Letters to the Editor
Bar Mitzva for Life
While the creativity and pizzazz of the b’nei mitzot featured in “Today I Am a Director” (June/July issue) are to be appreciated, it is a lot of work for a one-time happening. In contrast, the traditional bar mitzva is not just a single stage appearance but an education that prepares one for a lifetime of Jewish communal participation.
To date, I have four grandsons who have become b’nei mitzva. Each chanted the entire parasha, the Haftorah and conducted the Musaf service, in addition to delivering a d’var Torah. What they learned was a true life skill. Since they have been fortunate to have traveled the globe, they have read Torah in Peru and Cambodia; chanted theHaftorah in Vietnam; and led Friday night and Shabbat services in Chile and Italy. Their studies prepared them to be active participating members of the Jewish community. They enter any synagogue with ease, comfort and know-how. Sometimes the traditional way is the most practical.
Leah Stern Reicin
Regarding “Cuba Through a Half-Open Door” (June/July issue), Will Recant said that the Joint Distribution Committee sends about 400 people a year. You need to quadruple that number to be accurate. My organization alone sends about 100 people a year and there are synagogues, Hillels and JCCs that take many visitors as well. San Francisco’s JCC has four trips a year and takes about 120 people.
The Cuba-America Jewish Mission
Dr. Alberto (Amnon) Mechulam Cohen cofounded the Hebrew school, Bet Sefer Tikkun Olam, in the Patronato in 1985 and was a teacher and director for 25 years. He was my fellow madrikh [leader] in Hanoar Hatzioni of Cuba. In the 1950s, Hadassah sponsored the American branch of Hanoar Hatzioni–Plugat Aliyah; an offshoot of Young Judaea at a time when most parents could not conceive of their children belonging to an organization promoting aliya. Pictures of both organizations are at www.hanoarhatzionicuba.com.
Also worth noting is Hadassah–Cuba president Dr. Rosa Behar Hazday who, since 1993, operates a communitarian pharmacy she founded in the Patronato.
Regarding “Operation Let’s Be Friends” (June/July issue), I stumbled onto www.friendasoldier.com shortly after its launch. The questions from across the world—and the open, in-depth replies provided by the soldiers—are remarkable. It is especially valuable today when there seems a scarcity of the latter on matters involving the Middle East. An exchange can lead to a transformational experience, as I discovered in mine with Yagil Beinglass on “hating one’s enemy.” His perspective and wisdom challenged me further.
Who Is a Jew?
In the review of The Finkler Question (June/July issue), I was amazed and disheartened to read: “Jacobson’s characters haven’t the foggiest clue about what it means to be authentic Jews. They neither study nor do they pray, much less do they observe the commandments.”
Jacobson’s characters are very Jewish. They care about being Jewish; have Jewish friends; talk about Jewish issues, subjects and concerns. Too bad your reviewer confuses religious ritual with Jewish culture, heritage and identity. Jacobson’s Jews are like most of the young Jews I know, very proud to be Jewish but not necessarily observant, caring about Israel but not necessarily going to synagogue.
West Newton, MA