I want to thank you for your story featuring the new rabbis in the area (“Five rabbis, five perspectives,” Aug. 24). As one of the five new rabbis, I am excited to be part of such a vibrant Jewish community, with great potential for growth and collaboration. I would like to clarify, however, that Temple Beth Sholom of Pascack Valley in Park Ridge is not an “aging” congregation. We have a number of families with children still at home who actively participate in our school, our family programs, and services. We are fortunate to have a great cantor, Joel Leibowitz, who has been part of our congregation for over 12 years. Cantor Leibowitz shares the bimah on a part-time basis with the rabbi and is a driving force in our school.
I also want to clarify that I don’t have a Ph.D. from the Jewish Theological Seminary, as can be understood from your article. I earned a M.A. in Jewish studies and completed my doctoral studies in Jewish philosophy, earning a MPhil. in Jewish philosophy.
Your article (“A new way to become a rabbi? Aug. 24) states that Blane “mandates a belief in intermarriage and a willingness to perform such ceremonies as a prerequisite for enrollment in JSLI.” This is not true. In fact, the JSLI policy is: “It is a core requirement that you are supportive of interfaith marriages.” This is a far cry from mandating that graduates be willing to perform these ceremonies. I suggest that any rabbi that is not willing to support intermarriages needs to think about the mitzvah of kiruv, bringing Jews closer to their Jewish heritage. Remember, in every interfaith family there are Jews, and they should not be forgotten! We JSLI ordinees are free to follow our own conscience.
As for the curriculum, there are actually many more classes than once a week. There are master classes with experienced rabbis on how to perform lifecycle events and there are weekly peer-lead classes that students must attend. Topics range from educational pedagogy to nusach to fundraising. All students must also do a research paper and display proficiency in leading services.
Many of the students are already functioning rabbis in synagogues. At least two (one from the first class and one from this weekend’s class) are rabbis for United Synagogue congregations. Many students are like myself, with a M.A. from JTS, a year of study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a year of chaplaincy work, numerous other trainings, and a dozen years of teaching and service leading in the Jewish community.
While JSLI allows me and others to have the title and legal status of rabbi, it is not the totality of our studies or experience.
I am 93 years old, obviously a survivor of the McCarthy era, and I want to commend you for your story on Miriam Moskowitz (“Out of the McCarthy maelstrom,” Aug. 24). The Jews-only Brothman-Moskowitz trial and the Jews-only Rosenberg-Sobell trial — both related to espionage — were spectacles suitable for the capital in which the Holocaust was designed rather than New York City. Miriam Moskowitz had the courage to refuse to collaborate with the anti-Semitism that had corrupted the Department of Justice. To their credit, many of our Jewish newspapers expressed concern at these “ethnic” trials. To their shame, most of the leaders of Jewish organizations defended the government and denounced the victims. Their position encouraged additional anti-Semitic outrages in the courtroom, as can be seen in the Pollard case. Our leaders should have emulated Miriam Moskowitz instead of falling to their knees.
Kudos to Rabbi Engelmayer for his scholarly article on health issues based on the law of Torah, from proper eating habits to exercise (“Healthy halachah,” Aug. 17). I value his wisdom and knowledge.
I would like to add that in addition to dietary laws, health, and exercise, the Torah also refers to the rules of etiquette at formal meals. For example, in order to prevent swallowing the wrong way, it would be forbidden to speak during a meal. We should respect food since it is our sustenance.
An important dimension to the rules of derekh eretz (“the way of the world”) is the obligation cited in the Torah to respect our parents. (“Honor thy father and thy mother.”)
The etiquette and customs of the Talmud guide us on how we learn to direct our lives. The wisdom in the Torah of the Jewish people, more than 3,000 years old, teaches us our values and responsibilities.
Thank you, Rabbi Engelmayer, for your wonderful writings, which we can all learn from and put into action.
I would like to suggest an out-of-the-box approach to the eruv that no doubt will avoid the need to go to court (“Another eruv right, Aug. 10).
Instead of presenting the issue as a symbolic enclosure that allows observant Jews to perform certain tasks on Shabbat, promote it as a rest stop for birds. This humane gesture would certainly appeal to Jews and non-Jews alike and meet all non-discriminatory requirements.
Please let me take exception to the op-ed article by Rabbi Engelmayer (“String theory, Hamptons style,” Aug. 10). He misses the point on two different grounds.
First of all, the eruv is not a way of getting around the prohibition of carrying on the Sabbath but shows the ability of Jewish law to adapt itself to communal needs within a framework. People who ridicule the eruv are likely to ridicule other areas of Jewish law as well.
Secondly, the anti-eruv forces in the Hamptons were objecting to the influx of Orthodox Jews in general, not just to an eruv. It is the same mentality that lead communities in Rockland County to ban synagogues from certain locations. Somehow, the influx of Orthodox Jews would somehow destroy their communities. The fact that many secular Jews share this viewpoint is even more revolting.
Besides the fact that it is reminiscent of the 1940s’ restrictive covenants, it is clearly wrong. The influx of Orthodox Jews probably saved the communities of Cedarhurst and Teaneck when other Jews decided to move out from collapse in residential and commercial values. Orthodox Jews did not destroy anything; the communities they moved in were in the process of decay.
The rabbi should have condemned the bigotry of these anti-eruv forces. Sadly, he did not.
Alan M. Levin
My grandparents are both Holocaust survivors. I chose to do something that will honor them for my bar mitzvah project. I am collecting books that relate to the Holocaust or the Jewish experience since World War II. I will give them to Montclair State University’s library section about the Holocaust and religious tolerance.
I have been in contact with the library’s administrator. He is very interested in accepting the books I get for my project. He said that he needs histories, other nonfiction, art books, and anything that is rare, out of print, or educational.
I also want to ask readers if you would be interested in donating a book to this very important project. All contributions can be sent to the JCCP of Paramus, East 304 Midland Ave., Paramus N.J. 07652
It was wonderful watching the Olympic Games. I felt pride and joy in seeing the Jewish-American gymnast Aly Raisman win a gold medal, and more importantly hearing her invoke the memory of the Israeli athletes killed 40 years ago in Munich (IOC’s Rogge hears sharp criticism at memorial,” Aug. 10).
Aly Raisman is very special. The bigoted organizers stubbornly refused to honor the slain athletes with a moment of silence, but Ms. Raisman paid tribute to 11 sportsmen who died long before she was born. And how wonderful it was to hear “Hava Nagila” played in the background!
To speak out at the Olympics showed her proud Jewish heritage. She is a very special person.
Thank you, Aly Raisman. I wish you endless possibilities.