Disagrees with NIF representative
I disagree with the headline “NIF working for Israel’s future,” (Jan. 3). The New Israel Fund (NIF) isn’t working for Israel’s future. This non-representative fringe radical leftist organization is seeking to impose its ideology on Israel. I also disagree with several statements made in the piece by its author, Orit Sarfaty, executive director of NIF Canada.
• Israel is not having trouble living up to its original ideals. Israeli society is actually functioning much better today than ever. Every country in the world today has room for improvement.
• The NIF subsidizes controversial fringe organizations that are hurting Israel. The fact that Sarfaty mentions what appear to be non-controversial groups that the NIF supports creates a false and misleading picture.
• North American Jews are not poorly served by the vision of a romanticized Israel. The fact is, Israel is not romanticized. If the NIF cannot take pride in the return and settlement of the Jews into our Land of Israel, that’s their problem.
• Young North American Jews do not want their own “authentic connection to Israel.” The reality is that for most of them, Israel is not a priority. The vast majority has no interest in “grappling” with a “real Israel.”
• The NIF does not work hard to ensure that the next generations will take up Israel’s cause. I have never heard of the NIF demonstrating or lobbying on Israel’s behalf.
Young North American Jews will only take pride in Israel if they have a strong Jewish identity. If 80 per cent currently go to public school and don’t know their religion or history, how does anyone expect them to make a connection to Israel?
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Moses wrote down the Torah: Rashi
In Torah from Heaven: The Reconstruction of Faith, the author, Rabbi Norman Solomon, a self-described “skeptical” Orthodox Jew, posits the decidedly unorthodox thesis that the classical doctrine of “Torah from heaven” is a myth and that Moses was not the author of Genesis to Deuteronomy (the Chumash), despite its English translation as the Five Books of Moses (“A book for the thoughtful, ‘skeptical’ Orthodox,” Jan 10). One of the “proofs” brought to buttress this sacrilegious claim is his interpretation of the word “Torah” in Deuteronomy 31:9. The verse begins, “Moses wrote this Torah…” Rabbi Solomon writes that “this Torah” is not a reference to the Five Books of Moses but to the recording of a specific teaching, or at most a set of teachings, as interpreted by Rabbi Ovadya Seforno. What Rabbi Solomon conveniently leaves out is Rashi’s interpretation. Rashi, who all agree was the greatest biblical commentator of all time, says: “When all of it [the Torah] was completed, he [Moses] gave it to the members of his tribe.” The commentary on Rashi, Gur Aryeh, explains that even though the entire Torah had not yet been written at this point, the verse is out of chronological order, and it refers to after the Torah was completed. Thus, according to Rashi, Moses wrote down the entire divine Torah we have today.
Rabbi Mordechai Bulua
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1,000 missionary groups target Jews
The article “Jews for Judaism goes digital in its fight,” (Jan. 10), omitted any reference to Jews for Judaism’s counter-missionary website, www.jewsforjudaism.ca, its YouTube channel, its Facebook page at “Jews for Judaism (Canada)” or its Twitter account at Twitter@RabbiSkobac.
Jews for Judaism is dedicated to countering the multimillion-dollar efforts of Christian missionary groups that target Jews for conversion. However, today much of that fight is being waged on the Internet. In order for Jews for Judaism to effectively achieve its goal, we offer free educational programs, materials and counselling services that connect Jewish people to the spiritual depth, beauty and wisdom of Judaism. Therefore, it is imperative that articles focused on the targeting of Jews by Christian missionary group publicize our Internet portals.
Also, your article stated that there are some 180 missionary groups targeting Jews operating in North America. That number is actually more than 1,000. The number of missionary groups targeting Jews in Canada is 180, with almost half of them evangelizing Jews in southern Ontario.
Julius Ciss, Executive Director
Jews for Judaism (Canada)
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Martyred WWII cantors
Ishei Yisrael Ut’fillatam is a list of European cantors who were martyred during the Shoah. The phrase “Ishei Yisrael Ut’fillatam,” borrowed from the Amidah, means “the fiery offerings and prayers of Israel.” This liturgical wording originally described the intensity of religious fervour required for true prayer, as if to say: may our words have the same meaning and effect as fiery sacrifices once did for our ancestors. Initiators of the project borrowed it to indicate that in the death camps and elsewhere, those who bore the responsibility of leading their congregations in pleading before the Almighty themselves became the sacrificial offerings of their era.
The list, currently totalling 1,447 names, dates and places (where available), was started by Cantor Joseph Levine and Cantor Solomon Mendelson, They found the majority of names in the databanks of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Others came from searches of Yiddish and Hebrew volumes such as the many Yizkor books of decimated communities whose survivors had published them in Israel beginning in the late 1950s. The compilers are now turning to individuals who might remember a relative who served as a cantor in Europe before World War II. Anyone with such information is requested to email the Cantors Assembly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe and Doris Levine