It’s time for the state legislature to show some nerve and to pass Initiative 594 requiring background checks on gun sales (“Injured Congresswoman, Jewish leaders speak on behalf of gun control initiative,” Feb. 7). Numerous people, like Gabby Giffords and Cheryl Stumbo, testified from personal knowledge what it’s like to be shot. They gave good evidence that I-594 would reduce gun violence in Washington State and yet the legislature won’t act. They listen to counter arguments such as that by Phil Shave, who says the law will make “criminals” out of gun owners if they were on a gun range and let a friend use their gun. This is, in fact, totally false. I quote below from a portion of the law.
“Reasonable Exceptions — background checks are not required for: … Loans for lawful hunting or sporting activities.”
A partially correct but misleading point was made by a reader in your letters to the editor on February 7. The letter said that Hitler and Stalin restricted and then took away people’s guns. While in fact Hitler forbade Jews and Gypsies from owning guns, he did not forbid “his” people from owning guns. Stalin never created a restriction on guns, as there never had been a “right to bear arms” in Russia before him. The people who tended to own guns were the upper class and Stalin solved that problem by killing them all.
I-594 will not solve our gun problems, but it will at least help. If the legislature won’t pass it, then we the people must do so in November (and vote against counter Initiative 591).
Posted February 19, 2014
In response to “Ariel Sharon: A depreciation,” Jan. 24. According to Alden Oreck on Jewish Virtual Library:
The Israeli attack on Qibya, Jordan, came against the backdrop of repeated cross-border attacks by Jordanians on Israeli civilians in the years after Israel’s War of Independence. After the June 1949 cease-fire between Israel and its Arab neighbors, including Jordan, with whom Israel shared its longest international border, the Mixed Armistice Commission and United Nations Truce Supervision Organization were set up to lessen the danger of violence along Israel’s borders. Both failed. Between June 1949 and October 1954, Israel accused Jordan of violating the armistice agreement 1,612 times, killing at least 124 Israelis, wounding hundreds more.
On October 13, 1953, Jordanian terrorists infiltrated the Israeli border and threw a grenade into a house, killing a mother and two children in Tiryat Yehuda. In an effort to prevent further attacks and protect its borders, Israel launched a reprisal raid on Qibiya, a Jordanian town across the border from Tiryat Yehuda. Unit 101, led by then-Colonel Ariel Sharon, destroyed 50 homes, killing 69 Jordanian civilians who were hidden inside and had gone unnoticed. Although Sharon claimed he did not know the houses were occupied, the event still shocked and embarrassed Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Nevertheless, the attack, and other such reprisal raids on Jordanian terrorist and army posts, brought relative quiet to Israel’s Jordanian border.
Rabbi Rob Toren
Executive director, Samis Foundation
Posted February 5, 2014
Joel Magalnick’s interview with Andy Stern, former president of Service Employees International Union (“Where the next jobs won’t come from,” Jan. 24), was illuminating. Mr. Stern is accurate, I think, about the challenges he sees for American workers, but admits to being clueless about where we are headed. Mr. Stern is wedded to the paradigm of organized labor, which (other than for public-sector unions with an iron rice bowl until municipal bankruptcy) is fading away and is not part of the future. Other commentators with greater vision do see what is ahead. Most notable is George Gilder, author of “Wealth and Poverty,” and his latest book, “Knowledge and Power” (instructive reading for Mr. Stern). Gilder notes that we are passing from the machine age to the information age in which knowledge is the key to employment. Others have noted the passing of large bureaucratic corporations as the wellspring of American jobs and the rise of smaller, more dynamic enterprises led by entrepreneurial management. These are not now or will ever be fertile ground for unions. I recommend to JTNews readers Mr. Gilder’s writings. He occasionally speaks in Seattle at the Discovery Institute. When he does, it should not be missed.
Posted February 5, 2014
The opinions expressed by Rabbi Anson Laytner in JTNews (“Ariel Sharon: A depreciation,” Jan. 24) are very wrong. The actions of Ariel Sharon on behalf of the state of Israel should be applauded, not criticized. As a 14-year-old, he joined the Haganah to protect his country. As head of Unit 101 he fought against enemies from all sides, severely outnumbered, and won. Ariel Sharon as a leader had to make decisions that are extremely tough and under circumstances no one can fathom. He did just that — he made the decisions and Israel is stronger, better, and more prepared as a result of his actions and decisions. With regards to the rabbi’s opinion that Palestinian blood was shed, I urge you to look at the facts. The militias were merely asked to get rid of the terrorists and nothing more. They acted on their own in the massacre that occurred. Gaza was another tough decision for Sharon and his decision to evacuate was met with many protests, but in the end, though not a perfect solution , so many Israeli lives were saved as a result of being on our side of the border. There is a high price to pay for the safety of your people and Ariel Sharon was willing to pay that price.
Posted February 5, 2014
I read that the Jews were pushing gun control (“Injured Congresswoman, Jewish leaders speak on behalf of gun control initiative”). Please remind them what Hitler and Stalin did to their population. They first restricted gun ownership, then confiscated the guns. We all know what happened afterward and if you believe for one moment, especially with the current administration, that it could not happen here, they should go back and study their history.
Palm Desert, Calif.
Posted February 5, 2014
Ed Harris (“The Parallel America,” Dec. 20) believes that the mere existence of “dozens of religious institutions within a 10-minute drive of his home” is proof that religious liberty is alive and well in America. He writes that the idea that “Christians get pushed around” is not just wrong, but “laughably, absurdly and ludicrously wrong.”
Unfortunately, Ed Harris is the one who is laughably, absurdly and ludicrously wrong. Religious liberty, a cornerstone of American freedom, is under attack, Christians and Christianity the main target. Ed Harris is oblivious, indifferent, or willfully blind to that fact. Perhaps he has preemptively surrendered to the forces of militant secularism that seek to drive religion from our public square, following the lead of our president, who refers to Christians as “people bitterly clinging to their religion” and constructs public policy in keeping with that perspective.
Ed writes about our Constitutional First Amendment guarantee that “every citizen can choose to worship — or choose not to — according to his or her heart’s desire.” But coercion and intimidation have taken the place of tolerance and understanding. That’s why so many religious-liberty lawsuits are in the courts. Of approximately 90 cases currently being litigated on behalf of Christian entities, 44 have had injunctions granted while only 10 have had their injunctions denied. Two cases are headed to the Supreme Court. That certainly does not describe the happy picture Ed Harris would like us to see. His is a Potemkin village view; i.e., as long as the physical structures are intact he is willing to assume the people are content.
What is occurring is what Ben Stein talked about in 2005, and is even truer in 2014. In today’s America you are free to be a Christian as long as you don’t actually live out your faith. You are permitted to worship in private as long as you remain socially invisible.
If Ed Harris doesn’t care about religious liberty, he should say so. If he cares about it but was poorly informed, he should admit it. And if he is indifferent to the plight of Christians he should reflect on the history of the Jews and why religious liberty matters to all of us.
Posted January 8, 2014
In response to Keith Dvorchik and Rabbi Aaron Meyer’s discussion on “For the Sake of Birthright” (Dec. 13 and 20), I think both are right. As a young Jewish adult, I know friends that have gone. Some have had amazing experiences that made them more committed to their Hebrew heritage, while some just partied hard and came back the same pork-eating secular humanists they went in as. Jews ought to appreciate the Birthright experience, especially since not everyone gets to go.
If the goal of Birthright is to get more youth involved in Judaism, why not let others who truly are interested in Judaism join in? Isaiah 56 says that foreigners who embrace the covenant are accepted on God’s Holy Mountain, which is a house of prayer for all nations; and Micah 4 says many nations will seek to go to Zion to learn how to walk in the ways of Torah. By screening out sincere individuals, not only are we hindering the vision of prophets, but we are also not following through on the Torah. Does not Leviticus 19 say to treat strangers as native born, for we were strangers in Egypt?
Instead of screening out those with different beliefs, why not screen out only those who aim to proselytize? We are living as if teshuva is limited only to those born of a Jewish mother, while Ezekiel 18 seems to say otherwise. Blessings in HaShem.
Posted January 8, 2014
Keith Dvorchik and I recently wrote of our dissenting opinions regarding the efficacy of Taglit-Birthright Israel for JTNews (“Why Birthright Israel is hafuch,” Rabbi’s Turn, Dec. 13; “Why Birthright makes a difference,” Dec. 20). Truly this is “an argument for the sake of heaven,” as we both care deeply about the Jewish community. I respect Mr. Dvorchik’s experience leading Birthright groups and his service to the Hillel world, and firmly believe that his background and qualifications make him the ideal president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. My greatest joy on this issue would be to be proven wrong, for it would mean more people engaging with Jewish life and drawing closer to Torah, and I am so thankful for the number of individuals that have had positive experiences through their trips.
Both articles cite the same research, a 2012 study by Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. I would encourage all readers to peruse this important study and to evaluate its findings for themselves: bit.ly/JsQfpG. As Taglit-Birthright Israel reaches expenditures of $1,000,000,000, Mr. Dvorchik and I disagree on the cost/benefit analysis. What do you think?
Rabbi Aaron Meyer
Temple De Hirsch Sinai
Posted December 16, 2013
Yasher Koach to Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum for writing, and to JTNews for publishing, one of the most heartfelt and thought-provoking opinion pieces relating to the conflict in Israel and Palestine I’ve read in any publication. (“Getting Caught Trying,” Rabbi’s Turn, Nov. 15) In the article, the rabbi shared his own experience meeting “the other” and cited sources from Torah about the value and importance of making the effort — or “getting caught trying” — as former president Bill Clinton calls it.
Reading the rabbi’s account of his trip to Israel and the West Bank, and his subsequent interactions with a young Palestinian peace activist, the initiative toward peace becomes less of an abstract vision or a radical concept, and instead a realistic possibility worth the very great effort.
If Rabbi Rosenbaum has taken a risk in speaking out on the issue, he may be a voice for the significant number of American rabbis who are afraid to share their feelings on Israel, according to a JCPA study released Oct. 8, 2013 (“Reluctant or Repressed? Aversion to Expressing Views on Israel Among American Rabbis.”)
“Within a few minutes we had gone from turning away from each other to listening carefully to each other and finding common ground.” Finding common ground is what the negotiators in renewed peace talks are looking for.
“But because I hung in there a little longer, I found out that our differences were not irreparable.” Those words are a metaphor for the renewed effort, spearheaded by Sec. of State Kerry to negotiate a two-state solution.
As a member of J Street Seattle, I hope his congregation and the community at large appreciate and respect the rabbi’s effort to construct a bridge of communication over these troubled waters and, as well, enhance that spark of hope for a resolution that is becoming more and more talked about in the mainstream Jewish community.
Charlene Freadman Kahn
Posted December 9, 2013
I appreciate Rita Berman Frischer’s review (“Some bookahs for your sukkah,” Sept. 11, online) of “The Vanishing Gourds.” I’m so happy when I find that my story has evoked fond Sukkot memories in readers.
It’s been gratifying, as well, to hear non-Jews relate to the story, especially to the joy of discovering an unexpected backyard harvest!
Author, “The Vanishing Gourds”
Posted November 13, 2013
When Abraham our father opened his tent to two strangers, he was committing a revolutionary act. Fear of the stranger is deeply ingrained in human consciousness. When we examine the word “kindness” we see that it contains the root “kin.” It is far easier to be kind to our kin, those from our own tribe. Our ancestors established a system of ethics that sees the humanity in all people. Yet, we read further on in the story that Abraham drove away his son Ishmael and the boy’s mother. Surely this is a tear in the fabric of our heritage that caused and still causes endless bloodshed and suffering.
As I write this, leaders from Israel and the Palestinian Authority are in Washington, D.C. engaged in negotiations. This process is of necessity secret. Will they succeed in birthing a Palestinian state within the agreed upon nine months? So far neither party has walked out.
All of us who love Israel hope and pray for her to remain Jewish and democratic, and gain respect from the rest of the world. I maintain that we as American Jews need to support the peace process wholeheartedly. To do so requires a leap of faith, yes. We need to put aside thousands of years of fear and mistrust, all based on brutal historic reality. If not now, when?
Paula Libes Chester
Posted October 9, 2013
I agree with Steven Hemmat (“Allowing diverse opinions,” Letters, Sept. 13). Why does JTNews give a floor to opinions that side with people that want to destroy the Jewish state of Israel? Palestinian leadership tried to destroy Israel even before 1948 under British rule and more so after 1948. Can anyone find a map of Israel in Palestinian school books or media?
Have you read the Hamas charter that calls for the destruction of every inch of Israel and calls explicitly for the killing of Jews? Isn’t it against the mission statement of JTNews as a Jewish newspaper?
I am surprised the JTNews didn’t find it necessary to respond nor to fix the inconsistency of the action with the JTNews mission statement.
Posted October 9, 2013
In response to Elliott Magalnick’s letter, “Making Provisions for Provisions” (Sept. 13), differences of opinion about Judaism are common and I welcome his and other points of view, but please let me correct the misconception that I had “punished” Jews for observing Yom Kippur by not making provisions to provide needed foods for them from our weekly free-food Saturday market. That is incorrect.
For everyone observing the fast, I offered to set aside foods they could pick up after Yom Kippur had ended. No one was disrespected or punished for being Jewish. The opposite is true. Please feel free to contact me and I’ll gladly share copies of my offers to Jewish residents at Council House and their replies.
Thank you for allowing me to set the record straight.
Wishing you all blessings in this New Year.
Editor’s Note: JTNews did not contact Mr. Stahl prior to running the letter regarding the provisions for residents at Council House who observed Yom Kippur. We regret any harm this has caused him.
Posted September 25, 2013
I live at Council House and have for about eight years. I am a “people” person and am the present greeter for new tenants to our building.
I know both Knate and Charlene Stahl well and assure you they have done more for Council House with their time and effort than any persons I can think of (“Making provisions for provisions,” Letters, Sept. 13).
Their diligence and kindness are shown in many ways. People who are ill or who may need some help with food will receive it.
Personally, they also stop in and show their support to neighbors who are struggling with other problems. In no way would they not respond to problems and I know that they offered help with food to those on the holy day.
The tragedy in this is that someone does not see the goodness and has unreal thoughts about it.
President, Circle of Friends for Mental Health
Posted September 25, 2013
The New Year is a time of renewal, joy, and, above all, hope for the future, and this year is indeed a time of hope. Twenty long years ago, the world watched as two bitter enemies, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, found a way to look beyond years of recriminations and hatred on all sides to create an opportunity to achieve lasting peace. While that ultimate goal has remained elusive, Oslo did prove a critical fact. As Robert Lifton, a former president of the American Jewish Congress, recently wrote, “the Oslo process told the Arab world, and the rest of the world’s nations, that Israel and the Palestinians were capable of making a deal.” A deal today will not be easy, nor will it achieve all our goals. But a deal is possible, with our help.
Secretary of State Kerry has challenged American Jews to join a “great constituency for peace.” I urge you to become part of this constituency. No one has a stronger voice at this critical moment than the American Jewish community. And as President Obama said in Jerusalem, leaders will take bold steps only if their people push them to. But you must act. To remain silent is itself a message; if there was talk of imminent war, would you speak about it? How is peace somehow less urgent? Let your leaders and your neighbors alike know that you understand this will be a tough process with tough decisions, but that you’re ready to back the leaders who make them.
You can help shape the future. There are many organizations that support Israel and many opportunities for you to be involved. While our tactics and strategies may differ, we all share the same goal: Israel as a Jewish homeland, standing with secure borders as a beacon of democracy in part of the world where democracy is sadly, tragically lacking.
Let our leaders and community know that you stand behind negotiations that will lead to two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security, and that you are part of the great constituency for peace.
Chair, J Street
Posted September 25, 2013
As one born in Rhodes, I feel I must correct Vic Alhadeff’s article (“Rhodes: Embracing the past,” Aug. 30). The Spanish Inquisition was in 1492 and the expelled Jews spread along the Mediterranean on both the north and south coasts, and many who moved eventually to Rhodes had moved to Italy and Turkey. It was the Turkish leader Suleiman the Great who invited the Sephardic Jews to move from their adopted countries to Rhodes to encourage trade along the sea routes Rhodes was situated on.
The Turks had conquered the Knights of St. John, who had held the island, and expelled them before he invited the Sephardim to Rhodes and gave them properties taken from the knights (much of the old city). So when the Sephardim arrived there, there were no knights on the island. Vic must be confusing them with the few Romaniot Jews who did live there at the time of the knights. In all the years from the early 1500s until 1918, Rhodes was a Turkish possession and the Jews were treated extremely well, and were even allowed to have their own “virtual government” within the old city. The Italians took over the island after the First World War in 1918 and initially treated the Jews well, as they were the basis of the economy there. It was only when Mussolini started to align himself with the Germans that things started to deteriorate.
Posted September 11, 2013
The JTNews Editor and Publisher recently chided several members of the Jewish community for questioning the appropriateness of publishing a letter by Linda Frank defending the Palestinian Authority and its policies toward the Jewish people. In your statement, you defended publishing Frank’s letter by citing “free speech” and criticized some who assert that the JTNews should not be used as a forum to express such views.
Section 5 of your own Letters Guidelines state:
“JTNews seeks views from many perspectives. However, letters that contain obvious factual inaccuracies, unattributed facts and quotes, unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing, insulting comments, or defamatory statements will not be printed. Letters harmful to the Jewish community, call for the destruction of Israel, or contain hate speech will not be printed.”
In July 2013, the JTA News reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Egyptian journalists that no Israelis will remain in a future Palestinian state. Quoting Reuters, the JTA News stated that Abbas made the statements in Cairo when meeting with the interim Egyptian President. Abbas stated: “In a final solution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands.”
Any fair and objective person understands Abbas’s statement to mean that no Jew will be permitted to live in a future Palestinian state. Considering that tens of thousands of Jews live in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, Linda Frank was factually inaccurate and her letter should not have been printed under your own Letters Guidelines.
Being welcoming, diverse and open minded does not require our local Jewish community newspaper publishing letters or articles from those advocating the historic homeland of the Jewish people Judenrein.
Posted September 11, 2013
In response to the article by Knate Stahl (“Between myself and God,” Aug. 16), I found this article offensive. He seems to know so much of Yom Kippur for someone who totally rejects it by holding a program to help the needy. Offering free food that has been donated and doing so on Yom Kippur is an embarrassment to the Jewish community at large. If he were a gentile doing this on Yom Kippur and it wasn’t his own personal holiday, then it is another story. But being Jewish and not claiming ignorance of the importance of this holiday, but doing an essay on the holiday and its importance to Jewish life and then personally ignoring it is a slap in the face to the Jewish community.
Not observing Jewish holidays is not new to Judaism; it has been done for centuries. That in and of itself is not a reason to write a letter to the editor. What has rankled me and caused me to open up is the fact that he is doing a program that collects food from a supplier and redistributes it to those who are needy. If Mr. Stahl has made an effort to take orders from those who are observing Yom Kippur and made provisions to have their orders delivered to these people on Sunday, after Yom Kippur has ended, then fine, do your thing. But if you are not making an effort to accommodate those people then you are punishing Jews for observing Yom Kippur, and that is your sin.
Posted September 11, 2013
The letters that follow this are in response to a letter from a member of our community that ran in the August 16 issue of JTNews. This person, who the respondents below see as vehemently critical of Israel, suggested that comments made by the president of the Palestinian Authority differ from what these writers believe. That they have a difference of opinion is natural and appropriate. We are proud of this paper’s commitment to the concept of free speech, which allows JTNews to present different facets of what these writers see as flaws in their opponent’s argument. What is not appropriate is that some — not all — of these letter writers do not believe the person they are responding to should be allowed a forum in the pages of this newspaper to express her views.
Let me be clear: We are a community newspaper. We represent our entire community. While I, as editor, do not agree with every letter I receive, it does not mean we will not print them. As a community newspaper we must represent the whole community, whether or not the views expressed comport with our beliefs.
It is also inappropriate to tie our policy of allowing controversial letters in our pages to the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. Yes, the Federation owns JTNews, but we are an independent entity. The Federation does not approve our content, the Federation does not pay our salaries, and the opinions of our contributors do not have to reflect the opinion of the Federation. If we are to have an independent Jewish newspaper in our community, that is the way it should be.
Suggesting, as some critics of us running this letter have done, that people suspend their donations to the Federation because we print letters that represent opinions contrary to theirs is not only odious, it’s counterproductive. Pulling support from the Federation will not change our letters policy, but it harms our community as a whole.
A vibrant Jewish community needs a vibrant newspaper to cover and report what’s happening all across its spectrum. As Rabbi Sholom Ber Levitin stated in his Rabbi’s Turn column two weeks ago, which ran on the same page as this letter being protested: “As we prepare ourselves for the New Year, standing before the Almighty unified as one people in order to realize that unity, the challenge is to further develop and sensitize ourselves to true mutual respect.”
Our letters guidelines can be found here: www.jtnews.net/index.php?/static/item/611/.
May you all enter the New Year with a sense of reflection and respect for each other.
Publisher and Editor, JTNews
Posted August 28, 2013
When someone you support says something objectionable, something that’s inconsistent with your values and incongruent with your beliefs, you generally have two options. You can distance yourself from the offensive message — “I mostly agree with this person, but must take exception this time.” Or, you can try to rationalize away the disagreement — the other person was misquoted or mistranslated, the comments were taken out of context, etc. But Linda Frank (“PA does not call for Jew-free state,” Letters, Aug. 16) has found an ingenious, if dishonest, third option: To simply deny the distasteful statement ever took place, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence and plenty of publicity. Despite clear facts, Ms. Frank plays the role of the toddler in the sandbox, sticking her fingers in her ears and singing, “La-la-la, I can’t hear you!”
The inconvenient and unpleasant truth flies in the face of Ms. Frank’s head-in-the-sand, hear-no-evil naïveté or plain ignorance. Mahmoud Abbas most definitely did say, publicly, unambiguously, and repeatedly — most recently in a speech in Cairo three weeks ago, not a two-year-old “rumor” from two years ago — that there would be no room for Israelis in a future Palestinian state. (And it is the Palestinians who equate “Israeli” and “Jew”; Israeli Arabs — whom they consider their brethren — obviously would not be excluded from Palestine.) In contrast, of course, any suggestion that 1.6 million Arabs — one fifth of Israelis — should lose their Israeli citizenship or their homes in Israel when a Palestinian state is established, would be — rightly! — loudly, swiftly, and universally denounced. This is another instance of toddler logic — “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine, too” — demonstrating that Mahmoud Abbas and Linda Frank are birds of a feather.
People who claim to be working toward peace and human rights must start by facing and acknowledging the truth, including the nature and views of some of the players they support. Lies, myths, and falsehoods are not a constructive basis for engagement, let alone for reconciliation or peace.
Posted August 20, 2013
Linda Frank’s attack on the Pamela Geller bus ads lack both facts and logic (Letters, Aug. 16).
Her defense of her interpretation is as damning to Abbas as Geller’s attack. She argues that he did not use the words “Jew-free,” but merely said “...that there would be no Israeli soldiers or Israeli settlers in any future Palestinian state.”
Am I missing something? Is there a third category of human being that cannot be accurately described as either a soldier or a civilian? Does this mutant breed exist only in Israel? Of course he said there would be no Jews.
In case she needs more corroboration, if this Jew-hating state ever comes into being its neighbor to the east will be Jordan, which has had a peace treaty with Israel since the 1990s yet still allows no Jews to reside there.
I was in Israel in July and my daughter wanted to hear more of the Arab perspective, so we signed up for a Palestinian-run tour of Bethlehem in the PA controlled area. As we approached the checkpoint, the driver instructed me to take off my kippah. Since I had promised my daughter not to get into arguments, I obeyed.
A kippah doesn’t identify a man as an Israeli; it identifies him as a Jew. What’s up with that, Ms. Frank?
Perhaps you should share your view with Tzipi Livni, the most optimistic, left-wing Israeli on the negotiating team. Asked recently if Israelis could live in a Palestinian state she replied, “No. The Arabs would kill them.”
Nice try, Ms. Frank, but I’m afraid that whatever your views of Pamela Geller, she is telling this story correctly and you aren’t.
Posted August 19, 2013
Linda Frank defends PA President Abbas after he was caught stating he envisioned a Jew-free Palestine and distorts the record to make it look like Abbas and the Palestinian Arabs on the whole are ready to live in peace and harmony with their Jewish neighbors (Letters, Aug. 16). Unfortunately, she is sorely mistaken. What Abbas actually said — not in 2011, but just last month: “In a final resolution we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands.”
This quote is not from Pamela Geller’s website, but The Guardian.
So no Israeli civilians — does any one seriously think this quote includes the 1.6 million Israeli Arabs, or does he intend for a Palestinian State to be Judenrein? He is not the only PA official to so state — in 2011, USA Today claimed PA negotiator Maen Areikat said expressly no Jews in a future Palestinian State (the article did point out he hotly denied he meant “Jews” — only “Israelis,” as if there was a difference as explained above).
After whitewashing Abbas’s thinly veiled anti-Jewish pronouncement, Frank repeats the lie the Israel is “dispossessing” the Palestinians and committing “weekly acts of violence.” Really? Who is committing the violence? Palestinans, often children, constantly attack Israelis with stones and other weapons. Last March, a 2-year-old girl was sent to the hospital in critical condition from injuries she sustained from Arab stone- throwing youth. A year earlier, a father and his infant son were outright killed under similar circumstances. There is violence, unfortunately, in the West Bank, but the Arab side perpetuates most of it.
And as for dispossession, the Arab populations of Gaza and the West Bank have tripled since 1967 — and this is according to the “Jerusalem Fund” a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel website. Exactly how is this “dispossession?”
Nobody likes the occupation. Most Israelis want it to end as soon as possible. But peace has to be a two-way street and the Palestinians have to be wiling to accept Jews as their neighbors and stop attacking them in reality, not just in Ms. Frank’s mind.
Posted August 19, 2013
In your August 16 edition you published a letter from Linda Frank who regurgitated the standard boilerplate common among anti-Israel types.
Ms. Frank, a local anti-Israel activist, is well known for her libelous claims against the Jewish State. Her most spurious canard (although not made in your pages) is her assertion that Israel uses snipers to murder Palestinian children.
As the only Jewish newspaper in Washington State, the JTNews has a special responsibility to defend the Jewish community from such incendiary and libelous accusations. Instead you provide this practitioner of what can only be called a blood libel, with free access to our community newspaper.
I for one would never presume to deny Ms. Frank her free speech rights, but by what obligation do we as a community have to cloak her in the mantle of legitimacy?
It is clear from this incident and past actions, such as providing a forum for BDS propagandists, that the JTNews requires a review of whatever moral standards you have for facilitating publication in your pages.
While it would be absurd to assert that Israel should be beyond criticism, I respectfully suggest that the editorial board draw a red line against providing a forum for those who spread anti-Semitic canards or who publicly advocate by word or deed for the dismantling of the Jewish state.
Posted August 16, 2013
Steven Blum’s discussion of the difficulties of covering Holocaust-denial stories, such as David Irving’s impending trip to Berlin, was right on target (“German preoccupation: Why bother with David Irving?” Aug. 2).
However, in his annoyance at the claims of Irving’s supporters that his “right to free speech” has been violated, he misses the obvious counter-argument.
David Irving was not condemned by a British court for his intentional and malicious distortions of history because someone tried to deny his right to free speech. He was in that position because he himself sued American historian Deborah Lipstadt for libel.
It was Irving who tried to deny Professor Lipstadt’s right to free speech, when she used her scholarship to expose his historical malpractice. The court simply examined the evidence he and Lipstadt presented, and determined Lipstadt’s critique was accurate.
Irving’s supporters are demanding for their hero a right he tried to deny to his critics.
Posted August 14, 2013
Part of what drew me to Judaism and weekly studies at Temple was Judaism’s welcoming, and even encouragement, to ask questions about what I was being told.
The article by Janis Siegel titled “Back on the Bus” (Aug. 2) featured recent bus ads run in Bellevue by Pam Geller and her organization AFDI claiming that “The Palestinian Authority is calling for a Jew-free state.”
I looked at the articles Pam Geller cited as “proof” and found that every mention of the phrase “Jew-free state” was a fabricated distortion of what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had actually said.
What Abbas actually said — back in 2011 when the rumor appears to have started — was that there would be no Israeli soldiers or Israeli settlers in any future Palestinian state.
Abbas made specific reference to Israelis that are serving as instruments of colonialism (Israeli settlers) and military occupation (Israeli soldiers) — not to Israelis like journalist Amira Hass, who lived for several years in Gaza before moving to Ramallah, and certainly not to Jews. The official Palestinian Authority position is that people of all faiths are welcome in a future Palestinian state.
The equating of “Israeli soldier” or “Israeli settler” with “Jew” is deeply problematic for the many Jews worldwide, including the many Israelis, who consider Israel’s ongoing settler and military dispossession, weekly violence, and deprivation of rights as antithetical to Jewish values. Even more “mainstream” Jews like beloved Fiddler on the Roof actor Theodore Bikel (whose family fled Nazi occupation to Palestine) are speaking up. Search “Theodore Bikel Prawer” on YouTube for his video condemning Israel’s newest plan to expel 40,000 Bedouin from their homes and villages in the Negev.
I traveled to Gaza several weeks after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead with a delegation that included many American and Canadian Jews. Several told the Palestinians we visited with: “I want you to know I’m Jewish.” Overwhelmingly, the Palestinians’ response was, “We have no problem with Jews. Our problem is with Israel’s occupation and oppression.”
According to all the articles I looked at in response to Pam Geller’s claim, that’s what the Palestinian Authority has been saying all along.
Posted August 14, 2013
The “Rabbi’s Turn” on May 22 (“What we’re all about”) featured Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia. While he provided interesting facts about the history of TBH and Olympia’s local Jewish community, he does a great disservice to those of us in Olympia who see that the very active and growing BDS movement and strong and well-organized groups of Israel demonizers have caused harm and promote anti-Semitism here in Olympia and beyond.
If the rhetoric against Israel — supposedly in support of the “suffering” Palestinians — could have been curbed, or at least moderated, through some of our local Jewish leaders coming forward to counter the false claims and outright lies that have been spewed by the Evergreen State College professors and others, our community would not have been allowed to get so poisoned with these biased and false anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments and propaganda.
Our family has never joined the TBH congregation because we couldn’t comfortably align ourselves with a rabbi and other Jewish leaders who wouldn’t lead. Their peace-at-any-price attitudes and concessions to local Israel haters have led to the strengthening of the BDS movement at Evergreen and now South Puget Sound Community College and elsewhere in Olympia.
Some openly Jewish and Israel-supportive students at these local public colleges have been harassed, shoved, intimidated, and threatened by Israel demonizers. The silence of most of our Jewish leaders has contributed greatly to the divisiveness, stress, and vitriol that most of us experience here.
How can Rabbi Goldstein claim that we don’t have a problem with the vocal “minority” in Olympia who hate Israel? I am actually offended that he has made this claim. Far too many of us have been affected!
Some of us can’t even comfortably express our support of Israel in our community at large without being shunned or attacked or intimidated. We have to constantly listen to the lies and hatred against Israel and fellow Jews that take place through professors, guest speakers, biased documentaries, and other events within our community.
At a major intersection in Olympia, a large, in-your-face mural showing “solidarity” between Olympia and Rafah was painted by those who hate Israel. The anti-Israel organization, The Rachel Corrie Foundation, headquartered in Olympia, sponsors ongoing events that demonize Israel and its Jews.
Longtime friends in Olympia no longer talk to each other because they have differing opinions on the merits of Israel and the Jewish people. What happened to a community that once prided itself on its diversity, tolerance, and acceptance?
Is Rabbi Goldstein blind to what we’ve been forced to endure for all these years, including the Olympia Food Co-op board’s unilateral decision, with BDS pressure, in July 2010, to boycott Israel and Israeli goods without input from members on this contentious issue?
The anti-Israel proselytizing will take place, again, in September at Evergreen and SPSCC to another group of young, impressionable, and unsuspecting students, with no counterbalancing by Rabbi Goldstein or others. Another crowd of brainwashed students will then take up the cause against Israel, based on lies and misinformation. Truthful facts are not part of any dialogue, so proselytizing and hatred continue to foment in Olympia. Rabbi Goldstein has buried his head in the sand.
L. S. Davis
Posted July 3, 2013
Seattle Public Schools will begin school for the 2013-14 year on September 4, erev Rosh Hashanah. Our families must choose between the first days of school and being practicing Jews. I have been in contact with my board member, Ms. Smith-Blum, who is aware of the problem. All she could do was assure me that it would be an excused absence.
For our family, not only will our first grader and our seventh grader begin a new year, but our sixth grader, a child with Asperger’s, will enter middle school. School conflicts with Jewish holidays are difficult for any child. Missing the first two days is unreasonable and insensitive.
So often in our Jewish community we worry about the future of Judaism. We worry about intermarriage and synagogue affiliation, yet we completely ignore the roadblocks that are put before us by school and extra-curricular schedules.
As it stands, my kids won’t be attending any Rosh Hashanah services at the shul where I will be leading music. I will arrange childcare. The kids will learn that most Jewish holidays are not nearly as important as Christian ones.
Editor’s note: The school calendar is negotiated between the teachers’ union and the district. To register a complaint or offer a suggestion you may contact email@example.com.
Posted May 22, 2013
While reading the article “A Jewish Tombstone” (April 26) by Emily K. Alhadeff, I was appalled by her use and context of the pejorative word goy, referring in part to a “Jewish parent’s worst nightmare.” Her insensitivity to non-Jewish people, her use of a word as derogatory as the n-word, and the offensive generalization of a Jewish parent’s worst nightmare, was hugely offensive — a narrow-minded editorial tangent — and an indication of her lack of acceptance and inclusivity. I am a Jewish parent, and this is not my worst nightmare, by a long shot! It would seem this flippant expression of intolerance and bigotry by your associate editor is awkwardly inconsistent with your stated JTNews mission statement. Extremely disappointing…if you presume to be the voice of Jewish Washington.
Posted May 22, 2013
As the IRS scandal unfolds, it is worth recalling that, according to the medieval rabbis, the practice of reciting Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, originated in the medieval story of Rabbi Akiva found in Mahzor Vitry. Walking in a cemetery, Akiva meets a naked man, carrying wood on his head and apparently alive. Stopping him, Akiva asks why he does such onerous work and just who he is. The man replies that he is dead, and that in life he had been a tax collector who showed partisan prejudice in assessing taxes, favoring the rich and killing the poor. Akiva asks whether his “superiors” have told him how he might relieve his condition. The unfortunate man, “black as coal,” says there is probably no relief for him, but that he has heard that if he had a son and his son were to stand before the congregation and recite “Bless the Lord who is blessed!” and the congregation were to answer “amen,” and the son were also to say “May the Great Name be blessed” (a sentence from the Kaddish) “they would release him from his punishment.” Unfortunately, the tax collector never had a son, although he did leave his wife pregnant when he died. But even if she gave birth to a boy, who would teach Torah to the son of a friendless man? Perhaps the IRS culprits should pay close attention to Akiva’s story.
Posted May 22, 2013
While Jews for Judaism (“Missionary Impossible,” March 22) staff present themselves in such a straight manner as to make their outreach success to young Jews (who are at highest risk for victimization by conversion campaigners) unlikely, they do offer an important if symbolic counter to legions of Jews for Jesus and numerous Christian church activists who spend tens of millions of dollars and untold work and volunteer hours annually targeting young MOTs.
In the last year paid films placed by Jews for Judaism on YouTube have offered an important countermeasure to multitudes of Jews for Jesus and Aroodawakening ads placed on YouTube’s pages where films of Jewish content, especially Shoah subject matter, are viewed.
Using still pictures, Aroodawakening promotes the ancient canard that Jews and Romans caused Jesus’ crucifixion, and that Jews today are guilty of this crime.
But this was great! I burst out laughing on reading that rabbi Skobac “spent his first five years at Northwestern University shunning Judaism and advocating for human rights, even going on a three-week hunger strike.” All power to the people, Rav Skobac!
By advocating for human rights, the rabbi engaged in a very basic core Jewish value. For him to look back and say that he was “shunning Judaism,” inferred for not observing kashrut, Shabbat or putting on tefillin, is goofy.
Each of the main groups of American Jews today has no shortage of human rights activism to choose from. We are landsmen across the denominational divide, from Renewal to Orthodox; the younger Jews who attend independent minyanim; and Jews who synagogue hop for services; and secular Jews.
To not engage in supporting basic human rights needs is antithetical to Jewishness. Amidst our new cars, high-tech communication tools, social networking and vacations, there’s need: Poverty, hunger, insufficient health care, education, literacy, clothing, shelter, homelessness, drug addiction, alcoholism, youth at high risk, disabled and elderly in need, millions in prison, and hundreds of thousands of survivors of shootings. Be a real Torah Jew! Help heal the world (tikkun olam) by volunteering (tzedakah)! If not now, when?
Akiva Kenny Segan
Posted April 17, 2013
Growing up Jewish on Mercer Island, I often heard from others that it was a center of Jewish life in the Puget Sound area (“How I-90 tolls would affect the entire Jewish community,” March 8). I didn’t necessarily believe them, but when I moved back to the Pacific Northwest in 1994 to get married and raise a family, I knew being part of a Jewish community was very important to me. There are two Conservative synagogues in the Puget Sound area — one in Seattle and one on Mercer Island. There are two Jewish Community Centers in the Puget Sound area — one in Seattle and one on Mercer Island. There are two large chain grocery stores with fresh kosher meat in the Puget Sound area — one in Seattle and one on Mercer Island (and there is a second under development also on Mercer Island).
Like so many others, I chose to live on the Eastside (in Bellevue along the I-90 corridor) specifically in order to have easy access to the center of Jewish life that exists on Mercer Island. Over the past 10 years, I have commuted to Mercer Island at least 10 times a week to get my children to and from childcare at the JCC. I have commuted to Mercer Island at least eight times a week to get my children to and from Hebrew School at Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation. I have commuted to Mercer Island at least an additional six times a week to attend services at HNT, work out at the JCC, and buy kosher food at Albertsons. Tolling I-90 could make being an active member of the Eastside Jewish community cost prohibitive. It is incumbent upon the WSDOT to not restrict access to religious life.
Posted March 18, 2013
This week President Obama will take the first overseas trip of his second term; it will be the first time since taking office he has visited Israel. Many of us maintain that only the United States has the power to break the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. We therefore hope his visit will present more than just the gesture of “friendship and strong partnership” Netanyahu has referred to, and will be followed by a serious diplomatic American initiative and a sustainable peace plan.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggests that during his visit, Obama should ask Israeli leaders and the Israeli public several questions, two of which I include here:
1. Given the relentless settlement drive in the West Bank, how can Israel avoid ending up there forever — ruling over 2.5 million Palestinians with a colonial-like administration that can only undermine Israel as a Jewish democracy and delegitimize Israel in the world community?
2. What is your long-term strategy? Do you even have one?
The Israeli right continues to argue that a reasonable, peaceful two-state solution is not possible, and that Israel should focus instead on maximizing its military advantage, developing its economy, and extending its control over contiguous territory. I would argue, as many other Israelis do, that the ongoing occupation of the territories is not an option. Ruling over 2.5 million Palestinians is an obstacle to peace, a security liability, an economic drain, and a terrible moral burden.
Obama’s visit may be the window of opportunity for America to propose a peace plan that enlists wider regional and world powers, all of whom have a stake in resolving the conflict. And we should support him.
Posted March 18, 2013
Eitan Isaacson and Wendy Elisheva Somerson’s op-ed (“Solidarity with Palestinian non-violent resistance,” Feb. 8) is interesting in its focus on Palestinian non-violent resistance. Unfortunately, Palestinians are using it against the wrong side. Instead of blaming Israel for all their misery, Palestinians would benefit by weekly demonstrating against their own leadership. As long as that leadership refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist in its ancient homeland and refuses to negotiate a two-state solution, that same leadership will continue to be the problem.
Isaacson and Somerson falsely accuse the IDF and Israel of violence and aggression. Ironically, pro-Palestinian groups like JVP and SUPER accuse Israel of abusing Palestinians’ civil rights when Palestinian media, schools, and mosques teach hatred of Jews and glorify terrorism instead of preparing Palestinians to live in peaceful co-existence with Israelis. That is why it’s difficult to take “5 Broken Cameras” and liberal pro-Palestinian rhetoric seriously.
Posted February 18, 2013
Hen Mazzig’s account (“A sixth broken camera,” Feb. 6) of the fracas at the talk by Iyad Burnat on the documentary “5 Broken Cameras” provoked a defensive response by Eitan Isaacson and Wendy Elisheva Somerson of Jewish Voice for Peace. In his riveting report, Hen mentioned a woman who said in Hebrew to an Israeli man nearby, “Please don’t leave, I am scared but I want to ask a question.”
I am that woman.
The Jewish Voice for Peace account in the JTNews was a pack of falsehoods and outright lies.
Their portrayal of a polite, respectful gathering is a lie. Their hate-filled presentation of disinformation was truly frightening. I’m an Israeli American and I’ve travelled all over the world. I’ve seen reflexive hatred toward Israel before. I am sad to see it here in my current home, Seattle.
Isaacson and Somerson claim the violent young man that attacked Hen, the Israeli man, and me was someone they didn’t know, although some called him by name. Nevertheless, they bear responsibility because their vile propaganda inspired an intense young man to lose control and become violent. Shouts of “f—-ing Zionists!” and “Get the f—k out of here!” menaced anyone who appeared to support Israel.
When I asked my question regarding the “film clips,” the crowd started yelling and the violent man came toward me, I asked the Israeli man whom I did not know to stay. I am a middle aged Israeli-American woman who came out of curiosity to this gathering. To be treated with such vitriol surely was not a peaceful gathering as Jewish Voice for Peace claim that it was. There is only one name for what I experienced: Jew hatred. It was the responsibility of the sponsors of this gathering to protect me and the Israeli man. Rather than protect me, I was told by several people to “get the f—k out.”
Isaacson and Somerson claim that the crowd “watched in shocked silence as IDF soldiers brutally attacked…” This statement is a total lie. Burnat stages these “peaceful demonstrations” and the Israeli Army must keep the situation from spiraling out of control. He pushes small children toward the soldiers with instructions to touch their weapons, or even take them away. I did not see brutality by the IDF. I only saw mobs of men provoking, yelling, banging on metal cans actually barricading themselves and endangering themselves by encasing themselves in metal drums. The IDF did what they could to free these men from this dangerous confinement as carefully as possible.
Isaacson and Somerson further claim that Hen and the other Israeli showed “blatant disregard for the speaker.” This is another example of the deception they portrayed in their piece. As a witness, I can dispute each and every paragraph written by them.
I am utterly ashamed that the JTNews printed these lies next to the admirable and truthful piece that Hen Mazzig wrote. I am proud that someone like Hen Mazzig represents Israel and all of us that respect and represent truth and true peaceful gatherings.
Clearly JVP and Mr. Burnat’s message is not one of peace, but rather of thuggery, lies and propaganda. I feel sorry for those who have been duped into believing these falsehoods, and I am proud of Jews and non-Jews alike who understand this. I am proud of those that understand that Israel is a free, democratic nation and is inclusive of all races, religions, genders, and opinions, unlike that what Mr. Burnat and JVP represents.
Posted February 18, 2013
The tile of the Jewish Voice for Peace article “Palestinian non-violent resistance” is an oxymoron. The authors want the readers to think there is a Palestinian non-violent “resistance” movement (exactly what is being “resisted” is never explained). But, in fact, there is no such thing and never has been, at least, not on any significant scale. Instead, historically, the Palestinian Arabs have seen their “cause” in terms of a zero-sum game: Palestinian Arab “rights” can only be truly obtained when the country is ethnically cleansed of its Jewish population. Moreover, to achieve this end, Palestinian Arab leaders have consistently chosen violence, not as the last resort, but as the first and only means for achieving their goals. Palestinian Arabs leaders and organizations, starting with Haj Amin Al Husseini, a virulently anti-Jewish cleric who led the Arabs in Palestine during the 1920s and 1930s, chose mob violence, warfare, and terrorism as their one and only “policy” towards Zionism and Jews, at least until 1993.
This goal, the violent destruction of, at first, Jewish Palestine, then the State of Israel is incompatible with a nonviolent movement. Sitting down at lunch counters may be a persuasive means of ending segregation, but it will not get people to agree to their own murder or expulsion. So there has been no non-violent movement, and no Palestinian Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi, because these have no place in a movement devoted, in effect, to genocide.
Since 1993, the time of the failed Oslo accords, the Palestinians have been divided between the Hamas camp, which continues to pursue the traditional Palestinian goal of total destruction through violent confrontation, and the Fatah camp, which claims to want peace with Israel but refuses to engage in meaningful dialogue with Israelis, while playing its “victim” status to the hilt and focusing its energy on an anti-Israel publicity campaign.
In the meantime, the Israeli people overwhelmingly support an end to what is left of the occupation that started in 1967 and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Recent Israeli governments have tried to bring this result about through numerous attempts at negotiation and cooperation with the Fatah-dominated PA.
But these efforts are greeted with either sullen stonewalling from the PA or continuing terroristic violence against Israeli citizens from Hamas. The fact that some policies of the present and past Israeli governments are questionable does not excuse the fact that, since the Camp David talks of 2000, during which the Palestinians rejected an Israeli offer of a nearly complete withdrawal to its 1967 borders, no Palestinian leader has engaged in serious dialogue with Israeli leaders. There are no Palestinian protest tents outside the Knesset or the prime minister’s office, no peaceful Palestinian marches in either downtown Tel Aviv (or Ramallah, for that matter) or any evidence of mass support on the Arab side for peace and compromise.
The JVP authors focus on a small, local “movement” consisting of protests in one small town, as their example “non-violent resistance,” but even that is not true. Aside from Hen Mazzig’s credible and uncontroverted report published side by side with the JVP piece, there is a history of violent riots that occurred in Bi’lin, such as the one caught on film that occurred on February 18, 2011. So even this little movement can hardly be called “nonviolent.”
The ultimate irony is that, precisely because there is no credible, broad Palestinian non-violent campaign to bring about the end of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, it continues out of necessity. Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza resulted in a Hamas-led enclave on its southwest border that remains committed to Israel’s destruction and continues to act out violently against Israeli civilians. Israel cannot afford to let the same thing happen in West Bank.
I wish I did not feel compelled to write the above. I wish there was a real, Gandhi-style non-violent protest movement. I’d support it. But, then, so would most Israelis, and it would probably be the shortest-lived protest movement in history as its goals could be gained readily. And the soldiers stationed in Bil’in, who would get to go home, would probably be its biggest supporters.
It would be nice if JVP showed a little more intellectual honesty and started urging their Arab comrades to start having serious and respectful dialogue with Israelis instead of engaging in the kind of behavior and vindictive rhetoric described by Mr. Mazzig.
Posted February 18, 2013
Re: your half-page, mind-numbing rationale by Eitan Isaacson and Wendy Elisheva Somerson of the Seattle chapter of so-called Jewish Voice for Peace (“Solidarity with Palestinian non-violent resistance,” Feb. 8) defending never-ending Palestinian rocket, bomb, and mortar attacks against Israel:
It’s all Israel’s fault for defending itself against Palestinian attacks to drive them into the sea — and worse. Get it?
We are all very fortunate to have such a clear-cut description of what Israel should and should not do to remain alive, by this super-heroic Seattle Jewish Voice for Peace group. Never mind these brave souls safely live half a world away from danger to themselves or their families. Shucks, if they are wrong, they’re still safe here. Golly, you can’t be more courageous than that. But, if they lived in Israel, fair enough.
As a Jew and WWII Ninth Air Force combat airman with two overseas tours in Europe, I find their self-description vile and offensive. They parrot the terrorist line of “non-violent resistance.” Resistance against what? Resistance against Israelis fighting to survive? Pushing the terrorists back from their doorsteps to avoid even worse attacks?
This, er, “Jewish Voice” group ignores when massed Arab armies advanced in 1948 on the tiny reborn Jewish nation, vowing to kill or drive them all into the sea. They just don’t care or know, or want to know, that after repeated attacks, the Israelis had to push these attacking hordes from their front steps to even survive. So this splinter group joins with Palestinians under the deceptive tag of “non-violent resistance.” Ugh!
Philip R. Scheier
Posted February 18, 2013
I pick up JTNews at Einstein’s Bagel shop on Queen Anne Blvd. and enjoy the editorials.
Regarding Rabbi Jaron Matlow’s editorial (Rabbi’s Turn, “Gun violence in our country,” January 11, 2013). I certainly agree with the rabbi’s thesis that “guns are the tool but not the source of the violence”; I would add one more item to his causation analysis (alongside the glorification of gun violence in the media and a morally bankrupt country). Rabbi Matlow indicates that the “Torah tells us we were created ‘b’tzelem Elohim,’ in God’s image.” I would submit that we “are” created “b’tzelem Elohim” and that we have erased millions of images (children) of God’s genius by the tragedy that is birth control via abortion. For when is “b’tzelem Elohim” adhered to the creation in the womb? The callousness of our hearts has solidified to the point that we glorify death in our culture.
Posted January 23, 2013
Seventeen years after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, we find ourselves debating the settlement of “E1.” Rabin, of course, was the man who ushered in the Oslo era and the two-state solution as we know it. Settling E1 has been characterized by many on the left as a scheme to destroy the two-state vision advanced by Rabin. Ironically, the E1 plan was Rabin’s idea to begin with. Left-wing groups such as J Street have voiced their opposition to E1 settlement, parroting concerns raised by Abbas. This is consistent with J Street’s definition of “pro-peace” as a framework in which Jews endorse Palestinian viewpoints and adopt them as their own. I reject this definition of “pro-peace.” I reject the hysteria and condemnation stirred up by Jews planning to build houses. I support the two-state vision of Rabin. I support settlement of E1.
Posted December 19, 2012
Thanks for asking for our opinions. I pick up the JTNews at Victrola Coffee House on 15th Avenue East. I am also a regular reader of Real Change, Seattle Weekly, Seattle Gay News, and The Stranger. I appreciate alternative news because it gets deeper into the rich diversity of cultures that we have here in Seattle. I am not Jewish — I am a Wiccan priestess — but I do enjoy a good oneg once in awhile.
Janice Van Cleve
Posted December 12, 2012
I have to say that I am not happy with the fact that the Democrats in this state are supported by many in the Jewish community, particularly for Governor and Attorney General. Inslee and Ferguson were inferior candidates to McKenna and Dunn. They will bankrupt the state in the next five years.
Additionally, it is not a good idea to support same-sex marriage, as it will destroy the fabric of our society, people will become confused, why does person A have two mommies and person B has a mommy and daddy?
Posted November 28, 2012
A new women’s liberation movement that demands equal pay should insist on women’s rights in other realms as well. (I think that the women’s liberation movement began with Esther).
I agree with the Jessica Kessler Marshall column you published (“The Kotel belongs to all of us,” Rabbi’s Turn, Nov. 16), and I wonder how hard we try to achieve peace in our time? Israel, and by extension, Jews everywhere will continue to suffer the slings and arrows of a world which is not yet ready to accept a ‘swords into plowshares’ mindset.
We Israelis, who want peace more than anyone on earth, are portrayed in the media in a way that reminds people of other nations’ atrocities against civilians. Nowadays, we get better reporting on everything, so it’s hard to pretty up an ugly situation that makes us look like the Syrians and the Iranians and other tyrannical regimes. People might start asking how different are we from the narrow mindedness of the Ayatolas and the Taliban who will deny women their God-given dignity.
I applaud the women who defied the absurd law that had been imposed on all Israelis (against their will sometimes), antiquated notions that don’t belong in a modern land like Israel. We need a new government that can diminish the influence of the minority party of religious zealots in this cobbled-up parliamentary system of pathological politics. Israel’s image should be one associated with technological advances that would give the world a $9 ecological bike that is entirely made up or recycled cardboard and so lightweight. Wouldn’t that relieve the world’s dependence on oil, and make an effort to own up to the global warming scenario? It’s the land of milk and honey, and the promised land. We might need to cobble up something new in a new world of Arab summer, fall, winter and spring.
Posted November 28, 2012
Israelis today face growing threats from all sides, with a remilitarized Sinai, Islamists on the rise and the Iranians inching closer to nuclear capability. Rabbi Daniel Weiner (“Lit by the nations?” Rabbi’s Turn, Oct. 26) points to some extremists who have responded to the rising tensions with inappropriate and inexcusable actions, condemned by the majority of Israelis. He uses the phrase, “beleaguered people,” describing not Israeli Jews but Palestinian Arabs, whose main problem seems to be that their war of extermination against Israel, as promised in the charters of both Hamas and Fatah, has not been going as smoothly as they would like.
He bemoans the departure from “the regard for the other by this young nation only a few generations removed from its roots as a refuge for the stateless.” He seems uncomfortable with the fact that this nation was set up as a refuge for stateless Jews. Not a newly invented people called Palestinians, not for the deserving masses of Africa, fleeing from their Muslim brothers; Jews.
If he sees that as “nativism,” perhaps it is because Jews are in fact the natives of that land, from the sea to the Jordan River, as brought down not only in the Torah, but by the unanimous declaration of the League of Nations in 1922, in recognition of the 3,000 years of Jewish attachment to the land. Expressions of xenophobia become more understandable when the outsiders pose an existential threat to Israel’s survival as a Jewish nation.
To remedy this situation Weiner sets out to save Israel’s “soul.” As any Native American can tell you, the soul of a people resides not only in its members, but in the land that has been its sacred ancestral home. Jewish history was not written in Tel Aviv or Eilat, but in the land known for millennia as Judea and Samaria, cleverly renamed the West Bank by King Hussein in 1948 to erase the name of the Jew from the map of the Middle East. Weiner would save Israel’s soul by “excising” the Jewish heartland like a cancerous tumor, relegating the Zionist dream to an indefensible strip along the Philistine Coast.
When the world finally lives up to its promises to the Jews, and when we Jews proudly stand up for what is rightfully ours, only then will we be the “light unto the nations” spoken of by Isaiah, who never heard of Green Lines, two-state solutions or Arab East Jerusalem. When Jews can finally live in peace and security in our promised land, the shameful incidents Rabbi Weiner decries will become a thing of the past.
Posted October 31, 2012
We commend the JTNews on its recent J-Teen insert in the October 12 edition. What a pleasure to hear first-hand from these impressive young Jewish adults their reflections on their engaging experiences with other Jewish teens in rich Jewish contexts. No doubt these teens’ excitement regarding these opportunities stems from the very thoughtful, passionate and intentional efforts of these programs’ professionals. We at the Samis Foundation feel a sense of privilege in having supported the programs which nurtured these teens: NCSY, Nesiya and the Northwest Yeshiva High School. For us at Samis, these programs share a common feature: Experiential immersion in Jewish life with friends. With Samis’s support and the support of many others in our community, we sincerely wish for these programs to go from strength to strength, to continue to impart the deeper meanings of Jewish life to more and more of our community’s teens.
Rabbi Rob Toren, Executive Director
Amy Amiel, Senior Program Director
Samis Foundation, Seattle
Posted October 24, 2012
I read Emily Alhadeff’s article on the Rosenzweig family (“The family Rosenzweig celebrates Sukkot,” Sept. 28), and it reminded me of how important Norm and Shirley were in my Jewish growth. I joined Congregation Beth Shalom in 1988, and both Norm and Shirley Rosenzweig acted as models for how to live a Jewish life and how to be active in a congregation and community. More than that, they became my friends. I served on the CBS Board with Norm in the early 1990s, when he agreed to become treasurer. In both board meetings and executive committee meetings, Norm was a model of decorum and was always listened to as a person who had been through these “important issues” before. After all, he served as president three times, including being the founding president of the shul.
During the years I was a member, both Norm and Shirley were there every Shabbat, and every week people would look forward to greeting them and interacting with them during kiddush. Neither of the Rosenzweigs ever seemed to revel in the spotlight; rather, the spotlight appeared to find them naturally. I came to treasure them as friends and as role models, and I saw their influence not only on the members but also on their own family, especially their son David. He seems to reflect his father’s quiet confidence and his mother’s graciousness. It comes as no surprise that David and his sisters, Michele and Betty, have set up a most appropriate way to remember their parents and to honor the service they have given to Beth Shalom. I can think of no more fitting tribute.
Posted October 24, 2012
When we pass the “biblical” age of three score and ten, we begin to feel — as Saul Bellow said when he passed that milestone — that old friends are “dropping all around as on a battlefield.” Yet nothing could have prepared us for the sudden death of David Brumer (“A farewell to David,” July 13), cut off in his intellectual prime, when his appetite for ideas and his adroitness in handling them were at their most impressive. And who could miss the irony in the fact that, in his hospice work of recent years, he was helping people come to terms with the inevitability of death, but that he himself was taken completely by surprise when it came.
I knew David in two capacities. For those of us who have parents resident in the Kline Galland nursing home, he was for many years the key figure there, not just a source of information but an exemplar of humane intelligence. David was also an exemplary, indeed a heroic, figure for the following reason: He understood, and acted upon the understanding, that the defense of Israel against its innumerable enemies would require of liberals the kind of sustained exertion and courage in the realm of ideas and political action that Israelis have had to manifest in the military defense of their country. That is why, although he probably never forsook his youthful liberalism, he was a liberal tempered by experience, reflection, and renouncement. He understood that Jews must judge the New York Times by the standards of Judaism, and not Judaism by the standards of the New York Times. He not only knew things that most of us did not; he had the courage to act upon what he knew, to enter into battle where the rest of us feared to tread.
We shall miss him more than, at the moment, we can imagine. Baruch dayan emet.
Posted July 25, 2012
I just want to say that I am very pleased with the performance of this journal. Here is an example of why I feel that way: Recently, the paper informed that a visiting professor at the University of Washington was none other than world-class Israeli author Joshua Sobol (the award-winning author who is famous for his play “Ghetto”). The news was that the famous artist was to be doing a reading and book signing at the UW Bookstore in honor of his newly released translation of his latest novel (“The Israeli stage, as seen from Seattle,” April 13). Without JTNews, I would not have had the opportunity to meet and chat with this “Shakespeare” of Israel. I read the book he autographed for me and loved it. I also attended a wonderful short version of his play “Ghetto” at Congregation Beth Shalom on Shavuot evening.
I am deeply grateful to this publication for providing me with important news like this. It had been decades since I have had any kind of connection with the Israeli literati. I had the opportunity to share with Mr. Sobol some of my manuscripts and hopefully they will be translated into Hebrew soon, as I am an expatriate Israeli-American. Thank you and keep up the good work you’re doing!
Posted July 11, 2012
I wish to commend the JTNews and Charlene Kahn for the coverage of the disbanding of the Jewish Club of Washington (“Mission complete: Club’s disbanding marks the passing of a generation,” May 11). I was especially pleased at seeing the photo of Klaus and Paula Stern and the comments of their daughter, Marion Kitz.
I have considered Klaus to be my teacher, although that relationship was never formalized. When I first joined Congregation Beth Shalom in the late 1980s, Klaus was the gabbai. The way he conducted himself and the way he related to people in the congregation was itself a lesson to me and to many others. Klaus and I had a number of discussions about how to do the things he did in the shul and, again, I learned much from him.
In addition, Klaus and Paula never missed the opportunity to teach the lessons of the Holocaust, including their own horrific personal experiences and what we could take away from that time.
Klaus never acted in any way other than as a gentleman and he will always be remembered by me as one who gave of himself and always thought of others. All through the years that I have known them, Paula has remained the “woman behind the man,” yet she has always thought of others and has been of great help to those in need.
I thank them for their years of service and congratulate them on achieving a sense of recognition.
Posted May 23, 2012
Rebuttal to the plea: “Justice, justice we will pursue and make history” by Rabbi Zari Weiss (Rabbi’s Turn, May 11).
With all deference not to offend the rabbi, Washington State has same-sex partnership laws that contain over 170 rights and responsibilities in its provisions for civil union partnerships, which address discrimination and other civil rights concerns of same-sex domestic partnerships. These statutes form a body of legal remedy almost indistinguishable from the legal bases of civil marriage.
After 2008’s expanded domestic partnership law took effect, some of the domestic partner’s benefits and responsibilities included visitation, healthcare decision-making and information-access rights, as well as administration rights and veterans benefits.
Post-Referendum 71 in 2009, under state law domestic partners are treated the same as married spouses. Some of the more notable changes include rights to injured partners’ wages and benefits, unpaid wages upon the death of a partner, and access to unemployment, disability insurance, and workers’ compensation coverage.
Her arguments that all people deserve to be treated equally advances the notion that since God created man and women as equals, then they are interchangeable in every way such that a traditional family unit of a mother and father is equivalent to a same-sex couple. This is a radical departure from millennia of Jewish thought and law, in which marriage is between the parental ideal of a man and women sealed under the chuppah as a covenant with God and the family of Israel as witness.
One might ask, so what would be the difference if marriage can be between a same-sex domestic couple? And the answer may surprise you — since if there is no special relationship in a marriage, then what is to prevent someone wanting to marry his daughter, his mother or his son?
There isn’t an injustice of marriage. Rabbis can, if they choose, perform the same ceremonies with same-sex domestic partners. They can’t call it “civil marriage.” Legislation was introduced on January 28, 2009 intended to provide “everything but marriage” to domestic partners. In terms of support for this position, 31 states have enacted legislation defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Posted May 23, 2012
In his letter (“Difficult decisions,” April 27), David Shayne misrepresents my views and my comments during my recent visit to Seattle. The subject of my talk was not the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic stalemate, and I did not assert that Israeli settlements and Benjamin Netanyahu’s intransigence are solely responsible for that stalemate. Rather, I described the danger that the settlement effort poses to Israel’s own democracy and cohesion as a state.
A two-state agreement, I argued, is in Israel’s interests. Obviously, reaching an agreement also depends on the Palestinian side. But I’m hardly alone in the assessment that the Netanyahu government is uninterested in reaching an accord. The former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, recently expressed the same evaluation, based on his own experience working with Netanyahu.
Contrary to what Shayne writes, I do not dismiss Hamas’s attitudes toward Israel. However, his argument that Israel cannot pursue peace as long as Hamas has an influence in Palestinian politics grants that organization a permanent veto over compromise. Israel cannot dictate internal Palestinian politics. But it does have the potential to reduce Hamas’s influence and increase that of moderate Palestinians by showing that it is committed to a two-state outcome. On the other hand, to postpone peace efforts grants a victory to extremism.
Posted May 9, 2012
Thank you for your coverage of author Gershom Gorenberg (”Unraveled from the jaws of victory,” April 27) who spoke about preserving Israel’s democracy on April 17 to a packed house at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle. I would like to add a few comments to the JTNews story about Gorenberg’s visit.
First of all, I was deeply touched that so much support from local congregations was visible at the event. Though primarily sponsored by J Street Seattle and Temple De Hirsch Sinai, additional co-sponsorship was provided by Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation and Temple B’nai Torah. Additional support was given by Congregation Beth Shalom and Temple Beth Am. I commend the rabbis, staff and members of each of these communities for their participation.
Second, I was delighted to find that the audience included a diverse representation of the political and denominational landscape. Why? Because Gorenberg asks us to challenge stereotypes and reject the either/or argument of “Israel can do no wrong” versus “Israel can do no right” that is simplistic, divisive, and only serves to promote a knee-jerk reaction to bury one’s Jewish head in the sand to “avoid conflict” about something “so complicated” and “so political.” I thought the final remark of the JTNews article was right on the mark:
“Instead he (Gorenberg) encourages people to learn to understand complexity and challenge themselves with cognitive dissonance.”
For me, it is only through cognitive dissonance (e.g., the simultaneous truth of “I love Israel” and “I don’t think Israel is living up to ethics of my Judaic foundation”) that I can begin to unbury my head and engage in sane dialogue on the subject of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Dialogue is not debate. Dialogue is engaging and empowering. It offers us a safe environment in which we can stop, listen, engage, reflect, and connect.
J Street provides me, as an American Jew, a way to engage nuance in a forward-thinking manner. For me, pro-Israel dialogue is that which is focused on a viable future for both Israelis and Palestinians. Protection of Israel’s security and preservation of Israel’s democracy are not mutually exclusive ends. It’s definitely time for more dialogue!
Posted May 9, 2012
Last week, I attended a talk given by Gershom Gorenberg, who authored the nuanced and well-written “Accidental Empire,” a history of Israeli settlements following the Six-Day War. I am sorry that I cannot say as much for his talk. Like many on the Zionist left, Gorenberg blames the current political impasse entirely on the settlement movement and the Netanyahu government. I am not commenting on these views, as the settlements are a complex issue the Israeli people need to resolve without interference from the outside. Rather, I disagree with his dismissive comments regarding the threat Hamas and its allies pose to the peace process, a viable Palestinian state, and the existence of the State of Israel.
Gorenberg proposed that, under the right conditions, Hamas might make peace as part of a united Palestinian government. Ironically, two days later, a Hamas leader was quoted as saying Hamas might agree to a “temporary truce” but will never recognize Israel, and any Palestinian state would be only the first step to Israel’s destruction. Other Hamas leaders have made similar statements often. Last year, on “Nakba” day (a.k.a. Israeli Independence Day) Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh stated: “Palestinians mark the occasion this year with great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine.”
Hamas doesn’t just talk the talk. Its “fighters” murdered hundreds of Israelis, including dozens of children, in numerous suicide bombings, stabbings and shootings. Hamas bombarded southwestern Israel with thousands of rockets, killing several Israelis and severely disrupting daily life in the region.
I respect the fact that Gorenberg, who lives in Israel, has the moral right to decide what policies his country should take in order to best serve the interests of its people, whereas we who live here do not. Nor did I disagree with him entirely.
His ignoring or dismissing the genocidal goals and actions of the Hamas camp is not a “policy,” but wishful thinking that only increases the risks Israelis continue to face. In light of the above, I fail to see how Gorenberg or anyone else can suggest peace is remotely possible as long as the Hamas camp continues to wield power and influence among the Palestinians, regardless of what is done about the settlements.
Posted April 25, 2012
We read the article on the Titanic survivors (“The story of Titanic survivors Lean and ‘Filly’ Aks,” April 13) with great interest. We continue to serve on-board cruise ships as professional lecturer/entertainers. We also present our shows for various organizations and retirement centers locally and one of our most requested series of shows concerns nautical themes and the history of ships and early immigration. It was a delight to read about this Jewish immigrant and her small child as they came to America.
Please pass on our thanks to the author, Marshall Weiss, for an excellent look at one of the lesser-known survivors of this great disaster. We will keep Leah and Filly Aks in our minds as we present our shows locally and worldwide.
Donna and John Mollan
Posted April 25, 2012
The article “A chronology of the cancelled invitations to gay and lesbian Israelis” (March 30) left out important details. As one of the people who was present when the LGBT Commission made their decision to cancel the StandWithUs event and who later spoke at the City Council hearing in favor of their decision, I would like to fill in some gaps in the JTNews story.
At the Commission meeting on March 15, a group of LGBT Jewish and Palestinian activists urged the commissioners to reconsider their decision. Several Jewish Voice for Peace activists, myself included, explained that while we were not against hearing from individual LGBT Israelis, we could not support a tour backed by StandWithUs and the Israeli consulate.
We explained that this event was part of a larger strategy of pinkwashing, the Islamophobic strategy of positioning Israel as an oasis of gay freedom in the Middle East surrounded by uncivilized and homophobic Arabs, especially Palestinians.
Two Palestinian LGBT activists described how pinkwashing affected them and their communities. The commissioners were moved by their stories (at least two of the commissioners cried), and said that they hadn’t understood that holding this event would marginalize and invisiblize LGBT Palestinians.
Later, at the city council hearing, several Jewish and Palestinian activists spoke in favor of the cancellation, and Stefanie Fox, a Jewish Voice for Peace organizer (not Dean Spade as the JTNews states), presented the letter of 3,500 signatures in support of the cancellation.
Why did the JTNews interview only people who were against the cancellation (Rob Jacobs, the regional director of StandWithUs and Zach Carstensen from the Jewish Federation)? A more balanced article would have included interviews with the Jewish activists (part of a national Jewish peace group of 100,000 supporters) and the Palestinian activists who were in favor of the cancellation.
Wendy Elisheva Somerson
Posted April 11, 2012
We suffered a great public opinion defeat with the City of Seattle LGBT commission’s egregiously bad decision not to meet with the Israeli LGBT group (“A chronology of the cancelled invitations to gay and lesbian Israelis,” March 30). While I know that all sorts of apologies came forth from the Seattle LGBT community and the City Council, the damage was done. It is long-term damage both to the local Jewish community and to Israel.
Put simply, there were global news stories about the refusal, and no news about the apologies. The anti-Israeli forces are publicizing their victory, which it was. They are using the victory to gain more friends and to solicit more money. Check what they are doing and saying on their websites.
We got apologies, or as they say in Yiddish, “bubkis.”
Proper reparations need to be made: What we should have asked for at the City Council and what we should go back and ask for now is that the City of Seattle have a special day honoring countries that support gay rights and make Israel the top country in that category. We should ask that the City of Seattle invite the gay leaders from Israel back to Seattle and to have a day honoring them in their personal efforts to bring equality and tikkun olam to the world.
Posted April 11, 2012
When Seattle’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Commission canceled a scheduled reception with six Israeli LGBT activists, the strength of a vital relationship was challenged. Commissioners decided, after being petitioned by a small group of vocal anti-Israel activists, that rather than pursue dialogue, it was wiser to cancel the event.
The decision was wrong, hasty, and based on false information. It also demonstrated a lack of leadership in a moment that demanded courage. While the commission does not speak for the LGBT community, its decision reflected negatively on the strong partnership that has developed between the Jewish and LGBT communities. Since the initial decision was made, the commission has apologized.
This was an important first step, but it cannot be the end of the conversation.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle was proud to be a part of the response effort and we didn’t hesitate to reach out to the leaders and opinion makers within the LGBT community. We welcomed the chance to host a meeting of LGBT, Jewish, and pro-Israel leaders at our offices, including StandWithUs, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the Greater Seattle Business Association, the local LGBT chamber of commerce. The Jewish Federation also used an opportunity to testify before the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee of the Seattle City Council to promote a spirit of reconciliation and deeper understanding.
Most importantly, we were truly moved by the support from our friends and allies in the LGBT community as the controversy with the LGBT commission developed. As State Senator Ed Murray said in his statement, “I am disappointed in the Seattle LGBT Commission’s actions. It’s especially disappointing given the fact that important parts of the Jewish community in our state, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, have stood side by side with the LGBT community in our fight for justice.”
The struggle for LGBT rights is global in nature. It is a struggle being waged right here in Washington State and half a world away in the Middle East and Israel. It is a struggle that many people in our Jewish community feel personally because they have gay and lesbian family members or friends. Others are drawn to the cause because opposing oppression, fighting stereotypes, and combating hate are intrinsic to the Jewish experience.
As we stand side-by-side with our Jewish community partners in this effort, and our partners in the LGBT community, we must use this moment to promote broader understanding of our Jewish community values and issues within the LGBT community. We also must use this moment to help a crucial and important ally understand how language, which misrepresents Israelis and casts them in a negative light, can result in violence, anger, and hate against Jewish people here in Seattle. Though the conversations will be difficult, this should not dissuade us from tackling the difficult tasks at hand.
In the end, we must remember that regardless of who we are, what organization we represent, or our respective homeland, we have a common goal: advancement of civil rights, everywhere.
Zach Carstensen, Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs, Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle
Ron Leibsohn, Chair, Community Relations Committee, Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle
Posted March 27, 2012
Philip Scheier writes (“An insult,” letters, Feb. 29) that J Street “claims it is pro-Israel, a claim rejected by all Israeli leaders, including Bibi, along with most observers, who have all turned down many invitations to address the J Street lobby.”
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sees things differently. He is speaking at the J Street “Making History” conference March 24-27, and I’ll be there to hear what he has to say because I care about a safe future for my friends and relatives in Israel, and because as a Jewish educator I want my students to have a positive connection with Israel, consistent with humane Jewish values.
The unresolved conflict with the Palestinians is causing increased international isolation for Israel and stress on Israel’s democracy. The choice is urgent: A historic two-state compromise, or a de facto single state that will mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state, or as a democratic state.
That’s why a minyan of Israel’s political, military and intelligence leaders endorse the same two-state solution that J Street supporters like myself advocate to Congress and the White House. Leaders such as Adm. (Ret.) Ami Ayalon, former head of the Shin-Bet and the Israeli Navy; Colette Avital, former deputy speaker of the Knesset, consul general and ambassador; Shlomo Ben Ami, former foreign minister and public security minister; Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Shlomo Gazit, former head of IDF intelligence; Dave Kimche, former director general of the Foreign Ministry; Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Amos Lapidot, the former commander of Israel’s Air Force; Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, former chief of the IDF general staff; Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Israela Oron, former deputy National Security Council adviser, former chief of the IDF Women’s Corps; Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Ilan Paz, former head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank; and Danny Yatom, former head of the Mossad. I can name dozens more.
Mr. Scheier’s concern for Israel will be better served if, rather than attacking, he joins with these Israelis in supporting pluralistic and civil debate on how American Jews can best work for Israel’s long-term security as a Jewish democracy, offering opportunity to all its diverse citizens.
Rainer Waldman Adkins
Posted March 14, 2012
Dear Mr. Wilkes:
Did you neglect to wear reading glasses when you perused my letter bemoaning “wasted tomatoes” (“Repair and defend,” Letters, March 2)? I am a proud and active member of J Street. We are busting our kishkes trying to keep Israel out of world censure! I adamantly oppose boycott, divestment and sanctions directed toward our Jewish homeland. Happily, this otherwise silly dialog between commentators is a fine example of exactly what father and son rabbis Martin and Daniel Weiner decry (“More than one way,” March 2).
Mr. Wilkes and I both want to see Israel thrive. I believe this is the desire of most American Jews whether they are so-called left, right or middle. What’s needed right now is cooperation between the various American Jewish organizations, admittedly difficult for an argumentative tribe. The result wouldn’t be stuffy, drawing room etiquette, but powerful healing energy! I am ever so grateful to the rabbis for eloquently stating the position that I endorse.
Paula Libes Chester
Posted March 14, 2012
Your Feb. 10 article by Emily K. Alhadeff, “Moving beyond the one-trick pony,” where the University of Washington’s Stroum Jewish Studies guest speaker Simon Greer alleged one of his goals is to change the tide of American Jewish politics from Israel-focused to America-focused, is patronizing and insulting to all Jews. Particularly to this Jewish World War II Air Force veteran with two overseas combat tours with his bomber crew in Europe.
Greer, described as the former head of Jewish Funds for Justice, before he lost that post when the group was merged with some other groups, proudly reported with an air of discovery that a poll shows 83 percent of Jews don’t vote based on Israel alone. Like other Americans, the article reported him saying, they vote with other concerns in mind. This includes the economy, education, the environment, and other domestic matters. Well, obviously. We always vote with many concerns in mind. But a big concern to all caring Jews and non-Jews alike is the survival of Israel, which faces daily rocket, artillery and bomb attacks.
What is puzzling, however, is Greer’s quoting his apparent big source of his strange mind-set.
Because the poll cited by Greer and which, it appears, he depends on for moral guidance, was taken by the infamous, secretly funded J Street lobby, which claims it is pro-Israel, a claim rejected by all Israeli leaders, including Bibi, along with most observers, who have all turned down many invitations to address the J Street lobby.
Most telling, Greer hailed President Obama as a true friend because “he has challenged the portion of our community that has the view that the Israeli government is our friend right or wrong in all circumstances. He (Obama) said that’s not a road to security, nor a road to peace and so he won’t tolerate it.”
Then with a virtual wink-and-nod backing of Obama’s widely condemned one-sided pressure on Israel:
“In a mock stage whisper, he added, ‘He’s right.’”
Amazing that the esteemed UW Stroum Jewish Studies program hired this J Street-type thinker who urges Jews to pull back from supporting Israel.
Philip R. Scheier
Posted February 29, 2012
In the previous issue of JTNews is a review by Edward Alexander of Michael Weingrad’s marvelous work, American Hebrew Literature, published by Syracuse University Press in 2011 (“A successful work that highlights a failure of America’s early ‘enlightened’ Jews,” Feb. 10).
This volume was added to my personal library several months ago because I was reading through an issue of the quarterly Jewish Review of Books and found a discussion of another book on a related subject: Alan Mintz’s Sanctuary in the Wilderness: A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew Poetry, published in 2012 by Stanford University Press — which I subsequently added to my library.
Amazon.com displayed its “Customers who bought this book also bought…” and included Weingrad in their listing.
It was a two-fer that evening!
It would seem that the Jewish Review of Books is one source for your reviewer in search of books of potential interest to JTNews subscribers as well.
Robert B. Godwin
Posted February 29, 2012
In Paula Chester’s letter (“Wasted tomatoes,” Feb. 10) she states that my column (“Barghouti’s Own Life Reveals BDS Deception”) is offensive to those who “sincerely seek to repair the world.” All Jews I know long to repair the world, but some of us want to preserve and defend Israel as well.
She states in her letter that the best way to have a secure, peaceful and democratic Israel is to establish a secure, peaceful and democratic Palestinian state alongside. Israel is already secure, peaceful and democratic. To believe otherwise puts her in the camp of Noam Chomsky, whose perverse worldview holds that the United States is even worse.
But more importantly, BDS’s goals include the right of return, a too-cleverly disguised call for the obliteration of Israel. This is not a petty “pro-Israel-right-or-wrong” quibble. It is acknowledged by the likes of Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky, who agree Israel is a sovereign nation with a right to exist. If Ms. Chester believes otherwise, or believes BDS will in any way “repair the world,” she would fit in well with the audience that night.
Posted February 29, 2012
I applaud the opening of a Jewish delicatessen in Olympia (“Olympia deli tickles mind, soul and stomach,” Feb. 10). Obviously, an expanded Jewish presence in a place like Olympia is a good thing — and what better than a deli showcasing good-tasting Jewish food? However, if establishing the deli is in response to the boycott of Israeli products at the Olympia co-op, it seems to me to be somewhat missing the point. I don’t purport to understand the mindset of the boycotters, but to the best of my knowledge, they are not calling for a boycott of Jewish food or Jewish businesses — at least not yet! I think it would behoove the owners to stock the very products removed from the co-op and go one better and carry still others. (Perhaps they are, but there is no mention of that in the article.) That way, those who do enjoy high quality Israeli foodstuffs — and there are many nowadays — will once again be able to obtain them in Olympia. I’m sure the “Israeli” cucumber salad as depicted on page one is delicious, but really doesn’t have much to do with helping Israel in its fight against boycotts.
Mark D. Blitzer
Posted February 15, 2012
I was grateful to see the editorial by Wayne L. Firestone, Hillel’s president and CEO, reprinted in the JTNews last week (“Colleges playing catch-up on Israel,” February 10). Firestone is absolutely correct when he points out that the rest of us have a great deal to learn from the way college students conduct their conversations about Israel on campus.
Fortunately, our local Hillel community is no exception. Public discourse about Israel too often slides into rhetoric characterized by personal attacks and an unwillingness to listen to the perspectives of others whose viewpoint differs from one’s own. But here at Hillel UW, circumstances could not be more different.
Here, students grapple with challenging questions about personal identity and the national character of the Jewish State. But they also come to Hillel in order to become better acquainted with Israel from many other different perspectives. Our students come to learn about Israel’s role as an incubator of high-tech and ecological innovation. They come here to hear the stories of young Israeli gays and lesbians. They come to ask penetrating questions of Israeli soldiers not much older than themselves. And they come — dozens of them at a time — to join the tens of thousands of their peers who visit Israel on a Birthright Israel trip each year.
I am hopeful that Firestone’s words resonated strongly with JTNews’s readers, and to them I want add my own personal invitation: Come visit us and see for yourselves. Stop by Hillel and see first-hand the many ways that we can learn from the thoughtful and committed students who make Hillel UW their second home. I am confident that you will come away from your visit inspired and newly committed to thoughtful and compassionate discourse on Israel.
Rabbi Oren J. Hayon
Greenstein Family Executive Director
Posted February 15, 2012
I am frankly puzzled by Robert Wilkes’s extensive dissection of Omar Barghouti’s January 5 talk at our local landmark, St. Mark’s Cathedral (“Barghouti’s own life reveals the BDS deception,” Jan.27). Let’s begin by separating objective facts from opinion. BDS stands for boycott, divestment, and sanctions in respect to the State of Israel. Should anything Mr. Barghouti presented have been anything of a surprise? I was not present, so my analysis is a ”he said, she said,” but Wilkes’s offhand description of the audience as ”well-meaning Christian and Jewish tikkun olam-nistas” offends those of us who sincerely seek to ”repair the world.” I believe that the action called for to (God-willing) achieve a secure, peaceful and democratic Israel is the establishment of a secure, peaceful and democratic Palestinian state alongside. Make no mistake: This must include just and fair land swaps as necessary.
The Israeli writer Amos Oz likes to remind us that Israel began as a dream. Blood, sweat and tears made it a reality. We now must do the hard and painful work on the ground of preserving the Jewish State. Throwing verbal tomatoes at a speaker who is antagonistic to our cause is a waste of energy and a waste of good tomatoes.
Paula Libes Chester
Posted February 8, 2012
I am very disappointed in your response to Martin Jaffee’s article about Myron Cohon (“To the family of Myron Cohon and our community,” Dec. 23). He made a mistake. I’m sure his apology is sincere and he should be forgiven for his lapse.
I am the secular Jew he is talking about in some of his articles. I may not go to shul but I do have many of the values and ideals I learned growing up in a Jewish household, and I have tried to pass these on to my children.
One of those values is forgiveness. Mr. Jaffee is an interesting journalist. I don’t always agree with him but I find his articles thoughtful and fun to read.
Firing him or making him resign is a sad day for this paper. I hope you will both reconsider. The Cohon family, Mr. Jaffee and JTNews need to take a few minutes to remind themselves that we all make mistakes. We can grow and learn from them and become better and more thoughtful people.
Posted January 11, 2012
I was saddened and disappointed to read that Professor Martin Jaffee will no longer be writing his column for this paper (To the family of Myron Cohon and our community). He obviously made incorrect and hurtful assumptions in his last column about Myron Cohon, and the Cohon family was understandably outraged. But the paper’s apology and the family’s response raised some issues for me.
First, there was no appreciation of Professor Jaffee’s contribution as a columnist for almost eight years. I’m sure there are reasons why more wasn’t said, but I would like to take the opportunity to thank him. I very much enjoyed his columns and looked forward to them. I found them to be interesting, funny, educational, and thought-provoking. I don’t think the problems with his last column should completely overshadow an otherwise distinguished career with this paper, and he deserves better recognition.
Second, I appreciated the family’s heartfelt response because it helped me get to know the real Myron Cohon, and in that regard I think it did a true service to his memory. But I think it went too far by personally attacking Professor Jaffee, questioning his piety, and making this about Reform vs. Orthodox and who is a better Jew. Finally, is there no room in all this for forgiveness? One thing I would hope we could all agree upon, regardless of our slice of Judaism, is that we allow each other to acknowledge our sins, to make teshuvah, and to start again. Professor Jaffee made a big mistake, apologized to the family, the paper, and the public, and will probably atone for it for many years to come. Doesn’t our faith offer him another chance? There are serious issues and tensions underlying this situation that our community should discuss, and Professor Jaffee is an important voice. What do we gain by silencing him? His columns just might be far more sensitive and insightful as a result of this painful experience, and we too would benefit from keeping the conversation going.
Posted January 11, 2012
Undoubtedly Jaffee made errors (To the family of Myron Cohon and our community). Nothing excuses William Cohon’s “he occupies the Samuel and Althea Stroum chair in Jewish Studies, at the University of Washington, which means that both the State of Washington and the Stroum family vouch for him.”
Cohon was trying for more than just an apology, he was trying to destroy the man. The fact that you published that statement is harder to justify than your publishing Jaffee’s misstatements.
Posted January 11, 2012
Martin Jaffee blew it. Jaffee used an individual’s life and death to illustrate a continuing concern of the Jewish community, the loss of member(s) to the majority culture. Jaffee assumed incorrectly that in the last part of Myron Cohon’s life, Cohon was lost to the Jewish community. The JTNews, in printing Jaffee’s piece equally blew it. Jaffee apologizes and is being fired, the JTNews apologizes (To the family of Myron Cohon and our community) and continues business as usual. Jaffee is being scapegoated.
Whether Cohon was “the right kind of a Jew” for all of his life is a secondary consideration. The main issue is, even if Cohon was “lost” to the Jewish community, Cohon was entitled to live his life as he chose, without criticism.
I assume Jaffee’s motives were honorable, that he was making the point that the best place for every Jew is in the Jewish community, for the individual’s good and for the community’s good, which, for what it’s worth, I agree. To quote a Christian adage, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” An “Onion” t-shirt reads, “Stereotypes are real time savers.” At least in the short term, assumptions can also be. Longer term, maybe not. Yet, let any who haven’t assumed and unnecessarily personalized it when making a point, raise a hand.
Anti-Semitism from those who think they’d like to make the world Judenrein, “clean of Jews,” not surprisingly promotes in at least some Jews feelings of being under such constant threat and maybe those who don’t have such fears are in denial. The loss of one member can feel like an existential threat.
So, though Jaffee’s religious beliefs aren’t mine — I don’t have any — I think that he has the interests of the Jewish people at heart, including people like me, and shouldn’t be punished because of a seriously insensitive gaffe. So maybe the JTNews needs to take a deep breath. Let him write in the JTNews. Don’t pillory him for an error that any us can make. Besides, he’s a very good writer.
Posted January 11, 2012
Thank you for the letter addressed to Myron Cohon, his family, and the community, published in JTNews on Fri., Dec. 23, 2011 (To the family of Myron Cohon and our community). I was horrified to read the cruel, arrogant column written by Martin Jaffee, published in the JTNews on Dec. 9, criticizing the obituary and life of Mr. Cohon. The apology from Mr. Jaffee was essential, although his carelessness in writing the column in the first place was appalling. Such writings create separation within the Jewish community, not commitment. Mr. Jaffee, in assuming he had the judgment authority of God, brought shame upon the University of Washington, the JTNews, and himself. Now that his column has been discontinued, I am willing to renew my subscription. Such a mistake should never be repeated by the JTNews.
Posted January 11, 2012
I’m sorry, but while I appreciate your apologies (To the family of Myron Cohon and our community), you have still missed the mark. In fact, you and Professor Jaffee are still on the same page, though you profess not to be.
You both apologize, as you should, for both factual inaccuracy, and offensive timing. But though Professor Jaffee claims to, neither of you truly disavows your judgment of those Jews who are not “Jewish enough” for you. That is wrong.
What if my father was a “secular Jew” who valued Jewish and non-Jewish intellectual and artistic achievements equally? What if he did marry a person he loved and who was not a practicing Jew? What if he did raise a child who chose not to practice Judaism, and two who married gentiles? What if he did love and accept his children’s spouses and his grandchildren equally, regardless of their religious heritage or practices? What if “the life of Torah” was not “an existential concern” to Myron or some members of his family? What if you were factually correct about his life, and if the timing of your criticism had not been so inappropriate? I’ll tell you: It was still wrong. It was religious and ethnic intolerance.
It was not only Myron’s recognition of his Jewish identity, and the fact that some of his progeny remain active in the Jewish community, that makes the article wrong. It is wrong because you criticize those aspects of his life, and those members of his family, that are not Jewish enough for you. It is wrong because you deny the validity of each individual’s choice as to how they carry forward their religious and ethnic heritage. In failing to recognize that error, you still have much to learn from Myron, and much to apologize for to his family.
Posted January 11, 2012
I want to respond to the article written by Tzippy Wiens titled “Killing Animals” (Jew-ish Magazine, Dec. 23). I realize that most people do eat animals and I praise the article for being very open and upfront about what happens to animals and how they actually go from being living, feeling creatures to something presented on a platter. Sadly, most people try not to make the connection and are “disconnected from their food.”
As a vegetarian, the article struck me as brutal and disturbing. I found the words in the caption, “Few things bond a group faster than ritually slaughtering and preparing turkeys,” a horrifying commentary on the human condition. I am reminded of the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer who wrote, “In relation to animals all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka.” Something to think about.
Posted January 11, 2012
Thank you for your article in the November 25 edition by Diana Brement about Sharon Kaufman-Osborn of Whitman College in Walla Walla (“Advising Jewish students at Whitman College”).
By her willpower and effort she revived a Jewish community dating back to the 1860s that was slowly dying out. We had been struggling to get a minyan. When Sharon took over we started running out of chairs for the attendees. It shows what one person or family can do.
Alan L. Barer
Posted December 21, 2011
On behalf of executive board of the Washington State Jewish Historical Society, thanks so much for the wonderful article about our recent program, Heroes Making History (“Stories of the front,” Dec. 9). The speakers truly represent the best of America, and we were honored to share their stories.
But I did notice an important omission in your overview: The recipient of our annual Meta Buttnick award: Eugene Normand, Ph.D. We purposely decided that Sunday’s program was an appropriate time to recognize Gene, for he is a highly esteemed veteran, not just in service to the U.S. but to the society as well!
As a self-effacing person, I doubt Gene would ever want to call much attention to himself. But I had the honor of serving side by side with him for more than three years, so I feel eminently qualified to do so. Under his tenure, our society achieved recognition throughout King County for excellence in programming (some of which he arranged himself before we hired executive director Lisa Kranseler). He may have been president, but no task was ever too small for him to perform himself — his sense of humor tempered with strategic wisdom honed over a prestigious career at Boeing propelled us to ever-larger stages.
Please join me in wishing him a hearty yasher koach for an award he so richly deserved!
Betsy R. Schneier
Past President, Washington State Jewish Historical Society
Posted December 21, 2011
Re: The article Jewish agencies will support marriage equality (Nov. 25). Wow. Another good reason not to give a dime to Federation
Posted December 7, 2011
Thank you for the Books, Movies, Music and Food section from November 18! While reading it I moved to my computer to reserve four of the books from the library (luckily they have them). So many good ideas — I appreciate it!
Posted December 7, 2011
Here are some observations on the Olympia Food Co-op boycott controversy described in the Nov. 11 issue of JTNews (“Israel critics use courts to protect their speech”).
I attended the public meeting in Olympia before the board vote and along with others was given a chance to speak against the boycott. No decision was reached at that meeting. Some time later, the board met in closed session and emerged with the boycott in place. No appeal process was offered.
Elated with being the first in the country to boycott Israeli products, the organizers moved their show to Port Townsend. They had chosen their targets well, or so they thought: Small communities, little or no organized Jewish activity, far from the resources based in Seattle, “progressive” populations leaning toward support of the Palestinians.
I went along with fellow Israel supporter Jack Greenberg and again was allowed to speak. The board was seated at a table set up on the stage. After comments from the audience they passed the microphone around and discussed the proposal in full view and hearing of those concerned. What a concept! When the discussion ended they voted right then and there. The motion to boycott was defeated 3-2.
Meanwhile, back in Olympia, a once-cohesive community was being torn apart. I was told that lifelong friends were not speaking anymore. There was the stench of betrayal in the air. I know that one of the plaintiffs now filing to overturn the Olympia boycott originally supported it, but after listening closely to the views of the other supporters she came to see that what they were after was not a return of Israel to the 1967 lines, but the complete destruction of the Jewish State. Message to the boycotters: The slogan “Not in my name” cuts both ways.
Rob Jacobs of StandWithUs sent this information to every co-op in America, and the last time I checked not one of them has voted to boycott Israel. The movement that began in Western Washington, to our shame, has also ended here, much to our credit.
There is a lesson here for community nudniks like me who fly off the handle at every insult to Israel, rush to our computers or to meetings, convinced that if we don’t act now Israel is doomed. Sometimes we need to sit back and let matters take their course. Given the right information, most people are decent and intelligent and will figure things out for themselves.
As for the boycotters’ great concern for freedom of speech, that also cuts both ways. As anyone who has dealt with the Israel bashers knows, their guiding principle is “Free Speech for Me, None For Thee.”
Robert G. Kaufman
Posted November 22, 2011
The “Books,” etc. edition of the JTNews (Nov. 18) has just arrived. I would prefer not to see a picture of a swastika, and a man holding a gun on the front cover. There must be a better way to go.
Posted November 22, 2011
I commend Joel Magalnick for his perceptive column “Seattleites win education prize” (Nov. 11) as very informative. Glad to hear that Robert Beiser, the campus/Jconnect director was recognized nationally by the Covenant Foundation and awarded a prize of $15,000 over the next three years to further his education. Also glad to hear that Gilah Kletenik was awarded the prize as well.
I consider the awards were appropriately made to very able and talented individuals. I was especially delighted to meet and talk with Beiser. He is an excellent role model to the youth at Hillel and a strong advocate for Israel. His advocacy with others to promote fair trade in the sale of chocolates from organizations that monitor the exploitation of children from slave trade is commendable.
I hope parents will buy chocolates from companies that engage in fair trade that enables children to be free from enslavement and go to schools. Beiser rightly says, “it’s the ethical, responsible thing.” I do wish Beiser much success with his job at Hillel. I also wish Kletenik much success with her work at Ramaz Upper School in New York.
Posted November 22, 2011
I congratulate Rabbi Kinberg on her insightful column (“We need to let the world know how we really feel about Israel,” Oct. 28). She is correct to observe that a millennia-long connection to the land of Israel, and contemporary caring about the future of the Jewish State, are key themes that unite Jews everywhere in the world. Whatever one’s political position, as Jews, we share these connections to the land, the state, and the people of Israel.
Israel is by no means perfect, but it’s the only Jewish state we have. Thank you, Rabbi Kinberg, for your support and love for Israel, and for bringing the community together around this love and support.
Posted November 9, 2011
Your front page article by Uriel Heilman (“Shalit deal was best Israel was going to get,” Oct. 14) was quite informative.
The illegal kidnapping and hostage taking by Hamas terrorists of Shalit in a June 2006 raid along the Israel-Gaza border aroused enormous concern and support for his release around the world. Critics of the prisoner-exchange swaps warn that such a deal merely encourages Israel’s enemies to capture more Israelis. They consider this to be too steep a price to pay and a capitulation to terror.
Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defense Minister, rightly stated that the Shalit deal strengthened solidarity but warned that its approach to future kidnappings must change.
He also stated that a life-loving country cannot continue to release over 1,000 prisoners for a soldier. He considers that to be a slippery slope that has to stop.
It appears that Arabs will stop murdering Jews, Christians and their own brethren, only when an Arab mother will shed her first tear at her son’s “heroic” death.
Golda Meir said it well. Israel will have peace only when Arab mothers love their children more than they hate us.
Meanwhile, we are compelled to be our brothers’ keepers, all for one and one for all.
Posted October 26, 2011
Does the Israeli government — or ours for that matter — see the sad irony in opposing votes at the UN regarding the recognition of a Palestinian state? Where would Israel be today were it not for the votes taken in 1947? Yet here we are in 2011, with Israel and the United States opposing action that reiterates the UN’s longstanding support for a two-state solution. Rather than opposing the recognition of a Palestinian state by the UN, Israel and the U.S. should endorse it and work with the Palestinian Authority to ensure its implementation. The longer Israel, the PA and the U.S. delay, the greater the possibility that dream of two states living in peace alongside each other will fade like a mirage in the desert. Instead we could look forward to the triumph of the maximalist, anti-Israel Hamas party, the anti-Palestinian activities of ultra-nationalist, pro-settlement Israelis, and decades of increased violence.
Rabbi Anson Laytner
Posted October 12, 2011
I commend Mervyn Danker for his perceptive op-ed column (“A Palestinian state should be the result of negotiations,” Sept. 16) as right on the mark.
Abbas needs to negotiate directly with Netanyahu without pre-conditions and accept Israel as a Jewish state. Also, the creation of a Palestinian state via the UN will in no way end the Mideast conflict, but will only add to the instability in the region. It will not serve the interest of the Palestinian people.
Netanyahu spoke the truth to the General Assembly following Abbas’s speech when he said the United Nations has become both a “house of lies” and a “theater of the absurd” in its obsession to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and to falsify the history of the Palestinians’ own self-inflicted wounds.
The Palestinians came to the UN to get a state, but without giving Israel peace in return. What cannot be overlooked is the fact that the Gaza half of the proposed Palestinian state is ruled by Hamas that has openly called for the destruction of Israel and a genocide against the Jewish people.
UN Security Council Resolution 242 adopted on November 22, 1967 is the cornerstone for what it calls “a just and lasting peace” that recognizes Israel’s need for “secure and recognized boundaries.” The resolution became the foundation for future peace negotiations.
Netanyahu has extended his hand in peace. It is time that Abbas stop playing political games and accept it. This may well result for the Jewish and Palestinian people living side by side with a real and lasting negotiated peace agreement.
Pressuring Israel to make only one-sided concessions will not work.
Posted October 12, 2011
In response to Eric Nusbaum’s article of Sept. 13, 2011 titled “The Family Reunion,” the article neglects to mention that the reunion was made possible thanks to a Page of Testimony submitted by Wolf Hall to Yad Vashem in 1980 to commemorate his family murdered in the Holocaust. The page has been freely accessible online since November 2004, when the central database of Shoah victims’ names was uploaded to www.yadvashem.org. Pages of Testimony are special forms filled out in memory of the victims of the Shoah. The fact that Mr. Hall’s niece was unable to find his testimony earlier is primarily due the fact that the names of family members were not listed in the correct fields on the Page of Testimony form. The Names Database is a memorial, based largely on the testimony of people who knew the victims.
In July 2011 Yad Vashem hosted Rachel Vered and her children and presented them with additional archival documents that brought new information to light on the fate of other family members during the Holocaust. At the time, Yad Vashem staff explained to Vered the importance of updating the information on record on her family at Yad Vashem, explained how to do so and offered assistance.
Unfortunately, no full list of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust exists anywhere. In addition, there is no complete list of the Jewish survivors. To trace an individual during the Holocaust or thereafter one should utilize a variety of resources. To date, in an ongoing effort, Yad Vashem has identified two-thirds of the Jews murdered in the Holocaust — 4 million names of victims are registered in our online Names Database, which is available at www.yadvashem.org in English, Hebrew and Russian. The public is invited to add new information and to send comments online.
Cynthia Wroclawski, Manager
The Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project, Yad Vashem
Posted September 28, 2011
I agree with the letter writer (“Taking up too much space,” Sept. 16) who said we must not permit agents of our enemies to use our limited resources (i.e., print space in JTNews). And we should not forget that we do have enemies, and not just in our ancient homeland. I think it was Golda Meir who said something along the line, “We will have peace with the Palestinians when the Palestinians start to love their children more than they hate us.”
When I was a younger man I was quite taken with the peace process and at the time of the Oslo Accords I designed an emblem for the Peace Now movement and even married an Arab-American woman from Libya. I was quite an idealist. Now, I have an Orthodox son, his wife, and two grandchildren in the enemy’s crosshairs, not far from Jerusalem. I am wondering if they, too, are too young and idealistic, although from a very different perspective. Remember to “love all Israel” and “united we stand,” and just don’t forget what team you’re playing for. If we allow ourselves to forget who we are and why we’re here, then God help us. Shana tova to all of the readers of this newspaper.
Posted September 28, 2011
In his stirring speech to the Sept. 18 StandWithUs gathering, Rabbi Daniel Gordis criticized American Jewish leaders for their silence on the coming UN vote on Palestinian statehood. The op-eds by Michael Weil and Mervyn Danker in the Sept. 16 JTNews provide ample evidence to support his criticism.
These Jewish leaders promote different paths to achieve what they consider to be a great benefit for Israel, the creation of a state dedicated to her destruction within easy firing range of her major population centers. Let them consider some points raised by Rabbi Gordis.
Abbas has said that the Palestinians have been under “occupation” for 63 years. Do the math. He isn’t talking about the controversial capture of lands in the Six Day War of 1967; he is talking about the creation of Israel in 1948.
He is quoted as saying no Jews will be allowed to live in the territory ceded to the Palestinians, and on top of that he still insists on a “right of return” not only of those who left in the war the Arabs started in 1948, but all of their descendants. This will destroy the Jewish majority needed to keep Israel under Jewish control, making a mockery of the concept of a Jewish state, which he refuses to recognize.
Arab media and school materials have never called for the two-state solution our authors are advocating, but the two-state solution of Arafat, negotiate for as much Israeli land as possible, and then attack what is left and destroy it.
Weil has good Zionist credentials, which gives him “a moral duty to support any people that desires self-determination.” Great, but what if they insist on self-determining themselves on the land of the Jewish people, as they clearly intend? Mr. Weil, there are homeless people in New Orleans that would like to live in your house. How soon can your family evacuate?
We can disagree over who is the rightful owner of the West Bank, but until the entire Muslim world calls off its war against Israel, the Jewish State needs to hold onto as much land as it needs to defend itself.
Posted September 28, 2011
If it weren’t an Orwell-worthy twist of language interpretation, re: letter writer N. Goldberg’s claim that I am “not about free speech” after I’ve written in defense of JTNews editors for publishing letters with diverse opinions regarding Israel and the Palestinians, it would be funny. (“Taking up too much space,” Sept. 16) Yet Mr. Goldberg and others who’ve bitterly attacked me in these pages by urging the editors to cease publishing letters by me and anyone they consider “pro-Palestinian” and “anti-Israel” (as if the two were mutually exclusive!) are those who seek to be sole judges of whose opinions are “pro-Israel” and acceptable.
Equally perverse is Goldberg’s racist tone against Palestinians by declaring I’m “pro-Palestinian,” as if being pro-Palestinian were Nazism, Communism or like being a flesh-eating zombie from Gehenna.
As a Jew who loves Israel and Judaism, I’ll wear Mr. Goldberg’s pro-Palestinian label proudly. It makes a nice fit with the time my name appeared in a list of “self-hating American Jews” in a Kach/Kahane website eight years ago. I don’t read the Palestinian press. I read Jewish press, religiously. Mr. Goldberg might try it.
Akiva Kenny Segan
Posted September 28, 2011
Mr. Segan’s letter (“A free and open press,” Sept. 2) evades the issue, and begs for a reply. He is not about free speech. He wants the JTNews to be some sort of guardian of anti-Israel commentary and positions, even if those positions are identical to that of the Palestinians. Washington’s Jewish newspaper is supposed to be for all things beneficial to our local Jewish community and Israel. There are plenty of Palestinian publications Segan can go to.
If one wishes to side with the Palestinian view on nearly every security and defense issue, for example, that is his right, but call it what it is: a pro-Palestinian view.
If you are against Israel on issues that protect her citizens, for example the security fence, the naval blockade of Gaza, checkpoints, targeting terrorist leaders, and other necessary measures — regardless of which government happens to be in charge, then you are, by definition, pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel.
Reminds me of the proverbial “with friends like this, who needs enemies?”
Change your label, Mr. Segan, call it like it is, and, yes, JTNews has given you way too much print time already.
Posted September 14, 2011
As an occasional-to-frequent pro-Israel advocate in the JTNews letters section — my first letter on Israel and the conflict was in 1999, the year I made my first teaching trip to Israel; my most recent followed my seventh teaching Israel teaching trip this May — it would be easy, but morally and ethically wrong — to agree with letter writer Michael Behar’s desire for JTNews editors to muzzle our Jewish press by only publishing letters and opinion columns that support Israel (“No more criticism,” Aug. 19).
I write that even though Diaspora apologists for Prime Minister Netanyahu and the settlers write letters published in these pages that promote an anti-Israel agenda via advocacy of positions that leading Israeli military and intelligence figures reject. That’s what a free and open press is all about, however dangerous the ideas and opinions. These anti-Israel positions, which show up regularly in the JTNews opinion pages, include knee-jerk support for military solutions to the political conflict; advocacy for maintaining West Bank settlements, and support for recently approved new Jewish housing in Arab East Jerusalem.
While these letter writers threaten and delegitimize Israel’s very existence, I hope to continue seeing them here, however ugly and misguided. A free and open press in American Jewish communities is just as important as an open press in Israel and a free press anywhere.
Sadly, the existence of a free and open press is threatened in far more countries than those that have a free press. Journalists worldwide are targeted for abduction or killings, and many are maimed and murdered for writing about issues of concern, for exposing military, corporate and governmental corruption and investigating wrongdoing in every region and country on earth. Others are maimed and killed while covering wars, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel’s wars with its neighbors. Let the JTNews editors do their thing.
Akiva Kenny Segan
Posted August 26, 2011
In a letter on August 19 (“No more criticism”), Michael Behar asked, “Would it be too much to expect that Washington’s sole Jewish newspaper serve as an unapologetic advocate of the Jewish State?”
The answer to that question is, Yes, it is far too much to expect, and in fact since there is only one Jewish newspaper in the state, it is all the more important that such a newspaper should be a forum where every shade of Jewish attitude toward the Jewish State is given a voice. To paraphrase: “If not there, where?”
Goldie Gendler Silverman
Posted August 26, 2011
I most recently attended an elaborate and impressive Bat Mitzvah. That prompted my daughter to ask about my Bar Mitzvah almost 70 years ago in Minot, North Dakota. At its height during the early ’40s the congregation numbered about 40 families. This year a devastating flood, the worst in 130 years, destroyed over 4,000 homes, including the area where most Jewish families lived during the height of the community. The beautiful synagogue was sold within the last five years. Fortunately, the cemetery was not destroyed with the flood.
My daughter asked about the services, the attendees, gifts, etc. While I received the usual gifts for the times, such as pens, shirts, books, war bonds, and so forth, I only recall two gifts: A bible from the rabbi and a pair of Fruit of the Loom shorts from a poor family who operated a small store. Humorous? Perhaps, but I recall that the family came from a small town, Killdeer, whose claim to fame was that it was the site of the only Indian battle during the Indian Wars in what was to become North Dakota. Times were hard, and the facts became embedded in my memory. With little to give, they still shared in the community. I feel good that the gesture was not forgotten.
A few years ago I spoke to a remaining member, and he remarked that the son of that poor family is now a successful businessman back east who came to Minot to reminisce. I am proud that life has been fortunate for him, rising from that struggling era. I am most pleased.
Posted August 26, 2011
The debate between Joel Alperson (Judaism is more than tikkun olam,” Aug. 5) and Eric Yoffie (“Judaism is always tikkun olam — and more”) offered two very different perspectives on whether non-Orthodox movements can survive long-term. And while it’s interesting to read point-counterpoint arguments in our local Jewish newspaper, they have the potential to drive a divisive wedge in our community.
Particularly during this, the Hebrew month of Av, we should focus not on what divides us, but what unites us. We have so much in common, and it’s a terrible shame when we focus on our differences.
There’s a beautiful mitzvah called ahavat Yisrael; it is the commandment to love your fellow Jew. The simple language of the mitzvah is instructive. It doesn’t say to love only those Jews with whom you agree; it says to love them even if you disagree with them. And our sages are practical enough to know that you can’t always bring yourself to feel loving feelings towards another, so we are told that the fulfillment of the mitzvah is to behave lovingly towards each other. Why is this important during the month of Av?
One of the events that our recent day of solemn national mourning and fasting, Tisha B’Av, commemorates, is the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE. A primary cause of that destruction is that Jews at the time engaged in sin’at chinam, or baseless hatred, toward each other.
I think that the Seattle Jewish community does a pretty good job at dealing with each other’s differences, but there’s a big gap between simply tolerating each other and behaving with love toward each other. So as we leave Av and enter Elul, our month of introspection leading up to Rosh Hashanah, each of us should resolve to reach out in kindness to another member of our big, diverse Jewish family, so that 5772 is a year of blessing for the Jewish people in Seattle and worldwide.
Posted August 17, 2011
Week after week, month after month, in articles, op-eds and letters, the very legitimacy of the State of Israel is battled out on the pages of the JTNews. Israel’s critics are granted more than sufficient ink in the Seattle Times, The New York Times and in every other major or minor news publication. Would it be too much to expect that Washington’s sole Jewish newspaper serve as an unapologetic advocate of the Jewish state rather than just another outlet for its demonization?
Posted August 17, 2011
I commend Anav Silverman for her perceptive op-ed column (“No yellow brick road for Palestinian UN bid,” July 8) as right on the mark.
Silverman rightly points out the lack of accountability of funds among the Palestinian leadership and that the majority of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem would rather remain citizens of Israel than become Palestinian citizens, if given the choice. Also, the creation of a Palestinian state via the UN will in no way end the Mideast conflict, but will only add to the instability in the region. It will not serve the interest of the Palestinian people.
Until Palestinians elect honest leaders that will create a sound electoral system, transparent accounting, and a fair judicial system there should be no creation of a Palestinian-Arab nation.
President Abbas has said “reconciliation” with anti-Semitic Hamas leaves no room for peace with Israel. Hamas, an extremist organization that uses classic anti-Semitism to justify the elimination of Israel, must change its charter, denounce anti-Semitism and stop calling for Israel’s destruction.
UN Security Council Resolution 242 adopted on November 22, 1967 is the cornerstone for what it calls “a just and lasting peace” that recognizes Israel’s need for “secure and recognized boundaries.” The resolution became the foundation for future peace negotiations.
A negotiated two-state solution to attain a lasting peace can only be achieved if the Palestinian leadership has the courage to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and renounce violence and a campaign of hate.
Israel must not be pressured to make one-sided concessions that would leave it with insecure and indefensible borders. A majority of Americans support that position.
Posted July 29, 2011
In response to Simcha Shtull’s comments on Israel controlling the lives of 2.5 million Palestinians (“Israel must act,” Letters, June 24).
This is a topic of discussion that can have many different views. Everyone has their opinion on how to solve the tension between Arabs and the Jewish people. For many Arabs who are living peacefully as Israeli citizens, they don’t see much of an issue. Sure there can be relationship problems, but who doesn’t have that?
For the most part there is actually a sadness among Israelis, Jewish and Arab, because they want to have the friendships that were had long ago.
I am an American who spends much of my time traveling to Israel and often bringing a group of friends with me. I have traveled the borders, visited and stayed in the Jewish communities in the Shomron region of Israel, and have met with many people who talk about their idea of solving the conflict.
When I read letters that talk about the oppression of Palestinians I have to wonder if the writers spend much time here in Israel or even stay in the contested areas. Have you met with your brothers and sisters who live in these areas?
One thing I do know for sure, I can throw all kinds of factual reasons why Israel should not give up land, but you have heard the facts. I would like to only say, giving land to a people who hate you won’t bring peace. Gaza is booming with beautiful malls, water parks and restaurants, while Sderot, a town on the Israeli side, receives random rocket attacks. I have experienced them. Itamar, a beautiful community in the Shomron, known for its organic farming, has endured the random attacks on their citizens during Shavuot. You cannot reason with this kind of hate that fills the hearts and minds of the Palestinian Arab leaders.
As an American I have to ask on this Independence Day, should we give back the U.S. land that was gained in war with Britain? If we are going to ask it of Israel then I believe we must ask it of ourselves.
I urge the Jewish community to not sit here in the United States and tell your country what to do. Spend time in Shomron, Sderot and along the borders. Talk to the Israeli people about life here in Israel. Then give advice.
Israel is an amazing place filled with miracles and the most wonderful people who have created most everything you have to run your life smoothly.
Let’s support them.
Posted July 6, 2011
As a black American who keeps a watchful eye on Middle East anything, the person from Seattle who writes: “Israel currently controls the lives of 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank. I therefore find it difficult to understand Wendy Rosen’s dire prediction” (“Israel must act,” Letters, June 24). It is beyond my ability to comprehend! Israel is the size of a Q-Tip by comparison to all of the Islamic nations that surround her and are calling for her destruction. The Palestinians who are actually Arabs tossed out of their countries have millions of acres of land to simply return to and yet they want a country… out of Israel?
Allowing another murderous regime in the Middle East within the borders of the ancient lands of Israel is just stupid! And so it goes with the American Jew born of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. My gosh, why don’t you go live in Palestine?
Posted July 6, 2011
Israel currently controls the lives of 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank. I therefore find it difficult to understand Wendy Rosen’s dire prediction (“The coming Palestinian winter,” June 10) that declaring a Palestinian state will mark an end to Israel as a Jewish state. It makes significantly more sense that to secure Israel’s Jewish majority and character, its leaders should act quickly to relinquish the occupied territories and make real progress toward a two-state solution.
The West Bank settlements are a huge impediment to this goal. Not only are they an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians, a security liability and an economic drain, but also a terrible moral burden and a major contributor to Israel’s growing international isolation.
It is incumbent upon American Jews who care about the democratic future of an Israel that is a “light unto the nations” that they not “check their liberalism at Zionism’s door” (in the words of journalist Peter Beinart). They would do Israel a greater service by challenging Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and by doing everything possible to bring about a Palestinian state.
One cannot help but be concerned, as we watch current events unfold, that if more meaningful progress is not made in establishing a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders as a starting point, other forces will seize the initiative in shaping the Middle East.
Posted June 22, 2011
As an infrequent visitor to the area I was interested in the JTNews and the opinions expressed in the letters written to your publication.
The letter to Congress written in the J-Teen section (May 27) was interesting in what it did not say as opposed to what was written. All the ethical reasons for not standing by and getting involved in Libya were stated. What was missing was a personal statement of involvement, a statement of what part of “we should intervene” you personally will make. Will you talk from the sidelines, as in “send in the Marines” or will you volunteer to be part of the intervention? Will you join ROTC? Will you enlist to be an active part of the intervention?
The letter was wonderful as far as it went in ethical thought, but it ended leaving me thinking you are very willing to send someone else’s son or husband or daughter to do what you are wanting to be done. The ethical act is incomplete without you personally completing it. The letter by Pastor Niemoller was his regret for not personally acting. I think you missed the whole point.
There was a time that a president of ours said the same things as your ethical commitment. I believed JFK and volunteered. I was never sorry I did.
Posted June 22, 2011
Just back from my seventh Israel teaching trip and read my favorite JTNews section: Letters.
Re: Mr. Israel Kochin’s letter, “In Defense of Mom” (May 11): I agree. Israel desperately needs safety and security. Ditto Palestine. Mr. Kochin writes: “The author writes that my mother’s views imply that ‘she must have no moral compass’ if she cannot see the mitigating historical factors that motivate these terrorists.”
Mr. Kochin attributes words to me I never wrote regarding terrorism; his inference that I am a terror supporter is so far out in left field it’s outside the park.
I have been a public critic of Israel’s failed military campaigns and of terrorism: Hamas and Al-Aqsa for war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially murder-suicide bombings.
In Jerusalem the week of May 9, Ha’aretz published an ad urging Netanyahu to press now for a Palestinian state. The all-Israeli signatories included former generals, military and civilian intelligence directors, and police heads. Israelis (and Diaspora supporters of Netanyahu) run the risk of appearing to support terrorism by their rejectionist stance.
Yet the forthcoming (nonbinding) planned UN resolution granting recognition to a Palestinian state is exactly what late Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Jewish and Diaspora Jews sought: Palestinian recognition of Israel’s 1967 borders.
If both sides recognized the other today, these still need negotiation:
Is there enough land in the West Bank for equitable land swaps? Will Israel agree to East Jerusalem as a Palestinian state capital while building new housing for Jews only there? A right of return for Palestinians, and economic remuneration to Israelis from North African and Mideastern countries displaced since 1948?
Where/when will 200,000 (or more) settlers relocate to? Many thousands of West Bank Palestinians who went abroad for work or schooling in recent years have been denied the right to return to the West Bank by the Israeli occupation authorities.
Instead of the sealed-fortress ghetto mentality gripping Netanyahu and right-wing Israelis, Israel could embrace the demise of adjacent repressive, autocratic regimes. Israel was built on dreams of democracy, hope and freedom with tears and blood. Anti-Palestinian fervor in the Israeli right and the Diaspora are crushing Israeli democracy and its future. That need not happen.
Akiva Kenny Segan
Posted June 22, 2011
Mr. Wilkes’ response to my recent letter begins with an oleaginous politeness, thanking me for my “thoughtful letter,” and then goes on to totally (and I do mean, totally) distort what I wrote and what I believe (“Providing cover,” Letters, May 27). To remind readers, I wrote to protest his claim that President Obama is “weak.” I have no idea why, in this letter, Mr. Wilkes brings up stoning women in foreign countries? Or why he brings up the bombing in Spain as a response to my comment that everywhere I went in northern Spain last September, people were very complimentary of President Obama. I’m sure in my rhetoric class in college I learned the name of this type of argument where you bring up totally unrelated points, accuse your opponent of making them, and then go on to argue against them. I’ve forgotten the name of such an attack but my sense of logic holds. Mr. Wilkes, get a grip.
Posted June 8, 2011
On May 11 I was escorted out of Temple De Hirsch Sinai, where I had signed up to attend a lecture by Prof. John Esposito of Georgetown U., who characterizes fears of radical Islam as “Islamophobia.”
I had prepared information challenging his views and pointing out some gross omissions of fact in his previous writings. I was asked not to put these on the seats and was passing them out in the lobby when I was ordered to leave. They explained that they have a standing policy of not allowing literature critical of a speaker. I admit that I violated that policy, and am writing to ask them to change it.
I was told I should have attended the lecture and raised my concerns at the end. My friend Jack Greenberg did just that, asking: “Can you name a Muslim country where Jews and Christians lived with the same rights as the Muslims?” His reply; “I’m not going to answer that question because it is front loaded!”
Others who had attended told me he had ducked every pertinent question, and this expert on Islam provided no quotes from Muslim sources to back up his thesis. My paper cited both the Koran and contemporary leaders using these texts to justify hatred and violence against Jews. The issue of our relationship with Muslims is controversial, and people of good will can disagree, but they need access to information from all sides.
I believe the rise of radical Islam is a threat to Israel, America and Christians in the Middle East. At a time when we are in need of a wake-up call our academics and media pundits are singing us a sweet lullaby. There is no excuse for a major synagogue to assist them in their deception.
Posted May 25, 2011
I have followed the series of letters on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict going back and forth over the last several issues. One thing has become increasingly clear — the two sides have both exaggerated their claims and, as a result, may have damaged their own argument.
Let me try to bring some reality to these arguments. First, Mr. Segan has written about the “1948 displacement of 750,000 Palestinians” and that they “languish intergenerationally in camps.” In 1948, the nascent Israeli government pleaded with those people not to leave. Most fled voluntarily (probably out of fear), and certainly many were involuntarily displaced. As for the camps, it was the surrounding Arab nations who would not permit the refugees to be resettled, but instead forced them into those camps. Resentment was an inevitable result, but it was not aimed at their “hosts.” Rather that resentment was channeled against the one nation that had asked them to stay.
Further, I ask Mr. Segan this question: Should any nation support the creation of a new country that has as one of its stated aims the destruction of the neighboring state that helped in its creation? I think that would be one definition of insanity.
Mr. Basson on the other hand, referred to Israel as including “20 percent Palestinian citizens.” Actually, that 20 percent is better described as Arabs, Druze, Bedouin, and Baha’i, among others. Does that include some who see themselves as Palestinian? I suspect it does, but I further believe that it is far from all of them.
Every time a writer uses errors such as these to support his or her position, it becomes more difficult for the two sides to talk to each other rather than talk at each other. We can engage in dialogue only through civility and accuracy.
Dr. Jerry Barrish
Posted May 25, 2011