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Letters Week of Dec. 6, 2007

December 6, 2007
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Contact State Legislators Over Iran Divestment Bill
It may be politically correct to equate the efforts of State Rep. Babette Josephs' Sudan divestment bill with State Rep. Josh Shapiro's broader Iran Pension System Divestment Initiative, which includes Sudan as well as North Korea and Syria (Editorial: "Legislative Inertia: No Excuse for Inaction," Nov. 21). But it is also naive and misinformed.

While the horrors of Darfur harken back to the Holocaust, the Iranian threat of acquiring nuclear weapons poses an even greater and wider horror.

The issue whether pension-system dollars should, directly or indirectly, be going to Iran must take into account that this nation is currently waging a deadly battle with America.

Consequently, legislating against Sudan alone, as Josephs' bill does, takes much too narrow a view of terrorist threats.

The crucial importance of the divestment initiative argues strongly for our becoming actively engaged with Pennsylvania representatives in working to bring about the legislation's passage, like those efforts already successfully consummated in California, Florida and a number of other states.

Those of us who care about the survival of the free world, of Israel, and of our children and our grandchildren should contact our legislators immediately to urge the passage of Pennsylvania House Bills 1085, 1086 and 1087.
Beryl Dean
Bala Cynwyd

The Solution to Engaging Youth? Try Trips to Israel!
Making Jewish day-school education more affordable comes with an exorbitant price tag -- if it's even attainable -- and it still would not serve the majority of Jewish families who do not consider "parochial day school" of interest (Editorial: "Education's Our Only 'Next Big Idea,' " Nov. 8).

A more realistic plan for a fraction of the cost would be to send every Jewish child on a free, teen peer trip to Israel.

Sociologist Steven M. Cohen reports that "teen trips to Israel, as a one-time event, are relatively inexpensive."

This suggests, at least in terms of intermarriage, that such trips are the most cost-effective educational experience available to foster in-marriage.

Removing cost as a barrier is an approach that works to engage significant numbers of people in programs that help keep our children Jewish.

Jewish communities must be realistic. They must provide programs that are affordable to implement.
Deborah L. Coltin
Executive director
Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation
Salem, Mass.

The 'Next Big Idea' -- How About Shabbat?
The Jewish Exponent wrote about the contest to sponsor the "Next Big Idea" in Jewish life, and said that Jewish education was the only answer. I have a different suggestion.

The great quest in our society is how to relieve stress. One reads all the time of the need to create time for oneself. We are told to try shutting down the computer and turning off the phone, all of which will send us to a mental Eden.

That sounds like Shabbat.

While everyone won't celebrate in the same way, everyone can still benefit from Shabbat. Once this becomes a weekly practice, families inevitably solidify their Judaism.
Elaine Katz
Philadelphia

Don't Demean Americans Who See Perils of Summit
I take exception to Americans for Peace Now spokesman Ori Nir's take on the Annapolis summit (Opinions: "Take Advantage of the Chance to Push Peace," Nov. 22). The writer seems not to have noticed the relentless intransigence of Israel's Arab enemies, who have never accepted Israel as a Jewish state.

The so-called "land for peace" formula has failed miserably. Just ask residents of Sederot, near Gaza, what their lives have been like since Israel unilaterally gave away Gaza in 2005.

Nir's messianic dream is to continue this insane scheme by putting Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda weaponry within yards -- not miles -- of Jerusalem's neighborhoods, as well as within easy striking distance of Ben-Gurion Airport.

To label those Israeli citizens and their supporters in the Diaspora who clearly envision this impending catastrophe with the words "ultranationalist, dogmatic" and the "American Jewish extreme right" is simply his way of demonizing the realists.
Reuven Horwitz
Philadelphia

Israelis Shouldn't Be the Only Ones to Compromise
It is indeed frightening the way Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is intent on helping President Bush achieve what has not been done before -- making two states the solution to the Mideast conflict (Editorial: "Humility Should Go With the Right to Speak Up," Nov. 15).

The Palestinian Arabs, too, must be made to sacrifice something to achieve the end result of their own country.

It is not just up to the Israelis to do so.
Harriet Brosbe
Philadelphia

Inspired by the Return of a 'Jewel of a Shul'
Concerning your article about the return of Congregation B'nai Abraham to its previously water-damaged building (Cover story: "Back to the Prayerbooks," Nov. 21), while it was a nice piece, readers should know a bit more about the inside of the place.

Far from being Orthodox, my family was hesitant walking in for the first time because we never thought of attending a shul where men and women sit separately.

Yet Rabbi Yochonon Goldman, his wife and the congregants were incredibly welcoming. The temple is simply beautiful, and we are proud to call it our new spiritual home.

I hope more people take a look at this "jewel of a shul."
Michael Ginsberg
Philadelphia

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