November 19, 2004

Published November 19, 2004, issue of November 19, 2004.
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Ginsburg’s Roots Just As Just as Bush Picks

As a Jewish Republican, I often hear from my Democratic friends that they are concerned President Bush will nominate religious conservatives to the Supreme Court. They tell me they are afraid Bush will ignore the law and instead follow his own religious beliefs. Yet the Forward saw no problem in listing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg among the top five of the Forward 50 list (“Lead Players on a Global Stage,” November 12). In fact, the Forward notes that Ginsburg often speaks about “the Jewish roots of her legal philosophy.”

What I don’t understand is how we can be proud that our religious heritage influences one justice, and scared that someone else’s Christian heritage will influence another. All Americans — even lawyers — have morals and values that are instilled in us at a young age by our parents, family and friends. We should not be scared of different traditions.

We should work to reach out to people of all heritages and beliefs. We should not try to scare other Jews into thinking that the religious right is wrong to act on their beliefs while praising our own leaders for acting on theirs. If Justice Antonin Scalia had written of making decisions based on “the Christian roots of his legal philosophy,” our community surely would be up in arms.

This double standard does not help us to build bridges with the larger American Christian community. We need to reach out and work with people of other faiths, not try to scare ourselves with a false sense that they never will agree with us.

James Kaplan

Fairfax, Va.

Study Religious Texts Before Erecting Stones

Forward readers should know that David Klinghoffer distorts traditional Judaism, and that the illustration from the Supreme Court frieze totally contradicts his words. The Ten Commandments were deleted from Jewish prayer books deliberately, because the early Christians claimed they were observing Jewish religious law by observing those “commandments.” Gentiles and pagans alike were expected to observe the seven Noahide laws, including establishing courts of justice and abstaining from eating limbs of a living creature, but the first five commandments were deleted.

No synagogue erects tons of granite for the original Ten Commandments addressed to those liberated from Egypt. All representations of the 10 are abbreviated inside and outside of synagogues, whose focus on the Torah scrolls in the ark is normative. Klinghoffer should study Jewish prayer books, the Mishna, the Talmud and, if possible, American history before erecting granite stones.

Herman Elstein

Philadelphia, Pa.

Episcopalians Had No ‘Divestment’ To Rescind

A November 12 article reports that the Episcopal Church is “backing away from” divestment of its stock portfolio in companies that do business in Israel (“Feeling Heat, Episcopal Church Backs Away From Divestment”).

This is very misleading, since the church had never adopted an official policy to divest. Therefore, there was never anything to “back away from.”

It is not helpful to ecumenical and interfaith relations to put forward the idea that we had. Sadly, the media has gotten this wrong from the beginning.

Reverend Canon Brian Grieves

Director

Peace and Justice Ministries

New York, N.Y.

Enough With All That Post-election Maliase

The November 5 editorial on the presidential election seems to suggest that Democrats should respond to their loss by sitting back, scratching their head and discussing philosophy (“What Democrats Must Do”). Well, this is one Irishman who thinks we should stand up and fight.

It’s not the end of the fight. The horror of the Iraq war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and their destructive influence upon our relations with more than 1 billion Muslims is still the ogre paring his nails in the garden. Next to those problems, provisional ballots in Ohio is nothing. By next week, John Kerry will be a fading face. Now, Iraq is President Bush’s monster. In January, he will wake up in bed with that monster’s arm around his neck, while the goddess of war’s hideous face stares from the pillow next to him. Outside of his little white house will be the half of America that voted against him, to say nothing of the thousands that will be added to that crowd. In the silence of his nights, he will be listening for messages to do God’s will. So far, God, according to Bush, has taken the president into the desert.

Tomorrow, the sun will rise and I will greet it with gratitude that I am still here. I have what used to be called “a sufficiency” to live on; I have all the books, all the music and all the friends that one could want. My family seems well. Suffering can strike at any moment, but that’s all part of the game.

And so I am not going to walk around like an old man scratching his behind and whining. When I stood aside my bed this morning with both my hands reached back and felt that my behind was still there, I knew I was ahead of the game. It’s all an Irishman could want — and all that he needs to fight another day.

As the Yiddish proverb goes, “It is better to die standing than to live on your knees.” With that proverb tucked in my wallet, I look at the wonderful prospect of the congressional elections that will arrive in two years.

Harry Reynolds

Scarsdale, N.Y.

Who’s That (Material) Girl in the Forward 50?

I am completely appalled that Madonna made the Forward 50 list of the American Jewish community’s most influential members (“Lead Players on a Global Stage,” November 12).

I am a college student at Brandeis University and a member of the generation that is obsessed with Madonna. However, I feel that Madonna is the worst thing to happen to Judaism. She is projecting a horrible image to the public about what Judaism is and what it is not.

She has started a trendy movement with the selling of $40 “Kabbalah red-string bracelets” and “Kabbalah water” and turned the special sacred practice of Kabbalah into a watered-down Hollywood version. I understand that Madonna has had a big influence on Jewish life — but it is a toxic one.

By adding her to the list of the American Jewish community’s most influential members, the Forward is supporting her endeavors and spreading a negative message to the Jewish community and to those around it.

Shira Ann Kaiserman

Waltham, Ma.

If you invite the hungry to eat in your house, does that make them your family members?

Madonna should not qualify as a “Jew” simply because she keeps the Sabbath. Whether Madonna has a will to be a Jew is another story entirely. I think the Forward dishonored all those on the list by putting Madonna on it.

For that matter, when was the last time you heard Natalie Portman speak of God? I’ve surely never heard it, but I have heard of how Steven Spielberg doesn’t make his film crews work on the Sabbath. He certainly would be a better choice for the Forward 50 than some movie star who was born in Jerusalem but doesn’t keep the Sabbath.

The last thing Israel needs is another unfaithful member to anger God even further. If you think he doesn’t notice your unfaithfulness because Israel is a nation again, then you do not know God nor fear him like you should.

Darrel Hunter

Amarillo, Texas

Adding a 51st entry to the Forward 50 to accommodate the likes of Madonna isn’t a “cherry-on-top,” as you put it — it’s a shanda.

Madonna “doesn’t consider herself Jewish”? I have news for you: She’s not Jewish.

Her only connection to Judaism is that she’s hijacked a piece of our religion to keep herself in the spotlight of celebrity. Once again, the Forward continues its love affair with celebrities who aren’t Jewish but make believe they are, and with celebrities who are Jewish but make believe they aren’t. Even comic book characters have received attention for their supposed “Jewish identity.”

Hardly a month goes by without an article blaming intermarried couples for diluting our identity as Jews — but then they’re just plain folk who don’t deserve the latitude granted to the Beautiful People.

Jed Dolnick

West Bend, Wis.






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