April 22: Show real freedom

The president should have opened the gates of freedom to Jonathan Pollard, thereby symbolizing the exodus and acquiescing to the pleas of many powerful legislators.

letters (photo credit: JP)
(photo credit: JP)
Show real freedom Sir, – Instead of sanctimoniously hosting a Seder at the White House and ingratiating himself with Jewish voters (“Obama hosts White House Seder,” April 20), I submit that the president should have opened the gates of freedom to Jonathan Pollard, thereby symbolizing the exodus and acquiescing to the pleas of many powerful legislators, both Democrat and Republican.
Value-less ritual
Sir, – Warm congratulations to Shmuley Boteach for his long-belated realization that “The crisis in Orthodoxy today is the practice of Jewish ritual without Jewish values” (“Corrupt values in Jewish dating,” No Holds Barred, April 20). But now he needs to extend his revelation to the whole practice of Orthodoxy and not simply to dating – important, no doubt, but marginal.
I would invite Boteach to accept that the hyperextended interpretation of Orthodoxy regarding a whole gamut of ritual has emptied what should be the charm of ceremony and serenity of cultural expression of all spiritual content. We only need to see the fanatic Orthodox obsession regarding kashrut (especially at Pessah), the wholly illogical and anti-Jewish cruelty inflicted on agunot, the intolerance of Orthodoxy to anything less extremist than itself, the corruption of Orthodox politics, and the wholesale, often violent, coercion that Orthodoxy forces down the throats of the rational and secular majority, for whom neurotic enforcement of Orthodox ritual down to the finest imaginable detail is meaningless.
Compulsive, all-consuming ritual is the hallmark of today’s Orthodoxy.
When reasonable men like Boteach can realize this and begin to preach a Judaism in which ritual serves man and not the opposite, I believe both man and God would be better served.
Rosh Pina
Rosh Hodesh off
Sir, – If you ask olim from the Western world, recent or long-standing, what they miss most from the old country, chances are they will tell you they miss having Sundays off (“This country really needs a real weekend,” Comment & Features, April 17). But 10 years after my own aliya, I find that there is something I miss almost as much – public holidays during which one can relax, do things around the house or take a three-day vacation.
Apart from religious holidays, the only public holidays we now enjoy are Independence Day and the occasional election day.
I don’t believe this country will ever make the decision to take away one working day per week, and I’m not sure it can afford the reduction in productivity.
But there is a compromise solution that would fit in with Israel’s Jewish ethos and which we may well be able to afford.
Eleven times a year (12 in a leap year) we have Rosh Hodesh, which in essence is a semi-holiday. It would make a lot of sense to declare one day each month a holiday when we (including the religious population) could do all the things we used to do on Sunday.
This year, three Rosh Hodesh days fell on a Sunday, and one was on a Thursday, which would have allowed us four threeday weekends. An occasional midweek day off would have also been very welcome.
Apart from the improvement in our sanity and general quality of life, the day off would be a boon to the tourist industry, as well as to major sporting events, which would be available to the religious public as well as those who work on our current “weekends.”
I believe it would be more productive to campaign for a monthly Rosh Hodesh holiday, which is Jewishly meaningful and would be easier for the economy to absorb, than an extra day off per week, which has virtually no chance of coming about in the foreseeable future.