Creed since 2003. Tens of thousands of
students have been empowered in the past decade, including a great many of
whom who are now Hillel professionals, and more than 2,000 students attended
AIPAC’s most recent Policy Conference — all through one-on-one peer
engagement. In recent years, this strategy has been embraced by the Israel on
Campus Coalition and The David Project, both of which have credited Jonathan
Kessler of AIPAC for “setting the course for a positive relationship
building strategy on campus.”

In December 2003, The Jewish Week published an
op-ed on AIPAC’s success with this approach, and in April 2003 Moment Magazine wrote an extensive story on
AIPAC’s emphasis on retail engagement. In that article, Kessler states,
“Our students take pen and paper and clipboard and go door-to-door, dorm-to
dorm, and student-by-student engaging peers about the value of the U.S.-Israel

The whole approach is grass-roots, retail engagement, it’s a
political model. That’s why it’s so different.”

The writer was AIPAC’s deputy leadership development director from 2002-07.

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