March 24, 2006

Published March 24, 2006, issue of March 24, 2006.
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Rabbi’s ‘Medical’ View Of Gays Simply Wrong

I should like to thank the Conservative movement Rabbinical Assembly’s Rabbi Leonard Levy for giving us his expert medical opinion on the nature of homosexuality (“Gay Issues Roil Rabbis In Advance Of Parley,” March 17).

Were we not in the blessed position of being enlightened by Levy, we should have to rely on the official and detailed policies and publications of mere nobodies like the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, which in 1973 and 1975, respectively, made clear statements that being gay is not a mental disorder and should not be grounds for any kinds of exclusionary practices.

Since the rabbi seems to be in a position simply to stipulate that something is an illness, I wonder if he would be so good as to declare the various behaviors I’m uncomfortable with to be illnesses, as well?

Dr. Joel Hencken

Clinical Psychologist

Cambridge, Mass.

Why One Hospital Is Named Mount Sinai

I would be happy to tell you why New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital is so named (“Why Are So Many Hospitals Named After Mount Sinai?” March 17).

When founded in 1852 as The Jews’ Hospital in New York, the institution was strictly sectarian. That policy did not hold up, as the hospital never turned away a person in need of care. It even opened a new ward to treat union soldiers during the Civil War.

In a move to make clear to the public — and to the city and state that provided some funds for charitable care — that the hospital was indeed nonsectarian, in 1866 it changed its name to The Mount Sinai Hospital.

An interview with one of the founder’s sons in 1938 revealed that this name was chosen from the words spoken to Moses at Mount Sinai: “I, the Lord, am thy healer.”

Barbara Niss

Mount Sinai Archives

New York, N.Y.

Deadwood Community Never Hid Its Identity

The real Sol Star was not — and never was — a secret Jew (“Seeing Double in Deadwood,” March 3). If you study the Deadwood historic newspaper database you will find that very early on, Jewish services were being held in Deadwood. For many years the Masonic temple hosted Jewish services for local miners, and before that they were held in a grocery store.

The Jews of Deadwood never hid; they were always a welcome and vigorous part of the community. I very much believe that part of what one sees in the HBO drama “Deadwood” is based on a 21st-century worldview of the way in which we believe many of our ancestors thought.

Well, many of them did not think that way. If a person’s function in a community was paramount to that community’s survival, I believe our ancestors were bright enough not to defame him, and in fact re-evaluate the old worldviews many of them held. The Deadwood community was not perfect, but it did survive through the toughest of times as a poly-ethnic community.

Jerry Bryant

Research Curator, Resident Historical Archaeologist

Adams Museum and House

Deadwood, S.D.

Racist Conference Meant for Racists

The March 3 article on the American Renaissance Conference made me shake my head in disbelief (“White Nationalist Conference Ponders Whether Jews and Nazis Can Get Along”). This may seem ridiculously obvious, but why should anyone be surprised when an explicitly racist conference attracts… racists?

A Jewish participant is offended that the white racists don’t consider him one of them. That any Jew, given the history of our people, could seek to find common ground with these lunatics is just patently absurd, not to mention immoral. An attendee is told: “Are you a Jew? I don’t think you should be here.”

Notwithstanding that it was said by a Nazi, the statement was quite true, if not self-evident.

Elliot Spieler

Cincinnati, Ohio






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