July 17, 2008
Kaplan, Eshman, Carlin and Tom
Thank you, thank you for adding Marty Kaplan to your staff ("The Los Angeles Bagels," July 11).
He shines physically and intellectually. He is not only smart but wise (and so is Rob Eshman).
Boys to Men
Although I only have anecdotal evidence to support my belief, I believe that women have been running synagogues for some time now ("Boys to Men," July 4).
I grew up in the '50s in Redwood City, about 25 miles south of San Francisco. My best friend was Catholic, and he and I took piano lessons at his church, Mount Carmel. We both agreed that women ran Mount Carmel and Temple Beth Jacob.
In the case of Beth Jacob, a conservative synagogue, not only did women lead the choir, play the organ, arrange the flowers, arrange the Kiddush table, teach Sunday school, organize the shul's social activities, but they also drove out one rabbi and brought in another.
My friend said that, without women, Mount Carmel would collapse as an organization. Most of my friends were Jewish or Catholic, and the only active Protestants I knew were Episcopalian. (My other friends who were not Jewish or Catholic wouldn't be caught dead in a church.) But in the Episcopal Church, too, women ran things.
What I am saying about Redwood City may well be true of most suburbs in the '50s. The men commuted to their jobs and came home too tired to worry much about religion. Probably, though, only a small percentage of middle- and upper-middle-class women worked then. These women had time on their hands, and many of them decided that their church or synagogue was a good place to put this time to use.
Moving some of these women was their sense of loss of the tight-knit communities they had known in the big cities. (This wasn't an issue for my own mother, who came from Spokane, or for my father, either, because his family had moved down the peninsula in the '20s.)
In short, I think the feminization of religion began in the suburbs during the post-war period.
Stanton J. Price
In his article, Rob Eshman correctly states that men no longer feel as involved in Judaism as they used to, with the exception of the Orthodox world. His conclusion is that "the weakness of Orthodoxy is that it doesn't (yet) fully include women." Its strength is it pushes men to the plate and become active in meaningful, mature ways in their spiritual life as the Jewish leader in their own home.
I can forgive his ignorance of Orthodoxy because he also states that he is a non-Orthodox man engaged in Jewish life. I respectfully suggest that he should engage himself more in the Orthodox world before he talks about Orthodoxy.
All of the liberal movements allow women to fully participate in services because the vast majority of their members have no Jewish life other than going to services, nor do they know much about Judaism. They don't keep kosher, observe Shabbat, the laws of family purity, etc. They expect their rabbi to observe these mitzvot, and they participate in spectator Judaism.
Their rabbis never explain that the reason women are not counted for a minyan is because they are not obligated to time-bound mitzvot as men are and that you can't count someone for a mitzvah if they are not obligated to perform that mitzvah. The liberal (any movement other than Orthodox) rabbis never explain that each of us has different roles to play and each role is important and vital.
Orthodox women run the home and are called akeret habayit, the housewife, the foundation of the home. They receive an extensive Jewish education and are responsible for instilling Jewish concepts and values into the family's daily life.
The home is supposed to be a mikdash m'at, a small sanctuary. Of course, for this, they are belittled by the "enlightened" members of the liberal movements, who have the chutzpah to think that they know more than Rashi, Maimonides, Nachmonides and all of the sages and commentators of the past. To them, the Torah is eternal until they want to change it for the latest fad that comes along and the oral law is nonexistent.
The reason people are leaving the liberal movements is because they do not stress the observance of Torah, that the Torah is eternal and it is the word of God. These movements do not stress any hard and fast values, and everyone is free to interpret the Torah in any manner that they see fit and to do whatever makes them feel good.
Kaddish for Carlin
I applaud the article on comedian George Carlin by Rob Eshman, the editor ("Kaddish for Carlin," June 27).
Yes, there are times when it is a judgment call and a good one to make: Carlin was the exception to the rule. Though he was not Jewish, he was Jewish enough to be included in The Jewish Journal. I enjoyed the article.
Tom Tugend's piece on Nextbook included an enlightening interview with architect Peter Eisenman about his Holocaust Memorial in Berlin ("Writer Discovers Nextbook's New Read on Culture," July 11).
It brought up memories of my only visit to the memorial at dusk in early March 2006, when snow was on the ground and on some of the thousands of concrete slabs in the first year after its opening.
As a refugee from Nazi-occupied Vienna and previous visitor to Berlin in the 1980s, I had an immediate epiphany about this jarring five-acre site in the center of the city. Finally, here was a permanent, stark and indelible reminder of the city's and country's past.
In their daily encounter with the memorial, Berliners and visitors alike cannot escape its impact. I felt an immense satisfaction as I walked on to the evening's performance at the nearby Komische Oper.