Letters, the Week of Jan. 7, 2016

That’s the Spirit!
Does anyone there know what it says on the banner of the paper?  It says: “What it Means to be Jewish in Philadelphia.” It’s bad enough that carols are forced upon us in every store, mall, etc. for a month or more, but to open the Exponent and see a two-page article about them is beyond belief. Two blank pages would have been more acceptable. Please stick to material relevant to all things Jewish.
Linda and Ralph Siskind | Merion Station
Time to Find — and Share — a Middle Ground
Regarding Professor Kwall’s editorial (Dec. 31), I see only one option; compromise. I was a member, before it closed, of  a traditional synagogue. Due to dwindling membership and financial constraints, many more synagogues will soon be facing the same dilemma. I feel a perfect blend would be a branch of worship called Conformative Judaism; although this "label" is not important. Let us not become so divisive and exclusive that we only hurt ourselves and future generations. I’m positive if we all can initiate this compromise and blend the best of both denominations, we will only thrive and grow stronger. If we lose the Conservative movement, Reform may not be far behind. Let us not listen to the naysayers that the handwriting is already on the wall. Benjamin Franklin was right: If we don’t hang together, we will hang separately. 
Ron Farbman | Philadelphia
A Strong Proponent of Term Limits
I am so heartened that I am not the only JE reader who is disgusted by Jon Marks’ overuse of the term “Bar Mitzvahed” (thank you, Fred Goldstein of Ambler, who commented on this in his Dec. 31 letter). I had taught in a communal Jewish school for years, and am so offended by “Bar/Bat Mitzvah” being used as a verb. I would also imagine that many rabbis/cantors would feel this way as well. The editor’s note in response to Mr. Goldstein’s letter was lame as well. While I have no problem with using “Googled” as a verb, I do not want to see a Jewish rite of passage reduced to this.
Gail Schwartz | Philadelphia
The Final Word on Objectionable Wording
In your Dec. 24 edition, you replied to a letter about the use of “Bar Mitzvahed.” I regret to disagree with that use or its explanation.
A question of style, it is not. It is a question of substance. While one may google (verb) something, one cannot Bar Mitzvah (verb) someone. One becomes Bar Mitzvah at the age of 13 years and 1 day, whether one has made a celebration of it or not. In Judaism (unlike in colloquial English), precision and/or nomenclature in language is very important because if precision is not there, the substance that one wants to convey may be lost or, worse, misinterpreted. Take for instance those who say, “he blessed the wine for Kiddush.” There is no such thing in Judaism. Unlike other religions, we do not bless objects. The proper way would be to say “he says or recites a blessing [to God] over the wine.”
The same would apply to those who say “he makes a berakhah for such and such.” Heaven forbid that we, who have no vested authority, formulate a berakhah. The berakhot were made by our revered Sages in the Talmud. We follow their instructions of reciting them.
It is not a matter of style; it is matter of substance.
Rabbi Albert Gabbai | Congregation Mikveh Israel


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