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Fear of Judaism

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To the editors:

As a Conservative Jew, presumably I am dangerously close to demonstrating "cultlike" behavior because I choose to keep kosher, attend services on Shabbat (Sabbath), and observe other traditional Jewish rituals. Curiously, in the world of Florence Hamlish Levinsohn, author of "The Importance of Being Jewish" [August 7], only Reconstructionist and Reform Jews are not suspect (and she seems suspicious of any Reform Jews who want to increase their understanding of the Torah).

Apart from providing a graphic demonstration of the author's own fear of Judaism, though, the article fails to offer any insight into why younger (and some older) Jews are becoming more interested in finding out more about Jewish law (Halacha). My own opinion is that there is a general trend towards more traditional values in this society. This corresponds with a higher attendance level for all religions. It would appear to be a healthy development that young adults are attempting to search their souls to find values to live their lives by. The traditional values found in Jewish law provide an excellent framework for dealing fairly with people, as well as for developing one's relationship with G-d. Instead of decrying the trend to increased religiosity, therefore, the author should be encouraged by it, as it signals an increased commitment to ethical values.

Further, the author portrays Orthodox and Conservative Jews as a monolithic group, both rigid and sexist. Although all major organizations display some amount of inflexibility and sexism (in my experience), there are gray areas in both groups. For example, the Conservative branch of Judaism allows women to participate fully in services and also to become rabbis. Although women have a separate role in Orthodox Judaism, they are truly valued as people. I may disagree with some of the tenets of Orthodox Judaism, but I do not question the integrity of those who hold those positions.

Finally, for someone who describes herself as a humanist, I found the author's article to be intolerant and small-minded. She attempts to remain Jewish while separating herself from the one thing that has helped Jews to survive for 2,000 years of dispersion--the Torah.

Susan Kling

Chicago

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