Jewish Journal

Letters to the Editor: Aaron Brock, religion and second-hand smoke

Posted on Jul. 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Normal on the Inside, Too

The story of Aaron Brock is enormously moving (“A Hunger That Cannot Be Fed,” July 20). I was especially happy to see how the Brock family’s synagogue community gathered to support them, from the rabbi and cantor to the congregants, once they learned of Aaron’s condition and the family’s needs. Too often, either families choose to handle this in isolation, for fear of stigma, or are confronted with what appears to be indifference. I was also pleased that Rabbi Steven Leder knew which community resources would be of help to the Brock family. An invaluable resource for all clergy and parents is the HaMercaz Resource Guide for Families of Children With Developmental Disabilities and Special Needs (hamercaz.org).

I was less happy with the cover headline: “Normal on the Outside.” Aaron is normal on the inside as well — he feels pain, sadness, joy, love, isolation, compassion, as would any child his age and as would any child with a disability. While I realize that The Jewish Journal’s intent was to emphasize the importance of understanding “invisible” disabilities, I would argue that suggesting that Aaron is only normal on the outside defeats in part the humanity of the article.

Sally Weber, LCSW

Help Israel Navigate Challenging Times

I appreciated David Suissa’s piece “Religion vs. Religion” (July 13). He was able to capture the Charedi draft issue in a calm and balanced way, an approach that is often sorely lacking in the discourse today. However, what a difference a week makes!

With Kadima pulling out of the coalition, thereby threatening what was a rock-solid government with the opportunity to move forward both on resolving the draft issue and perhaps restarting negotiations with the Palestinians, now we have a potential collapse of the government, the embracing of the Levy Commission Report, which attempts to justify the occupation, and the funding of Ariel University with government funds, all of which affect the future of Israel in a negative way. This, in addition to the social protests that included, sadly, the self-immolation of a man in Tel Aviv. All those who care [about] and love Israel, I believe, should be invested in helping our brothers and sisters work through these incredibly important issues by supporting those individuals and groups on the front lines trying to protect Israeli society from the extremist elements in their midst. I couldn’t agree more with Yossi Klein Halevi: “We simply can’t do it anymore.” This applies to any number of pressing issues where the status quo is no longer tenable.

I pray that more Israeli voices echo Suissa’s and help navigate these very challenging times, thereby bringing reason, calm leadership and sound decision making in a sea of uncertainty.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater

Prager Incorrect on Risks of Secondhand Smoke

I am an endocrinologist and researcher whose research interest is in the interactions between drugs of abuse and the endocrine system. It is timely that [Dennis] Prager’s recent article on “Why I Voted Against the Tobacco Tax” (June 29), which considers secondhand smoke as a myth, came out the same week that our research on secondhand smoke being associated with higher rates of diabetes and obesity, presented at The Endocrine Society’s 94th annual meeting in Houston, was selected as a press release for being one of the most important findings related to diabetes at the meeting.

Although some studies have suggested a relationship between Type 2 diabetes and secondhand smoking, these studies have not verified exposure to secondhand smoke through serum levels of cotinine. Cotinine is a metabolite of nicotine, and serum cotinine measures a person’s exposure to tobacco smoke.

The National Institutes of Health report by James Enstrom and Geoffrey Kabat, cited by Prager, did not confirm secondhand smoking status by measuring cotinine levels. My colleagues and I used serum cotinine levels to determine primary versus secondhand smoke and examined data from more than 6,300 adults who participated from 2001 to 2006 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. We found that, compared with nonsmokers, secondhand smokers had a higher measure of insulin resistance, a condition that can lead to Type 2 diabetes; higher levels of fasting blood glucose; a higher hemoglobin A1c, a measure of blood sugar control over the past three months; and a higher rate of Type 2 diabetes. Secondhand smokers also had a higher body mass index (BMI), a measure of obesity, compared with nonsmokers. Current smokers had a lower BMI than nonsmokers but a higher hemoglobin A1c. Our findings indicate that secondhand smoke is not as benign as Prager would like us to believe.

Dr. Theodore C. Friedman
Chair, Department of Internal Medicine
Charles R. Drew University

An article about Cantor Marcus Feldman (“Sinai Temple Welcomes New Cantor,” July 13) misstated that his prior work included guest cantorial positions. In fact, he served as cantor at Sun City Jewish Services in Palm Desert and as a cantorial intern for four years at Stephen S. Wise prior to becoming second cantor there in 2011.

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