Ramaz And Khalidi
It is an indictment of Jewish education that high school students at an Orthodox school do not know – or do not understand the implications of – the background of someone like Rashid Khalidi (“Ramaz and Rashid Khalidi,” editorial, March 7).
Certainly the professor’s history as a spokesperson for the PLO should have alerted the students to his anti-Israel views. Besides that, the very fact that he is the holder of the Edward Said professorship at Columbia, named after an academic renowned for his vitriolic attacks against Israel, should have been sufficient reason not to invite Khalidi to speak to Orthodox young people.
Silver Spring, MD
Update On Dr. Imich
Beth Sarafraz’s Feb. 28 profile of 111-year-old Dr. Alexander Imich brought positive attention to Dr. Imich. People soon began coming to Dr. Imich’s apartment to check on him, believing he was in urgent need of attention, though they did not have a phone number and so could not call first to see if their visits were at a convenient time.
The article may have left the impression that Dr. Imich was completely alone and in need of such basic things as food and physical assistance with daily needs. This is not the case. After his fall on February 4 and a short but difficult stay in the hospital, Dr. Imich returned home.
He had been doing well before his accident and was in good spirits, but the fall and hospitalization caused what we hope is a just temporary decline in his mobility and emotional state. It was apparent to his niece that he needed an increased level of assistance and she began to work on getting this care through Selfhelp and other organizations. In addition, the hospital misplaced Dr. Imich’s hearing aids but he now has new ones through the thoughtful visits of the audiology department at Mt. Sinai.
The article has brought caring people to visit Dr. Imich and that is a good thing. He enjoys meeting people and learning about them as well as sharing his extraordinary life, which goes well beyond his remarkable longevity. But he is 111, and his family, friends and caregivers need to make sure the visits fit into his schedule and have set visiting hours.
Anyone who would like to visit Dr. Imich is asked to do so between noon and 5 p.m.
Gratitude To Canada’s PM
As you reported in January, Canada’s prime minister, Steven Harper, visited Israel and addressed the Knesset, the first Canadian premier to do so. Some of the things he said while in Israel were:
“Canada finds it deplorable that some in the international community still question the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel”; “our view on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and non-negotiable”; “we refuse to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage”; and “through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.”
Jews everywhere should be immeasurably grateful for his voice, and feel comforted by his stance. I am continually impressed with his unwavering stand on Israel. Readers can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. to express their gratitude.
Reader Alex Lapin’s Feb. 28 letter certainly struck a chord with me. He wrote that as a 20-something professional who works 60-plus hours a week in a suit, he does not enjoy shul services.
My wife and I both grew up Conservative and Shabbat services were certainly not part of our routine schedule. Several years ago my wife became quite observant and shomer Shabbos. As a 60-something urologist in private solo practice, I initially found it extremely difficult to attend Shabbos services on a regular basis and to put aside on Friday night and Saturday the tremendous amount of work that a busy medical practice entails. However, in the interest of maintaining shalom bayis, I started attending weekly services and kept my computer, TV, and radio off at home.
After a hectic week in my office, I too like to sleep in, and with services starting at 10 a.m., I can always get a great night’s sleep (in addition to the wonderful Shabbos nap I take after coming home from shul). I attend Chabad services where the dress code is lenient and I am very comfortable in dress shirt and slacks with no tie.
Rather than trying to catch up on my backlog of medical journals and financial magazines, I started reading The Jewish Press, books dealing with Jewish history, Maimonides, Talmudic studies and the like. A whole new world opened up for me. Following Havdalah services I feel extremely relaxed, well rested, and always wake up Sunday morning in a reenergized frame of mind ready to effectively deal with the many challenges we all face in our hectic lives.
In short, rather than viewing Shabbos as a day of restrictions, confinements, and limitations, Shabbos should be viewed as an opportunity to disconnect from the mundane world, spend time with family and friends, and strengthen our spiritual lives.
Gary Ronay, MD
Baseball And Shul
Baseball is America’s pastime. The Super Bowl and the Olympics draw more viewers than any single baseball game, but baseball is still Americana at its best. L’havdil, one could say synagogue services are very much like baseball.
If you’re a baseball purist, the game’s the thing. Watching the action on the field is the reason you’re there. But there are people walking around, going for a beer, and even discussing things other than the game.
Many shuls have the same problem – people walking around, going out for a drink, and talking.
Among the things that distinguish baseball from other sports is the sheer number of games played – 162 in the regular season. Add the constant winter speculation about the upcoming season, and one can say baseball is almost always with us. The same is true of shul services. Most Orthodox synagogues pride themselves on being open 365 days a year, morning and night.
A minyan has many of the same issues as baseball. World Series and playoff attendance is standing room only. But when the Yankees play the sad-sack Houston Astros, the stadium is empty. Shul might be packed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but on Shabbos morning many large old shuls have plenty of empty seats. Some tragically even have a problem attracting a minyan on a typical weekday morning.
Twenty years ago when you went to the ballpark there were hot dogs, ice cream and pretzels, along with beer and soda. Today you can also get pizza, sandwiches, paninis, and more. In those days, Kiddush at shul was typically cake and schnapps, sometimes with gefilte fish and/or herring. There had to be a special simcha to have chulent and kugel. Today those foods seem automatic, and some add salads and fruit platters. Like the stadiums, many shuls want to top the next one in their Kiddush offerings.
If you ask the marginal fan what is wrong with a baseball game, he’ll say it’s too slow and not enough is happening. So the baseball powers-that-be have been trying to speed up the game. I think if you asked many Shabbos shul attendees, you’d find the same complaint. Davening is too long and there’s too much dead time and chazzanus. There are shuls where the gabbaim need a conference to decide who gets the next aliyah. And there’s no umpire to rush them along. A man knows he’s getting the next aliyah but waits in the back rather than come up early and wait in an “on-deck circle.”
They say it’s a lot easier to fire the manager than to trade the entire team. The same is true for a shul. There are minyanim that just don’t catch on. It might be the location or the building. Very often it’s the balabatim. They may come late, may talk too much, be too loud or too boring or too uneducated.
But a shul can’t pick its members. The solution, fair or not, might be a new rabbi. There are many cases of baseball managers who are successful with one team but not another. Owners will often say the team just “needs a change” and therefore it’s time for a new manager. The same is true of a rabbi. There are rabbis who have been very successful in one pulpit but not at all in a second one. After all, every minyan has its own personality.
Managers’ roles have been reconfigured. There are computerized statistics that help a manager decide when he needs a new pitcher or pinch-hitter. To be a good manager today, you need to know how to manage people, including multimillionaire prima donnas, and you need to be equipped to deal with the media. When hiring a rabbi, a congregation might want a scholar. But it also needs a rabbi who has the ability to get along with balabatim, some of whom might be major donors. A rabbi must also deal with nonmembers and attract some of them to the shul.
In your Feb. 14 issue, Harvey Rachlin had an op-ed article in which he likened Shabbos services to an opera. And over the past few weeks you’ve carried several letters on the subject.
Listening to opera, at least to my mind, is a very elite, if not exclusive pastime. A minyan should be anything but exclusive. It should attract not just connoisseurs or hardcore fans. In religious terms, shul is not only for frummies or scholars; it should attract all Jews, including ba’alei teshuvah; those who are observant but not religiously educated; those who are only marginally connected to Yiddishkeit; and, optimistically, even those off the derech.
We desperately need “going to shul” to be Jewry’s national pastime.