Divisiveness Is Not What We Need
An Exponent reader provides us with her answer regarding the loss of yet another independent kosher butcher shop in the Greater Philadelphia area (“It’s Just Business,” Feb. 22). She suggests that the closing is directly related to a “shrinking Jewish population,” by which she means “assimilating Conservative Jews.”
Furthermore, she blames the butcher shops themselves for “refus[ing] to accommodate a growing costumer-base,” meaning “Orthodox families.” As she points out, she came to this conclusion without the benefit of an MBA.
The problem here is not one of assimilating Jews. The kosher butchers have never catered to a particular stream or denomination of Judaism. Just like the meat sections in our supermarkets, the customer base is created by those who keep kosher. That being the case, the growth of the Orthodox community should help, not hurt the independent shops and supermarkets alike.
But I’m also confused about the reader’s comment about butchers’ supposed refusal to accommodate Orthodox families. For as long as I have served as a rabbi in Philadelphia — 27-plus years — there has never been a butcher designated for the Conservative movement. Butchers are in business to serve the entire Jewish community, and, for that reason, those supervising the butcher shops have been Orthodox rabbis. Perhaps she meant that the Orthodox rabbis who provided supervision were not the rabbis of whom she approved. This is an internal issue for the Orthodox community, not one for the Conservative community.
Above all, though, this letter can be used as an example of something very wrong with the Jewish community. Her swipe at those who may believe or practice differently reflects a judgmental and intolerant mindset that can only serve to divide us more than we already are. The Jewish community is shrinking and those of us who work on the frontlines are doing our best to stem the tide. But hurtful, accusatory and divisive comments can only exacerbate the situation when what we really need is ahavat yisrael — concern and caring, not condemnation.
Rabbi Neil S. Cooper | Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, Wynnewood
Be Careful With That Brush
I’m deeply saddened by the need to stereotype and judge a truly diverse membership of a political party (“Finding Home in the RJC,” March 1). Surely, Jews know too well the ignorance of broad brushing a group of people as at least one reader has done with his characterization of Democrats as being anti-American and anti-Israel.
Anti-American? Isn’t the Statue of Liberty, which has welcomed people from all over the world, the symbol of who we are: a nation of immigrants? No one religion, ethnicity, race, gender, age, profession or sexual orientation defines an American. It is our collective identity that makes America respected and admired. Democrats, along with a lot of traditional Republicans, rightly believe that we should uphold this promise of America for which our people have defended and died.
Alexis Gerard Finger | Bala Cynwyd