It’s quite true, as Rabbi Stephen Polter states (Letters, Nov. 17), that more people are acknowledging Rabbi Meir Kahane’s prescience, wisdom and foresight. While Rabbi Polter correctly lauds Rabbi Kahane’s virtues and designates him one of our greatest Jewish leaders, I must take issue with the advice he would have proffered to Rabbi Kahane had he been given the opportunity.
Suggesting to Rabbi Kahane that he tone down his message and behave like a liberal would have been as successful as convincing a leopard to change its spots. Rabbi Kahane was a man of great integrity, courage and character, and he would never have compromised his views to gain votes or political succor.
Rabbi Kahane won the love and respect of so many people because of his unabashed honesty. Politics is a business rife with scandal and corruption, leaving no room for a lonely voice in the wilderness that dares speak the truth. There is not a day that goes by that Rabbi Kahane is not sorely missed. As his visions unfold before our eyes, we long for his wisdom, his insights and his leadership.
While I am one of the many Jews thankful that the gay parade scheduled for Jerusalem did not take place, I was offended by the arrogant tone of Rabbi Yehuda Levin’s op-ed column (“We Stopped the March – For Now,” Nov. 17). I don’t doubt he put a lot of effort into stopping the parade, but he was one of many. Judging from his article, one would think that maybe two or three others helped him.
I personally know of an American Jew who funded everything necessary to fight the parade – including all the buses that transported the demonstrators and their placards. But you won’t read his name anywhere because he was doing it l’shem shamayim (for the honor of Heaven).
Perhaps the next time you want an op-ed column on this subject you will approach Jerusalem councilwoman Mina Fenton. She, at least, won’t be blowing her own horn.
New York, NY
Reconciliation A Two-Way Street
Rabbi Harry Maryles writes (“Time for Agudah to Widen the Tent,” op-ed, Nov. 17): “As I understand Agudah’s position, if a gadol tells you not to accept a job, it is treated as p’sak. This is one of the major differences between Agudah and those outside the Agudah camp.”
For Rabbi Maryles’s edification, the distinction between p’sak and aytsah is universal and as such has nothing to do with labels or camps. (Of course, if an individual faces job-related halachic or hashkafic issues, he certainly should seek proper guidance from a competent Orthodox rabbi.)
But it’s nice to know that Rabbi Maryles is striving for reconciliation. He should continue to strive for it. May I offer him some advice? (This is not a p’sak.) He should seriously consider joining Agudah. I’m sure he’ll be accepted. Of course, like everyone else, he’ll have to pay his membership dues. It’s for a good cause, though.
And as long as we’re on the subject of reconciliation, why doesn’t Yeshiva University invite Agudah rabbis to address its students?
No Way To Treat A Lady
I read with dismay your editorial mocking the proposed rule for amending birth certificates for people whose gender does not conform to the sex assigned to them at birth (Transgender Follies,” Nov. 17).
As a parent, a grandparent, a former president of a Hebrew school and a transgender American, I’m quite disappointed. Throughout the ages, was it not fear and ignorance that led to the demonization of Jews? Now we become the “machers” who can demonize other helpless minorities? Shame!
Garden State Equality
FDR And The Holocaust:
Responses To Robert Rosen
Editor’s Note: The controversy generated by Robert Rosen’s Oct. 27 op-ed article “FDR Was a Hero, Not a Villain” (a riposte by Mr. Rosen to Dr. Rafael Medoff’s Oct. 6 Jewish Press front-page essay, “Whitewashing FDR on the Holocaust,” which was highly critical of Mr. Rosen’s book Saving the Jews: FDR and the Holocaust), and his reply to his critics in the Nov. 10 Letters section, continues unabated.
The following letters take issue with Mr. Rosen’s Nov. 10 reply. Mr. Rosen’s response to these letters will appear in next week’s issue and will have to constitute the final word, at least for now in these pages, on the question of FDR’s Holocaust-related policies.
Jewish Law And Bombing Auschwitz
According to Robert Rosen (Letters, Nov. 10), Jewish leaders should have opposed bombing Auschwitz because some of the Jewish prisoners might have been inadvertently harmed, which would have contradicted what he calls “the Talmudic teaching that Jews have no right to take innocent life.”
That was not the issue at stake when Jewish leaders urged the Allies to bomb Auschwitz in 1944. Jewish lives were already being taken. Thousands of Jews were being gassed daily. All the Jews in the camp were doomed to be murdered, some in a matter of hours, others in a matter of days. If the Allies failed to bomb the camp, all the Jews would certainly be killed. If they bombed the camp, thus slowing down and interfering with the murder process, lives would have been saved. If I, as a rabbi, had been alive in 1944 and had been asked if rabbinic law permitted the bombing of the camp, I would have said that bombing it was not only permitted but, in fact, obligatory.
It is no small matter that the Jewish inmates themselves prayed for the camp to be bombed, even though they knew they might be harmed. In his book Night, Elie Wiesel describes (pp. 70-71) his reaction when he saw U.S. planes dropping bombs on German oil factories just a few miles from the Auschwitz gas chambers:
“We were not afraid. And yet, if a bomb had fallen on the blocks [the prisoners’ barracks], it alone would have claimed hundreds of victims on the spot. But we were no longer afraid of death; at any rate, not of that death. Every bomb that exploded filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life. The raid lasted over an hour. If it could only have lasted ten times ten hours!”
Rabbi Robert Shechter
In March 1944, the Nazis took control of Hungary and nearly a million more Jews fell into their hands. Shortly afterward, two young Slovakian Jews escaped from Auschwitz and managed to reach the Slovakian Jewish underground in Bratislava, one of whose leaders was Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandl. The escapees provided a complete diagram of the layout of the death camp and dictated a 30-page report. Word was then quickly gotten to the leadership of the Hungarian Jewish community in Budapest.
Mr. Rosen is correct when he says American Jewish organizations did not request the bombing of Auschwitz. It was the Jews trapped behind Nazi lines, in Hungary and Slovakia, who requested it – those with the most to gain if it were done and the most to lose if it were not. First and foremost, however, they did not request the bombing of the gas chambers and crematoria but of the rail bridges and junctions that led from Hungary to Poland. Realizing that Jewish lives alone might not be considered that valuable, they pointed out that the rail lines were also used for Nazi military transport.
The rail lines could easily have been knocked out without killing any Jews. It was never done because FDR gave strict orders that there was to be no diversion of military force for the purpose of saving Jews. When asked about this time and again, he said his policy for saving Jews was to win the war as quickly as possible, which undoubtedly was his sincere intention, since the faster the war could be won the fewer American casualties there were likely to be. For all too many Jews, unfortunately, victory did not come quickly enough.
Glen Rock, NJ
WJC’s Position On Bombing
Robert Rosen continues to insist, erroneously, that the World Jewish Congress “opposed the bombing of Auschwitz.”
In my recent letter to The Jewish Press, I cited a letter by World Jewish Congress chairman Nahum Goldmann, dated July 3, 1944, in which Goldmann mentions that “We have discussed with the War Refugee Board the idea that the Russian and American governments be asked to look for a way to destroy these camps by bombing or any other means.”
Mr. Rosen’s response: “They did discuss it. And they rejected it.” Wrong. Goldmann clearly was recommending bombing, not just “discussing” it. Goldmann argued, “This would certainly stop or at least hold up the massacres since all the infernal instruments used, such as gas chambers, vans, etc. would have to be rebuilt.” Goldmann also wrote: “The War Refugee Board will follow up the matter in Washington”; why would they follow it up if the WJCongress had decided to “reject” it, as Mr. Rosen claims?
The entire letter in question is a request by Goldmann to the Czech Foreign Minister in Exile, Jan Masaryk, asking the Czechs to raise the bombing idea with Soviet officials. Why would Goldmann be doing so if the WJCongress had decided to “reject” bombing?
Mr. Rosen also attempts to discredit the Goldmann letter on different grounds, claiming the letter “is dated June 4, 1944 and predates numerous letters in July and August 1944, in which the WJC adamantly opposed the bombing.” He is, simply, wrong. The letter is dated July 3, 1944. I have a photocopy of it.
Mr. Rosen’s suggestion that the WJCongress changed its position and opposed bombing later in July, and in August and thereafter, is contradicted by documents in the WJCongress’s own files, which I have examined at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati. They contain, for example, a letter dated July 21, 1944, from WJCongress official Maurice Perlzweig to the director of the War Refugee Board, John Pehle. Acting – he wrote – at Goldmann’s request, Perlzweig was sending Pehle telegrams from Richard Lichtheim (the Jewish Agency representative in Geneva) and Moshe Shertok (the London-based head of the Agency’s Political Department) calling for Allied bombing of the death camps. If, as Rosen claims, the WJCongress had already decided to oppose bombing, why were Perlzweig and Goldmann still lobbying for it?
Martin Gilbert, in his book Auschwitz and the Allies, reports that in October 1944 Goldmann met with General John Dill, the British representative on the Allied High Command, to urge the Allies to bomb Auschwitz. (We know that the meeting must have taken place in the fall, because during their conversation Goldmann mentioned recent British bombings of German oil factories “a few miles” from Auschwitz – and those raids on the Monowitz oil plants began in late August.)
Again: if the WJCongress had changed its position and opposed bombing, as Mr. Rosen claims, why was its chairman still lobbying Allied officials to bomb it, months after his organization supposedly changed its position?
One WJCongress official, A. Leon Kubowitzki, opposed the bombing idea, urging that the Allies instead use paratroopers to attack Auschwitz. He is the only WJCongress official on record as expressing opposition to bombing. For Mr. Rosen to transform Kubowitzki’s lone opposition into a wide-ranging “opposition by the World Jewish Congress” is a severe distortion of the historical record.
The WJCongress and all other major Jewish organizations made their position quite clear when they declared, in their joint resolution at the July 31, 1944 rally in New York City, that “all measures should be taken” by the Allies “to destroy the implements, facilities, and places where the Nazis have carried out their mass executions.”
Dr. Rafael Medoff
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
Letters to the Editor