Letters Week of March 15, 2012


One reader praises Federation's Interfaith Mission while another finds a rabbi's argument about abortion to be disingenuous.


Mission Renews Her Goal to Bring People Together
I want to express my appreciation for your coverage of the 2012 Interfaith Mission sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia (City & Suburb: “Interfaith Mission Goes to Israel and Changes a Number of Minds,” March 1). It was a positive experience for me and for those I came to know as friends while on the trip.
But the article’s final sentence, which reads in part, “she ­doesn’t plan to take a stand on her movement’s internal debate” over divesting from companies that do business in Israel, could lead a reader to believe that I am merely flippant and uncaring about matters.
This could not be further from the truth. I am a person who is most anxious to bring folks together to be agents of peace and understanding. My most recent trip to Israel gave me the opportunity to become even more familiar with its complexities.
Upon returning, I have renewed my commitment to continue meaningful conversations and encounters.
Rev. Dr. Lucille K. Rupe
Interim Executive Presbyter
Presbytery of Philadelphia
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Book of Esther? Really an Anti-Zionist Tract?
Rabbi Michael Knopf keenly pointed out the Talmud’’s juxtaposition of Purim and Passover (Editorial & Opinions: “We Can’t Be Passive When It Comes to Matters of Redemption,” March 1).
Indeed, Purim is the holiday of, by and for the Jewish Diaspora — its very own equivalent Exodus narrative.
Esther teaches that, in the Disapora, Jews are not victims, not powerless. By dint of achievement and prowess, and even luck, we take care of ourselves when danger threatens.
Moreover, when push comes to shove, we can give as good as we get — and then some.
Rabbi Knopf also accurately notes that God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther. Less well known is the fact that neither is the land of Israel. Indeed, Esther is the premier anti-Zionist tract in the Bible.
After all, when King Ahasuerus offers to give his queen whatever she wants, up to one-half of his kingdom — which, extending as it does from India to Ethiopia, presumably includes the land of Israel — Esther does not reply, “Send me and my people on aliyah, back to Israel.”
Roy Davidson (Ben-David)
Rabbi’s Take On Abortion Is a Bit Disingenuous
Rabbi Yonah Gross’s response to Rabbi Stacy Eskovitz Rigler’s opinion piece (Letters: “Judaism’s Approach to Abortion Is Nuanced,” March 8) was quite disingenuous, if not borderline patronizing.
He erred in stating:  “Examination of the very sources brought in the article shows that Jewish law does value the life of a fetus and does in fact consider it ‘life.’ ”
The only cogent scriptural text on this issue is the legal one in Exodus 21:23, which recounts an incident in which a pregnant woman, caught in the middle of a fight between two men, is struck and miscarries. The culprit pays a monetary fine for his action: If the fetus were considered a full human being, he would have been charged with murder.
If the fetus were worthless, the killer would get off only with punishment for striking the woman.
Since the fetus is considered property, the punishment is a fine. Contra Rabbi Gross’s point, according to the Torah itself, the fetus is not — and not legally — protected life.
In short, the Torah takes a middle view on the matter, which is the position upheld by rabbinic tradition: The fetus is something but not a full human being.
It has property value and possible potential as life but, in and of itself, is not legally protected life. And thus, abortion is not murder; it is, at best, a tort issue.
Indeed, in Jewish law, when the mother’s life is medically at stake, abortion is not merely allowed, but actually required.
I would argue that the majority of Americans, pragmatic as ever, prefer something more along the lines of such a nuanced middle view, and not the either/or dichotomy in which the debate is usually framed by extremists on both sides.
Stas Cohen
Newark, Del.


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