February 21, 2008
Jamie, the woman whose mother converted to Judaism years ago, is welcome to come home to Temple Emanuel, the synagogue where she grew up ("Chai Center Rabbi Explains 'Off-the-Handle' E-mails," Feb. 15). Any Jew or non-Jew who wants to explore Judaism is welcome.
We welcome her as we welcome everyone, those born of Jewish mothers or Jewish fathers, those who have chosen Judaism, non-Jews who are part of a Jewish family, Jews and non-Jews who are searching for spirituality, young people, older people, singles, couples, gays, lesbians and bisexuals, all kinds of people, not as the Chai Center advertises, "any Jew that moves," but rather anyone who wants to be moved by Judaism.
Rabbi Laura Geller
I would like to express our sincere thanks to your Julie Gruenbaum Fax and to the courageous ladies who stepped forward and provided the e-mails featured in your article, "Chai Center Rabbi Explains 'Off-the-Handle' E-mails."
For years, I supported and donated to the Chai Center. Never again. The e-mails quoted are a disgrace to Judaism. These e-mails showed complete disrespect to the Conservative and Reform movements who recognize Conservative and Reform conversions as fully kosher.
Jamie Katz, I hope you are reading this. It is wonderful that you are seeking to explore the heritage that is shared between you and us, other fellow Jews, and planning to get involved in a temple. You have the same rights and same duties as any one of us. Do not give up because of one person who is misquoting the Bible.
There are many more of us who are with you. And it is God who will make the final decision on who is and who is not a Jew.
Henry Kister and Family
I'm familiar with Rabbi Schwartz, having taken Tanya classes from him at Chabad at UCLA in the '70s and later attending lectures at the Chai Center. I have not had the pleasure of attending one of his Shabbat dinners, since I don't drive at that time.
I have always held him in the highest esteem. After reading Julie Fax's article, I am totally mortified and embarrassed for him.
I certainly understand his point and agree with his opinion about intermarriage. What I don't understand is his lack of Chasidus. He should know this familiar Chasidic saying:
"When one speaks crushing words of rebuke, it must be with the sole purpose of enlightening, illuminating and uplifting one's fellow. Never, God forbid, to humiliate and break him."
This is true not only for a fellow Jew but for everyone.
Schwartzie's e-mail indicates his commitment for morality -- that spans generations -- over and above the current trend to speak to brazen women in a timid manner. It is hoped that when attending a religious event, a man will not be subject to the trappings of a whore.
For the Jews who choose to label themselves as such ï¿½"without any regard as to what Jewish law (like it or not) -- to cry out that their feelings are hurt or that they are "shunned by (their) own people" is simply inappropriate.
I should know. I was in the exact same situation as Ms. Katz. In many instances, I had received similar treatment as she. And who knows? Perhaps that is what led both Ms. Katz and me to the beit din (Jewish court of law) and to becoming Jewish according to halachah (Jewish law).
I cannot speak for her, but although I grew up feeling Jewish, having a Jewish father and a mother who had nominally converted for marriage, I took the step of studying for a year and was converted by an Orthodox beit din.
I also cannot speak for Rabbi Schwartz but will say that it is definitely not OK to insult people personally -- especially for a rabbi who is held to a higher standard -- but maybe this latest approach of his was out of a genuine fear that the Jewish people are at a demographic risk now more than ever.
Like a mama bear defending her cubs, his so-called viciousness was out of his love for his fellow Jews and the survival of us a people.
Hopefully this public outing of Rabbi Schwartz will not do harm now to other parties: Rabbi Schwartz, his family and the valuable and irreplaceable work of the Chai Center. I hope that finger-pointing, gossip and judgment will not sully the life and work, service and kindness that the rabbi has offered to 99.9 percent of those who know him and have been positively influenced by him.
To Rabbi Schwartz, intermarriage is non-negotiable unless it is under the canopy of traditional halachah. That is his public and private stance.
His uncontrolled e-mails and rage are also non-negotiable in terms of the harm done, but he has gone on record with those harmed, and I see from The Jewish Journal article that indeed one of the women in question is indeed looking at conversion from a halachic perspective.
I offer this letter to you and with the hope that those who have read it will look closely at the matter, forgive what is forgivable -- Rabbi Schwartz's overzealous passion and his sincere teshuvah over what he caused. I also pray that the court of public opinion will not turn Jew against Jew when now, more than ever, as Jews we have to stand together.
I study and learn with the great Jewish minds all over this city of ours in synagogues, homes and institutions, but my home base will always be the Chai Center. I go to the Schwartz's home to recharge when I start to lose the spark of what is most important to me, being a Jewish woman in the world.
Schwartzie is too real to play the politically correctness game. God bless him.