Letters, the Week of June 14, 2016

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Readers discuss Jewish Community High School at Gratz College and liberal Democrats.

Jewish Community High School Needs Support
On June 5, I attended commencement at the Jewish Community High School at Gratz College. I had a proud reason to be there; after five years of two-day-a-week studies, my older son was graduating.
What a profound, moving experience this was. Six graduating students spoke on topics ranging from love of Judaism and challenging oneself, coming to terms about questioning God’s existence, the joys and benefits of the JCHS community, the unexpected benefits of the social aspects of JCHS and, finally, the benefits of being exposed to a life of service, volunteering and how JCHS contributed to that.
I realize that attending JCHS for both the student and his or her family is not without sacrifice. The cost is certainly not inexpensive. The travel to the Mandell Campus, now that the neighborhood satellites have closed, can be difficult and time consuming.
Yet, the benefits are so great. These students have the now-rare opportunity to share discussion, ideas and meet other like-minded Jewish teens they would not otherwise know. In today’s world of getting through the curriculum, and preparing for standardized tests, where is there another forum like this?
I call upon our synagogue rabbis and neighborhood synagogues to do more to support the JCHS program. Don’t content yourselves with the local synagogue program. Financially support your interested students. Encourage them to attend. Offer them incentives as your future religious school teachers and leaders.
Now, with yet more budget and staff cutbacks at JCHS, it is more important than ever to support this program. Our future, training the next Jewish educators and leaders, depends on it.
Shelley Szwalbenest | Yardley
Israelis Are Abandoning the Left
People claim that liberal Democrats are abandoning Israel (“Shaky Steps in Building the Party Platform,” June 2). Actually, it is the other way around: Israel is abandoning its liberal foundation.
Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who was replaced by the extreme rightwing former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, warned that the government has been taken over by rightwing extremists. Ehud Barak, former prime minister and IDF chief of staff, noted that the seeds of fascism were being planted in Israel. Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel, raised his concern that the people of Israel are losing their sense of decency and compassion.
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center reported that 48 percent of Israeli Jews would expel Arab citizens. More and more young Israeli Jews are carrying signs that say “Kill Arabs-Kill Liberals.”
Naftali Bennet, minister of education, removed from secular high school libraries a book about a love affair between a Jew and an Arab. Bennett is insisting that the secular school curriculum include more Torah study at the expense of math and science.
There is no freedom of religion in Israel. Jewish couples must marry before an Orthodox rabbi approved by a rabbinate made up mostly of haredi Orthodox Jews. If they decide they are not comfortable with an Orthodox marriage, they can only marry outside the country.
There are other examples of anti-liberalism spreading througout Israel. A poll conducted a few years ago found Gideon Levy — arguably the most liberal journalist in Israel today — the most hated. Given the facts, I would ask: Can you blame liberals, be they Democrats, Republicans or independents, for being disillusioned?
Marvin Bograd | East Windsor, N.J.

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