Birthright, Drake and Mikvahs: What Makes a Community?

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No Fan of Birthright Decision

The recent decision by Birthright Israel to explicitly prohibit participants from meeting Israeli Arabs should not be lightly pushed aside or excused, as your editorial did (“Bullish on Birthright,” Nov. 9). In a speech by President Reuven Rivlin a few years back, Israeli Arabs were specifically included as one of Israel’s Four Tribes (in addition to haredi Orthodox, modern Orthodox and secular Jews).

The major funders currently are the government of Israel and Sheldon Adelson. Adelson in particular does not freely give his money with no strings attached. He is known to be a major Republican donor and supportive of the rightwing Netanyahu government. Is it any surprise he would wish to suppress any alternate voices for Birthrighters (or pressure the programmers to do so, lest the funding disappear)?

You claim that in this decision “politics is a sideshow,” but that ignores the reality. Nothing Adelson or the Israeli government funds ignores politics. We must question the funders’ underlying political objective rather than giving them a pass.

I have long wondered if the model of Birthright makes sense — can anything “free” actually have value? With the decision to forcibly hide one of Israel’s four pillars of society, I question not just Birthright’s value, but its hidden agenda.

Alan Woronoff | Dresher

No Halfway When it Comes to Drake

What half of Drake is Jewish (“Half-Jewish Rapper Throws ‘Re-Bar Mitzvah’ Party,” Nov. 2)? The news brief states that Drake has a Jewish mother and attended a Jewish day school.

Certainly, halachah recognizes Drake as Jewish. Is the descriptor how he identifies? Or have race and religion been confounded by the Exponent?

Geoff Neimark | Philadelphia

Mikvah Serves Only Part of Community

From the description in the Jewish Exponent, it is easy to understand the excitement generated by the imminent opening of the new Lower Merion Community Mikvah in Bala Cynwyd (“Lower Merion Community Mikvah Dedication Gives Sprinkle of What’s About to Come,” Nov. 2). I congratulate those who did the hard work to assure that this new facility would be built beautifully and properly. At the same time, I must express my disappointment in the way this new mikvah has been conceived of and described as a “community” mikvah.

I know what it takes to build a mikvah. I am deeply committed to this mitzvah and believe that every Jewish community must support and sustain one. It was in response to that mandate and conviction that, 15 years ago, I raised the money and assured the proper construction of the mikvah at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, a mikvah that welcomes everyone.

When the article states that the new mikvah is a “unifier” that is “built with every segment of the Jewish community in mind,” one must insert the word “Orthodox” into that sentence for that to be true. Non-Orthodox rabbis have not been asked to support, encouraged to use or invited to see the new mikvah. Apparently, we are not part of what the article refers to as “the community.”

Rabbi Neil Cooper | Wynnewood