Visiting Ida Nudel
Naomi Klass Mauer’s op-ed article regarding her visit with Ida Nudel was truly significant and timely (“In the Presence of Greatness,” May 29).
Soviet Jewry activists remember Ida Nudel – her suffering, her bravery, and her devotion to the Prisoners of Conscience in the Soviet Union.
Thank you, Ms. Mauer, for your meaningful article, for visiting Ida Nudel, and for the beautiful photograph.
A Matter Of Gratitude
Re “The Obama-Netanyahu ‘Cease-Fire’ ” (editorial, May 29):
It is unfortunate that there is any hostility between the Israeli government and President Obama, who should be hugely grateful to Jews.
Three things a president requires to be elected and then to function in office are money, marketing, and military credibility.
In 2012, three of the top five financial donors to Obama’s campaign were Jews: James Simons, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Irwin Jacobs.
A number of Obama’s key campaign advisers and White House aides, including his chief political mastermind, David Axelrod, have been Jews.
And the inventor of the Predator drone, so successful in targeting terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, is Abraham Karem, an Israeli-American. The drone has enabled America to fight casualty-free wars against brutal enemies and still be respected as a superpower.
Remembering ‘Rav Levik’
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since the untimely passing of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schapiro, z”l, the former assistant principal of Educational Institute Oholei Torah in Brooklyn.
As I read the beautiful article by Rabbi Menachem Posner (“New Torah to Honor Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schapiro,” May 29), it took much effort not to be overcome by emotion. You see, “Rav Levik” was not just devoted to his students and to the hanhala and staff of the yeshiva – he was also devoted to “his parents” – the parents of his students.
The first time I approached Rav Levik with a pressing matter, I may have been a middle-aged mother but inside I remained a scared little kid for whom a meeting with hanhala meant trouble!
To my delight, I left that initial meeting with a feeling of overwhelming relief. The rav really cared. He was not patronizing. He believed in a parent’s ability to be the best parent he or she could be. Whatever the issue – bullying, lack of funds for proper clothing, an issue between a student and his rebbi – Rav Levik assured us he would take care of it, and time and again he did just that.
When he was suddenly niftar, the talmidim stood solemnly in front of Oholei Torah with military precision. The parents of the students stood in shock, tears coursing down their cheeks.
He has never been forgotten. We are confident that our gutter better, Rav Levik, is taking care of things for all of us who miss him terribly, until the coming of Mashiach.
(The Schapiro family would be grateful to receive stories, anecdotes, and reminiscences of Rav Levik. Material can be sent to [email protected].)
In Praise Of FDR
It seems to me that many in the Jewish community, particularly among the Orthodox, have gone from one extreme to the other over the past 30 years or so in their attitude toward Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The Jewish Press certainly reflects that swing in sentiment, as you frequently feature articles and opinion pieces that in one way or another heap all manner of calumny on FDR’s head for what he did or didn’t do with regard to the plight of Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust.
Hindsight is so easy and convenient, especially when one has an axe to grind or an ideological point to make. Very rarely, though, do Jewish critics of FDR take into account the context of the times in which he lived and the political, social, and cultural realities he faced.
Roosevelt was far from perfect, and he harbored the genteel anti-Semitism endemic in upper-crust Americans of his day, but unlike most other American political leaders in the late 1930s, he recognized the Nazis for the looming threat they were and did everything in his power to get aid over to Great Britain and to maneuver the country into a position where it finally began to recognize the need to fight the Axis powers.
America in the 1930s was going through one of the most anti-Semitic periods in the country’s history, and in the face of that, FDR counted Jews among his closest political associates – Jews like Felix Frankfurter, Bernard Baruch, and Samuel I. Rosenman. He chose Henry Morgenthau, Jr. to be the first Jewish secretary of the treasury and appointed Frankfurter to the Supreme Court.
In fact, Jews comprised 15 percent Roosevelt’s high level executive appointments – something that did not go unnoticed by the many anti-Semitic agitators of the era who despised Roosevelt with every fiber of their being and even floated the preposterous notion that Roosevelt’s family name was really Rosenfeld.
It was against this backdrop of rising anti-Semitism and isolationism in America that Roosevelt faced the delicate and daunting task of helping Great Britain by hook or by crook as he slowly prepared the American public for the inevitable war to come.
If any of this comes as a surprise to younger people who have been raised on a steady diet of anti-Roosevelt polemics, I would suggest the following justly praised books as a good place to start their reeducation:
Those Angry Days by Lynne Olson; Roosevelt and Hitler: Prelude to War by Robert Herzstein; The Sphinx: Franklin Roosevelt, the Isolationists, and the Road to World War II by Nicholas Wapshott; FDR and the Jews by Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman; Roosevelt’s Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War by Richard Moe; and The Borrowed Years – 1938-1941: America on the Way to War by Richard Ketchum.
As these books and so may others document, it was FDR’s early recognition of the threat the Nazis represented, as well as his resolute determination to ensure their defeat, that saved the world from Nazi domination. No politician in American politics at the time was better suited than Roosevelt to lead America in those dark days.
Finally, sincere and knowledgeable people on both sides of the debate can disagree as to whether bombing Auschwitz would have made any significant difference (other than killing thousands of Jews). Keep in mind that bombing Auschwitz became possible only relatively late in the war, with millions of Jews already dead. In addition, the Nazis’ fanatical desire to kill Jews overrode everything else for them, including the war effort itself. Even if bombing Auschwitz would have temporarily forced a pause in their round the clock extermination of Jews, the Nazis would have very quickly found other means by which to continue the systematic slaughter.
Even if we grant that FDR should have bombed the railway lines to Auschwitz, the sad, horrible fact is that doing so would have made relatively little difference in terms of the number of Jews killed by the Nazis. And if anyone other than Roosevelt had been president in the late 1930s and 1940s, it is highly unlikely that America would have been able to mount the massive war effort it did under FDR’s leadership. That, and nothing else, should be the overriding fact in any assessment of FDR’s record vis-a-vis the Holocaust.