April 14, 2005
Letters to the Editor
In your recent article, the Bush administration criticizes Israel's building of new homes in the Maale Adumim settlement as a violation of the "road map" [peace plan] ("Jews Try to Sell Withdrawal Plan to Jews," April 1).
Firstly, these homes are being built in the center of the settlement, therefore, they do not expand the border. Secondly, why is President Bush taking issue only with Israeli building in the West Bank, while ignoring thousands of new homes being built by the Palestinian Arabs in the disputed West Bank.
And why is Bush not making an issue of the most serious violations of the road map by the Palestinian Authority, namely, their refusal to dismantle and disarm the terror groups and end the incitement and promotion of hatred against Israel in their TV, radio, school books and newspapers.
Morton A. Klein
Jewish Journal reader Gary M. Barnbaum poses several questions for me in his recent letter, and deserves answers (Letters, April 8). I am happy to provide them here.
The term "goses," the state when halacha does not require medical intervention (and even forbids some intervention), does not include a person who is breathing on his or her own and requires only nutrition and hydration to continue to live. Terri Schiavo (who, I must correct Barnbaum, to all appearances died of dehydration) would not have been considered a goses by any reputable decisor of Jewish religious law.
As to living wills, they are indeed very important tools, and every Jew should have one. Judaism, though, is not about autonomy but responsibility. And so a living will that is Jewishly responsible will not reflect the personal desires or whims of its writer but rather will delegate decision-making in the event of incapacity to a religious authority of the will-writer's choice. Agudath Israel of America has for years made such living wills, tailored for enforceability in a number of states (including California), available for the asking.
Rabbi Avi Shafran
We echo Rabbi David Ellenson's sentiment and applaud Israel's Supreme Court decision recognizing non-Orthodox immigrant conversions that take place in Diaspora communities ("Israel Should Accept All Jews as Jews," April 8). The Reform movement's Israel Religious Action Center, under the direction of Rabbi Uri Regev and Anat Hoffman, has been working toward this day for decades. But their work is not done.
Our movement believes that, with this stumbling block removed, our next achievement will be the recognition of non-Orthodox conversions that take place in Israel, followed by the recognition of marriages that fall outsides the auspices of Israel's Orthodox rabbinate. How sad that in 2005 in Israel, people who are not identified as halachic Jews, or who choose not to be Orthodox Jews, may not marry. The signature of a non-Jewish municipal worker in Cyprus (where many of these Israelis go to marry) on a marriage license is legally valid, while the signature of a Reform rabbi in Israel is not!
While we are endlessly frustrated by these injustices, we are optimistic about the future. All of us who work with ARZA (the Association of Reform Zionists of America) and WUPJ (the World Union for Progressive Judaism) believe that our time is coming, when Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Jews will be treated as Jews in the Jewish, democratic state.
I was incredulous when I read the letter about the situation at UCI written by Alex Chazen ("Letters," April 8).
Allowing for the fact that he is a university student, it is still outrageous that he should write, "Without a steady influx of Jewish students into UCI, the attacks by the Muslim Student Union will only grow stronger, as we will have less people to respond and defend ourselves."
It is not the responsibility of the Jewish students to "defend" themselves from "the attacks by [the] Muslim Student Union." It is the responsibility of the UCI chancellor, his staff and the faculty to make certain that no student on campus has to suffer from "attacks" by anyone on campus. It is the responsibility of the university to guarantee that civil dialogue takes place on campus and that no one on campus is attacked by anyone.
While I am confident Chazen did not intend this, his letter raised serious questions about the assurances given by UCI's administration concerning how calm that campus is and how secure their Jewish students are there.
Harvey B. Schechter
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II taught me a simple lesson that I can understand and practice in my own life as a common man ("One of Us," April 8). You may have thought, as I did, that the pope should have stepped down from his responsibilities quite some time ago when his health took a negative turn.
But in these past weeks, while witnessing his service and his suffering, I have come to understand why he would keep performing his role as the spiritual leader of millions around the world. All of the pope's scriptural knowledge and wisdom compelled him to serve people – and, in turn, serve God – until death or illness prohibited him from doing so.
Shouldn't we follow his example of always serving others, regardless of faith, lack of faith, occupation, values and resources? We all have some talent or ability that could be used to make someone's life better. Perhaps someone's life could even be saved by our service.
When age and sickness caught up with the pope, did he resign himself to a serene life in Palm Beach? Certainly not. Rather, the he served others relentlessly until his own heavenly father summoned him home.
Brian J. Goldenfeld
I appreciate that while Pope John Paul II may have made headway into centuries of hatred, etc., toward the Jews, I find it offensive that no one has noticed or commented on the abuse of President Bush's power to lower the flag to half staff in the pope's memory. This appears to me to be a violation of the First Amendment's intention of separation of church and state. The pope was the leader of the Catholic Church, a well-defined religion.
The reason for lowering the flag to half staff is to honor the memory of great Americans, usually presidents, vice presidents, former holders of those offices, perhaps current or past Cabinet members, etc.
Since we don't even honor those killed in our wars by letting their bodies be met by families, let alone have a flag lowered, I think we Americans should remember we are American Jews.
While he may be the head of a state, the Vatican, I doubt many other heads of state of other countries were so honored. I can't think of any. Can you?