January 9, 2004

Published January 09, 2004, issue of January 09, 2004.
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Embarrassed By Iran’s Refusal of Israeli Aid

I just read your editorial on the victims of the earthquake in Bam, Iran (“Iran’s Victims,” January 2). It was very touching; thank you for your kindness.

I myself am an Iranian living in America and found the Iranian authorities’ refusal to accept help from Israel very embarrassing. Iranians and Israelis actually have much in common, and the hostility of the mullahs in Iran to Israel is really about politics.

What the hard-liners in Iran are actually afraid of is a reestablishment of ties with the United States. Apparently every regime needs to invent some sort of enemy in order to stay in power. And the Iranian regime’s leaders know that as long as they are hostile and threatening to Israel, odds are slim that ties will be reestablished with the United States.

Neil Fazel

New York, N.Y.

I share your sense of outrage at the Iranian government’s refusal to permit any humanitarian aid from Israel for the thousands of victims of the recent earthquake. But I cannot agree with your view that Jews around the world should nevertheless respond in a humanitarian fashion by sending money to those relief organizations whose help has been accepted.

As supporters of Israel, our limited financial resources should go to the Jewish victims of suicide bombers. As Jews, we have a special responsibility to our own people who are in a life and death struggle against an evil Iranian regime.

Rabbi Alan F. Lavin

Wantagh Jewish Center

Wantagh, N.Y.

Follow the WZO Money

As a committed Zionist who is a deep skeptic of much of the settlement movement, I have long wondered how such folly could have gone on for so long. The report about the World Zionist Organization’s possible involvement in the funding of illegal settlements promises, I hope, to lead to greater transparency about the larger settlement enterprise (“News Report on Illegal Outposts Prompts Calls for Probe of WZO,” January 2).

Let’s follow the money and find out more. And then let’s have a full accounting of the role played by American organizational members of the WZO in supporting settlements that many of us think are foolish at best.

Michael A. Jacobs

Sausalito, Calif.

Don’t Forget Canada

While I was pleased to see the assertive manner in which the South Florida Jewish community dealt with the recent Jews for Jesus campaign, it should be noted that Toronto had equal success in thwarting a similar campaign earlier this summer (“Jews for Jesus Draws Opposition in Florida,” January 2).

Indeed, Jews for Jesus attempted to erect a giant billboard in the heart of Jewish Toronto targeting Jews for conversion. Thanks to the persistent efforts of Canadian Jewish Congress working in tandem with Jews for Judaism, we were able to convince the billboard company to remove the sign. It was brought down within 24 hours. That, along with Jews for Judaism’s tactical mobile squads, which shadowed the missionaries day by day ensuring they were on the same street corner countering their proselytizing efforts, guaranteed that the Canadian “Behold Your God” campaign by Jews for Jesus was a dismal failure.

While we applaud the efforts of our American Jewish neighbors, don’t forget that Canadian Jewry just north of the border is just as active in defending the faith.

Bernie M. Farber

Executive Director

Ontario Region

Canadian Jewish Congress

Arafat Fuels Arab Rage

The notion that the Arabs would like Jews and Israelis more if we were kinder to them ignores the fact that the Arabs have tried to destroy Israel and the Jews living in Israel from the beginning (“The Generals’ Discontent,” January 2). It is reminiscent of the general view that the world would hate us less if we became better people.

The economic plight of the Palestinians is not the result of Israel, but the result of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority stealing money intended to help the Palestinians. Arafat and the P.A. use the resulting misery in their efforts to destroy Israel and its Jews.

Sandor Shuch

Phoenix, Ariz.

ADL Not Backpedaling

Your December 26 report on the apparent papal endorsement of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” editorializes that the Anti-Defamation League “appeared to be backpedaling from its harsh criticisms” of Gibson and his film. (“Gibson Film Exposes Rift in Vatican Hierarchy”). That is a mischaracterization of our statement and a distortion of our very public and outspoken concern about this project.

From the outset of the “Passion” controversy until the most recent developments, the ADL has maintained a strong and consistent message on Gibson’s efforts to dramatize the events leading up to the death of Jesus. We warned about the potential for Passion plays to incite hatred of Jews, as they have done through history; we urged Gibson to make changes to his film, based on the troubling earlier version that we saw; we repeatedly called on Gibson to listen to the concerns of Jewish community leaders and interfaith experts. Instead, he shunned us.

Our statement on the Vatican’s apparent positive reaction to the film does not waver from our long-standing and steadfast position. In it, we said that while we respect the pope’s statement, we do not consider him or anyone else at the Vatican to be the final arbiters on the film’s ability to fuel, rationalize and legitimize antisemitism. For that, we reserve final judgment until we have an opportunity to screen the film for ourselves.

Abraham H. Foxman

National Director

Anti-Defamation League

New York, N.Y.

Thanks for Solidarity

I can’t tell you in words how touched I was by Rabbi Joshua Levine-Grater’s December 26 opinion article on the California grocery strike and lockout (“Shopping for Justice in California”). A friend forwarded me the article, and it meant so much to me that someone from the Jewish community feels so strongly about supporting this fight.

I am the wife and mother of locked-out employees. Both my husband and daughter work for Albertsons. While on the picket lines, both have been cursed at, spit on and laughed at. Then those same people walk right past the picketers and shop in the store that locked out its employees. Then they come out and tell the picketers to get back to work.

The public does not realize that those picketers are not out there by choice. The company that they have worked hard for has chosen to lock them out and hire replacements. We are not allowed in the store at all. Not for shopping or working until this dispute is over.

We live in a small town and Albertsons is the only market here. So now we must shop 13 miles away at the nearest market. We hear people complain that it’s a hassle to drive so far for groceries. My husband gets $175 a week from his union, and we cannot afford the gas, but we have to make our way there because we don’t have a choice. But I understand what this fight is about, and I’m okay with having to drive out of my way. I have known these good, hard-working people since this store opened. I understand their sacrifices, and I wouldn’t dare do anything that might jeopardize their livelihoods.

Yvette Garcia

Rosamond, Calif.

Thanks for the Exposé

I read your December 19 article “Charedi Rabbis Rush To Disavow Anti-Gentile Book” with great interest. You are doing a great service to our charedi community.

I do not know Rabbi Saadya Grama, I have not read his book and I do not profess to speak for the community. I am sure though that many in our community will agree with me.

Your article is jolting us to our senses. When a Rabbi Grama’s work is not challenged for 100 or 200 years, it becomes hallowed. It may become a reference for future scholars. It may be controversial, but it becomes part of Torah.

Often such controversies are heavily debated in yeshivas and synagogues, mostly on a local level. Often it is agreed that the theories of such authors are wrong, but they will not be blacklisted. We honor freedom of speech and interpretation and such a book will remain an option to anyone to agree or disagree with.

The Forward has brought this controversy out of the synagogue and into the court of general public opinion. This places us in a very awkward position because in a sense we are very sensitive to public opinion.

Whether we like it or not, this is now a public issue. I thank the Forward for bringing this issue into the open and averting the future canonization of this dangerous work.

Joel Morgenstern

Brooklyn, N.Y.






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