December 27: ’Tis the season

Who is the Chief Rabbinate to decide that I am celebrating a pagan saint?

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
’Tis the season
Sir, – “Kashrut and Christmas trees” (Editorial, December 25) failed to mention the total abuse of power by the Chief Rabbinate as to what we can and cannot celebrate, something that has nothing to do with kashrut.
Who is the rabbinate to decide that I am celebrating a pagan saint? The first time I heard the name Sylvester was when I arrived in Israel. All of a sudden, I’m not celebrating the totally secular end of the Latin year, but some obscure Christian saint.
I suggest the term “Sylvester” be dropped and we return to “New Years Eve.”
Sir, – With regard to Christmas symbols being present on the premises of kashrut-authorized establishments, the efforts of the Chief Rabbinate to restrict this phenomenon are to be lauded instead of criticized.
Christmas, no matter how secularized it has become, is still a religious holiday commemorating the birth of one whom Christians regard as their messiah and redeemer. These are concepts that fly in the face of basic Jewish precepts, and Jews, no matter how liberal, must remember this.
Also, to diffuse the Chief Rabbinate’s authority in the sphere of kashrut by distributing that authority to other rabbinical organizations would cause chaos. The reliability of kashrut certificates would certainly come into question, and one who is observant of kashrut restrictions would constantly be confused.
The solution lies not in creating a messy situation but in having more liberal Orthodox rabbis make inroads into the ranks of the Chief Rabbinate.
Sir, – As an observant Jew, I am appalled by the recent threats to remove kashrut certification from hotels at which New Year’s Eve parties take place (“Haifa Rabbinate warns kosher hotels over holiday events,” December 24). Such blatant blackmail is the worst kind of religious coercion.
The Chief Rabbinate justified this position by asserting that “it is forbidden for a Jew to be present in a place where ‘idol worship’ is being conducted.” I challenge it to demonstrate one hotel party that fits this description.
Obviously, the Chief Rabbinate has decided to extend its monopolistic control of kashrut certification to areas that it simply finds distasteful. It is no wonder that many Jews – both religious and secular – are increasingly angered by the stranglehold it exercises over every element of their daily lives.
The Chief Rabbinate may win some of the battles, but it will eventually lose the war as a growing number of Jews are driven away from whatever level of observance they might otherwise have adopted.
EFRAIM A. COHENZichron Ya’acov
Sir, – The Chief Rabbinate should stop beating around the bush and get to the point: “You shall not plant for yourselves an Ashera of any kind of tree beside the altar of the Lord your God (Deut. 16)."
Ghost hunters
Sir, – “A blot on the criminal justice system” by David Martin (Comment & Features, December 25) helps clarify a very sorry state of affairs.
Certain people, for no other reason than their politics, are subject to official harassment.
Just when it seemed the Justice Ministry had decided to finally close the case on Avigdor Liberman, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein found another excuse to continue the investigation.
For more than a generation an entire army of people have made a living by hunting a ghost.
Sir, – The attorney-general’s office has wasted much time and taxpayer resources investigating a politician in a desperate bid to find something – anything – for which to indict him and stymie his political rise, a blatant abuse of the prosecutor’s power (“State to delay indictment of Liberman amid new allegations,” December 24).
In the meantime, conglomerates control the price of eggs, milk and cottage cheese, and make deals for land to build homes that only the wealthy can afford.
How about doing your job, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein? Sic your investigators on the corruption and anti-trust violations rampant in this country and attack the monopolies making our lives unaffordable.
SARAH WILLIAMSJerusalemDeaf ear
Sir, – It is obvious that while Gershon Baskin accepts that the whole of the mandated land belongs to the Jews, he is unable to internalize the fact that it is not we, but the Arabs, who do not want a two-state solution (“One-state reality – no longer viable,” Encountering Peace, December 25).
We have given the Arabs every opportunity to have a state of their own on our pocket-handkerchief- of-a-country and live in peace with us. But they are shouting loud and clear into Baskin’s deaf ear that they want all of Israel and nothing less.
If we were to hand over what for the sake of Western consumption they say they want (the right of return for all refugees, all the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem – which amounts to Israel’s complete surrender), will Baskin be able to face the families of the next round of victims? Will he be able to face the Jewish people when the entire country is completely lost? Our leaders should tell the Arabs that the time has come to choose whether they want a state of their own within secure and recognized borders to be agreed upon by sitting down together in good faith, or whether we should annex all of the land that is, in fact, legally ours.
Should it be the latter, they can choose to remain citizens of Israel, within which we could give them some sort of autonomy, and those who prefer could emigrate.
What the rest of the world and the UN think is immaterial. They have lost all proportion when it comes to the Jews and Israel.
EDMUND JONAHRishon LezionNot the first
Sir, – I wish to inform you of a mistake that appeared in “Engineering for haredim” (December 24) in which your reporter refers to a program in Ashdod as the “first engineering degree program in Israel designed specifically for haredi students....”
The first such program was established over 10 years ago at the Jerusalem College of Technology – Machon Lev (JCT), where over 1,500 haredi men and women are currently enrolled. Of these, some 400 are studying a wide range of engineering subjects in our Lustig, Da’at and Naveh institutes, which are specifically geared toward the needs of the haredi community.
ROSALIND ELBAUMJerusalemThe writer is director of external affairs for the Jerusalem College of Technology.
Needed leverage
Sir, – Professor Irwin Cotler’s cri de coeur calling on Russia to “open up the blank spots of history and disclose the truth of Raoul Wallenberg’s fate” (“Former Canadian justice minister Cotler: Iran must be held accountable,” December 23) demonstrates the folly of voiding the Jackson-Vanik provisions without obtaining a quid pro quo.
Last June, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton disagreed with those who “argue that continuing to apply Jackson-Vanik to Russia would give us some leverage in areas of disagreement.”
Not so fast, Hilary: This is the centenary year of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, an honorary American citizen. Jackson-Vanik is the imperative instrument for obtaining release of both his remains and the Wallenberg Brief, still held fast in the clutches of the Kremlin.