Thank you, Rabbi Goldin

Last Sunday Rabbi Shmuel and Barbara Goldin were the guests of honor at Congregation Ahavath Torah’s annual dinner. During their tenure over the past 33 years, the shul has grown to become one of the largest and most influential Orthodox synagogues in the country. Shmuel Goldin is an individual whose character, sense of responsibility to the Jewish community, leadership, and devotion to the continuity of Jewish life, tradition and learning, is unquestionable, unwavering, and inspiring to us all.

Throughout, Rabbi Goldin has demonstrated a lifetime commitment to Israel, Jewish religious life, and the betterment of humanity. I am grateful for his endless encouragement, unwavering support, and constant friendship. He is a man who demonstrates vision, generosity, and an unfailing belief that every Jew, whatever his denomination or level of observance, is a part of am Yisrael — the Jewish people.

Rabbi Goldin is a true patriarch of our community, a kind and princely man, who has a smile and a good word for everyone he meets. He is a rare and special individual, who I’ll always remember as a caring and passionate man who did his best to bring our Jewish community together.

In all his endeavors, Rabbi Goldin has been motivated by the value of tikun olam, the desire to make the world a better place. As a Jewish communal leader, his dedication, commitment, and guidance were well known and recognized within the local, state, and national Jewish community.

On a personal note, as my religious leader and teacher, Rabbi Goldin, you inspired me. I always will be indebted to you for the caring messages you left me and my visits to your office, where you reminded me, during times of my own and my family’s distress, that nothing is more important than mishpacha — family — and klal Yisrael — the Jewish community. I cherish those memories. Rabbi Goldin, your life is defined by gemilut chasadim, deeds of loving kindness, and k’vohd ha’bri’yot, respect for the individual. You are deeply loved and will be sorely missed, and true to who you are, you are leaving Bergen County a better place because you were here.

Shmuel, you are and have been mekadesh shem shamaim, a rabbi who hears the message of the prophets and values the ethical principles that must guide a person’s life.

From the bottom of my heart, it has been an honor and a privilege to know you, to feel your passion for am Yisrael, to share your dream for building community and to have been your colleague, as the CEO of the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, in pursuit of those goals.

From our shared love of Yiddishkeit to our hopes and dreams for our peoples’ future, I feel especially fortunate and shall always treasure the time we spent together, and the special friendship we have. Our community will miss you, and I will miss you.

Avi A. Lewinson, Demarest

(Avi Lewinson was CEO of the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly from 1995 to 2015.)

Doesn’t like ‘gay lifestyle’

I strongly feel that no Chabad rabbi would agree with a congregant’s gay lifestyle (“How to make a Jewish activist,” March 9).

The late Lubavich rebbe was very understanding of gay relations, but as young people. He stated that when boys mature, they would have to transfer their attraction to people from men to women. I feel the article on Steven Goldstein misrepresented the Chabad position. Simply, it is akin to Sabbath violators. They are welcome to pray and Chabad does not concern itself with how they arrived in the shul. Even in many locations, they will not close their parking lot, as many Orthodox synagogues do. However, the hope is that the Sabbath violator will eventually move towards full Orthodoxy. Same thing here. The hope is that Mr. Goldstein choose Orthodoxy and this would include ceasing gay relations and marry a female and hopefully have a family. This is the Chabad position, not as stated in your article, that “everything is OK as long as you have a Jewish home.”

I would encourage Steven to fully give himself over to God, and with help from above, he can live a full and complete Orthodox life.

Paul Frazer, Fair Lawn

Rallying Jewish students

Jewish students, particularly freshman at our universities and colleges, should be prepared to support the Jewish state verbally against the onslaught of BDS supporters and virulent anti-Israel individuals and organizations that are thriving on many campuses (“How to talk about Israel,” March 17). Certainly the majority of Jewish students at many universities have been abused not only verbally but physically, not simply because they have voiced support of Israel but for being Jewish. Academicians at the same universities have expressed support for a terrorist Palestinian state in the heartland of Israel.

The need for education about our democratic Jewish state is now. The Jewish organizations that are devoted to having Jewish students not only to appreciate their heritage as being important but also respect for the State of Israel against the falsehoods now being disseminated on college campuses, are to be thanked.

Nelson Marans, Manhattan

Not lost in translation

The article that described the initiative of Professor Devin Naar of the University of Washington in Seattle to preserve Ladino struck a very profound and resonant chord within me (“Sephardi studies professor,” March 17).

Some readers of this letter may recognize me as having been a devoted translator of Holocaust Memorial Books (sometimes called Yizkor Bikher), from mostly Yiddish and some Hebrew into English. An article in the Jewish Standard “Briefs” section of February 17, 2017 highlighted my most recent endeavor in supporting the Zembrover Benevolent Association, in the release of an English translation of the Zambrow Memorial Book. In the course of a generation, I have translated 12 such books, and am preparing a thirteenth as I write.

I feel that I am a “fellow traveler” with Professor Naar, in the “Yiddish channel.” There are over 1,700 Holocaust memorial books that are at risk of being entombed behind a language barrier, as Yiddish — like Ladino — experiences the forces of senescence and fading into nearly invisible obscurity. Professor Naar is absolutely correct in his statement that “To lose a language is to lose a world, and we are on the cusp of that.”

I am unsure as to whether any palliatives or corrective measures are available. Philologists have estimated that it takes one million “speakers” to sustain a language and preserve its idioms. I am not optimistic about this possibility.

Yet I would like to offer the fact that this was not always so. One of the great linguistic tragedies of the late 19th and early 20th century was the battle-to-the-death in the choice between Hebrew and Yiddish as “the language of the Jewish people.” Hindsight teaches us, underscored by the cataclysmic finality of the Holocaust, that there need not have been a winner and a loser, because our loss is almost immeasurable. Lost in this irrational zealousness was the millennial old history of how creatively Aramaic became infused into our Holy Writ. Indeed, Aramaic was the lingua franca of most of the Middle East for centuries. Despite being an ancient tongue, and very obscure in modern times, it is easy to lose sight of the rich life that it continues to enjoy because of Jewish scripture and liturgy. Half the Book of Daniel is written in Aramaic. The Babylonian Talmud is largely an Aramaic text, something that remains an object of intense study in most advanced Jewish religious academies. When we recite the Kaddish, it is Aramaic. Soon, during Passover, we will refer to the “bread of affliction” as “Ha Lakhma Anya,” an Aramaic incantation. Not to mention everyone’s favorite Passover ditty: “Chad Gadya.”

What this history tells us is that the Jewish people did not fear — or resist — the infusion of “La’az,” the “language of alien peoples” into their worship, and in fact canonized it. So what happened? The exigencies of diaspora life caused Jewish leadership to circle the wagons in the interest of conservation, preservation, and survival. The canon became frozen, and then ossified. It became unable to acknowledge the beauty that could be obtained from “La’az.” Over the course of 1,000 years, despite the flourishing of Ladino in the Sephardic lands, and Yiddish in the Ashkenazic lands, there is scant evident of any incorporation of such writing into our liturgy. So “Ochos Candelikas Para Mi” becomes a quaint song that is trotted out during Chanukah, if there is somebody who cares. Nobody knows the haunting plea of ‘Gott fun Avrohom’ that the Jewish woman of the house might whisper after Havdalah on a Saturday night.

My response to this problem, in the narrow channel of Holocaust memorial books, is translation into English. As a fluent Yiddish speaker, I am well aware of the limitations of bringing flavor across a language barrier, but I do the best I can. I do know that I can capture the zeitgeist of the people who wrote these books, and convey a sense to the English reader of what those who lived that experience felt about it. It is an ongoing source of wonder to me that despite conditions in Eastern Europe that bordered on being wretched, the people who live it cherished it, with a warmth and a longing that is almost incomprehensible to those of us who have been privileged with a more fortunate life.

Jack Berger, Wayne

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