Letters week of March 20, 2008

Outreach? Yes, but Also Prioritize Education

I read Gary Tobin's article, "America's Filled with Potential" (Opinions, March 6) with great interest.

As a pulpit rabbi for 53 years, I had a dual approach to intermarriage. The issue is not resistance or acceptance. It is both — respectful resistance before the marriage and drawing the couple close afterward.

Where possible, I respectfully discouraged intermarriage unless the non-Jewish partner chose to become Jewish. I was always warm, friendly and respectful. It was understood that I was not free to perform the ceremony.

If the intermarriage took place, I made a sincere effort to befriend the couple, and invited them to join the synagogue and send their children to our religious school or to a Jewish day school.

Over the years, many of the non-Jewish spouses chose to become Jewish, often in anticipation of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah of their child. They explained to me that the genuine warmth of their acceptance, in addition to their exposure to the synagogue and its members, convinced them of the beauty of Judaism and confirmed their decision to become Jewish. Many of these Jews by choice have enriched our community.

I do not take issue with Gary Tobin's idea of outreach. However, I strongly believe that our Jewish community must begin to intensify Jewish education, both formal and informal, into the teen years, including Jewish educational summer camps and educational pilgrimages to Israel. Otherwise, the hemorrhage of young Jews lost to assimilation and its consequences will only continue.

Rabbi Aaron Landes
Rabbi emeritus
Beth Sholom Congregation
Elkins Park

Call for Jews to Convert Is Just Plain Offensive

The letter written by Rev. Donald Clifford of St. Joseph's University (Letters: "Church Remains Strong on Commitment to Jews," Feb. 28) enumerates all the positives that interfaith committees have accomplished, but continues to ignore the original point — that a prayer asking for Jews to accept Jesus is downright offensive to us!

He quotes Bishop Richard Sklba saying that "central to the concerns of the Holy Father is the clear articulation that salvation comes through faith in Jesus."

So unless we convert, we are doomed. I'll take my chances as a Jew, thank you very much.

David Mermelstein
Huntingdon Valley

Republican Poster Boy Used Harmful Invective

The March 6 issue of the Jewish Exponent carried a Republican Jewish Coalition advertisement spotlighting Washington-area right-to-work lawyer Glenn Taubman.

This is the same individual who, in comments published in the Washington Jewish Week on April 12, 2007, titled "Queen of Quisling," let loose a series of ad-hominem slurs thrashing and trashing Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

What is especially noteworthy is that the verbal abuse included placing her — the first speaker to have a Jewish grandchild — in the same camp as a disgraced Nazi collaborator of World War II Norway.

Let us recall that it was this sort of right-wing invective that created the atmosphere which set the stage for Yigal Amir's assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Has the RJC become that desperate — and integrity-challenged — in its recruitment efforts that it feels it must select such a venomous individual as its poster boy?

Stas Cohen
Newark, Del.

Bill Buckley's Fans Recall the Impact of His Work

As a 14-year-old growing up in New York, I was an avid reader of National Review and an equally avid watcher of "Firing Line."

So it was a real treat to read Jonathan Tobin's tribute to William F. Buckley (A Matter of Opinion: "Bill Buckley and the Jews," March 6).

Alan Luxenberg
Elkins Park

Accomplishments of Writer With a Moral Compass

Thanks to Jonathan Tobin for a touching article on William F. Buckley (A Matter of Opinion: "Buckley and the Jews," March 6).

His piece on the life and passing of a great American reminds us that Buckley's outstanding moral compass led him independently to accomplish a great deal for both American Jewry and Israel.

Jack J. Beyda
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Schwartz Won't Cast Vote for Obama at Convention

In the article "As Race Tightens, State Finds Itself in the Loop" (Cover story, March 13) a statement attributed to me seemed to imply I would consider casting my superdelegate ballot for Sen. Barack Obama should he win Pennsylvania.

This is a wildly inaccurate.

My support for Sen. Hillary Clinton is steadfast. In March 2007, over a year ago, I was proud to have been the very first federal official in Pennsylvania to announce my endorsement of her for president.

As the only Jewish member of Pennsylvania's 19-member congressional delegation, I know personally how committed Hillary Clinton is to Israel and to key issues of importance to the Jewish community.

Over the next six weeks, I hope to have the opportunity to reach out to many Jewish voters, particularly in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and I am confident that Jewish voters will be a key part of Hillary Clinton's win in Pennsylvania.

Like all Democrats, supporters of Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama alike, I am firmly committed to having our party be unified in the fall general election against Sen. John McCain. That stated commitment is a far different sentiment than to say that I would consider casting my ballot as a superdelegate in support for Sen. Obama should he win Pennsylvania.

I am excited about working to help bring Hillary Clinton a strong win in Pennsylvania, to casting my vote for her in the April 22 primary, and to proudly standing up for her at the Democratic Convention this August.

Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz
Washington, D.C.


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