Letters the Week of Oct. 23, 2014

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Readers weigh in on Open Hillel's first conference and the sexual symbolism behind the etrog.

‘Generation Gap’ Provides Challenge
The “Open Hillel” controversy highlighted in the Oct. 16 edition of the Jewish Exponent (Opinion, “Debating the Necessity of ‘Open Hillel’ ") calls attention to a divide that exists between the current generation of college students and those who graduated five years ago or more.
 
Most Hillel professionals, board members, funders and supporters over the age of 30 place a higher value on community cohesion in support of Israel than they do on inclusion and tolerance as defining standards of their Jewish community. In contrast, much of the current generation of college students place a higher value on community inclusion and tolerance for individual convictions than they do on community cohesion in support of Israel — even if they personally are Israel supporters.
 
This is the “generation gap” of the 21st century. It is also a challenge to those of us who seek to inspire a new generation of Jews with the love of Judaism and Jewish peoplehood. To succeed, we will need to act with wisdom and patience as they find their way to responsible Jewish adulthood. 
Rabbi Howard Alpert | CEO, Hillel of Greater Philadelphia
 
Open Students to the Marvels of Israel
Mazel tov for juxtaposing statements by Eric Fingerhut, Hillel International’s CEO, and Evan Goldstein, an impressive student leader at Boston University, on your Oct. 16 opinion page. (“Debating the Necessity of ‘Open Hillel’ "). 
 
Their nuanced positions highlight an issue that will only intensify as Jewish students proceed through their university years and later participate in the Jewish community.
 
Many of our young people are saying, “We want an open forum” — either partnering inside Hillel or finding other venues.
 
We should be focusing on and strengthening chances for young Jews to work with exemplary young Israelis who also want “tikkun olam” opportunities. Hillel and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia have sponsored a few such short-term programs over the last few years. They work. Ask those who have returned and now lead others on their campuses.
 
When our kids return from these experiences, their idea of “pro-Israel” becomes personal. When confronted by nay-sayers, they hold their own, and more.
Professor (emeritus) Edward Newman | Temple University
 
Etrog Evokes a Symbolic Debate
Rabbi Andrew Sacks (Headlines, “The Four Species of Sukkot,” Oct. 9) is right that some see sexual symbolism in the four species used during Sukkot. The lulav, along with its two accoutrements, are clearly a phallic symbol.
 
However, it requires more than “a little imagination” to see the etrog as “clearly breast-like.” It is perhaps easier to interpret the etrog as a yonic symbol. Indeed, the Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols notes that “the etrog is shaped like a woman’s uterus and cervix,” and since the etrog may have been the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve for which Eve was punished, “popular folklore recommends that pregnant women eat an etrog to ease the pain of childbirth. Women would sometimes bite off the pitom … and place it under the pillow of a woman experiencing difficult labor.”
Daniel E. Loeb | Wynnewood

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