April 18, 2012
Letters to the Editor: ‘Shoah,’ Iranian-American Jews, Passover
Lessons Learned From ‘Shoah’
When I read last week’s cover story (“An Indelible Film, ‘Shoah’ Also Reflects an Extraordinary Artist,” April 13), I was reminded of an incident in high school more than 20 years ago. I was one of only a handful of Jewish students attending a Christian school in Atlanta, Ga. My history teacher asked me to read from my textbook, and as I came to the sentence that stated, “6 million Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust,” my history teacher told me to stop reading. She then stated that “6 million Jews” was an “inflated number” as it “included priests, homosexuals and undesirables.” As I pointed to my textbook, I stated to the teacher that the book says “6 million Jews.” She then told me that this was “incorrect” and if I continued to argue with her I would have to leave. To this day, I regret not getting up and walking out of the room.
People, including teachers, will manipulate and change facts in order to rewrite history for their own twisted, selfish reasons. It is imperative that we don’t simply rely on textbooks. We must do more than this. We must continually speak out against those who wish to downplay the Holocaust by showing films like “Shoah” and ensuring that classrooms in both private and public schools are being factually informed of what took place during the Holocaust, especially the fact that “6 million Jews” were exterminated in the death camps.
“What do you want me to do, cry? As long as I am alive, I choose to laugh!” This quote was conspicuously missing from The Jewish Journal’s article, “An Indelible Film, ‘Shoah’ Also Reflects an Extraordinary Artist.”
This is the bold attitude that we need to see in this world — not the defeatist rhetoric that unjustifiably assumes that evil will have the last laugh, but that the good, the happy, the humorous will have the last laugh, no matter what evil men may perpetrate.
Why cry? I choose to laugh!
Arthur Christopher Schaper
Focus on Cultural Differences, Not Denials
Gina Nahai’s efforts to refute the negative characterizations of Persian Jews depicted in the [cable TV] series “Shahs of Sunset” are admirable (“The Myth of the Iranian-American Jew,” April 6). However, I do not believe that the vociferous denial of cultural behaviors, which clearly ring true, will help her achieve her goal of highlighting the many important contributions Persians have made to American society.
Nahai engages in intellectual acrobatics to argue that only a few Iranians arrived in the United States with money or drive BMWs. However, as a professor of Middle Eastern politics as well as the father of three half-Iraqi-Iranian children, I would urge Ms. Nahai to use her formidable abilities to explain the differences between Persian and American cultures, rather than to deny that those differences exist. My children have been taught the cultural reasons why their Persian relatives as well as many others find the BMW a symbol of prestige, along with the (perhaps increasingly irrelevant) reasons why their Ashkenazi father will not drive a BMW, Mercedes or, for that matter, any car of German origin.
The issue is not which culture is better, but rather what factors have caused these various cultures to adopt particular values they hold dear.
Rabbi Has Wrong Idea Regarding Bimah Politics
How could I have guessed that Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas was a Reform congregation? Could it be the muddled thinking (which often occurs when you think with your heart instead of your head) that led its spiritual leader to suggest that politics has a place on the bimah (“Politics on the Bimah,” April 6)? Abraham talking to HaShem, Moses standing up to Pharaoh, and Esther and a prophet calling out a king are equivalent to a rabbi preaching economic justice to his/her congregation? I think not. The problem is that Jewish textual tradition takes all sides of every issue and leaves it for the practitioner to decide how best to lead his/her life. For a rabbi to pick policy winners and losers is to deprive the congregant of the obligation to do his or her own homework in accordance with the mitzvot and commandments explained from the bimah and make the right decision. Speaking up at City Hall, the Governor’s Mansion, Congress, the White House — that would be in accordance with the examples cited by Rabbi Paul Kipnes; speaking up from the pulpit can, as noted, only be divisive.
Kudos for Journal’s Passover Edition
Reading your Passover edition, I was quite moved and impressed. I am fearful of being too complimentary to any Jewish organization, along with many non-Jewish organizations, out of concern of adding to the often already-over-inflated egos. In this case, I will risk such a side effect, because I think you guys can handle it and deserve to be complimented.
Keep up the excellent work, and keep fighting the good fight.
Richard S. Levik