Focus on Your Mission

As someone who was also previously featured in the “Beshert” column with my Jewish wife, I must add my disappointed voice to Seth S.’s well-written letter (“Intermarriage a Disappointment,” Feb. 7). Although the JT does not bill itself as a “religious” organization, its admirable goal is to “build and strengthen the Jewish community,” and it serves as a public face for the Jewish community to many.

Focusing a well-regarded column on intermarried couples, and not on the myriad Jewish marriages that occur monthly in Baltimore, does not even come close to achieving this goal. Sadly enough, it deters from strengthening the community by making it the norm to consider intermarriage these days.

If the JT purports to “build andstrengthen the Jewish community,” it should publicly disavow itself from intermarriage, rather than overtly advertise it in its pages.

Joshua Friedman

Why the Need for a Nation-State?

Rev. Chris Leighton’s wording about “the Jewish yearning for their own homeland” was meticulously chosen (“The Presbyterian problem with Israel,” Feb. 14). In the clash of narratives percolated by the Arab-Israeli conflict, spin and fact often seem interchangeable.

Amid this epistemological morass, however, there abides the following historical truth: There is nothing in the traditional Jewish desire to return to the Land that necessitates it take the form of the modern entity we know as the nation-state.

All that is required, at least in pre-Messianic times, is that Jews may worship freely and observe the commandments on the soil of Eretz Yisrael, regardless of which political entity, Jewish or gentile, exercises sovereign jurisdiction over the territory. In my view, what has now altered this calculation is the Holocaust, with the lesson learned from that unfathomable tragedy being that the Jewish people can only rely upon themselves to guarantee their own political safety and welfare.

This is a practical consideration, not a theological one. The bottom-line rationale is that something like a Jewish state is needed to ensure that there be at least one place on earth where the phrase “dirty Jew” merely refers to an  individual who has not bathed for a week.

Stanleigh Cohen

Uncomfortable Conversations Valuable

Congratulations to Janet Kurland and Gail Lipsitz from Jewish Community Services on their article that appeared in The Associated insert Jewish Boomer (“5 Key Conversations With Your Parents,” Jan. 31). Their advice and observations are right on target and something we encounter every day with visits from families considering a move for their loved ones.

These conversations, though often uncomfortable, are of huge importance. And while there is every temptation to put off these issues until “the right time,” that right time is often too late.

If children wait for a significant event such as a broken hip, stroke or death of a spouse, there are diminished options for their parent or parents to maintain, or at least to maximize,
their independence and dignity. Thank you for bringing more awareness of these important issues to our community.

Mark E. Pressman
Executive Director, North Oaks

Whose Vision is Correct?

I have to agree with your desire that all of us Jews be more tolerant of each other’s beliefs (“Searching for Harmony,” Jan. 31). Which of us can say that we are the ones to correctly interpret each part of the Torah?!

This reminds me of a d’var Torah that I wrote many, many years ago. It treated Balaam and the talking donkey, who first swerved off the path and into the fields when it saw the path blocked by an angel with a drawn sword. The donkey then squeezed against the fence when it saw the angel standing in the passageway, partially blocking it. Finally the donkey laid down when it saw that the angel had totally blocked the passage.

Although Balaam was a prophet who received inspired communications from G-d, he could not see the angel at first. When a person truly tries to understand the messages from G-d, that person may only see what G-d reveals to him. But how can a person be sure that his or her vision is the only correct one? Maybe the various visions are all part of some greater truth? Maybe the version we see is only a partial view of the entire truth. So how can one say that the other person is wrong — or limited — in his interpretation?

Bernard Cataldo

Loehmann’s More Than Just a Store

Though I agree stores are replaceable and I can “find bargains elsewhere,” Loehmann’s offered more than just a shopping experience (“Stores Are Replaceable!” Jan. 31). In fact, Loeh-mann’s served as a modern “Red Tent” for women.

Growing up in New York, I have vague memories of being a very little girl and driving to this strange place to see women in their underwear in the giant common dressing room in Brooklyn or the Bronx. Everyone was trying on clothes and talking and laughing. Strangers became friends and sisters to support and guide one another. The key was, it was a journey I made with my sister, mother, grandmother and aunts.

As the years went on wherever I lived, I went to Loehmann’s to find my new Jewish connection point. Whether it was Brooklyn, Long Island, Los Angeles, Florida or Maryland, I knew I could always have a successful shop and no doubt always find wise women to support me. Wherever we were, the women left the men and had their day of fun and freedom.

The closing of Loehmann’s is the end of an era of women coming together to be themselves in all forms of nakedness and rallying to make each woman look her best, and, yes, at discount prices. The family memories I have for almost 50 years of my life truly make my heart ache at this loss.

Leslie Windman

Be Aware of Differences

In reference to the article regarding the new mosque on Park Heights Avenue (“Coming Together,” Jan. 31), I think it is great that we welcome them. Ultimately, it is not our business who our neighbors are as long as we treat each other with respect. We should be aware that the Ahmadi group, the sect of this mosque, is considered by Muslims a “non-Muslim minority,” the same category as that applied to the Druze community, and that Pakistani law forbids their identification as Muslims.

An Ahmadi British citizen was even recently arrested in Pakistan for the simple act of reading the Koran in public. The Ahmadi U.S. organization makes it sound like it is part of the normative Islamic community, for whatever reason.

The Jewish community is very familiar with internal rifts and disagreements within a faith community. Responses to those disagreements do not go so far as the extremes we unfortunately see in the Muslim world, thank God. We should be aware of these differences within the Muslim community, so we and they can be better neighbors.

Harold Lehmann

No More Tears

I applaud Hannah Heller’s recent letter to the editor (“Stores Are Replaceable!” Jan. 31) regarding the article concerning the closing of Loehmann’s. As Robert Alan Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan, once sang, “Now’s not the time for your tears.”

Gary Kenneth Bass

Bureaucrat an Unfair Judge

In reference to Itamar Tubul, who acts as judge, jury and executioner on who can marry in Israel (“Israeli Bureaucrat Decides Who Can Marry in the Jewish State,” Jan. 17), my question is, Who died and made him G-d to decide who can be married?

I am sure that there are letters people are bringing from prominent rabbis that are on the up and up but are rejected by Tubul because they do not come from the same sect as he does. I only have pity on him for judging other people’s lives.

Barry Yoffee

Harmony Not the Issue

I don’t believe I am intolerant, nor those Orthodox women who do not wear tefillin (“Searching for Harmony,” Jan. 31). It is a painful subject that should not be dealt with in a flippant manner. If only harmony was the issue, and if only you had dealt with it seriously.

Rabbi Yitzchok Lowenbraun
National Director, AJOP

Labels Are for Jackets

I enjoyed your article on the question of internal divisions in the movements and not judging a book by its cover (“Searching for Harmony,” Jan. 31). As I was hosting the first-ever AIPAC event in Howard County, Rabbi Morris Zimbalist — a JTS-ordained rabbi working for AIPAC — and I stood with my very close friend, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sufrin of Chabad of Clarksville, who has asserted that “labels are for suit jackets, not Jews.”

I’m sure it’s said often in the Chabad world, but even as someone who deeply believes in denominations and what they represent, I also believe in the futility of labels, particularly when they’re being used as a hammer to pull down and not build up.

Yasher ko’ach!

Rabbi Craig Axler
Temple Isaiah