Navigate to News section

Public School, Bibi, and Sports: Letters to the Editor

Comments from our readers on Betsy DeVos and the Talmud, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the Trump White House

February 17, 2017

In response to “Talmud to Betsy DeVos: Yes, We Need Public Schools” by Adam Kirsch:

I am a big fan of Adam Kirsch’s Talmud column, and usually enjoy readings views on this monumental and highly complex work that has kept our people preoccupied for over a 1,000 years. Even if his views are cursory, they are fresh and I think positive. This week, however, was exceptional.

The Talmud’s says clearly that, as Kirsch quotes, if not for Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla, Torah would have been forgotten from the Jewish people. In short, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla’s work had nothing at all to do with public schools because he was interested in only one thing: ensuring a Torah education. Without his institution, too many children in that era would have been lost to our heritage and we would not be here to talk about the Talmud today. When Agudath Israel and other Orthodox organization take a strong stance pro vouchers, they are fully following in the footsteps of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla. They are fighting the battle to ensure that it is not difficult for any parent to make the choice to send their child for a Torah education. Just as Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla knew that expecting parents to send children away from home for education would make the burden of education too great, these organizations know that school choice and vouchers will lighten the burden of a Torah education and ensure that many parents will now be freer to make such a choice.

Does Adam Kirsch honestly believe that the Talmud or Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla, with their single minded and heroic efforts to ensure Jewish continuity through Torah learning and Torah education, would approve of Jews fighting again Jewish groups trying to get whatever help they can for Torah education, in the name of helping public schools? If anything the Rabbis would bemoan that a man as intelligent and capable as Kirsch, without a complete Jewish education, can only read his peoples most sacred works in a foreign and often shallow translation, without the life, complexity and deep analysis that a nine year old yeshiva kid who delves in the ‘sea’ that is the Talmud.

As an aside to the debate, I weigh in by opining that the Jewish people are suffering an onslaught of assimilation and loosing the vast majority of unaffiliated Jews and even reform Jewish youth due to their complete lack of Jewish education. As noble as the ideals of caring about society is, and as free as any Jew is to take that stand, the Talmud certainly cannot be brought as weighing in on the side of restricting tax money that Jewish day school parents pay from going to their own schools. Too many Jews take the concerns of every group around them to their hearts. This is commendable, but let us not forget that if we Jews are not their for our own brother, our own education, our own continuity, no one will be and we will disappear from history. Let us not forget that before Hillel says, “If I am for myself, what am I?” he states clearly, “If I am not for myself, who will be?”

— R. Adler

In response to “What’s Mine is Mine” by Alana Newhouse:

Well said!

— Al Averbach, San Francisco

In response to “An Open Letter to Robert Kraft” by Matthew Fishbane:

Many thanks for your excellent letter to Mr. Kraft. We hope that it goes “from your pen to Mr. Kraft’s ears” … and to his heart and mind! Todah rabah!

— Phyllis and Archie Nahman

In response to “The Arab-ization of American Politics” by Lee Smith:

In my opinion, the Women’s March comes out of this tradition and cannot be relegated as Mr. Smith alludes, to as ’60s nostalgia. Jews have often held rallies for their politically/culturally-specific causes like the rallies during the 1930s (and protest theatre once again as in Ben Hecht’s pageants in New York, Chicago and Boston and performative events) that were against Hitler’s rise in Germany, along with the Free Soviet Jewry rallies in the ’60s and ’70s, and the rally that drew I believe (needs research) about 250,000 to D.C. in the ’80s when Reagan brought Gorbachev to meet and Elie Wiesel made it a cause to support (as he had done earlier in his career).

Also, in a way that may not be intended—from the title to the content I think the article as it is written is a form of demonization. I have read articles by Mr. Smith before and though I often don’t often agree with him, but I have respect for his broad knowledge that he brings to his chosen subjects. But demonizing Arabs, unintended or not, is both unseemly and even racist. In today’s toxic environment around identity and politics it is a volatile mix. I have found myself more towards Mr. Smith in his most recent articles on Trump and I think he is a valuable voice providing other viewpoints than mine and providing some balance.

I respect Tablet and all you do and your inclusive approach to this intercultural world that we live in.

— David Y. Chack, Chicago, IL
This article begins with a thinly-veild swipe at outgoing President Barack Obama. While the observances at end of Obama’s tenure may be “seemingly endless” to the writer, that is not the case for many. As this snide comment is not particularly relevant to the otherwise interesting article, I question the author’s motivation.

If it was meant humorously, I’m sorry that I don’t find it funny enough to merit its inclusion. Was Mr. Zalman so bored by these last few weeks and so eager to vent his anger about it that he simply could not remain civil? Is it possible that he was oblivious to his insult? I would very much like to understand.

I wanted to shared this piece on various social media outlets, as I often do with Tablet articles. Unfortunately, this rude comment did not meet my standards for what I can endorse. And I don’t think my standards are all that high or anything to brag about! If someone with my admittedly low expectations found this objectionable, who else is also annoyed? Or was the intent to make the slap so oblique that few would notice?


— Daniel Kasnitz, Vermont