Jewish community leadership claims that we face extinction, but like all other religions, we face apathy and a leadership that did not get the message.
Jews have been fighting for equality and freedom in America for almost 400 years. The 1960s Civil Rights movement was the turning point. Today, American Jews feel free to make whatever choices they feel best, and they are asking, “Why should I join the Jewish community?”
Jews are not renouncing their heritage; they ask “why,” but the community is not answering. Forget more education; the 20-somethings are the best-educated generation in Jewish history; yet they are the ones asking the questions.
After the Six-Day War and the raid on Entebbe, Jews were coming out of the woodwork to join synagogues because they were proud to identify with a people who could do those spectacular things on a battlefield. We cannot use that Wow! Factor, but we have an even better one.
The Pittsburgh Jewish community is vibrant and very active. We need to publicize that fact more so that the 20-somethings and everyone else get the message that the Jewish community is the place to be.
We support 19 community agencies with a $20 million budget. We have religious seminars, intellectual seminars, parenting lectures, interfaith discussions, music concerts, etc. If there is an issue or a topic of current interest, someone in the Jewish community is working on that. We need to publicize our efforts more so that Jews and gentiles alike know how active and vibrant our community is.
Lose the interfaith bashing. Half the current Jewish community is related to a person born a gentile. Every businessman knows that you don’t piss off your customer. Positive energy and enthusiasm sells; negative energy sucks the life out of the community.
Obsessed by the Holocaust
I often receive comments that I must be obsessed by the Holocaust, or I should stop preaching so much about it. After all, many of my colleagues have deep feelings about the Holocaust and have lost family members.
To them I say you are correct about both. I am obsessed because, at simchas, I have no one from past generations except a few cousins.
I am blessed that G-d fulfilled my promise to my parents, of blessed memory, that I would have a station wagon full of kids. My wife, kids and grandchildren are my treasure in life as I am positive the same holds true for you.
With the death of my first cousin, the Holocaust has changed for me. I do not talk about the horrors, but only ask that the memory of those lost be preserved and that we remember what our parents accomplished who came out of the Holocaust.
Now I put my efforts into helping to support Eretz Yisroel. Without the State of Israel, we Jews are in great trouble. Another Holocaust will occur if Israel is nuked. Never forget Israel only has to lose one war and it will be a memory.
I do not trust politicians on either side. They will say and do anything to get your vote and then renege. I do not believe what presidential advisors or generals have to say. I believe the men and women in Israel who will fight for their survival. Most of the world cares little for the Jews. Have we not leaned from history. It is time to get out of Europe. This is my message before the High Holidays.
Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg
(The author is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El in Edison. He also teaches communications at Yeshiva University and Rutgers. He was featured in a recent Chronicle story about Rabbis for Romney.)
Go meatless in 5773
Only a week before Rosh Hashana, a supermarket freezer malfunction in Ottawa, Ontario, resulted in the spoilage of nearly all the kosher meat in the city. This may actually be a blessing in disguise.
Looking at the bigger picture, killing animals for food — kosher or not — causes immeasurable suffering for animals, in violation of Jewish principles against inflicting gratuitous suffering (tza’ar ba’alei chayim). Jews should honor their faith by adopting a vegetarian diet.
Undercover PETA investigations revealed that Agriprocessors, the world’s largest kosher slaughterhouse at the time, ignored both the Jewish commitment to compassion and federal law, and animals there endured prolonged suffering and nightmarish deaths as a result. Cows were shocked with electric prods in the face, fully conscious cattle had their tracheas and esophagi ripped from their throats with meat hooks or knives, and they writhed in pools of their own blood, trying desperately to stand up for up to three minutes after their throats had been cut, all under the supervision of the world’s most influential kosher certification.
By choosing meatless meals, you can adhere to Jewish principles and save animals from pain and suffering.
(The author is the senior communications coordinator of PETA.)
Vegan story assailed
Jeffrey Cohan’s piece on the supposed merits of Jewish veganism (“Choose veganism, honor Judaism, and kvell,” Sept. 13) is consistently insulting to any reader with a modicum of intelligence and Jewish background — not just for its severe stridency, but also for its sheer chutzpahdik level of factual error which should have prevented it from even being published.
Let me offer some examples:
• “God sustained the Israelites on a vegan diet.” The scientific explanation for manna (if one is needed) usually points to the tamarisk scale insect. Not vegan. And anyway, in Exodus 16, the Israelites long for the “fleshpots” and “bread” of Egypt, at which point God sends them quail, saying to Moses, “By evening you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread.” Sounds like an omnivorous diet to me.
• “God took it a step further by designing our bodies to resemble the herbivores rather than the carnivores.” Humans have been omnivores for all of their existence, whether you believe that is 6,000 years or 200,000 years. And if you believe in the second number, plus the Out of Africa theory, like most people, then you may also note that several other primates, such as chimps and baboons, are opportunistic omnivores like ourselves.
• “The very first time [God] speaks to Adam and Eve, he tells them in Genesis 1:29 that plant-based foods are theirs to eat. Period.” If you’re looking for biblical quotes, you forget about the part where man is to “rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle ... and all the creeping things.” That’s omnivorousness. And Adam and Eve represent the most primitive human state in its natural habitat — that of hunter/gatherer — while their progeny Cain and Abel stand for the next two stages in human development which were in constant conflict — that of pastoralist and agriculturalist. What do those three modes of have in common? They’re all omnivorous. In terms of real human history, Homo sapiens have never been vegan or even vegetarian (except in specific cultures where it’s religiously proscribed).
I’m not against vegetarianism for health reasons or the idea of eating less meat or meat that’s humanely procured, but the more extreme philosophy of veganism so often becomes an absolutist substitute for religion among its adherents. Cohan may have convincing arguments for veganism, but you wouldn’t know it from the gross inaccuracies in his piece.