Politics in the Synagogue? It's Part of Our Heritage!
The Sept. 9 cover story asks whether shul is the proper place for politics. You might as well have asked whether Abington Friends is an appropriate venue for the Junior Jewish Basketball League, where my children once played.
We are reminded of our revolutionary origins every time we sing the "Mi Chamocha," recounting our divine encounters as we escaped slavery in Egypt. We relearn the lessons of moral politics throughout the Torah, as Abraham defies Sodom to rescue Lot and his family; as Korach defies Moses; as Pinchas intervenes to prevent the spread of idolatry; as Moses implores his people for continuity; and as Joshua and Eleazar assume power.
It was Jews in this activist political tradition who formed the basis for the American labor movement. It was Jews in this tradition who added biblical substance to constitutional principle, as Supreme Court Justices Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter approved the New Deal, and began the process of civil-rights justice.
Politics in shul is inevitable. But when we follow only the politics of our past, our faith refuses to challenge our present. When we demand safe shuls, our riskless Judaism drives away our children.
Endorsements would threaten the religious nonpartisanship that's part of the American religious constitutional compact. But refusing to allow political speech? Feh!
Despite Personal Attacks, J Street Is FlourishingAs the dangers of the status quo in the Middle East become more apparent, it is not surprising that J Street's adversaries are using "guilt by association" tactics to change the subject, as referenced in "J Street Admits to Getting Soros Funding" (Nation & World, Sept. 30). They can't hope to win an argument over supporting settlement expansion and deepening the occupation in the West Bank, so they turn their attention toward more personal attacks.
From the moment J Street was founded, defenders of the status quo in the Mideast have tried to find any excuse to deny it legitimacy, for fear of allowing a sensible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Nevertheless, J Street has grown into a national entity with 160,000 supporters across the country, 45 staff members in eight cities, and $11 million raised from 10,000 individuals.
The group rightly refuses to shift its attention from the critical work of encouraging President Barack Obama to take the bold steps necessary for peace, especially with pivotal elections a month away, and with Israeli-Palestinian negotiations hanging in the balance.
This delicate moment is the time to encourage all sides to make the necessary compromises, and finally achieve a two-state solution that secures Israel's future as a Jewish, democratic home.Rabbi David A. Teutsch
If Abbas Stands for Peace, Let Him Stop Incitement
Palestinian Authority and PLO President Mahmoud Abbas is now referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his "partner in our quest for peace," echoing a phrase Netanyahu has used.
It is now time for Abbas to stop Arab incitement within schools, mosques and media, and for Arab leaders, including Abbas, to say the same things to the English-language press as they do to the Arab press.Sidney Glauser
Boynton Beach, Fla.
Nostalgia for Northeast Hits at High Holidays
I found myself during the High Holidays at my suburban synagogue feeling very nostalgic about my youth at my old shul in Northeast Philly.
I attended Oxford Circle Jewish Community Center, where I had my Bar Mitzvah and confirmation. I took very much for granted then what I learned and still remember now.
Sadly, OCJCC and many other shuls in Northeast Philly no longer exist. Like others of my generation, I migrated to the suburbs to raise my family.
I will never forget, however, my very happy youth and the religious education I received in the late 1960s and 1970s. I wish that caliber of education still existed today at the local Hebrew-school level.
Alan J. Stern