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Girls Have the Right to Say No

My family and I read with great sadness the story of Ethan Bean’s too-short life (Sept. 13, page 10). We are immeasurably thankful to his family for sharing his story and his struggle with the community, and I am certain that their bravery will help others and save lives.

We would, however, like to bring to your attention an important problem in the article, which comes from this line, as pointed out by my high school-aged daughter:

“His experience at North Farmington High School was disappointing. He had trouble making friends and felt isolated and excluded. When he created a ‘promposal’ for a girl he liked, she rejected him.”

This statement perpetuates a societal problem of our expectations of women and girls. This statement, whether or not it is meant to, underlines the assumption that it is a young woman’s duty to say “yes” to a proposal and that to reject it is to somehow hurt the “proposer.”

This statement is very harmful to girls and women. It is not their duty to accept any proposal, innocent or otherwise, and it is our duty as boys and men to understand, teach and live the fact that girls and women have absolute autonomy. The quote above both assumes that the girl had a duty to say yes and a duty to understand that saying “no” might harm the boy.

A girl or woman should feel no guilt and have no hesitation to reject an invitation, proposal or advance from anyone.

Dr. Peter A. Lipson and family

Bloomfield Hills

Solution to Conservatism’s Demise

Regarding Rabbi Aaron Starr’s column on the Conservative Jewish demise (Sept. 20, page 6), first, an “yasher koach” to his grandfather and the rabbi on their Jewish survival.

In addition to Rabbi Starr’s correct assessment of causes, there are additional factors to Conservatism’s demise:

  • The increased reluctance of modern men to get married or even approach women (risk of financial ruin/unfavorable family courts/less flirting due to risk of “me too” accusations)
  • Environmental pollution reducing fertility (well-documented Israeli research on this)
  • The increased polarization of the Jewish community from both sides
  • Conservative shuls becoming like Reform shuls, redefining laws and traditions, incorporating microphones and music. What does Conservative even mean? How is it different from Reform?
  • Frum shuls becoming ever more religious and unnecessarily strict in interpretation
  • Increasingly polarizing politics from both right and left.

The solution: The real answer to this is to have more inclusive traditional Orthodox shuls like in Israel.

  • Put away the suits and ties if you want. Wear the knitted kippah if you want or the cheap satin.
  • Be proud of whatever level you are at.
  • Shuls should be welcoming and less judgmental about each person’s individual practice.
  • Of course, there will always be disagreements about core questions and stringencies.

Conservatism is likely to be gone within two generations regardless, as it is transitioning to a “Reform+” slant.

Hopefully, more people will pursue the Israeli-style then abandon Judaism altogether.

Elliott Gestetner

Berkley, Michigan

Falsehood in Rabbi Starr’s Column

Rabbi Starr’s otherwise thoughtful essay on the importance of perpetuating the non-Orthodox Jewish population, which has a low birthrate, contained an error. He wrote, “After all, we in the non-Orthodox world support a woman’s right to work full time outside of the home and — if we are being frank – when both adults work in a household, it affects in a variety of ways a couple’s ability to conceive and to raise additional children…”

Orthodox women work outside the home with their husband’s blessing. I know many of them and I am awestruck by their ability to manage a Jewish household, raise happy children and hold a job. They are doctors, social workers, lawyers, teachers, speech therapists and entrepreneurs.

It is true that Orthodox women tend to marry earlier, giving them more fertile years. But they also have a communal infrastructure that makes it easier to have bigger families and to work — less expensive home-based day care, jobs that offer flexibility (if not a high salary) and extended family nearby to help. Along with economic necessity, community values dictate the way Orthodox Jews live, which is typically humbler than their non-Orthodox counterparts. Rabbi Starr wrote as much.

If we are going to encourage our children to marry and procreate with other Jews — the point of Rabbi Starr’s essay — we need to do a better job of instilling a sense of joy and awe in the practice of Judaism.

We also need to recognize more universal factors in the low overall birthrate in the U.S. — stagnant wages that require more than one household member to earn, a legitimate fear of not being able to break into the workforce after taking time off to raise children and a workplace culture that rewards long hours — and support labor policies that are family- and salary-friendlier.

Julie Edgar

Oak Park

‘Truth Squad’ Needs to Dig for the Truth

Wow! With the title “Truth Squad” (Sept. 20, page 20), I just had to read the piece and check into the organization. I found that it is a project of Bridge, a magazine of the Michigan Center, claiming to have a staff of experienced journalists. While there are a number of things in the piece upon which I would wish to comment, because of space restriction policies, I choose one — the coverage of Garlin Gilchrist regarding Israel.

Truth Squad casually dismisses Gilchrist’s scurrilous tweets about Israel by saying that Gilchrist apologized and now says he claims to support Israel and calls Hamas a terrorist group. One would think that experienced journalists would dig into what changed Gilchrist’s opinions of Israel and Hamas; when did Gilchrist change his opinions; and why didn’t he begin tweeting about the change before he was nominated? Isn’t that how “experienced” journalists would operate?

If Whitmer failed to fully vet her choice for such an important position, as Truth Squad suggests, what does that say about how she will make decisions in the future? P.S. I am not a supporter of Schuette or Whitmer for governor.

Sylvia Fleshman

Farmington Hills

Jewish Readers Do Care

Regarding your “Truth Squad” article in the Sept. 20 edition, their conclusion states: “While voters are motivated by a host of issues — including perhaps whether their political leaders are antagonistic toward Israel — T.S. would like to remind them … just how little time candidates will spend dealing with Middle East. Unless Hamas is putting potholes … or ICE is causing … there are more important issues…” Oh, really!

I would like to remind you that your Jewish News is mainly being published for Jews. We Jews should know and do care about, candidates having anti-Israel/pro-BDS/Hamas-accepting attitudes.

Candidates trying to “cleanse” their previous stated feelings (like “tired of people kissing Israel’s ass,” “Hamas legitimately elected” and Whitmer refusing to denounce BDS against Israel) to get Jewish contributions and Jewish votes shouldn’t be considered to now not have these prejudiced attitudes.

They are important, along with “fixing potholes and raising third-grade reading scores,” and should not be discounted to your readers.

We do care to know when candidates have expressed beliefs that many of us feel are really anti-Semitic beliefs because they single out the Jewish State for criticism.

Larry Freedman

Clawson

An Important Watchdog

AMCHA (Sept. 20, page 24) is an enormously important watchdog for everyone interested in “investigating, documenting, educating about and combating anti-Semitism at institutions of higher education in America” as well as the BDS movement on campus.

AMCHA recently organized the letter from 58 organizations to University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel regarding the incident of the U-M professor who, in compliance with the academic boycott of Israel, refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student wanting to study in Israel.

Your attention to and support of AMCHA are imperative to protect our Jewish students and the Jewish people.

Ed Kohl

West Bloomfield

Response to Professor Who Denied Student a Recommendation Letter

I wrote to Dr. Cheney-Lippold at the University of Michigan and told him I was greatly disappointed to learn of his rescinding a letter of recommendation for a student only because she was planning to attend Tel Aviv University, an Israeli university and as such one to which he was ideologically opposed (“Israel Bias,” Sept. 20, page 18).

He backed up his decision with numerous accusations of apartheid and the like, none of which is supported by reality. What he is doing, first and foremost, is denying freedom of choice from a student for his own personal views.

Israel is a country like any other, other than it is in the center of the most violent area of the world. Though a genuine democracy, Israel is far from perfect, but his action is holding it to a standard of near-perfection that no nation has achieved.

He should think about similar letters he has signed and look at their human rights records — China, Russia, any country in the Arab block and almost all in the Muslim world, Turkey, Thailand, Myanmar and numerous African nations, etc.

Also compare Israel to the Palestinian interests he claims to be defending; is he aware of the far-reaching peace proposals offered by Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert that to the Palestinians were not even worthy of a response? Does he recall Hamas fighters pushing P.A. people off roofs in 2005? As for right of return — would he offer the same to Native Americans?

I ended my letter by saying, “So yes, be critical of Israel but only by using the same standards that you apply to the rest of world.”

Leslie Goldstein

West Bloomfield