To the Editor:
While I appreciate Mr. [sic] Chanes attempt at categorizing different groups within the Jewish World, I find it slightly disingenuous. While quick to sort the Orthodox Jewish population into neat sections, he swiftly takes the title of “Modern” away from those who he deems “Centrist,” yet who outside of his Op-Ed identify as Modern Orthodox. I recognize Chanes is trying to develop a “New Taxonomy,” yet I’m fairly confident that vast swaths of his “Centrist” circles would not so readily yield the mantle of “Modern” to a group slowly distancing itself from accepted practice. I use the word “distancing,” because while Chanes calls the actions and decisions of his new “Modern Orthodoxy” (with whom he identifies) “exciting,” many would find them more closely synonymous with untraditional, capricious, and yes, UN-orthodox. Neither he, nor isolated and “beleaguered” (as he puts it) local groups and their Rabbis have the authority to assert themselves a new form of Orthodoxy and steal the title “Modern” because of their willingness to “push the envelope” in regards to tradition, be imprecisely “open”and decide others have moved “rightward.” While I recognize people will practice as they see fit, I am concerned for future generations (of which I’m included as a young adult) being thrust into ever more complicated religious practice because of internal mis-categorization and attempts to usurp the titles which the majority wishes to maintain. Alexander Strauss Teaneck, NJ
To the Editor:
I have so far enjoyed watching your publication grow. However, I must write to you immediately about the recent article you allowed to be published about March of the Living.
As a former employee of the organization I would like to say that when a person gives their opinion, they should do it once educated about what they are writing about. MOL is in no way putting on a show.
The time I spent there (12 years) was the most exciting time I’ve ever had in a job. First of all, this is a group that brought over 25 state heads of education to Poland in order to educate them on the Holocaust and the travesty that occurred. They bring with them survivors so that the young and old that are on the trip hear first-hand what these people went through. They walk with them to the barracks they lived in throughout the war. They bring Jewish and non-Jewish historians to educate all the participants. To my knowledge, the participants are well educated before, during, and after the trip in order to bring knowledge to those who want to deny the Holocaust. Saying that all they want to do is make fanfare comes from an uneducated individual, and printing it backs that up. I am very disappointed and feel you owe the organization and public apology.
MOL was founded on the principle of “Never Again” and it has spread the word to far more places than your writer could imagine. I personally read the responses of many of those heads of state who went on the trip. Many decided to change their curriculum after the trip. They were duly impressed with the speakers that came from various backgrounds and religions.
This is not a flippant organization by any means. They end the trip in Israel so that people understand its importance as well. It is a very emotionally draining trip and the participants need that uplift.
It has also been known as the March of Remembrance and Hope; what does that say? The pictures of participants doing the actual march is to be viewed as moving, not a ploy.
Every seminary and yeshiva in Israel that takes students to Israel does the same thing. Does that mean they all are doing it wrong? Do your research.
Please do your homework before printing things like this again. Sincerely, AH Proud former Administrative Assistant March of the Living
Letter to the Editor:
I was very disturbed reading Mr. Chanes’ article about the March of the Living. Would you have someone review a restaurant without eating there or a play not having seen it? How can Mr. Chanes, as well intentioned as he might be, talk about the experience of being on the March without having participated in it? His sense is based on what he heard from classmates that is far from what it feels like to be there.
I had the priveledge a few years ago of accompanying a group of adolescents from our area as a chaperone on the March of the Living. Most of these youngsters were marginally aware of their Judaism and were mostly unaffiliated Jews. The trip made them profoundly aware of their identity and appreciative of what the State of Israel means to us today. Far from being a “spectacle,” the March is a celebration—yes, a celebration—of the survival of the Jewish people. There is no better way to honor the memory of the martyred men, women and children, than to have thousands of young Jews return to the sites of the horrific attempt at the destruction of our people and to show that it didn’t and will never happen again. How better to honor their memory than to say Kaddish at those sites when there was no one to say Kaddish for them at their untimely deaths. Calling these efforts “histrionics” is what demeans the deaths of our people.
As for “hidebound nationalism” being a bit much and realizing how meaningful Poland was upon arriving in Israel being “a problem,” I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Israel isn’t in “need of everyone’s protection at all times.” It’s quite the opposite. After experiencing the degradation, the humiliation, and the inhumanity forced on our defenseless relatives by the perpetrators of the Holocaust, these previously unaware teenagers literally kissed the ground when they arrived in Israel. The sight of the first Israeli soldier shouldering an Uzi to protect THEM brought many to tears
The March of the Living was a life-changing experience for all those who attended. I cannot comment on the 9/11 Memorial Museum as I have not yet had the opportunity to visit it. Perhaps Mr. Chanes should take the same approach and reserve his critiques for his experiences and not making judgments based on hearsay. Sincerely, David H Wisotsky, M.D. Teaneck, NJ
To the Editor:
Next week, a Jewish institution in Bergen County is bringing a traveling circus to its grounds.
The circus traces its history to the Roman Circus Maximus, an arena constructed between two of Rome’s seven hills, where Romans attended wild-animal displays. Although the events staged in the Circus Maximus began as benign entertainment, they became increasingly violent spectacles. The audience paid little attention to the slaves and animals injured or killed during these events because they were “nonpersons” in Roman law.
That is the antecedent of the modern circus. It was not a harmless entertainment in the past, and it is not a harmless entertainment in the present. In traveling circuses, especially, wild animals cannot move around or exercise naturally. They live their whole lives chained or tied up, or in small cages that fit on the back of a truck. Investigations show that violence to control animals is part of circus culture: animals are beaten, whipped and electric shocked to make them perform tricks.
Judaism places great stress on proper treatment of animals. Tza’ar ba’alei chayim, cruelty to animals, is strictly forbidden, and in many cases, animals are accorded the same sensitivity as human beings. Judaism has always recognized the link between the way a person treats animals and the way a person treats human beings.
So, why would a Jewish institution sponsor a circus with wild animals? The institution could just as easily bring an animal-free circus to its grounds for the enjoyment of families, renowned circuses such as:
Cirque Éloize, which weaves traditional circus thrills into narratives, creating a dramatic, sophisticated blend of theater and circus.
Lazer Vaudeville, which dazzles audiences with high-tech black lights, lasers, and magic.
Circus Finelli, which features female clowns.
Circus Luminous, which features a flying trapeze, elaborate choreography, and a turn-of-the-century look.
A full list of animal-friendly circuses is available at this site: www.mediapeta.com/ peta/pdf/animal-free-circuses-pdf.pdf. Perhaps next year the Bergen County Jewish institution will consult this list and consider bringing a circus to its grounds that honors Judaism’s prohibition of tza’ar ba’alei chayim. Anna Olswanger Fair Lawn, NJ