A few years ago, I moderated a series of focus group conversations about Israel. The participants were mostly middle-aged Jews affiliated with Reform and Conservative congregations. As discussion touched on Israel’s policies on settlements, peace negotiations and civil rights, participants argued back and forth, with many expressing tempered criticism of Israeli positions. But when the conversation turned to the Chief Rabbinate’s authority over matters of personal status, including marriage, divorce and burial, debate gave way to expressions of bewilderment and outrage.
In my childhood bedroom, in Glasgow, there was a poster on the wall bearing an image of the Kremlin and the words “Let My People Go.” Like many other Jews growing up in the 1980s, I felt the profound impact of the Soviet Jewry movement. So I was a bit surprised by my own ambivalence when I recently decided to go on a UJA-Federation rabbinic mission to the former Soviet Union (FSU) to see what Jewish life is like there today.
Cathy Salamon and Ted Geardino are members of my Conservative synagogue. Cathy is Jewish and attended yeshiva through eighth grade. Ted is Catholic and attended catechism through eighth grade. Before marrying, they agreed to raise their children as Jews. Cathy regularly attends Shabbat services with her three children, and studies in our adult classes. She and her children accompanied me on a synagogue trip to Israel. Her children are enrolled in our religious school, Hebrew High School and youth groups. At the bar mitzvah of each of his children, Ted ascended to the bima to lead the congregation responsively in the English recitation of Psalms, joined Cathy to place the tallit on each child’s shoulders, and rose with the family when it recited the Shehechiyanu prayer.
'We can never be just Dutch or just English or whatever, we will always be Jews as well. And we’ll have to keep on being Jews, but then, we’ll want to be.'
Editor And Publisher
Story Includes Video:
Los Angeles — Anne Frank is the most universally known of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
Her diary has been read by millions of people around the world, and her tragic story of living in fear, hiding from the Nazis in a secret annex in Amsterdam with her family and others for more than two years, has been told in a Broadway play, Hollywood movie, television dramas and in countless other ways. Is there anything more to be known about this precocious young girl with a gift for writing, a poignant faith in humanity, and maturity far beyond her years?
I’d like to commend Sid Schwartz for his opinion piece criticizing censorship in the Jewish community, especially around matters regarding Israel (“Limiting Debate On Israel Will Only Hurt Us,” Feb. 7).
Your Feb. 7 article, “For Orthodox Women, Catch-22 on Tefillin,” ends with a quotation that suggests that the reason Orthodox women have little to no interest in wearing tefillin is that “Not only is it a huge undertaking, but there is so much cultural animosity towards it, why would you do it?”
The opinion piece by Dov Zakheim and Steven Bayme (“Not A Proud Moment for the RCA,” Feb. 7) is an unfortunate work of fiction that seeks to promote one of The Jewish Week’s favorite canards – that Avi Weiss is protecting “Modern Orthodoxy” from the “senseless and arbitrary actions” of the “Haredi Chief Rabbinate”, and that the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) is to blame for “failing to censure” those of its members who expressed negative opinions about Avi Weiss.
Ben Harris’ nuanced portrait of Pete Seeger (“He Hammered Out Justice,” Jan. 31) sparked this recollection.
In 1958, my senior year at Columbia College, I had a brief but beautiful encounter with Pete Seeger. A folk-song aficionado, I organized the Columbia Folksingers Club in conjunction with several Barnard women. Our weekly gatherings on a Friday afternoon hit near nirvana with a guest appearance by that legendary troubadour, the Pied Piper of folk music, forever-young Pete Seeger.
Thank you so much for the overview of the Jewish Academy of Suffolk County STEM program, which includes our multiple University partnerships (Education Supplement, “Suffolk Day School Engineering A New Curriculum,” Jan. 17). We strongly believe that STEM is not just a good public relations piece for the school — it is in fact the best way to prepare students today for the world of tomorrow. I do hope your coverage will encourage other day schools to pursue this route in order to best serve their student body.