It was a sad day for Jewish education when the Mercaz (formerly the Board of Jewish Education) and the board of Dr. Abraham Shore She’arim Hebrew Day School decided to close the school. The closure prompted an outcry and frustration among She’arim parents and non-She’arim parents alike.
In “Debate on closure burdened by misinformation,” David Koschitzky, chair of the Board of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, rationalized that community funds have to be prioritized with a greater focus on the two-thirds of Jewish children not attending Jewish day schools (CJN, April 10). I replied with a letter to the editor stating that communal funds would better be spent on families whose children are already in the Jewish day school system, thus making Jewish education a priority in their lives (“Don’t close She’arim!,” May 1). By extension, She’arim was not only a Jewish day school, it was also a “one of a kind outlet” for Jewish children with special needs from diverse religious backgrounds. I suggested that closing She’arim would cause many former She’arim parents to remove their children from the Jewish day school system.
After reading “Mom sees son as ‘casualty’ of She’arim closing/Parents face difficult choices” (CJN, Aug. 21), I was not surprised, but saddened and dismayed, to read that about 24 per cent (12 out of 50) of former She’arim children will no longer be attending Jewish day schools. I was further disillusioned by the federation’s indicating that they were “very happy” with placing “70 per cent of She’arim children who need to be placed at host schools.” The reality is, who knows how many more “casualties” or “new” Jewish children will also not be attending Jewish day schools, as eligibility to this so-called “integration plan” is open only to former She’arim students? Those figures can easily be compounded by parents who have decided to go the public school route rather than have their children be part of an experimental program they feel can never be comparable to She’arim.
As Jewish parents, we are always concerned about the future of our children and grandchildren. Closing Jewish day schools and “losing” children to the public school system can never be positive. Who knows what ripple effect this will have on our Jewish community and the future generations of these children? Will their children re-enter the Jewish day school system?
Toronto community may decline
In his letter of July 16, Rabbi Cory Goldstein wonders why Toronto did not make the list of the top 10 Jewish neighbourhoods in the Jewish Living magazine (“Pluralism of Thornhill community,” CJN, July 17). There may be an easy answer to this question: the cost of Jewish education. Although Toronto is blessed with a wide range of fine Jewish day schools, unless one is wealthy, chooses to limit family size, or chooses to forgo day school education, the current tuition situation poses an extremely steep hurdle for Jewish families with school-age children. While it is true that the problem is shared with many communities in the United States, it is to be noted that the situation in Ontario is an anomaly in Canada, where all other provinces with a day school provide some form of provincial assistance. In some parts of the Orthodox community, where family size tends to be larger, a trend of migration of young families out of Toronto is already taking place. As vibrant as the Toronto community seems at the present, if the problem is not addressed head-on in a serious and timely fashion, we may very well find ourselves in a declining community over the coming decades, with fewer people filling our large infrastructure.
Phoenicians didn’t invent the alphabet
I wish to correct Alex Gropper’s inaccurate and unfortunately widely held idea in an otherwise entertaining article – that the Phoenicians invented the alphabet (“The Phoenicians were Mediterranean catalysts,” CJN, Aug. 7). The first non-cuneiform alphabetic writing was found at various sites in Canaan and in the southern Sinai desert and dated, at the earliest, to around 1700 BCE. That script, called proto-Canaanitic, was based on Egyptian hieroglyphic symbols but adapted to represent the sounds of Western Semitic. Proto-Canaanitic evolved into the Phoenician, Hebrew and Aramaic scripts in around the 11th and 10th centuries BCE. When the Greeks interacted with the Phoenicians and adapted their alphabet to write Greek, they may have thought that it was a Phoenician invention. It was not.
I refer Gropper and interested CJN readers to Joseph Naveh’s Early History of the Alphabet and Gordon J. Hamilton’s The Origins of the West Semitic Alphabet in Egyptian Scripts.
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We can certainly talk, but we must also remember that Iran is very set in its strategic ways. For six years, there have been multilateral negotiations (“talks”) with Iran. Where have these negotiations brought us? To an Iran claiming to have 6,000 nuclear centrifuges raring to go.
On Sept. 30, 1938, after “talks” with Adolf Hitler in Germany, British prime minister Neville Chamberlain signed a non-aggression pact that relinquished a piece of Czechoslovakia (Sudetenland) to Germany as part of the appeasement plan. The British people were terrified at the thought of another conflict engulfing Europe. Shouldn’t they have realized that by showing a face of weakness to a ruthless tyrant like Adolf Hitler, they would only strengthen his resolve? Not long after the pact was signed, in September 1940, the Nazis began their indiscriminate bombings of London in the Blitz.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to have the same kind of strong resolve that possessed Hitler. He also uses the same scapegoat that Hitler used – the Jews.
The appeasement used in World War II made one ruthless leader realize that he could conquer and rule with ease. Ahmadinejad now feels the same glory is his for the taking. He wants to realize his dream, an Islamofascist empire stretching from India to Turkey and eventually into Europe. A modern-day Islamic Ottoman-like Empire.
If we are so worried about such non-renewable resources as oil we must work speedily and diligently to find their feasible replacements and not allow a ruthless dictator to rule our lives as he prepares to destroy millions of lives.
In 1938, we appeased one ruthless and demented despot and millions died. Let us not do it again in 2008.
If we sleep in democracy, we will awake in tyranny.