January 28: A good rap

Esther Bejarano joyously entertains her mainly youthful audience rapping and hip hopping, spreading an anti-racist message.

A good rap
Sir, - Esther Bejarano joyously entertains her mainly youthful audience rapping and hip hopping, spreading an anti-racist message ("Auschwitz survivor teams up with hip-hop group to spread anti-racist message," January 27). How inspirational to her audience and so contrary to pro-terrorist "peaceniks" as she actively rejects their racism - especially at this particular time in Germany.
Crete condemnation
Sir, - I usually avoid commenting on articles of opinion; however, I feel some points in your editorial "From Crete with hate" (January 26) need to be clarified, for accuracy's sake.
Five suspects have in fact been arraigned by the district attorney of Chania in relation to the criminal attack on the Etz Hayim Synagogue, and four have been arrested so far. Of these five, two are British, one is Greek and two are US citizens. Of the two Americans, one is still at large and has most probably fled abroad. Of course, not much more can be said until the investigation is complete.
Even before these arrests, the official reaction to the attacks - from the government, from political parties and from local authorities - was harshly and unequivocally condemnatory.
Even today, the prime minister himself once again condemned this heinous act, addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg.
Society at large was also appalled, and this is reflected in the press, with articles on the affair still appearing now, 10 days after the attacks.
KYRIAKOS LOUKAKISGreek Ambassador to IsraelTel Aviv
Do the math
Sir, - I'm sorry, but my 35-plus years as a trial attorney leave me numb trying to understand or appreciate Yehuda Bauer's scholarly and historical distinction between Hitler's and Stalin's killing of millions - Jews making up a disproportionate number of those in both cases ("Remembering accurately on Int'l Holocaust Remembrance Day," January 26).
"Please, judge, I only ran one red light, while Chaim ran 10. Accordingly, you must find me innocent." All of Mr. Bauer's learned mathematical explanations to the contrary notwithstanding, both dictators were premeditated murderers of millions of innocents.
LEONARD C. KAHNZichron Ya'acov
Chabad's priorities
Sir, - Shmuley Boteach's aspirations for Chabad are admirable, but unrealistic ("The future of Chabad," January 26). He acknowledges the success of Chabad's expanding outreach activities in the area of Jewish observance, such as tefillin, Friday night dinners, Pessah Seders, High Holy Day services, etc., but decries the absence of "notable writers and thinkers" from its ranks who could disseminate its "system of deep spiritual thought," "formidable wisdom" and "collection of ideas" to others.
The fact is, however, that the essentials of Chabad's thought, wisdom and ideas are nothing more than those of traditional Judaism, which in our day are readily accessible in the print and electronic media. Ironically, those elements unique to Chabad, such as hassidic Kabbala and allegiance to a rebbe are actually drawbacks when presenting a rational philosophy of Judaism (although that allegiance to a rebbe is the secret of their successful youth motivation). As Boteach well knows, the Shabbat experience is Judaism's best export item, as it integrates the virtues of Abrahamic hospitality, family cohesiveness and spiritual beauty around a sacred meal.
So let Chabad continue to do what it does best: find estranged Jews at their moment of openness and remind them of the richness of Jewish identity. Hopefully they will then go on to discover modern Orthodoxy and religious Zionism.
Sir, - Shmuley Boteach's take on Chabad tells only half the story - and it is in the other half that lies the answer to his rhetorical question, "Why does Chabad restrict itself to the 'horizontal level,' to the micro-societal, Jewish level, rather than expanding and exporting it to the vertical, macro-societal, gentile, socio-political level?" Essentially he asks, "Why doesn't Chabad use its experience in Jewish outreach to try and change the gentile world?"
The reason is that since the death of the rebbe, Chabad has been losing ground. It has been losing ground to the messianists within its fold, and it has been losing ground to other movements within Hassidism and to modern, mostly Zionist Orthodoxy. Chabad certainly does need a makeover, but not so that it can change the world; rather, so it can put its own house in order. It needs to find a direction again at Boteach's lateral, micro level before it can reach out to gentile society at the vertical, macro level.
Smoke in his eyes?
Sir, - Women applying makeup on Shabbat and men sipping certain malt whiskys with no kosher certification transgress Jewish halachic prohibitions. Would Rabbi Shlomo Riskin ban the sale of makeup and malt whisky in Efrat ("Smoking MK from Efrat slams Riskin's effort to snuff out cigarettes," January 27)?
Sir - Rabbi Shlomo Riskin has been blinded by the (cigarette) smoke in his eyes ("Efrat will be smoke-free, if its chief rabbis have their way," January 26). Is he not aware that a huge number of Orthodox Jews are heavy smokers? Recently, at the duty-free shop at Ben-Gurion Airport, I stood behind a hassidic man who was purchasing 12 cartons of cigarettes.
Who are these halachic "geniuses" among us who decide what is good or bad for one's health? How can there be any relationship between tobacco and kashrut except for the prohibition of smoking on Shabbat? Soon Rabbi Riskin may tell us that breathing is hazardous to one's health because of the pollution in the air. Should our rabbis not concentrate on more important issues such as derech eretz and respect for all people? The thousands of religious smokers who use tobacco-stained fingers to turn a page of Talmud will make them neither less kosher nor less observant of a genuine piece of halachic interpretation.
Young Judaea lives
Sir, - I was astounded to read the description of Young Judaea as a "shell of its former self" ("Key directors resign from Young Judaea," January 7). As a current participant in Year Course, I feel quite the opposite. The movement is still deeply committed to the ideals of Zionism and youth activism. I, for one, see this on a daily basis, as I am involved in an organization within the Year Course program, Garin Tzedek, that does extra volunteering with Sudanese refugees in Israel during our year here. The members who are involved still carry the ideologies of the movement with tremendous vigor, and I feel fortunate to be experiencing Israel with them. The movement is certainly not "nonexistent," as the article implies, but alive and kicking.
A Tu Bishvat boost
Sir, - Kudos! Hats off! Hurrah to Prof. Gil Troy for his wonderful article "On Tu Bishvat, celebrate green Zionism" (January 27). These were the most uplifting words I have read in the Post, and helped me to recall some of the beautiful actions of past generations.
I would love to be able to vote for Gil Troy as our next president, prime minister or whatever. Every article he writes is superb.
Abraham Katsman, author of "It's not just Israel: How Obama undermines US allies" (January 26), is counsel to Republicans Abroad Israel.