Letters Summer 2024

Dynamic Religiosity

I enjoyed reading “Up Close with Rivka Ravitz” (spring 2024) and appreciate the contribution she and her husband have made to Israel and to Jews around the world.  However, I respectfully disagree with her definition of Chareidi. When asked how she explained Chareidim to her secular colleagues, Mrs. Ravitz answered:

I explained to them that the word Chareidi means to be afraid of change. Being a traditional Jew means keeping the traditions. I would tell them that my grandmother looked exactly like her grandmother and her grandmother exactly as her grandmother before that. We are averse to change because once you start making changes—even small ones—you don’t know where you’ll end up.

Unfortunately, that attitude sounds defensive and will not resonate with today’s seekers of a dynamic, relevant religiosity. Chareidi means “fearful” as in fearful of G-d and fearful of crossing halachic boundaries. Learning to approach this fear amidst a plethora of non-observance is incumbent on all of us seeking to find closeness to G-d in a turbulent world that competes with observance in a myriad of successful ways. Defining Chareidi as an old-school grandmother’s yarn will do little to instill confidence in those seeking truth in the Torah.

David Weissmann

Atlanta, Georgia 


Standing Up Against Antisemitism

The accounts from Jewish students describing their recent experiences on campus (“Voices from Campus” [spring 2024]) were both disturbing and encouraging. While our universities have clearly become the epicenter and breeding ground for antisemitism in this country, it is encouraging that many Jewish students and Jewish organizations are standing tall and proud, despite the constant attacks and threats they face.

Since October 7, I’ve concluded that the only safe place for Jews is Israel, and that at some point, we will all need to make aliyah. But in the meantime, I’d like to offer some advice based on my personal experience on how to deal with the crisis of antisemitism in our country.

1. Don’t be afraid to engage and push back. When I was in college many years ago, the Israeli national basketball team was scheduled to play our varsity basketball team. Pro-Palestinian and radical leftist students pressured our team to boycott the game. I spoke with some of the players to convince them to play. The last thing one of them said to me: “We haven’t made up our minds yet.” But guess what? They showed up and played. Was I the one who changed their minds? Who knows, but my voice obviously didn’t hurt.

2. Get involved in the political process. I’m in regular contact with my senators and representatives, thanking the ones who support us, and asking the others for their help. Every letter and phone call to your legislator is tallied, so don’t think your voice doesn’t count. The greatest fear of every elected official is losing an election.

3. Register to vote in the upcoming November election, and be sure to cast your ballot. As Jews and Americans we have the power of the ballot box, and we need to wield that power. 

4. For those of us who want to help Israel during this crisis, I offer this: Go there! The best thing you can give Israel now is you. Donating money is nice, but being there to show your support does wonders, not only for the Israelis, but for your soul and your Jewish pride. This is our time to step up and help our fellow Jews. 

Jay Lewis

York, Pennsylvania


“Voices From Campus” was simultaneously depressing and inspiring. Overt antisemitism grows on America’s elite college campuses, and the courageous response of Jewish students under attack, determined not to be modern-day Marranos, is deeply inspiring. But they need outside support of their efforts. 

Harvard student Isaac Ohrenstein noted how important an organized alumni voice can be. “Alums for Campus Fairness” provides such a voice. We have seventy-six chapters and nearly 55,000 individual members. Alums should visit https://www.campusfairness.org to easily join this effective, growing campus presence.

Richard D. Wilkins

Syracuse, New York

Syracuse University Chapter Alums for Campus Fairness


The Berachah on Gluten-Free Bread

In Rabbi Eli Gersten’s response to letter writer Barbara Bolshon (spring 2024) about the proper berachah on gluten-free bread, he states: “Gluten-free bread, while shaped to look like bread, is not halachically considered lechem as it is not made from one of the five grains, and therefore its berachah is Shehakol.” While the bread in question was not made from the five grains, there are many gluten-free breads made today from the five grains (e.g., gluten-free oats), which would require a Hamotzi. For Pesach, gluten-free matzot made from the five grains are available, and require the berachah of Hamotzi.

Joe Offenbacher

Chashmonaim, Israel


The Time Has Come

Regarding the article “My Yarmulke” (spring 2024), OU President Mitchel R. Aeder wrote, “Wearing a yarmulke or a Magen David suddenly became fraught in many American cities” and “Administrators at a Jewish day school in California recently instructed first graders not to wear their kippot on a field trip, out of fear.”  Have we, as Jewish people, forgotten the cycle of history that we have gone through since Egypt? For those who have forgotten, here is a recap: We settle in a foreign land, prosper and the locals start to persecute us. Egypt, Babylon, Spain, France, Germany, Russia and Poland are some examples. The rise in antisemitism across America (and other countries) is a sign and reminder from Hashem, telling us where we truly belong, as one nation: in the Land of Israel. 

The time has come for rabbis and leaders in Jewish communities across the Diaspora to encourage members of their community to make aliyah or maybe even lead by example.

Oren Rimmon

Modiin, Israel


In “What’s the Truth about . . . Rashi Script?” (spring 2024), the caption under the image of a shekel coin identified the letters on the coin as shin-kuf-lamed, spelling “shekel.” This is incorrect. The three letters on a shekel coin are yud-heh-dalet for “yehud,” which is the ancient designation for the province of Judea in the Persian Empire. Thanks to Dr. Lawrence H. Schiffman, professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies, NYU, for pointing this out.

This article was featured in the Summer 2024 issue of Jewish Action.
We'd like to hear what you think about this article. Post a comment or email us at ja@ou.org.