Booker and the filibuster

In his opinion column, “It wasn’t ‘Republican’ to oppose the Iran deal” (October 2), Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes that “at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, he [Senator Booker] pledged to oppose the Democratic filibuster so that at least a vote on this monumental issue would go ahead. But he twice voted to uphold the filibuster.”

Rabbi Boteach’s criticism of the senator is, at least in this case, inaccurate. I was present at the meeting at Temple B’nai Abraham, held on September 8. When asked about the filibuster, the senator responded very clearly that while he thought there should be a vote, he had not heard any discussion of a filibuster and had yet to hear an argument as to the merits of a filibuster. He was quite careful not to pledge how he would vote on a filibuster before he could discuss that with his colleagues in the Senate. I heard that loud and clear from the senator’s mouth.

In this case, the filibuster was used essentially to bring closure to a debate on a topic that had been discussed and examined by all sides in great detail, with no view unheard or position unarticulated. A continued debate on the floor of the Congress would have served no constructive purpose. I was glad to hear in Livingston that Senator Booker was open to the idea of bringing this debate forward to a conclusion, one way or another.

Rabbi David J. Fine, Ph.D.
Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center

Reality, the deal, and war

Rabbi Genack’s assertion that Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are our traditional allies ignores reality (“The Iran deal,” September 25).

Notwithstanding Israeli peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, neither the United States nor Israel has friends in the Middle East. Some of the same arguments presented for the disastrous misadventure in Iraq are being repeated for the Iran problem.

War should not be the solution.

Elisha Gurfein

Poisonous speech

I certainly appreciated Mark Friedman’s letter (“A voice from the seats,” September 25).

Sadly, I’ve also heard Jews using the word “schvartze” when referring to African American elected officials, whether local politicians, members of Congress, or the President of the United States.

We, of all people, should understand the poisonous power of hateful speech. God help us if we’ve forgotten the difference between disagreeing with someone’s opinions or actions, and name-calling based on religious, ethnic, or racial identity.

While I don’t agree with Mr. Friedman that national and world events have no place in a sermon, I do hope that every rabbi knows his or her own community well enough to anticipate an emotionally charged response to remarks from the pulpit. I believe that our spiritual leaders have a responsibility to remind their congregants that each of them must strive to contribute to civilized political discourse. Banishing the word “schvartze” from the public vocabulary is a crucial first step.

Barbara Blumenthal

Interfaith questions

I was happy to read your two articles about Temple Emanu-El in Closter regarding its change of direction and its decision to become “warm and welcoming” to interfaith families (“A shul’s new approach to outsiders,” September 10). I am on the board of the “other” Temple Emanuel, in Woodcliff Lake. Our keruv committee has been reaching out to our interfaith families for several years, and our programs have been very successful and a resource for all congregants.

What I did not see addressed in your article was the question, “How do we treat the spouses or significant other partner of the Jewish member of an interfaith family/relationship ?” Can the non-Jewish partner/spouse become a member? Can they vote on both secular and nonsecular issues?

These are two of the issues that I struggle with personally and I would love to know how the “new” Temple Emanu-El is dealing with it.

Simone Wilker
Washington Township

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