Letters the Week of May 16, 2013


Why was a synagogue's program overlooked by a reporter and was Naomi really the first rabbi ever?

Why Was Synagogue’s Program Overlooked?

It was disappointing to read Brian Schwartzman’s Shavuot article (Cover story: “Making the Holiday Relevant,” May 9), which specifically referred to a number of Center City programs, yet failed to mention Mekor Habracha.

For the past eight years, the Mekor Habracha community has held extremely well-attended — up to 100 people — all-night learning programs with very high-caliber classes taught by distinguished community presenters, followed by sunrise services.

Our Shavuot program, along with many others, attract and welcome Jews from all backgrounds, affiliated and unaffiliated.

Hopefully, readers interested in attending saw the announcement of our program for this year in the Exponent’s Community Calendar section and didn’t miss out because of the omission from the article.

Ellen B. Geller | Treasurer, Mekor Habracha

Was Naomi Really the First Rabbi Ever?

Rabbi Rayzel Raphael’s article (“It’s an Interfaith Tale Without an Interfaith Lens,” May 9) notes that the “story of Ruth … is used as the exemplary model for conversion to Judaism.”

Halachically, it seems to be the case that Judaism requires a rabbi/rabbinical court to oversee and validate the conversion process. Further, in Orthodox Judaism, the truths of the Bible are timeless and not historically conditioned.

Naomi was the only Jew present, let alone to officiate, at Ruth’s conversion. Therefore, does that not, de facto, make Naomi the first “rabbi” — let alone the first female rabbi — avant le lettre?

Just sayin’.

Mara D. Atrash | College Park, Md.

Chabad Got Far Too Much Play in Inside

In a time of concern about radical Islam, fundamentalist Christianity and the Religious Right, why is reporter Bryan Schwartzman giving time and validation in the Spring & Summer issue of Inside to Judaism’s equivalent — namely Chabad?

Mr. Schwartzman, in an effort toward a balanced presentation, gives less than positive reasons for its shallow success — and none of the reasons to run.

People go to Chabad events and services because they don’t cost anything. However, there are still more attendees at the end of services for food and alcohol than there are at the beginning for the morning blessings.

Attendees are led to believe that their brand of Judaism is not authentic. Conservative isn’t recognized. Reform is worse than Christianity. Reconstructionist and Secular Humanist are off the map. Only the Chabad brand is real. That’s why they don’t recognize the labels. It sounds so inclusive. It isn’t.

Mysticism is mistaken for spirituality, as it is in secular culture, ignoring the fact that mysticism has been shunned by the rabbis for centuries.

People will be introduced to a religion revolving around biblical interpretation, not Torah itself. As a result, holidays change. Rituals change. The Judaism of their grandparents is romanticized without the knowledge that their lifestyle was cultural, not religious, back in the days of the Workmen’s Circle.

They have it all wrong.

Maurice Feldman | Wyncote


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