September 9, 2017: Appalling remarks

The Mobileye system, which beeps if it detects you tailgating or changing lanes without signaling, would be an excellent compulsory addition to all cars sold in Israel.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Appalling remarks
I was appalled to read the headline about the remarks of Rabbi Shlomo Amar (“J’lem chief rabbi: Reform Jews deny more than Holocaust deniers,” September 7).
I immediately imagined the damage this would cause to the image of Israel being a homeland to the Jews, including freedom of religion. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu categorically rejected the statement – but this is only stated in the smaller letters of the sub-headline.
Unfortunately, the media often take headlines and conveniently miss important reactions. In my humble opinion, the main headline should have been “Netanyahu rejects attempt to delegitimize any part of the Jewish people.”
What rubbish! It is insulting, not only to Reform Jews, but to us all.
Tel Mond
The same day I read that the former Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel said Reform Jews were worse than Holocaust deniers, three members of the daily minyan I have been attending to say kaddish for my mother asked their personal rabbis if a Conservative rabbi (me) was halachically permitted to serve as a prayer leader. The answer was an emphatic no.
As a hiyuv (one with an obligation), I have been leading prayers, although the gabbay has now told me his rabbi said that from now on, I would not be allowed. Is this just a coincidence, or did the former chief rabbi simply stoke the fires of enmity in the month of Elul?
On the other hand, a secular neighbor who lives in the building next to ours is going to allow us to build our sukka in his backyard because we have no halachic option on our own property. So within 24 hours, we had two Jewish-Israeli experiences – one distressing and the other very hopeful.
Isn’t it sweet that the more pleasant experience is all about creating a sukkat shalom (symbol of peace) “upon us, upon all of Israel and upon Jerusalem”?
This is how Rabbi Shlomo Amar prepares for the High Holy Days, denigrating fellow Jews, creating schisms and manufacturing hierarchies instead of building bridges? As it appears that Amar is extremely busy with the cartel business, let me refresh his memory.
When the Israelites set up camp at the base of Mount Sinai prior to receiving the Ten Commandments, the verse says: “And the nation camped.” Upon this, Rashi commented: “Like one man with one heart.”
My wish for Rosh Hashana? May we merit religious leaders in the coming year who seek to make us am echad, a unified people.
Tzur Yigal
Letters about letters
With regard to “Offensive photo” (Letters, September 7), Emmy Leah Zitter informs us that as a religious reader, she almost choked on her morning cup of tea when she saw the photo illustrating your article “Extra law enforcement ordered to curb prostitution at strip clubs” (September 5).
I hope no harm came to her when drinking her tea on September 7 from the headline “4 rabbis arrested for fraud in city chief rabbi applications.”
Continuing on from reader Hertzel Katz’s excellent letter “Rules of the road” (September 6), the lack of road manners in Israel is without doubt the reason there are so many accidents.
The reputation of dangerous Israeli driving is not without merit. I encounter aggressive driving every day, and visitors are usually shocked by the behavior on the roads. The lack of turn-indicator use is endemic. In part, this is just sheer laziness, but it’s also crass inconsideration for other road users. Unfortunately, such behavior impacts the way people view us – most comments are pretty negative when it comes to our confrontational behavior, something most easily seen on the roads.
The Mobileye system, which beeps if it detects you tailgating or changing lanes without signaling, would be an excellent compulsory addition to all cars sold in Israel. How nice it would it be if we got a reputation for politeness in the bargain. (And how apt and ironic that Mobileye is an Israeli invention!)
Herzliya Pituah
Dueling philosophers
While debating the question as to whether European Jews should make every effort to come on aliya or stay where they are, Shmuley Boteach (“The disappearing kippot of European Jewry,” No Holds Barred, September 5) pits Theodor Herzl against Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. To help strengthen the Rebbe’s claim that Jews of Europe should be encouraged to stay put, Boteach enlists the help of the late Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim, who formulated a 614th commandment stating that Germany should never become judenrein.
In all fairness, I would now like to bolster Herzl’s position with the help of another famous Jewish philosopher, Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman, Nahmanides, who similarly penned additional commandments to the 613 that were codified by Maimonides back in the 12th century. The most famous of these additions, I believe, is the mitzva incumbent upon all Jews to come and live permanently in Israel.
I often wonder what the State of Israel would look like today if only the Rebbe had openly and actively adopted the stance of Nahmanides!
Wanted: Good teachers
The headline in Amnon Eldar’s op-ed “The goal – attracting top-level educators” (Comment & Features, September 3) sounds promising, especially when he suggests new regulations that would ensure that the best educators continue working in our educational system.
Mr. Eldar quite rightly acknowledges that psychometric scores are only a partial predictor of an educator’s professional success and that many other personal talents are required to become a good instructor. He also believes that if we were to “compensate quality teachers,” “recognize previous professional seniority,” “change the mode of professional development” and “increase teacher autonomy,” the system would “attract strong teachers.” His proposition for “additional personal contracts” might indeed improve the current situation in a school system that is full of flaws.
However, implementing such changes would require time, money and consensus of opinion, an aim not easily achievable, to say the least. Perhaps in the meantime and/or simultaneously, we should be looking for practical and more easily applicable solutions.
Why don’t teacher training colleges raise the psychometric admission score for new applicants to at least the national average? Don’t we want our children to be educated by professionals who have an average – if not above-average – academic potential? By attracting higher caliber people to the profession, wouldn’t we automatically raise the quality of applicants?
Let’s be honest: A large number of people go into teaching by default, having not been able to reach university and college requirements that would open a path to a career with higher earnings. Can we then conclude that education is often attracting the wrong people?
Since we live in a society where money talks, where status is equated with earnings, where respect is given to the financial high-flier and where contribution to society is valued on the basis of remuneration, perhaps narrowing the gap between the earnings of a novice teacher and that of the experienced teacher might be a potentially easier solution. If this gap could be narrowed, perhaps more talented individuals with higher academic potential would opt for education as their first career choice.
The writer is a former head of the English department at the Open University of Israel.