Best Of Times, Worst Of Times

This November, American Jews have an extra reason for thanksgiving as we happily participate in numerous celebratory events to mark the 350th anniversary of Jewish settlement in the United States – a venerable and wonderful milestone.

Simultaneously, Israelis despondently disengage from their nine-times-older history. Despite Arab attacks, Israel finalizes its plans to reward terrorism by the surrender and erasure of all traces of Jewish life in the Gaza District and in northern Samaria – strategic and historical areas populated by Jews some 3,150 years ago!

These policies will not only greatly endanger the remainder of tiny Israel (a country less than half the size of Lake Michigan) but Jews globally. For if orchestrated violence inexorably leads to the expulsion of all Jews from entire portions of their ancestral homeland, then it can certainly do the same anywhere else in the world where Jews obviously have much weaker roots and connections to their respective places of residence.

Such policies can only serve as precedents, which will entice and embolden anti-Semites around the world to employ violence – a likelihood tragically exemplified in recent years by attacks against Jews in Buenos Aires, Djerba, Istanbul, Nairobi, Paris, and Taba. Consequently, it is very much in our own self-interest to take a prudent time-out from our celebrations and demand, for the greater good of Jews worldwide, that the Sharon government rescind its misguided and dangerous disengagement/expulsion policy.

The autocratic Mr. Sharon apparently needs to be reminded that Israel was created to be a safe haven for Jews and not a walled hi-tech ghetto. Furthermore, the primary function of a government is to protect and defend its citizens. It is certainly not to expel them and posthumously create a legacy for Yasir “Jihad” Arafat.

Only when all Jews can enjoy their inalienable rights to live safely and happily wherever they choose will we be able to celebrate fully.

Henry Moscovic
Flushing, NY

Don’t Depend On Liberals

In light of the weak support for George Bush exhibited by the liberal Jews of America, the Jews of Israel would be wise to forget the notion of American Jewry ever coming to help them in their life-and-death struggle with the Arab – and frequently the European – nations.

Evangelical Christians are by far the better friends of Israel than liberal American Jews. Any advice to Israel emanating from the liberal Jewish crowd – The New York Times, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, JCRC, ADL, Federation, etc. – is best ignored by Israelis if Israel is to survive.

The duplicity of America’s liberal Jews was evident as long ago as World War II, when they supported – some would say worshiped – Franklin Roosevelt, even though FDR allowed no Jews to be saved by America during the Holocaust, sending even the Jews fleeing from Nazi-occupied Europe on the SS St. Louis back to their certain destruction.

Let the liberal Jews stick with the likes of losers like John Kerry, Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, Yossi Sarid, et al., whose never-ending false promises of “peace” will, without God’s intervention, turn Israel into an Arab state.

Jerry Boris
Philadelphia, PA

One-Sided Pressure

I notice that The New York Times is pushing the idea that with the death of Arafat, it is now an appropriate time to put pressure on Israel to take dramatic steps for peace. My question is, has the Times ever said that in light of X, Y and Z, this is not a good time to put pressure on Israel?

It seems to me that when Israel is victimized by terrorist attacks, the Times says Israel must be pressured to make peace for its own good – and when Israel retaliates against terrorist attacks, the Times claims that force is not the answer and that Israel must make peace rather than continue to victimize innocent Palestinians.

I wonder when the appropriate time might be to pressure the Palestinians to make peace.

Rabbi David Alan Willig
Bayside Jewish Center
Bayside, NY

Necessity Of Secular Studies

Thank you for publishing Dr. Yitzchok Levine’s well written and much needed article on the secular studies situation in many of today’s yeshivas (“The Case for Secular Studies in Yeshivas,” front-page essay, Nov. 19). If secular studies in the yeshiva are a joke – if 45 minutes of math is not math – then someone will be accountable for bitul Torah.

I’m sure Dr. Levine and The Jewish Press are taking flak from the politically correct yeshiva-types over such thoughts. As a product of a “right of center” yeshiva that permits some secular education, I can only hope enough people will realize the impact of yeshiva graduates who cannot compete in today’s technology-based labor market. As a human resources manager I am constantly receiving calls from yeshiva/kollel fellows seeking entry level positions with only a “yeshiva degree.” It just doesn’t work!

It is time to begin a serious dialogue within the yeshiva world about this subject.

Shlomo Hoffman
(Via E-Mail)

Challenge For Dr. Levine

Dr. Levine makes a very strong case for how to integrate secular studies into yeshivas, but there is one major problem – the curriculum does not exist. The only options available to Jewish schools and Jewish homeschoolers are that of using secular public-school textbooks or taking a Christian curriculum and modifying it. Although the second option is a possibility for a Jewish homeschooler, no Jewish school would ever consider such an option.

So the question needs to be asked: Is Dr. Levine willing to take on the task of creating a Jewish curriculum that truly integrates Judaism into the secular studies to a level that will not only provide a strong Jewish foundation, but would also adequately prepare a student for college, if the student desires such a path? The community wants it. Will Dr. Levine help to provide it?

Christians have been integrating Christianity into their secular studies for a long time. When Montessori talked about her educational philosophies, God was an integral part. The same is true with Charlotte Mason. In current times, examples of this can be seen in Sonlight, Konos, Amblerside Online, and Tanglewood, to name just a few.

We don’t have to agree with Christians to learn from them.

Melissa Newman
Elizabeth, NJ

Correction: A key sentence in a letter in last week’s issue from Shanie R. Stern should have read: “I explained that I would only be there for one day and could afford to pay one hundred and fifty dollars for the three seats.”

Don’t Condemn Pius XII

Historical Evidence

In his op-ed article “The Pope’s Disgraceful Tribute to Arafat” (Nov. 17), Rabbi Shmuley Boteach condemns Pope Pius XII as “immoral,” “cowardly,” and a “Nazi collaborator.” As someone who has spent years conducting research in primary source materials for an upcoming book, I can say that the evidence regarding the pope’s conduct during the Holocaust and World War II suggests otherwise.

In his wartime encyclicals, speeches, and public letters, which fill seven thick volumes, Pius XII repeatedly championed human rights for all, condemned atrocities against all civilians, insisted on the protection of all racial minorities, and called for a return to the Christian principles of love and charity.

The Nazis recognized him as an enemy. For example, a report dated January 22, 1943 by the Reich Central Security Office (RHSA) on the pope’s 1942 Christmas address complained: “In a manner never known before, the pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order…. Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice towards the Jews, and he makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals.”

If the pope was “silent” in the literal sense of the word, then perhaps Rabbi Boteach can explain how the Nazis reached this conclusion?

Far from being “cowardly” and “a Nazi collaborator,” Pius XII went above and beyond the call of duty in opposing the Nazis. In 1939-1940, the pope acted as an intermediary between a group of German generals who wanted to overthrow Hitler and the British government. Recently declassified documents in the archives of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) reveal that the pope also maintained close contact with the German Resistance until the end of World War II.

Throughout the war, the Vatican instructed its diplomatic representatives in many Nazi-occupied and Axis countries to intervene on behalf of endangered Jews. In October 1943, Pius XII ordered his secretary of state and another bishop to protest the roundups of Jews with Germany’s Ambassador to the Vatican and the German military governor of Rome. On the pope’s instructions, religious institutions opened their doors to thousands of Jewish refugees and other persons in Rome during the occupation.

As part of my research, I looked through many old Jewish newspapers at the New York Public Library in Manhattan to see how they covered Pope Pius XII. Consider a few headlines and articles: “Vatican Radio Denounces Nazi Acts in Poland” – Jewish Advocate (Boston), January 26, 1940; “Laval Spurns Pope – 25,000 Jews in France Arrested for Deportation” – Canadian Jewish Chronicle, September 4, 1942; “Vatican Gives Assurance of Aid to Jews” – California Jewish Voice, February 12, 1943; and “Jewish Hostages in Rome: Vatican Protests” – Jewish Chronicle (London), October 29, 1943.

If the allegations against the pope have any merit, isn’t it likely that the Jewish press in every part of the world have condemned him, as they did with the Rev. Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic radio broadcaster?

Rabbi Boteach would have us believe that Jews (on six continents) who praised Pius XII were either blissfully ignorant or extremely disingenuous (or both).

Dimitri Cavalli
Bronx, NY

In Their Own Words

I happen to be an Orthodox Jew whose study of history has convinced me that Pope Pius XII has been the victim of a massive campaign of defamation – a campaign inspired in the 1960’s by left-wing writers and intellectuals and perpetuated in the decades since by secularists who have sought to weaken the hold on Western society of traditional religion and morality.

I find it particularly troubling when Jews man the ramparts in the fight to diminish Pius XII and, by extension, the institution that saved so many Jews during those terrible times by hiding them in churches and monasteries; by issuing false documentation; by bringing diplomatic pressure to bear in Spain and a number of other countries; and by a variety of other methods great and small.

When we look at what people were saying about Pius XII during his lifetime and in the years following his death, we see a far different picture than the one Rabbi Boteach wishes to paint in his op-ed.

Dr. Rafael Contoni, who headed Italy’s Jewish Rescue Committee during the war, stated that “The Church and papacy saved Jews as much and in as far as they could save Christians. There would have been many more victims had it not been for the efficacious intervention of Pius XII.”

In June 1944, Albert Einstein, a refugee from Nazism himself, described for Time magazine his experiences prior to his escape: “Being the lover of liberty, when the Nazi revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend freedom, knowing that they had already boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth: but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaring editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom: but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. Then I looked to individual writers….They too were mute. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration. I am forced to confess that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly.”

The Israeli diplomat Pinchas Lapide wrote (“Three Popes and the Jews,” Hawthorn Publishers, 1967): “The Catholic Church under the pontificate of Pius XII was instrumental in saving as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands. This figure exceeds by far those saved by all other churches and rescue organizations combined.”

Finally, when Pius XII died on October 9, 1958, the foreign minister of Israel sent a telegram to the Vatican stating: “When fearful martyrdom came to our people during the time of Nazi terror, the voice of the pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking about great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace.”

The foreign minister who wrote those moving words would, eleven years later, become Israel’s prime minister. Her name was Golda Meir.

Yitzchak Goldblatt
New York, NY