I Know

I am among many who cheer your paper’s courage for writing so favorably about Elsa Newman (“Judaism Behind Bars,” Oct. 25). I’m a former Maryland child protective services worker. I met Elsa before the crime [conspiracy to murder] and was one of at least 13 who reported child sexual abuse [alleged against Elsa’s husband]. I’ve been in Elsa’s lovely and loved home and met her sons. I know all she was doing to change child abuse laws in Maryland at the time the crime occurred. I know Elsa Newman is innocent.

That’s another story that begs to be told.

Margaret Candler
Maryland
www.justice4elsanewman.com

Remarkable

Thank you for your article describing the plight of observant Jews in prison (“Judaism Behind Bars,” Oct. 25). I have known Elsa Newman for 12 years and have been amazed at her remarkable resilience and her commitment to Jewish values in the most trying of circumstances. There are many observers of her case, like myself, who have come to be convinced of her innocence and shocked at the miscarriage of justice that led to her conviction. I am glad your article has made readers aware of this isolated part of our Jewish community serving time in prison and yearning for deeper connections with the larger Jewish community. It is inspiring how much Elsa Newman has given to the prison community while fighting for her freedom.

Dr. Joyanna Silberg
Maryland

Make Calls, Please

I want to thank Marc Shapiro and Maayan Jaffe for having the courage to write the story about the difficulty in getting a traffic light by the Bais Yaakov School on Smith Avenue. I would be remiss, however, if I did not make a few comments.

My purpose in pushing for this story was not to see my name in print. Rather, my sole objective is for your readers to know why we do not have the traffic light and what your readers can do about it. … I try to teach my students how to get bad politicians and bureaucrats to make good decisions despite the fact that they are bad politicians and bureaucrats. … The only way we can get this injustice corrected is to make calls to Kevin Kamenetz, Vicki Almond and Edward Adams and let them know that their refusal to put up the light does a tremendous disservice to the students, faculty, parents and members of the community. … Seize the moment — make the calls!

Ralph Jaffe
Baltimore

Quick Clarification

I am very appreciative to the Baltimore Jewish Times and to Gabriel Lewin for the kind coverage regarding the rededication of the gravesite of Rabbi and Rebbitzen Abraham Rice (“Ha’Posek,” Oct. 18). Rabbi Rice represents a very significant historical figure in early American Jewish history. As well, his contribution to the preservation of traditional Orthodox practices took place in Baltimore and is evident in the vibrant Orthodoxy in Baltimore and the Shearith Israel Congregation, which remains a strong Orthodox Jewish synagogue to this day.

I feel it is necessary to correct one aspect of the article. Lewin states that Rabbi Rice’s efforts to bring more traditional Orthodox Jewish practices to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation were met with resistance by its Reform movement members. This may be incorrectly understood to mean that Baltimore Hebrew Congregation (Nidche Yisroel) was a Reform congregation in 1840 when Rabbi Rice became its spiritual leader. In fact, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation was clearly an Orthodox synagogue at that time. Rabbi Rice was dedicated to the preservation and growth of the Orthodox practices in Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and in the United States. In 1842, those few congregants who did not agree with his insistence on strengthening the Orthodox traditions broke away and formed Har Sinai Verein, which used the Reform prayer book from Germany and installed an organ into the service. Baltimore Hebrew Congregation refused to lend a sefer Torah to this new Reform congregation.

Throughout his time in Baltimore until his death in 1862, Rabbi Rice steadfastly fought to preserve traditional Judaism. In 1850, he resigned from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation because of conflicts with congregational members wanting to institute gradual change. He did return to Baltimore Hebrew in 1862 and passed away several months later. Baltimore Hebrew Congregation remained an Orthodox Jewish synagogue until 1873 when family pews were installed, an organ was introduced into the synagogue service, and a three-year cycle of reading the Torah portion was adopted, along with multiple other changes conforming to the Reform rituals.

There are multiple sources available documenting Rabbi Rice’s history. Quite proudly, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, in a 1976 book dedicated to its history, “A Chronicle of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation 1830 to 1975” by Rose Greenberg, clearly documents the contributions of Rabbi Rice to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s Orthodoxy during the period of Rabbi Rice’s tenure.

Robert B. Lehman, M.D.
Baltimore

Advocating For The Deaf

I am writing this as a Jewish person requesting that your paper start supporting the deaf Jewish population by joining with JADE [Jewish Advocates for Deaf Education] to make Jewish events accessible to the deaf. One who is deaf should not have to be omitted from such important events because they don’t have an interpreter. I feel you are in a position to help and advocate for the Jewish population that is deaf; it would be a mitzvah to advertise how important it is for this population be included in all things, especially Jewish events. Thank you for your part in this very important mission.
Elyse Schochet
Baltimore

Editor’s Note: The JT ran “Deaf Community’s Concerns Heard” on Oct. 4 and strongly supports JADE and its efforts on behalf of the deaf.

Sad To Say

Allow me to string together three articles that appeared in the Oct. 11 Baltimore Jewish Times.

A JTA Wire Service item, “They Love This Stuff,” outlined “the battle over President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law … that led … to a shutdown of the government.” Judaism has a dog in this fight: Halacha regards health care as a right, not a privilege. Further, according to research conducted by former Baltimorean Rabbi Dr. Alan Yuter (a Republican, by the way), it even prefers a single-payer system. This is what the citizens of the State of Israel enjoy. In this imbroglio, I accuse Congressman Andy Harris (R-Md.) of values malpractice. Harris is a physician by trade, an M.D. All physicians take the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.” Yet, as part of the “Tyranny of the Minority” (JT editorial), Harris supported Tea Party efforts to shut down the government in order to prevent poor people from having greater access to health insurance and private (not government) health insurance, at that. Harris’ wife is Jewish, a fact that is kept quiet, unlike the case with Rep. John Sarbanes (“Sarbanes, The Jazz Musician”). Rep. Harris is the same individual who, at an orientation session for freshmen congressmen in October 2010, demanded “to know why his government-subsidized health plan takes a month to kick in” (“Politico,” Oct. 15, 2010). This crybaby kvetch even made the national news. Sad to say, but these days “M.D.” — in his case — apparently stands for malpractice defendant.
S.R. Cohen
Baltimore

Judaism Starts At Birth

As an early childhood educator with many years of experience in the field, I would like to comment and add to what Laurie Legum had to say about helping young children acquire a Jewish identity (“Mommy Musings,” Oct. 11).

Children learn from the moment of birth; they cannot verbalize what they learn, but they are influenced by the environment in which they live, as well as the many tangible experiences that they will have. Young children see, touch, hear, feel and taste, and it is through these experiences that their Jewish identity begins to grow and develop. Watching a mother light Sabbath candles while hearing the prayer, singing songs about the Sabbath and reading books about Jewish values and concepts all help in creating a strong Jewish identity. Having special food at holiday time, the smells and tastes are creating experiences for the young child. Waiting until a child is “old enough” to experience a Passover Seder is having wasted much time. Our Sages tell us that a child, a newborn infant, begins to acquire a Jewish identity while being held in his mother’s arms as the rituals, especially Sabbath rituals, which come every week, are being conducted. Repetition is so important. Each of us adults had had many experiences that have shaped who we have become. Unfortunately, adults cannot pass on these experiences to their children; the children must have their own. Judaism is a home-centered religion, because what we acquire from our home experiences helps to create the Jewish memories and experiences that shape us into who we are.

Rena Rotenberg
Baltimore

Unilateral Withdrawal

In response to “Analysis: Our Time To Lead” (Oct. 4): A Palestinian state will eventually be established, but not in the framework of a peace agreement or by negotiations, but rather as a result of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the large majority of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel will not object to a Palestinian declaration of independence and will most probably even offer the establishment of diplomatic relations, although it is not likely the Palestinians will agree to such a step, as they will claim that Israel still occupies its territory. The unilateral Israeli withdrawal will come about if and when a center-left government is established in the Jewish state and is headed by a figure of national stature who has the political strength to make such a far-reaching move. This may take many years, but it will eventually happen.

Outspoken MK Avigdor Lieberman of the ruling Likud-Beiteinu party, and a former foreign minister, is right when he says that peace will not be achieved with the Palestinians in this or in the next generation. A center-left government will thus be continuing what was started by Ariel Sharon, who unilaterally withdrew from all of Gaza and likely intended to continue this move in the West Bank before falling into a coma. His successor, Ehud Olmert, probably had the same thing in mind, but he lacked the political stature for such an act, which would involve the uprooting of tens of thousands of Israeli settlers who live beyond the separation fence, as well as a ceding of large parts of the Biblical homeland in Judea and Samaria and most of East Jerusalem. … The basic premise for such a unilateral Israeli move would be the assumption that the abysmal gaps between the sides cannot be bridged and that Israel, in order to preserve its Jewish and democratic stature, must give up control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem Palestinians. …

To be sure, such a unilateral move has serious drawbacks for Palestinian statehood. Israel will be determining its borders without Palestinian agreement and will maintain control over the border crossings and other key strategic areas of significant size such as the Jordan Valley. … And there is no chance that Israel will totally pull out of any part of the Old City of Jerusalem or from the part of Hebron it controls and the Kiryat Arba settlement, the cradle area of Jewish civilization. But nonetheless, the Palestinians will have a demilitarized state with East Jerusalem as its capital and will have diplomatic missions from virtually the entire world. Hopefully, this, and the fear of once again losing everything, can be a recipe for maintaining a reasonable quiet with Israel. The Palestinians will continue to make demands from Israel, but once a state is established with 90 percent of the West Bank, it will be much more difficult for them to gain international support for action against Israel.

The fact that there is no possibility of achieving a permanent status agreement, or even a meaningful interim agreement, doesn’t mean that Israel should sit idly by. … Israel should work to deepen economic and security cooperation with the Palestinians and take steps to facilitate life in the West Bank. This can certainly help to keep things calm. But the best that can be hoped for is “conflict management,” as Lieberman says. That is until the big unilateral withdrawal to behind the separation fence and from the large majority of East Jerusalem.
Richard Bell
Israel

A Tour De Force

In response to “Analysis: Our Time to Lead” (Oct. 4): I take issue with your dismissive commentary about the fourth J Street Conference. The conference was nothing less than a tour de force. Listening to the broad range of speakers — from MKs representing Shas, Likud, Labor, Ha’Tnuah and Meretz to Israeli, Palestinian and American NGO leaders and think tank experts and from Joe Biden, Martin Indyk and John Lewis to Michael Oren — we were immersed in central issues of the conflict and the peace process from the first moments to the last. The 900 bright, knowledgeable, passionate and committed students, hailing from every region of our country are clearly destined to become future leaders.

As an active member of J Street’s President’s Advisory Council, I am pleased to report that J Street has grown exponentially over the past five years. This is due to the outstanding, principled leadership of Jeremy Ben Ami and the fact that J Street provides a home for those of us in the U.S. and abroad, yes including many Israelis, who love Israel and yet believe it is our right and responsibility to challenge policies and decisions that we believe undermine Israel as a democratic society and Jewish homeland and that could destroy the Zionist dream. … It is also important to emphasize that it is not J Street’s intention to stand in opposition to AIPAC. Both organizations and their members care deeply for Israel. Numerous members of J Street’s leadership, members of the rabbinic cabinet and members of Congress support both J Street and AIPAC. There is more than enough room in Abraham’s tent for the many voices that engage in the dialogue about Israel. Let’s keep expanding, deepening and enriching the public conversation about Israel’s future, especially exploring the issues of democracy, justice and human rights as they pertain to a final status agreement.

Today, especially in light of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s unflagging support of the ongoing peace negotiations, J Street is intensifying its focus on building a constituency of peace advocates. J Street’s newly announced 2 Campaign is designed to explore the difficult choices that Israelis and Palestinians must make to reach a viable, sustainable agreement. In these challenging days ahead, J Street will be inviting our community to discuss the negotiations’ core issues, including security, borders, Jerusalem and the right of return. Now, more than ever, it is our time to support our country’s energetic efforts to turn years of deadlock into a historical achievement.
Joanna Goodwin
Baltimore

We’ve Been Saying It For Years

In your Oct. 4 issue, you wrote an excellent article about the offensive postcard sent to “thousands of residents from Owings Mills to Silver Spring” (“Jewish Christian?!”). I was unaware of this since I did not receive one. As someone who has often been quoted in the JT, it seems that I should say something about this now. First, I agree with you that the “blatant misrepresentation” on the card is unfortunate, even offensive. Although I agree with Tom Cantor’s right to send what he wishes and even agree with him that you can be both Jewish and a talmid of Yeshua, I don’t agree with his tactic. This subject is so sensitive that I can really feel the angst this would cause, especially for older Jewish people. As Marshall McLuhan wrote many decades ago: “The medium is the message.” I don’t care for Mr. Cantor’s medium, particularly because he included logos of a number of Jewish agencies, including your paper’s, on the postcard. That seems deceptive to me and quite unnecessary.

Second, Rabbi Ron Shulman is quoted as saying that a “belief in Jesus goes against any normative strand of Judaism.” This is true — now. …

Third, you mentioned the recent Pew Research Center poll that just discovered that 34 percent of U.S. Jews don’t see a belief in Yeshua as inconsistent with being Jewish. We [Messianic Jews] have been saying this for decades. …
Barry Rubin
Emmanuel Messianic Jewish Congregation
Clarksville