April 2: A divisive ‘hill of beans’?

The widespread bans on kitniyot in Israel have taken on ridiculous proportions that go far beyond what was practiced by Ashkenazic Jews in Europe for centuries.

A divisive ‘hill of beans’?
Sir, – As Michael Freund himself points out in his article, kitniyot bans stem from a time and practice that no longer exists (“In defense of the ‘kitniyot’ ban,” April 1). The widespread bans on kitniyot in Israel have taken on ridiculous proportions that go far beyond what was practiced by Ashkenazic Jews in Europe for centuries. In fact, there were Ashkenazic communities that banned certain kitniyot, while other communities accepted these but banned others. The kitniyot ban was based exclusively on local practice. To maintain a practice and call it a tradition that should be continued is a divisive element in modern Israel and therefore is really not worth a “hill of beans.”
    HAIM M. LERNER    Ganei Tikva
Sir, – I regret that Michael Freund’s article took on a flippant, almost insulting view of the Sephardic traditions by minimizing the case to do away with the kitniyot ban. He made it seem that the main purpose of the desire to ban this Ashkenazi tradition is to make life easier when shopping in the supermarket. He makes it seem that those who eat kitniyot are in some way less dedicated to making sacrifices on behalf of their religious beliefs.
However, he completely misses the point. The point is that the Jewish people are needlessly divided by this unnecessary and outdated ban on kitniyot, posing situations in which even members of the same family are unable to eat at each other's homes. If a Sephardi girl, for example, marries into an Ashkenazi family, she is no longer able to eat at her own parents’ home, since by the overly strict ruling of many Rabbis, even their dishes are now hametz.
I am now Sephardi, as I married a Jew of Iraqi origin, and our home is strictly kosher all the days of the year, including Pessah – but by Sephardi standards. The majority of our friends are Ashkenazi, and some won’t eat in our house on Pessah, even when I am willing to cook without kitniyot for them, and that is an affront that can cause painful rifts.
This issue also perpetuates the separation of Ashkenazim and Sephardim in the area of shidduchim in certain circles, which in turn has implications for much broader splits in our society. Ashkenazim openly claim, without a hint of sensitivity, that they prefer their children to marry “within” the Ashkenazi community, so that there are no complications on Pessah. This creates a feeling of a class system among Jews.  
If we have risen to the occasion in that we are finally able to live together, to fight together, to build together in our own homeland, then it is high time that we break the tradition of separation and become one people in Pessah as well. Next year in an undivided Jerusalem!
   MEIRA OVED    Jerusalem
Long presidency?
Sir, – In the article “Traveling through time” (Pessah Supplement, March 29), the author states, “In 1877, Benjamin Harrison – who would become president for 12 years – wrote a letter to my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.”
This sentence is incorrect. Perhaps the author meant to write “whobecame president 12 years later,” as Harrison was president for onlyone term of four years from 1889-1893. The only person who ever servedas president for 12 years was Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933-1945. Infact, a constitutional amendment was later passed in 1947 specificallylimiting the president to no more than two terms (or eight years) inoffice.
    MARK RAVREBY    Jerusalem