letters to the editor the rabbi’s turn
friday, august 30, 2013 .
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“I contacted a few rabbis on the Internet and told them my story. They helped me with what I needed to practice Shabbat and so on and they even said I can open a shul.I had no idea how to do that.” — Yaakov Baruch, Indonesia’s only rabbi, when he discovered his Jewish roots. Read about this unique man on page 24.
Th spiritul chck-up
Rabbi Joshua samuels
Congrgtion Bth Irl, Bllinghm
In less than a week, we’regoing to be in the thick o theHigh Holy Days. Tis mightnot be a time o celebrationlike Simchat orah or Purim,but unlike those estivals, theHigh Holy Days — and espe-cially the days leading upto them — orce us to think deeply about how we interactwith God, the world aroundus, our loved ones, and our-selves. Tis is what the month o Elul, themonth we are in right now, is all about.In case some o us haven’t yet begunthe process o preparing or the High Holy Days, I would like to share a list o ques-tions which might get us in the propermindset o the yamim nora’im. I nothingelse, this exercise could very well open oureyes and hearts to one specic area in ourlives. Tese questions are meant or every-one to ponder regardless o age, Jewishcommunal participation or denomination.
• Am I walking as lightly as possible upon
the earth? Do I pay attention to my con-sumption o resources and how I disposeo waste?
• Do I make myself aware of other cultures
and peoples? Do I learn about other wayso living and seeing the world?
• Am I informed about pockets of intense
suering in the world and have I donewhat I can to contribute to easing that su-ering?
• What role does Israel play in my life as
• Do I participate in the life of my city? Do
I know who the local political leaders areand what they stand or?
• Am I registered to vote and have I stud
-ied the issues that may aect my daily lie?
• Do I support, in one way or another, the
individuals and groups who are creatingJewish lie in this city? Does my Jewish lieextend beyond the walls o my synagogue,JCC, chavurah or university?
• Do I encourage and support those who
have taken on the responsibility o Jewishleadership?
• Have I thought about taking on more
leadership within my Jewish community?
Our amily, riends and work
• How are my closest relationships? If any
o them are strained, is there anything Icould be doing dierently to help improvethem?
• Do I make time for the most important
relationships in my lie? Do I treat my siblings, children, partner
and parents with respect? Am
I able to see the image o Godwithin each o them?
• Have I called my grandpar
-ents or in-laws recently?
• Do I have close friends in
whom I am able to conde?Do I accept people as they areor do I try to change them?Have I made any new riendsthis past year?
• Am I satised with my occupation? Is
my work an extension o a personal pas-
sion? Am I helping others in some mean
-ingul way whether they know it or not?
• Am I making a dierence as a retiree?
• Am I taking care of my body? Do I exer
-cise enough? Do I eat properly? Do I getenough rest? Do I oss?
• Do I keep my mind active? Do I read
good books? Do I talk about ideas andimportant matters with riends andamily?
• Do I see myself as a child of God —
someone completely unique and specialin this world?
• Is music part of my life? What about
meditation? Do I allow mysel to deeply experience beauty in nature?
• Are there any hobbies I would like to
• Do I pray? Do I speak to God without
asking or anything in return? Do I takethe time to listen or an answer?
• Have I thanked God for existence, for
connecting with specic individuals, orood, or the whole array o mitzvot?
• Have I thought about my relationship
with God and concept o God recently?Tis is not a test. It does not matter how many yeses or nos you answered. Tis is just our annual check-up. Luckily or us,we don’t have to actually get on that scaleor get our teeth scraped. But usually, aerour annual doctor and dentist visits, weare told what we need to do in the comingyear. (“Floss more” — that’s what I’m
always told. When will I learn?) Well, no
one is going to tell you what you need todo or this spiritual check-up. You are thedoctor and the patient. You know what
you ought to do. I hope it’s painless. And I
hope you pay attention to yourselves.I hope you have a meaningul Eluland High Holy Day experience. K’tivah v’chatima tovah, may you be inscribedand sealed or a good year.
ttr frm th dtr
The letters you are about to read are in response to a letter from a member of ourcommunity that ran in the August 16 issue of JTNews. This person, who the respondents belowsee as vehemently critical of Israel, suggested that comments made by the president of thePalestinian Authority differ from what these writers believe. That they have a difference ofopinion is natural and appropriate. We are proud of this paper’s commitment to the conceptof free speech, which allows JTNews to present different facets of what these writers see asaws in their opponent’s argument. What is not appropriate is that some — not all — of theseletter writers do not believe the person they are responding to should be allowed a forum inthe pages of this newspaper to express her views.Let me be clear: We are a community newspaper. We represent our entire community.While I, as editor, do not agree with every letter I receive, it does not mean we will not printthem. As a community newspaper we must represent the whole community, whether or notthe views expressed comport with our beliefs.It is also inappropriate to tie our policy of allowing controversial letters in our pages to theJewish Federation of Greater Seattle. Yes, the Federation owns JTNews, but we are an indepen-dent entity. The Federation does not approve our content, the Federation does not pay our sal-aries, and the opinions of our contributors do not have to reect the opinion of the Federation. Ifwe are to have an independent Jewish newspaper in our community, that is the way it should be.Suggesting, as some critics of us running this letter have done, that people suspend theirdonations to the Federation because we print letters that represent opinions contrary to theirsis not only odious, it’s counterproductive. Pulling support from the Federation will not changeour letters policy, but it harms our community as a whole.A vibrant Jewish community needs a vibrant newspaper to cover and report what’s hap-pening all across its spectrum. As Rabbi Sholom Ber Levitin stated in his Rabbi’s Turn columntwo weeks ago, which ran on the same page as this letter being protested: “As we prepare our-selves for the New Year, standing before the Almighty unied as one people in order to realizethat unity, the challenge is to further develop and sensitize ourselves to true mutual respect.”May you all enter the New Year with a sense of reection and respect for each other.Shana tova,
joel magalnickpulie an io, jte
Our letters guidelines can be found here: www.jtnews.net/index.php?/static/item/611/
th thrd pt
When someone you support says something objectionable, something that’s inconsistentwith your values and incongruent with your beliefs, you generally have two options. You candistance yourself from the offensive message — “I mostly agree with this person, but must takeexception this time.” Or, you can try to rationalize away the disagreement — the other personwas misquoted or mistranslated, the comments were taken out of context, etc. But Linda Frank(“PA does not call for Jew-free state,” Letters, Aug. 16) has found an ingenious, if dishonest,third option: To simply deny the distasteful statement ever took place, even in the face of incon-trovertible evidence and plenty of publicity. Despite clear facts, Ms. Frank plays the role of thetoddler in the sandbox, sticking her ngers in her ears and singing, “La-la-la, I can’t hear you!”The inconvenient and unpleasant truth ies in the face of Ms. Frank’s head-in-the-sand,hear-no-evil naïveté or plain ignorance. Mahmoud Abbas most denitely did say, publicly,unambiguously, and repeatedly — most recently in a speech in Cairo four weeks ago, nota two-year-old “rumor” from two years ago — that there would be no room for Israelis in afuture Palestinian state. (And it is the Palestinians who equate “Israeli” and “Jew”; Israeli Arabs— whom they consider their brethren — obviously would not be excluded from Palestine.) Incontrast, of course, any suggestion that 1.6 million Arabs — one fth of Israelis — should losetheir Israeli citizenship or their homes in Israel when a Palestinian state is established, would be— rightly! — loudly, swiftly, and universally denounced. This is another instance of toddler logic— “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine, too” — demonstrating that Mahmoud Abbasand Linda Frank are birds of a feather.People who claim to be working toward peace and human rights must start by facing andacknowledging the truth, including the nature and views of some of the players they support.Lies, myths, and falsehoods are not a constructive basis for engagement, let alone for recon-ciliation or peace.
eve bake, bellevue