Letters the Week of Dec. 24, 2014


Readers share their thoughts on the inclusion, or lack thereof, of interfaith families in the Conservative movement and the Jewishness of Justice Stephen Breyer.

Conservative Movement Is Dooming Itself

The Conservative movement is dying, and I believe that the final nail in its coffin will be its equivocal treatment of interfaith couples (“Conservative Congregations Aim for Greater Inclusion,” Nov. 13). When my oldest daughter had her Bat Mitzvah at our Conservative temple in New Jersey, our rabbi refused to allow her non-Jewish mother to accompany me to the bimah in order to bless our daughter and to make a few remarks about our wonderful family to the entire congregation. This was the same rabbi who allowed videotaping of the service and photographs to be taken — as long as a light was not used!
When we moved to Lancaster, our new rabbis would not allow any photographs or videotaping at the Bar Mitzvah of my son or at the Bat Mitzvah of my youngest daughter because it was the Sabbath. My non-Jewish wife, on the other hand, was allowed on the bimah in order to participate in blessing our children. Indeed, the Conservative rabbis that we had in Lancaster tried to be more inclusive, culminating in our last rabbi’s allowing my non-Jewish wife and me to have an honor during the High Holidays, and to both open and close the ark.
However, our last rabbi retired, and when it came to the issue of where my wife and I are going to be buried, since we are at the stages of our lives when we have to think about this decision, it was made clear to us that they would not allow my wife to be buried in the Conservative cemetery.
Thus, after 68 years in the Conservative movement, we left our Conservative temple and joined a Reform one, which will allow my wife and me to be buried in its cemetery. If Conservative rabbis are not going to allow a Jewish and non-Jewish spouse to be buried together, more and more Jews are going to flee the movement to join a denomination that welcomes and includes everyone in their family.
Jeffrey Paul | Lancaster
The Scoop on Justice Breyer’s Jewishness
Three cheers for Rabbi Ira Budow, whose letter to the editor expressed my very same sentiments. Left out of this criticism of the vacuous presentation on the front page of an interfaith wedding is the underlying problem also covered in that week’s Exponent (“Finding Inspiration at General Assembly,” Nov. 13).
Noted was an interview of Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan by Nina Totenberg of NPR, in which Justice Breyer chose to express his sense of Jewish values — “tzedek and tzedakah” — an empty platitude that “drives his work.” Although Justice Kagan discussed her experiences as a child growing up in an Orthodox household, Justice Breyer’s upbringing, through no fault of his own, was totally secular as noted in his online biography.
He made choices which, in effect, divorced himself from Jewish life. He married an Episcopalian woman born into English society. They had three children, one of whom, Chloe, became an Episcopal Church priest. She has become a defender of of adherents of Islam at the Interfaith Center in New York, where she never misses a chance to accuse Israel of killing “innocent” Palestinians, land grabbing, racism and the usual attacks.
Even with a shrinking Jewish population and shrinking Jewish audience, the Exponent must serve the needs of those Jews who are an inextricable part of a viable Jewish community, not those whose views and actions are divorced from it.
Phillip Remstein | King of Prussia


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