Letters | Prison, Singing and BDS

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Thanks From an Inmate

Fifty-eight years ago, as a young college student sitting in a Philadelphia shul on Yom Kippur, all I could think about was the final blowing of the shofar and running home to feast on the delicacies my mother had made for break fast.

Fast forward to four young college students who could have spent Yom Kippur with their families, or be in Jerusalem (where one lives) or in the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv, but chose to “leave their land, their relatives, and their father’s house” and like our Father Abraham, to travel to a wilderness, where they spent their Yom Kippur in a federal prison with Jewish inmates (“An Unforgettable Yom Kippur — in Prison,” Nov. 7. This was the penultimate act of “teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah.”

Their spirit, their enthusiasm and their camaraderie gave to us inmates, who may have never had a visit, a vivification to our Jewish community and gave us a hope to be inscribed in the Book of Redemption for a life of freedom once again.

As an incarcerated Jewish inmate, we become our worse self-critic and see ourself as a shanda. But those young men treated us with respect, reminding us we are still a part of the Jewish family.

Thanks to the staff of the Jewish Exponent who for nearly a decade has kept me abreast of Jewish Philadelphia.

Howard Shmuckler | LSCI Butner, North Carolina

All Voices Welcome

A few weeks ago, a letter appeared in the Kvetch ’n’ Kvell section by a woman making an appeal for professional singers to lead synagogue services rather than amateurs (Oct. 24). She believed that those who sing for the services should have trained voices.

I was a music major in college, and I sang and/or conducted Conservative synagogue choirs professionally for more than 35 years. My husband and I have always belonged to “singing” congregations. In 1986, we moved to Chicago and decided to join a Reform temple near where we were going to live. During our first Rosh Hashanah, when we sang the prayers, several people were not pleased. They turned around and gave us scathing looks. Interesting to note that we never saw them during Shabbat services — only on major holidays.

Most people attend services to pray, not to be entertained. If you are looking for a concert, you have many options to choose from.

Edina Lessack | Sanibel, Florida

Get Active Against BDS

Thanks for publishing Sylvia Coopersmith’s op-ed (“What It’s Like to Oppose BDS on Campus,” Nov. 21). We need more of us protesting BDS. It also includes the Jewish Exponent plus the various organizations that say they pick up for the Jewish people. They should let us know what we can do to stop this from spreading to education and entertainment institutions.

We cannot let the young students carry the ball. We the older ones must do our bit.

Mike Cooper | Philadelphia

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