Letters the Week of September 12, 2013


Letter writers discuss Jewish education post-Bar and Bat Mitzvah, a new rabbi's efforts to teach his congregants love of Israel and how the U.S. should not meddle in the affairs of other sovereign nations.

Education Story Should Be Read by All Parents

I found the cover story concerning Ben Stern’s “voluntary” attendance at the Jewish Community High School of Gratz College fascinating and it should be must reading for all parents with children of pre-Bar and Bat Mitzvah age (“Finding a Formula for Teen Learning,” Aug. 22).

In my youth during the 1930s, my parents belonged to a Reform congregation of approximately 500 families. There were few Bar Mitzvahs, and Bat Mitzvah had not yet appeared upon the scene. Sunday school terminating at the age of 15 with confirmation was stressed.

The year I became a Bar Mitzvah — and it was my choice, not my parents, who only insisted I become confirmed — there were about a dozen Bar Mitzvahs, but the confirmation class had more than 50 students.

At the rabbi’s insistence, each Bar Mitzvah speech contained the phrase, “I promise to continue my Jewish education to confirmation.” Today, congregations of like size conduct one or two Bar/Bat Mitzvahs a week and have confirmation classes of only 15.

There is no question those who go through the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service can read Hebrew — although I doubt they understand what they are reading and would profit by the things a Jewish high school provides. As Ben Stern put it, it’s “help with Jewish identity, Jewish values, Israel and the problems it faces.”

An understanding of Jewish history is the GPS on the road to the future. The Jewish people have always stressed education and continuing study as a noble venture. Ben’s parents are to be congratulated for instilling these Jewish values in him.

Ralph D. Bloch | Warrington

Hoping Rabbi Is Successful in His Israel Quest

I hope Rabbi Shawn Zevit is successful in his quest to push Mishkan Shalom’s congregants toward a love of Israel (“Rabbi Returns to Philly to Take the Reins at Mishkan Shalom,” Sept. 5).

For many years now some of Mishkan Shalom’s members and the anti-Israel American Friends Service Committee have protested against Israel and in support of Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists every Friday afternoon in front of the Israeli Consulate.

I hope that I soon see Rabbi Zevit on the other side of the street with the pro-Israel crowd.

Zachary Margolies | Philadelphia

Troublesome U.S. Policies Must Be Changed

In delaying punitive action against Syria to obtain authorization from Congress, President Barak Obama has turned the debate into a political tug of war.

The fallout from the president’s indecisiveness has already strengthened Syrian President Bashar Assad’s hand. Even if President Obama obtains congressional approval, any military action would prove useless.

Meddling in the affairs of other sovereign nations has proved to be disastrous in the past. When are we going to change our troublesome policies?

Ephraim Levin | Philadelphia


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