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Letters week of May 28, 2009
Har Zion and Its Rabbi Defined Wynnefield Shtetl
I lived in the last days of "the Wynnefield shtetl," walking to Har Zion Temple with other kids on Shabbat mornings. In the early 1970s, Rabbi Wolpe was my rabbi and his sons were my friends (Obituaries: "Gerald I. Wolpe, Longtime Rabbi at Har Zion, Dies at 81," May 21).
It was a sweet time when the synagogue defined a neighborhood the way Leof's, the local drugstore, did. You lived your life between spiritual sustenance at shul and strawberry ice-cream sodas at Leof's.
I remember hearing that Har Zion was moving and attended the town meeting, bringing my teenaged indignation with me. In fact, Har Zion's move to the burbs was featured in a Newsweek article on Jewish white flight. We were part of a trend that left hundreds of synagogues -- and their neighborhoods -- behind.
Over the course of my lifetime, it was always a pleasure to see Rabbi Wolpe; his smile and enthusiasm greeted me warmly. And from force of habit or nostalgia, I still call the suburban synagogue the "new" Har Zion.
Now when I drive through Wynnefield, I smile in memory of those last days of that wonderful "shtetl."
Gari Julius Weilbacher
Other Groups Have Been Reaching Out to Israelis
I was touched when I heard about the initiative that the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia will be launching to reach out to the city's Israeli community (Cover Story: "Israelis: Here Physically, There Mentally," May 14).
An Israeli myself, I can identify with the people quoted in the article. I have been through the difficulties of acclimating to -- and raising children in -- a culture so foreign to my own.
I do, however, wish to bring to your attention the efforts of another Philadelphia organization: Ha Va'adah L'Dovrei Ivrit Chabad, founded by Rabbi Zalman Lipsker.
For more than 25 years, Chabad's Israeli chapter has counseled, advised, offered interest-free loans, educated and involved Israeli families in Philadelphia and its vicinity.
Like many individuals quoted in the article, most of the families who continue to attend the classes and events hope to return to Israel one day. But however temporary our stay is here, Chabad has tried to make us feel at home. The goal is to strengthen the bond we share with each other, as well as the bond to our land and heritage.
Every Israeli in town knew that when it was Chanukah or Purim, there was one place to go -- Dovrei Ivrit Chabad.
I don't just speak for myself, but for countless other individuals whose lives have been changed because of the group's dedicated work.
ZOA President Has Won His Place Fair and Square
Rachmiel Gottlieb claims (Letters: "Paper Offers Updated Definition of Chutzpah," April 30) that Zionist Organization of America President Morton A. Klein has been given the right to remain its president for life. This is inaccurate.
The ZOA leadership is elected every two years. Contrary to the case with all other major Jewish organizations, whose leaders are chosen by small boards, Klein occupies his position because he won an election against a previous incumbent and has won several elections since, voted on by the general membership.
Klein is not only revered by ZOA members; he is considered one of the most effective Zionist leaders in the Diaspora.
Perhaps that's why The Wall Street Journal has called the ZOA under Klein "the most credible advocate for Israel on the American Jewish scene today."
Vice Chairman of the Board
Zionist Organization of America
New York, N.Y.