To suggest that criticism of France “is now off limits at the ADL” because I was given an award by President Jacques Chirac is mean-spirited and an outrageous statement from a Jewish newspaper that knows well how outspoken ADL and I have been about France, when warranted (editorial, “Foxman Hearts Chirac,” Dec.1).
On November 16 ADL held a meeting with the media in New York for Mrs. Ruth Halimi, the mother of Ilan Halimi, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Paris because he was a Jew, so she could tell her story, which The Jewish Press did not report. And it was I who publicly called on French Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy to open an investigation into the police handling of Ilan’s kidnapping.
I was proud to receive France’s Legion of Honor Award presented by President Chirac at the Elysee Palace in Paris, in the presence of the French Jewish community. Yes, there are serious issues confronting Jews in France, but French Jewry and we are working with government officials to bring about positive change. Attacking France as The Jewish Press does may make you feel good, but is not helpful to French Jews as they attempt to resolve problems.
Abraham H. Foxman
The Baker-Hamilton Commission is expected to recommend that the administration push Israel to make concessions in the interest of winning cooperation on Iraq from the Syrians and the Iranians – in effect calling for Israel to become today’s Sudetenland.
It was 1938 when the Czechoslovakian president, Eduard Benes, was pressured into giving the Sudetenland to Hitler. Prime Ministers Chamberlain of Britain and Daladier of France joined forces with Hitler against Czechoslovakia in exchange for “guarantees of Czechoslovakia’s integrity.” Chamberlain returned to England declaring he had achieved “peace in our time.”
That “peace,” we know, would lead to the deaths of millions of people, both combatants and civilians, over the next several years. Santayana wrote that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. If Israel becomes the sacrificial lamb to appease the bloodlust of the terrorist nations of the Middle East, America will be next on the chopping block.
New York, NY
Thanks so much for Lewis Regenstein’s superb article on the Jewish soldiers of the Confederacy (“Shame of the Yankees,” front-page essay, Nov. 17). I enjoyed it immensely and really learned a lot. I plan to share it with my students who are learning about the history of American Jewry.
Cantor Manny Silver
Not So Shameful
Re “Shame of the Yankees”: There were at least eight Jewish generals in the Union Army compared to none in the Confederate. Those Jewish generals were not political appointments but came up through the ranks. Likewise, in 1862 Congress authorized the creation of a Jewish military chaplaincy, the first for any non-Christian denomination.
The Confederacy did not deem it important enough to provide chaplains for its loyal Jewish troops.
While Jews were generally well accepted in the South, it, like the North, had its share of anti-Semitic incidents. For example, in August 1862 the only three Jewish families in Thomasville, Georgia, were false accused of passing counterfeit money. A local mob gave them 10 days to get out of town. Thirty Jewish soldiers in a nearby Georgia volunteer company signed a letter of protest but the accusation was not rescinded. The three families left town never to return.
Why Gen. Grant issued the infamous Order No. 11 is not clear, but at least President Lincoln ordered it retracted as soon as he heard about it. As president, Grant proved to be quite friendly to the Jewish community. When Jews were being persecuted in Romania, Grant appointed a Jew, Benjamin Peixotto, as U.S. consul in Bucharest. (They didn’t have ambassadors back then). Imagine if FDR had done something like that in the 1930’s.
Grant appointed the first Jew to a U.S. cabinet post, but Joseph Seligman declined the position of secretary of the treasury. In addition, Grant was the first president ever to attend a synagogue service while in office.
Glen Rock, NJ
The November 24 article about the kehilla of Passaic, New Jersey, stated: ” . . . in the 1970’s, three emissaries from Lakewood, including Rabbi Meir Stern, the current rosh yeshivabegan the Yeshiva Gedolah of Passaic.”
In fact, the Yeshiva Gedolah of Passaic was founded in 1973 by Rabbi Gershon Weisenfeld, zt”l, and Rabbi Chaim Davis, shlita. Rabbis Weisenfeld and Davis were engaged by the Reichmann family of Toronto to start a yeshiva gedola and kollel in what is now the yeshiva’s kollel building at 35 Ascension Street in Passaic.
In early 1975 Rabbi Weisenfeld became critically ill. At almost the same time, the Yeshiva Gedolah of Woodridge, New York, where Rabbi Stern was a rosh yeshiva, was encountering financial difficulties. Rabbi Weisenfeld left Passaic, and Rabbi Stern joined Rabbi Davis here. Today, Rabbi Davis is the mora d’Asra of Bais Medrash LaTorah in Passaic, and Rabbi Stern is the rosh yeshiva of Passaic’s Yeshiva Gedolah.
Finally, any history of the Passaic Orthodox Jewish community that does not highlight Rabbi Heshie Hirth’s tireless efforts in building the kehilla is incomplete.
Passaic Park, NJ
Ita Yankovich’s article “A Perfect Marriage” (Nov. 10) presented a wonderful glimpse into some of the physical and social barriers faced by Jews with disabilities – and she avoided the paternalistic tone too often employed by those who write on the subject. I also appreciated her experience on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and her ability to feel things from the wheelchair user’s perspective.
The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center Inc.
New York, NY
The Awfulness Of Jimmy Carter
I totally agree, despite my liberal leanings, with Rick Richman’s “Jimmy Carter’s Disingenuous Diplomacy” (front-page essay, Nov. 24).
Of course the 1949 cease-fire line was just that, not a permanent border. There’s a reason Carter thinks he can get away with such drivel. The argument that the boundaries between Israel and a Palestinian state have to be negotiated flies in the face of repeated “moderate” Arab and Muslim proclamations that there must be a return to the 1949 boundaries. They would laugh at Carter if he suggested that they really negotiate in good faith over the location of the boundaries. So, his only chance at formulating an argument that might work is taking the Arab position.
The unfortunate truth is that the Israeli government and, more important, the Israeli people, are torn over what type of peace terms they want. The country is divided between those who advocate surrendering most of the territories and those who call for extending the boundaries of Medinat Yisrael to include those of Eretz Yisrael. This is the weakness of a democracy as opposed to hypocritical and tyrannical dictatorships.
Robert E. Fox, Esq.
Jimmy Carter was an awful president and has been an even more awful ex-president, despite the liberal media’s attempts to build him up as some sort of paragon of humanism. His dour, sour face is a perfect picture of the rot that dwells within.
Follow The Money
I agree that former president Carter is an enemy of Israel and Jews (Media Monitor, Nov. 24). Obviously, his use of the word apartheid in the title of his new book is employed with malice aforethought.
Wondering why Carter spends so much time manipulating the narrative of Israel’s history, I went to the website of the Carter Center and looked at its financial supporters. The list of donors of lifetime contributions – more than one million dollars – includes (in addition to various corporations, Western governments and left-wing foundations) Prince Alaweed bin Talal, the Sultanate of Oman, Sultan Quboos bin Said al Said, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bakir M. binLadin for the Saudi BinLadin Group, the Saudi Fund for Development, and the Government of the United Arab Emirates.
Barry Tigay, Ph.D.
Around 1984 I had to fly to Atlanta on business from LaGuardia airport. As it turned out, Jimmy Carter was on board. Sometime during the flight he made the rounds of the plane, shaking hands with the passengers and making small talk.
I was debating with myself whether or not to tell him what I thought of him. Mostly I wanted to say how happy I was that he had lost to Ronald Reagan, because I was Jewish and feared what he would have done regarding Israel had he been reelected. Ultimately I decided not to say anything – why inflame an anti-Semite needlessly?
With hindsight, I’m sorry I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to confront him.
Philip L. Stern, CPA
Jewish Opposition To Zionism
Jewish religious opposition to Zionism has found an echo on your pages in recent weeks.
Jewish students responding to your Inquiring Photographer (Oct. 27) voiced a need to confront anti-Zionist ideas. A reader from Philadelphia (Letters, Nov. 17) expressed appreciation for Neturei Karta, perhaps the most vocal Jewish anti-Zionist group, and argued that its activities aim at saving lives. While her letter was serene, one could sense anger and indignation in the reactions to it from other readers (Letters, Dec. 1).
Indeed, Jewish opposition to Zionism has often provoked more rage than debate.
However, anger is rarely a good adviser, and our tradition emphasizes rational dispassionate analysis, particularly when lives are at stake.
It is in this spirit that I examined Judaic anti-Zionism in a book initially published in French under the title Au nom de la Torah (In the Name of Torah) and this year in English as A Threat from within: a Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism (Fernwood/Zed Books). Having presented my book in several countries, I have seen that the enduring rejection of Zionism on the part of frum Jews makes many people aware of the pitfalls of confusing Judaism and Jews with what they read and watch in the media about Israel.
Both the founders of Zionism and their adversaries agreed that Zionism was a revolutionary break with the traditional yearning for Eretz Yisrael and geula shleima, Zionism as a social and political movement overtly promoted a secular national identity, which has clashed with the traditional Judaism of Torah and mitzvos in Israel and elsewhere. Inspired by European nationalism and a romantic reading of our history, a modern proud nation has taken root in Eretz Yisrael. It rejected as shameful vestiges of the past the traditional Jewish penchant for compromise and appeasement (Jacob’s approach to Esau is a prototype of this attitude).
This new emphasis on pride and assertiveness explains the rage so many Jews feel when they see Neturei Karta members shake hands with the leader of Iran or pray at the bedside of Arafat. Many Orthodox Jews have also embraced the Zionist worldview, even though their embrace remains circumstantial and emotive. They would be reluctant to question the authority of a Chofetz Chaim or a Brisker Rov, a Satmar Rebbe or a Lubavitcher Rebbe (the Frierdiker Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson), all of whom articulated strenuous opposition to Zionism and its reliance on military force.
Israelis are more prone than their Diaspora brethren to admit that the anti-Zionist rabbis reflect our tradition. “To recognize the legitimacy of religious anti-Zionism is vital to the debate on Israel and Zionism,” writes Professor Joseph Agassi of Tel Aviv University. “As an Israeli patriot, I consider it essential to integrate the discourse of Judaic anti-Zionism into the badly needed public debate about our past, present and future.”
We can all gain by listening to this Israeli patriot: Jewish opposition to Zionism draws its strength from classical Judaism and raises questions that demand urgent and serious attention from all of us.
Yakov M. Rabkin
Professor of History
University of Montreal