Cure for assimilation

Combating assimilation is a frequent topic in WJW. In my view, the problem would be solved to a great extent by having synagogues sponsor social clubs for young people, like discussion groups, ping-pong, even dancing. All these things make young people get together and give them something to look forward to. When I was a young man growing up in London, we used to have these activities two to three times a week. The turnout was very good and the connection between religion and social interaction kept everyone coming back for both. Of course, there are get-togethers that take place, but they do not occur regularly enough nor are they an intrinsic part of synagogue life. If we want to keep our children Jewish, we should make it pleasurable to come to the heart of religious life, the synagogue.

Silver Spring

Refugees, Not Work Migrants

In “Let My People Stay” (WJW, Jan. 30), Suzanne Pollack inaccurately portrayed the motivations of the vast majority of African asylum seekers who came to Israel, by saying “Eritreans and Sudanese more often than not came to Israel hoping to find work.”


According to UNHCR, “Asylum-seekers are being labeled as ‘infiltrators,’ illegal work infiltrators or economic migrants without necessarily taking into account the reasons of why they had to flee from their country of origin. While it is correct that not every asylum-seeker is indeed a refugee, in light of their countries of origin, the majority are either refugees in the sense of the 1951 Refugee Convention or, at the very least, in need of international protection and cannot be returned to their home country.”

More than 70 percent of asylum claimants from Sudan and Eritrea are granted refugee status worldwide. In Israel, just 0.004 percent of asylum seekers from these countries have been granted refugee status.

Pollack also suggested that by passing through Egypt, asylum seekers hurt “their plea for refugee status on humanitarian grounds.” However, HIAS, the leading Jewish refugee organization, said that transiting through a third country “can be taken into account, but for that to happen there needs to be an agreement with the transit country AND the transit country must have been able to offer effective protection. By all accounts, neither of those conditions exists in Egypt.”

Instead of welcoming the stranger, a repeated Jewish commandment, the Israeli government has begun indefinitely detaining asylum seekers in an isolated internment camp. As a country largely founded by refugees and one of the first countries to ratify the Refugee Convention, the Jewish state has a moral and legal responsibility to establish a functional and fair procedure that allows for each individual to apply for asylum like other Western democracies.

Director of Israel Programs, T’ruah:
The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
New York

A matter of religious liberty

Bend the Arc Jewish Action and The National Council of Jewish Women, which oppose the birth control injunction by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (“Jewish groups react to birth control injunction,” WJW, Jan. 9), base their objections on “religious liberty” and “rights” of the workers at The Little Sisters of the Poor.

There is no right guaranteeing free birth control in the U.S. Constitution. On the contrary, freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Constitution. Forcing the Little Sisters to provide contraception coverage directly or indirectly to their workers violates their religious beliefs. By refusing to pay for birth control coverage, the Little Sisters are not violating any rights or religious freedom of their workers. No one is preventing the employees from having access to birth control. The workers could purchase birth control, go to Planned Parenthood to obtain free or discounted birth control, or choose not to work for an institution that has religious objections to birth control.

The issues raised in this case are extremely important for other religious groups, especially Orthodox Jews. Should an Orthodox Jewish institution be required to provide abortion services and abortion pill coverage to their employees? For an Orthodox Jew, abortion (with rare exception) is a violation of Jewish law.

I would hope that regardless of one’s position on the issue of choice vs. life, all would agree that no one should be forced to make a decision whether to violate their faith or go out of business serving their community. Religious freedom is one of the fundamental values of America and liberty. If this fundamental right is taken away, I fear that other freedoms which all Americans cherish may soon follow.

Silver Spring

Innovative program

The Washington Jewish community takes pride in the innovative projects described in your article “Local groups make Slingshot Guide” (WJW, Oct. 31). In addition to those mentioned, Project Amir, founded and directed by David Fox, a graduate of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, has, through its creative approach to garden-based education at Jewish summer camps, impacted thousands of youth including campers at Capital Camps. With trained educators, Amir has succeeded in creating and facilitating programs for Jewish camps which, through the planting of gardens, teach Jewish values related to the environment. Through these gardens, Amir has harvested and donated fresh produce to food pantries as part of the newly launched Garden-to-Pantry Initiative. Although the program itself is not based locally, we continue to take pride in our young people who were nurtured and educated in our community.


Including the observant

I arrived home recently and happily found my Washington Jewish Week newspaper waiting for me. There was a sticker on the front blocking the article, “Let my people stay” (Jan. 30). What to do with this sticker? I decided I would stick it on the back of the newspaper, where I noticed MARLO took out a full-page advertisement offering our beloved Jewish community, and the non-Jews who read this newspaper, a 60 percent discount for 60 minutes Friday only from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

What? I checked out the footnote and fortunately it did not limit this savings to any specific Friday. Is this savings available in the summer to us Washingtonians when Shabbos arrives after 7 p.m.? Thanks for letting us know!


EDITOR’S NOTE: Marlo’s spokesman apologizes to Sabbath-observant Jews and promises that next time, the sale will take place at a time appropriate for those observing Shabbat.

Unreliable soldiers

A news item in your Feb. 6 edition reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas favors placing a NATO force along the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state (“Abbas says NATO can patrol Palestinian state”).

To understand why an Arab leader would support such a proposal, and why the overwhelming majority of Israelis oppose it, one need only examine past experience with international forces that were situated on Israel’s borders.

In 1957, a United Nations force was stationed in the Sinai Peninsula, between Israel and Egypt, as part of an agreement to get Israel to withdraw from Sinai after the 1956 war. The U.N. troops were supposed to ensure that the Egyptians would not use Sinai as a launching pad to invade Israel. In 1967, when Nasser decided to utilize Sinai to launch his war against Israel, he simply ordered the U.N. troops to leave. U.N. soldiers fled without firing a shot.

In 1978, a United Nations force was stationed in southern Lebanon, in order to convince Israel to withdraw from that area. The U.N. solders were supposed to protect Israel from future attacks by PLO terrorists. Not only did they not prevent any attacks, but a number of the U.N. soldiers were caught collaborating with the PLO.

To this day, United Nations forces are positioned in southern Lebanon — yet their presence has not stopped Hezbollah from stationing more than 50,000 rockets in that region, all aimed at Israel.

Why in the world would Israel want to repeat such bitter experiences by bringing in yet another international force — and this time just miles from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?

MOSHE PHILLIPS, president,
and BENYAMIN KORN, chairman
Religious Zionists of
America-Philadelphia chapter

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