June 19: Religious freedom

I would ask our president, Reuven Rivlin, whether the time has arrived for disenfranchised Jews like me to seek to live in a democracy that allows for Jewish freedom of expression.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Cut to fit
Regarding the interview with Stan Polovets, co-founder and chair of the Genesis Prize Foundation (“‘We are all, in a sense, Jews by choice,’” June 17), the awarding of a $1 million prize to Hollywood actor Michael Douglas for “Jewish values,” even though he is not halachically Jewish and is married to a non-Jew, is a classic example of how an ostensibly well intentioned Jewish organization can defeat its own raison d’etre.
It brings to mind the analogy concerning the gift of a magnificent Torah cover commissioned by a wealthy member of a prestigious synagogue. On the day of the dedication ceremony, the beautiful item was found to be too small to fit the Torah, whereupon the frustrated donor exclaimed: “Rabbi, if the cover does not fit the Torah, let us cut the Torah to fit the cover!” The award to Douglas defies one of the basic tenets of Judaism. It is the antithesis of the Genesis Foundation’s purported goal of making a generation of Jewish youth proud of their heritage.
Lasting impression
Thank you for David Newman’s “Remembering Louis Jacobs” (Borderline Views, June 16).
I was a 16-year-old member of the Manchester Bnei Akiva in 1950 when he spoke to us one Shabbat and made an everlasting impression.
The “remembering” factored in very vividly when reading this column about the “Jacobs Affair,” and took me right back to the 1960s; it was probably the first time in my life that, as a very young girl, I became aware of something so far-reaching in the rabbinical/ political world of Anglo Jewry.
The sister of author David Newman – my best friend, Hannah – invited our whole class to her birthday party, and I remember being shocked that only three of us turned up. My parents, staunch members of the United Synagogue, were broad-minded enough to differentiate between a birthday party and whatever they might have thought about the criticism leveled at the birthday girl’s father for supporting Rabbi Louis Jacobs’s views.
My parents’ exemplary attitude, which counteracted the deplorable behavior of many of my classmates’ parents, has guided me ever since.
I would like to commend David Newman for his excellent column.
Many of us youngsters in London benefited from Rabbi Louis Jacobs’s inspired teaching of Torah and Talmud, interspersed with quotations from George Bernard Shaw.
Jacobs often said he was upset to think that GBS was a great writer and thinker but that it was unlikely he would, after his death, be granted entry into the next world.
Religious freedom
With regard to “Rivlin, Masorti Movement clash over cancellation of special needs bar mitzva” (June 9), I’ve just discovered that Israel is the only democracy in the world that doesn’t allow for religious freedom for Jews.
I would ask our president, Reuven Rivlin, whether the time has arrived for disenfranchised Jews like me to seek to live in a democracy that allows for Jewish freedom of expression. Is this our Zionist dream?
Kfar Saba
The writer is a Masorti (Conservative) rabbi.
Keep it green
There are still a few days left for an Israeli government minister with a sense of environmental preservation to appeal the decision of the housing cabinet and take Mitzpe Naftoach, below the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot, off the “fast-track” process and halt the impending massive construction.
Why build where the entire public of Jerusalem, and visitors to the city, can see and enjoy green open space? Why build where Mayor Nir Barkat himself wants to keep bike trails, wildflowers and deer?