Readers letters to the Jewish Light


We should focus attention on more pressing issues

The reactions in the Jewish community to the antisemitic remarks of the rapper Kanye West are, sadly, all too illustrative. While West’s comments will have no impact on future of the Jewish people, they drew much attention, including multiple stories on the Light’s website. 

Do you know what will have infinitely more to do with the well-being of the Jews and yet receives little to no attention? Our ongoing failure to pass along our traditions and customs to our children. And yet, during this joyous Sukkot and Simchat Torah season, when Jews go sukkah hopping and eat and drink with friends or dance and sing with our Torah, how many families do not take part? Of the thousands of Jewish kids in St. Louis, how many do nothing for Sukkot, Hoshana Rabah, or Simchat Torah?

West’s unpleasant words grabbed a lot of attention, but the real threat facing the Jewish people goes unremarked. If we want our people to flourish, we need to have more urgent concern for the dwindling transmission of our faith to our children than for the rantings of an entertainer.

Matthew Grad
St. Louis

Feeling unwelcome at one’s synagogue

The Oct. 5 commentary, “Sins we have sinned by making people feel unwelcome at synagogues,” really resonated with me. Although it concerned the number of persons who have left synagogues because of a pattern of unkind remarks from rabbinic and volunteer leaders, the problems I encountered at my former synagogue were just as egregious — indifference and the fact of being ignored.

Allow me to explain.

When we first joined a Modern Orthodox synagogue several years ago, my wife and I were welcomed with open arms, including a goody package when we first became members.

Everything went smoothly for the first year or so, and my wife and I were elated that we had joined. In fact, being the inveterate letter writer that I am, I had a letter published in the Jewish Light expressing our thanks for the kindness shown — I even mentioned that if felt like my “home away from home”–and was even asked to read my letter before the whole congregation, which I gladly did.

However, after we had been members for some time, I noticed a difference in the temperament of the other members, not all of them, but the overwhelming majority. For the most part, they became indifferent to me, and unless I initiated a conversation, they didn’t talk to me at all, or at most, extended a brief hello or a quick wave. I felt completely alone and isolated, like being on a desert island.

This happened before services, during services, and after services, and when there were kiddushes and luncheons.

I grew angry and frustrated as I knew I had done nothing to alienate them. I realized that I couldn’t continue to attend services at this congregation, and eventually withdrew my membership. My wife quit shortly thereafter for similar reasons.

That said, I can certainly empathize with those who have left synagogues under such circumstances and hope they have found houses of worship more to their liking.

My wife has joined another synagogue and is very happy. Me, I’m unaffiliated, and plan to stay that way.

Gene Carton

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