Letters | Nov. 11, 2020


Rhymes with wiretap

I was so thrilled to see the article about Cliff Fishman in the Nov. 5 issue, lauding his literary talents (“Crime fighter turned poet”). I had the good fortune to have had him for a couple of classes when I studied law at Catholic University years ago.

He was a star teacher with a wry sense of humor. He based his Evidence finals on Shakespeare plays and gave extra credit if you could identify the play. In my year, the play was King Lear. Fishman was also an expert on electronic eavesdropping and wiretapping.


Why convert?

Regarding “I converted through Reform Judaism. Stop telling me I’m not a Jew” (Opinion, Nov. 5):


Jessy Kuehne never explains why she converted to Judaism other than as an extension to her social relationships with Jews in her community. Mostly, she harangues against other (religious) Jews.

She writes about a woman who could not get tickets for the High Holiday at Orthodox services. No Orthodox rabbi I have known would deny a family attendance.

If Kuehne feels she is a Jew, why does she seek affirmation from other Jews?

Silver Spring

Truth to power

I enjoyed learning about Beth Torah Congregation and Rabbi Mendel Abrams (“Twilight in the House of Torah,” Nov. 5).

One additional milestone to add to Rabbi Abrams’ long and rich history of distinguished contribution: He was the guest chaplain in the House of Representatives — almost exactly 45 years before the article was published.

Rabbi Abrams began his 1975 prayer this way:

“It once happened that a famous mountain climber was being interviewed by a journalist. ‘Why do you climb mountains?’ asked the reporter. ‘To get to the top,’ was the reply. ‘Why do you want to get to the top?’ ‘In order to see other mountains,’ answered the climber.
“On this day, Nov. 3, You, O God, have given us another opportunity to scale the heights; to lift ourselves nearer to Thee.”

No other rabbi has ever told Congress such a story. It’s worth remembering as well.


The writer is the author of “When Rabbis Bless Congress: The Great American Story of Jewish Prayers on Capitol Hill.”

What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor

Applause to WJW for two thought-provoking opinion pieces in the Nov. 5 issue: “I converted through Reform Judaism. Stop telling me I’m not a Jew,” and “Is there a way back from a broken political culture?” Both dealt with how individuals treat others with whom they might differ religiously or politically. What was so disturbing was that in both cases, the authors cited examples of intolerance by self-identifying observant Jews.

These two articles offer a significant challenge to our rabbinical leadership to bring congregants back from the abyss. Being Jewish should mean more than where we go to pray and whether or not we keep kosher. Good Jews should behave tolerantly to all their fellow citizens, and certainly not less so to fellow Jews.


Manna Food Center fights food insecurity

Regarding “Jewish Community not immune to food insecurity” (Nov. 5):

Suzanne Pollak’s article was both timely and important, since many of our neighbors do not have enough money to feed their families. Pollak listed several Jewish organizations that have stepped up to address the problem, but there was one important omission: Manna Food Center, which is Montgomery County’s largest food bank, recently awarded Temple Beth Ami its All Star Community Trophy for collecting the most food for it — 22,000 pounds. Manna noted that Beth Ami collected almost half of all food given to it by Jewish organizations. I thought it important for your readers to have this information.


Put a hyphen between those words

I found Jonathan D. Sarna’s article “Ruth Bader Ginsburg balanced being American and Jewish. Her delayed funeral is no exception” (Oct. 1) interesting and informative. But I take issue with the repeated distinction between American and Jewish, especially pronounced in his closing sentence, “In death, as in life, she cherished two identities — being an American and being a Jew — even when they failed to easily harmonize.”

From her actions and her words, it seems that Justice Bader Ginsburg, like most American Jews, had no trouble being both American and Jewish. Yes, as minorities, Jews always face challenges, but our contributions and service to America have always been as proud American Jews.

The choices Ginsburg made, as exemplified in the article, seem to speak mainly to her level of Jewish religious observance, not to any kind of challenge balancing religion and country.


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