October 13, 2005
Amy Klein's article, "In Search of a Leader," (Oct. 7), paints a gloomy picture for the future of Conservative Judaism, which it dubs the "Conservative Crisis." While it is true that current statistics paint a dismal picture, the trend can be reversed.
During four decades of active participation at Conservative synagogues, camps and schools, I've come to know and respect numerous clergy. Our rabbis and cantors are, by and large, observant men and women who abide by the tenets of our faith. They maintain kashrut, don phylacteries, perform mitzvot and allow halachah to be their guiding light. They are exemplary role models.
What is it that keeps them from speaking out? Why are they reluctant to tell their flock to trash the treif, turn off the TV on Shabbat and say their brachot throughout the day?
Two concerns drive their behavior. First, they fear losing members. The other problem is that our rabbis fear that if they push too hard, their boards may form search committees at contract time rather than engage in contract renewal.
The Conservative movement must regain its position as the moral compass for its followers. Its clergy must take assertive roles when advising members on religious matters. Additionally, its religious schools must be expanded to include in-depth study of Jewish texts, fluency in Hebrew and serious observance of our customs and rituals.
For this to happen, the Jewish Theological Seminary and its affiliates must direct synagogue boards to empower their clergy to take the initiative. Rabbis and cantors must be given assurances that their boards are solidly behind them.
An assertive rabbinate will be respected and revered. Once the Jewish community sees that the Conservative movement is proactive and consistent in its approach toward religious matters, membership rosters will once again grow.
Leonard M. Solomon
The real "guilt" should be felt by The Jewish Journal staff, who once again have distorted and insulted the Jewish tradition by the "guilt" cover story ("Guilt Judo," Oct. 7).
Yom Kippur is a day of forgiveness, a day of divine love, a day of purification and resolution. The day that Rabbi Akiva was martyred and ascended to heaven with the words of the Shema" on his lips.
Yes, people struggle with this day, but the more one knows the true significance, the freer one is to experience the essence and meaning.
As one who follows L.A. Jewish population statistics, I was quite puzzled by a statistic in Amy Klein's article ("How We Worship," Sept. 30) about some pretty uncommon (but, hip) AnJewlinos. The piece includes a totally unattributed 27 percent increase in the L.A. Jewish population since 1997, from 519,000 to 660,000.
Then Julie Brown's article titled, "Jewish Population on the Rise in South Bay," (Sept. 30), uses a Jewish Federation/South Bay estimate of 40,000 that is actually 12 percent lower than the Jewish South Bay population of 45,000 found by the 1997 L.A. Jewish population survey.
If we're supposed to reflect upon ourselves on these Days of Awe, let's resolve to do it accurately.
While I greatly appreciate The Journal's inclusion of a story about the Darfur genocide ("The Darfur Genocide Is Still On," Sept. 23), it was a mistake to publish your Washington correspondent's submittal without first checking his facts.
The article stated that American Jewish activism against the genocide is "fading" and "eroding"; while that might be true in Washington, D.C., from whence the article's author hails, nothing could be further from the truth in Los Angeles, the home base of The Jewish Journal.
Contrary to the assertions of the article's writer, James Besser, support for Jewish World Watch, an organization founded one year ago for the specific purpose of organizing the L.A.-based synagogue community against the genocide in Darfur, has grown exponentially since its inception -- there are now more than 25 Reform, Orthodox and Conservative synagogues in Los Angeles mobilizing and energizing against this genocide.
As examples to demonstrate this activism, this summer, Jewish World Watch exposed more than 2,000 children in Jewish camps in the L.A. area to an extensive curriculum about the genocide, and Jewish World Watch engaged more than 20 schools in advocacy projects. The students in these schools have raised tens of thousands of dollars to provide drinking water to the refugees in Darfur, and have sent hundreds of letters to the United Nations and to President Bush.
In fact, Jewish World Watch, in addition to its genocide-related education and advocacy agenda, has sent thousands of communiqués to protest the genocide, has reached thousands of people with its advocacy and educational programs and has raised the funds to build two complete medical clinics in refugee camps in Darfur.
Indeed, it was disturbing that The Journal and/or its writer entirely ignored these significant and persistent organizing efforts in Los Angeles.
Jim Besser's report focused specifically on the reluctance of national Jewish organizations to make activism for Darfur a priority.
The Journal's extensive reporting on local efforts to aid Darfur can be found at www.jewishjournal.com. Also, please read Rabbi Lee Bycel's Op-Ed inside this issue. More importantly, go to www.savedarfur.org and get involved.
I read your article, "What to Ask a Jew," (Oct. 7), with interest. When I finished, I was perplexed. Of course, what you wrote probably applies to many Jews, but what is your point and, more importantly, what are you suggesting as a solution? A problem needing a solution assumes that the people affected agree that there is a problem in the first place.
Are many people attending services bored because the service is boring or are they there to ease their conscience once a year, or to satisfy their mother, father or spouse, or to set an example for their children? They would probably wish to be somewhere or anywhere else.
Are these people bored because they are not there to pray but to put in an appearance? Maybe for these people it's more of a social event.
I would suggest that the main hypothesis could be that these people just don't go to synagogue to pray. It's no more complicated than that. How do you make or encourage people to become more religious?
Tad Daley ("A Picture of Hate," Sept. 30), associated with presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, questions if he or any reader would have resisted the call of Nazism, as a German in Nazi Germany.
The present pope not only quit the Hitler Youth, he recently insisted that Palestinians cease their anti-Semitism in their political dispute with Israel.
Perhaps Mr. Daley, you can insist that Mr. Kucinich make the same response to the Palestinians as a precondition for your continued support of him.
Charles S. Berdiansky
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