- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

Conversion to Judaism

Rachel Zoll’s Sunday Religion article, “Jews encourage conversion,” overstates Jewish leaders’ advocacy for conversion. At the same time that Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said that Reform synagogues should not shy away from inviting non-Jewish spouses to convert, he began an initiative to express gratitude for non-Jewish parents who raise their children as Jews, calling them, “heroes of Jewish life.”

Encouraging more interfaith couples to raise their children as Jews is critically important to ensuring Jewish continuity. Rabbi Yoffie’s balanced approach recognizes that that will happen far more often if the non-Jewish partner is genuinely welcomed and accepted than if conversion is promoted too aggressively.

Miss Zoll cites a “major” new study by the American Jewish Committee finding that “advocating for conversion works.” However, that study, which included interviews of just 37 converts, cited research that focused on young interfaith couples — the most important demographic — and found that they “would be ‘turned off to Judaism’ if they were approached about conversion by clergy or even family friends.”

Conversion to Judaism is a wonderful personal choice, but the Jewish community will shoot itself in the foot if it follows anything other than an unpressured approach.




Newton, Mass.

Next time, try ‘to reach me’

Earlier this month, Tom Knott questioned my patriotism and showered me with ridicule, phony indignation and pious smarminess. My “crime” involved comments I have made about Team USA. Specifically, I questioned the wisdom of bringing in soldiers maimed and crippled by the war in Iraq to motivate the players. Mr. Knott finds it reprehensible that I support the troops but not the war (“Injustice? Look at your contract, Etan” Sports, Sept. 4).

Mr. Knott’s far-right politics have blinded him to reality. Not only is this war unwise, but it is being fought in ways that are wrong. It’s a quagmire with no exit strategy.

This is a war that already has claimed the lives of more than 2,600 Americans and yet has not made us one iota safer. If Mr. Knott wants to defend the war, it is his inalienable right to do so — but he didn’t stop there. He tried to reduce me to someone who finds “little to celebrate in America” and implied that I am somehow unpatriotic.

If I had spoken out in favor of the Bush administration and about how wonderfully President Bush was protecting the country, Mr. Knott definitely would have praised me.

But what’s so patriotic about silently standing by while Mr. Bush makes one bad decision after another? Silence is the enemy of democracy. The war in Iraq will be remembered as an American tragedy, and future generations will ask how our government ever allowed this to happen.

I have great respect for the wounded soldiers who spoke to Team USA. They risked their lives for our country and paid a terrible price for their sacrifices. The players were moved by their words. If I were a member of the team, I surely would have been, too.

Unfortunately, Mr. Knott missed my entire point. Had he tried to reach me for clarification, he might have realized that it is my deep admiration for our troops that compels me to speak out for them. Mr. Bush has made them pawns in an unnecessary war. The job of the president is to lead, but I do not believe Mr. Bush has led us in the right direction.

In fact, his actions actually have done us a disservice. Four years later, Iraq is on the brink of civil war. And while the death toll of U.S. soldiers continues to mount, the prospects of bringing them home hasn’t gotten any brighter. Mr. Knott wrote that darkness is a “tough sell.” But actually, light penetrates the darkness that is already there.


Washington Wizards


Walking tall in Hazleton

Kudos to Hazleton, Pa., Mayor Louis J. Barletta, the City Council and attorney Kris W. Kobach for standing up for the residents of Hazleton, Pa., and taking on American Civil Liberties Union bullies (“Hazleton: The people vs. the ACLU,” Commentary, Sept. 19). The ACLU rarely lives with the messes it creates. If it wins in Hazleton, you can be sure the ACLU will not be the victim.

The ACLU bullied Woodbridge, Va., into not enforcing loitering ordinances back in January of 2005. Shortly thereafter, I went to the fine home of the Virginia ACLU leader, located in quiet Fredericksburg. I walked up the steps to the roofed yellow porch and knocked.

The door opened, and I warmly told the woman that I and many others were planning to loiter on her front porch, replicating what the ACLU approved in Woodbridge for illegal aliens.

Instead of telling me that she would have cookies, sodas and milk, her restrooms and chairs for the elderly waiting for the demonstrators, she seemed shocked, offended, outraged, distraught and confused.

The ACLU supports demonstrations at the burials of American servicemen and women. What will happen the first time we blow bugles and bang drums at the funeral of an ACLU member’s relative? Will the ACLU cheer and be there for us?

Because bullies back down when confronted, Hazleton will win.



Speak — and speak loudly

There may be a more detailed and sinister method behind the episodes of “Muslim uproar” and “Pope rage” than we have thought. We know they want us to “Just shut up,” but how (Op-Ed, Friday)?

Where Western speech is met with murder, violence and destruction displayed on global television, no matter how small the actual riot was, over time, the seeds are sown to avoid speech that triggers such rage — self-censorship. The technique has worked.

How many papers printed the famous Danish cartoons? How many in the press argued that the pope should give the Islamic extremists their point and apologize for his use of a 14th-century emperor’s quote implicitly criticizing Islam?

The aim of such psychological behaviorism is for the subject to internalize the need and desire to choose to speak and act according to externally imposed rules and values without thinking about the decision.

This is taught through punishment and reward. By using the televised Middle Eastern rage, violence and murder, Islamic extremists try to manipulate us from within, like mice in a cage.

Slowly but surely, the Islamic extremists really want the people in Western cultures to internalize the laws of Shariah — believing they should speak no word, print no picture nor behave in a way that is critical of the Islamic extremists and their worldview.



Upping the security ante

It seems that President Bush and his allies in Congress are upping the ante on national security (“GOP compromises on detainees,” Page 1, Friday).

This should be a subject that the Democrats welcome. Has the Iraq war made us safe? How about almost selling our ports to a government with a troubled past? How about not inspecting the cargo as it comes into our country? How does the resurgence of the Taliban affect our national security?

If Mr. Bush and his allies want to make charges about national security, I would suggest that they answer those questions first.


Ocean, N.J.

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