Published June 01, 2007, issue of June 01, 2007.
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Mistreating Animals Isn’t Kosher Either

I applaud Conservative rabbis for creating a Heckscher Tzedek, or ethically based certification for kosher food, that sets humane labor standards (“Rabbis Move Ahead With New Certification Plan,” May 18). I am disappointed, however, that this certification does not include standards for humane treatment of animals.

“Kosher” actually means “fit” or “proper.” Thus, I believe that if the meat we consume is truly fit or kosher, we must ensure that the animals that supplied that meat live and die humanely.

Joanne Cornbleet
Saratoga, Calif.

John Hagee: Our Friend, Not Our Spokesman

We read with great interest Rabbi Eric Yoffie’s recent opinion piece in the Forward regarding the Jewish community’s relationship with Pastor John Hagee and his new organization, Christians United for Israel (“When We Let John Hagee Speak for Us,” May 18). Because the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston has enjoyed a 25-year friendship with Hagee, we believe we are perhaps best qualified to respond to the rabbi’s suggestion that a “primary motive” for that friendship is that Hagee and his Christians United for Israel are a “source of dollars for federation coffers.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

First, over the past 25 years, our federation has served as the conduit, not the recipient, for funds raised by Hagee to support aliyah from the former Soviet Union, Argentina and Ethiopia, the Israel Emergency Campaign and numerous other social welfare projects in Israel, including absorption centers and orphanages. Of the $7 million Hagee distributed at his annual Night to Honor Israel last fall, none of the funds were donated directly to the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston.

Second, since 2004, Hagee has made additional annual gifts of $100,000 to our community’s Annual United Jewish Campaign. However, these funds have been, in turn, allocated to benefit dozens of Jewish organizations here in Houston, across the United States, in Israel and around the world. Though his gifts may “fill our coffers” for a short while, it is only until they can be distributed to these worthwhile organizations. Similarly, other federations that have begun working with Christians United for Israel during the past 18 months have reaped no financial rewards for themselves.

Third, Yoffie’s contention that “in return for federation sponsorship of dinners hosted by the lobbying group, contributions are made by Christians United for Israel to our federation fundraising campaigns” is false. None of the federations working with either Hagee or Christians United for Israel has ever sponsored or hosted dinners on their behalf, much less as part of a quid pro quo for our fundraising efforts.

Fourth, the rabbi’s assertion that the “conclusion our young people are most likely to draw from this arrangement is that we are simply selling our souls” begs the question: Would a better role model for Jewish young adults be the mainline Protestant churches that have called for anti-Israel resolutions, made wild accusations against Israel, mobilized their assemblies for divestment and otherwise not supported Israel in its efforts to protect its citizens from terrorism? At this critical time in our history, we should praise, not criticize, Hagee for his unwavering support for Israel and the Jewish people.

Finally, we must clarify that Hagee does not “speak for” the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, Jewish federations across North America or Jews in general. He does, however, stand with us in our perpetual quest for a safe, secure and strong State of Israel.

Joe Williams

Lee Wunsch
Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Federation of Greater Houston
Houston, Texas

Trial By Newspaper Is No Way To Fight Abuse

Child abuse is a tragedy of enormous proportions. There can be no excuse for it, and it deserves no standard but zero-tolerance. Victims deserve our protection, compassion and support; and predators must bear the brunt of appropriate legal and community sanctions.

As we honestly grapple with the issue, though, we must retain a profound sense of responsibility and exercise sound judgment, for many lives are affected.

A community newspaper — with the power to destroy lives in an instant — has a singular duty and accountability here. Hence my outrage at the recent Baltimore Jewish Times exposé that was the subject of an article in the Forward (“Baltimore Roiled by Abuse Charge Against Late Rabbi,” April 27).

I am quoted by the Forward — unfortunately, absent any context — as asking whether the Jewish Times will be running a “molester of the week” feature. This was not intended to be flippant, and certainly not to dispute allegations about which I can make no judgment.

It was a reaction to the Jewish Times piece’s preamble: “This article is part of a continuing series on child molestation within the Jewish community.” And to a second sentence: “If you are a survivor or if you know of someone who survived any sexual molestation, you have an audience here.”

These statements, to me, betray an attitude more in sync with a tabloid than a responsible Jewish publication. It seems to suggest: We’re on the hunt for molesters. If you have a story to tell, just let us know and we’ll provide you a forum.

But a newspaper is not a courthouse; allegations are not evidence. Who will investigate the facts and determine the truth? Set guidelines, standards and parameters? Pass judgment? That the paper proudly judged guilty someone who is deceased and cannot defend himself does not reassure me. Nor does its cavalier attitude toward the effect such a judgment must have on the accused’s family. Indeed, who will be held accountable for, and help ease, the suffering caused them?

As to the humiliation of the family, the editors come to an astonishing bottom line: We must do it this way regardless, because other methods of dealing with the problem have simply not worked.

I have no doubt that the Jewish Times piece was intended to help promote healing and closure for victims, and to raise awareness of abuse. But if newspapers arrogate to themselves the power of judge and jury, if proof of guilt is based on interviews, if an attempt to alleviate the pain of one innocent leads to inflicting pain on another, then I think we must find ways to fight abuse that are more responsible — not to mention more consonant with Jewish values.

Rabbi Abba Cohen
Director and Counsel
Washington Office
Agudath Israel of America
Washington, D.C.

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