April 9: Street names

The continuing failure of the Jerusalem city council to name a street in honor of another great personality of our times, the late Dr. Yosef Burg is shameful.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Street names
Sir, – With regard to “Jerusalem street-naming honor rescinded at last minute by mayor” (April 7), the late Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz was a towering and influential scholar who did not shrink from expressing provocative and, to some, distasteful views. To give way to those who disagree with those views by not naming a street in his honor is shameful.
No less shameful is the continuing failure of the Jerusalem city council to name a street in honor of another great personality of our times, the late Dr. Yosef Burg.
As one of the founders of the National Religious Party, Burg was a member of Knesset from 1949 to 1988, during which time he became the longestserving cabinet minister, holding many different portfolios.
Throughout his political career he personified moderate religious Zionism with exceptional learning, wisdom and rectitude, unblemished by scandal or disrepute.
Perhaps Burg’s most endearing talent was his phenomenal memory for faces and names.
For many years he lived at the top end of Aza (Gaza) Street in Jerusalem. Surely, the time is long overdue when the now unseemly named byway is renamed Burg Street to remind us that there can be such a thing as an honest politician.
Beauty and horror
Sir, – Perhaps articles like “The Holocaust, Rembrandt and the quest for authenticity” (Comment & Features, April 7) can help us identify with the true enormity of the Holocaust – just to be able to grasp for a few moments the depths of the immense tragedy and human suffering.
I thank Nathan Lopes Cardozo for helping bring the quest for authenticity by underlining extreme beauty and extreme horror.
JOYCE KAHN Petah Tikva
Sir, – After participating in one of the most meaningful ceremonies ever at Yad Vashem, my thoughts were somewhat reflective of the terrible level of bestiality unleashed by the Nazis, but also of the almost Divine human spirit that enabled the Warsaw Ghetto fighters to hold out for a month.
The murderous tendency of hatred is truly satanic. Is it possible to envision in the year 2013 that supposedly human beings could create ghettos, concentration camps and, even worse, create ovens to burn people? We cannot conceive of burning stray cats and dogs, or even mice.
How can people burn other human beings? This is what can happen to people who have gone crazy in hatred.
If we think about it we can say there is no future for the human race. But the other side of man is different. The Jewish people have been touched by God. The resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto makes this so apparent.
The divine spirit made the Jewish ghetto fighters stand up and make their mark on history, showing that one can resist the forces of evil. By fighting, by stoic resistance to degradation, by facing God, and through the ability to create a better world, the Jewish people showed the path that leads to eternal values, morality, respect for human life and belief in God.
Not all had visas
Sir, – In “From the heart of Europe to the Far East: German Jewish refugees in Shanghai” (Comment & Features, April 7), Guy Miron writes that 30,000 males were arrested after Kristallnacht and were released only if they had a visa to another country.
My father came back after three weeks in Dachau with other men from my hometown.
They had no visas to any other country.
My parents left Germany in April 1939. We children went on a Kindertransport.
Sir, – Gil Troy (“Why I am not ‘Orthodox’ – or ‘secular,’” Center Field, April 3) attempts to bring the important question of change in religious Judaism to the forefront while sadly undermining other important beliefs of the religious community in his attempt to find the truth.
Toward the end of the second paragraph he brings up the one of Judaism’s central themes: Jewish unity. Throughout the column, however, he does his best to destroy this important principle.
Troy describes the Ashkenazic ban on legumes as restrictive (certainly accurate) and absurd (possibly accurate, although it certainly portrays negativity upon the tradition of refraining from eating kitniyot), and also claims that it stemmed from “medieval superstition” and evolved into a “modern mishugas,” a clear and open attempt to discredit this tradition and the segment of the population that subscribes to it.
Any Jew who truly embraces Jewish unity would not take the kitniyot ban as an opportunity to bash a large segment of the community.
Troy claims there are many American Jews who consider themselves Orthodox who “demean Israel’s holiness by importing their foreign habits to the Holy Land” because they celebrate some holidays for two days, as is done in the Diaspora.
Even if they are wrong, to portray this large group in such a negative way is upsetting. The path taken by stereotyping and insulting other Jews does not lead to Jewish unity.
Troy also seems to have a very dull sense of what tradition and religious Judaism are all about. At the beginning of the article he seems very proud to embrace the “fun, expansive and Torahtrue Sephardi tradition.” Being that many laws and important traditions are not “fun, expansive and Torah-true,” I don’t think motivation for changing deeprooted tradition should be based on these factors.
He also uses “eating cheesecake” as the best example of a deep-rooted Shavuot tradition.
Shavuot is a celebration of receiving the Torah from God on Mount Sinai, not a day of partying.
Finally, Troy entirely rejects the idea that God cares about many ritual matters. Although I cannot confirm that the Almighty has an opinion on kitniyot, it seems more logical that He would in fact care about things related to serving Him and not encourage changing tradition for trivial reasons.
Orthodoxy in general puts an emphasis on tradition and tries to advance as much as it can without damaging what it deems critical religious values. But its adherents certainly put a focus on Jewish unity.
ELIEZER DIENA Jerusalem/Toronto Gil Troy responds: Please read my entire column. If you do not see my reverence for tradition, my pride in my religiosity, my love of Judaism and the Jewish people, please read it again. I did not mean to offend. I did mean to provoke a debate we need to have within the different Jewish streams and between them about the nature of change and the meaning of our tradition in the modern world.
Serious spirituality
Sir, – Once again we approach Rosh Hodesh. And once again we can anticipate the harassment of the Women of the Wall by police, and the invasion of their devotional privacy by media piranhas. Surely, Anat Hoffman and her associates come with serious spiritual intent, desiring nothing more than to be left alone to pray as they see fit.
Battalions of video crews, the ceaseless clicking of press cameras and the relentless barrage of questions by insensitive reporters is not conducive to the kind of prayer and meditation these women desire. It would therefore make sense for the authorities to back off and allow them to wear their prayer shawls and phylacteries, and recite Kaddish without hindrance.
At the same time, all media should be banned from the Western Wall area from two hours before these women gather until two hours after they have concluded their services. A spiritual gathering should not be a media circus.
J.J. GROSS Jerusalem