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Thank you for “Earthcare: An Ethical Culture Designed to Save Our Planet & Ourselves” (Winter 2009).
Commandments and admonitions to protect animals, nature, and the environment are fundamental to Judaism. God’s first
commandment to humans (Genesis 1:28) was to “replenish the earth.” In the Ten Commandments, God forbade us to make our
farm animals work on the Sabbath; we must give them, too, a day of rest (Exodus 20:10; 23:12). Among the first things God
commanded the Israelites to do in the Promised Land was to plant trees and allow them to mature before eating the fruits thereof
(Leviticus 19:23). And one of the world’s first and strongest nature-protection regulations is found in Deuteronomy 20:19, which
forbids the destruction of fruit-bearing trees even when waging war against a city.
With our planet facing an ecological crisis of unprecedented proportions, Jewish teachings may hold the solution to the
environmental problems threatening our future.
Lewis Regenstein
Atlanta, Georgia
Is Government Morally Obligated
to Provide Healthcare?
Reading the debate on this question (Winter 2009), the obvious answer is “No!” Even when Rabbi Jerry Steinberg states, “Am I my
brother’s keeper? The answer—Yes,” he gave the reason for government to stay out of healthcare.
I—the individual—am my brother’s keeper. When I allow anyone else to take over my social responsibilities—other people,
companies, legal entities including governments—I distance myself from being involved. If I pay compulsory healthcare taxes, I
farm out to someone else my responsibilities to take care of my brother and sister from cradle to grave. When it comes time to
make medical decisions, can I count on that person to have only my brother’s and sister’s best interests in mind?
Alex Lord
Asheville, North Carolina
To talk about the healthcare crisis as a financial issue is to miss out on the moral opportunity America is sidestepping. Human
lives are hanging in the balance.
Ron Charach, MD
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Collective Shame Is Not Our Lot
The notion of collective shame (“Dear Reader: Collective Shame Is Our Lot,” Winter 2009) evolved as a defense tactic against
collective punishment: Jewish leaders promoted the idea in hopes of reducing the chance of persecution by an oppressive regime
against an entire community.
A good intention notwithstanding, collective shame promotes collective guilt, encourages stereotyping, and can lead to
collective punishment. To break this vicious cycle, we need to stop accepting personal blame for others’ transgressions. In a free
and democratic society, with no threat of collective punishment in sight, collective shame is no longer relevant and should be
Joseph Yanushpolsky
Lexington, Massachusetts
Priceless Partnerships
I read with great interest the article that reviewed several congregational mergers (“Priceless Partnerships,” Fall 2009). In 1971,
the Reform congregation Beth El and the Conservative congregation B’nai Israel joined forces to become Temple Shalom in
Colorado Springs. Today, as then, we conduct Friday evening services using a Reform prayer book and Sabbath morning services
using a Conservative prayer book. We try very hard to meet the diverse needs of our congregation. We currently maintain dual
affiliation and are committed to making our community work for another 40 years.
It is not easy, but we believe this is the model for the future of Judaism. Please free to contact us, because we’ve been there. And
if you’re in town, we would love to get to know you.
Michael Freeman, President
Temple Shalom
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Free High Holy Days, Please
It is hard to stand up to a crowd, and I have been crying in the wilderness for years about the obscene practice of charging people
for attending High Holy Day services.
I live in the Bible Belt, and the messianic churches all advertise “Services At No Charge,” “No Charge for Tickets.” How do you
think this looks to people who are on the ready to say that Jews are all about money? Young Jews have told me the same thing:
“The temples are all about money.”
How sad. Can we change this perception? Let’s think.
Deanna Kasten
Dallas, Texas
Years ago, when I became president of Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, New York, I asked the congregation to reconsider selling
High Holy Day tickets, for the joy of participation in High Holiday services is not ours to sell.
Nowadays, dues-paying members get preferential seating and no one is ever turned away. Many donations help to defray our
operating expenses.
Let’s not “sell” that which is not ours.
David J. Lee, Secretary
Temple Adas Israel
Sag Harbor, New York
Send letters to the editor to Reform Judaism, 633 Third Avenue, 7th floor, New York, NY 10017,
Reducing Red Meat?
Thank you, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, for opening the door to discussion of the meat we consume, and thereby to examination of the
treatment of the animals from whom that meat comes (“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” Spring 2010). Anyone seriously
concerned about living and eating ethically should read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals, a comprehensive and
heartbreaking inquiry into the horrors of factory farming. Make no mistake: The neatly packaged steaks or chops we pick up
in the supermarket carry an invisible history of filth, disease, brutality, and ecological disaster. We owe it to ourselves as
ethical human beings not to support the industry that has produced this abomination.
Ruth Skoglund
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Guess Who’s Coming For Dinner?” does an incredible injustice to the American beef industry, which works very hard to develop
and maintain high standards that make beef a healthful, safe, and environmentally friendly food source.
Rabbi Yoffie cites the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization’s finding that livestock production accounts for 18% of
global gas emissions. What he failed to mention is that the 2006 report’s estimate for livestock contribution to emissions is a global
figure, and as such not applicable to the U.S. or other developed countries. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the
entire U.S. agricultural sector accounts for under 7% of U.S. annual GHG emissions; livestock production is estimated to account for
2.6% of total U.S. emissions.
Production agriculture in the United States is unparalleled throughout the world, and to denigrate it by singling out beef
production is not a very Jewish thing to do.
Steve Gens
Amarillo, Texas
The majority of U.S. beef (and chicken) is produced in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), which contradicts the
Jewish moral imperative tzar baal chayim (humane treatment of animals) because of factory “living” conditions: the animals are
pumped full of antibiotics and fed with corn grown in soil that’s depleted with fossil fuel-based nitrogen fertilizers and sprayed
with environmentally hazardous herbicides and pesticides. The beef industry’s track record proves that “their livelihood” does not
“rely on preserving a healthy, safe, and clean environment,” as Rabbi Cliff Librach contends (“Should We Adopt Dietary
Restrictions To Save the Environment?”), but on spewing out cheap, fat-filled beef.
Alex Cicelsky
Center for Creative Ecology
Kibbutz Lotan, Israel
Anyone suggesting a drastic reduction in meat consumption for whatever moral, ecological, politically correct, philosophical, or
religious reason has never been poor. The current price of ground beef makes it one of the cheapest proteins available on the
market, and when you’re trying to feed a family, that is the only point that matters. Lofty ideals are inspiring only when they don’t
come across as elitist edicts.
Iris Sonnenschein
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
When My Children Became Orthodox
I was moved to tears by the beautiful and loving way Brenda Zeller Rosenbaum and her husband embraced their children’s
decision to become Orthodox and even made personal accommodations in their own lives to maintain peace in the family (“When
My Children Became Orthodox,” Spring 2010). Sadly, many parents argue, ridicule, and reject their Orthodox children, causing
families to be torn apart and grandkids to miss out on having close relationships with their grandparents. May God continue to
bless this model family.
Robin Meyerson
Scottsdale, Arizona
Rosenbaum feels she can only keep her children by submitting to their desires. Sorry, but I don’t abide by the rule that whatever
your children prefer is what you should do. I would visit my children at their house with their rules, but never allow my home to
be ruled by practices I so oppose. I have my own life that I chose thoughtfully—a balanced, creative life that doesn’t
compromise my intellect by being part
of a religious sect I do not believe in.
Roe Halper
Westport, Connecticut
After my youngest son went to Israel on Birthright Israel in July 2008, he started becoming progressively more observant. Today
he is fully Orthodox, happily studying at a yeshivah in Jerusalem. As long as he doesn’t adopt a haredi-style hostility to nonobservant Jews and others, I will fully support his choice. I am not quite as accommodating as Brenda Zeller Rosenbaum, but will
do what I can to make him comfortable in my home, including serving kosher food.
I have always been an advocate of Jewish pluralism but, like most Reform Jews, felt that meant the Orthodox accepting us.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and I am put to the test.
Ken Frankel
Westmount, Quebec
This Rabbi Wears Combat Boots
Your article on Jewish military chaplains (“This Rabbi Wears Combat Boots,” Spring 2010) did not mention that no memorial to
Jewish chaplains appears in Arlington Cemetery, although two privately funded Protestant and one Catholic memorial are on
site. My friend Sol Moglen is trying to raise $30,000 to erect a memorial to the eight Jewish chaplains who perished in WWI, WWII,
and the Vietnam War. Contributions, payable to the Association of Jewish Chaplains of the Armed Forces, may be sent to Rabbi
Harold Robinson, director of the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, 520 Eighth Ave, 4th floor, New York, NY 10018.
Richard Manberg
Hackensack, New Jersey
The article “This Rabbi Wears Combat Boots” neglected to include three members of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical
Association (RRA) serving in the U.S. armed forces: Rabbis Bonnie J. Koppell, Hanoch Fields,
and John Cutler.
Rabbi Richard Hirsh
Executive Director, RRA
Wyncote, Pennsylvania
Send letters to: Reform Judaism, 633 Third Avenue, 7th floor, New York, NY 10017, www. (click on “Submissions”).