As former chair of the Adult Education Committee of Temple David in Monroeville, I would like to briefly weigh in on the concern voiced by the current spiritual leaders in the Monroeville area over the Chabad House that will soon be, “open for business,” in that community.
Reform and Conservative movements tend to strongly focus on social action as the way to practice Judaism. These movements also often place less emphasis on traditional ritual practice. Quite differently, Chabad provides education, and experiential learning on these often de-emphasized practices of Judaism that virtually all Jews made use of until the last 100 + years. As a former member of a Reform temple, I know that, “informed choice,” is a very important principle of the movement. Providing additional educational opportunities to the Jewish community at large, so individuals can make truly informed choices about how they practice Judaism.
I would also like to respond to a statement that Cantor Berlin made. “They (Chabad) are very well-funded, and they are able to do things that other congregations can’t do in the same way.” As the article noted this statement was in reference to Chabad’s common practice of, “free membership and free meals.” I believe this statement may reflect a misunderstanding of how many Chabad houses work. Chabad houses do not seek to recruit, “members,” because Chabad already considers ALL Jews members of the same Jewish family.
I would like to personally extend a welcome to Rabbi Schapiro, and his family to the eastern suburbs! I believe that the addition of Chabad to the community may lead to the area establishing itself as a suburban “hub” of the larger Pittsburgh Jewish community, where all Jews can learn and experience all that Judaism has to offer our people.
Michael E. Edelstein
Chabad will enrich Monroeville
Your last issue featured a story about fears from a Reform congregation about the new Monroeville Chabad Center.
I don’t know the Chabad rabbi, Rabbi Mendy Schapiro, who is heading up the Chabad house in Monroeville. However, I can assure everyone his presence and programs will be nothing but warm and beneficial to all Jews who are in the slightest looking to expand their knowledge of, and experience of Judaism. Simply put, that is what Chabad is all about.
The selfless married couples who go out all over the world as Chabad shluchim (emissaries) bring an authenticity to everyone they come in contact with, and help Jews in all areas of life, in all ways. It is a blessing to have them all over the world.
Chabad Controversy It is amazing to me how the Reform movement never misses an opportunity to show their ignorance. Temple David’s Rabbi Symons wrote to her congregants that she was concerned that Temple David would lose congregants to the new Chabad coming to the Monroeville area. This may very well happen, as the tolerant Reform movement has become more of a political voice than a spiritual refuge.
The Reform movement has one problem with Chabad that it does not have with the other streams of Judaism: it, like most of the other movements, places money before anything else. Most Chabad rabbis do not have multiyear contracts with their congregations for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They do not have multimillion dollar buildings to operate, or members to impress. The Chabad rabbis raise money themselves for their congregations and most earn a modest living for themselves and their families.
At the High Holidays, fundraising is not the top priority, and every event and activity at the shul is not centered on raising money for the congregation. This is what scares Symons.
The Torah teaches us to love our fellow Jews as we love ourselves. It does not surprise me that Symons does not understand this concept. Symons shows her misguided view of Torah as evidenced in her actions and statements. This is the distorted view of many of the Reform rabbi’s. They need to learn that G-d gave us Torah and the 613 mitzvoth, and that we cannot change them to suit our needs or attract congregants to our temples and synagogues. Symons should realize that the Reform movement is not for everyone, and that Chabad will be a great asset to the East Hills Jewish Community.
Berel Sholom Tzvi
South suburbs of Pittsburgh
(Editor’s note: The writer is a member of Chabad of the South Hills.)
Some forgotten thanks for Bush
Thanks to Abby Wisse Schachter for her paean of thanks to President Bush. There are, however, some additions to be made.
Thanks President Bush, for teaching us the value of a dollar by being the most prolific spender ever, by exploding the federal deficit and destroying the national budget, we are, and our grandchildren and their children eternally indebted — literally and financially.
Thanks for conducting two simultaneous wars badly without a clue of how to end them or to pay for them.
Thanks also for teaching us the value of planning, as the Iraq war is probably one of the all-time poorly planned war campaigns.
Thanks for not raising taxes except on those who are on Medicare. For seven consecutive years, the elderly have paid increased Medicare payments. (If everyone shared the same increases, the budget deficit would have been halved.)
Most important of all, Mr. President, thank you for helping to elect Barack Obama to the presidency. He might not have made it without you. Poor John McCain not only had to run against a charismatic opponent, he also had to run against you. Even Ronald Reagan probably could not have pulled off a victory.
Oh yeah. Thanks for the White House Hanuka party. That’s so cool!
(Editor’s note: The writer is the former executive editor for The Jewish Chronicle.)
Thankful for Bush to be gone
I am thankful for little that this president has done; rather I am gratified that the long reign of George W. Bush is soon to end.
Abby Wisse Schachter thanks the president for removing Saddam Hussein and for thereby making the world safer. There is no doubt that Hussein was a brutal and vicious dictator, but would the Iraqi people whose lives have been turned upside down by our elective occupation be similarly grateful? Schachter ignores the countless deaths and injuries of American and coalition forces and of innocent Iraqis and the refugee calamity that has been created, in which millions of Iraqis have been forced from their homes.
The writer also thanks the president for his friendship to Israel and for staging an annual White House Chanukah party. I applaud the president for his strong ties to Israel, but eight years in office have passed in which no significant progress toward peace in the Middle East has been made, and Israel continues to be a nation whose future existence is placed at risk every day. I would have been more hopeful about the future of Israel if Bill Clinton had been president over the past eight years, bringing his intellect, knowledge, pragmatism, savvy and charm to the process.
I have concerns about a number of facets of a Barack Obama presidency, but there is no question that he will bring change, and that it would be difficult for him to perform in office any worse than George W. Bush. One can only feel more hopeful about our nation with the knowledge that George W. Bush will be enjoying an overdue retirement in Crawford, Texas, where he can do no further harm to our nation.
Oren M. Spiegler
Upper Saint Clair
Thank you Pittsburgh
For almost 16 years it has been my pleasure to represent State of Israel Bonds in Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania. Many of us have had some defining moment in their Jewish life. I grew up with all of the ritual and traditions of our people. There was no question in my mind of my Jewish identity. But these 16 years have had a major impact on me and have been my defining moment. It is through my work with Israel Bonds that my Jewish beliefs have become stronger and I feel my connection with the Jewish people.
During those years I have learned so much from lay leaders, rabbis and clients alike. People like Milt Eisner, Arnold Lazarus, Casey Neuman, Sharon Moskowitz, Stan and Marian Davis, the late Walter Vogel, Alex Silverman and Sherman Shraeger; Rabbis Alvin Berkun, Stephen Steindel and Alexander Greenbaum. The list could go on and on. I have also worked with many dynamic speakers and organized many successful events. I am especially proud of a couple of them: a million dollar synagogue brunch and a $4 million dollar West Virginia Labor Dinner. While Israel Bonds has downsized its Pittsburgh office, and myself and several of my colleagues are no longer part of it, these wonderful memories will not be forgotten.
Professionally, I don’t know what the future has in store for me. However, it would be nice to land somewhere in Pittsburgh where I may see some of the many friends which I have made. Thank you for 16 great years of working with you to grow Israel’s economy and security.
Sorrow over kitchen closing
I am much saddened by the news of the closing of the kosher kitchen at Montefiore Hospital. Reb Samuel (Shmuel) Hankin (my maternal grandfather), who was a scholar and educator of HebrewJewish studies and a founder of the Zionist Organization in Pittsburgh in the early 20th century, was for decades, until his passing in 1959, the “mashgiach,” supervisor, of Montefiore’s kosher kitchen, as appointed by Rabbis Bernard A. Poupko and Wolf Leiter. When I was born in 1943, Zayde Shmuel brought my mother her kosher trays from the hospital kitchen. Where is today’s observant kashrut community?