July 21: Aish's outreach

I felt that Danielle Kubes's "You've been Aish'd...'" (July 17) was insulting to the Orthodox community and painted a grossly inaccurate portrait of Aish Hatorah.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Aish's outreach Sir, - I have taken part in a variety of Aish programs. The participants are intelligent, critical university students who want to learn about their heritage, and Aish Hatorah provides them with classes and programs in a comfortable, non-judgmental atmosphere. Ms. Kubes gives the students no credit for being able to think for themselves, and seems to feel that anyone who finds meaning in these classes must have been "brainwashed." But there is nothing coercive in Aish's programs. Students are not required to keep Halacha except when it is a matter of respecting those around them, and they are free to leave whenever they want. Ms. Kubes claimed that Aish presents "[its] Judaism as the uniquely accurate one," and this is a completely true statement. The question is, what is wrong with that? Aish Hatorah is an openly Orthodox organization teaching Orthodox Jewish ideas. Program participants know that when they sign up. Ms. Kubes boasts that she is "spending this summer in Israel, but wearing jeans." I just have one question for her: Which marketing campaign convinced her to buy those jeans? MICHAEL GREENSPAN Thornhill, Ontario Sir, - "You've been Aish'd...'" misused emotionally laden words such as "indoctrination" and "brainwashing" to describe what these religious outreach trips are about. They present an alternative lifestyle. And to entice people to come and listen, they offer free or heavily subsidized trips in order to present their ideas, a method used by many companies that invite prospective clients to listen to their "free" seminars. One has the option of accepting or rejecting their ideas. I feel this piece was Ms. Kubes's rationalization for changing back to her old way of life. MENACHEM EPSTEIN Jerusalem Sir, - This op-ed took aim at one of the most influential Jewish organizations out there today. Aish has had a tremendous impact on me over the past few years, as a woman and a Jewish student on a college campus in North America. It has given me the opportunity to meet wonderful and inspirational teachers and rabbis and opened my eyes to a whole new perspective on Judaism. As a student, I have been trained extensively by Aish on media bias, honest reporting and skills for defending Israel on campus. I was given the opportunity to see the horrors of the death camps in Poland, and the chance to learn more about my Jewish roots and connect with my Judaism. I just want to say that Aish Hatorah is doing amazing things for young Jewish people like me. It is influencing thousands upon thousands of us to reconnect with God and teaching them that Judaism does not have to be black-and-white. I am a huge supporter and advocate for Aish Hatorah, and I feel this op-ed completely misrepresented a major breakthrough in the modern Jewish world. SARAH LIBMAN Thornhill, Ontario Sir, - I agree with Ms. Kubes that local customs are erroneously presented to newly religious students as Halacha, and that Jewish observance not grounded in Jewish education can be fleeting. Yet I don't agree that "foreign ideas suddenly seem reasonable" - rather that Jewish ideas and values suddenly seem more reasonable than those many of us grew up with. One can best live a Jewish life in the Land of Israel. Wherever Ms. Kubes finds her place in Jewish observance, this is perhaps the most important commitment she can make to the Jewish people. BARRY LYNN Efrat More of the same Sir, - According to The Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, a whopping "99 percent of Lebanese Shi'ites believe that Israel is weaker than it looks" and that "it is only a matter of time before the country is defeated" ("Survey: Nasrallah is 'most admired leader' among Arabs," July 17). Doesn't the Israeli political leadership understand the fundamental and serious damage done not just to Israel's reputation but to her security by the trade of two dead IDF soldiers, noble though they were, in exchange for murderous terrorists? Where Israel should be encouraging rational compromise, its lopsided trade has emboldened Hamas and encouraged Syrian and Lebanese intransigence ("Hizbullah hints it may abduct more IDF soldiers," July 20). NORMAN LEVIN Teaneck, New Jersey Sir, - Last week the Arab world let down its guard just long enough to afford us in the West a rare glance into their souls. For a brief moment they dropped their charade of victimization and innocence and allowed us a view of their value system. This moment will pass quickly. Tomorrow they will once again proclaim that they are the innocent victims of Western-Zionist-American imperialism; but we have seen their true colors. BRAD PLEMONS Washington 'All for one': What it means Sir, - "The why-not-me syndrome" (Liat Collins, July 20) missed the point. Precisely because all Israel are responsible for All Israel, we should not release murderers who will murder us again. In the same issue, Gershon Baskin ("Time to get smart") argued that the test should be whether those released will "abstain from terror." How can we tell - by asking them? "All for one and one for all" does not mean that compassion for the one should overshadow the needs of the all. On the contrary, it has to be "One for all." As we ask soldiers to risk their lives for the all, so must we, reluctantly, ask them and their families not to endanger the all for the sake of their one. JACOB CHINITZ Jerusalem Well kept, well fed Sir, - When I saw the pictures of released prisoner Samir Kuntar after his return to Lebanon (July 17-18), I was astonished. He looks so well - too well - even a bit overweight! A well-kept, well-fed prisoner of 30 years. TOVA WALD Jerusalem Mofaz's mess Sir, - Political strategists for Kadima candidate Shaul Mofaz say the key to his victory in the race for premier is to hammer home his lifetime of experience in security ("Shaul Mofaz's plan to secure the premiership," July 18). Mofaz might be better served by claiming that he made the trains run on time during his current stint as transportation minister. The public has not forgotten that the huge failures in military preparedness, the abandonment of training programs and the disruption of lines of command highlighted by the Winograd Commission occurred under Mofaz's watch, when he was chief of staff and then defense minister from 2002 until May 2006. Amir Peretz became defense minister just a few months prior to the Second Lebanon War debacle. It was Mofaz's mess he inherited. HALOM HELMAN Jerusalem Write honorables Sir, - Reading your excellent selection of Letters to the Editor on July 20, I had a sudden flash of inspiration: Every member of our government ought to be sacked and replaced with Jerusalem Post letter-writers, who obviously have far more idea of the needs of our country and of its citizens. LOLA S. COHEN Jerusalem