November 14, 2003

Published November 14, 2003, issue of November 14, 2003.
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‘Coleman Republicans’

Only in America could a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn go from being a long-haired war protestor at Hofstra University to law school at the University of Iowa; subsequently be named solicitor general in Minnesota under Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey, III, before winning election as the Democratic mayor of St. Paul, then as a Republican senator, and finally becoming a political adjective (“‘Coleman Republicans” Wave Moderate GOP Flag,” October 31).

Furthermore, the Forward not only reports the curious political saga of Norm Coleman and the appearance of other Jewish Republican candidates for elective office throughout the country, it also indicates the fascinating journey that so many Jewish voters are making from the Democratic Party to the party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.

Barry Casselman

Minneapolis, Minn.

Before labeling anyone a “Norm Coleman Republican” the Forward should have determined just how different a Republican Norm Coleman really is. As but one example, he has voted — along with such GOP stalwarts as Rick Santorum — for every one of the 67 Bush nominees who have been confirmed to the federal courts of appeals, no matter how narrow-minded or reactionary they might be. To call such a man a “social liberal” is absurd. Coleman the politician is, in reality, no “Norm Coleman Republican” at all. He’s just a Republican.

David Margolick

New York, N.Y.

Honor 1,000 Children

Many of the survivors at the November 2 World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors were accompanied by their children and grandchildren (“On National Mall, a Gathering Of Guardians of Shoah Memory,” November 7).

As I watched and listened to the second and third generation, full of life and optimism, I kept asking myself — What did America do to save children whose existence was threatened by the Holocaust? The permanent exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tells of the British rescue of Jewish children, the Kindertransport, but leaves the question of America unanswered. Why?

The little-known answer, even among Holocaust scholars, is that the United States rescued approximately 1,000 unaccompanied children between 1934 and 1945 from the threat of Nazi persecution. The rescue operations that saved the children were carried out quietly because of fear that a backlash from isolationist and antisemitic forces could cause its demise. These organized rescue operations spanned three continents and two oceans, were fueled by donations of ordinary people, and the work of hundreds of volunteers and ran for five years before and six years after the British rescues were conducted. Yet mention of it will not be found in American history books. Holocaust museums and memorials do not celebrate the lives of these children and the individuals and organizations who rescued them.

There are no movies about it. Its heroes are not heralded and its villains not reproved. Few Americans know of it and only one scholar has studied and written about the subject. Most of the 1,000 children themselves were unaware they were part of an organized effort of private citizens to bring as many threatened children as possible to America, nor that this was accomplished in the face of powerful economic, social, political, religious and governmental constraints. From their neighborhoods, schools and places of worship, the rescuers fought Hitler with pennies and nickels — opening their homes to foster children, standing up to the government and for some, giving their lives.

It is time this story was told, that the contributions of the 1,000 children be made known, and that the rescuers, who had to fight the most powerful forces in America, are honored.

Iris Posner

President

One Thousand Children

Silver Spring, Md.

‘Social Club’ Slander

An October 31 article presents a number of misleading ideas about Germany’s Jewish community, perhaps the most glaring of which is the omission of a discussion of the 13 Progressive communities affiliated with the Union of Progressive Jews of Germany and the World Union for Progressive Judaism (“Russian Immigrants Struggle in Small German Towns”). Most of these communities are in small towns. Many are composed of Jews from the former Soviet Union.

These communities are not social clubs. They are serious religious communities dedicated to the revitalization of Judaism in Germany and to helping their members build meaningful Jewish lives. They are led by rabbis, rabbinical students and educated lay leaders who are committed to transmitting a joyous Judaism to all who are interested in exploring their roots.

Progressive Judaism in Germany is not the same as American Reform Judaism. The differences are few, but important. The most significant difference is that German Progressive congregations do not recognize patrilineal descent. To be a member of a Progressive congregation in Germany, a person must have a Jewish mother, or must convert to Judaism under the auspices of a recognized conversion program. This is an important distinction, because one of the reasons given for not including Progressive communities in the Central Council of Jewish Communities is the false statement that Progressive congregations recognize patrilineal descent.

Rabbi Joel Oseran

Associate Director

World Union for Progressive Judaism

Jerusalem, Israel

The true picture in a number of small German towns is the proliferation of Progressive Jewish congregations, which have developing since the late 1990s. The Union of Progressive Jews of Germany is the organizing union for these communities. Among our activities is an annual meeting conducted in German, Russian and English. We bring together rabbis, master teachers, lay leaders and congregants to develop new skills, share ideas and help build a vision for the future of Judaism in Germany.

The Progressive congregations in Germany are not social clubs, as opposed to Central Council of Jewish Communities. Rather, the Progressive congregations are vibrant, religiously-oriented synagogues that are always struggling to stay alive because the “Jewish establishment” in Germany does not “recognize” Progressive Judaism and refuses to fund our communities and programs.

The article mentions that on $30,000 a year, it is impossible to sustain a viable Jewish congregation. Most Progressive communities manage to thrive on much less, most of it raised through dues and donations from abroad. Progressive congregations receive little or no government monies.

Jan Muehlstein

President

Katarina Seidler

Board Member

Union of Progressive Jews of Germany

Berlin, Germany

Houston Behind UJC

A November 7 article dealing with the potential redirection of funds raised by the United Jewish Communities incorrectly implies an action by the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston (“UJC May Shrink Jewish Agency Funding”).

The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston has a long and wonderful history of participating, and in some cases leading the way, in national “collective responsibility” efforts. We will continue to endorse the concept of “collective responsibility” to support Jews around the world. And despite our ongoing discussions with the leadership of UJC and particularly, regarding the “rules of ONAD,” we will continue to work with UJC and support our partners in this overseas work, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Lee Wunsch

Chief Executive Officer

Jewish Federation of Greater Houston

Houston, Texas

Biased Book Review

It would be pointless to try to correct every misstatement and distortion in Benny Morris’s review of my book “Free Jerusalem,” but for the record: I stand by every fact in my history of the Jewish underground’s struggle to create a Jewish state, Morris’s attacks notwithstanding (“Hijacking History,” November 7).

In his zeal to besmirch the true heroes who fought and often died so that our people might live, Morris wants dearly to compare the Irgun and Stern Group to Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization. But the Irgun under Menachem Begin’s command did place signs warning of bombs they planted and phoned in warnings to evacuate buildings before they blew up; and in the entire war against the British occupier, neither the Irgun nor the Stern Group targeted any wives, children or aged civilians. And contrary to the impression left by Morris’s review, “Free Jerusalem” does describe the morally more complicated and less “clean” war waged by the Irgun during the 1930s against Arab terrorists, which was to some degree repeated by both the Irgun and Sternists when the Arabs attacked in 1947-48.

Morris is considered a leader of today’s “post-Zionist” historians. Had the Jews of the 1940s been left with only the passive leadership Morris praises, the State of Israel might never have risen, which would undoubtedly have made a lot of post-Zionists happy.

Zev Golan

Jerusalem, Israel






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