Blame the Unafilliated, Who Chose Not to Belong!
It was with considerable chagrin that I read your article on the closing of 50-year-old Congregation Beth Chaim and its merger with Congregation Shaare-Shamayim, particularly since I experienced the merger firsthand as a member of the Beth Chaim merger committee (Cover Story: "One Door Closes, Another Opens Up," Jan. 19).
However, the "death" of our synagogue was not unexpected, or even surprising. While Beth Chaim's president detailed the recent loss of some 50 members, your story inaccurately concluded that these members chose to worship elsewhere. Unfortunately, approximately 40 of these families chose to become completely unaffiliated.
Our Friday-night services regularly consisted of perhaps 25 percent former congregants or unaffiliated individuals. In the past, I would cynically comment that a new category of membership should be created titled "non-dues paying member able to attend any service not requiring a ticket with full availability of the rabbi and the synagogue on a 24/7 basis."
The demise of our synagogues has little to do with demographics, but rather can be, in large part, attributed to the sizable numbers of Jews in our community who consciously choose not to join a synagogue.
In August 2005, Beth Chaim embarked on a targeted mailing to approximately 1,000 unaffiliated Jewish families in Lower Bucks County. Sadly, we received just two responses seeking further information. We concluded that these families chose to remain unaffiliated.
These are the same families who believe that the synagogue will always be there for them in their time of need, whether they are members or not.
Unaffiliated families whose memberships could have kept Beth Chaim afloat had they rejoined this fall will no longer have a place to call home.
Though we're sad about the closing of our beloved synagogue, we're pleased with our promising new affiliation with Shaare Shamayim. From the outset, they have welcomed us with open arms - characterizing the pairing not as a merger, but a marriage.
Expulsion From Hebron: No Legal Basis Behind It
In the coverage of the Israeli government's forthcoming expulsion of Jews from a section (the so-called "Arab market") of Hebron (Cover story: "Mr. Olmert: Heavily Harried on Home Front," Jan. 19), the report from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency erroneously states that those Jews have settled on land owned by Arabs.
In point of fact, the land was purchased by its current owner, the "Magen Avot Sephardic Community," in 1807.
Arabs did petition a court seeking to have the current Jewish inhabitants of the Hebron market expelled.
In 2004, the appeals committee of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria decided in favor of the Jews renting the property in accordance with the declared wishes of the rightful owners.
The "Magen Avot Sephardic Community," led by former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, has unequivocally stated that the use of the property is for Jewish residency in Hebron.
In October 2005, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered that the Jewish families be removed from the shops no later than Feb. 15. No legal basis was advanced for this arbitrary decree, nor does one exist. Since the Jewish land-owners want its current Jewish residents to remain, this planned unconditional surrender to genocidal terrorists is neither legal nor ethical.
The Israel Defense Force would be better employed fighting their country's enemies rather then their most fervent patriots.
Nahum J. Duker, M.D.
New Orleans and the Jews: Alive and Kicking!
Thank you for the accurate depiction of post-Katrina life in New Orleans (Cover Story: "Getting a Fresh Start in a Soiled City," Dec. 29).
Our city and our Jewish community, both challenged, are making strides forward, and have come a long way since late August.
Currently, our annual community-wide learning session, Louisiana Lehrhaus, is underway. All local agencies are operating at the board level, and most have reopened. Jewish Family Services has been exemplary in providing care and compassion to thousands, regardless of race or faith.
The national and international Jewish community has responded, and we are thankful. Please continue to advocate on behalf of our city and community, which is rebounding more with every passing day.
Dr. Michael Wasserman
Jewish Federation of New Orleans
The President Recognizes Iran's Threat to the World
At least on the surface, President Bush appears to be building a consensus with Western European leaders that Iran is indeed a major threat (A Matter of Opinion: "He's Calling Our Bluff," Jan. 19).
Even France is singing on key! And Osama bin Laden has taken center stage yet again to remind some of us that there really is a threat against the United States - and that we better take it seriously.
The post-Shah Iran has been notoriously anti-Semitic, so the current anti-Jewish rhetoric coming from the government, while disturbing, is nothing new.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, however, poses a different dilemma. Like Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Chavez knows how to make headline-grabbing alliances.
Anti-Jewish diatribes and liberal crocodile tears aside, the real threat is not so much against just the Jews but against all democracies.
A majority of Americans understand this, as does President Bush, who leads by conviction and courage. He will meet Iran's bluff and, if necessary, act on it.
King of Prussia