October 28, 2004
Letters to the Editor
The three groups that are quoted as backing Bush are forgetting Jewish history and tenets, including tikkun olam [heal the world]. ("Examining the Jewish Vote," Oct. 22.)
To the Orthodox, remember answering the four questions with Hayenu avadim Pharoah b'mitzrayim or we were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt? This means that we not forget the downtrodden and the least among us. Do they excuse Bush's constantly favoring the wealthy and the powerful or is what we say at the seder just words to them?
To the Russians, it was [President Harry S.] Truman who stood up to the Russians with the Marshall Plan and Berlin Airlift. The other presidents, of both parties, just followed suit. The Russian Jews are confusing the authoritarian left, such as the communists, with the Democratic left, who fought for freedom.
To the Israeli expats who fled rather than stay to build their country, again it was Truman who was first to recognize Israel and began the American support for the Jewish state. In all cases, he was opposed by the right-wing Republicans whose genteel anti-Semitism let them oppose Israel behind the scenes as the Dulles brothers did so effectively.
Much of this may seem like ancient history, but currently it is well documented that Bush ignored Clinton's warnings about terrorism and then latched on to it after Sept. 11. Any American president, Republican or Democrat, would have reacted the same toward Afghanistan, but the position of Israel is more tenuous, because of the Bush invasion of Iraq.
The Jewish Journal's blatant attempt to influence the upcoming election by printing four articles exaggerating Jewish support for George Bush, while at the same time harshly criticizing John Kerry, is an outrageous example of a once-respected newspaper becoming a propaganda machine for the Republican Party.
There is no balance in your political stories, just the Republican spin machine called nauseum. While right-wing extremists such as Dennis Prager, Jill Stewart and Sy Frumkin are allowed to spew their rhetoric, liberals and moderates are never allowed to author articles.
In the interest of fairness, I expect to see four pro-Kerry anti-Bush articles in your Oct. 29 issue. If not, it will prove that The Journal has abandoned all objectivity and journalistic standards.
As the co-founders of the Israel Christian Nexus (ICN) and the organizers of the recent solidarity rally at the Stephen S. Wise Temple, we must express our outrage at the attempt by professor David Myers and Daniel Sokatch to discredit the Jewish communal effort to build bridges between ourselves and the evangelical community ("Apparent Allies Might Not Be Our Friends," Oct. 15). At no time in our association with hundreds of pastors and thousands of Christians, have we received the least intimation that there is a hidden agenda behind Christian support for Israel. Our meetings have in fact been marked by deep respect for Jewish practices and traditions, heartfelt regret for centuries of Christian persecution of Jews and a commitment to the survival of the Jewish people.
While it is always good to remain cautious about a potential missionizing agenda, it should be noted that the evangelical community in this country is as splintered and fractious as ours and there are considerable political and religious differences between groups. So although there may be a handful of pastors involved in the ICN who have given token support to more extreme missionizing efforts, it is spurious to suggest that these same pastors are undertaking concerted, fully funded campaigns of their own to convert Jews or that they are attempting to either "eradicate Judaism" or "seek our disappearance as Jews." This is simply not the case and amounts to the kind of wild speculation the authors go to such lengths to deny.
The only way to understand the deep friendship offered by Christians is to meet them and engage with them. We change hearts and minds by talking, not by turning our backs. Somehow we believe that even our critics will understand this point.
I am totally fed up with the letters and articles in The Journal about the Christian right and why we should reject their support for Israel. I guarantee these folks don't have a clue about Christians and are merely voicing a gut reaction.
As a young man, I joined a group of fundamental Christians and before returning to the fold, learned a great deal about them.
Yes, they do want to convert Jews and anyone else they can. Yes, their support for Israel is genuine, a result of their theology, and is a totally separate issue for them from converting Jews. The two do not go hand in hand.
For those Jews worried about Christian missionary efforts, there is a surefire way they can't reach you or your children: Teach and practice Judaism in your home in a warm and loving manner on a consistent basis.
Further to Michael Berenbaum's excellent review of the book by Ruth Linn, "Escaping Auschwitz" ("Righteous Anger Fuels 'Auschwitz,'" Oct. 15).
Professor Linn of Haifa University is an expert on education, not history. What she claims in her book to be facts are partly errors, partly exaggerations, partly the result of interviewing Rudolf Vrba.
Vrba is the co-author of the famous Auschwitz protocols, undoubtedly a genuine Jewish hero of the Holocaust, and very reliable when he talks about his experiences. When he voices his conclusions and opinions, they have to be carefully checked, which professor Linn has not done.
Contrary to what he has been saying for many years now, the protocols did have an impact – they were a factor in preventing deportations from Budapest after 437,402 Jews had been sent to Auschwitz from the provinces. They were completed two weeks before the beginning of these deportations, and by the time they reached Budapest, weeks later, there was no way in which their content in the provinces were rebuffed by local leaders.
Hungarian Jews did not know about Auschwitz, but they knew that Poland meant death. There was no way they could resist or hide or escape, and Linn's anger repeats an understandable but deplorable Jewish reaction: We do not wish to admit that the Jews were powerless and helpless.
The fact the protocols nevertheless had an impact is due in part to the intrepid bravery of the four escapees, of whom Vrba was one, and in part to the desperate attempts of courageous Jews, among them members of the much-maligned Budapest Judenrat and Zionist Orthodox leaders in Hungary and Slovakia.
Linn's effort will make headlines, no doubt, but in the end is ahistorical.
Vrba got his well-deserved honorary Ph.D. in Haifa not only through her effort – I intervened and was told that my letter had played an important part in making the decision to grant the degree.
Kvetch Too Much
As someone who has written extensively on Jewish representation in American television, methinks Liel Liebowitz and her two prime informants, TV critics David Zurawick and Allison Benedikt, kvetch too much ("Fall Season's New Jewish Wasteland," Oct. 15).
Conspicuously absent from their account of the present state of Jewish TV are the Emmy-winning sitcoms, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Arrested Development," and the drama, "Everwood" (all of which also won awards from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture).
That brings the current crop of original-run "Jewish" sitcoms to four and dramas to three, not equal to the peak of nine sitcoms in 1997 but a record for dramas, and not bad in any case for an ethnic group with less than 2 percent of the nation's population – just as Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.
As for the tenuous or stereotypical Jewishness of the new shows, when – since perhaps "The Goldbergs" and "Brooklyn Bridge" – has it been much different (see "Seinfeld," "Friends," "Mad About You," "The Nanny")?
Indeed, one could argue that with "Arrested Development's" hyperfunctional Bluth family, Jews have arrived at a confidence level from which they can portray some of their kind not only warts and all but warts only.
Other Harvard Voices
In his ("Liberal Academics Blind to Terrorist Threat," Oct. 15), Avi Davis purports to be quoting a professor of Harvard whom he calls "one of the most noted political scientists in the country." If it really is a quote, and not just Davis' opinion of the professor's views, why is he afraid to give the professor's name?
Furthermore, Davis' assertion that it is not just the one person, but the Harvard community in general which is not concerned with terrorism, is easily disproved. Jessica Stern, a lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, has a lengthy record as a specialist on terrorism and in 2003 published a very important book, available in paperback, titled, "Terrorism in the Name of God."
Graham Allison, the Douglas Dillon professor of government and also director of a research center at the Kennedy School and author of at least 20 books, has just published "Nuclear Terrorism: the Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe."
A few weeks ago, that well-known "liberal," Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, interviewed professor Allison on the topic of what we need to be doing worldwide in order to keep the nuclear defense material out of the hands of terrorists.
Ashton Carter, co-director of the preventive defense project at the Kennedy School, also has written on a similar topic, which can be found in the September-October issue of Foreign Affairs and is titled, "How to Counter WMD."
Perhaps Davis prefers not to mention these authors because, even though these three specialists very much emphasize the enormous threat from the Islamic terrorists, they all conclude that the present administration's approach to dealing with the threat is wrongheaded and even irresponsible.
The only statement in Jill Stewart's article ("Missing the Boat," Oct. 22) that was accurate was that Jewish immigrants in California were a tiny percentage of the vote, in the case of Jewish Iranians, maximally in Los Angeles 0.1 percent of the registered voters.
Sam Kermanian, who stepped down from his chairmanship of the Iranian Jewish Federation to join the Bush campaign, should avoid the fuzzy math of that campaign. There are no half-million Iranians in California.
The U.S. Census 2000 found only 150,000 Iranians, almost half the 339,000 Iranians found in all the U.S. The only official body I've discovered putting out estimates of huge numbers of U.S. Iranians is the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, hoping perhaps to somehow garner influence on American policy through a perceived (but nonexistent) large and influential expatriate community in the U.S.
There are no Republican "weapons of mass registration" in the Jewish community. The Orthodox Jewish community is less than 4 percent in California and less than 7 percent of the national Jewish community.
The Israeli community is pretty much on the scale of the Iranian Jewish community, and the Russian Jewish community is not very much larger.
As long as no one is counting heads or looking at the readily available sources which has counted them, these immigrant communities will make interesting anecdotes in every election, but lets not miss the boat and give them coverage which is inordinate to their size and therefore misleading, and missing the over 90 percent of the Jewish community who are not Orthodox or recent immigrants.
After reading ("Apparent Allies Might Not Be Our Friends," Oct. 15) and five letters to the editor, I would like to comment.
Christian support of Israel is to be encouraged and applauded. However, it is a double-edged sword when certain individuals and organizations who work to protect the physical well-being of the Jewish people simultaneously promote our spiritual destruction through their support of and active efforts toward conversion away from Judaism.
For 25 years, Jews for Judaism has been responding to the efforts of evangelical Christians who seek to convert Jews. Our organization has counseled more than 1,000 Jewish families who are devastated when their children are ensnared by Jews for Jesus, and other evangelical Christians who deceptively target Jews for conversion. The anguish experienced by these families is difficult to describe.
I know that it is unrealistic to expect evangelicals to stop proselytizing. However, we can demand that they take a moral stance and join with Jews and Christians of good conscience who condemn the deceptive and misleading tactics used by Hebrew-Christian and Jews for Jesus missionary groups.
Several interfaith resolutions, as well as a 2002 resolution by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, have strongly condemned Christian missionary activities that deceptively target Jews for conversion.
When Christian support of Israel is backed up by a willingness to sign on to a similar resolution, it will serve as a litmus test to help determine which Christians are true friends of the Jewish people. If Christians refuse to sign on and denounce these tactics, then perhaps it is correct to question their motives and our praise of their support.
I invite the Israel Christian Nexus to work with me and the JCPA to draft such a resolution.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz
Need to Learn Lesson
This is in regard to Rabbi Harold Shulwies' article ("A Stand for Darfur," Sept. 24).
How fortunate our Jewish community is to have such an enlightened rabbi in our midst. He speaks to us as the Old Prophets used to: "What good is all your fascinating and repentance, your keeping all the rituals and saying all the prayers, when you do nothing to alleviate the suffering and injustice directed at our fellow human beings."
When we, the European Jews, were in need and cried out for help, so few hands were extended. Now we endlessly bemoan our losses and spend so much of our resources and energies to squelch "anti-Semitism."
It seems to me we finally need to learn our lesson, as Schulweis points out. Our energies and resources would be far better spent in support and defense of the helpless and the downtrodden, wherever they be, whether next door or in the Sudan. Only then are entitled to call ourselves "God's chosen people."
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