Letters | Feb. 3, 2021


Rabbis and chaplains and hats

As a retired Navy chaplain with 22 years of service, I was excited when I read two articles in Washington Jewish Week’s Jan. 21 issue relating to rabbis, chaplains, the wearing of hats, kippot (yarmulkes), free exercise of religion, halal and even beards (“There was something holy about this space” and “Hats, precedents, presidents and moral obligations”).

In the former, Rabbi Jordan Hersh says, “I’m visibly Jewish, with my kippah.” When I entered service in 1976, I served wearing a beard and a kippah. In 1985, I was required, together with all others, to shave off my beard. In 1986, I was ordered by a senior chaplain to remove my kippah with my uniform, and for two full years, I could not wear my skullcap. It took an act of Congress for me and all others who desired so, to wear a kippah or other religious attire with their uniform.

Naturally, my “Orthodox” religious practices, including Shabbat and kashrut observances, were deemed extreme in the Navy environment. This adversely affected my status in the Navy and to this day I am dealing with the implications of my treatment as a chaplain in military service.

Silver Spring


In favor of truths and facts

Regarding “The promising dawn of a new day” (Editorial, Jan. 27): President Joe Biden’s inauguration is a return to normalcy and reality. Our new president has demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility to address the crises and challenges that await us. That is a huge breath of fresh air.

There is a difference between constructive change and destructive change. Former president Donald Trump’s unwillingness and incompetence in addressing a pandemic that has cost many more lives than necessary, combined with a coup attempt against the election of his victorious challenger, is one of the worst kinds of destructive change that our country can bear.

If this nation has any chance of ending the current “uncivil’ war that Biden has talked about, it must embrace constructive changes based on truths and facts.


What’s not to like?

Regarding the Jan. 21 issue: From ages 19 to 96: Mr. Isaac Gendelman’s life story, written by Abigail Leibowitz; Rep. Jamie Raskin on the U.S. Constitution and Congress; Rabbi Jordan Hersh and his fellow National Guard units at the Capitol; Mr. Jerome Price teaching classes on African-American history at Tikvat Israel Congregation, invited by Rabbi Marc Israel; Rabbi Craig Axler’s d’var Torah; Chef Michael Solomov’s Israeli cuisine; Mr. John Netzel talking to the animals; Mr. Joe Goldberg and his camera. Women were represented by music icon Debbie Friedman (z”l) and actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, among others.

Thank you. Your readers surely join me in looking forward to more.


A stark contrast

WJW’s Jan. 21 issue had two startlingly different articles. The beautifully written, moving report by Abigail Leibowitz about the remarkable life of Isaac Gendelman (“Weed patties, potato skins and hope”) contrasted with the softball questions tossed to Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) (“The stakes could not be any higher”).

Abigail was able to convey the incredible trials experienced by a young man miraculously surviving the horrors of the Holocaust, later emigrating to the United States and living a fully productive life. The article was uplifting and a remarkable writing achievement by a high school senior.

In contrast, the interview with Raskin revealed a member of Congress claiming to be a professor of constitutional law who has been chosen to lead an impeachment of a president who is no longer in office.

Yes, the contrast between the two reports could not have been more stark.


(Editor’s note: Rep. Jamie Raskin is a professor of law emeritus at American University Washington College of Law. He is also founding director of the Program on Law and Government and co-founder of the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project.)

A bifecta at best

The fourth paragraph of “Biden’s window of opportunity” (Editorial, Jan. 14) is technically incorrect. Referring to the Senate race, which gave control to the Democrats, you wrote that the results “gave the Democrats the political trifecta — control of the three branches of government.”

The three branches of our government are the executive, legislative and judicial branches. The House and the Senate constitute the legislative branch; they are not separate branches.

Thus, the best one could say is that the Democrats now control two of the three branches of government. The judicial branch is not part of the Democratic equation, and probably won’t be for the foreseeable future. But, then again, there was the Earl Warren Court.



The Jan. 28 Synagogue Spotlight about Mishkan Torah misgendered Todd Kliman’s children. He has two sons.

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