More info needed on Block

I was intrigued by Ellie Grossman’s article, “B’nai mitzvah students thrive in Jewish Connection” (Jan. 2 column). She commented, “Jewish educators believe that the teenage years are the most critical time for forming a child’s lifelong commitment to Judaism, yet boys and girls don’t have to be students at Block Yeshiva High School to achieve these goals.” I saw this as a back-handed compliment to Block, as simple logic would lead one to conclude from this sentence that boys and girls can be sure to achieve a lifelong commitment to Judaism by attending Block. However, Ms. Grossman did not include any additional comments on Block as a local option for high school students who are committed to Judaism. I personally attended public high school but I recently spent an evening at Block’s open house with my daughter who is in eighth grade. I was impressed by the way that students can have a personally tailored, quality secular education, including multiple AP classes and sports teams, while still pursuing Jewish studies half-time. Meeting Block seniors leaves me with no doubt that these teens have formed a lifelong commitment to Judaism. I hope that future articles in the Jewish Light will include more details about Block Yeshiva High School, and I also hope that children of all different kinds of Jewish families will consider this option for their children.

Michelle Wolfe, MD


St. Louis

Of hatred, love and religion

Richard Isserman’s grandfather wrote a beautiful but flawed commentary (Jan. 16 issue). It is one thing to dream about a brotherhood of Man, but I would point out that the Golden Gate mentioned by the rabbi, built in Jerusalem’s Old City wall, was sealed in by Suleiman, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, in 1541, expressly to prevent a Jewish or Christian messiah from entering the Temple Mount area. Further, the Muslim cemetery that is directly in front of the gate was placed there to prevent the prophet Elijah from entering the Temple Mount, as he was of the priestly tribe, a Kohen, in the thought that he would not be able to enter a cemetery.

So the very place he uses as an example of peace and togetherness was a symbol of divisiveness and hatred. To say that all religions are intent in the same goal is superficially true, but just as in the day of Suleiman, there are vast gulfs between religions. It is naive to say “when others wage war, let us establish peace”.

Who can speak against peace? The Midrash says the entire Torah is based on the value of peace (Gittin 59b; Bamidbar Rabbah 11:7).But when someone wants your destruction, on religious or other grounds, it is just head-in-the-sand stupidity to not wage war. Judaism does not believe in “turn the other cheek”. The Torah states: “If a thief is found breaking in, and is killed, no liability (guilt) is incurred.” The Talmud, in Sanhedrin, comments on this and says “Since the burglar is going to kill you, rise up (overcome your meekness and reluctance to be violent) and kill him first.” Self-defense is a Torah obligation.

Unfortunately, the rabbi picked the wrong example of brotherly love. It is precisely the Golden Gate which is instead an example of the kind of mindless hatred one religion has exhibited against ours.

Maurice Sonnenwirth

University City

Published Jan. 23 2008