I was hurt and saddened by the letter to the editor in your last edition (Oct. 5) from Dr. Noah Friedland, and by his accusations and innuendo that the Kollel, and therefore myself as a rabbi and employee of the Kollel, was somehow affiliated with soiled diaper throwing and radical saliva-spitting anti-Zionist elements that somehow continue to get major media coverage, despite their minuscule number of members and influence.
Anyone that has taken the time and effort to meet any of the Kollel rabbis or examined their activities over the last 15 years in this community will find that through their non-judgmental Jewish educational and inspirational approach in providing a resource for the pursuit of knowledge and Judaism for Jews at every level and background, they have assisted thousands of Jews in their journey to becoming more inspired and active in their Jewish lives. At an average Kollel rabbi’s Shabbat table, one might find Jews that are Conservative, Reform, Republican, Democrat, vegetarian, gay, black, white, intermarried, unaffiliated and even non-Jews.
There are long-time native Seattleites that participate in Kollel classes, and there are transplants from all walks of the community that find in the Kollel and its warm, welcoming environment a place they truly call their home for Jewish learning and experiences. Anyone that has participated in a Kollel class, event, or Shabbat would clearly attest to that.
But perhaps the most painful contention that Dr. Friedland makes about the Kollel is in regard to its views on Israel and its support of our country. The Kollel over the past three years has sponsored trips and taken huge losses to subsidize people who have never been to Israel in their lives. These trips included visits with the president of Israel, to Masada, the Burma Road and Yad Vashem — hardly places where a purportedly anti-Zionist organization would encourage people to go. In the past year, there have been five adult Kollel students who have made aliyah as a result of their trips and Kollel inspiration.
This is not to mention that the Kollel currently employs Rabbi Ben Edelstone as a full-time campus rabbi, who with his wife Shirley (whose father Mordechai Zar, not incidentally, was a member of Knesset and worked with Golda Meir and David Ben Gurion in his positions as speaker of the Parliament and in the Jewish Agency), twice a year subsidize and take college and birthright students to tour and study in Israel. Over 30 students have gone on these programs. Some consider aliyah, some consider joining the army, but all are more attached to their Jewish roots and Israel.
The West Seattle Torah Learning Center, the Kollel’s subsidized learning center and synagogue, proudly displays in our shul a prayer for the soldiers of the Israeli Army. My colleagues Rabbi Bressler and Rabbi Toban and I were delighted when the Jewish Federation chose to select the picture of our little daughters at the community’s Israel Independence Day event, in front of an Israeli flag, to be the cover picture for their annual report.
It is my hope that perhaps soon we may be able to treat each other with respect and appreciate our differences, as well as grow closer to one another. It is also my hope that the JTNews will continue to serve our community by being a forum where we can learn about institutions and organizations that deserve our community’s support and welcome all who wish to further their Jewish knowledge and experiences.
With respect to all those who have not yet had the pleasure of joining the Kollel, I encourage you to check out the Kollel’s Web site and join us for our classes and programs. Or, if you are not affiliated with a particular synagogue, I would be delighted to welcome you to join us out in West Seattle for a Shabbat service and dinner. I promise we won’t throw any diapers.