Sir, – I don’t think I have ever been as proud of our prime
minister as I am at this critical point in the negotiations with the
Palestinians. He has refused to back down on his promise to the settlers and to
the nation on the issue of construction of housing throughout the country (“PM
silent amid world criticism of moratorium’s end,” September 28).
prime minister is sending a clear message that his word is his bond, and when he
makes a commitment both his friends and enemies can count on the commitment
The message is clear. Israel will not be anybody’s
With a strong prime minister the chances of reaching a fair
settlement with the Arabs has been substantially increased.
prime minister needs now is the full support of the country as he stands up to
world pressure. This is the least we can do.PAUL BERMAN
and political pluralism
Sir, – That “Most Israelis approve of Reform,
Conservative conversions” (September 28) may be appealing to advocates of
pluralism in Judaism and of friendship between American and Israeli Jews.
However, there is an element in this happy contemplation of religious peace that
has not been thought out, in my opinion.
Let us take the parallel of
Israel as a state. There are different political parties with different values
and agendas. But there cannot be a state without an electoral process that
decides policy for the state as a whole. If Judaism is to be an organized
religion, rather than a hodgepodge of free-floating ideas and practices, the
solution is not to invite a “pluralism” without limits.
and Conservative may legitimately differ as to the method of
But to leave a triple parallel approach in place may destroy
Judaism as a religion, just as leaving each political party in the state the
freedom to follow its own policy would destroy the unity and integrity of the
The solution more conducive to the integrity of the religion as a
whole would be for the three movements to debate the issue of conversion, and
other issues of dogma and practice, and come to an agreement on the basis of
conviction and perhaps majority vote, as in the political process.
have criticized our political system which multiplies political parties to an
extent which handicaps governmental function. Would an unbridled pluralism in
religion multiply sects and movements to such an extent that the religion of
Judaism could not function at all? JACOB CHINITZ
Sir, – In his “The religious-industrial complex” (September 28) Shmuley
Boteach addresses two totally disconnected but equally important issues, each
deserving singular and sustained attention, namely: the widespread fraud known
as gap-year yeshivot, and the sycophantic kowtowing to money on the part of
major religious institutions.
Regarding the former, the time has indeed
come to blow the whistle on the so-called yeshivot often run by carpetbagger
self-styled yeshiva heads who exploit unwitting American parents and their
In exchange for $20,000 (plus airfare and the cost of
virtually every weekend when the students are cast into the streets to fend for
themselves) parents and children get an ROI of virtually zero. If the parents
are lucky, their sons return home none the worse for the experience.
add insult to injury these unsupervised children do not even develop a genuine
connection to Israel or a modicum of derech eretz. If at the very least they
would acquire the slightest cognizance of the fact that their Israeli peers are
in uniform, protecting them and making it possible for them to fress and booze
in relative safety, one might say “Dayenu.”
The saddest thing is that
there is a fantastic alternative which would save the parents a bundle, improve
the quality of their children dramatically, and viscerally connect their sons to
Israel forever. It is called the IDF – which allows foreign boys (and girls) to
enlist for 14 months and serve as real soldiers.
Instead of being cast
adrift among the bars and pizza shops of Jerusalem, American boys would learn
how to make do on less, how to count and be counted on by their comrades, how to
defend the Jewish State, and how to be responsible adults.
And they would
actually learn how to speak Hebrew.
After 14 months they would return
home as men rather than juveniles, if not juvenile delinquents. And Israel, over
time, would develop a critical mass of real supporters in America and elsewhere
who are connected for life to their Israeli comrades in arms.
unfortunate that neither Israel nor the IDF promotes the Machal (Hebrew acronym
for Mitnadvei Hutz L’Aretz, foreign volunteers) program, as it is a 100 percent
win-win for both Israel and the Diaspora, not to mention an incredible benefit
to the 18-year-old gap-year adolescent.
And ironically, the young soldier
would be getting paid rather than having to pay for the privilege.
as I’m concerned – as the parent of a former Machalnik, now an officer in the
IDF – parents should be happy to fork over the $20,000 to the IDF for providing
their sons with such a richly rewarding experience, rather than stuffing it into
the wallets of so-called yeshiva heads whose connection to Israel and Zionism is
tenuous at best.J.J. GROSS
Sir, – In response to Shmuley
Boteach’s critique of American youth and the cash flow behind them: He seemed to
have had no problem with the “fancy breakfast” given in honor of the “wealthiest
donors” until he was told that his children were not invited.
while embarrassing for Boteach, does not exactly qualify as
Rehovot ‘Schule,’ not shul
Sir, – David
Geffen’s reminiscence of Simhat Torah in Atlanta (“Simhat Torah and my Torah,”
September 28) is delightful. I read it with pleasure (especially since my
daughter- in-law comes from Atlanta).
Among the Jewish institutions
Geffen describes, there is one that can be misunderstood – the “Arbeitring [sic]
shul.” Of course he means the Arbeiter Ring (later Arbeter Ring) schule. It was
not a synagogue.
It was a secular Yiddish school.IDA SELAVAN
In my father’s succa
Sir, – In David Geffen’s article about
various succot (“Construction Judaism: An age-old festival,” Succot 5771 special
supplement, September 22), Rabbi Geller mentioned the succa my father built at
the University of Colorado.
The slight correction to the facts are: the
garage was incorporated in the Hillel House to make a large enough area for all
sorts of Hillel functions. He correctly stated it had a moveable roof, so that
the succa was in fact inside the Hillel House. Just for the record, it was
designed with the help of Jewish engineering students at the university, and was
the second succa ever to be built in Boulder, Colorado. The first was at our
But this was always my father’s approach. At Syracuse University
some of the Jewish students in the School of Architecture designed and built an
octagon succa on the Quad which lasted two days until the upstate New York
weather took it down.
Or another instance of Succot in SU: we all slept
in the succa until we got snowed under and had to dig our way out of the
I want to thank David Geffen for bringing me to remember the fun
times we had growing up with my parents on various campuses, especially around
the period of the hagim, the Jewish festivals.YANKI ELEFANT