Letters: Leonard Bernstein and the Barrack Teachers Union

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Some clarifying points about Bernstein’s ‘Kaddish’

The otherwise interesting item about The Philadelphia Orchestra’s “Music of Faith” program needs some clarifications (“‘Music of Faith’ to Feature Jewish Themes,” Jan. 24). First, Leonard Bernstein’s “Kaddish” symphony was not written as a tribute to John F. Kennedy. In fact, Bernstein was at work on the long-overdue symphony (which had been commissioned years earlier to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1956) throughout the summer and autumn of 1963. Bernstein was completing the orchestration of the final “Amen” when the terrible news of Kennedy’s assassination came over the radio; it was at that moment that he decided to dedicate the now-complete work to the president.

Indeed, it was the precarious Cuban Missile Crisis that Kennedy and the nation weathered the previous year that inspired Bernstein’s libretto describing a world that might well destroy itself, even though God had promised that he would never do that. The writer failed to make clear that the “father” to whom the narrator refers throughout is God, the Heavenly Father.

It also would have been interesting for the author to have mentioned that Cantor David Tilman, who served Beth Sholom Congregation and presided at Jeremy Rothman’s Bar Mitzvah, delivered a preconcert lecture at both performances of the work; no doubt, he made sure the audience understood these important nuances in Bernstein’s work.

Marsha Bryan Edelman | Professor Emerita, Gratz College

Barrack Should Leave Union Alone

The board of Barrack Hebrew Academy is fooling themselves if they withdraw recognition of their teachers union (“Barrack Board to No Longer Recognize Union,” Jan. 24). Believing that doing so will “continue our unique mission of incorporating deeply-rooted Jewish values in a rigorous intellectual environment” is wrong-headed on both Judaic and educational grounds.

Barrack’s outstanding reputation is rooted in the excellence of its faculty. Revocation of union representation will slowly result in a less experienced, less dynamic and, yes, less well-paid faculty. Other respected schools in our area are testimony to these outcomes.

Jewish values and traditions speak consistently of honoring teachers in our community. Supreme Court rulings make it possible to decertify the union, but that doesn’t make it the right choice for this respected Jewish institution.

Glen Feinberg | Dresher