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May 29, 2013
Letters Week of May 30, 2013
Reader Finds Kohelet’s Participation Troubling
As an Orthodox Jew, I do not applaud the recent participation of the Kohelet Yeshiva High School in the Philadelphia Poetry Slam as discussed in the May 22 article “Kohelet Yeshiva Finds Its Rhythm at Poetry Slam.” The content and message of the five students representing the school, and the support shown by their head of school and faculty, makes me question Kohelet’s ability to represent itself in good conscience as an Orthodox yeshiva.
“Do you listen when you’re told who and how to love,” asks Noa Baker, a sophomore, speaking in the voice of a gay 16-year-old. I would expect that an Orthodox yeshiva sophomore would know the answer: Yes, Torah and halachah do dictate who we may love. They forbid numerous loves and specific kinds of relationships, homosexual ones in particular. The secular poetry forum is certainly not the appropriate place to properly address the conflicts faced by Orthodox homosexuals.
Torah and halachah do not believe in “free expression.” They believe that all speech is holy and that, in addition to halachic content, speech should be fashioned and indeed curtailed by the guiding principles of tzniut (modesty), lashon hara (slander) and nivul peh (profanity).
Individualism must submit to the dictates and mores of Torah and halachah. The head of school acknowledged as much when he lamented that his students were “competing with one hand tied behind their backs.” Perhaps the restraints of Jewish law that set us apart as a people should have driven him and the Kohelet faculty to instead form a poetry league and slam with other U. S. Orthodox high schools that offer material true to — and not offensive to — Orthodox Judaism.
Michael Cohen | New York
Why Didn’t Editorial Tell the Whole Truth?
On April 30, you ran a story online with the headline ”Sharansky’s Kotel Plan Loses Support From Both Sides.” Indeed, the opening paragraph indicated that the more leftist group, Women of the Wall, had withdrawn its endorsement of Natan Sharansky’s compromise plan. Yet you publish an editorial, “The Right to Pray,” in which you solely accuse Orthodox Jews of opposing a compromise.
It may be true that some Orthodox Jews oppose Sharansky’s plan. But it is particularly disingenuous of you to suggest they are alone. When is your editorial condemning Women of the Wall coming?
Lee S. Fiederer | Elkins Park
Attack on Chabad Doesn’t Jibe With Reality
The attack on Chabad by Maurice Feldman was surprising and sad (Letters: “Chabad Got Far Too Much Play in Inside,” May 16).
We spend much of our time in the Colorado mountains. We have both Reform and Chabad congregations, and while we are members of the Reform group, we are also friendly with the local Chabad rabbi who is one of the finest human beings we’ve ever met. He is inclusive and non-judgmental, open and friendly to all.
We try to find a shul wherever we travel in the world and many we find are run by Chabad. They are a dynamic force that is living and reviving Judaism everywhere!
Debbie and Jerry Epstein | Philadelphia