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Can’t We All Just Get Along?: Letters to the Editor

Comments from our readers on becoming a bar or bat mitzvah, the merits of a Passover lesson, and the Democrats’ legacy in the Middle East

April 21, 2017
Arek Olek / Flickr
Arek Olek / Flickr
Arek Olek / Flickr
Arek Olek / Flickr

In response to “Torah Learning for Jewish Youth” by Mark Oppenheimer:

I found it disappointing that Mark Oppenheimer missed the central flaw of Rabbi Salkin’s, B’nai Mitzvah Torah Commentary, which is that Jewish law does not require a 13-year-old boy to read from the Torah to become a bar mitzvah. That practice is a Reform construct not based in halakha. In fact, boys at the age of 13 automatically become a bar mitzvah whether they do anything or not to commemorate it. The same holds true of girls at 12.

For boys, the only bar mitzvah requirement as per our laws is to begin putting on tefillin. Anything after that is pure choice. Thus, Rabbi Salkin achieves nothing more with his book than perpetuating the nervous nausea of Jewish kids across the land and maybe making a little scratch for himself in the process.

— David Oettinger

In response to “Obama’s Ghosts” by Martin Peretz:

This is an astonishing and brilliantly honest article. All the more to be commended because it explains how and why Obama dashed the hopes of American (and, notably, Jewish American) citizens after his election. Hope had swelled voters’ hearts that the precedent of a non-WASP president would lead to a fairer, more just, world. It didn’t happen, particularly vis-à-vis Israel and Jewish causes. Possibly this was partly because of Jeremiah Wright’s legacy, but, more likely, Obama was spectacularly not up to the job in the international arena, as the author suggests.

— Norman Witkin, Santa Ana, Cali.

In response to “Standing Up for Muslims” by Marjorie Ingall:

I would feel more comfortable standing up for Muslims if I could hear more Muslims standing up to the evil that uses their name.

The author of your article includes the Southern Poverty Law Center and CAIR as resources. However, there is no mention that the former, by consistently ignoring racist attacks by blacks on whites or Jews, has degenerated into a leftist pressure group if not a racist front. When was the last time they stood up to anti-Semites like Sharpton or Farrakhan and reminded them the religion of the corpses found in the Mississippi dam in 1964? Likewise, there is no mention of CAIR’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. The combination erases any credibility the author may have had with me.

Whistling past the graveyard by ignoring the threat of radical Islam and the oppression of women under that religion does no more good than Neville Chamberlain did in the 1930s, and has the potential to cause a similar harm. I would be glad to stand with Muslims who wish to live in a free, secular society. It is time for such Muslims to either stand up and be counted, or expect that many people of goodwill will doubt their existence.

— Clark Carter, Monetta, SC

In response to “In Syria and Elsewhere, Let’s Do Like the Pharaoh” by Liel Leibovitz:

Did the author just endorse genocide as the lesson of Pesach, via the following passage? “Pharaoh is finally left with no choice but to issue a general decree calling on all Egyptians to seek and destroy all Jewish baby boys. … And here’s the thing: It works.”

So rather than listen to God’s message that “[y]ou shall not wrong a stranger, nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” in Exodus 22:20, the author would have it, “if might can be used for good, hallelujah.”

Rashi instructs that God had to teach this lesson to the angels, who like the author, wanted to kill Ishmael rather than risk letting Ishmael’s descendants attack the Israelites. Rashi explains that taking Ishmael “from where he was,” an innocent boy, God tells the angels: ‘Based on the actions that [Ishmael] is doing now, he is considered, and not according to what he will do in the future.’ ”

So, no, I will not take Pharaoh’s genocide as my example for how to “deal wisely” with the stranger among us. I will take God’s example.

— Jonathan Colan