Inaccuracies about Orthodoxy

Your December 18 edition included a letter from Shel Haas (“Women and Judaism”), a letter writer who has insulted, offended, berated, and criticized Orthodox Judaism so many times for many years with his distortions and lies. He continues to do so. We must be tolerant of every stream of Judaism, and not print lies and distortions. In this letter he wrote, “As a response to Reform Judaism, Orthodox Judaism was born.” How can he write that ? The Reform movement began in the early 19th century. For more than 2,000 years, both the Pharisees and even the Sadducees observed the Shabbos and holidays and Temple sacrifices and rituals, and they believed in the divinity of the Torah given by God on Mount Sinai. Haas adds, “There was no philosophy of Judaism for that involves thought.” What? How can he write that? The Talmud has thousands of pages of intense debates and arguments that use logic, reason, and philosophy. And finally, yes, Mr. Hass, God is not male. We Orthodox Jews never thought otherwise. Yes, Mr. Haas, women are as smart and as righteous as men, and they can lead and teach Torah. They already do, even in the Orthodox world you despise.

Martin Polack

Don’t take credit unfairly, Conservatives

When touting the successes of the Conservative movement, or any other organization for that matter, one ought not make up facts not in evidence to bolster one’s case. I take issue with the following two statements by Rabbis Kirshner and Freedman (“Conservative movement models success,” Jan. 1): “The modern-Orthodox and non-affiliated Jewish day schools are the offspring of the Solomon Schechter Day School success” and “Since Ramah’s inception, countless camps, some Orthodox, others Reform, and others nominally Jewish have followed suit. All of these camps are based on the Ramah model that the Conservative movement gave birth to as well.”

The truth is that the Conservative movement began its schools and camps after seeing the success of other such institutions that predated their efforts. A few examples will suffice to make the point. The Solomon Schechter schools began in 1951. The Etz Chaim Yeshiva elementary school was founded in 1886 in New York, the United Talmud Torah of Montreal in 1896, Associated Hebrew Schools in Toronto in 1943, Ramaz in 1937, the Yavneh Academy in 1942, Joseph Kushner’s antecedent school in 1943, the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland in 1943, and so on. In 1944, the National Association of Orthodox Day Schools (Torah u’Mesorah) hired Dr. Joseph Kamenetsky, who founded day schools across North America. Likewise, Jewish camping existed prior to the Ramah camps. Surprise Lake Camp started in 1901, Camp Modin in 1922, Camp Cejwin in 1946, and Camp Massad in 1947.

There may be much to celebrate about the Conservative movement without fabricating successes that belong to others.

Dr. Wallace Greene
Fair Lawn

More about who was first

Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner and Rabbi Alex Freedman’s recent column about the Conservative movement (“Conservative movement models success,” Jan. 1) is an interesting look back at the past 50 to 60 years of American Jewry through the lens of what was the largest and most prominent movement for decades.

One note of correction. Rabbis Kirshner and Freedman claim that the founding of the Solomon Schechter schools was the impetus for the founding of modern Orthodox day schools in subsequent years. On that point, some history: the Yeshiva of Flatbush was founded in 1927; the Maimonides School in Boston and the Ramaz School in Manhattan were founded in 1937; and the Yavneh Academy in Patterson (now in Paramus) was founded in 1942. Manhattan Day School in New York and Epstein Hebrew Academy in Saint Louis were founded in 1943. Other examples exist as well.

It would seem that the Schechter schools were replicating the Orthodox day school model, which already was spreading, and not the other way around.

Aaron Ross

Israeli demographics are a problem

Rabbi Engelmayer’s lucid and brilliantly upsetting article on Israeli demographics and the charedim is a serious wake-up call “‘Torah’ and a ticking time bomb,” Jan. 1). If carried to its logical conclusion, it tells the Arab world simply to wait and keep the status quo going. Then in 20 or 25 years there will be an indefensible Israel, ripe for plucking. The failure of Israeli leadership, the need for Israeli government reform, and the split in the Israeli electorate, and the charedi view of the Torah all combine to make the problem all but insoluble.

Then what will Israel be left with in order to defend itself and survive? The nuclear bomb? And where would that lead the world to? In 20 or 25 years it is certainly possible that other Middle Eastern countries, enemies of Israel, would be similarly armed. Mutual destruction is hardly an option for Israel’s survival. Thank you, Rabbi Engelmeyer, for telling it like it is.

Fred Friedman
Cliffside Park

Preserving Hudson County’s Jewish history

In reference to the January 1st editorial, “Join us, Hudson County!” the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey has been collecting and preserving records and memorabilia relating to Hudson County as well as to Bergen and Passaic counties for more than 30 years. Several years ago, the society microfilmed the first years of the Jewish Standard, when it was published from Jersey City, from Dec. 18, 1931 to Dec. 18, 1936. We have been fortunate to be able to collect and preserve some records from Bayonne, Jersey City, and other Hudson County cities.

There is still much out there that can and should be collected and preserved. Anyone who has records, photographs, and memorabilia about the Jewish presence in the area is asked to please get in touch with the society. We’re at 17-10 River Road, Fair Lawn. Our telephone is 201-300-6590 and our email is jhsnnj@gmail.com or jerrynathans@yahoo.com.

We ask that you do this before you move or pass away and someone comes in and disposes of items that can or should be preserved.

We wish you all a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

Jerry Nathans, President Emeritus

Some of us need help

Today I read about the developmentally disabled again, and how many area stores are taking them in for training. It’s a mitzvah, yes. But it is human to offer help. So where is the humanity right here?

The Israeli army now has enlisted soldiers who are disabled young adults. And again I say, what have organizations here done to help? To train people with a chemical brain disorder so they can live productively in their homes or group homes? I will keep on asking until someone gives me a local organization that helps Jewish young men and women who need developmentally appropriate work and homes.

Why do our organizations not want even to touch the many who are on drugs? The many who suffer from a vast variety of mental conditions, most of them treatable with medication? Those parents who suffer alone with children who are not intact? Who do not fit in? Who cannot if the community is not tolerant of them?

When are the Jewish organizations going to wake up and face the issues that are a sad reminder of our children’s limitations? Widowed parents also are flying solo. Have some empathy for them, and for their children. It is a terrible and impossible burden to carry.

I have yet to have one man offer to help out when he hears the truth about this situation. “Save one life, save the world”….doesn’t apply here?

If not now, when?

Sandra Steuer Cohen