Rabbi David Rue, the head of an Orthodox beit din, admits that of the 1,500 people who contacted the beit din last year because they were interested in becoming Jewish, he or the beit din managed to discourage more than 95 percent. This is a shondah and should be condemned ("A Retreat to Comfort Converts," Oct. 8).
The Talmud tells us (Sanhedrin 99b) that the Jewish people were attacked by Amalek, a descendant of a woman who was turned away when she desired to become Jewish. If she had been welcomed, her descendants would have been pro-Jewish rather than anti-Semites.
This is not an isolated opinion. Rabbi Johanan (Talmud Nedarim 32a) even criticized Abraham for not acting strongly enough to encourage non-Jews to become Jewish. Indeed, the rabbi taught that Abraham's descendants were enslaved in Egypt because Abraham didn't make a stronger attempt to encourage conversion to Judaism.
I taught Introduction to Judaism classes for more than 30 years, and I know hundreds of potential and actual converts. While some potential converts have mixed motives, there is no doubt that the majority is sincere and will make a wonderful contribution to the Jewish community.
Any beit din that rejects a majority of those interested in becoming Jews is harming the Jewish people and sinning against God.
Rabbi Allen S. Maller
In response to James D. Besser's article on the evangelicals and Israel, after all these years, I find it odd that Jews still live in the past as victims ("Should Jews Oppose Evangelical Help?" Oct. 8).
The bigotry is so strong among Jews that they are blinded by the fact that it shouldn't matter why Christians support Jews or Israel, as long as you have their respect and support. The assumption is Christians only support Israel for the return of Jesus. So what?
If your house was on fire and a neighbor saved your house by putting out the fire only because he was concerned the fire would travel to his house, would you not still be thankful?
The Christians are taught "those who bring harm to the Jews will have to answer to God later."
You don't have to believe in their beliefs to appreciate their help. Get over your bigotry and start thinking rationally.
Oh, by the way, they aren't out to convert every Jew, since they believe it is already written that the Jews must first return to Israel before Jesus returns, at that time he is to reveal himself to the Jews and let them have a second chance to decide on his deity classification.
In response to Bill Boyarsky's column urging readers to "look beyond Israel" when voting and assuring them that [George] Bush and [John] Kerry are "not only in the same ballpark on Israel, they are in the same seat" ("Look Beyond Israel," Oct. 1).
Boyarsky gives no evidence (even if only verbal) to back this statement. Then he urges Jews not to be one-issue voters.
Unfortunately, not making Israel a priority is not easy for those of us old enough to remember when Europe was a gigantic graveyard and seeing it erupt into a hotbed of anti-Semitism right now. We hope nothing like that can happen again here, but we can't rest easy.
Bush, because he is a born-again Christian, is a staunch supporter of Israel. It's the right posture for the wrong reason, but, as an Israel friend has said to us, "We'll deal with the second coming and the conversion of the Jews when it happens. In the meantime, we are not in a position to choose our friends."
I have yet to hear Kerry make any strong positive statements about Israel (but then, the only strong statements I have heard him make are how Bush has botched everything).
Looking beyond Israel is a luxury no Jew (American or otherwise) can afford. A lifelong Democrat, I am now one of the many "undecideds" on this presidential race, mostly because I just don't trust Kerry on Israel and Boyarsky has not made me change my mind.
Dahlia Scheindlin ("Kerry Offers Hope for Israel," Oct. 8) should not feel alone in expressing her support for John Kerry.
On Oct. 5, the Arab American Political Action Committee overwhelmingly endorsed the Kerry-Edwards ticket. Thus Jewish voters who support Kerry can feel comfortable when they step into the voting booth, knowing that most Arabs in America will be joining them in voting for the Kerry-Edwards ticket.
Dahlia Scheindlin wrote, "During the worst four years in Israel's history, George W. Bush has done a resounding nothing."
Let me remind Dahlia that Israelis no longer have to worry about Saddam firing Scud missiles with chemical weapon warheads at Israel, nor do they have to worry about Saddam paying large sums of money to the families of homicide bombers, because President Bush removed him from power.
And the U.S. military is now sitting on Iran's doorstep, which just might make the Iranians think twice about launching any attacks on Israel.
Not a Friend
I've got news for Dan Cohen ("Why George W. Bush?" Sept. 14). Bush is not a friend of the Jews.
He is supported by the Christian right and the evangelicals who are big on converting nonbelievers. They are also anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-stem-cell research.
Bush has breached the wall that separates church and state, the very foundation of our democracy and principal protection for minorities. Public money is now being used to fund religious schools, and it is acceptable to refuse to hire Jews for publicly funded positions.
Regarding that old canard that Bush is good for Israel, he is only doing what every president has done – and maybe less. Clinton acted personally as a mediator; Bush stands on the sidelines. The "road map" to peace was a political ploy that led to nowhere and has since been forgotten.
His unprovoked invasion of Iraq has created turbulence in the Arab world and increased the threat of terrorism everywhere – including Israel.
Bush has made this election a referendum on religion, and Jews have never fared well in a religious-dominated state.
Your article, "The Shabbos After" (Sept. 17), regarding getting synagogue members back for regular Shabbat services after they have crowded into the High Holiday services, goes directly to one of my pet peeves.
The twice-a-year Jews come to services for the High Holidays, find them long and heavy and think, "I'm glad that's over for another year." Thus, they never sample the typically uplifting, inspiring and warm weekly service.
My solution would be to require members to attend at least four regular Shabbat services a year to qualify for High Holiday attendance.
Corona del Mar
It is hard to imagine a better example of puff-piece journalism intended to advance the anti-business, pro-Kerry agenda than the simplistic article by Marc Ballon relating his interview with Jamie Court.
How about some questions that actually challenge the assumptions of Court, such as the role of personal responsibility in the supposed takeover of popular culture? Isn't the role of free choice something that Court learned in Hebrew school?
Cola companies don't become official soft drink companies of school districts by adopting districts by force. They offer compensation, and the districts accept it. It is the role of the school boards to "just say no."
To compound the problem, the interviewer proceeds to accept without question the argument that an election of John Kerry will solve all the problems of corporate accountability, while a George Bush election will lead to more excess.
Your interviewer doesn't feel it necessary to mention that all the actions of the corporate scandals that came to light during the last few years actually took place during the eight years of the Clinton administration, or that it was President Bush who signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which actually does hold corporate executives accountable in a way that never existed before.
Seder With Brando
It might interest your readers that the shul where "My Seder With Brando" (Oct. 8) event took place was Temple Israel of Hollywood, and Louie Kemp's description matches very much one that I gave in a letter to a friend of mine.
The rabbi conducting the seder was Rabbi Haskell Bernat, successor to my husband, Rabbi Max Nussbaum, who had passed away the year before in 1974.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance library and archives has been asked by the director of the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp Museum and Memorial to assist in compiling a database of the more than 100,000 Jews who were deported to Bergen-Belsen. This database includes both those who perished and those who survived.
On Sunday, Oct. 31, we will pay tribute to the victims and survivors of Bergen-Belsen.
If you are a Bergen-Belsen survivor or know someone who is a survivor from there, please contact Adaire Klein of the center's library and archives at (310) 772-7605.
Adaire J. Klein
Director of Library & Archival Services
Simon Wiesenthal Center-
Museum of Tolerance