Letters Sept. 21, 2017

Slepak should have rested among “inspiring Jews”

The obituary of Maria Slepak, with the story of how she bravely resisted Soviet authorities for almost 20 years, was not among the “11 inspiring Jews who died in 5777,” (Sept. 14).

Slepak’s obituary was instead relegated to the last page of the issue. In her place among the “inspiring Jews” could be found Zsa Zsa Gabor, one of the most vacuous, embarrassing Jews of her era.

As the late great Don Rickles might have put it, “Which one of you hockey pucks made that decision?!”

MICHAEL SULTAN

Springfield

Ritual alone plays critical role

I take exception to Gary D. Simms’ d’var Torah (“Don’t leave out the ‘why’ of ritual,” Sept. 7). He assumes that ritual and its meaning should always be present, that “rote ritual without prayer is hollow.” There are times in Jewish history that ritual alone was critical to the continuity of the faith. This was particularly true during the Babylonian captivity where Jews continued the rituals, but prayers were frequently forgotten in isolation from the larger community.

In more recent times, when Jews were barely surviving in the concentration camps, without support from a wider Jewish mishpacha, ritual alone was possible, but not necessarily spoken prayer. When Jews immigrated to Israel and elsewhere following World War II, ritual without prayer and even meaning, when once again embraced by the Jewish diaspora, regained its “why.”

Clearly, ritual in and of itself was critical in ensuring continuity of the faith during its often volatile and troubled times in its history.

JOHN GLASER

Alexandria

Not cheap, but accessible to all

Your unfortunate headline “High Holiday Services on the Cheap,” (Sept. 7) has me shaking my head. In a day and age when so many Jewish organizations are trying to find a way to reach out to the unaffiliated, young adults, young families and nontraditional Jews, perhaps you could have put a different spin on the story.

These congregations have opened their doors to make the High Holy Days more accessible to everyone. Using the word “cheap” next to anything Jewish perpetuates a stereotype. I don’t expect to see it in the Washington Jewish Week. Thank you to all congregations who open their doors to everyone.

ROSE JACOB

The writer is a rabbi serving the Jewish communities in Haymarket, Gainesville, Culpeper and Warrenton, and Rappahanock and Madison counties in Virginia.

BDS seen as a worthwhile tactic

Thank you for the contrasting op-ed pieces about Israel’s refusal to allow an interfaith group including a rabbi from entrance to Israel. Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman’s temperate article (“Why rabbis like me oppose Israel’s ban on BDS activists,” Voices, Sept. 7) reporting on the letter opposing this ban signed by 230 Jewish religious leaders and students, contrasted with the polemical defense of the travel ban by Anne Herzberg (“Objections to Israel’s BDS law are overwrought and hypocritical,” Voices, Sept. 7).

Israel has every right to express concerns about the BDS movement but should not prohibit a dialogue with Jewish supporters of Israel concerned with the human tragedy of a 50-year West Bank occupation resulting in a suppression of human rights and a coarsening of Israeli behavior towards Palestinians. For an increasing number of Jews, social and economic pressure on Israel is a tactic intended to regain Israel’s integrity as a nation and promote a two-state solution. Boycotting debate on Israel’s future by those concerned for Israel’s well-being is no sign of an open society.

As we are reminded at this time of year we have sinned, we must acknowledge and address our conduct and do better. We cannot expect less of our national home, which too should acknowledge the effects of its conduct and the need for resolution.

DAVID L. RABIN

Chevy Chase

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