I have lived in the Seward Park area for 10 years. My wonderful wife Marilyn Leibert works for the Seattle Kollel. Our family has supported it and enjoyed its programs for years. We attend congregation Bikur Cholim-Machzikay Hadath. We have three children who have attended the excellent Seattle Hebrew Academy and two who have graduated from the outstanding Northwest Yeshiva High School. We support Israel. I don’t even own a black hat, let alone wear one. We always thought we were pretty normal.
Imagine my shock when I read Dr. Noah Friedland’s letter and learned that my family is part of a “hostile takeover” and “a dangerous brand of Haredi Judaism” that spits and throws dirty diapers at people and seeks to undermine synagogues and kashrut. So far I have yet to meet any Kollel employees or supporters who actually do any of these things, and I rather doubt that they exist at all.
When Chabad came to Seattle over 30 years ago, there was a negative reaction from some who feared a somewhat different but still traditional approach to Judaism. Perhaps the critics had an insufficient appreciation of diversity. Happily, Chabad is still here and doing a tremendous amount of good. Some of today’s Kollel critics are repeating the prejudices and negativity of the past. No institution, including the Kollel, is above criticism, but letters which demonize people and make outrageous and untrue accusations have no place in reasonable discourse.
I would like Dr. Friedland and other Kollel critics to know that I respect them, hold them in high regard, and love them as fellow Jews. I am certain that they mean well. I hope that we can become better acquainted and learn greater appreciation for one another. Some may be pleasantly surprised to find that we are normal people who don’t have a stash of dirty diapers to throw. In furtherance of this goal, I would like to invite Dr. Friedland and his family to our home for Shabbat lunch at their convenience.