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Letters week of Feb. 5, 2009
Paper Ignores Another School Involved in Plan
I recently read the cover story "A Tale of Two Initiatives" in the Jan. 29 Jewish Exponent and was a bit dismayed. As director of a Jewish day school in the greater Philadelphia area that's participating in the Kohelet Foundation's initiative (and the only one located in Bucks County), I was surprised to discover that the Abrams Hebrew Academy had not even been contacted for the piece.
Since this is an initiative involving more than just the two schools featured in the article, I would have expected that comments about all the institutions participating would have been included as a service to your readers. (I cannot speak for Politz or Torah Academy, which were also eligible to apply for the program.)
As for Abrams, each kindergarten student who enters our school, beginning in 2009-10, will receive a $3,000 scholarship every school year through at least fifth grade, regardless of financial need.
We also provide a scholarship program for new students in sixth through eighth grades.
In addition, Abrams has added an unusual facet to its program, so that the initiative not only builds the school community, but the greater Philadelphia Jewish community as well.
In addition to the scholarships, we are offering a subsidy for annual synagogue dues for families participating in the Abrams TIPSY program, up to $1,500 per family. (For families with more than one child in the program, Abrams will cover up to $2,400 per year.)
We are doing this because studies show that a day-school education improves the odds that children will maintain a strong sense of Judaism and remain more active in the Jewish community throughout their lifetimes. However, it is important to Abrams' leadership that the Jewish community be built beyond the school walls as well.
We like to believe that the subsidy may lessen the possibility of a family having to choose between membership in a synagogue and sending their child to day school.
There's yet another wrinkle to all this.
I recently attended a principal's meeting at which the directors of Philadelphia-area day schools were present. The heads of the schools debated whether they see fair and equal coverage of all these schools in the Exponent.
Ironically, at the same moment as I was acting as moderator in this discussion, the Exponent article was being printed, disregarding other schools to which the grant applies.
Abrams participation in the Kohelet initiative, along with its synagogue-dues program, provides a "slam dunk" incentive to families considering day-school education.
I hope that in the future, when such a wide-ranging plan is instituted, the Exponent will consider all of the agencies that might be affected, so as to present the most complete information to its readers.
Rabbi Ira Budow
Abrams Hebrew Academy, Yardley
Rabbi Had Good Reason to Attend Prayer Service
The article "Orthodox Rabbi Defends His Part in Post- Inaugural Service" (Jan. 29) by Jacob Berkman describes the participation of Rabbi Haskel Lookstein in a church service in Washington, D.C., that was held last month as part of President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremonies.
Rabbi Lookstein is not the first Orthodox rabbi to attend such a service. Gad J. Frumkin, the only Jewish Supreme Court justice in Mandatory Palestine, tells of an event he attended in the late 1910s -- probably 1918 -- in Jerusalem.
"On the day of the liberation of Jerusalem from the Ottoman yoke, on Dec. 9, in the morning, there was a prayer in the St. George's church ... . [A]mong the participants was [Chief Rabbi of Israel] Yaakov Meir, who came in his official dress, with the many medals he received from the Turkish Sultan, and the Greek and British kings."
Judge Frumkin mentioned that Sir Ronald Storss, the military governor of Jerusalem, participated in that "service." Storss' term of office in Jerusalem was 1918-1926.
We know that the event was not a celebratory, ad hoc service, but rather a commemorative one, and such services were held on Dec. 9 for years.
Some years ago, I asked a prominent American Orthodox rabbi how to justify the chief rabbi's participation in the church event, and he responded that it must have been justified mipnei eivah -- that the lack of participation might have caused harm to the Jewish people.
Well, the same applies to Rabbi Lookstein.
Gilad J. Gevaryahu
Football Coach: A Real Gentleman Through It All
Robert Leiter's review of the book Passing Game about football star Benny Friedman was interesting ("He Could Run and Kick and Throw," Jan. 29).
But Leiter neglected to mention that Friedman eventually became Brandeis University's football coach.
He was the only one they ever had because Brandeis discovered that football wasn't the right sport to focus on. They did much better with basketball, and the team became quite a success in the small college leagues.
I worked in the sports office as a student and remember seeing Coach Friedman on an almost daily basis. He was a lovely man, quiet and polite, and it was a delight for me to go to work there.
I really felt terrible, a few years later, when I found out that Friedman had killed himself. It was a real pity, but I guess that he couldn't get past the idea that he had to lose a leg because of diabetes.
Marian Epstein Paul