Beyond the golden shtetl
I was somewhat confused by your editorial on Jewish outreach in Issaquah. Three months after writing a glowing article about Chabad?s first anniversary in Issaquah, your editorial implies that they should have competition in their work for bringing Judaism to Issaquah and points east. In your saying there ?should? be a chorus, it sounds as if you are afraid the area covered by Chabad is going to turn into one big Orthodox community to the exclusion of any other practice of Judaism. In expressing your concern, you stretch so far that your points snap back and hit you on the rebound.
The JCC is not a religious organization but rather a cultural one. It does not hold religious services on either Shabbat or the High Holy Days, concentrating instead on cultural events, athletic facilities and social get-togethers. It could easily be compared to the 92nd Street Y in New York. Let the JCC come to the Plateau and I am sure it will be welcomed and supported.
The third paragraph in your editorial got a bit fuzzy in what you were trying to say. You ask why observant families who would live near Microsoft should not have what Seward Park residents have. It is these families that would benefit most by having Chabad where it is; they would have an Orthodox synagogue in the neighborhood. As for the rest of us, I invite you to show up one Saturday morning and see how many people drive there. There even are some who drive 10 or 20 miles to get to Chabad, even when other synagogues are closer.
That brings us to the main point of this topic: What is Chabad?s true mission? As previously stated, it is not to turn the Eastside into a gold-plated shtetl of men in black and women who are seen but not heard. Instead, it is to bring Judaism to areas where it has not been before, so that more Jews (men and women) can live their religion more often. Their guiding slogan is to get ?one more Jew to do one more mitzvah.?
Chabad saw the need in East King County and now Issaquah, Sammamish, Snoqualmie, Fall City and North Bend have their local synagogue, and it is not drawing only Orthodox Jews. To look at their success and say there should be others implies that Chabad does not welcome anyone who is not Orthodox.
Speaking from personal experience, it is the complete opposite that is true; when I arrived in Seattle nine years ago I tried several synagogues. It was only Chabad in the U-District where I felt welcome, where people came up to me, wished me ?Good Shabbos,? asked about me and I felt like I was part of the congregation from the first day I was there. In none of the other synagogues I visited did anyone welcome me. Similarly, Chabad has done more for Judaism in the Issaquah area in a little over a year than the rest of the synagogues have done up until now. For the others to realize now there is a Jewish community out here and say there should be more than Chabad only points out their shortcomings and envy of Chabad?s success.
Why change what?s working?
This responds to your recent editorial (?Who?s doing the Jewish outreach in Issaquah,? Dec. 9) The thrust and purpose of the editorial is murky to me, at best.
Chabad of the Central Cascades is the only Jewish group I know of which has been going door-to-door finding Jews of all stripes, shades, and persuasions and reintroducing them to the beauty and wonder of Judaism. The outreach program extends to the Central Cascades area, an area clearly encompassing Issaquah, Fall City, Woodinville, Snoqualmie, etc.
Do we need multiple synagogues in the area? This would be fine of course ? but not, as your editorial implies, because there is a dearth of Jewish religious opportunity out here in the western-slope Cascades. There is tremendous religious and cultural opportunity for all Jews here because of Chabad of the Central Cascades. I favor support of the pioneer synagogue provided by Chabad of the Central Cascades and its wonderful rabbi and rebbetzin who came to the area believing there must be Jews here and then devoted themselves to locating Jews and bringing or returning them to Judaism, emphasizing joy, community and renewal.
If the thrust and purpose of the editorial is to raise the awareness of Jewishness and to act upon that awareness in a constructive and meaningful way to strengthen the Jewish community in all families, even if only one or a few family members are Jewish, is not cooperation and partnership with Chabad of the Central Cascades the approach to pursue? After all, does not wisdom teach us to support and enhance the approach that is working rather than to diverge from success and thereby undermine it?
Michael E. Sterling
The answers are within
You posed a good question; ?Who?s doing Jewish Outreach in Issaquah?? The answers can be found within your own newspaper. Chabad is only one, new dimension of the Jewish presence in Issaquah. There are many Jewish activities in our community. Our family moved to Issaquah approximately eight years ago. One of our first activities was to go shul shopping. Finding a temple that was in driving distance was easy; locating some Jewish neighbors posed a different challenge. Rather than wait to meet friends, we advertised in the Jewish Transcript and started our own chavurah. Within a year we had 10 families gathering monthly. It continued for several years until families joined traditional congregations as our children grew older and needed formal religious school, or were founding families for new temples.
Last year a new company, Mitzvah Mavens LLC, was formed in Issaquah. The Simcha Celebrations Showcase, a trade show for families planning Jewish Bar Mitzvah and wedding receptions was held in Issaquah at the Pickering Barn. There were over 100 exhibitors, 1,200+ attendees and even a Guinness Book World Record attempt with Kosher Krispy Kreme Donuts. It was an event that included the full spectrum of the Seattle Jewish community ? and held on the Eastside (JTNews was an event sponsor). The event was covered on local and national television and internationally in print. An even bigger showcase is planned for next fall. Issaquah, as a vibrant, growing Jewish community is obvious.
Sure, a JCC or shul in the Issaquah area would be great. Till then, we are a vibrant community that supports each other?s activities, rather than isolates. Our family are members of a Reform congregation; however, we attended Herzl?s Anniversary celebration, Klezfest, and my husband davens with Chabad and other Orthodox groups. We are visible in Issaquah schools as we demonstrate shofar blowing and dreidels. As Jews, we need to lead by example and support each other. Changes are happening all the time due to self-motivated, outspoken citizens. Issaquah now has several public menorah lightings, PTSAs that are aware of Jewish holidays and (sometimes) schedule events around them, even the local Issaquah press changed some of their headings from ?Churches? to ?Places of Worship? due to conversations with Jews in the community. Who?s doing Jewish Outreach in Issaquah? Hineni.
A vision for the future
Chabad Jewish Center of the Central Cascades is dedicated to increasing the awareness, knowledge and observance of Judaism in the Issaquah-Sammamish-Fall City communities.
Its purpose is to reach out to all Jews, regardless of age, affiliation or level of observance, and give them a closer look on Judaism.
In the Jewish community today, there is a much greater awareness than ever before of the need for increased Jewish programming. This has occurred as a result of the growing hunger for Jewish knowledge and experience on the part of families and individuals, and coincides with a general move in the United States toward spiritualism.
This creates a tremendous need for programs that specifically respond to this situation. We intend to distinguish ourselves by offering quality programs which address these new needs on a much larger scale and much more effectively. We are recognized as the place to come to get more meaningful Yiddishkeit.
Our goal is to become a one-stop Jewish resource center in Issaquah with a warm, welcoming atmosphere open to any Jew at any time, a place to discover and nurture the Jewish soul within.
We intend to accomplish this goal by:
1). Launching the Chabad Jewish Resource Center of the Central Cascades, offering the Jewish community a comprehensive Judaic library, classrooms, and private space for counseling and tutoring. There would be a sanctuary, and also a small gift area for purchasing Jewish books, tallisim, mezuzot and other necessities of Jewish life.
2). Building a superior workforce through careful hiring and continuous training and development, of an outreach professional to both coordinate and expand existing programs as well as to initiate new ones, enabling Chabad to more effectively further the Jewish education of a greater number of children, young adults and families. This will be accomplished by working closely with the leaders of the Jewish community to efficiently meet the needs of the greatest number of families in a most personalized manner.
We now plan to increase our focus on developing the new Jewish resource center for the Central Cascades serving Issaquah, Sammamish and Fall City.
Rabbi Berry and Nechama Farkash
Directors, Chabad of the Central Cascades
One day too many
I must be missing something, and if not then do correct me.
In the JTNews an article appeared discussing the origins of the Hanukkah eight-branch menorah (?The Mystical Understanding of Hanukkah,? Dec. 9). The departure point of this article was that the seven candle menorah used in the Temple in Jerusalem symbolized the seven days of creation. The article goes on to state that if one adds one more stem to this seven-stem menorah, then one ends up with the Hanukkah menorah.
Woe is me, but the Bible, when summarizing the story of creation, states over and over that there were but six days of creation. We read in the Ten Commandments ?For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them??
Our current civil war
A number of Christian denominations, including Evangelical Christians and Catholics, are deeply concerned and increasingly vocal about what they believe to be a domestic ?War on Christmas? and, by extension, a ?War on Christians.? They see this war manifested in many ways, including replacement of ?Christmas? with ?Holidays,? as occurred in the 1.5 million seasonal cards sent out by President and Laura Bush and in greetings in Target department store ads, and in current efforts to enforce Constitutionally protected prohibitions against such public promotion of religion as federal aid to parochial schools and the teaching of ?intelligent design? in public schools.
The Jewish Week of December 15 has a cogent overview of this problem. Predictably, the perpetrators of this war are increasingly being perceived by Christians as being the American Jewish community. Special wrath is being directed at the Anti-Defamation League, which for decades has led the way in exposing and combating anti-Semitism. Televangelist Pat Robertson recently stated that ?the [Anti-Defamation League] has put out a memo that they?re going after Christians….are they leading the charge against Christmas, too??
And John Gibson, Fox News commentator and author of The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought stated ?...Abe Foxman and the ADL weigh in on this from time to time, but…what really is going on is there?s a war on Christians.?
It is tragic and dangerous enough for the American Jewish community to be targeted by nutcases like Robertson, but we are now under assault by one of our own religious leaders in the person of Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Mercer Island resident and president of Toward Tradition, who has helped form a new group, Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation. At a recent news conference, panelists from this group, including Lapin, said that Jews bear a special measure of responsibility for the accelerating war against Christmas and blamed a largely secular Jewish community that dislikes any public expression of faith.
Lapin is again targeting his favorite nemesis, the Jewish community at large, which, unlike him and his supporters, is overwhelmingly progressive. With virulent anti-Semitism still deeply implanted in American culture, we hardly need a rabbi to assist the rabble in fomenting another blood libel in the form of a ?war on Christians.?
Robert and Gail Stagman
Aid to the enemy
I would like to comment on a slanted opinion piece (?Breaking the link of silence,? Nov. 11). Because of the lengthy coverage, it creates the illusion that it was a legitimate piece of reporting of a real issue. The bottom line is that the community Jewish paper was used to promote a minor issue ? that of two visiting dissident Israeli soldiers. No estimates from any source have ever placed more than one tenth of 1 percent of the Israeli Defense Forces as dissident. That coverage made the proverbial mountain out of a molehill. Constructive criticism is one thing: insults, distortions, omissions, and excess promotion disguised as reporting is quite another.
Giving publicity in this excessive manner to those who choose to encourage the enemies of Israel, and embarrass the soldiers of Israel who protect and defend the Jewish homeland for all of us is flat out wrong, but when it is done under false and skewed reporting, it breaks standards for fair journalism. I understand that the Voices of Palestine group promoted this event. Their Web site states clearly what they think about the Jewish people, Israel, your family and mine, how they twist and turn words and events.
Further, readers are told that the two soldiers paid for their two week, multi-State tour themselves. Does the writer imply that the sponsoring groups and those they associate with put out not a dime in cash, accommodations, effort, time, aid?
The article goes on and on, PR that our enemies would envy. For example readers are told about 2,500 Palestinians being humiliated at checkpoints ? as if that is done without reason. Is the writer obliged to print every word a dissident says? Funny how all the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel rhetoric always leaves out those two defining words: ?suicide? and ?bomber.? Dialogue that reports humiliation without mention of the real horrors of flying body parts and the wholesale slaughter of innocent Israeli citizens from the terror acts of Palestinians indicates a complete lack of respect for the facts, and a terrible sin of omission for a Jewish paper.
Does the writer remember that old ?We Are One? stuff that has served the Jewish people for thousands of years? Does the writer not realize slamming the IDF serves as great ammunition and encouragement for our enemies? Why would a Jewish Community paper decide to cover at such length even the tiniest of these kinds of events? Even if a writer agrees with a dissident, which is his choice, should the paper be used to promote harm to the men and women of the IDF, our brave and honorable brothers and sisters who for generations have, by their unity and clear mission, kept Israel in existence as Israel.
Since I do not have the same access to unlimited space, photos, and words that an assistant editor has, let me just add some logic and common sense in reply to this opinion mixing with bad judgment: does the writer not see the insult in running that piece in a pro-Israel Jewish paper? That same issue had an advertisement to honor the men and women of the IDF who were coming to Seattle to perform a concert. That was known well in advance.