Letters | May 5, 2021

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Much to admire

Regarding “Holocaust museum honors Stuart Eizenstat” (April 29): Having known Stu since after his arrival for the Carter administration as a board member of the JCC of Greater Washington, I have greatly admired the contributions he has made to our country as well as the greater Washington Jewish community.

LEE BURSTYN
Potomac


The driving decision all over again

Regarding “A year into the pandemic, Conservative Jews consider whether to make Zoom prayer permanent” (April 22): Even before my rabbinical ordination at the end of 1975, I was concerned about certain liberal decisions within the Conservative Movement by the Rabbinical Assembly. Your comprehensive article on the topic of the pandemic and whether or not to make Zoom Shabbat prayer permanent, touched on several issues of the past, present and future.

Highlighted was the decision to permit driving on Shabbat, a controversial decision of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, when it was passed. The article, while focusing on making Zooming of services permanent, correctly highlighted Rabbi Avram Reisner, saying he “loathes the driving decision….”

https://www.washingtonjewishweek.com/enewsletter/

I have some personal memories of the Shabbat driving issue. The decision, while seen by many as vital to survival of Conservative Judaism, was so problematic that the name of the committee at the time was changed from the “Committee on Jewish Law” to the “Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.” The word “standards” was added to satisfy many traditionalists, especially my teacher Dr. Louis Finkelstein, the then chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary. While driving to and from shul on Shabbat in halachic (Jewish legal) terms is clearly forbidden, it will be permitted to allow for better synagogue attendance.

My dear teacher Rabbi Dr. Robert Gordis told us in class that he and two other rabbis were the ones who presented the Shabbat driving teshuvah (responsum) to the committee. Dr. Gordis emphatically said that this was a grave mistake. He said that it did not help the Conservative movement and synagogues in any way. He said that no Jews became better synagogue participants due to the decision or better Shabbat observers. Additionally, he pointed out that neither he nor the other two rabbis with him ever drove, even though they presented this for approval by the committee.


RABBI SANFORD H. SHUDNOW
Chaplain, U.S. Navy (retired)
Silver Spring

A serious mental health problem

Regarding “The Gun Problem” (Editorial, April 28): WJW is spot on with its alarm over our country’s obsession with firearms. Mass shootings of victims varying from young schoolchildren to Asian Americans and Jews is symptomatic of a nation with a serious mental health problem.

Addressing how we respond to massive changes in our lives and our nation through discussion and compromise, rather than my way or the highway, will go a long way in our search for common-sense gun laws.

BARRY DWORK
Alexandria

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