Sir, – I would like to know the factual basis for the oft-heard
claim of Reform Judaism that its branch is “the largest movement in American
Jewry,” as Rabbi Evan Moffic states in “Can Reform Judaism get its mojo back?”
Moffic writes that there are 900 Reform congregations in
Well, there are more shuls, shtiblach, kloisn, beis medrashes,
etc. in a single neighborhood in Brooklyn (this absolutely is not an
These places of worship have services every single day,
often two or three shifts. Nearly all have Torah lessons several times a week,
often daily and often more than once a day.
Most are not officially
affiliated with any organization, such as the Orthodox Union, but they are far,
far more vibrant than Reform temples.
As for the supposed 1.5 million
members of Reform congregations that Moffic claims, how many are really Jews by
non- Reform standards? How many do not have Jewish mothers and have not
undergone a conversion recognized by someone other than Reform Judaism? It seems
to me that Reform defines “Who is a Jew” as anyone who can be put on its rosters
and artificially swell its ranks.
I am not challenging the legitimacy or
rightful place of Reform Judaism per se – just its extravagant claims. I know
that Reform rabbis do not recognize the binding authority of the Torah, but
perhaps they can start with “Keep yourself far from a false matter” (Exodus
Spell it out
Sir, – With reference to
the first item in Grapevine of November 15 (“SOS Professor Henry Higgins”),
Dominic Grieve, attorney-general for England and Wales, “felt the need to convey
the message that it is difficult for Israel’s friends to defend her when she is
in breach of international law, as, for instance, with the ongoing construction
of settlements in the disputed territories or the treatment of Palestinian
minors who are often subjected to human rights abuses.”
I am surprised
that the attorneygeneral, from whose government came the Balfour Declaration,
whose country had the mandate over the whole of the Palestine area, and who
should know the extent of the land left to the Jewish people by the League of
Nations and the United Nations, could suggest that Israel is in breach of
Why did he not refer, chapter and verse, to the law
that Israel is breaching? It would be of great interest to Israeli
As for the treatment of Palestinian minors, if any of our
soldiers or citizens are caught abusing them in any way they are subject to
These are crimes punishable by the law of the land. I
am sure the British government has laws to punish those criminals who, unlike
the abuse of Arab children, kidnap, rape and murder multitudes of kids in his
The Arabs around us pound our cities with rockets with the
deliberate purpose of murdering civilians, including our women and children.
Dare I mention, too, their
determination to wipe Israel off the face of the map, killing us all without
mercy? Perhaps the attorney-general for England and Wales will suggest these
arguments to our tongue-tied friends.
Sir, – Jay Ruderman (“Managing Israel’s psychiatric hospitals,” Comment
& Features, November 13) describes, justifiably, the tragic treatment of
patients in our institutions. It is even more tragic in that the abuse and
mistreatment of patients has caused the closure of such sorely needed facilities
here and abroad. (The fact that the US has suffered from a similar problem
doesn’t make it any easier to digest.) If one thinks outside the box a little
bit, one could come to the conclusion that there is a much more basic problem
behind this phenomenon. Employees have to be much better trained and monitored
for sure, but our basic education system, even for those who are not involved in
caring for the unfortunate in our society, lacks a moral angle.
is any hope for future generations to create a better society and values, our
school curriculums have to begin to include courses in ethics and moral
standards. This is not too difficult to do and should not add too much to school
There are many texts available to use, including Pirke Avot
(“Ethics of the Fathers”) as a basis for such instruction.
It is not
difficult to imagine how much improved our society would be if moral values
became a required course in our schools.
Peres did it
Sir, – Your president, Shimon Peres, recently visited Moscow, where he
witnessed the opening a Jewish museum, an unprecedented event in recent Russian
history (“Peres inaugurates Russian Jewish tolerance museum in Moscow,” November
9). In his speech, Peres praised Russia as a place where the Jewish community
has thrived for a thousand years.
Critics of his speech say he overlooked
the centuries of discrimination and pogroms under the czars, and the genocidal
pogroms of the civil war, in which members of my own family suffered. They also
point to the discrimination against Jews in the late Soviet era, which played a
crucial role for thousands of Russian Jews in emigrating to America, my family
But they ignore the fact that Peres came to Moscow at a time
when America’s support of Israel is unquestionable and an Iranian crisis is
looming. In this situation, the Jewish state, the interests of which Peres
represents, should look for all possible support.
Russia is an important
geopolitical player and its role in the Middle East should hardly be discounted,
especially when Moscow has tried to conduct a more balanced foreign policy in
this area. Indeed, Putin was the first Russian leader to visit Israel, and many
times he has reiterated his respect for Israel and the Jewish people.
would clearly be counterproductive for Peres in such a situation to engage in an
objective analysis of the complicated and often tragic relations between
Russians and Jews, who indeed have lived together for centuries. His major goal
was to ensure the maximum benefit for the Jewish state, and he seems to have
achieved his goal, reporting that Russia and Israel’s positions on Iran are
This certainly needs to be taken into account by those who
criticize Peres’s Moscow speech.
South Bend, Indiana
The writer is an associate professor of history at Indiana University South Bend
End the addiction
Sir, – Your post-election editorial “Obama and Israel”
(November 9) is hopeful of a better relationship between the newly reelected US
president and Israel, but I, for one, am far less optimistic.
aside his shabby treatment of our prime minister, President Barack Obama has
bought into the absurd premise that it is the settlements that are standing in
the way of peace and brotherly love in the Middle East. Unless his views have
dramatically changed, it is unrealistic to expect Obama to be a friend of
Israel, or even an honest broker in any peace negotiations.
needs to do in response is take drastic action. I propose that our government
immediately inform Congress that we will be seeking less US aid in the coming
years. I would suggest starting with a 10 percent cut in 2013. The reduction
could be replaced by the revenues from our newly discovered natural gas
It’s time we ended our chronic addiction to US aid and started
acting like a truly independent country.