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Letters week of June 21, 2007
Communal Mantra: Fund the Day Schools Now!
Jonathan Tobin's column (A Matter of Opinion: "What Price Jewish Education?" May 17) discussed the most pressing of communal concerns -- the affordability of day schools, or rather the lack thereof.
Even a "moderately" priced day-school tuition has become unaffordable for families with several children. It is truly a financial challenge for middle- class and even upper-middle- class families.
An issue that Tobin does not address is the financial plight of Jewish day schools themselves. In our own area, several institutions have closed their doors or remain fiscally challenged. This situation is not unique to our community.
There is now news coming out of south Florida about the establishment the nation's first English-Hebrew charter school -- The Ben Gamla Charter School -- which will open its doors in September in Hallandale. There have been more than 850 application requests to attend this K-8 school that will provide a traditional academic program, plus Hebrew and Jewish history -- all for free.
Yet as a public school, the curriculum will not be permitted to include Torah or prayer.
This experiment may seem like a solution to the dilemma of unaffordable tuition. But a Jewish school without Torah is, to paraphrase the popular Hebrew expression, "like a body without a soul."
The time has come for philanthropists and rabbis to rally in support of day schools.
We must encourage and support parents in their efforts to send their children to day schools, and must stabilize and fund them so that they can continue their documented achievement of ensuring Jewish continuity in America.
Rabbi Ira Budow
Abrams Hebrew Academy
Islam Needs Reformation, From the Inside Out
In David Horovitz's "Hostage's Promotion of Palestinian Suffering Fuels an Endless War" ("Opinions," June 7) and Jonathan Tobin's "Will Muslims Fight the Islamists?" ("A Matter of Opinion," June 7), a basic point is missing about what constitutes an Islamic extremist.
The so-called "Islamists" and extremists are practicing normative Islam. We need to wake up and hear the actual words of the Koran, the holiest book of Islam: There are more than 100 verses that exhort believers to wage holy war, jihad, against unbelievers, specifically Christians and Jews.
These are considered the eternal, final and perfect words of Allah dictated to the prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. This is not a twisting of Islam but is repeatedly affirmed in the hadiths, the example of Muhammad as a prophet of war, and the rulings of virtually every school of Islamic jurisprudence.
Until there is a revolution and reformation within Islam, as there has been in Christianity and Judaism, there is little chance of true peaceful co-existence and tolerance as equals with Muslims.
Let's Act in Unison, Before It's Too Late
I was frightened and mortified by the findings of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on the sharp and sudden rise in anti-Semitic incidents throughout Europe (Cover story: "Europe Shows Its Darker Side,"June 14).
We must take action immediately before that nefarious threshold is crossed as it was in November 1938 when Kristallnacht erupted throughout Germany and Austria.
Though I am not completely surprised by these findings, I attribute this shocking increase in racist activity solely to the ignorant belief in some circles that all Jews throughout the world blindly support all of Israel's policies. Sadly, this anti-Israel sentiment inexorably and unfailingly morphs into anti-Jewish sentiment and, most recently, into violence against Jews.
Whether or not we agree with the decision-making of the Jewish homeland, we must spread the word to the international community that Jews have been historically loyal to whatever country they inhabited in the Diaspora, and we must back that up with statistics.
Jew-hatred based on Israel-hatred is by far the foremost challenge to the worldwide Jewish community right now. It festers in Europe, and as we have seen, is prevalent on college campuses across the United States. We must act in unison, before it's too late yet again.
Anti-Israel Demonstration Should Not Go Answered
I was upset by the published comments of Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency's report about the anti-Israel rally in Washington, in which he said that a counter-demonstration was unwise (Cover story: "Groups Split Over Countering D.C. Rally," June 7).
The opponents of Israel's right to exist are marketing a philosophy to the great mass of Americans. They are repeating a one-sided message in an effort to erode support for Israel. And when a message is repeated often enough, people begin to believe it.
By having a viable pro-Israel presence on the street, we empower and encourage supporters of Israel to behave confidently and proudly. We are able to provide answers to the press and to passersby. We are able to document when the opponents of Israel cross the line from legitimate criticism of specific Israeli policies to downright anti-Semitism.
The mass of Americans will perceive the silence of the organized Jewish community as guilt. It was so important to have a vibrant pro-Israel presence in Washington that weekend. I am deeply disturbed that the greater Jewish community in D.C. completely missed the boat on this.
El Cerrito, Calif.