Shame on Jonathan Tobin for having the chutzpah to tell us not to invoke our Judaism in our fight for reproductive justice (“Don’t use Judaism as a weapon in the abortion debate,” Opinions, July 7). For myself, and millions of other Jewish women, our lives and the wellbeing of our families are dependent on our unrestricted ability to access abortion care, and it is both a religious and moral imperative to fight “personhood” legislation informed solely by Christian religious values. Now is not the time for hand-wringing — I should add, especially by an author who is not himself in possession of a uterus — but rather for closing ranks and supporting our Jewish sisters and brothers in our fight against state-sanctioned Christian religious fundamentalism.
Separation of church and embarrassment
Regarding Rabbi Charles Arian’s “How voluntary were those prayers?” (Opinion, July 7):
I was on our high school track and field team (and was the worst pole vaulter in the school’s history). Before track meets the coach gathered the team, gave a pep talk, then said, “Everyone down on one knee!” and led all the athletes in the Lord’s Prayer.
As a young Jew with a decent Jewish background, I had never heard of this prayer and certainly didn’t know the words. I felt uncomfortable being on one knee, but I knew I wasn’t praying, so I judged it OK and not idolatry. Today as an adult, if my child was in a similar situation, I would counsel them to step aside and remain standing, and I would want to contact the coach. My child would probably stop me from embarrassing them.
Breach of Establishment Clause
Rabbi Arian is spot on with his questioning of motives of the six U.S. Supreme Court justices who wrote the majority decision over school prayer in a case involving a school district in Washington state. It is a big breach of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
In addition, as Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissenting opinion, based on the Bremerton School District’s own religious practices policy, “school staff shall neither encourage or discourage a student from engaging in non-disruptive oral or silent prayer or any other form of devotional activity.”
The majority opinion was based on an ideological agenda, instead of the merits of the case.
Regarding “Book on rabbinic abuse hits home” (Arts & Culture, June 30):
I believe that every person contains within them a spark of the divine and that even the most serious offender is more than their worst act. However, for your reviewer Aaron Leibel to conclude his review of Elana Sztokman’s book, “When Rabbis Abuse: Power, Gender, and Status in the Dynamics of Sexual Abuse in Jewish Culture” with the words “It is easy to have compassion for the victims of abuse; it’s more difficult to understand and sympathize with what may have caused the abusers to transgress. But we need to make the effort” minimizes the pain of the victims of clergy abuse and disrespects their profoundly unwelcome experiences. It completely distorts the message of the author of the book being reviewed and her recommendations for our community.
RABBI MELANIE ARON
The writer is rabbi emerita of Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos, Calif.
The case of the out-of-place handprints
The recent op-ed by Andrew Silow-Carroll about discussions with his wife about leaving handprints on the kitchen cupboards (“The Torah supports me in an argument with my wife that I’ll never win,” Opinions, June 30) brought back memories of my late partner, Carl, who did the same thing until an embarrassing incident made him stop.
He used to buy cakes and pastries to snack on, and since these items were in the house, I would eat them, too, even though I shouldn’t have. So I asked him to keep them at the office, and uncharacteristically, he did — or so I thought.
One day I came home from work and noticed black handprints on the doors to the little cupboard above the refrigerator that no one ever uses. I wondered what Carl was doing up there, so I took out a step ladder, climbed up to investigate — and discovered his secret stash of snacks! He also ended up taking on the job of cleaning off the cupboard doors — and he kept his snacks at the office after that.
Prayer for non-believers
Your op-ed on “Religion for non-believers” (Opinion, June 23) rang true with me in highlighting that prayer — especially communal prayer — can be a very important healing and grounding experience, even for non-believers. For me, it is summed up by the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:
“Prayer cannot bring water to parched fields, or mend a broken bridge or rebuild a ruined city; but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart and rebuild a weakened will.”