Jewish Journal

Fears, Muslims, and Poland, too!

Posted on Jun. 28, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Fears Realized

As one who deeply and passionately loves Israel and the Jewish people, I opposed the Iraq invasion in large part because I feared it would rebound to the detriment of Israel and Jews worldwide ("Am I Left," June 22).

I am sad to say that my fears have been realized. Not only are we less safe as Americans, we are less safe as Jews in the world, and the image of Israel has been diminished worldwide because of her association with George Bush and the erroneous perception that the United States went to war largely to benefit Israel.

The fact that a team of Jewish neocons were among Bush's closet Iraq advisers/instigators certainly lent credence to that view. I believe these factors underlay much of the newly energized antipathy toward Israel on the left, along with the misguided Goliath vs. David view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Note to friends on the left: 'Palestine' is not Vietnam; Hamas is not a hardy band of indigenous freedom fighters).

Now, much as we fear a nuclear Iran and despise its ruler, who favors genocide against Jewish Israel, I believe that to endorse a precipitous attack on Iran is to continue down that same disastrous path from which no good can come.

Sonya Fox Sultan
Santa Monica

Negative Images

Muslims are baffled by the fact that the media paints them as terrorists, offers superficial understanding of Islam and focuses on violence over culture and accomplishment ("Paris and Rosie," June 15).

"Why is the image of Islam so negative today?" lamented Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee.

"As a Jew, I could ask the same question" commiserated panelist Rob Eshman of The Jewish Journal, who found the low image of Muslims to mirror that of Israel. "You can present people with all the information they need, in context, with background, and they'll still choose to live in cloud or cuckoo land".

Some [in the] audience at the Islamic Center of California found it difficult to accept Eshman's answer.

Frankly, I also found this twisted logic a bit hard to grasp, so please let me try: It is a fact of life that Grizzly bears are 85 percent vegetarian. It is absolutely amazing how much 15 percent of anything can ruin anyone's reputation.

Avi Zirler
La Canada Flintridge

Israel's Options

Your editorial "Paris and Rosie" said those who "cling ... to fantasy in the face of facts" are "living in cloud cuckoo land" (June 15) -- just like your editorial "1967-2007" (June 1).

There you listed Israel's options as: "being a pariah, fortress state" or a "state of chaos" as Palestinians opted for one state or "to live in smaller borders with a Jewish majority and productive relations with Arab states." Why did you totally ignore that this is Israel's policy via the Oslo Accords, which the Palestinians blew up in 2000 as they launched a suicide bombing war against Israeli civilians. And we wonder why the mainstream media does the same.

Egypt and Jordan opted for peace with Israel while the Palestinians opted for Hamas' ideology of death to Israel. When Israel withdrew from Gaza the Qassam rockets increased on Sderot. As Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza shows, it is not only up to Israel what happens, there is another side and they do not want peace -- that is something your "peace now" mindset seems unable to comprehend.

So what are Israel's options now?

Bob Kirk
via e-mail

Poland and Jews

Jane Ulman illuminates numerous initiatives in Poland intended to improve Polish-Jewish relations ("Poland and the Jews," June 8).

Are they going to stop the hatred toward Poland? No, because there is no hatred.

This is a myth perpetuated in Poland. However, there is an animosity toward Poland among many Jews. A daily dose of the Polish media from Radio Maryja (openly anti-Semitic Roman Catholic station) to the daily Rzeczpospolita shows that the Poles still have a big chip on their shoulders when it comes to the Jews.

Here are just a few recent examples: venomous "reviews" of Jan Gross' book, "Fear" (Princeton University Press), about the 1946 Kielce pogrom; the unveiling in the center of Warsaw of a monument to Roman Dmowski, a virulent pre-World War II anti-Semite, and the minister of education, who is the leader of a xenophobic and anti-Semitic party.

The Polish minister of culture dined and wined 11 American Jews, but he has not been able to find time to meet with the leaders of the American Jewish genealogical group, whose longtime and very successful cooperative program with the Polish State Archives was suddenly terminated without a cause and in violation of a legally binding agreement (the minister is a former law professor).

Much of the Jewish life in Poland today is a mirage, and the 30,000 Jews are a figment of imagination of the American Jews, who came to Poland to advance their careers. During the last census, only 1,000 citizens of Poland identified themselves as Jews.

To this day, many Poles do not wish to be recognized by the Yad Vashem for their heroic efforts to save Jewish lives during World War II out of fear of their neighbors.

So let us not get carried away with the transformations in Poland, which in the area of human rights and tolerance received very low marks from the European Union.

Wlodzimierz Rozenbaum
Silver Spring, Md.

I would like to add additional evidence supporting your cover story indicating dramatic positive changes in Poland, sharply contrasting with its earlier reputation of Anti-Semitism ("Poland and the Jews," June 15).

Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) one of a number of distinguished scientists who escaped from Nazi Germany and who had great impact on science and practice of psychology, especially social psychology, with important contributions to theory, research and applications to social influence processes, conflict resolution, group morale, leadership and social power. Lewin founded and served as director of the Research Center for Group Dynamics (now at the University of Michigan). He was also a founder of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, a division of the American Psychological Association, which still offers an annual Kurt Lewin Award in his name.

Lewin was strongly identified with Judaism and Zionism. His publications include such articles as "Bringing Up the Jewish Child," "Psycho-Social Problems of a Minority Group" and "Self-Hatred Among Jews."

When he died, he was actively involved in raising funds and support for a center for group dynamics at the Hebrew University. Though his early works developed while Lewin was a professor at the University of Berlin, few are aware that he grew up in a small Polish/Prussian town of Mogilno.

In 2004, professors Janusz Trempala and Remigiusz Koc and colleagues at Kazimierz Wielki University near Mogilno organized an international conference honoring Lewin, which was attended by many distinguished social scientists from Poland, Germany, Russia, France, Israel, the United States and Israel, including the current president of SPSSI, representatives of the Polish Academy of Science and the European parliament and dignitaries.

There were presentations of current research, theory and applications developed from Lewin's perspective, including several on the Jewish roots of Lewin's work. A subsequent book, "Lewinian Psychology," edited by Trempala, Albert Pepitone and myself, was published and distributed by the university.

In Mogilno, there was a formal ceremony dedicating a library and museum displaying items relating to Lewin's life and accomplishments, plus such items as a Torah scroll and menorah utilized by the Lewin family. In a formal ceremony, a plaque was installed at the Lewin family home. At the university, there is now an active Kurt Lewin Center for Psychological Research.

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of professors at Kazimierz Wielki University and those who assisted and supported their efforts, future generations of Polish scholars will be familiar with the contributions of an important social psychologist with a strong Jewish identity, and others outside of Poland will be more aware of the new face of Poland.

Bertram H. Raven
Professor Emeritus of Psychology

Stone Cold

Amy Klein missed the opportunity to welcome Rabbi Jonathan Rosenberg into the L.A. Jewish community in a way befitting a rabbi of his caliber ("Valley Shul Moves On With New Rabbi," June 15).

Instead, Klein used her pen to slander our previous rabbi, Aron Tendler. In this way, she mistreated both rabbis.

Somebody long ago said that whoever is free of sin should throw the first stone.

Amy Klein, save all your stones until you are free of tarnishing spots.

Alicia L. Kipust
Sherman Oaks


The June 22 Celebrations page listed an incorrect date for the wedding announcement of Ben Vorspan and Elana Taylor. The couple will wed on July 1, 2007.

In "Palestinian Conference Moved From College" (June 1), the acronym ISM was rendered as the Israel Solidarity Movement. ISM is the International Solidarity Movement.

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