Jane Lazarre's article "Raising Black Sons: AJewish Mother's Meditation," (Sept. 5) struck a deep chord in me. I,too, am raising black-Jewish children: a son, Boaz, and a daughter,Chana.
As a black-Jewish parent, I often worry howseverely they will be affected when they first feel the stinging lashof racism. Will they be able to withstand the constant barrage ofinquiries into their background? Will other children, or adults forthat matter, approach them with the conviction that they are not"really" Jewish, not black and not white, but rather strangers in astrange land that is neither here nor there? I wonder what peoplewill whisper when they leave a room or walk on their own into a shulto pray to a Jewish G-d, or seek out someone to marry.
As I ponder what I am sure is inevitable, I can'thelp reflecting on my own life experience both pre- andpost-conversion. As a black non-Jew, I was roughed up by police. As ablack Jew I've been roughed up by police. As a black non-Jew, Iendured suspicious glares when I walked into an all-white office. Asa black Jew I endured suspicious glares when I walked into anall-white shul. The experiences are many, and have been many. So toohave the subtleties of racism that often escape many whites, uponexplanation.
Undoubtedly, my children and I have a wonderfulopportunity to learn, through empathy, the importance of love thyneighbor as thyself. Perhaps, in that regard, I have an advantagewhere Lazarre did not. I do not expect to experience a sense of shockor surprise should my son come to me one day asking why the policemade him lay face down in the street, or why a few people refused toacknowledge his "good shabbos" greeting at shul. Hopefully, I will beable to impart to him that the world is a funny place; there's theway it is and there's the way it ought to be.
Nevertheless, I know that as long as he can walkwith his back straight and his head high, he will be justfine.
Thank you so much for publishing Jane Lazarre'sbeautiful piece ("Raising Black Sons: A Jewish Mother's Meditation,"Sept. 5). It was both poignant and meaningful.
I am proud to be the godmother of an interracialchild, adopted in infancy by a Jewish couple. During his childhoodyears, we all loved him, minimized his "differences,"always feelingthat we all have differences and his were no better or worse. Ialways understood that he felt uncomfortable in some situations, butjust wanted him to know he was loved, and that somehow that wouldmake everything OK. Well, it didn't.
I wept as I read, feeling the injustice andignorance of well-meaning friends and family. I, too, ignored. I wasreminded of time and time again how he must have felt.
I congratulate the author and know that herhusband and sons are fortunate to have such a wife and mother.
Finally, the Journal presents some coverage of theOrange County Jewish community ("Beyond the Orange Curtain," Sept.12). There are a whole bunch of us down here, and what we're up tomay be of interest to you folks up in Lala-land.
Joel Kotkin correctly points out that, except fora few odd kooks, anti-Semitism in Orange County is in the past.Permit a few observations from a 20-year Orange Countyresident:
As long as I've lived here, I have personallyobserved only one possibly anti-Semitic incident: a vandalizedstained-glass window at my synagogue. But to put that in perspective,the New York synagogue I attended as a child in the '60s wasbombed!
There are over 20 synagogues in Orange County,running the spectrum from Reconstructionist to Chabad. Within a 15minute drive from my home, there are three deli restaurants and akosher meat market just opened on the next block.
The Orange County Register (some call itright-wing, but it's actually libertarian), prints many articlesabout the Jewish community as well as editorials noting thesignificance of major Jewish holidays. Local churches often lendtheir facilities to help congregations handle overflow High Holidaycrowds.
Alas, there was one area where Orange County didnot come through for me. I had to meet my wife at a Jewish singlesevent in Santa Monica!
Praying at the Wall
I read with great interest Rabbi David Geffen'sarticle, "Eyewitness at the Wall" (Aug. 22) which presents us with acurious view of Jewish history and tradition. The fact that men andwomen worshipping together at the Wall could evoke violence of thekind that has occurred repeatedly there, reflects a sorrowful readingof Jewish tradition and of Jewish history.
I agree with Rabbi Geffen that issues such asthose that separate Jews with respect to religion and tradition needto be treated with respect and, indeed, with mutual consideration. Noact of violence is ever called for, because we differ in customs andceremonies. The traditions of our people are as numerous as the landsand climes in which they lived.
Even in Eretz Yisrael, at earlier times, thetraditions with respect to men and women praying at the Wall varied.At the recent World Congress of Jewish Studies, at a session devotedto the status of Zionism in our world today, a film was shown fromthe silent movie epoch of the Wall, and clearly depicts men and womenstanding next to each other at the Wall praying.
I was present at Tisha B'av of 1967 when 50,000Jews thronged to the Western Wall to read the Book of Lamentations.Men and women prayed next to each other at the Wall. It is only whenthe Wall was surrendered to the official authorities in the rabbinatethat a decision was made to firmly segregate the sexes, notpermitting husbands and wives, grandparents, sisters and brothers topray together as a family. I find nowhere in the tradition of ourpeople a mandate to segregate members of a family from one anotherfor the purposes of worship any more than one would do at a sedertable or a Shabbat table, or for that matter, in a maritalbed.
I would urge the showing of the film which dealtwith the dedication of the Bezalel Museum, first on Israel publictelevision, to revise the perception that what presently exists wasalways so. Then, show it around the world to indicate that the terrorat the Wall today is a new creation inflicted not by Arabs upon Jews,but by some Jews upon other Jews. To say anything less than that itis shameful and that it needs to be stopped is evading confrontationwith this issue.
I agree with Rabbi Geffen's last line, "The waysof Torah are ways of pleasantness -- anything else just isn'tJudaism."
Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk
Hebrew Union College-JewishInstitute of Religion
The Best Bris
The article "Clamp Wars: Mohels 1, Hospital0,"(Sept. 5) described a study comparing the Gomco clamp circumcisiontechnique mostly used by doctors with the Mogen clamp which "mohelshave been using."
A very important aspect has been omitted and Iwould like to share it with your readers. The authentic TraditionalBris Technique. It is the fastest and most humane. It is the only onebacked by 3,700 successful years of experience. The entire proceduretakes approximately 10 seconds and excising time is one second. Noclamps or hemostats are allowed, so the baby does not suffer the painof crushing the skins.
May I suggest that all Jewish people should availthemselves of their authentic Traditional roots.
Rabbi Jacob Shechet,Mohel
Always open to personal growth, I read withinterest Robert Eshman's article "Poised for Prominence"(July25).
He wrote of Sinai Temple being "poised on thebrink of being one of the premier synagogues in the country," quotingthe former president of Sinai Temple: "We now have a world-classrabbi combined with a world-class cantor, and within a year and ahalf, we will have a facility that will be the envy of everysynagogue of the country."
Now, I've been wondering: If I apply formembership, and, after meeting the criteria for world-classcongregants, am accepted, will my prayers reach the Almighty inworld-class fashion? I assume this means that my prayers wouldreceive attention faster and be more favorably considered than thoseof non-world class synagogue members.
And will non-world class rabbis and non-worldclass cantors and non-world class congregants, who belong tonon-world class facilities envy me? Being envied is perhaps moreimportant than I have realized. I must set aside time to research its halachic base.
If the intention of this article was tocommunicate excitement and pride in the near completion of asuccessful project, it instead, by placing Sinai Temple on a valuescale, with world-class being a 10, went to an embarrassing placethat has nothing to do with the synagogue as a facilitator of Jewishvalues and spirituality.
Robert S. Wallis
Recently, we toured the Holocaust Museum at theJewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, Mich. The tour was led byJudith Mitchell, a school teacher by profession, and we were indeededucated by her comprehensive presentation. The museum details therise to power of Hitler, the disgusting acts of terror carried out bythe Nazis, the extermination of six million Jews, and vivid glimpsesinto the sickening death camps of Auschwitz. While I had been quiteaware of the horrors visited upon the Jews by Hitler and his criminalconfederates, seeing and hearing what I did at the museum broughtthose matters to the forefront of my mind.
It was at the end of the tour, however, whengathered in the conference room to hear the story of Belle Selman,that I was moved as I seldom have been before. The story that Mrs.Selman told, with the attendant horrors that were visited upon herand her family, brought each of us, and especially my wife and me, totears.
At the end of the presentation, I took her hand,sobbed, and thanked her -- for telling her story certainly, but moreso for the incredible goodness that she brought to bear on us. It isextremely difficult to elaborate on what I mean by that, but atminimum, I can say that although Belle Selman went through hell, shesurvived to tell us about it -- while not without anger, still notbitterly. Clearly, she has cause to hate, but she does not.
She raised a family, but said not a word to any ofher own flesh and blood about her experience until 1996. Yet, in aneffort to educate everyone, including non-Jews like me, about thehorrible acts of which humans are capable, she shared her story withus. It was perhaps the most humbling moment of my last ten years, andI will never forget it.
I will not go down the patronizing path ofdescribing the friendships I have made with various Jewish people andI will not list the excellent professional relationships that I havehad with members of both my office, the defense bar, and otherorganizations who are Jewish. But I will tell you that I will neveragain encounter a Jew without thinking of the unbelievable hardshipsthat the Jewish people have survived and the personification of thosestruggles in Belle Sherman.
Stephen J. Murphy, III
Grosse Pointe, Mich.
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