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Letters week of Dec. 31, 2009
Do We Really Represent a Dilution of Traditions?
My family and I were featured in the Dec. 17 cover story, "A Merry Little Chanukah?" as an interfaith family raising Jewish children that also happens to participate in Christmas celebrations.
I can't say that I am surprised or horrified by the responses from other Jews over our choices. Unfortunately, I've experienced it all of my life. It's part of the reason that I agreed to appear as part of the article -- as an effort to promote discussion.
What was said in the first three letters to the editor in the Dec. 24 edition, in my experience, gets repeated privately and frequently to interfaith families raising Jewish children. It is very damaging, and not at all productive.
What is disappointing, insulting and upsetting to my spouse and me is that a rabbi would characterize the raising of Jewish children -- with respect for the traditions of their parents and relatives -- as a dilution of the Jewish people, history and tradition. That is a frightening characterization on multiple levels.
My husband, who is not Jewish, belongs to our synagogue and participates fully in raising our children as Jews by taking the kids to religious school, attending synagogue with us and sharing in all life-cycle events, including the recent Bat Mitzvah of our oldest child. My children are as Jewish as any other under Jewish law, by their education, and by their affirmation of Judaism.
As for the assertion that the Christmas tree is an object of religious significance, the tree, like many other traditions for all faiths currently practiced, was borrowed from pagan rituals. In my opinion, that line of reasoning would be akin to an assertion that the dreidel game is a holy rite for Jews.
Both assertions are out of touch and misinformed.
Andrea F. Kesack, M.D.
More Than One Lesson to Be Drawn From Dreyfus
I object to Robert Leiter's assertion in a recent book review (Books & Writers, Dec. 24) that "the only usable lesson that Jews can draw" from the Dreyfus Affair is that it inspired Theodor Herzl to establish Zionism.
Yes, Herzl is the father of Zionism. But a much better lesson to be drawn from the anti-Semitic accusation of treason that resulted in Capt. Alfred Dreyfus being sentenced to life imprisonment is the story of his long, but successful, struggle to achieve justice and honor.
Your article leaves him publicly degraded in the courtyard of the école-Militaire -- a ruined man. However, his family and émile Zola, the famous French novelist, worked tirelessly to free him. After four years, he left prison, and continued to fight his persecution and false accusation.
Certainly, as you state, he was "mistreated ... by the military and legal establishment."
Yet Dreyfus was finally exonerated, restored to his rank, promoted to major, enrolled in the Legion of Honor and, during World War I, commanded a fort protecting Paris. He is buried in Montparnasse, along with other heroes of France.
Dreyfus and his supporters were brutalized by anti-Semitism, but not destroyed by it. He taught us to fight injustice, and we must continue to fight.
He also taught us that being a victim is not the end of the story. If it was, we wouldn't have the State of Israel.
The end of the story hasn't been written; we, who fight for justice and truth, must do the writing.
Maple Shade, N.J.
Rabbi Kaplan's Probably Turning Over in His Grave
I had the good fortune to study under Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan in the late 1960s at Camp Cejwin in New York. He was an Orthodox Jew with his own ideas, and became the brilliant founder of Reconstructionist Jewry.
But the rabbi must be turning over in his grave over the things being done today by his successors at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
He would never have countenanced Jewish gay marriage, which is now being trumpeted by the movement.
How far we have fallen in 40 short years! Do these new Reconstructionists have any idea what Kaplan was all about?