Use Your Diction Faithfully

by Elana Bannerman | 11/2/04 6:00am

To the Editor:

I think it is unfair for the anonymously quoted freshman in your article profiling Rabbi Moshe Leib Gray to assert that students choose to attend Chabad over Hillel because of its more "religious" environment ("Hasidic rabbi brings Jews closer to faith," The Dartmouth, October 22).

"Religious," as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, connotes an entity pertaining to or connected with religion. Although I am sure this was not the source's intent, his statement therefore implies that Chabad is more connected with the Jewish religion than is Hillel.

Members of the Jewish community, aware of the negative implications associated with using the term "religious" in comparing different types of Jewish practice, often use the expressions "more observant" or "less observant" to differentiate between the many ways in which Jews express themselves religiously. However, I believe that these phrases still indicate a hierarchy.

Perhaps a more accurate word for the source to have used is "ritualistic," a term that describes a group adherent to ritual, and one which I believe accurately describes Chabad, an organization dedicated to spreading the teachings and practices of its rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn.

Using "ritualistic" in comparing the two organizations does not imply that one organization reflects Judaism's wide range of practices more than the other.