Letters to the editor November 10

Letters to the editor November 10

More Jews choosing cremation

 I just finished reading Toby Tabachnick’s article on Judaism and cremation (“Rabbis wrestle with cremation amid its growing appeal to Jews,” Oct. 27) and I wanted to congratulate you on the even-handed nature of exploring a very emotional subject in the Jewish community. As a consultant to funeral homes, a writer of a professional book on cremation as well as being a Conservative Jew, I have often seen people write one-sided pieces on the subject.

Cremation can evoke a great deal of emotions within the Jewish community, especially the Jewish community in the northern United States.  Your article was without judgment or prejudice.  It was educational.  It gave the historic and the modern day.  You quoted those blessed with the responsibility of helping families from both a religious and actual side of the decision making.  You found the informative route to take.

Ironically, in the southern, western and northwestern United States, the Jewish community has a cremation rate much higher than that of the Pittsburgh area.  We see a 50 percent cremation rate in Florida, about 40 percent in the Southwest, about 40 percent in Southern California and 60 percent in the California Bay Area.  The northwest cities of Seattle and Portland have small Jewish populations but their cremation rate is close to 50 percent.  For the entire United States population, in data released just last week from the Cremation Association of North America, cremation is now the choice of 40 percent of the United States families while studies show more than 50 percent favor cremation for themselves or their loved ones.

Studies show that higher the education and higher average income result in a higher than average cremation choice.  The Jewish community has been regarded for a long time as having an average income higher than the national average and a higher education than the national average.  Yet their lower than average cremation rate in many markets is a contradiction. In the future, the question will not be, “why has cremation been so small of a decision within the Pittsburgh Jewish population” but rather, “what happened to have it increase so rapidly?” 

I will refer to your article as I counsel my clients who are funeral home operators, some of which are focused on serving the Jewish community.  It was very well done.

Daniel M. Isard


(The author is president of the The Foresight Companies, LLC.)

Military leaves no one behind

 I read Justin Jacobs’ recent article, “The Shalit lesson:  No enemy will demean us,” Oct. 27, and I could hardly believe his comment with regard to the U.S. military not having the same ethos with regard to bringing back captured American soldiers and the remains of soldiers killed in combat.

Obviously, Mr. Jacobs doesn’t know the history of the military with regard to the situation about recovering prisoners of war and the remains of MIAs.  During World War II, the United States sent a special combat patrol to free American prisoners held in Japanese hands behind the lines in the Philippines. In Europe, Gen. Patton sent an America combat patrol behind German lines to attempt to free American prisoners, which included his son-in-law. A Jewish officer commanded this patrol.  Unfortunately, it was not a success.

The mantra of the Marine Corps throughout its history has been to never leave a Marine behind, dead or alive. I suggest that Mr. Jacobs read a little bit about the Marine and Army retreat under Chinese communist fire in the Korean War where they brought out all of their wounded and dead from the Chosin Reservoir area.

The Vietnam War saw American fliers downed in North Vietnam or contested territory and being rescued by the Air Force air rescue groups via helicopter and plane. Throughout the conflict many American fliers’ lives were saved by the heroic missions into enemy territory, many times under fire, to save our flyboys. 

During the Balkan Campaign, the Air Force suppressed the Serbian military when an American flier was shot down behind Serbian lines.  The Air Force found him, sent rescue effort, and brought him out to safety.

I really hope that Mr. Jacobs would learn a little bit about American military history to understand the devotion of all our services to recover U.S. POWs and MIAs.  This is a heartfelt, ongoing concept of the military.

Capt. David Malakoff

Marco Island, Fla.

(The author is a retired Army captain.) 

Ask the right questions

In response to your article “Leaving the house? For area senior citizens, the question isn’t that simple,” (Oct. 26) the answers aren’t always simple either. Starting the conversation about whether a parent or loved one needs help and asking hard questions requires sensitivity, respect, information and an individual assessment of need.

Some changes in aging may not be easily recognized and developing a trusting relationship with a trained professional can help. Jewish Family & Children’s Service is well positioned to guide both older adults and their families through these changes. Our licensed clinical geriatric social workers provide comprehensive assessments in your home to identify strengths, health care needs, safety issues and resources to meet your changing needs and challenges related to aging.

As noted in the article, there is often disagreement between the older adult and their adult children, and this relationship with a trained professional can be invaluable. The goal is to enable older adults to obtain the highest level of independence, comfort and safety consistent with their capacity and preference for care.

So whether adult children are exploring options to help a loved one remain in their home with the supports required to enable them to do so comfortably and safely or deciding if an outside setting may be the right choice, asking the right questions early can help everyone reach a desired outcome.

Pearl Averbach

Squirrel Hill

(The author is a certified care manager at the Jewish Family & Children’s Service.)

An apology

Although I stand by the content of my rebuttal letter to Abby Wisse Schachter’s article about library funding, somehow transformed without my knowledge or permission into a “Guest Columnist” section, I should not have written it while angry. I used terms in the letter that were unnecessary and ill-advised.

I apologize sincerely to Mrs. Wisse Schachter for the personal tone of those comments. They were inappropriate, and as I have been reminded, at odds with my mission as a Jewish educator in a Jewish community.

I hope that the mistake I made in the original rebuttal letter will not overshadow my message.

For less than we spend on Starbucks, change for a parking meter, or a slice of pizza, we can guarantee equal access to computers, Internet, educational programming for children, books and services for our entire community. I have little doubt that the community will support this referendum and their fellow citizens in a time when $900 million has been cut from the state public schools, resulting in preschool programs shutting their doors, school libraries going unstaffed and unfunded and class size getting bigger.

We owe it to the little children of Pittsburgh, their older brothers and sisters, their parents and grandparents. It is the right thing to do.

Sheila May-Stein

Squirrel Hill

Civil discourse needed

Sheila May-Stein’s op-ed piece would have been a cogent and impassioned response regarding Carnegie Library funding had it not carried with it personal insults to Abby Wisse Schachter.

While the school encourages intellectual discourse, we expect it to be free of personal insult and we hold our staff and school community to that standard.

Thankfully in our society one does not have to choose between civil liberties and civil discourse. In this case I regret that our truly passionate librarian and the Jewish Chronicle did not choose to exercise both.

Avi Baran Munro

Squirrel Hill

(The author is the head of school at Community Day School.)