June 6: Man of strength

Ruth Eglash's interview with David Hatuel was one of the most moving and inspiring stories I've ever read.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Man of strength Sir, - "Choosing life," Ruth Eglash's interview with David Hatuel (June 3), was one of the most moving and inspiring stories I've ever read. What supreme strength of character he has, coupled with humanity and extreme courage to face the unfaceable. LYNNE SHAFFER Jerusalem Dam fine piece Sir, - Am I still a naive "Anglo-Saxon" Israeli to hope, or pray, that Caroline Glick's excellent, succinct and courageous ("Padded pocket politicians," May 30) might be the first drop to flush out and cleanse our corrupt political and electoral systems? The feelings of so many concerned Israelis on the issue are like a bursting dam. MICHAEL MOHNBLATT Tel Mond Halacha: Can you compromise? Sir, - Jonathan Rosenblum argues that an absence of strict religious observance is a valid reason for retroactively nullifying an individual's conversion to Judaism ("On Halacha, no compromises," UpFront, May 30). Despite having a certain superficial appeal and logic, his view is invalid because it ignores three fundamental facts: 1. Ninety percent of the Jewish people are not seriously observant of Halacha. Obviously, therefore, halachic observance cannot be a sine qua non for being Jewish. 2. Despite Rosenblum's use of the modifier "full" or "fully" no fewer than seven times with regard to the observance of mitzvot, there is no widely agreed-upon definition of "full observance" among the Jewish people, not even within Orthodoxy. 3. There is absolutely no justification for a 21st-century, democratic state to require religious observance as a prerequisite for enjoying the fundamental human rights of citizenship, marriage, divorce or burial. MAYER BASSAN Jerusalem Sir, - Jonathan Rosenblum's statement that there is no compromise with Halacha is blatantly biased. Halacha is a very wide subject that covers all aspects of Jewish life and one must be very careful, when being "strict" in one area, that one is not violating Halacha in another. With respect to the current conversion controversy, Rabbi Avraham Sherman has, at the very least, violated Halacha in that he has embarrassed Rabbi Haim Druckman in public. Almost 100 years ago, rabbis in Jerusalem attacked Rav Kook, rabbi of Jaffa, because he declared sesame oil produced by a new, dry process kosher for Pessah. Rather than anyone coming to ask him to explain why he had declared the oil kosher, statements attacking him directly were posted on bulletin boards. A century has passed, and unfortunately nothing has changed. (Asked why he did not get those rabbis' permission first, Rav Kook replied that it was obvious to him that he did not need to do so.) SHMUEL SCHWARTZ Ra'anana Sir, - Jonathan Rosenblum posits the idea that part of the conversion problem is the mass conversion of olim without adequate supervision or individual assessment. However, the Rabbinical High Court of the Chief Rabbinate is responding with a decision of "mass de-conversion," without individual assessment. Not only is there no halachic precedent for retroactively canceling conversions, this blanket condemnation of all converts is destroying the lives of hundreds of sincere ones. Rosenblum asserts that "the evidence is overwhelming that a large majority of those converted by Rabbi Druckman were never mitzva observant." He makes this sweeping generalization, yet does not enlighten us with evidence of this large majority. I, at least, am in a position to document a goodly number of authentic conversions - including my own. How can I document my observance? I have letters from Rabbi Berel Wein and Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher attesting that I am shomeret mitzvot; I had Rabbi Jay and Rebbetzin Ruby Karzen as my witnesses before the Conversion Authority Beit Din; I was married by Rabbi Aaron Rakefet, and I married Rabbi Yitzhack Rubin. Would Jonathan Rosenblum presume to remove my conversion? I and my fellow converts petition Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to immediately put an end to our needless suffering by upholding our conversions, for the sake of Heaven and the Jewish people. REBBETZIN SHARONA RUBIN Jerusalem Sir, - I found Jonathan Rosenblum's column lacking in the most important Jewish Halacha of all: compassion and lovingkindness, in particular for the ger or convert to Judaism. But I was even more disturbed when I realized that even Ruth the Moabitess, ancestor of King David, were she living today, would in all probability be facing the same abuse, and would also have very likely been refused conversion by the rabbis with whom Jonathan Rosenblum allies himself in his column. KENNETH BESIG Kiryat Arba From a friend Sir, - It is special to me that my father's mother was a Jew. His father was Italian, also assumed to be Jewish. He died in the Holocaust. Happy Birthday to the land of Israel. May you find much joy in knowing you have a destiny and a purpose. JUNE ESTELLE CASH Cle Elum, Washington Sad eats Sir, - Yes, we live in a free country. Yes, we have freedom of choice in what we do and what we eat. But is it really necessary for a Jewish newspaper to show a large picture of a hamburger with bacon and cheese? (Billboard review, May 30.) You call it a damn fine burger. I call it a damn shame. JUDITH ZIANTS Ma'aleh Adumim