Letter May 19, 2006

Published May 19, 2006, issue of May 19, 2006.
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Survivors Will Fight On

The Forward has sunk to new depths by attacking Holocaust survivors who have objected to being treated like third-class citizens (“At Long Last, Have You No Shame,” May 12).

Perhaps out of the continued naiveté that our views mattered, several survivors met yet again with Judge Edward Korman and Special Master Judah Gribetz this past January 20. Participants included Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA leaders such as myself and David Mermelstein — we are both part of the Supreme Court appeal — but also others who are not part of either the foundation or the appeal, including Roman Kent, Jehuda Evron, Joe Sachs and Rosian Zerner, who recorded the minutes.

This group was unanimous about three things. First, we asked for an accounting of the administration expenses for the Swiss case, which have never been published. Korman and Gribetz promised an accounting, but four months have already passed and nothing has materialized.

Second, we all urged the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn to allocate more of the existing funds for class members who live in the United States because the needs here are so great. Once again, Korman told us that we should seek help from wealthy Jews, not from the settlement of our legal claims.

Third, we all expressed outrage over the $4.1 million fee requested by the lead plaintiff’s counsel, Burt Neuborne, who for years had said he was working pro bono. Korman said he couldn’t comment. Later, in a phone conference with the lawyers, the judge admitted that he had agreed to pay Neuborne, and recused himself from the fee request.

We sent Korman a letter outlining our concerns, including a set of minutes outlining the discussion. We even amended the minutes by removing sensitive comments, the way the judge had asked. Yet the letter and minutes were never placed in the court record as we asked.

In addition, Korman also told the lawyers that he knew the survivors opposed Neuborne’s fee request, but said he wasn’t surprised survivors opposed the fees because everyone likes to get things for free. How could he not even acknowledge the obvious shock survivors felt after Neuborne had claimed to be working pro bono for so many years?

Neuborne, Korman and, for that matter, the Forward, should be clear on this: Gone are the days when survivors are going to remain silent and not speak up to defend ourselves.

Alex Moskovic

Hobe Sound, Fla.

Talks Far From ‘Foolish’

A May 12 Editor’s Notebook on the American Jewish Committee’s centennial symposium focused almost exclusively on the provocative and controversial remarks of A.B. Yehoshua out of a weeklong set of deliberations on the contemporary Jewish condition (“Novelist’s Rant, Ensuing Spat Highlight Israel-Diaspora Rift”). Yet Yehoshua’s comments, and the symposium generally, represented only the beginning of the dialogue rather than its final word.

The symposium was convened as part of a year-long centennial effort to harness the most talented and creative Jewish minds to address the Jewish future. Our goal was to secure an assessment of where the Jewish people stood at this juncture in Jewish history and provoke discussion of where to go in the years ahead.

One of the finest developments within American Jewish life has been the flourishing of Jewish scholarship and culture in recent decades, evidenced by the growth of academic Jewish studies programs at virtually every university of note throughout the United States.

The AJCommittee sought to take advantage of that flourishing of Jewish scholarship to enhance the collective Jewish future. In that context we opened the discussion to some outside the communal establishment so that new and fresh perspectives might be heard, as is frequently suggested by the Forward itself.

It is unfortunate that this effort was dismissed in favor of focusing upon one set of comments made at the symposium, while trivializing the subsequent discussions as “some learned, some foolish, most of them unfocussed.”

Moreover, one would be hard-pressed to argue that the likes of Moshe Halbertal, Anita Shapira, Leon Wieseltier, Art Green, David Ellenson, Cynthia Ozick, Jonathan Sarna, and Jack Wertheimer, to name only a few of the panelists, know little about the subjects of Jewish identity and peoplehood.

As for our invitation to A.B. Yehoshua, he too is hardly ignorant of Judaic heritage — although, to be sure, he betrayed a shocking indifference, if not ignorance, concerning American Jewry and Judaism. We invited him knowing full well his tendency to belittle Diaspora Jewish life. What we did not anticipate was his dogmatic rejection of alternative perspectives and his insistence on dominating the proceedings so as to refuse to allow the discussion to move on to other pressing topics.

Steven Bayme

National Director for Contemporary Jewish Life

American Jewish Committee

New York, N.Y.

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