Ex­plain­ing re­li­gious costs

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

Re “It’s too ex­pen­sive to be Jewish,” Opin­ion, July 30

Ku­dos to Leslee Ko­maiko for shar­ing her per­sonal fam­ily ex­pe­ri­ence and shin­ing light on the fi­nan­cial bar­ri­ers some Jewish fam­i­lies face in ac­cess­ing their re­li­gion.

At­tract­ing and re­tain­ing younger fam­i­lies, cou­ples and sin­gles is, in­deed, a top is­sue fac­ing many in­sti­tu­tions in the Jewish com­mu­nity. At Univer­sity Syn­a­gogue Irvine, our “40 and Un­der” pro­gram of­fers free mem­ber­ship. We want ev­ery­one to ex­pe­ri­ence our hu­man­is­tic, cre­ative and joy­ous ap­proach to cel­e­brat­ing Ju­daism — with­out hav­ing fi­nan­cial pres­sure be­come a bar­rier. We hope the Ko­maiko fam­ily finds a path that works for them.

Michael Stone


I can’t de­cide if this op-ed, re­plete with a gi­ant head­line, was writ­ten tongue-in-cheek or just as a broad-stroke put-down of what the au­thor con­sid­ers a “typ­i­cal Jewish sit­u­a­tion.”

I am a Jewish per­son whose two daugh­ters had bat mitz­vah cer­e­monies, al­beit not ex­tremely re­cently. How­ever, we did not feel pres­sure to pay pro­hib­i­tive sums for He­brew school train­ing or the ser­vices. My fam­ily does not have a syn­a­gogue mem­ber­ship. I’m sure we’re not alone in cel­e­brat­ing Shabbat (the Sab­bath) and Jewish hol­i­days with­out ben­e­fit of rabbi or can­tor.

Linda D. Finn

Ma­rina del Rey

The au­thor has struck upon a dilemma that all of us who are con­cerned for the con­ti­nu­ity of Ju­daism must face. In a nut­shell, be­cause of high ex­pec­ta­tions, Jewish lead­ers and ed­u­ca­tors of ne­ces­sity are highly trained, both in Ju­daism and in their field of spe­cialty — of­ten, in terms of years, com­pa­ra­ble to at­tor­neys and physi­cians. Of ne­ces­sity, then, Jewish in­volve­ment is an ex­pen­sive propo­si­tion.

Hol­ly­wood Tem­ple Beth El in West Hol­ly­wood has adopted an open seat­ing no-charge ap­proach for the High Holy Days. All we re­quire is ad­vance regis­tra­tion for se­cu­rity pur­poses and, if you want re­served seat­ing, a nom­i­nal charge for that. (Yes, se­cu­rity is a prob­lem that all syn­a­gogues must face to­day.) We are re­design­ing our ser­vice and for­mat as well to be ac­ces­si­ble, emo­tion­ally, to a broad swath of the com­mu­nity.

Nor­bert Weinberg

West Hol­ly­wood The writer is rabbi of Hol­ly­wood Tem­ple Beth El

It is easy to em­pathize; it can, in­deed, be a fi­nan­cial bur­den to be a prac­tic­ing Jew, es­pe­cially in L.A.

How­ever, if the au­thor had used more ini­tia­tive, I am cer­tain she could have found Jewish high school stu­dents who would have been qual­i­fied and will­ing to tu­tor her son for his bar mitz­vah, and at a cost con­sid­er­ably less than $80 per ses­sion.

Tom Fleish­man

Val­ley Glen

It's too bad that the writer sees be­ing Jewish as a fee-for-ser­vice trans­ac­tion. Yes, if you look at it as a way of pur­chas­ing a bar mitz­vah, it's pricey. But be­ing part of a faith tra­di­tion is be­ing part of some­thing big­ger than your­self, some­thing deeper and much richer than one event. It is a tra­di­tion that teaches val­ues to live by, the im­por­tance of fam­ily, and pro­vides struc­ture, com­fort and a car­ing com­mu­nity to help us deal with life's chal­lenges.

Su­san Meyer

Stu­dio City

Ko­maiko un­der­cuts her en­tire ar­ti­cle in the last para­graph, where her pri­or­i­ties be­come clear: “Base­ball and sleep-away camp and a mil­lion other not-so-good ex­cuses have pre­vented me from set­ting up his first tu­tor­ing ses­sion. But it’s on my to-do list.” Clearly, Nathaniel’s bar mitz­vah is at the bot­tom of that list. And she may never get there!

Rochelle Popowitz


The prob­lem is ac­tu­ally with the au­thor, not with the price tag of be­ing Jewish. Yes, syn­a­gogue mem­ber­ship and re­li­gious school are ex­pen­sive. But why is she wait­ing un­til the year be­fore her son’s bar mitz­vah to get him He­brew lessons? Many Jewish fam­i­lies have their chil­dren learn­ing He­brew — even ba­sic read­ing skills — from third or fourth grade. It doesn’t mat­ter to me if Ko­maiko de­cides to be a de­vout Jew, a cul­tural Jew, or not Jewish at all. But she should blame her fam­ily’s lack of con­nec­tion to Ju­daism on her own lack of com­mit­ment.

Aaron Levin­son

Wood­land Hills

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