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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776
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Letters To The Editor

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Dressed-Up Editorial

I was amused by last week’s editorial about the need for diversity in the judiciary (“Diversity Includes Orthodox Jews, Too”). While I agree with your bottom line, I would note that you essentially dressed up with carefully constructed prose what amounts to the not so elegant concept of divvying up political spoils among various interest groups.

Why are you – we – incapable of saying very simply that we want Orthodox Jews to get jobs as judges just like other groups demand and get? There is nothing shameful about it. Actually, such things are what make the world go ‘round.

Gary Schoenstein
(Via E-Mail)

My Generation (I)

D. Tzvi Trenk’s front-page essay (“My Generation: It’s All Right or It’s All Wrong,” Aug. 16) hit home for me.

Growing up in non-observant Conservative Jewish milieu, I would hear older Jews talk disparagingly about chassidim. I knew little or nothing about the yeshivish world. After we were married, my wife and I became more observant until we no longer belonged in the Conservative movement and joined the local Orthodox shul.

In our journeys we have davened in shuls representing all shades of Judaism, and while we are no longer comfortable in Reform or Conservative synagogues, we have been fortunate enough to have encountered modern, yeshivish, chassidish, and mixed congregations and are comfortable wherever we travel.

Even those who sincerely believe in Reform Judaism are at worst mistaken; they are not demons. Living in a bubble may protect you temporarily, but you’re only hiding your own light from others. Time to stop hiding the light and demonizing the “other.”

Harold Warren
Poughkeepsie, NY

My Generation (II)

I want to thank D. Tzvi Trenk for his painful and poignant front-page essay. When I read his lament that “Our generation may go down in history as the one that fatally lost the precious human capacity for cooperation and compromise,” I was heartbroken.

Our Modern Orthodox family lives in a community and a Jewish world with a very strong right-wing presence that takes many extreme positions. I am constantly explaining to our four children and the many students whom I have taught and continue to have interaction with that what Jews say is often not the same as what Judaism and Chazal teach.

One has to be extremely careful to distinguish between what certain groups and rabbis teach and what the Torah actually proclaims. Failure to make such distinctions can drive people away from the beauty of what was given to us at Sinai, especially when they confront misguided and often harmful practices in the Jewish community – from bullying in our Jewish educational institutions to parents at shul explaining that “Family X is not really religious” to other boorish behaviors that have nothing to do with and are an insult to who and what we are as a people.

Sinat chinam has and will indeed continue to do more harm than any outside challenge to the Jewish world. As we approach the Asseret Yemei Teshuvah may we all internalize the Vidui, especially the “For the misdeed we have committed by judging others” – and other expressions of this same sentiment.

Shanah Tovah u’Metukah to all and may this be a year in which we reclaim our tradition and ability to cooperate and compromise.

Dr. Saundra Sterling Epstein
Elkins Park, PA

More Is Less

Re “The Incredibly Shrinking Rabbinate” (front-page essay, Aug. 9):

On its website, Yeshivat Maharat states that it is “the first institution to ordain Orthodox women as spiritual leaders and halakhic authorities.”

If Yeshivat Maharat upholds halacha, as it claims to do, why then did it allow two adult women to publicly sing before a mixed audience of men and women at the school’s graduation ceremony? The prohibition of a man listening to the singing voice of a woman is clearly spelled out in the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 21:1).

At the graduation, a rabbi quoted the verse from Shir HaShirim – “Let me hear your voice [written in the feminine form in Hebrew] because your voice is pleasant” and used it to proclaim how wonderful it is that we are beginning to hear the voices of women from the pulpit. It is ironic that he quoted that, because the Gemara in Berachos 24a derives the prohibition to listen to the singing voice of a woman from this very pasuk!

I later e-mailed the husband of one of the new maharats, whom I know personally, and asked him how the school could permit Kol Isha. This man, an Orthodox rabbi, replied that the prohibition of Kol Isha does not apply to someone saying a davar she’bikedushah (i.e. Shema, Kedushah, etc.).

The actual wording of the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 75:3 states otherwise. It says that “one should avoid listening to a woman sing when saying Shema.”

Only later did I realize that since the women were singing the words to a berachah (“Shehecheyanu”), that was the davar she’bikedushah he meant. In other words, listening to a woman sing from the words of Tehillim or anything composed by Chazal, according to Yeshivat Maharat, is permissible.

This attempt to give a halachic stamp of approval to Kol Isha by redefining Chazal’s meaning and usage of the term davar she’bikedushah is disingenuous and tramples on divrei Chazal.

Yeshivat Maharat has crossed a red line and can no longer be considered Orthodox, no matter what prefix is added to the word “orthodoxy” – “open orthodoxy,” “morethodoxy” or some other variant – to make others believe the school is still within the Orthodox camp. In this case, more is less.

Kol hamosif goraya (Sanhedrin 29a).

Rabbi Mordechai Bulua
(Via E-Mail)

Appalled At Administrators’ Attitude

I have been a Jewish educator for 36 years, during which time I’ve taught in public schools, non-Jewish private schools, Jewish day schools and Talmud Torah afternoon schools.

My heart goes out to every parent who has a child with ADD/ADHD, and as I read Michelle Gross’s “Rabbis Denied My Daughter a Jewish Education” (op-ed, Aug. 16) I was increasingly appalled at the way the yeshivot and administrative rabbis handled her case (and who knows how many other cases involving children whose parents don’t write articles).

The “educational professionals” Ms. Gross had to deal with should be ashamed of themselves. ADD/ADHD in nothing new and there is a tremendous amount of written material available on the subject. Have these administrators not read any of that material, or attended any of the numerous professional development classes given on ADD/ADHD?

Every Jewish child is so important and we are losing so many thanks to intermarriage and young people going off the derech. We can’t afford to throw away Jewish children who want a Jewish education just because they have a disability in learning, concentration and focusing.

I once heard a vort that stuck with me as an educator. What is the reason we put both the whole luchot and the broken luchot in the aron of the Mishkan? What benefit was there in keeping the broken ones? The benefit was that they reminded us we are responsible for the broken Jews in the world – the handicapped, the poor, the hungry and even the learning disabled and those children who suffer from ADD/ADHD.

The rabbis and administrators who run these yeshivot with expensive tuitions should get their act together and stop discarding our children. Maybe they could cut back on expenses elsewhere and open special programs in their schools to draw more kids with learning disabilities. I am sure there are plenty of unemployed teachers who would be happy to teach these kids.

Elul is here and Rosh Hashanah is coming. The rabbis/administrators should do a little soul searching and figure out how to help kids with disabilities, because what response will they have when Hashem asks them, “What did you do for those special children who are miracles from Me just like every other child?”

Rochell Weisfogel
Columbus, OH

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