Letters week of March 12, 2009

Middle-School Quandary: When Did Issues Begin?

Concerning your cover story, "Middle School Saved as Merger Deal Comes Undone in the 11th Hour" (March 5), this is the essence of what the board of directors of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School was selling last Tuesday night: Because our existing middle school is in the red for $200,000, we're going to close it without telling anyone.

Then we're going to open a new school because we just closed the old one.

If you like that logic, then wait, it gets better.

Head of school Jay Leberman alleges there was no "conspiracy," just that shutting down the school had to be kept "confidential" because if people knew that it was a possibility then it would become a "self-fulfilling prophecy." Huh?

When Forman Center parent Jill Rosen asked the board about its specific plans concerning the future of the school, she was explicitly told that the microphone was only for those persons who had comments; questions would not be answered. Since the open meeting concerning the future of Saligman was not the proper forum to answer relevant questions, when the right time does come around, I've got a few.

Until just before the meeting, the board had resolved to close Saligman Middle School. Why would the board then hold a meeting to hear from the parents after it had made its decision? Why, if the deficit is the actual reason for closing the school, did nobody know about it before the board unilaterally decided to shut it down? When did the school's financial problems begin?

Over the last few years, the Saligman, Perelman, Barrack and Magerman families have donated millions of dollars to PJDS. Didn't anyone mention to these folks that the middle school could use some of their donations so it didn't go under?

Still, the biggest question remains: Why can anyone expect in the future?

Paula Gates

Economic History of Jews Ignored Chunks of History

Professor Derek Penslar's op-ed ("A Brief History of Jews and Money," Feb. 26) is a contradictory and distorted summation of Jewish fiscal history.

Openly anti-clerical and strangely unhistorical about the monarchical economy of ancient Israel, Penslar indulges in a stereotypical view of Jewish wealth, but says little about the history of Jewish poverty, the biblical-Judaic value of tzedakah, and the communal policies and institutions it spawned.

Nor does he explicitly mention the insidious role of Christianity and other external factors in the shaping of Jewish economic history.

In the end, Penslar blatantly contradicts himself by simultaneously asserting that Jewish economic success is both historically conditioned, and that Jews are ultimately destined to succeed because "of their high levels of education and family connections."

In his attempt both to console and condemn, he missed an important opportunity to probe the Jewish economic experience in a salient manner.

Hopefully, others will take up this challenge in a more productive way.

Rabbi Lance J. Sussman
Senior rabbi
Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel
Elkins Park

Saving Paper's Fine, but Not at Expense of News

In her Feb. 26 column, Jewish Exponent editor Lisa Hostein notes that tough economic times have even impacted our beloved newspaper, forcing the bean counters there to trim its size. Yet she points out a fringe benefit of this cut: "It will help save trees in the process."

We in the Jewish community face a host of ill winds threatening our survival in ways we have not seen since the liberation of the concentration camps. I don't have the space here to list all of the dangers both home and abroad.

That said, this is a time when Exponent readers need more news about what is happening locally, nationally and internationally that affects us.

While it's nice that a few more trees may be spared, we — a minority in the United States and in the world — need to be more concerned at this time with saving ourselves.

Robert Sandler


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