December 11, 1997
After reading with some distress your book review on Meyer Levin'sseemingly wasted years in an attempt to show a more honest andthorough version of the life of Anne Frank ("One Man's Obsession,"Nov. 28), I was very pleased to see excerpts of the new Broadwayversion of her life on television. It shows her as a more typicalgirl, arguing with her mother to assure her maturing self, and otheraverage, non-saintly aspects of any girl's life.
What shocked me, though, was that the new play shows the actorplaying her father, Otto Frank, describing the last time he saw Anne:emaciated, naked, head shaved, covered with lice and looking at himfrom behind barbed wire. He added that she was one of those dumpedinto the mass graves.
This still haunts me. I could have known this; I should have knownthis. It is what happened to nearly all camp inmates , but her, too?Not her! It's difficult to think about.
Anne Frank is the best writer of the 20th century. She simply andsweetly told the most incredible event of this century, or any other.She lived it and died it.
I guess I take her so very seriously as she was a Jewish girl myage, and I'm only first generation here myself.
Fay Seligson Conn
Since the Partition
I often disagree with Yehuda Lev. However, he is so good it isoften difficult to discern when he slants something to make hispoint.
Take for example his commentary on the 50th anniversary of theU.N. passing of the partition plan ("Since the Partition," Nov. 28).This is the first time I have ever read that the Soviets' motive tovote for partition was driven by the future scenario that they couldstep in and support the Arabs to gain their foothold in the MiddleEast.
It is true that they were looking to establish themselves in thatarea, as they did with every region. But their support for partitioncame out of Socialist alliances that existed in Palestine at thetime. Within months of the establishment of the government, it becameclear to Stalin that Ben-Gurion's administration was trying to alignitself in the West. Within a very short time, the Soviets reversedtheir position on Palestine and regretted their vote for partitionever since.
Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet delegate to the U.N. at the time, saidyears later that the Soviet Union rued the day that they ever helpedthe "Zionist imperialists" to reach their decadent capitalist goals.
The reason why the Soviets agreed to support the Jewish entity wasthe fact that they had many allies in Palestine. They were hopingthat the harder socialist elements there would be able to takecontrol, and thus give Stalin the foothold that he wanted in theMiddle East.
But this was not to be. Ben-Gurion, who over the years grew veryimpressed with American democracy, easily won out over the Stalinistinfluence in the government.
Stalin had many spies in the government. They were able to movevery easily through Israeli society, mainly because of being ofJewish extraction and the overall sympathy that Israeli socialismlent itself towards Marx.
There is a famous case that is well known in Israeli circles, of aSoviet spy that was very close to Ben-Gurion and was not caught until1958. He did a lot of damage. I remember reading about it years agowhen I was living there. His apprehension drew much speculation thatif a Soviet spy could rise that high in the Israeli government, howmany others were never caught?
The article by J.J. Goldberg was frightening ("The Age ofCounter-Semitism," Dec. 5). It also articulated well the reasons whyI, a committed Orthodox Jew, am opposed to Toward Tradition.
We should not be apologists for our enemies merely because we mayhave political views in common. Selling out on liberal Jews so thatothers may supposedly have a foothold in a future Christian Americais not moral and, as the article shows, it will not be effective.
Jews and Their Rabbis
I am hard put to understand J.J. Goldberg's apparent hostilitytowards rabbis and seeming resentment of their right to defineJudaism as they deem right ("The Rift Between Jews and Their Rabbis,"Nov. 21). This is, after all, a free country and people are able tojoin congregations, or not, and listen to, or turn off, rabbis asthey please.
Noting correctly that rabbis are trained to lead theircongregations toward ever higher standards, he portrays thecongregants as sitting sullenly and glaring at their rabbis. Hesuggests that rabbis have been "fuming" about their loss of powersince the ghettoes were shut down and Jews could leave. He has our"frustration" flaring up into "helpless rage" about intermarriage,with our alarm turning "histrionic."
Most of the fuss about intermarriage and survival in recent yearshas emerged from the lay-led federations who have made "continuity"the major thrust of their programs now that Holocaust remembrance,saving persecuted Jews and supporting Israel seem to have lost theirformer luster. These are the very same federations that, untilrecently, kept rabbis, synagogues and other "sectarian" organizationsat arm's length.
Rather than rage, most rabbis exhibit a sad "we told you so"response to the somewhat belated recognition of the connectionbetween religious observance, synagogue affiliation and thelikelihood of grandchildren regarding themselves as Jews.
Conservative Judaism which I know best as a Conservative Rabbididn't lose members because it suddenly cranked up its suggestedstandards of observance. It came to the conclusion that a religiousassociation has to -- for want of a better word -- push religion andgrow religious people. It seems, to Mr. Goldberg's chagrin, thatReform Judaism under its new leader, Rabbi Yoffie, is beginning todraw the same conclusion.
Why is Mr. Goldberg so angry at "the rabbis?" He neither has toagree with or obey what "they" say, or even listen to them. Unless,of course, he really wants us to bless and praise whatever it is thathe and "New York publishing executive Steven Baum" decide is "Jewishenough" for them.
As Goldberg properly noted, that's not what we were trained to do,so we are going to keep on trying to do our jobs as best we can andhope we can preserve, and even enhance, that core of committed Jewswho in each generation pull the wagon that Baum and Goldberg like totake short rides in now and then.
Rabbi Gilbert Kollin
The Great Pumpkin (Pie)
Wonderful treatment of a delicacy that Gentiles introduced, and weappreciative Jews eat with gusto ("As American As..." Nov. 28)! I wasfirst introduced to pumpkin pie by a Gentile neighbor of mine around1926 in Toronto, at a time when no Jewish delicatessen in thattraditionally British city even dared to stock pumpkin pie for fearthey might be ostracized by their halvah-loving customers.
You handled the subject so well, Marlene, that I'll bet most ofyour readers felt the urge to pause during their reading of theJewish Journal to invade the fridge in case there was a piece somehowresting therein, begging to be consumed! (All Jews will now raisetheir hand if they ate two pieces of pumpkin pie with theThanksgiving dinner...)
Earl S. Draimin
Orthodoxy in Israel
Rabbi Shafran's column ("Odd Ads," Nov. 28) contains a number ofsignificant fallacies.
While there is no universally agreed upon version of democracy,the version which Rabbi Shafran propounds is not the version thatAmerica's greatest democratic thinkers have uniformly espoused.
In America, the government is precluded from promoting thereligious standards of any denomination, from delegating itspolitical and social decision-making powers to a religious body andfrom allowing "minority" religions to endure the many discriminatoryabuses that the "neo-Judaisms" have been subjected to in Israel. Thishas often protected Orthodox and other American Jews from those whoinsisted America was founded as a Christian nation.
Shafran's claim that the "status quo" is the expression ofIsraelis' "deep bond" for their Jewish roots which "after all, areOrthodox ones" clearly out-chutzpahs the New Israel Fund attacks. Itis not likely that most Israelis who are themselves halachicallynon-observant could honestly justify the vow of faithfully halachicobservance which Orthodox rabbis impose on all conversion candidates.
Shafran tries to perpetuate the great myth of Orthodox Judaismthat there was, and still is, some universally agreed-upon version ofhalachic Judaism, when he states that Israel's founders "chose thereligious standards of all Jews' ancestors" and rejected the"multiple Jewish peoples."
Since it's been around for many centuries, halachic Judaism hashad more major schisms/versions and multiple standards than bothConservative and Reform Judaism combined. Even today, a significantnumber of halachic Jews deem many of their fellow halachic Jews asevil heretics just because they sincerely follow different halachicinterpretations. The fact is that we are multiple Jewish peoples. Thestatus quo exacerbates our differences greatly and needlessly.
Our New Publisher
What great good news that Stanley Hirsh is the newly-electedpublisher of the Jewish Journal ("Stanley Hirsh Elected NewPublisher," Nov. 28). I have a particular vivid memory of him from aparents' meeting at Oakwood School. It was either 1977 or '78. Wewere mired in still another discussion of why the school's populationdidn't include more minorities, a topic initiated angrily and notwithout cause by the same parent whose mixed-race children attendedOakwood. Judge Egley had just ordered Los Angeles Unified SchoolDistrict to integrate the public schools.
Liberals that we all were, none of us dared take on Robert Y. (nothis real name) and his accusations that we weren't moving fast enoughon this difficult complicated issue. Lower Oakwood at the time, underits director, Chris Holabird, had indeed made serious efforts toattract Blacks, Asians, and Latinos with disappointing results.
Cynthia Reich, president of the parent board always listenedsympathetically, patiently yielding the floor to Robert Y. while wesquirmed uncomfortably in a wash of guilt and/or frustration.
Finally one evening, Stanley Hirsh good-naturedly, but withmischief in his eyes said, "Our board has tried. We've offeredreduced tuition, we've advertised, we've enlisted public schooladministrators to get more minority kids....All agree, none of it isworking fast enough. But when people like you complain so much,there's only one thing you can count on, which is that youwill be elected to head the new parent recruitment committee;I so move."
Robert Y. became silent. He never mentioned it again; however,significant recruitment efforts continued under Sharon Davis' ableleadership the following year. A minority scholarship fund wasset up.
May Stanley's wit and wisdom enliven and enrich the Jewish Journalfor many years to come. Congratulations!
Josie Levy Martin
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Publisher, Stanley Hirsh
Editor-in chief, Gene Lichtenstein
Editor-at-large, Marlene Adler Marks
Associate editor, Robert Eshman
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Senior writer, Naomi Pfefferman
Staff writer, Ruth Stroud
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online editor, Sara Eve Roseman
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Arts editor, Diane Arieff Zaga
Contributing writers, James David Besser (Washington),Larry Derfner (Tel Aviv), Ina Friedman (Jerusalem), Rabbi EdFeinstein, Linda Feldman, Beverly Gray, Joel Kotkin, Rabbi StevenLeder, Yehuda Lev, Deborah Berger-Reiss, Eric Silver (Jerusalem),Teresa Strasser
Contributing editor, Tom Tugend
Art director, Shelley Adler
Photo/Graphics, Carvin Knowles
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Members of the corporation,
Ed Brennglass (1919-1997), Willard Chotiner, Irwin Daniels, IrwinField, David Finegood, Herbert Gelfand, Osias Goren, Richard Gunther,Stanley Hirsh, Marvin Kristan, Mark Lainer
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