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August 4, 2015 / 19 Av, 5775
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Letters To The Editor


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Unasked Question

Re Jonathan Tobin’s Feb. 21 op-ed article “The Question the Palestinians Aren’t Being Asked”:

The “perennial question” posed by pundits as to whether Israel is prepared to take risks for peace deliberately ignores the many concessions and conciliatory actions Israel has already implemented in an attempt to coax the intransigent Palestinians to deign to come to the table.

The arrogance of Israel’s critics who strive to convince Israelis that their total capitulation to maximalist Palestinian conditions will ensure a halcyon future for everyone is conclusive evidence of those critics’ not so latent anti-Israel bias.

Fay Dicker
Lakewood, NJ

Pew And Zionism

Rabbi Elchanan Poupko (“The Pew Study and Zionism: The Inconvenient Truth,” op-ed. Feb. 14) notes that the much ballyhooed Pew study shows that Jews in Israel have a greater adherence to Torah values than Jews in the Diaspora and he concludes that we “must acknowledge the positive accomplishments of Zionism …[which has]…been successful in maintaining and preserving the Jewish soul.”

He’s correct that numbers don’t lie. But interpretations vary. The connection between living in the land of Israel and greater adherence to Torah values is obvious, but the study does not establish cause and effect. In fact, the connection between Zionism and greater religiosity defies logic. How does a political movement that does not espouse religious values make anyone more religious?

You can just as easily give a more lofty interpretation: perhaps it is the holiness of the land of Israel that influences people.

Although I support Israel in almost every respect, a Jewish state not run according to Torah law is a sad state of affairs. You really can’t blame some Orthodox Jews for not supporting a state that, for example, publicly celebrates the gay lifestyle that is condemned by the Torah.

Ironically, in the same article Rabbi Poupko points out how the Reform and Conservative movements are having a hard time keeping their members while the Orthodox have a stronger bond to Jewish values and identity. Isn’t that all the more reason for Jews to demand that Israel be run according to Torah law?

Josh Greenberger
Brooklyn, NY

Not Feeling The Beat Of Our Jewish Symphony

I am glad that reader Mark Stone (Letters, Feb. 21) responded the way he did to Harvey Rachlin’s Feb. 14 op-ed “The Shabbat Morning Service: Like an Opera – Only More,” since I share Mr. Stone’s sentiment and felt guilty admitting it.

Sadly, I do not enjoy shul services. As a 20-something professional who works 60-plus hours a week in a suit, I look forward to and need my weekend to recharge. Sorry, but waking up early, putting on a suit, and sitting on an uncomfortable chair for more than two hours (longer if it’s a chag) listening to a chazzan stretch every syllable and repeat the same verses over and over again to the point where I’m grinding my teeth, and then having to listen to a lecture, just does not do it for me and others in my age group. While our co-workers are sleeping late, relaxing, running errands or simply catching up on work, we are drained.

I wish something could be done to modify the experience.

Alex Lapin
(Via E-Mail)

We Stand Corrected

In her Feb. 21 front-page essay, “America’s Earliest Jews,” Laurie Rappeport writes that “When the Portuguese captured the territory [where the Jewish community of Recife, Brazil, was located] in 1654 the majority of the Jews were killed, expelled or forced to go into hiding by the Portuguese Inquisition.”

This is incorrect. As I noted in “Recife – The First Jewish Community in the New World” (Jewish Press, June 3, 2005):

“Everything changed in 1654 when Portugal reconquered Brazil. Fearing the reenactment of the Inquisition, the Jews of Recife either returned to Holland or fled to Dutch, French, or English colonies in the Caribbean. Jews mainly of Sephardic descent (collectively known as La Nacion) had recently established small but flourishing economic enclaves in Parimaribo, Barbados, Curacao, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Cayenne. A total of sixteen ships transported both Jewish and Dutch colonists from Recife.”

The source for that quote is “They Came From Recife: the First Jews to Settle in America 1654” by Dr. Kenneth Libo and Michael Skakun (Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society).

Yitzchok Levine
Brooklyn NY

Editor’s Note: Dr. Levine writes the popular Glimpses Into American Jewish History feature that appears the first week of each month in The Jewish Press. Ms. Rappeport appreciates Dr. Levine’s correction.

The Right To Bear Arms

Reader Tzvi Hershkowitz (Letters, Feb. 21) takes to task columnist Sara Lehmann’s objection to, among other things, “the draconian gun-control bill rammed through the New York legislature soon after the Newton massacre (The Right Angle, Feb. 14).

While it is easy to sympathize with the letter writer’s sentiments as well as the fact that the letter was long on good intentions, the letter was woefully short on facts, respect for history, and critical thinking.

Mr. Hershkowitz complains that in his job as a corrections facility psychologist he has firsthand knowledge of the devastating effects of “easy access to firearms” by the drug-using inner city juvenile population, implying that this could somehow be prevented by the new legislation.

However, the new legislation will have no effect at all on juvenile access to guns. It already was illegal for juveniles to have access to firearms the same way and with the same success rate their access to illegal drugs is prohibited.

Abolishing the constitutionally protected right of law-abiding American citizens to keep and bear arms because inner city youth misuse illegal guns would make about as much sense as revoking Mr. Hershkowitz’s psychologist’s license because a therapist in another city and in another practice abused his patients. In other words, it makes no sense at all.

The same goes for expressed revulsion for mentally unstable individuals being given access to guns. While I share that revulsion, it too was already illegal. There are over 20,000 laws currently on the book governing firearms. The unconstitutional gun grab of legal firearms instituted by Gov. Cuomo will do absolutely nothing to alleviate what Mr. Hershkowitz complains about.

But it is his statement that only the police be allowed access to guns that I find most disturbing. Has Mr. Hershkowitz forgotten the lessons of recent history? Between 80 million and 100 million people – including six million Jews – were massacred by their own governments in at least nine separate massacres on three different continents in at least fifteen different countries in the past one hundred years. In each one of these horrific events the killings were preceded by civilian gun registration and the confiscation made possible by it.

No, I am not saying that every government that registers and then confiscates civilian weapons goes on to massacre their citizens. Of course they don’t, but it is a prerequisite for those that do. Is that really a mistake we want to make again?

The reality is, and recently released FBI statistics back up the fact, that more guns in the hands of law abiding citizens reduce crime. That is something that Jew and gentile, black and white, liberal and conservative should all be able to embrace together.

Favi Walfish
(Via E-Mail)

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions, so I thought I would answer a few of them in this week’s column. Keep those questions coming!

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