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Letters week of Aug. 30, 2007
Don't Turn Our Backs on Intermarried Couples!
We read with interest the two columns on intermarriage (Opinions: "Traitor or Tribe Member? Handling the Intermarried," Aug. 16).
We think that Shmuley Boteach's approach is the only one we should heed. Research on conversion has shown that it takes about 17 years for a person to feel comfortable enough to convert. Given the rejecting attitude of Rabbi Avi Shafran, it's no wonder it takes so long!
We have listened with compassionate ears to the voices of many young Jews who have felt shut out of the community because they fell in love with someone of another faith. We have helped them navigate family dynamics, spiritual choices, communal hurdles and emotional upsets in order to stay connected to the Jewish community. We have seen the interest their partners take in learning about Judaism, and how to support their spouses in raising Jewish children.
While not endorsing intermarriage, we recognize the fact that more than 50 percent of new marriages are interfaith ones. We see intermarriage as an opportunity for kiruv("outreach"), hasknassat orchim ("hospitality") and hinuch ("education").
Turning your back is easier than trying to stay open in an uncomfortable situation.
Rabbi Rayzel Raphael
Rabbinic project co-coordinator
Faithways: The Interfaith Family Support Network
If Good Enough for Moses, It's Good Enough For Him
Concerning the two articles on intermarriage (Opinions: "Traitor or Tribe Member: Handling the Intermarried," Aug. 16), I'm glad that here in America, we only have to listen to -- and not obey -- the narrow point of view of the Orthodox. My message to them is stop forcing their interpretation of Judaism down others' throats.
I, for one, will stick to the adage from the evangelical hymn that, if it -- marriage outside the faith -- was good enough for Moses, it's certainly good enough for me.
All I know for sure is that it says Moses married Zipporah, and she was not a Jew.
Maybe Rabbi Avi Shafran should exclude Moses from his copy of the Torah.
Alienated Jews: Could They Turn Anti-Semitic?
Concerning the debate over how to deal with the intermarried (Opinions: "Traitor or Tribe Member? Handling the Intermarried," Aug. 16), by excluding Jews who intermarry, we risk turning alienated Jews into anti-Semites.
Nothing Wrong With Opposing Intermarriage!
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's defense of his old pupil, Noah Feldman, demonstrates personal loyalty (Opinions: "Traitor or Tribe Member? Handling the Intermarried," Aug. 16).
But it does neither Feldman nor the Jewish people any favors for him to pretend that there's not a critical issue at stake in this debate.
Judging by his deeply offensive article in The New York Times Magazine, which set off this controversy, Feldman clearly has issues with Judaism as a whole, and not just what he thinks was a slight on the part of his old school, which, he claims, excluded him because of his intermarriage.
It's all well and good to speak of the importance of outreach and not hurting anyone's feelings, but the truth is, once we stop saying that intermarriage is bad for the Jews -- which it obviously is -- it becomes impossible to preach or teach our children to avoid it.
While I wish intermarried couples nothing but happiness, the decisions they're making have an impact on the entire community. And those of us in the community who wish to preserve it have every right to express our dismay.
Who's to Blame for the Trauma? The 'Leaders!'
Concerning Jonathan Tobin's account of his interview with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who thinks that Israelis weren't traumatized as a results of his incompetence during last summer's war, it is we, the Israeli people, who are to blame (A Matter of Opinion: "Into the Bunker With Ehud Olmert," Aug. 16).
We should have marche on the Knesset after the war, and demanded new elections without any of the coalition parties allowed to participate.
We should have demanded that Olmert, Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and (now President) Shimon Peres be brought to account for their actions.
Museum Must Set Historical Record Straight
Thank you for your editorial concerning the decision by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to recognize the important work done in the 1940s by the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, which was popularly known as the Bergson Group (Editorial: "Wanted: A Few Good History Lessons," Aug. 9).
From 1943 to 1945, I was a student volunteer at the headquarters of the Bergson group, a former embassy building in Washington, D.C. My work was to read all important English-language newspapers, and clip out all articles relating to the plight of Jewish refugees and their transit.
I had the privilege of assisting Peter Bergson (Hillel Kook), Samuel Merlin and other leaders of the group. Many of the Jewish organizations in those days did not raise their voices. Some were silent because they did not want to criticize President Franklin Roosevelt. Others were afraid that Jewish protests would lead to anti-Semitism.
But the Bergson group was not afraid and, as your editorial pointed out, their activities helped make Americans aware of the Holocaust, and even helped lead to the creation of the U.S. War Refugee Board, which saved many Jews.
Setting the historical record straight is important for the sake of truth, and also so that future Americans and others throughout the world will not remain silent in the face of genocidal operations by nations or their proxies.