March 2009

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• Bravo Specter
• Redistricting 2010
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• Delusional
• Early Voting
• Divestment
• Madoff
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• Letters to the Editor

• Lost Election
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• Honoring Victims

In Their Own Words
• Alan Grayson

• Recording For Blind

• Israeli Film Fest
• Honoring Lodish
• New Mural Project

Raising A Mensch
• Soul Child

Teen Voice
• Walking the Walk

The Kosher Table
• Jewish Food Influence

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2009 JF

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News and Opinion

Letters to the Editor

The Interfaith Alliance

I read with interest your interview with Rabbi Jack Moline, Chairman of the Board of the Interfaith Alliance. As he noted, the Interfaith Alliance "addresses the relationship between religious faith, government and politics," and is dedicated to keeping the realms of religion and politics healthy and separate from each other. In the case of The Interfaith Alliance of Pennsylvania, the statewide Pennsylvania affiliate, we are particularly interested in networking people throughout the state to protect the realms of religion and politics from being used to manipulate each other. Our specific focus is on localized or statewide issues in Pennsylvania, or on national issues where Pennsylvania may make a difference.

It must say something about the sensitivity of our Jewish community to these issues that the board of The Interfaith Alliance of Pennsylvania is also chaired by a rabbi. I am a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College outside of Philadelphia. After several years of being a rabbi in the Harrisburg area I helped to establish a statewide affiliate of the national movement.

As your interview brought forth, we are centered in Harrisburg where so much in the world of Pennsylvania politics is centered. We have a growing network of members across the state, from Pittsburgh to the Poconos and from Erie to Philadelphia. The question was asked but not answered as to how people in the Philadelphia area could become more involved. We are now beginning to identify geographic clusters of members that we can connect with each other so they can get to know each other and speak out when needed. Local membership clusters could coordinate with us in Harrisburg and others across the state, but would not have to create or sustain a separate organization. Any of your readers interested in connecting with us could contact me.

-- Rabbi Carl Choper, President, The Interfaith Alliance of Pennsylvania Harrisburg, PA

Excommunication of Bishop Williamson

As a Catholic Christian, the lifting of the excommunication of Bishop Williamson, the Holocaust denier, greatly saddened me, though I was very glad to see the widespread moral outrage against the Pope’s decision especially in Germany. The answer is clear. Official church teaching condemns anti-Semitism (Nostra Aetate 4). The Pope must see to the rehabilitation of Williamson, or alternatively, condemn, silence, or again excommunicate the bishop. Certainly an apology to the Jews, our fellow Catholics and every caring and knowledgeable person is in order.

-- John Adams, Swarthmore, PA

I don't know if Pope Benedict XVI is anti-Semitic because I have never met him and discussed his political and religious views. But when a former member of the Hitler Youth welcomes an excommunicated Holocaust deniar back into the church it certainly doesn't make him look "pro-Semitic".

-- Chuck Mann, Greensboro, NC

In Favor of Vegetarianism

Thank you for publishing Gabrielle Loeb's compelling piece about the importance -- and ease -- of vegetarian diets. Jews across America and across the world are realizing that choosing vegetarian foods reduces the suffering of farmed animals, alleviates human health problems, and is better for the environment.

Proverbs 12:10 teaches that "The righteous person regards the life of his animal." In today's world, the overwhelming majority of animals raised for food are confined on massive factory farms where they're subjected to miserable conditions and unbelievable cruelties.

As humans, we have a special obligation to protect the rights of those who cannot speak for themselves. As a Jew -- a member of an historically persecuted religious minority -- I feel that obligation especially strongly every day. There's no better way to defend animals than to leave them off our dinner plates.

-- Max Fischlowitz-Roberts, Waltham, MA

Bravo to Teen Voice writer Gabrielle J. Loeb for pointing out why an ever-growing number of people are going vegetarian (Why You Should Become A Vegetarian, February). Jewish law mandates that animals be treated with compassion and respect, yet there is nothing kind or merciful about the treatment of animals in kosher slaughterhouses. In fact, an undercover investigator from PETA recently caught workers at Agriprocessors—the world’s largest kosher slaughterhouse—illegally hacking out the tracheas of conscious cattle. See www.HumaneKosher.com to watch PETA’s footage from Agriprocessors and other kosher slaughterhouses, and for information on great-tasting, kosher-certified mock meats and other vegetarian foods.

-- Philip Schein, Senior Researcher, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Norfolk, VA

Praise for Asher Lev

The Arden Theater production of Aaron Posner's play "My Name is Asher Lev" is a magnificent experience. My wife and I enjoyed the production with friends this past February 14. With a stripped down cast, that represents an entire community of characters with three actors, the audience is expected to do as much work to introduce the characters as the actors. Reader's of Chaim Potok's novel who expect to passively re-experience the multiple refractions of Potok's adult narrator recalling his childhood points of view, and reflecting on them with his adult perspective, will find that they will have to supply some of their own context. The play seems more designed to pique the interest of its audience to go out and buy the book.

The repertory theater approach which the Arden takes to the story has Adam Heller playing multiple characters: Asher's father, Aryeh Lev; Asher's spiritual leader, the Ladover Rebbe; and Asher's art master, Jacob Kahn. In the script, Heller is identified simply as "Man." This -- even in the program -- is a simplification of the adult males in Asher's world. Important people like Yudel Krinsky, whom I was dying to see materialize, or Asher's school principal (the mashpia), never appear. While we sense the social conflicts between Asher's community culture and his artistic culture in the play, it was simply impossible to represent the full intellectual, artistic, and religious conflicts in 90 minutes of one-act theater, spanning almost twenty years. Heller's acting is a tour de force.

Equally hard work is the repertory approach which Gabra Zackman must master to represent her collage of characters (Woman): she must act both as Asher's chaste Hasidic mother, and as a passive nude model in Jacob Kahn's studio; she must act as the secular gallery-owner Schaeffer, with a more aggressive point of view, and more confrontational relationship to the artist. The quick contrasts only suggest the more forceful conflicts which Asher the book narrator can discursively imagine for the reader in more serious detail. Zackman's acting is equally multifaceted and worthwhile.

Karl Miller's part as Asher drifts in and out of his role as narrator, a difficult feat of representation. Beginning as a small pre-school child, but played as an adult, Miller must squat to represent his diminutive size. It is a difficult role, reminding me of Salinger's "The Laughing Man," moving back and forth across the Paris-Chinese border. Miller allows us to see the artist grow as an intellect, and from boy into man, even if we cannot see the depths and complexity of Asher's conflicts, that Potok is able to portray in the full novel.

My advice: see the play, then read the book. Enjoy.

-- Ben Burrows, Elkins Park, PA

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice welcomes the submission of articles and letters to the editor letters @ pjvoice.com. Please include name, address and phone number for identification purposes. We cannot publish every submission we receive. We also reserve the right to edit submissions for length, clarity, grammar, accuracy, and style, though we will never intentionally distort the author's intent.

Acting Editor-in-chief Daniel Loeb publisher @ pjvoice.com.

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