Israel’s Non-Orthodox Rabbis

I often receive appeals on behalf of impoverished Orthodox families in Israel. Occasionally, I donate a few dollars. I am comfortable with my choice, but I am dismayed with Raanan Isseroff’s ire over private individuals partially funding non-Orthodox rabbis in Israel (Letters, Jan. 13).

Isseroff’s letter expressing his indignation is full of inaccuracies and baseless charges. Rabbi David Geffen (“What Israelis Face as 2016 Winds Down,” Dec. 23) didn’t say most Israeli soldiers are left-wingers not trusted by Israelis. He merely noted that two-thirds of Israeli soldiers are neither religious nor from the West Bank. This is as expected: most Israelis are secular and live within the Green Line. Most soldiers who liberated the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967 were probably non-Orthodox people and were not the children of Jews whom the Jordanians had killed or driven from their homes.

Isseroff refers to the Green Line as a border. It is not. The Green Line marks the place of the 1949 armistice. The Arab nations that attacked Israel in 1948 would not negotiate on borders or anything else that would acknowledge Israel’s existence. Of course, after Israel defeated Egypt, Syria and Jordan in 1967, the aggressors who lost the Six-Day War decided the Green Line was sacrosanct.

Isseroff’s contentions aside, the Conservative groups with which I am involved have been protesting the U.N. resolutions that deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. I suspect that the same is true of the other groups he castigates. And we should recall that there have been Orthodox groups (such as Neturei Karta and the Satmar Hasidim) who opposed the establishment of the state and who have expressed support for Israel’s enemies.

Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. Her population must retain its Jewish majority. That will entail converting the hundreds of thousands of Russian immigrants who have chosen to live in Israel but who are not halachically Jewish. It also means efforts must be made to reintroduce Jewish observance to Israel’s largely secular population.

Too often, the official state rabbinate has made unreasonable demands on Russians seeking to convert and has antagonized secular people who must deal with the rabbinate on issues of marriage and divorce or while making funeral arrangements for loved ones. Outreach efforts by Conservative and Reform congregations provide valuable resources for those seeking to return to Jewish observance and should be supported by the nation-state of the Jews.

— Toby F. Block, Atlanta

The Spirit to Win

An open letter to Falcons owner Arthur Blank:

Early Monday morning, Feb. 6, many Atlantans and others from the South watched the Super Bowl game here in Jerusalem. We cheered loudly as supporters from afar. We felt pride that you and the Falcons coaching staff had built a title contender. We’re sad that the Falcons did not win, but they did play the best they could.

Two thoughts for you at this juncture:

  • In the 1930s my grandfather Rabbi Tuvia Geffen gave a sermon in which he focused on the Hebrew phrase ish asher ruah bo. The words translate as “a person in whom there is spirit.” You, your coaching staff and all your players have that spirit to win, and in time your team will.
  • Ernest Hemmingway once wrote, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” The author instructs us that sooner or later we are all broken.

Yes, every team, including the Falcons, can be defeated. If you and your team realize that and begin to grow in the “spirit,” which the Falcons possess, surely, Mr. Blank, your team will grow stronger as you rebound from the Super Bowl you did not win.

— Rabbi David Geffen, Jerusalem

Marching for Truth

My husband and I were in the D.C. area visiting our family one week before the Women’s March. I wanted so much to remain there to participate but could not. I wanted to express my frustration and sadness for what has occurred in our great country.

However, I was happy to watch the entire event on C-SPAN. What occurred in our country and around the world that Saturday, Jan. 21, was incredibly inspiring.

As many have stated, certain comments were made that I do not feel were appropriate, but overall, the various speakers, to me, spoke The Truth.

No, I do not believe America will be great again with all the actions the president has taken in a few short weeks. When you threaten to eliminate programs that help so many, that is not making America great.

Most people know and can accept that under President Barack Obama, many programs and laws were passed that have allowed all citizens to enjoy equality (finally) and not being discriminated against. Important programs that benefit so many.

This march brought attention to everyone. We the people will not allow the frightening intentions of this administration, to destroy what is good and right about our nation.

Making America great again should allow everyone to benefit from all that America offers.

Whether you are white, black, straight, LGBT, any religion or no religion, in America we have rights and freedoms.

A president should uphold our Constitution and not show bigotry toward certain citizens, and he should not demonstrate prejudice toward anyone. All Americans should be respected for who, they are, period. No exceptions.

May we continue to speak out and protest; this is America!

In regard to presidential counselor Steve Bannon’s comment that “the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” perhaps. Bannon and the administration should recognize that the media and many Americans will not, keep our mouths shut. We live in a democracy; we are not Russia.

When the next protests happen, I plan to be marching.

Thank you, AJT, for your coverage of the marches both in D.C. and Atlanta. I appreciate the excellent observations of: Marita Anderson, Rebecca Stapel-Wax and Elizabeth Friedly. You, too, have spoken The Truth.

— Judy Bernhardt Glatzer, Bethlehem, Ga.