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Letters Week of Jan. 6, 2011

January 6, 2011
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Facts and Myths About the Wall: A Corrective 
It is disappointing to discover major historical errors in Rabbis Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Alderstein's attempt to refute Palestinian propaganda and present the "facts" about the Western Wall (Editorial & Opinion: "Who's Wall Is It, Anyway? Well, Here Are Some Facts," Dec. 30).

The Palestinian Authority has distorted some issues, but it is actually correct that the archaeological evidence connecting the Temple Mount with King Solomon is weak. Whatever the respective myths and traditions Jews and Muslims hold about the Western Wall, it is quite clear that the earliest stones of the western side of Temple Mount date from the period of Herod, not Solomon.

Before the Middle Ages, Jewish visitors most often mourned the destruction of the Temple from the Mount of Olives, facing the eastern wall of the Temple Mount. Over time, special associations with the western wall of the Temple (which was completely destroyed in 70 C.E., along with the rest of the Temple) were transferred to the western wall of the Temple Mount, a completely different wall.

This distinction has been forgotten with the passage of time, producing the common misunderstanding that what we now call the "Western Wall" is "the last remnant of the Temple." 
Stuart Charmé 
Department of philosophy and religion 
Rutgers University 
Camden, N.J.

Discussion Groups: Best Way to Lure Students 
The editorial in the Jewish Exponent of Dec. 16, "Grasping the Future," stated that a growing number of college graduates are planning to remain in Philadelphia. How can this group become involved in the Jewish community? Letters responding to the piece did not address religious denominations, but rather what people enjoyed doing in synagogue.

What can be used to lure this group to identify with Judaism? They have been students, and have studied a diverse academic curriculum. Why not a discussion group, like the one I attended at the Chabad Jewish Learning Program at the Glazier Center in Newtown?

The topics presented were timely and got the conversation going -- i.e., "Medicine and Morals: Jewish Guide Through Life's Tough Decisions," "Soul Quest: The Journey Through Life, Death and Beyond," "The Kabbalah of Character, From Sinai to Cyberspace: How Ancient Wisdom Guides a Modern World."

The classes were attended by young and old, and Rabbi Aryeh Weinstein was excellent in presenting the material.

With all the teaching facilities in Philadelphia, it seems that groups can be formed to think creatively about Jewish life, Israel, helping others, etc. For example, the annual Kehillah of Bucks County brings overflowing audiences to listen to varied Jewish topics.

The interest is there, but someone needs to undertake the challenge to organize ongoing conversations. 
Julius Romanoff 
Newtown

Language Should Keep Up With Societal Trends 
At a time when step-families and all kinds of families are the norm and bring blessings to so many, it's about time to retire the use of the word "stepchild" as "less than" and negative.

Your designation of Chester County in a recent cover story as Philadelphia's "stepchild" is anachronistic at best, and out of sync in a world where lives are enriched and made whole by the variety of family connections ("Chester County: Forgotten Frontier?" Dec. 9).

Shouldn't good journalism stay current with language? 
Eleni Litt 
Princeton, N.J.

Story Shows Two Groups Have Much in Common 
Thanks for your touching and beautiful article on the Valley Forge mosque and next-door synagogue's harmonious coexistence (Cover Story: "Islamophobia? Not in This Quiet Neighborhood," Dec. 23).

I grew up a Muslim in a Jewish neighborhood outside Washington, D.C., and always felt that we had far more in common than we had distinct differences.

I am so glad that some in the media have chosen to show this positive side. 
Syed Ashraf Meer 
Brooklyn, N.Y.

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