Sir, - Marvin Schick concisely encapsulates Chabad's often questionable practices in an effort to spread Judaism to all takers ("Where is Chabad heading?" January 10). However, besides the basic halachic issues involved and Schick's accurate analysis of future consequences of this "Walmart" approach, Chabad's enthusiastic and increasingly self-centered crusade has far more dangerous and long-term implications, seen through the establishment of self-appointed shadow religious frameworks in competition with the local Jewish "establishment" in the former USSR and other communities around the world.
Ostensibly based on the desire to "spread the word" described by Schick, this smells much more of a power-play and vying for control of financial resources in Jewish communities still only now being revived and renewed after so many decades of stagnation and persecution.
It is ironic that Chabad hasidim were always willing to help Jews learn and practice Judaism for its own sake, and not for any vested interest. I also became observant thanks to Chabad and, though never formally joining the movement, still fondly remember the many Shabbatot I spent in Crown Heights, when the Rebbe was still alive, and Chabad's influence on my life. It is therefore even more painful to see the questionable - and dangerous - directions Chabad is taking.
Sir, - I will have to be curt and forgo all the pleasantries of a regular letter. Your op-eds about Chabad have no veracity, they are just figments of someone's imagination. Marvin Schick's was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Sir, - An excellent article by Marvin Schick. Many people are of the same opinion and have been saying these things for years, but no one has had the courage to write so publicly about it. I hope Chabad takes heed of what Dr. Schick has written. And I hope the editors of The Jerusalem Post will be able to withstand the onslaught of pressure and all the letters they will receive from Chabad.
Hell at Hadassah
Sir, - I need to take my daughter four or five times a week to the Hadassah Hospital Children's Oncology outpatient department for treatments lasting three to six hours each. She has been through two bone marrow transplants and is in fragile health.
Since the prime minister's hospitalization the hospital has let the world press take over the plaza of the main building at Hadassah Ein Kerem. This is also the place for VIPs to be seen and heard.
This situation is causing extreme distress for hundreds, if not thousands, of citizens, sick people and their families, who now have to spend an average of 40-60 minutes more fighting "traffic jams" in and around the hospital ("Top surgeons not just for prime ministers," January 10).
Why does the press corps need to block the entrance to the emergency room and main building? Why can't a parking lot or other place be turned into a press area so that those who need to be in the hospital day in and day out do not have even more disruption in their lives? The rights and needs of sick people are being ignored.
Without a doubt, the story of the prime minister's health is important for the whole world. Yet let it not be covered at the expense of sick children and others. Each day is more and more of a gehinnom at Hadassah Ein Kerem.
BINYOMIN MENACHEM ADILMAN
Sir, - In "Gentrifying Hebron" (January 5) Larry Derfner seeks to discredit the settlement of Hebron's small Jewish quarter and ridicule its residents as crazies based on two premises: The former act of madman Baruch Goldstein, and the ongoing presence of a few Kahane extremists in the area. Anyone who has mingled with the throngs of a Hol Hamoed fete in Hebron would realize this is a gross distortion.
As for our rights to the area, Derfner would do well to recall David Ben-Gurion's own statement from Sde Boker in January 1970: "Don't forget, the beginnings of Israel's greatest kings were in Hebron, the city to which came the first Hebrew about 800 years before King David; we will make a great and awful mistake if we fail to settle Hebron, neighbor and predecessor of Jerusalem, with a large Jewish settlement, constantly growing and expanding, very soon. This will also be a blessing to the Arab neighbors. Hebron is worthy of being Jerusalem's sister."
Sir, - Annually, when we read the Torah portion called Chayei Sara, Jews from all over the world crowd into Hebron and neighboring Kiryat Arba to commemorate the greatness of our matriarch Sarah's life. Larry Derfner only embarrasses himself by digging up every negative event in Jewish history seemingly in order to stain the memory of our Mother.
If he lifted his eyes he would be thrilled to see the thousands of Jews from all over the world who crowd into Hebron-Kiryat Arba to spend a night in Israel's second-holiest city. Only Jerusalem outranks our memories of the origins of our Jewish loyalties.
I recently had the honor of being called upon to recite a blessing on the night of my grandson's wedding, standing on the heights of the holy places in Hebron. I beg Mr. Derfner to pull his head out of the ditch which darkens his view and see why we have a holy mission to preserve our holiest place.
Sir, - Lynette and Michael Ordman wrote that Limmud, the outstanding British Jewish educational event, has "become a major target for left-wing Jewish intellectuals and journalists, who seem intent on assisting the Arabs in their propaganda attacks against Israel" ("Limmud & the Left," Letters, January 5). My experience suggests otherwise.
I was an invited presenter at last month's Limmud. However "left-wing Jewish intellectual" is defined, I am not one. My presentations, all well attended, were: "Presenting Israel's case: The good, the bad, the ugly and the utterly incomprehensible"; "Out of the screaming silence: Global terrorism and the role of its victims"; "Terror and its impact on Israeli society: An inside overview"; and "Israel - why do the media keep getting it so wrong?" Insights from the trenches." I can attest to the very strong interest that exists among British Jews in understanding the Israeli experience and identifying with it.
Previously, like many Israelis, I had a small awareness of Limmud. It was one of the most stimulating and successful events of a Jewish nature I have ever had the privilege of attending.
Sir, - The Ordmans' letter was quite understandable. Among the presenters at this year's Limmud conference, Haaretz's David Landau justified his paper's unprofessional downplaying of Ariel Sharon's "peccadillos," as he termed them, by admitting that the "occupation" was a much more immoral concern that overrode the need for more editorial criticism.
The same paper's Gideon Levy was given four opportunities to expand on the very one-sided weekly magazine articles he utilizes in his personal campaign against Israel's policies in the disputed territories. Prof. Jacqueline Rose further contributed her very negative opinions on what she called "Zionism's tragedy," expanding on her recent book Question of Zion, in which she writes that Zionism "has become so controversial that it defies understanding and trumps reasoned public debate."
Such an agenda can be disconcerting, to say the least. Nevertheless, there were other voices: Prof. Raphael Israeli, Mitchell Bard, Arnold Roth and myself all represented a sorely needed balance to this far left-of-center viewpoint.
Limmud is getting better. We hope it will continue to improve.
Sir, - Re "About living in Israel and losing friends" (Judy Montagu, January 8): I don't think anyone should pass judgment on what happens here unless they actually live here. But I too have been on the other side, making comments about "those poor Palestinians" while living far away in Australia. Now that I'm here I see it as it actually is, and am correcting those back in Australia who are still spouting the old slogans.
Sir, - It was fascinating for me to hear it from the Jewish side of the line. I thought only some of my Gentile "friends" who think I'm nuts to be so committed to Christian Zionism and the Jewish people had those sentiments.
Deptford, New Jersey
Sir, - January 16 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Every year Americans dedicate the day to the memory of this great fighter for equality and human rights. The great irony is that just one day later we commemorate a great American tragedy: Another American (honorary) citizen who fought for human rights, just like King, who paid the ultimate price, just like King, but who, years after that terrible fate, unlike King, has still not received his due.
Wallenberg saved tens of thousands from certain death by the Nazis in World War II. No one person in history has saved so many lives. On January 17, 1945 he was taken by the Soviet Army. King has a grave his family can visit; Wallenberg's fate and whereabouts remain a mystery. As we celebrate King's legacy, we must think about doing everything we can to bring Raoul Wallenberg home.
Int'l Raoul Wallenberg
Kids love Tuvia
Sir, - What has Tuvia Tsafir's loss of temper in an adult show, for which he is rightly being punished, to do with his children's shows? He is not going to behave badly there. I would not hesitate to take my grandchildren to see him. Children love him ("Tuvia Tsafir to do community service" (January 10).