The opinions expressed by Rabbi Yehiel Ben Ayon (“Why Sephardim shun non-Orthodox movements,” CJN, Feb 7) are interesting and provocative, if not incendiary to the Jewish Conservative community. There mere title of his column is negative and suggests that the Conservative movement is somehow a diluted form of Judaism and a step down for our Sephardi brethren. Further, the notion that we are in any “discomfort” and that Conservative Jews find this “dichotomy unbearable” are ludicrous and unfounded statements.
I have been a practising Conservative Jew for more than 30 years, and I am not anguished by the supposed compromises of my movement to traditional Jewish practice. The Conservative movement is founded and continues to be based on Halachah. Moreover, the three different Conservative congregations to which I have belonged have had a significant number of Jews of Sephardi origin, including Moroccans, Iraqis, Tunisians and Persians. The opinions of Rabbi Ben Ayon serve to propagate the idea that there are different types of Jews who can be delineated by their choice of religious affiliation. I would like to respectfully suggest that the good rabbi recognize that Jews have enough external criticism around the world and that opinions such as his are divisive and create animosity among our people.
Dollard des Ormeaux, Que.
Response to Held (1)
I read Daniel Held’s column, “We need to create our own shuls” (CJN, Feb. 7), with interest, hoping to gain insight into one of my burning questions, “Where have all the Jewish youth gone?” As a middle-aged member of a “big-box establishment” synagogue, I am often among the younger attendees at Shabbat services.
In defence of these establishments, it has taken generations of hardworking Jews and their financial contributions to build these fine synagogues as a tribute to the maintenance of the Jewish religion and culture. If we, of the older generation, choose to worship in clean, well-decorated surroundings while seated on padded chairs, we’ve paid dearly for that comfort!
Friday night, the synagogue president makes announcements for events that, according to Held, “bear little relevance to me.” These events take a lot of effort to prepare, all of which is expended by volunteers. The volunteers appeal to their peers, knowing that others with similar interests will attend. The synagogue president would be thrilled to add young adult events to his Friday night announcements if only they would take action to organize functions of interest to them. Our synagogues have space that is not being used and excellent staff who are happy to help with the logistics for new events. It just takes some effort to prepare a Jewish-themed event.
Held uses B’nai Jeshurun in New York as a model progressive synagogue. If this congregation of 1,900 families can attract a large number of young adults to Shabbat services, then surely we can learn from their efforts. If this age group wants a 5 p.m. Shabbat service in a stark basement environment, please meet me at my synagogue, as I would be happy to help you clean an unused basement area, whitewash the walls, install electrical outlets and haul amplifiers for your modern liturgy. I’m sure the rabbi would not be opposed to pausing his sermon in the main sanctuary so we all can enjoy your electrified musical strains reverberating throughout the building! I look forward to seeing dozens of young adults gracing the steps of my synagogue, coming for their own service in their own space.
Greenfield Park, Que.
Response to Held (2)
We have created our own shul, as Daniel Held has suggested (“We need to create our own shuls,” CJN, Feb. 7)!
The Annex Shul is a vibrant and inclusive, grassroots community in downtown Toronto that serves the spiritual, educational and social needs of a diverse variety of Jews through lively and participatory Carlebach-style Friday night services, learning opportunities and social gatherings ranging from Shabbat dinners to holiday parties.
Although the majority of Annex Shul participants are graduate students and young professionals, all are welcome, regardless of age or affiliation, to join us for weekly davening and biweekly Shabbat dinners.
People of Sderot need us
I am a university student, and for three days this past December, I toured the Holocaust-related sites in Poland. As anyone who has been there will tell you, they are horrifying and unbelievable. So many questions come to mind. How could the world let this happen? More importantly, how could Jews let this happen?
I hoped to find an answer as I started the second part of my trip, a visit to the Holy Land, and during my three-hour visit to Sderot, I unfortunately began to understand. While the Jews in Auschwitz could not even sleep to dream of a better life, the Jews in the free world can just change the news channel. If it doesn’t affect me, I can ignore it – someone else will take care of it, the thinking goes. This is happening today, and we in the Diaspora have our heads in the clouds.
The people of Sderot need us. I have seen the reality and I can’t ignore it anymore. A whole generation of Jews is growing up in fear just because they are Jews in the Jewish state, and nobody is helping them. Like most people now and most people then, we ignore that this is happening. But it must not be ignored anymore.
More than half a century after the Holocaust, we constantly make the claims of “never again” and “never forget.” We like to think that we would never let it happen again. Well, I hate to say it, but it is happening again. And it’s our responsibility to stop it.
Response to Mintz
May I suggest to Jesse Mintz (“Israel should re-think policy in Gaza,” CJN, Feb. 7) that he go to Gaza, meet with the leaders there and convince them to revoke their mandate of destroying Israel. If they agree, then Israel should re-think its policy vis-a-vis Gaza.
Criticizing only Israel
David Benjamin complains about the “doublespeak” in Gerald Steinberg’s column of Jan. 24, accusing the writer of obfuscating “the enormous obstacle the West Bank settlements have become to peace” (“Response to Steinberg,” CJN letters, Feb. 7). Benjamin is guilty of the same offence, employing double standards, for he applies to the Israeli towns and villages in the West Bank requirements not followed by any other nation in the world. Firstly, almost all of those settlements were built on land previously owned by Jews, or on state property. Most importantly, Israel is again singled out by some, especially our left-leaning brethren, ignoring the fact that scores of other countries, including Russia, Poland, Hungary, the former Czechoslovakia, Romania and even France occupied and colonized huge territories belonging to former enemies after World War II. The hypocrisy of those criticizing only Israel, especially Jews, is mind-boggling.
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Editor’s note: We failed to note that the information in Wilf Mandel’s letter, “Canadians who fell in 1948 war” (CJN, Feb. 28), was supplied by Eddy Kaplansky. Kaplansky, who died in 2005, served as a volunteer crew member on an Aliya Bet ship bringing refugees to Israel after World War II. One of the first pilots in the Israeli Air Force in the fight for independence, he wrote The First Fliers, a historical account of those events.