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
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
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.
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
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.