My Rock and Redeemer
My mother’s yahrzeit was September 7. Before I saw Rabbi Engelmayer’s column (“Prayer out of place and out of time,” September 9) I happened to have read Psalm 27. I remember reading “though my father and my mother have forsaken me…” and I paused. My parents have been gone for quite awhile. I often feel their presence, and yet they are gone. This is one of the mysteries of death.
Although I cannot interpret the original Hebrew of Psalm 27, my reaction to that psalm, based on the English, was that when David talked about his parents having forsaken him, he is talking about the physical world. When our parents are gone from the physical world, Jewish tradition calls us orphans. It is a most uncomfortable status, and freaks mourners out if they are not familiar with the concept.
So I am an orphan. My parents have left the physical world. Even so, “the Lord will take me up.” God will be my Rock and my Redeemer. God will be my Shield. I call to God from a narrow place — a world without my parents. He answers me with wide expansiveness — a community, a tradition, a support system.
Hillel — being just Jewish
Eric Fingerhut, the president and CEO of Hillel, was asked probing questions at Temple Emanu-El in Closter. (“Fingerhut on Hillel,” September 2). Mr. Fingerhut was questioned on the Hillel issues involving Israel that are highlighted in the media and dramatized on campuses. On campus, Hillel engages Jewish students in religious, cultural, artistic, and community-service activities. In many respects its mission is not unlike the other mainstream campus ministries or ethnic organizations. The difference comes from Hillel’s dedication to Israel. At Temple Emanu-El, people were concerned that Hillel might be pressured because it might alienate Jewish students who are critical of Israeli policies.
Talking about Hillel’s position, not allowing anti-Zionists to speak using the Hillel name under any circumstances, Mr. Fingerhut pointed out that Hillel International’s rules prohibit Hillel campus chapters from hosting programs that include groups or individuals that support boycott, divestment, or sanction campaigns against Israel. The CEO’s position is an unconditional pro-Israel stance.
Hillel is dedicated to structuring an organization that stands for and preaches unity among Jews. There is no doubt that the environment for the students in almost 600 schools where Jews are a small minority benefits from the comradeship and sense of security nurtured by Hillel. Hillel’s position toward the differences in religiosity among Jewish students has little commonality in the existential Jewish denominational world. Mr. Fingerhut said that the differences in denominations is not outwardly a barrier for personal Jewish identification at Hillel. However, it does impair comfortable relationships for a good connection among students in a communal environment.
Hillel operates on the principle that the patterns of Jewish life are important, and that the university is enriched when it supplements campus resources with the best in the Jewish tradition. The problem Mr. Fingerhut sees is that there is a familiarity issue — when a Reform, Reconstructionist, or Conservative students witness the religious discipline of the Orthodox they may become uncomfortable in the Hillel community. Since most students are not Orthodox, the manner in which the Hillel leader deals with this issue involves creative thinking. Hillel is perhaps the organization in the Jewish community best equipped to educate the next generation. No other group so fully embraces the entire community the way Hillel does: kosher or not, observant or not, religious or not — just Jewish.
Two other Jewish football brothers
The JTA story by Victor Wishna continues an inaccuracy by claiming that the Schwartz brothers were the first Jewish brothers to play in the NFL since 1923 (“From matzah balls to footballs: 2 Jewish brothers tackle the NFL,” September 9). This inexplicable falsehood continues to be published. We have previously pointed out to a New York Post reporter, Joel Sherman, the same thing we have to do now.
Our mother’s first cousins once removed, Walt and Milt Singer, were two Jewish brothers who played for the N.Y. Giants between 1947 and 1952. Milt was a backup center to future Hall of Famer Mel Hein and Walt was what was then called a split end. In his later years, in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Milt was the disciplinarian at our high school, Snyder, in Jersey City. He also ran a summer camp named Dunmore in Vermont. He displayed the flat, pushed-in nose common to players of that era, who wore leather helmets with no face guard.
Please correct this grievous injustice to the memory of these two fine men.