Opinion | Jewish Prayer Books: Old, New and Relevant

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To the Editor:

Re “Could I Save These Sacred Jewish Books?,” by David Margolick (Op-Ed, April 3):

The quandary of Jewishness is told in this article. Years ago I was browsing in a flea market. There, in a jewelry case, I was drawn to a bejeweled small prayer book. Emotions overwhelmed me. How could such a beautiful, sacred item be so degraded? It was as if this book reached out to me.

Without disputing the asking price, I bought it. Yes, I am Jewish and a Holocaust survivor. Was I part of this prayer book’s legacy? Printed in 1969 by the Jerusalem Press. How many worshiped with this book? Did the last owner die? How long did it languish in this dusty case? Was it waiting for me?

It’s been part of my precious possessions for 18 years. It is inanimate, but I cherish its soul and memories.

Marianne Bobick
Gainesville, Ga.

To the Editor:

I applaud the respect for aging Jewish prayer books that David Margolick demonstrates. But the reader might be left with the impression that all the prayer books of the synagogue have lost their relevance. Mr. Margolick chafes at the “robotic responsive readings” and counts “the number of pages still to be endured.”

Several generations of new prayer books have appeared in progressive synagogues that engage and inspire us. Rich in relevance and poetic elegance, they address the concerns of the worshiper, moving us to introspection and acts of justice and compassion.

Their place is not in the dustbin of Jewish history, but in the souls of a new generation that is renewing our tradition.

Charles A. Kroloff
Westfield, N.J.
The writer is a past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Do We Really Need More Children?

To the Editor:

Re “Ending the Baby Bust,” by Ross Douthat (column, March 28):

Given the ever-increasing world population and the disproportionate impact of each American on world resources, the baby bust is not the biggest problem we have. Nonetheless, an argument can be made that we need a more balanced age structure in the United States lest we find ourselves like the Japanese, with too many old people supported by not enough young.

There are many people, mostly young and with children, waiting at our border for just the chance of entry into the United States. For years now, the growth of the U.S. population has depended on immigration. If we want to grow our population, all we have to do is open the door.

Richard W. Poeton
Lenox, Mass.

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat discusses the need to increase America’s birthrate for economic reasons. But he disregards a critical fact: Having a child is the worst thing that one can do for the environment.

There are other considerations, of course, but it is irresponsible to suggest that people should have more children despite the climate crisis that will so severely affect those children.

I’m more concerned about the environment my daughter and grandson will live in than I am about increasing the work force.

Nic Baker
Roseville, Minn.

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