Wolpe Vows he will no longer address issue of ethnic percentages

Posted By on May 21, 2014

Rabbi David Wolpe pledged in a sermon during Shabbat services at Sinai Temple on May 17 that he would no longer address the question of how many members of the congregation are Ashkenazi or Iranian or any other ethnicity.

We are 100 percent Jewish, the Sinai Temple leader said during a heartfelt 20-minute sermon intended to extinguish a firestorm that had erupted during the previous week.

Wolpes remarks came in response to community reaction to an advertisement for Sinai Akiba Academy, the synagogues day school, that ran in the May 9 edition of the Jewish Journal. The ad included the headline: Too Persian. Looks awful in print? It sounds worse in a whisper. It also included a picture of five smiling children and went on to say, Were proud of our diversity.

The wording of the headline set off a wave of angry conversations, phone calls and letters of protest to the temples staff, as well as some supportive responses. The result, Wolpe said, has probably exceeded any other controversy that Im aware of, that Ive been involved with at the synagogue, and Ive been involved in a few.

The advertisement was targeting prospective school families, Sarah Shulkind, the head of school, said. Im not saying this as a hyperbole, Shulkind said in an interview. On every single tour Ive given at the end of the tour, someone will say, One more question, can I ask you privately I dont mean to sound [rude], but is the school too Persian? Whats the ratio? Some variety of that question.

Sinai Akiba Academy has approximately 600 students, according to the Builders of Jewish Education website. Shulkind did not say how many are of Iranian heritage, but she said it is less than a majority.

Rabbi Lawrence Scheindlin, who retired in spring 2012 as head of school at Sinai Akiba, estimated the number to be somewhere around 30 percent as of 2012 and growing.

The ad was apart of an ongoing campaign in the Journal addressing perceptions about the school. Previous ads have focused on technology, green space and more.

The whole idea was to debunk the myth or the rumors of the school and to put out a proactive narrative about these topics, Shulkind said.

Our Persian families have lots of other choices for Jewish education in L.A., just like our Israeli, Russian, South American, South African and Ashkenazi-at-large families, the ad states.

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Wolpe Vows he will no longer address issue of ethnic percentages

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