Traditional learning and modern secular studies are not incompatible
Matty Lichtenstein (“I studied how New York City’s Chassidic yeshivahs gained legitimacy. Here’s what I learned,” Sept. 23) makes some excellent points about the politics involved in New York State’s funding of Chassidic yeshivahs, and especially, how the term “yeshivah” is misleading in conflating different types of Orthodox Jewish schools with different goals, standards and degrees of secular studies. Another point that I would stress is that among many people, both Jews of all backgrounds and non-Jews, there is the mistaken belief that traditional Jewish learning (Yiddishkeit) and modern secular studies are somehow incompatible. Nothing could be further from the truth or more harmful to the future of Jewish society and culture.
Two quick examples:
Perhaps the greatest post-Biblical scholar of all, Maimonides (c. 1137-1204), was not only the most famous and prolific of commentators on the Bible and Talmud, but was a highly influential polymath and physician whose enormous literary production in the fields of medicine, logic and ethics was also studied and revered in the contemporary Christian world and for centuries beyond.
Lesser known is another physician, the Biblical and Talmud commentator, mathematician, philosopher and astronomer Ralbag (Rabbi Levi ben Gershon, aka Gersonides, 1288-1344). One of his most famous accomplishments was his discovery of the true distance to many of the stars, but written about only in Hebrew and centuries before that knowledge was regained in the modern world. For that amazing achievement, the lunar crater “Rabbi Levi” was named in his honor.
hose of our tribe who do not give their children a Jewish education are depriving them of a rich, nearly 4,000-year-old culture that provided and still provides (via the Torah, Talmud and innumerable later works) a moral basis for living, the history of our remarkable people, a love of life and the giving of life (which is the real purpose of sex), not to mention the study of Hebrew, which in itself is a mind-expanding exercise in learning a new, very different and seemingly difficult language.
Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
Find a synagogue and take your children
With all due respect to author Jeff Rubin for writing that people don’t attend shul because “people feel unwelcome at synagogues,” I believe his theory is too simplistic.
While in part, it’s true that rabbinic leaders can be harsh or strict and didactic in their comments towards congregants who do not always adhere to the tenets of Judaism.
However, generations of Jews have not been brought up to believe that a synagogue is a friendly place, second to one’s home, as it was in my youth. As a child, I attended synagogue every Friday night and Saturday morning with my parents and cherished every minute of this family togetherness. I looked forward to Friday-night Kiddish and singing, and Saturday mornings with other kids my age. I believe that if a child attends synagogue regularly, it will become part of a family’s ritual and a priority in their life. Otherwise, attendance becomes spotty and obligatory.
Synagogues have taken on a different meaning for today’s family for both parent and child, and consequently, the bond is not as tight and may easily be severed if anyone feels slighted or gets hurt feelings. If the bond is strong, they may not walk away so readily.
Bottom line: Find a synagogue you like, and attend regularly with your children.
Lake Worth, Fla.
The plural of ‘shandah’
Robert Sarver’s suspension (“Jewish NBA, WNBA owner cites ‘faith’ and ‘atonement’ in decision to sell teams,” Oct. 7) echoed that of Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, both of whom also happen to be Jewish and who similarly were accused of using their positions of power to mistreat their employees.
So what is the plural of shanda?
Pimmit Hills, Va.
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