Among my most vivid childhood memories is sitting on the floor of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun's majestic sanctuary on the eve of Tisha B'Av, listening to Rabbi Haskel Lookstein preface the reading of the scroll of Eicha with the words, "Tonight is nineteen hundred and …years since the destruction of our holy Temple…" Hundreds of people, gripped by the mix of history and immediacy, would shed tears over a building that went up in flames, each wisp of smoke carrying a memory.
While Israel’s situation in the world arena can sometimes resemble the last moments of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, looking out at the hundreds of Bolivian soldiers, guns-a-ready, the fact is that things are looking up for the Jewish State.
A recent BBC poll measuring opinion in 27 countries, many of them officially hostile to Israel, found a two percent rise in Israel’s popularity since 2010.
Our hearts go out to the members and leadership of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, the landmark synagogue on the Upper East Side that suffered serious fire damage this week.
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the venerable spiritual leader of the 140-year-old congregation, expressed gratitude that no one was injured in the four-alarm blaze and that, since the synagogue had been under renovation since May, no Torah scrolls were on site.
‘Prayer is made of attention. It is the direction towards God of all the attention that the soul is capable of. The quality of the attention makes for much of the quality of the prayer. It cannot be replaced by the heart’s warmth.” This comment by Simone Weil reminds us that prayer is not essentially request or routine, but kavanah, focus, intensity, intention. It is the soul’s upward climb.
Re “Chewing on Jewish Declines” (July 8), it is now with near regularity that I read articles in your newspaper bemoaning the disappearance of non-observant Jews and/or Jewish institutions, while noting the growth of the observant Modern Orthodox and haredi communities.
The community is certainly indebted to Drs. Scott Goldberg and David Pelcovitz for supplying empirical evidence for the texting-on-Shabbat phenomenon (Letters, July 1). While at the end of the day, whether around a fifth of teenagers text on Shabbat (as the study suggests) or as many as half (as the newspaper article suggested), it is certainly a significant enough percentage to warrant serious consideration as to how to do deal with it.
Having said that, I believe that three caveats need to be added to the conclusions of the study:
In the editorial on President Barack Obama’s relations with Israel (“How Obama Can Assure Israelis,” July 8), you go out of your way to paint what ought to be considered good qualities of our president as flaws, and make demands of him out of all proportion with the reality of his position, and those of Israel and the United States.
I read with interest Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz’ Opinion “Circumcision Is Out of Vogue” (July 1) and the follow up letter by reader Jeffrey Kass (July 8). Both writers favor infant circumcision; there is no real dispute between them.