Who is good for Israel?
In 1982, my husband and I visited his great-uncle in Jerusalem (“Bender JCC disinvites professor over remarks,” Aug. 30). An election for Israeli prime minister was underway. “Who are you voting for?” we asked. “Menachem Begin!” was his quick reply. “Why do you think he’d make a good prime minister?”
“He keeps Shabbos,” explained Uncle Dovid. In Uncle Dovid’s world, someone who is a good Jew was good for Israel.
The Bender JCC’s treatment of Dr. Hasia Diner is an inversion of Uncle Dovid’s reasoning. Someone identified as “not good for Israel” is by extension “not a good Jew.” This perhaps explains why the JCC is open for swimming on Shabbos, while hosting the anti-Zionist but eminent and sympathetic scholar of American Jewish history is bad for the Jews. (Hmm. Are the minority of anti-Zionist haredim welcome at the JCC?)
Now, I’m fine with folks swimming at the JCC on Shabbos, and I oppose Diner’s views on Israel. But I’m not fine with the JCC deciding on new ways to put Jews into herem (excommunication).
Some mussar about Mussar
I enjoyed the article about Mussar and its teachings (“Approaching the High Holidays through the lens of Mussar,” Aug. 30). But the author misidentified the leader of the movement, Rabbi Yisroel Salanter (1809-1883), as the Chofetz Chaim. Rav Salanter was born Ze’ev Wolf Lipkin; the name Salanter was added, as most of his schooling took place in Salant, Lithuania.
The Chofetz Chaim (1838-1933) was born Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan. He was a follower of the Mussar movement founded by Rav Salanter.
A Mussar reflection
This year my Mussar journey has led me to focus on “haughtiness of spirit” (“Approaching the High Holidays through the lens of Mussar,” Aug. 30). A friend teased me for wearing shorts to a board meeting at my synagogue. I didn’t think much of it until the next day I opened a book on Talmud and saw the reading that said, “One who wears their shoes unlaced in the marketplace displays haughtiness of spirit.”
I realized that some of the arrogance issues I thought I had put to bed were still present. Over the next few weeks I’ve seen a few similar examples in my life. I’ll continue to focus on this aspect through the High Holidays.
Polish imagery is disturbing
I was deeply distressed by the “Lucky Jew” article and the negative imagery it displayed (“Why ‘Lucky Jew’ imagery is so popular in Poland,” Aug. 23). I lived and worked in Poland from April 1993 to March 1994. The vast array of anti-Semitic “art” was as prevalent 25 years as it is now.
Even then, a large portrait of a Jew in the stereotypical black robe and hood counting gold coins was up for sale in the Old Town Market Square. But the Great Synagogue that the Nazis leveled as they fled had been replaced by a high-rise office building. There was no signage indicting the existence of that revered place of worship.
By any standard this demeaning trend in stereotyping Jews in general, and played out against the backdrop of the horror of the Holocaust in particular, is unconscionable. History will decide the final outcome of this matter, as Poland itself under its current leaders continues to drift towards totalitarianism. At some point, Polish Jews may not be so “lucky.”