Tikkun olam at Bolton Street
I note Harold Mendelson’s concern that Bolton Street Synagogue and I, as the current president, are not focused enough on education and other local needs as a social justice issue (“Addressing social justice through education,” Feb. 18). I write to make clear that our synagogue’s work to engage in tikkun olam runs deep and wide.
The article spotlighting our Initiative on Equity, Inclusion and Community did not address our many other social justice activities. For example, a number of our members participate in Reading Partners, the Baltimore City tutoring program. Our members also organized a “Group of Ten” through Strong Schools Maryland to assist in the passage of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation to implement the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission regarding education funding. We are the only synagogue member of BUILD, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, a Baltimore City-based organization dedicated to addressing education, housing, employment and other issues through community organizing. Our members are deeply involved in Black Lives Matter interfaith efforts and in feeding people who are food insecure through a casserole partnership program with Our Daily Bread. More recently, some of our members have joined active efforts to assist in the resettlement of Afghan refugees in the Baltimore area.
The article focused on our Initiative on Inclusion, Equity and Community because it cuts across every aspect of our synagogue life and has prompted deep and difficult conversations about what it means to be inclusive and welcoming to all.
Leslie Seid Margolis
More on Amensty International
In looking at the Amnesty International report, one has to go a bit deeper into an analysis of the document, instead of justifiably rejecting it because of its incorrect claim of Israeli apartheid (“Nation State law not relevant,” Feb. 18). First, the report’s critique of Israeli actions on the West Bank is correct, except for the fact that the report does not note Israel’s legitimate right of self-defense. The same thing could be said of the report’s failure to mention the Hamas call for the destruction of Israel. The Hamas position justifies Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which the Amnesty report calls illegal. Third, while the Israel Nation State law has some problems, especially its denigration of the Arabic language, it does reflect the reality of Israel as a Jewish state, as Israel’s flag, with its Jewish star and its national anthem, which cites the Jewish soul, clearly demonstrate. Finally, in the conclusions of the report, there is a call both for a world-wide arms embargo against Israel, and for the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Both are non-starters and reflect the BDS mentality of those who wrote the report.
Robert O. Freedman
Johns Hopkins University