letters to the editor 88.
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Why wait for a child to die?
Sir, - Your newspaper has over the years reported numerous dog attacks, especially on children ("Pit bull attacks toddler," October 23). I recently wrote to the ministers of Interior and Justice about the fact that 99.9% of local authority heads do nothing to enforce the bye-laws requiring at least a muzzle and leash on dogs in public areas. I received no reply. The police seem unaware of the laws regarding dogs and the veterinary services are passive, becoming involved only after a disaster.
The 0.01% is for Ramat Gan's Zvi Bar - the only mayor, as far as I am aware, who is not waiting for the tragic death of a child before taking action. He has inspectors on the streets enforcing the law.
DAVID GOSHEN, Kiryat Ono
Sir, - "Erekat: [Hamas] joining elections will lead to disarmament" (October 21) is an interesting statement given that Saeb Erekat's own Fatah party not only recognizes but funds the Brigades of Martyr Yasser Arafat, formerly the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
NOAH M. CAPLAN, Jerusalem
Sir, - Goal: "Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence." What part of this quote taken from the Fatah Constitution do those who demand Israel cede more land and lift restrictions on Palestinians not understand?
SANDER PORITZKY, Weston, Florida
Sir, - Brevity is a virtue, so I will just cite the title of Daoud Kuttab's last column - "Stop idolizing death" (October 10) - and follow it with your October 23, page headline: "Palestinian [mother] hides grenade in baby's shirt" while the infant was wearing it.
MIRIAM AMGAD, Jerusalem
It's Zionism, stupid
Sir, - Nothing alienates people like me, who would like to find sympathetic aspects in Israel's situation, more than columns like Michael Freund's "Forgotten at the White House" (October 19). When he writes that more than 50 Americans have been killed by Palestinian terrorists since Oslo he attempts to fan American anger at the Palestinians, ignoring the fact that these Americans were killed only because they happened to be caught up in the middle of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Freund seems to think Israel had nothing to do with the onset or continuation of this conflict.
The Palestinians share in the responsibility for the conflict. But if the Zionist movement to Palestine had never taken place there would never have been a Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Instead the Palestinians would be peaceably enjoying the land, of which they had been the basic inhabitants for centuries, from the coast to the Jordan river, in pleasant, deep and richly-deserved quiet, and no one would be criticizing them about anything.
JAMES ADLER, Cambridge, Massachusetts
About merging Masorti & Reform...
Sir, - In "Merge the movements" (October 20) Rabbi David Forman repeats the argument I have heard from my Reform colleagues ever since my aliya 32 years ago: that the Masorti movement should merge with Reform in Israel since there is "little difference in substance" between them here. After describing our different approaches to Halacha in which he candidly admits that Reform is "unbound by the restrictions of Halacha," he states that the Masorti claim concerning the binding nature of Jewish Law is "merely nit-picking." If so, what constitutes a serious matter?
Certainly Reform in Israel is more traditional than Reform in America, where virtually anything goes, but it is far from following the standards of the Rabbinical Assembly and Masorti Judaism in divorce, kashrut and Shabbat. Does Rabbi Forman seriously believe we could countenance the type of Sabbath activities Reform sponsors at Beit Shmuel; or the performance of marriages where there has been no halachically authentic Jewish divorce? Could Masorti merge with a movement affiliated with the worldwide Reform movement, where there are intermarriages and conversions without mikve?
Yes, we hold much in common. We are all part of the Jewish people, heirs to Jewish tradition. But Masorti also has much in common with modern Orthodoxy. And the difference between the service in Moreshet Avraham, the Masorti synagogue to which I belong, and those of a modern Orthodox synagogue here is much less than between us and any Israeli Reform synagogue.
I mean no disrespect to Reform. If it is willing to declare that it is bound by Jewish Law, will observe it as defined by the Rabbinical Assembly and divorce itself from the worldwide Reform movement, we will be happy to have it join the Masorti movement. Until then we will simply have to learn to live with today's reality - the pluralistic world of Judaism.
Jerusalem ...a utopian ideal
Sir, - If only David Forman's idealism could be acted upon! But as one who knows both movements intimately, it is completely utopian. What is first needed is for each movement to become more effective in its own right. And for that each needs to clearly understand and accept the line of demarcation between them. Reform, being the older and bolder of the two movements, is always the one insisting that Conservative consolidate back into Reform, forgetting the very fact that he mentions in his article - to wit, the halachic seriousness that Conservative Judaism maintains and the stubbornness that automatically brings with it.
Both movements are, broadly speaking, "progressive." One is "halachic" the other "aggadic" (non-halachic); both are rejected by Orthodoxy. But calls for consolidation that are not feasible do not add to the mutuality of respect and pluralism that Jews of different views and levels of practice should be aspiring to.
Perhaps, out of true mutual respect and acknowledgment of differences and recognition of limitations, needless duplication and draining of resources could be avoided. Rather than compete against each other, it might be wise for the two movements to negotiate the pulpit turf on the ground. But a merger which ran roughshod over the fundamental, qualitative difference between the two movements would simply be a loss for the world Jewish people.
The truth is we are better off with two alternatives that, hopefully, will prove themselves up to the challenge of providing truly inspiring religious alternatives to the challenges presented by resurgent fundamentalist orthodoxies; for the majority of world Jewry will continue to find the latter fatally flawed.
RABBI DAVID HOFFMAN, Cape Town
Sir, - Rabbi Forman writes: "Unbound by the restrictions of Halacha, Reform Jews feel free to adapt Judaism so that it can confront natural wonders, scientific advancements, historical developments and the sociological machinations of a rapidly changing world." His juxtaposition of being "unbound" by Halacha and the ability to "confront" new ideas and "adapt" struck me. Precisely the opposite seems true since to confront difficult issues seriously, a rigorous system of analysis is mandatory. The halachic system of Orthodoxy provides this, which is why Orthodoxy can effectively confront new ideas and adapt within the halachic framework. By contrast, Rabbi Forman admits to having no rigorous objective standard. Consequently, his claim that Reform Judaism adapts freely to new ideas is incorrect. It would be more accurate to say it adopts modern ideas rather than adapting to them and avoids the challenging confrontation with modernity Rabbi Forman ostensibly desires.
Being unbound by Halacha does provide a certain intellectual freedom. The question is: Is it a Jewish intellectual freedom?
ROBERT KLEIN, Beersheba
Sir, - You know why there is hardly any Reform or Conservative in Israel? Because people in Israel are real. They may keep or not keep mitzvot, but they don't buy into all this nonsense of modifying Judaism into what's more convenient - while in America they are fake, afraid to be Jewish, and that's why their Judaism is fake. In the Orthodox world rabbis decide according to God's laws; in Reform and Conservative those who give more money to their temple tell their rabbi what's kosher and what's not.
I grew up in the Soviet Union deprived of any Yiddishkeit. I found it only at the age of 27, and only thanks to the Orthodox world. I would never have found it in "reformed" Judaism.
TANYA FLIG, Los Angeles
Sir, - One can only shake one's head in disbelief at Rabbi Forman's blindness to a truth he himself alludes to - that the movements have little to offer their members, and that is why they "vote with their feet" and leave. More soul-searching and a hard look at Orthodoxy's success are the only ways these movements will ever succeed.
ARI WEITZNER, New York
Be safe, not sorry
Sir, - There is not enough publicity about the need for all men over the age of 45 to have an annual PSA blood test. There are no symptoms for prostate cancer and the test can often detect it in the early stages, making it curable. I had my prostate removed eight years ago and thought, wrongly, that I had nothing to worry about. The PSA blood test proved otherwise; but the prognosis is excellent due to early detection. MEL COHEN, Ra'anana
Sir, - Eyal Berkovic is undoubtedly one of the best football players Israel has ever had. However, his arrogance and big mouth exceed his talent, doubtless to the hindrance of his career ("Berkovic" Let me coach the national soccer team," October 23). In my opinion Avraham Grant did a great job with our national team. We should not forget that had we not gotten an offside goal against us in the last minute in the home game against Switzerland (Dutch referee: Van Egmond) we would have made it to second place at least.
Berkovic came back to Israel to finish his career here - and that's all he should do. His attitude in the field is disgusting at times. As a Maccabi Haifa fan I was delighted that he decided to go to Maccabi Tel Aviv. Who needs a troublemaker like him?
MIRIAM NATHANS, Rishon Lezion