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Letters Week of Dec. 23, 2010
Getting Students to Stay Is Win-Win for Everybody
As the president of Campus Philly and a board member of Mekor Habracha/Center City Synagogue, I read the Dec. 16 editorial, "Grasping the Future," with particular interest. I thank you for shining a spotlight on a terrific opportunity for our local religious communities, Jewish and otherwise.
Campus Philly's study, "From Student to Resident," identified a primary impetus for students deciding to stay here: engagement in the life of the region. Whether that means internships, volunteering, cultural engagement or participation in local religious communities, students who get to know Philadelphia fall in love with it and want to stay.
My own synagogue, Mekor Habracha has grown dramatically over the past few years, precisely in this young demographic. Most of our members are under 40, and have come to Philadelphia because of a college or university program.
There are many ways for our regional congregations to tie into the local student population, from connecting with college Hillels to working with Campus Philly.
I invite our Greater Philadelphia Jewish community to reach out and begin a relationship that could lead to an enriching future for both.
How We Can Help Israel, Beyond Sending Money
The tragic fires in the north of Israel have shown that the Jewish state is vulnerable to natural disasters, in addition to attack from its enemies. Some of Israel's enemies have already suggested that starting forest fires would be a good way to attack Israel, and articles in The Jerusalem Post have recognized that the next round of hostilities could result in numerous civilian casualties, as well as damage to infrastructure and agriculture.
It is important to understand that while Israel lacks what might be called strategic depth, Jewish people in the Diaspora can, in fact, provide just that. While we give money to various causes in Israel when asked, some of us are more wealthy in skills and the desire to help than in material possessions. We could constitute a valuable resource for Israel.
What I am suggesting is a Jewish reserve force for public service that could be trained and administered in Diaspora countries to respond to disasters in Israel when needed.
A reserve force of volunteer firefighters in New York or Philadelphia, let's say, could have periodic training for emergencies by American or Israeli experts. They could even get experience by being utilized to help in local situations at home, sort of like the American National Guard, but they would not have a military function.
Units could also be trained to support hospital personnel as orderlies, and in supplemental patient care as emergency responders, to replant forests and to assist in agriculture and infrastructure repair.
The units could train at Jewish-run charities, with possible periodic training in Israel.
These people would work as volunteers without pay when needed. They would understand that upon deployment, they would be working in difficult conditions with limited personal comforts. They could even be expected to pay for their own transportation.
Speaking for myself -- and I am sure for many others -- such service would be an honor and a privilege.
New York, N.Y.
So What Did You Expect From Mr. Kissinger?
The Kissinger bit (Nation & World: "Kissinger: Remark on Gas Chambers Must Be Taken in Context," Dec. 16) is not at all surprising for me.
U.S. Jews lost their Jewishness long ago. They voted for Franklin Roosevelt, who closed the doors of escape to my family. They went up in smoke.
They voted for Barack Obama, knowing he belonged for 20 years to an anti-Semitic church.
I once belonged to a Jewish community center that closed down a student stand during Purim because it was helping Soviet Jews. They closed the stand, they said, because it was "political."
I left there disgusted, but not before I spoke up about my dismay with such Jews during a community meeting.