Letters

Shomer Shabbat Boy Scouts
Regarding the article “Shomer Shabbat Boy Scouting: Why Orthodox kids become Boy Scouts” (fall 2015), I want to point out that in the 1960s, Troop 298, under the banner of Connecticut Trails Girl Scouts and sponsored by the Young Israel of New Haven, was a full-fledged troop. The girls learned at an early age how to adhere to their religious beliefs and still be members of a larger group. Many of those girls, now women, have made aliyah; others are involved in Jewish organizations in America.

Judy Aronson
Former Troop 298 leader
Jerusalem, Israel

Miki Pauker
Former Troop 298 leader
New Haven, Connecticut

 

Remembering Rav Lichtenstein
In response to your series of articles on Rav Aharon (“Remembering Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, zt”l,” fall 2015), I’d like to add my own recollections.

Although I was a talmid in Rav Lichtenstein’s shiur at Yeshiva College at the end of the 1960s, this incident relates to my son Aryeh’s experience as a second-year student at Yeshivat Har Etzion during the Second Intifada. In the midst of the winter 2000 zeman, we received a call from Aryeh telling us that one of the Ramim in the yeshivah was organizing a trip to Gaza to show support for one of the beleaguered Jewish communities there. Aryeh expressed a strong desire to go. I promptly left an indignant message for the director of the overseas program. How could the yeshivah allow the boys to be placed in a situation of such danger?

A day or two later, we awoke to a call from the yeshivah telling us that our message had been received, but unfortunately the overseas program director was not in the country at the time. Nevertheless, the caller assured us in a firm tone that under no circumstances would a boy be allowed to travel to Gaza without the permission of his parents. When my wife asked me with whom at the yeshivah I had been speaking, I had to confess that I did not know, as the caller did not identify himself. Only after a conversation with our son were we able to piece together the caller’s identity. It had been Rav Aharon himself, a voice that I now recalled from shiur three decades earlier. Not only was he concerned about each and every student, he was concerned about their parents as well.

Yehi zichro baruch.

Abbe Dienstag
Lawrence, New York

 

Rethinking Our Approach to Kriah
I read with interest “Rethinking Our Approach to Kriah: Q&A with Kriah Specialist Rabbi Dr. Aharon Fried,” in the fall 2015 issue. (It should be keriah, as there is a sheva na at the beginning of the word.)

I have been involved in education for over twenty-five years, in both formal and informal settings. Years ago, I founded a day school in Seattle, and I now run a day school on Long Island. I have learned that the key to teaching children correct and proficient keriah is actually a method that has been around for centuries. It is the method I was raised with growing up in an educated Sephardic community, and it continues to be used amongst the Syrian and Moroccan Sephardic communities in Brooklyn, Deal, Montreal, Israel and elsewhere.

Children love to sing and can memorize entire songs and movie scripts just by osmosis. The act of listening to words and music together causes the brain to recall in a powerful way. Sephardic children are exposed to this on a regular basis. Anyone who has ever prayed in a Sephardic minyan knows that the entire tefillah is recited out loud by the shaliach tzibbur, and about 40 percent of the tefillah is chanted in unison by the entire community of worshippers. Children who hear this on a daily or weekly basis have been heard singing Pesukei Dezimra out loud while playing with their Legos. I memorized Shir Hashirim by age twelve, and my children by age ten, simply by listening to it every Friday night in shul and at home. The schools I run all have a Miqra program that requires students as young as six to recite pesukim out loud with ta’amei haMiqra. This method enhances comprehension, memory and precise pronunciation, leading to proficiency in keriah. Mishnah is never read, it is always chanted.

If anyone should get credit for formalizing this method of study it is Rabbi Dan Be’eri, who founded the Barkai method in Israel. The Barkai method came to New York about twenty years ago and is in full swing in the Barkai Yeshivah of Brooklyn. Other day schools in the United States and Canada use this method as well.

Children educated in this method are proficient readers and grasp the Hebrew language much more quickly.

Rabbi Yamin Levy
Long Island Hebrew Academy
Beth Hadassah Synagogue, Great Neck/Kings Point

 

A Woman in Search of a Wall
I found Sarah Rudolph’s article (“A Woman in Search of a Wall,” fall 2015) to be well written and insightful, but also genuinely thought provoking. Sarah was surprisingly temperate for someone who has been excluded so many times from prayer spaces that she truly had a right to be included in. As a man, I am never going to have her experiences in a shul, and can only try to understand them. But I also feel that men have some responsibility—perhaps even the lion’s share—in creating prayer spaces so that Jewish women don’t have to go through Sarah’s travails in the future.

Sarah notes the creation of an “improvised women’s section” in one case, and then laments the lack of an invitation to it. Is it really asking so much to start with the assumption that women will be davening? When did it become appropriate to assume they wouldn’t be davening? As a general rule, shuls and Jewish organizations should always have a space for women to daven at services.

Further, even in the shuls where women do have a space on a regular basis, we should ask whether that space is really appropriate to the dignity of the women who are using it. Rabbanim and lay leaders, especially gabbaim, need to make more of an effort to understand the davening experiences of the women in their shuls and make changes to improve them. I am blessed to be in a community that at least tries to make the effort, and it has improved the davening for everyone—men and women. I hope this article will inspire other communities to do the same.

David Zakar
Aspen Hill, Maryland

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This article was featured in the Winter 2015 issue of Jewish Action.
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