It is unfortunate, indeed, that your coverage missed the forest for the trees in “Lunch and Burn Over Great Neck Torah Class” (Feb. 15). The lunchtime practices of a local synagogue and rabbi may not be illegal, but that does not make them ethical.
Before people get caught up in First Amendment arguments, they would do well to recall that the students at Great Neck North High School are minors, albeit with an open campus and constitutionally protected rights to assemble, practice religion, etc. Are rights really the issue here, though?
To test the assumption, just ask yourselves whether free lunch-and-learns by a local church or mosque would receive the same sanctimonious defense of student and shul rights by the Anti-Defamation League and Agudath Israel.
To be sure, Judaism and American civil jurisprudence have great respect for rights. Neither places rights in a vacuum, however. Both underscore the responsible exercise of rights, in keeping with duty and obligation.
One wonders, is it not noteworthy that the synagogue and rabbi in question feel their rights trump those of parents and public school administrators who spoke on their behalf? While adamant about their rights, what is unclear is whether they acknowledge a concomitant sense of obligation: was the synagogue’s non-response to civic leaders respectful of its duties to the broader community in which it exists?
To my mind this is not a plain civil rights issue. As a Jewishly committed public school parent, I, for one, commend the administration of the Great Neck Public Schools for doing its utmost to keep parents and students apprised of a disturbing trend in our community. I fear that the costs to our community and the souls of the kids and families are yet unknown. Where will it end? Will more religious institutions crop up to lure minors during their public school day? What is to stop them?
Bottom line: there is no free lunch.
Great Neck, L.I.