The recent ruling of the haredi conversion appeals court in Israel is a very sad and troubling one indeed (“Conversion controversy rears head in Israel,” CJN, May 15). In one fell swoop, a widely respected religious Zionist rabbi and his authority have been seriously undermined, and his thousands of conversions retroactively annulled.
While some may argue that the haredim are simply “raising the bar” by asserting the most stringent of halachic standards, it is widely viewed that by so doing, the haredim are imposing their political will upon the non-receptive modern Orthodox and religious Zionist communities, and all other denominations within Israel and beyond. By narrowly interpreting the halachot surrounding conversions and other matters, they are permitting very little room for legitimate differences of opinion and are rejecting more lenient and widely inclusive approaches to Jewish law.
I am afraid that further capitulation to such intolerance in Israel and in the Diaspora will only contribute to the further deterioration and ultimate dismantling of rabbinic power in Israel, a development that may be unfortunately received with all too much joy, in all too many quarters.
Joseph Y. Adler
Withdraw support to universities
I strongly support Sally Zerker’s proposal to withdraw financial support from universities and other educational institutions, such as high schools, that support Israeli Apartheid Week under the guise of protecting “free speech” (“Withdraw financial support to universities,” CJN letters, May 8). But this proposal should apply not just to small donors, but to all donors, Jewish and non-Jewish, private and corporate, as well as to government support.
Given the failure of attempts at a peaceful resolution – for example, by exposing Israeli Apartheid Week’s ulterior motives and requesting that the universities not allow their grounds to be used for this hate fest – I call on all peace-loving alumni to publicly withdraw their support from these institutions in favour of institutions that have shown a dedication to truth and integrity above and beyond the socio-political pressures of the day.
And to the culpable presidents of the universities at which Israeli Apartheid Week takes place, a final word: surely we do not need to point to the 1930s and ’40s to underscore the profound impact of “mere” words. Surely you do not have to be reminded of the horrendous consequences of such Nazi-style incitements to hatred. And surely you are as fully aware as we are that the big lie of Israeli Apartheid Week propaganda is fuelled and financed by organizations that are driven by this very hatred – namely, anti-Semitism!
Palestinian propaganda in The CJN
With so many other media outlets spouting Palestinian propaganda and revisionism, do we really need to see it in the pages of The CJN (“Re-branding Israel, CJN letters, May 22)?
Like so many other apologists for Palestinian terror, letter writer Bernard Katz (“Re-branding Israel,” CJN letters, May 22) denies Israel the right to defend itself and its citizens. In calling the security barrier “illegal,” he ignores the fact that it has already saved countless lives and prevented an untold number of terror attacks – and it has done so non-violently. By accusing Israel of “[killing] innocent non-combatants”, he attempts to create a moral equivalency between the Israel Defence Forces and murderous groups such Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, ignoring the fact that when they operate in and from civilian areas, it is they and not the IDF who must bear full responsibility for Palestinian civilian casualties. By telling us that Israel “creates a living hell” for Palestinians, he excuses the corruption of Fatah and the intransigence of Hamas, both of which are the true root causes of the misery that Palestinians are forced to endure.
Katz is certainly entitled to his opinions, no matter how objectionable and despicable they may be. I just wonder why The CJN feels the need to provide him with space to air them.
Cultural, leisure programming
Each week, the first page I flip to in The CJN is About Town. And each week, the listings seem to be dominated by health and a mix of lifestyle events working women may find difficult to attend during the day.
While many of these activities have their own constituency, and becoming an educated health consumer vitally benefits old and young alike, it seems there’s plenty of room for programs that extend to a broader range of interests.
For example, does any shul or Jewish community centre offer a series on gardening, such as on how to grow your own vegetables? Or a kosher “foods of the world” cooking class? Are there any “family day” outings to a pick-your-own strawberry farm? Or a regular themed-movie night of classics featuring, say, Hollywood’s take on anti-Semitism? Why aren’t there more cross-cultural events, such as organized trips to New York when that city’s Jewish museum is showing a particularly good exhibit? And since the demise of Montreal’s Jewish film festival, who is taking up the slack?
When I was growing up here in the 1960s, my school put on a dramatic production that packed the shul’s auditorium. And while just another poor “shtetler,” I remember the fun we kids had with Fiddler on the Roof. Is there any shul that does amateur theatre, given the rich repertoire of Jewish playwrights? And if not, why not? It just might prove a unique way of attracting new membership from among the unaffiliated.
Demographics pose their own unique set of issues to our community. But no matter what our numbers, let’s use more of the creativity we’re famous for in our cultural and leisure programming.
Editor’s note: Last week, an editorial error was made in Leonard Smith’s letter (“Disagrees with letter writer,” CJN letters, May 29). In the letter, a quote, attributed to Bernard Katz (“Re-branding Israel,” CJN letters, May 22), should have read: “Israel must stop double dealing, stop pretending to seek peace while travelling the same old paths of dishonour, immorality and death.”