Letters Week of Dec. 13, 2007


32 Years Later, Kirov Evokes Different Reaction

On Dec. 1, we attended the Kirov Orchestra performance at the Kimmel Center. As we listened, we could not help but recall other cold nights, picketing outside the Academy of Music when the Kirov performed, protesting the actions of the Soviets toward their Jewish citizens (Nation & World: "Soviet Jewry Campaign Transformed an Entire Generation," Nov. 29).

Now on the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Soviet Jewry movement, we recalled that snowy day in February 1975 when we met Valery and Galina Panov. They were both lead dancers of the Kirov Ballet Company of Leningrad.

Valery had been forced from that company, sent to prison and threatened with disfigurement — all because he had applied for an exit visa to Israel.

That night, he and his company danced at the Spectrum in their first appearance in the West, following his release from prison. Flyers, posters and postcards were distributed protesting the heinous actions of the Kirov Company.

What a happy difference — then and now.

Connie and Joe Smukler

The Goal: To Instill Real Message of Chanukah

What a great column by Jonathan Tobin about Chanukah (A Matter of Opinion: "Dreaming of a 'Green' Chanukah?" Nov. 29).

Too many rabbis and lay leaders fall into the trap of trying to be politically correct, and forsaking what is truly real and beautiful in our tradition.

The message of Chanukah has been so diluted over past generations that many people are surprised when I teach the history and message of this festival. Even the Hasmoneans, who are the heroes of the Chanukah story, had to fight the indifference and assimilation of many of the Hellenized and secularized Jews of their time.

Rabbi Jeff Schnitzer
Congregation Tifereth Israel of Lower Bucks County

Celebrate Tikkun Olam, Not Civil War, at Holiday

The premise of Jonathan Tobin's column about Chanukah is actually anti-Jewish (A Matter of Opinion: "Dreaming of a 'Green' Chanukah?" Nov. 29). The last I looked, a key to Judaism is, indeed, tikkun olam and tzedakah.

While other religions have borrowed things from Chanukah, from pagans and from other beliefs over the years, I see nothing wrong with teaching about tikkun olam and tzedakah every chance we get. That should not make us liable to being accused of making Judaism like other religions.

The history of Chanukah, as Tobin put it, is "the story of a particularly bloody Jewish civil war." That's something we should not be proud of.

The more good we can derive from that sad time in our history, the more of a miracle Chanukah truly is. While saving the earth is our job as Jews, it is also our job as citizens of the world.

Naturally, I am not speaking about making Chanukah into a Jewish Christmas, but rather, making Chanukah more about what our Jewish tradition already teaches.

Rabbi Eli B. Perlman
East Brunswick, N.J.

Trying Not to Worship Idols of Popular Culture

Jonathan Tobin writes that "far from being a Jewish version of 'goodwill toward men' or any other trendy contemporary cause, the original story of Chanukah is about something very different: the refusal of Jews to bow down to the idols of the popular culture of their day, and to remain resolutely separate and faithful to their own traditions."

Aren't SUVS and Hummers just idols of our current popular culture?

So "going green" is, in fact, a return to the Jewish tradition of seeing the Earth as belonging to God first and foremost.

The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, which co-sponsored the initiative Tobin disapproves of, does great work.

Matan Barnea
Tacoma, Wash.

Don't Turn Chanukah Into a Multicultural Event!

Concerning Jonathan Tobin's column about a "green" Chanukah," I've been hoping someone would write something cogent about this idiocy since I first saw a mention of it a couple of weeks ago.

Even though I was raised in a Conservative/Reform home, I am thoroughly disgusted by attempts to "update" Jewish holidays, especially the incessant clamor to make Chanukah into the "Jewish Christmas."

The fact is: If it weren't for Christmas, most secular Jews wouldn't notice Chanukah any more than they observe Purim.

Leave it to the multicultural types to set up Chanukah to be "inclusive."

Janis Badarau
Seneca, S.C.

Modern-Day Victories Echo Maccabee Triumphs

During the lead-up to the current peace talks (Cover story: "Annapolis Forecast: Clouds on Horizon," Nov. 21), I listened to a taped lecture series, titled "The U.S. and the Middle East: 1914-9/11," by Professor Salim Yaqub of the University of California at Santa Barbara. In it, he claims that more Israeli soldiers fought in the 1948 War of Independence than Arab soldiers.

This claim is often made by enemies of Israel and "post-Zionists" who wish to belittle Israel's victory by claiming that the Israelis had superior military force.

The truth is that Israel was attacked by six professional armies, superior in number, upon the Jews' declaring their independence. But even if the falsity were true, would it really change anything?

Would it be any less miraculous that Israel, with a population of about 600,000, was able to muster more troops than the six Arab nations that attacked?

The re-establishment of the State of Israel is no less of a miracle than the Maccabee victory over the Syrian Greek kingdom that we celebrate during Chanukah. Just as thousands of years ago, the few beat the many (as we say in the prayer "Al Hanissim" regarding these miracles), in 1948, a similar thing happened.

In the wake of Annapolis, let's also pray that the Palestinians finally give up their ludicrous dream of destroying Israel, so that the peace progress can begin in earnest.

Rabbi Steven Saks
Adath Zion Congregation


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