Jewish unity is vital asset

In response to Michael Hamm’s letter (June 18 Issue), we want to apologize to the other day schools and anyone in the community who was offended. The views expressed by Mr. Hamm are not shared by the administration or board of Epstein Hebrew Academy.

To the contrary, as an Orthodox community school, we have always valued the principle of unity and achdut within the Jewish community, and look for ways to express this ideal and teach it to our children. At the same time, we respect ideological, theological, and principled differences that distinguish each of our constituent communities. Epstein has always welcomed children from across the religious spectrum and we have a long tradition of employing non-Orthodox and non-Jewish teachers and administrators.

One of the areas which has always united our community has been support for Israel, and our profound gratitude for the gift of the modern State of Israel. As such, the communal celebration for Israel’s 60th anniversary was a wonderful venue to teach our students the importance of standing together as a community. We believe that Israel’s 60th birthday is something to be celebrated and shared with all Jews, regardless of religious differences or practices.

Rabbi Shmuel Kay, Head of School, Epstein Hebrew Academy

Douglas M. Baron, President, Epstein Hebrew Academy

I am not an Orthodox Jew and I do not claim to be as pious or learned as Mr. Michael Hamm but I do try to study Torah each week. Lately I have been studying Chofetz Chaim, A Lesson a Day. There I learned:

The mitzvah of Shmiras HaLashon is an expression of the unity of the Jewish people. Seeing the good in others stems from seeing their common bond as Jews created in Hashem’s image…Loshon hora reflects the belief that everyone and everything should conform to one’s own standard…It is the egocentric need to assert the superiority on one’s own way of doing things, which is, … a denial of the uniqueness with which Hashem has endowed each human being…The Jews at the time of the Second Beis HaMikdash were learned and fervently devoted to Hashem, and yet, because of divisiveness among His people, Hashem allowed His house to be destroyed.

To my mind this seems to indicate that G-d values unity among the Jewish people. I have also learned that it is not sufficient to fervently study Torah — one must also seek to apply the lessons of the Torah in one’s daily life and to pass them on to one’s children.

These lessons cause me to feel deep disappointment and shame at the tone and content of Mr. Hamm’s letter. I am also disappointed that the Jewish Light would embrace the values of modern journalism at the expense of those of our Jewish tradition in publishing such a divisive letter.

Steven C. Low

St. Louis

I read Michael Hamm’s letter (June 18 Issue) with alarm. I fundamentally disagree with both his views and his fears. As an Orthodox shaliach from Israel, I believe strongly in the unity of the Jewish people. I have spent the last 4 years here in St. Louis to teach, spread, and inspire this fundamental Jewish value to everyone I meet.

As the organizer of Yachad-60, I was thrilled to see 400+ Jewish children, from across the religious spectrum, sitting together and singing in celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary. As I prepare to return to Israel this summer, I can say without reservation, that this program was the highlight of my shlichut in St. Louis. Careful preparation allowed us to insure that no school felt it needed to compromise on its principles or values.

I hope this program, under the leadership of Torah MiTzion, will continue in the years to come and that we can seek other opportunities for our community, and especially its children, to connect with Israel as a great source of pride for all the Jewish people.

Uria Teperberg

Torah MiTzion Kollel