Letters | Barrack and ‘DIY Judaism’


DIY Judaism Is Not a Real Thing

“Creative” should not mean disconnected. The article “Unaffiliated Jews Get Creative for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs” (March 21) largely ignores the most important part of becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah — community. This milestone is not about reading a Torah or haftarah portion, leading prayers or delivering a speech. A Bar or Bat Mitzvah is the celebration of embracing and being embraced by a Jewish community.

The article mentions the concept of DIY Judaism seven times, as if DIY Judaism is a real thing. DIY Judaism is an ocean without water, an orchestra without instruments, a poem without words. Without a Jewish community, there is no Judaism.

Author Hilary Danailova’s article highlights the pressing need to revivify religious school education and the B’nei Mitzvah process. But the concept of DIY Judaism — or what Danailova calls the “opt-out mitzvah” — is antithetical to Jewish belief and practice. We need to advocate for an “opt-in mitzvah” with a new acronym: DIT Judaism — Do It Together. Together, congregants, clergy and educators need to commit to creative Jewish education.

We have many blessings to share, and the greatest of all is each other. Let’s raise our children and celebrate this milestone in the embrace of Jewish community. Mazel tov!

Rabbi Seth Haaz, Har Zion Temple | Penn Valley

Frankel Should Combat Anti-Semitism, Not Just Recognize It

In his meandering, self-serving and, in the end, pointless piece in the Exponent’s Opinion section, Pennsylvania state Rep. Dan Frankel teasingly alludes to a number of topics that might be of interest to its readership (“Connection Between Jews and Democrats Is Deep,” March 21). But instead, he dissolves only into pandering praise of the historic compassion and tolerance of the Jewish people, while taking pains to establish his own identity and bonafides as a Jew — a claim of heritage that can be made by many of his party’s leadership who demonstrate the same evidenced lack of backbone and resolve in confronting and directly naming and censuring the easily identified sources of constant Israel bashing, and not so thinly veiled anti-Semitism, now infecting the Democrat Party.

Please note this is the same party leadership that, along with their minions in the media, chides and demands that Trump call out and disavow every insignificant, no-account whacko who ever turned an inappropriate or politically incorrect phrase, and might, maybe, perhaps, possibly, have voted for him. But they turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the outrageous sentiments held and expressed by their own fellow legislators, who they instead reward with prestigious committee memberships.

Frankel tells us that he’s “vigilant about recognizing anti-Semitic words and acts.” Recognizing and assiduously endeavoring to combat and confront them, though, are two distinctly different things. I submit that now might be an appropriate time to proceed with the latter.

Elliott Tessler | Philadelphia

Time to Replace the Term “Anti-Semitism”

Once again, the use of the term “anti-Semitism” causes confusion, as noted in articles in the Exponent of March 21. This confusion can be clarified by the history of the term itself.

As noted in the Encyclopedia Judaica, the term was introduced in 1879 by the German agitator Wilhelm Marr to designate the then-current anti-Jewish campaigns in Europe. The religious issue was replaced by racism, the words “Jews” and “Judaism” by “Semitism.” Marr founded the League of Anti-Semites (Antisemiten-Liga), which organized lectures. The term soon came into general use as a term denoting all forms of hostility toward Jews throughout history.

Therefore, all Jewish organizations should substitute the word “anti- Judaism” or, even better, “Jew-hatred,” for the term “anti-Semitism,” as there is no “Semitism” other than Judaism. Also, the term should not even be spelled anti-Semitism, but rather antisemitism, exactly as it was originally spelled in German to emphasize this. The term “Jew-hatred” sounds harsh to the modern ear, but starkness is what is required to strip away the fig leaf of soft language that obscures rather than defines this hatred.

David Romanoff | Penn Valley

Remembering Barrack Unionization

As to the Barrack board’s renunciation of its 40-year recognition of its teacher’s union:

As a former teacher who raised my hand when the vote to unionize was taken, perhaps in ’75, this has been most unwelcome news.

We unionized, in part, because the board behaved and spoke as if our requiring improved salaries and benefits was a slap to the idea that we were there to serve the Jewish community.

My salary in fall 1973 was $7,300 per annum. Benefits were wholly inadequate, particularly for younger faculty planning to raise their own children. The following year it was increased by $300. That was awful even for that era. There were few medical benefits.

If today’s board cannot raise the funds to pay solidly for stellar faculty the school will falter, having kicked from under itself a critical justification arguing for its continuation.

Jonathan Wolfman | Bethesda, Maryland Akiba Hebrew Academy English/history faculty (1973-1984)

Jewish Community’s Most Critical Issue

The most critical issue facing the Jewish community was spotlighted by the Jewish Exponent last week. The translated videos of Imam Abouhatab’s Jew-hating sermons, in a Philadelphia mosque, were outrageous. Claiming that Menachem Begin used to slit open the stomachs of living pregnant women to win bets on “boy or girl” was gruesome.

Every issue of the Exponent brings us stories on rising anti-Semitism. Watchdog MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) translates into English unending Jew hatred in speeches and videos rampant in the Islamic world. All decent people need to denounce this growing menace. 29

Roberta E. Dzubow | Plymouth Meeting

This post has been updated to reflect a headline change to Rep. Dan Frankel’s opinion piece, referenced in Mr. Tessler’s letter above.


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