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May 24, 2016 / 16 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘World Jewish Congress’

Swiss Banks’ Holocaust Fund Has Paid Out $1.24 Billion

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Holocaust survivors and victims’ heirs have received $1.24 billion from a Swiss fund set up in 1998 following a scandal over dormant accounts of Jews killed in World War II, according to the Swiss  Jewish weekly Tachles.

It wrote that the figure appeared in a report by New York judge Edward Korman, who oversees the management of the fund.

Korman’s report summed up operations since a landmark 1998 deal between the World Jewish Congress and Swiss banks. Under the accord, the banks paid a $1.25 billion settlement, which was transformed into U.S. government bonds.

Payouts were then overseen by Korman and the Swiss-based Claims Resolution Tribunal, which wrapped up its operations in 2012.

All told, 457,000 Holocaust survivors and heirs have therefore received money from the fund.

Among them were 199,000 people who were pressed into forced labor by Nazi Germany, and who received a share of $288 million.

The banks were accused of keeping money owned by Jews who had hidden funds in secret accounts in neutral Switzerland but then perished in the Holocaust, and of stonewalling heirs who tried to track down the money.

Within the fund, a total of $800 million was destined for account holders and their heirs.


Claims Conference Looking to Quell Media Storm on 2001 Letter

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Amid calls that the Claims Conference bungled a warning in 2001 about fraud within the organization, conference, leaders appointed a committee to “formulate an appropriate course of action.”

The move, announced by board chairman Julius Berman in an email to board members on Sunday, followed an announcement by the World Jewish Congress that it was setting up its own task force to look into allegations of a cover-up by the Claims Conference.

The allegations concern an anonymous letter sent to the Claims Conference’s Frankfurt office in 2001 that identified five cases in which restitution was approved for ineligible claimants. The letter reached the organization’s then-director in Germany, Karl Brozik, who queried Semen Domnitser, the official in New York who approved the cases and who was found guilty two weeks ago of spearheading the $57 million fraud scheme that run unimpeded at the Claims Conference from 1993 to 2009. In his 2001 response to Brozik, Domnitser acknowledged that the cases had been wrongfully approved but led officials to believe that any errors were inadvertent. The fraud scheme continued to run for nearly a decade more.

Among those who were CC’d on Domnitser’s response to Brozik was the former chief of the conference, Saul Kagan, it’s then-chief, Gideon Taylor, and its current chief, Greg Schneider, whose formal title is executive vice president.

While a Claims Conference staffer who conducted an internal review for the organization in 2001 expressed serious concerns about Domnitser and other Claims Conference employees who reviewed and approved the fraudulent applications, the organization failed to take action against Domnitser.

In recent days, critics have accused the Claims Conference of orchestrating a cover-up of the episode. But Schneider’s office denies the accusations, noting that it was the Claims Conference itself — by way of Schneider — that shared the letter with the FBI and called attention to it during Domnitser’s trial to demonstrate how Domnitser systematically lied to his superiors.

Though Schneider was CC’d on Domnitser’s response to Brozik, a Claims Conference spokeswoman said Schneider did not see the original anonymous 2001 letter and at the time was not the person who would have handled the matter, because several people senior to him were involved. Ultimately, it was Brozik who elected not to inquire further into the irregularities, the Claims Conference said. Brozik is now deceased.

“I have asked our Chairman of the Executive, Amb. Reuven Merhav, to head a Select Leadership Committee of the board to formulate an appropriate course of action for the Conference with respect to the issues surrounding the 2001 letter,” Berman wrote in his email Sunday. “I look forward to its deliberations and recommendation.”

The $57 million fraud scheme discovered in 2009 involved falsifying applications to the Hardship Fund, an account established by the German government to provide one-time payments of approximately $3,360 to those who fled the Nazis as they moved east through Germany, and the Article 2 Fund, through which the German government gives pension payments of approximately $411 per month to needy Nazi victims who spent significant time in a concentration camp, in a Jewish ghetto in hiding or living under a false identity to avoid the Nazis.

In all, 31 people were arrested in connection with the scheme. Twenty-eight pleaded guilty and the three who went to trial were found guilty this month in federal court in Manhattan.


Antisemitism Is Rampant in Europe, Pass the Matzo

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

My job as employee of the Jewish Press Online includes going over stories put out by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (I’m also in charge of maintaining the office telegraph, which gets tricky on humid days, don’t ask). This morning, as I was going through those motions, I realized there was a common denominator to almost all the news items on display:

Three men believed to be linked to Mohamed Merah were arrested in southern France.

A major survey among Belgian teenagers indicated antisemitism was seven times more prevalent among Muslim youths than in non-Muslim teenagers.

The Greek Golden Dawn party has called for a boycott of Estee Lauder cosmetic products after World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder urged Greece to ban the neo-Nazi group.

A local authority in Switzerland has fired an employee who sent the Israeli embassy an email expressing joy about the death of Jews in a terrorist attack.

A Polish court has ordered a psychiatric examination of a man accused of planning to blow up the country’s parliament building because of “xenophobic, anti-Semitic ideas.”

That’s just since 3 PM Wednesday!

Now, it’s possible that it only looks to us, outsiders, as if Europe is in a 1939 time zone. It’s possible that Jews inside Europe are not nearly as concerned, because they don’t experience antisemitism directly. But that’s not what I hear in shul from French Jews who come to Netanya to vacation and to check out alternative housing while they’re here.

So, if this is 1939, why are we so blasé about it? How come Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t going to the UN to warn the world about it, the way he did the Iranian bomb? Seriously, folks, Europe is a place that can garble up Jews at a rate of thousands every day if we dare look away.

I have to say, if we’ve become desensitized to the signs of an approaching holocaust then we might as well be zombies, we might as well be dead.

And buy a lot of Estee Lauder products, if only to make up for the sales in Greek Nazi stores…

Yori Yanover

Letters To The Editor

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

Don’t Give Up Golan
   I hope Joseph Farah’s article on the Golan (“Whose Golan Heights?” op-ed, March 30) is widely read. The myth of Arab entitlement to the Golan is akin to the fables underlying Arab claims to the rest of biblical Israel. Farah should expand on what he wrote and The Jewish Press and other Jewish publications should run with it, since the debate over the Golan is fast approaching.
   Farah’s comment on Syria’s use of the strategic advantage of the Golan Heights to twice attack Israel should also be publicized. What other country has ever been asked to turn over to a sworn and bitter enemy such a strategic advantage?

Henry Kind

New York, NY


Church And State
   A news story in your March 23 issue (“Maryland Senate Rejects Get Law”) reported on the failure of the Maryland legislature to enact a get law you describe as a measure “that essentially would have compelled Jewish husbands granting their wives civil divorces to grant them a Jewish divorce (get) as well”
   The story went on to note the “profound disappointment” of Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, which supported the measure.
   Forgive me, but I thought a compelled get (get meusah) was invalid. I also wonder how a government law can force someone to perform a religious ritual.

Gloria Miller

(Via E-Mail)


Historical Parallel
   In defending Israel’s right to its land and opposing the concept of the two-state solution, we should emphasize the historical parallels between the U.S. in the Civil War era and Israel today.
   When the Southern Confederate states decided to secede, the North did not attempt to accommodate the South by agreeing to a two-state solution in the interests of peace, even though the South was never any military/terrorist threat to the North and never sent any suicide bombers or rockets against the North.
   The Southern states simply wanted to go peacefully their own way on their own land – their claim to which was certainly as good as that of the Northern states to their land. And there never was any dispute as to what constitutes the borders of the Confederate states.
   Yet the North attacked and invaded the South. The North did not compromise or make risky concessions for peace. They demanded total surrender. They invaded the South in an all-out, brutal, terribly destructive war, burning down many Southern cities, blockading and bombarding Southern ports, and completely destroying the South’s manufacturing and production infrastructure.
   President Bush and Secretary of State Rice are in effect telling Israel, “Do as we say, not as we – Lincoln and the Union states – did.

J.L. Greenberg

Seattle, WA


Thumbs Up
   I commend The Jewish Press on its editorial concerning the janitor falsely accused of violating a youngster (“The School Custodian Mistake,” March 30). I think it captured the complexity of an issue that requires prompt action on often incomplete information.

Rita Meyerowitz

Ramat Gan, Israel


Thumbs Down
   Once again The Jewish Press comes out on the wrong side of the abuse issue. If we are to err in a particular case involving charges of sexual abuse of children, shouldn’t we err on the side of a child who might have been abused rather than on an adult who might not have done it?

Shira Aronowitz

(Via E-Mail)





The WJC/Israel Singer Controversy


Singer Deserves Better
      As someone who has applauded the courageous stand taken by The Jewish Press against jumping to conclusions about the veracity of unproven accusations, I was sorely disappointed with your treatment of the WJC/Israel Singer matter. Mr. Singer has not been convicted of anything, yet you conclude that he is unfit for public service because of mere allegations made against him (“Israel Singer Redux,” editorial, March 30).
      Mr. Singer has done much for the Jewish community and he deserves better – certainly from a newspaper that prides itself as a staunch advocate of due process.

Samuel Rich

New York, NY


Red Flag
      You chide the Claims Conference for not getting rid of Israel Singer in the aftermath of his having been fired by World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman. Yet in the same editorial you note that Bronfman acted only after Singer refused to support Bronfman’s son as his successor. Doesn’t this raise a red flag about the legitimacy of the charges against Singer?

Frieda Morgenstern

(Via E-Mail)


‘Arrogant Am-Haaretz
      So, Edgar Bronfman is to be believed over Israel Singer?
      Israel Singer is an Orthodox Jew, an ordained rabbi, and the man who actually put the World Jewish Congress on the map with his tireless efforts on behalf of Jews here and around in the world in the 1980’s and 90’s. Bronfman, on the other hand, has intermarried on more than one occasion; he’s just a rich man who used his billions to buy into the ranks of “Jewish leadership.”
      May I remind you of Bronfman’s own boorish and intrinsically un-Jewish mindset, as revealed in an interview he did with author Abigail Pogrebin and reported by your own senior editor, Jason Maoz, in an article on Pogrebin’s book Stars of David?
      “Synagogue bores me to tears. I don’t get any spirituality out of going,” Bronfman told Pogrebin. When she asked him if God gave the Torah to the Jews, he replied, “Please. Don’t try to give me any of that stuff.”
      And then, as Mr. Maoz so devastatingly related in his article, Bronfman, an arrogant am-haaretz if ever there was one, placed himself outside the camp of the God of Israel, declaring, “The problem is that in synagogue, we talk about this Avinu Malkeinu business [“Our Father, Our King”] all the time. I don’t do that. I mean, I can sing it, but while I’m singing it, I’m saying, ‘It’s not my father, it’s not my king.’ “
      The Wicked Son of the Haggadah couldn’t have said it better. So why should I care or give credence to anything a man like Bronfman says or does?

Jake Fruchtenbaum

(Via E-Mail)


Singer’s Good Works
      The hundreds of millions of dollars Israel Singer got for Holocaust victims – surely that counts for something, does it not? What about his pioneering work on behalf of Soviet Jewry? Or his aggressive pursuit of justice for Jews anywhere in the world for better than 30 years?
      Bronfman is just a dilettante who built on his bootlegger father’s fortune and realized that since money counts for everything in Jewish communal life, he had more than enough to sit at the table with all the other self-proclaimed “Jewish leaders.”

Brian Berger



Old Boy Network
      The Israel Singer debacle made me think about the process by which people become leaders in the Jewish community. Edgar Bronfman’s big bucks enable him to take over the World Jewish Congress, and Israel Singer becomes a leader in that organization because his then-friend Edgar Bronfman makes him one.
      What you or I or any other Jew thought meant nothing at the time. Nor does it matter now. Jewish leadership is nothing but an old boys network. The fact that Bronfman and Singer had a falling out probably won’t affect Singer’s status at the Claims Conference – unless he gets into a personal tiff with one of the Big Boys over there.
      That the Claims Conference saw fit not to cut Singer loose when the attorney general’s findings raised serious questions about Singer speaks volumes about that group’s priorities. Singer must be on good personal terms with the powers that be at the Claims Conference – just as he was on good terms for so long with Bronfman, who also did not dismiss him at the time of the attorney general’s report.
      Personal relationships, power networking, wealth and titles – these are what make the world of Jewish leadership go ’round and ’round. Thus it has always been and thus it shall forever be.

Daniel Steinberg

(Via E-Mail)

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Kahane’s Virtues


   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.

Fern Sidman

Brooklyn, NY


Self-Centered Op-Ed

   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.

Amy Wall

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?
Chaim Silver
(Via E-Mail)


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!

Barbra Casbar


Garden State Equality

Edison, NJ





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

Passaic, NJ
FDR’s Orders
      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.

Harry Eisenberg

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
Washington, DC

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

Recalling The Voice

   Kudos to Jason Maoz for his wonderful Oct. 27 front-page essay “A Voice to Make Men Weep,” about Chazzan Moshe Koussevitzky, a”h. The article brought back memories going back more than 50 years when I and a group of friends would attend Temple Beth El in Boro Park on Shabbos Mevorchim, staying until one or two o’clock in the afternoon to listen to one of the greatest voices of the 20th century.

   My grandfather, Samuel Marinbach, zt”l, was one of the founders of that shul in the early 1920’s. For a short while I even sang as an alto in the Ben Friedman choir until my voice changed. I remember the chills running down the spine, the flushing, the rapid heartbeats that occurred when Moshe would hit the high C. The windows would rattle, and the voice carried nearly a block away.

   Despite the fact that Moshe’s voice was recorded on low-tech, monophonic sound, the clarity, the power and the sweetness have been preserved until this day.

Bertrand Agus, MD

(Via E-Mail)


Knowledgeable Reporter

   My wife and I attended the meeting in Czestochowa that Shmuel Ben Eliezer reported on in his Po-Lin columns of Oct. 20 and 27. The material he presented represents only a small fraction of his knowledge and understanding of the places and people covered.
   While in Czestochowa, when I found out who he was, I started asking Shmuel questions after davening or in the sukkah. After checking out some facts, I realized I had encountered an encyclopedic authority. He was also very kind to escort us on a walking tour of the Warsaw Ghetto area (the past) and a verbal tour through the maze of institutions and personalities that currently exist in Warsaw (the present).
   I hope it is as satisfying to your readers as it was to me to learn that this reporter is deeply familiar with his topic and not merely a superficial observer.

Alan M. Ganz

Scarsdale, NY


Pollard’s Bad Fortune
   The editorial “Jonathan Pollard Revisited” (Oct. 20) got me thinking about an issue that seems to lurk just beneath Pollard’s personal plight. As you noted, Ronald Montaperto got three months for passing “highly classified” information to Chinese military intelligence officers while Pollard got a life term for passing along to Israel classified information about Russian arm shipments to Syria.
      We, the public, are not aware of precisely what information was stolen by Montaperto and Pollard, nor do we know the true costs to U.S. interests in either case. And we certainly do not know the sentencing standards that might account for the great disparity in the sentences.
   What we do know is that future potential spies for Israel will surely not be any less deterred by the prospect of, say, a ten-year sentence than they would by a life term. (And had Pollard been released ten years ago, would the interests of the United States have somehow been compromised?) But of what possible deterrence is a three-month sentence?
   It becomes more apparent with each passing year that Pollard was frightfully unlucky that his arrest and sentencing occurred while a man like Caspar Weinberger was this country’s secretary of defense.

Harold Walkowitz

(Via E-Mail)


Fairer Organ Allocation


   Re “Hooked Up and Waiting For My Angel” (op-ed, Nov. 3):
   Over half the 93,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. Over 6,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.
   There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage – give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die. This will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren’t willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.
   LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. They do this through a form of directed donation that is legal in all 50 states and under federal law. Anyone can join for free at www.lifesharers.org  or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. LifeSharers has 6,277 members, including 289 members in New York. More than 600 of our members are minor children enrolled by their parents.

David J. Undis

Executive Director

Nashville, TN




Defending FDR: Robert Rosen
Responds To Critics
      I want to thank The Jewish Press for giving me the opportunity to reply to the letters to the editor (Nov. 3) criticizing my book Saving The Jews: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust. Readers can find my positions stated more fully on my website, www.SavingtheJews.com.
      It appears that neither Harvey Herbert nor Shelly Chasan read my book. Mr. Herbert claims I omitted the report given to Henry Morgenthau entitled “The Acquiescence of the United States Government in the Murder of the Jews of Europe.” In fact, I address this report and Secretary Morgenthau’s discussion of the report with President Roosevelt at length (pages 337-64).
      In my view and in the view of most scholars, Secretary Morgenthau and his brave assistants at the Treasury Department, upon their discovery that State Department officials were refusing to help those refugees who could be rescued, presented this report to the president – who immediately ordered the creation of the War Refugee Board. Mr. Herbert mentions “true heroes like Raoul Wallenberg.” Mr. Wallenberg was sent to Hungary by the Roosevelt administration with funds from the U.S. government and the Joint Distribution Committee.
      Ms. Chasan writes that she is presently reading the book Stella by Peter Wyden, who claims that 200-plus Jews on the S.S. St. Louis were “returned to Hamburg and the mercies of the Nazis.” Mr. Wyden did indeed say that. Unfortunately, he was incorrect, as I point out in my book on page 629. (Mr. Wyden also claimed there were 1,107 passengers on the S.S. St. Louis instead of the correct number, 937.)
      My views on the St. Louis have been reinforced by a recent book by Sarah A. Olgivie and Scott Miller of the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum titled Refuge Denied, which reaches the same conclusions I did – namely, that two-thirds of the passengers on the St. Louis survived the Holocaust and that no one on the ship went back to Hamburg in June 1939.
      Rabbi Haskel Lookstein and Dr. Rafael Medoff apparently did read my book. In Saving the Jews I took issue with the rabbi’s book, Were We Our Brothers’ Keepers? Rabbi Lookstein does not dispute that he described American Jews as follows: “But the American Jew of late 1938 could not stand up proudly and publicly his natural posture was bowed and bent” (p.79). He does dispute that these words mean American Jews were cowards. If more proof is needed, Rabbi Lookstein wrote on page 206 of his book: “The American Jew of 1938-1939 was a cowed figure, who was destined to remain in that state for most of the war years.” He criticizes American Jews for their “timorousness” (206) and their “frightened reaction” (208).
      I will leave it to the reader to judge whether Jewish leaders who were “bent and bowed,” could not stand up straight, were “cowed” and “timorous,” does not equate to their being cowards. My opinion is that it does.
      Like Rabbi Lookstein Dr. Medoff unfairly blames American Jews for their alleged timidity. But Jewish leaders were not timid. They were just not in favor of killing fellow Jews at Auschwitz by dropping bombs on them when victory appeared to be near.
      In June 1944, the Jewish Agency Executive in Palestine voted 11-1 against the bombing of Auschwitz because, as one member said, “It is forbidden for us to take responsibility for a bombing that could very well cause the death of even one Jew.” This is consistent with the Talmudic teaching that Jews have no right to take innocent life. (Yesodei Hatorah 5:5; Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 74a.)
      There was no question but that the bombing of Auschwitz would have resulted in the killing of hundreds if not thousands of Jewish prisoners, many of whom survived the war.
      Dr. Medoff attempts to minimize the opposition of the World Jewish Congress to the bombing by claiming that “only one official of the WJ Congress, A. Leon Kubowisky, said that the Allies should attack the camp with paratroopers rather than bombing from the air.” But this is inaccurate.
      I spent several days at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati looking at all of the records of the World Jewish Congress including voluminous letters, minutes, and reports. The World Jewish Congress and its many members were officially committed, in writing, to opposing the bombing of Auschwitz.
      Kubowisky wrote to both John Pehle, executive director of the World Refugee Board, and John J. McCloy, assistant secretary of war, on several occasions expressing the adamant opposition of the officers and membership of the WJC. He even underlined the sentences in which he expressed the WJC’s opposition.
      Dr. Medoff quotes from a letter written by Nahum Goldmann of the WJC in June 1944 that the World Jewish Congress “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 other means.” They did discuss it. And they rejected the idea. The letter cited by Dr. Medoff is dated June 4, 1944 and predates numerous letters in July and August 1944 in which the WJC adamantly opposed the bombing.
      The World Jewish Congress was not alone. Virtually every major American Jewish organization was represented at a meeting on August 16, 1944 with John Pehle of the War Refugee Board. The minutes of this meeting are at the Yivo Institute and what they reflect is that the Jewish representatives all agreed with Pehle that Auschwitz should not be bombed.
      While Dr. Medoff claims the Jewish Agency did not have all the facts in June 1944, it was well known at the time that Hitler was exterminating the Jews of Europe. Indeed, President Roosevelt vigorously denounced “the cold-blooded extermination of the Jewish people in Europe” back in December 1942. Surely the Jewish Agency was aware of that.
      Had the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, Hadassah, the Jewish War Veterans, leaders of the Orthodox, Conservative or Reform movements, rabbis, community or political leaders believed that it was morally correct to drop bombs on the Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz and kill them in a futile effort to stop the Holocaust, they could have easily said so.
      But no telegrams or letters demanding the bombing of Auschwitz from major Jewish organizations or the Jewish Agency Executive exist because no one of any consequence thought it was a good idea. This is a fatal blow to the argument that “Jewish leaders” demanded the bombing of Auschwitz and were turned down by a cold-hearted FDR.
      FDR’s critics have labored for forty years to besmirch his reputation, the reputation of American Jewry, and indeed the reputation of the American people. In the end, they will fail because the facts tell a different story.

Robert Rosen

Charleston, SC


Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, December 8th, 2004

Our Shameful ‘Leaders’

A wave of nausea overcame me as I read that ‘more than 70 prominent Jewish religious and communal leaders, with direct ties to leading organizations … have sent a letter to Secretary of State-designate and current National Security Adviser Rice effectively urging her to pressure Israel into concessions’ (‘The Pressure to Pressure,’ editorial, Dec. 3).

As if that weren’t sickening enough, these ‘leaders’ have now joined the growing anti-Semitic chorus by linking U.S. pressure on Israel with greater international support for U.S. Mideast policy. ‘There are many challenging paths to achieving our country’s objectives in Baghdad and, we believe, one of them runs through Jerusalem,’ they stated to Dr. Rice.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Jewish leaders differing on how to best solve the seemingly intractable problem between Israel and the Arab Palestinians. However, it is reprehensible to read proposals from leading members of the Jewish community that could easily have been written by the most virulent anti-Semites.

We must all finally admit that there is a serious mental illness infecting our community, even though this illness is not manifested by traditional symptoms. When communal leaders are willing to serve themselves up on the altar of appeasement, and do not deem themselves worthy of claiming their biblical/ historical inheritance, it really is time to take a serious collective accounting.

Christian Zionists have absolutely no hesitation in loudly proclaiming the rightful claims of Jews to their homeland. Jewish communal ‘leaders,’ on the other hand, are ready to throw their inheritance to the wolves. They should hang their heads in shame.

Adina Kutnicki
Elmwood Park, NJ

Extra-Shameful Edgar

In his Dec. 3 Sedra of the Week column, Rabbi David Hollander referred to Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress (impressive-sounding credentials). When Mr. Bronfman publicly expresses an opinion concerning Jewish issues, even one that is harmful and wrong, that opinion carries unwarranted weight and exerts unfortunate influence owing to his self-appointed position of prominence.

In the commercial world, there are copyright laws that are rigidly enforced, and for good reason. For example, if Mr. Bronfman started printing a newspaper for the World Jewish Congress bearing the name The Jewish Press, I am certain he would receive a rapid court-ordered infringement notice.

According to my understanding, the only accurate definition of the word ‘Jewish’ refers to people who identify with and follow the teachings of the Torah – because Torah is the essence of Judaism. Unfortunately, the word ‘Jewish’ is not registered and protected by copyright, and that is why it is so widely misused, abused, and misunderstood.

I believe The Jewish Press and Rabbi Hollander understand the desperate need to restore the proper distinctions necessary to promote the accurate use of the term ‘Jewish’ in the world today. Rabbi Hollander’s use of humorous sarcasm was a most effective double dose of preventive medicine. Like pride, the rebuke may be a bitter pill to swallow, but Mr. Bronfman would gain in wisdom and under-standing if he could bring himself to take it.

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY

Fighting Academic Treachery

As a New York City elected official, I would like to answer the question posed in your editorial “Columbia University Scandal: Where Are Our Friends?” (November 26, 2004). Fortunately, the Jewish community has friends at the New York City Council.

When the initial reports in the media exposed the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic environment at Columbia, I joined with Council members Michael Nelson and Lewis Fidler to visit Columbia University’s campus to hear first-hand accounts by students who had suffered intimidation and reproach from professors for expressing pro-Israel views. As a former professor at Queens College, I was outraged that such academic treachery could exist on this or any campus, and stated so publicly in the Daily News.

Subsequent to our visit, I arranged for Council members to view at City Hall the revealing documentary “Columbia Unbecoming” by Rachel Fish of the David Project. This film documents the anti-Israel bias and climate of academic intimidation that has been reported in the media.

My Council colleagues and I have investigated this problem – and Columbia’s response to it – and are formulating an appropriate response from the Council to this abhorrent situation. Council member Nelson and I are currently drafting a resolution denouncing the climate of academic intimidation and harassment, and calling for the termination of professors Joseph Massad and Hamid Dabashi.

Although this endeavor may seem to some to be far afield from our usual legislative duties, we cannot in good conscience remain silent in this shameful episode. I thank The Jewish Press for calling upon other elected officials to speak out as well.

James F. Gennaro
NYC Council Member
24th District, Queens

Torah-Observant Liberal

Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt’s Dec. 3 op-ed article, “Confessions of a Republican Rabbi” (December 3), was well-written and articulate. Yet some of its arguments point out weaknesses in the conservative political position.

Rabbi Rosenblatt writes: ‘Goodness is when you tell an inner city or immigrant child that things may be tough for her but that she can overcome the challenges by working harder than other kids and producing better results. Goodness is a government that provides loan applications, not grants.’

The problem with this position is that it severely restricts the number of people you can help. Say you tell a large population of inner city students that by working harder than other kids they can overcome the challenges. Some will respond, but most probably won’t. If you stop there, you won’t be able to help them.

The same problem is with loans versus grants. Loans are fine for people for whom there is a realistic expectation that they will repay the loan, but they make no sense for all the others. If you restrict government assistance to loans, you are restricting yourself to creditworthy people, just a small portion of the population who need help. Direct cash grants, on the other hand, have their own problems, like fostering dependence.

Other forms of assistance may be more useful, but they still will need to be funded by taxpayers.

While I respect Rabbi Rosenblatt’s position and have strong differences with the social policies of secular liberals, my insistence that government come to the aid of all in severe distress keeps me a Torah-observant liberal.

Michael H. Klein
Brooklyn, NY

What Really Matters

I picked up The Jewish Press last week as I do every Friday night after candle lighting. I noticed the front-page essay ‘To Repair An Unhinged Heart’ and started to read. I knew it was Shabbos and that one is supposed to be happy and not cry, but the tears did not stop.

I put the paper down for a little while to gain some strength to continue. I can only imagine how much strength it takes for someone who loses a child to go on each day. I finished reading the article and was amazed at how Mr. and Mrs. Avrech created something so wonderful and special after losing their child. We all should appreciate what we have and take nothing for granted.

Life is too short for silly disagreements or pettiness, and I specifically address this to the person who at a recent parent-teachers conference refused to allow another person back on line after she stepped away for a few minutes and I allowed her to go in front of me. Your only remark was, ‘It’s not fair.’

No; what’s not fair is seeing so many people with such terrible tragedies and realizing that so many of us refuse to learn any lessons from this. What really matters in life – being first or being kind and considerate to others’ I hope and pray that most of us can learn a very important lesson from Mr. Avrech’s article and from the actions of Mr. and Mrs. Avrech – obviously two very special people.

Shanie R. Stern
Brooklyn, NY

‘Insubordination Cannot Be Countenanced’

Recent calls for insubordination, in the event that the Israel Defense Forces be employed to implement a planned withdrawal from the Gush Katif area, are deeply disturbing and dismaying. If heeded, such calls may potentially undermine Israel’s basic interests. They would erode morale and discipline, endanger purposive unity, engender internecine strife, and embolden our enemies.

Moreover, the calls are objectionable on principle. Regardless of one’s view of the proposed withdrawal itself, selective insubordination cannot in this case be countenanced on either moral or halachic grounds. Policies initiated in the hope of enhancing long-term national security can clearly be sanctioned as pikuach nefesh, saving lives. The right and the duty of judgment as to the likelihood that this prospect will indeed be realized is vested in properly constituted governmental authority.

May the spirit of comity and mutual responsibility prevail so that, with God’s help, Israel will be safe and realize its dream of peace both internally and with its neighbors.

Rabbi Norman Lamm
Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein
Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron

A Teacher Learns A Life Lesson

December 1, 2004, might have been a birthday for some, a regular day for others. For me, it was the day that inaugurated a new outlook on life.

It all began with a visit to Luke, a 3-year-old boy in my pre-school class, who is in the midst of his battle with stomach cancer. I had never seen a young child with this disease, and when I asked to go visit with him I was anxious and overwhelmed with fear.

The elevator door opened and I found myself looking at young children plagued with this awful disease. Suddenly, I couldn’t catch my breath. To my left was a young boy connected to a machine, watching cartoons. I would never have known this was Luke had his uncle not told me so. I excused myself for a moment so that I could compose myself. While I withdrew to catch my breath, I was able to see all of the sick children, and that’s where it happened – like a bolt of lightening, my mind was racing with so many new feelings and emotions.

How do I have the right to be reluctant to visit a child who is sick and looks different, when I am staring at young brave children with bald heads, connected to various machines, playing and laughing?

Before going back in to see Luke I knew I had overcome my fear, and by the time my visit was over that fear had been replaced with a sense of utter gratitude for the life I experience. Too many moments are filled with thoughts of what isn’t ok in my life or what isn’t ok about me, and while those thoughts help promote growth and change, after visiting with Luke I recognized how much I need to appreciate the many blessings in my life.

People get angry and question God when they confront the horror of a child with cancer. While these questions and frustrations lie within us all, I can honestly say that observing the consequences of cancer upon both the patient and the family has brought me greater understanding and compassion. It opened my mind and heart to something I have never been exposed to before and it created within me the desire to do good.

I left the hospital with an odd feeling – a feeling of greater motivation. Instead of moping my way out of that hospital, I actually felt invigorated. I plan to donate toys in honor of Chanukah to every child in that center. I went home and I looked in the mirror and uttered a silent prayer of thanksgiving.

During this festive time, we celebrate eight days filled with presents and festive foods. After my experience on December 1, I plan on celebrating each day with an immense appreciation and the purest thankfulness for being so blessed to be me – and for all that means.

Yael Mosberg
(Via E-Mail)

Letters to the Editor

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