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Letters Week of Dec. 9, 2010
Let's Face It, Community's Not Just Chopped Liver
Rabbi Isabel de Koninck's "community conversation piece" (Opinions: "Beyond the Basics: Making the Movements More Relevant," Dec. 2) not only opens the door on New Age technology for the Jewish community, but it also attempts to redefine the very meaning of what the essence of a Diaspora Jewish community could be.
As she argues, a Jewish community should not be defined by "in-the-building Judaism" -- or even by congregations, camping and rabbinical training. Electronic communication, Starbucks and athletic fields display innovation, and may be necessary pathways for the millennial generation.
Grand phrases like peoplehood, inclusiveness and Yiddishkeit (which excludes the Sephardim) smooth over variations and are also inadequate.
Jewish identity -- when not used as a grand phrase to gloss over conceptual differences -- has spiritual, emotional and knowledge-based components.
Identity cannot be real unless a Jew acknowledges, thinks and acts on his/her Jewish-based feelings and understandings. Identity cannot be realized outside of a perceived and acknowledged Jewish community.
And that's not chopped liver.
After Deciding on Sinai, the Rest Is Commentary
In response to Rabbi Isabel de Koninck's "Beyond the Basics: Making the Movements More Relevant" (Opinions, Dec. 2), denominations in Judaism are just convenient reference points in liberal Judaism. Once a Jew makes the decision about Sinai -- is the Torah the literal word of God, handed to humanity at Sinai, or does it come to humans in other ways? -- the rest of Jewish life is just commentary.
Egalitarian, pluralistic and liberal Judaism is what is practiced today by those not committed to Orthodox Judaism. Clearly, Jews will attend a synagogue or an institution based not on their particular way of looking at Judaism, but on whether the synagogue or institution meets their spiritual, social and philanthropic needs.
Denominations don't compete for ideology anymore; today, it is all about connecting with the needs of Jews at different stages in their lives.
People once joined a synagogue for ideological reasons and looked for ways to promote the cause; modern Jews look for a meaningful cause, then attach themselves to the synagogue promoting that program.
Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg
Temple Emeth (Conservative)
Delray Beach, Fla.
Iran's the Problem, So Cut Off the Head of the Beast
The Obama administration and the left insist that the road to comprehensive peace in the Middle East can only be solved by tackling the intractable Palestinian/Arab-Israel conflict, even if it means trying to force a bad settlement.
However, putting aside the potential criminal offenses of the Wikileaks (Nation & World: "Leaks Reveal Secrets, Backroom Deals -- and Cluelessness," Dec. 2), what this latest batch of records show is that much of what Israel has been espousing in public and private about the dangers of Iran is exactly what many Arab states have also been saying to the administration: "Cut off the head of the snake."
Iran is the problem -- and the real threat to peace in the region -- not Israel.
I, for One, Will 'Tile' You: Mah-Jongg's Just Great!
Thank you for the article on mah-jongg (Cover Story: "Talking Tiles Through the Years," Dec. 2). I have been playing for at least 40 years. It's a game that takes your mind off of any tsuris you may have at home. I've also taught many women how to play.
And many men play the game, too. My husband told me that when he was growing up, if his sisters needed a fill-in, they wouldd make him play.
Selling the cards has become a fantastic fundraiser for many Jewish organizations and synagogues. Last year, many woman bought their cards through Hadassah of Greater Philadelphia, which sold more than 750 cards. We're hoping to sell 1,000 or more this year.
Vice president, education/ programming
Hadassah of Greater Philadelphia