Letters to the Editor: Gratitude, Diversity, Yentas, Social Work

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Thanks to the Exponent
I want to express my gratitude to you and the entire staff for continuing to publish and print the Exponent each week. I know there are other Jewish weeklies that have ceased operation or become online only, and it is a real tribute to you that you are continuing the tradition in Philly.

I was born in Philadelphia and have been a lifelong resident of South Jersey, since my parents moved to New Jersey when I was 3 months old (I am now 66) — and they continued to subscribe even when they moved to New Jersey and now I and my wife continue to subscribe to the Exponent. I can’t imagine not having it.

May you continue to keep the Exponent a source of news and information for the Jewish community!


Alvin Stern | Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Message from the Archbishop
Greetings to all of my brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith tradition as you celebrate the beautiful Festival of Lights. Please accept my prayerful best wishes, along with those of the clergy, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

As you light the menorah and recall the glory of the Temple’s rededication, may you be illuminated by the brightness of joy and hope amidst the darkness of these challenging times.

Shalom Aleichem!

Most Reverend Nelson J. Pérez | Archbishop of Philadelphia

A Couple of Issues With Word Choice
In the Dec. 3 Newsbriefs article about Walter Mosley, I was taken back by the reference to his “Jewish mother,” with the implication that it would be assumed that she would be a white person and a “Black father” with the implication that he would be assumed to be non-Jewish. That seems to play into stereotypes.

The explanation of the term “yenta” as being a “busybody and gossip” (“Lil’ Yentas Serves Jewish Vegan Comfort Food,” Dec. 3) is similar to giving a definition of the word “john” as meaning “toilet.” It may be slang for that, but nevertheless it is a name, just as Yenta is a name. I happen to know a few women who happen to be named Yenta.

Sandy Falcone | Broomall

Social Work Justly Acknowledged
It was marvelous to read Sophie Panzer’s superb page one tribute to the commitments and mission of Dorothy C. Kahn (“Great Depression Social Work Story Has Lessons for Today,” Nov. 26) — to the profession of social work in general and to Jewish social work in particular.
While my social work programs at Catholic University and the University of Pennsylvania offered excellent clinical grounding, both schools emphasized that a grad degree in social work was a promise to work tirelessly throughout our lives to provide opportunities for our most vulnerable citizens, which Panzer’s words beautifully and skillfully emphasize.

When I was privileged to be a counselor at Jewish Family and Children’s Service and director of its family life education, Sadie Ginns, of blessed memory, a devoted social worker, worked 24/7 with those who arrived in Philadelphia from countries all over the world, in order to assist in employment, locate homes and schools for their children and, of course, synagogues to welcome them.

Those in my profession stand on the shoulders of the tireless professionals who introduced couples and family therapy, sex therapy, group therapy, family life ed, short-term interactive therapy, and surely, if not founded, co-founded social and public policy.
Again, thank you for Panzer’s wonderful, informative, uplifting tribute to Kahn, and the proud, historic profession of social work.

Sarakay Smullens | Philadelphia

Life After 75 Is Worth Living
Ezekiel Emmanuel (“UPenn Doctor to Serve on COVID Task Force,” Nov. 19) does not belong on a health care task force because he has written that living to 75 years is quite sufficient and these people should be denied health care to detect and treat cancer and other life threatening illnesses.

He said post-75-year-olds are faltering and declining. Verdi was 79 when he wrote Falstaff. I am 75 years old and play golf three times a week, walking the course; I teach advanced music appreciation; I sing and lead Shabbat services at shul.

My career was as an academic neurologist and drug developer. I taught neurology at Penn and taught medical ethics at Medical College of Pennsylvania. I would treat all patients with dignity and would not patronize the elderly. I treated disease regardless of age. If a person was unable to recover and had serious illness that impacted mental capacity, I would encourage less aggressive treatment but age was not the sole criterion.

I can only hope that Dr. Emmanuel will not try to deny a COVID vaccine or COVID treatment to the elderly. Denying treatment based on age is against medical ethics.

Neil Sussman | Philadelphia

There’s More to Shabbat Than Going Without Tech
Olivia Sher, in her opinion piece (“Shabbat Transformed, Reinvigorated,” Nov. 19), should have focused her work on the fact that she and her friends were more interested in the results of the presidential election than of being an Orthodox Jew observing Shabbos.

It is unfortunate for her that her understanding of traditional Shabbos observance means only going without technology for 25 hours. This is only partly so. To truly envelop oneself in the Shabbos experience, one must take a “vacation” from all things in the outside world; to rest creatively, physically and spiritually.

Nowhere in her article did I find her ability to “let go” of the rest of the week and focus on Shabbos. She may have (almost) followed the letter of the law, but totally missed the spirit of it.

I truly hope that one day Sher will come to a greater understanding of how Shabbos was meant to be observed in its traditional sense. Whoever the president would be, nothing would change that in those 25 hours. Each Shabbos is precious — no more than any other including the one that fell on Nov. 7.

Susan Yitzhak | Philadelphia

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