June 29, 2007

Protest Boycott Decision

As a professor of chemistry who has lectured at Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews, Edinburgh and many other British universities, I strongly support Steven Weinberg’s refusal to lecture at Imperial College in protest of the British University and College Union’s recommendation to boycott Israeli universities (“Talk of British Boycott Silences Voice of Scientific Cooperation,” June 22). I am not a Nobel laureate, as is Weinberg, but I have written the secretary of the University and College Union indicating that I will not lecture at British universities until the union quashes its biased, antisemitic and anti-progressive recommendation.

Unfettered scientific exchange is the bedrock of intellectual advance. Those who seek to inhibit that advance, as does the University and College Union, need to be shunned. By refusing to lecture in Britain, Weinberg — and, I hope, many others — will lend support to those British academics who oppose the anti-Israel clique at the University and College Union who have shanghaied British academic freedom in the name of an ugly political agenda.

If enough counter-pressure is applied by internationally recognized scientists and intellectuals, we may hope that sense will prevail in British academia, and that internal protest will lead to a reconsideration of this malignant recommendation. In a previous case, international protest at a similar action by a precursor union of the University and College Union led to precisely that desired result.

Jewish and non-Jewish scientists and academics must take action on behalf of their Israeli colleagues. Silence and business as usual are the wrong responses; the Nazis, too, began by proscribing Jewish scientists and professors. The leaders of the University and College Union wish to isolate Israeli academics. Let us isolate them instead.

Steven Weinberg is mistaken in deciding not to honor the late Abdus Salam at Imperial College.

Weinberg’s reason was to protest the British University and College Union’s recommendation to boycott Israeli academics. But it was not Imperial College or the entire community of British scientists who called for the Israeli boycott. It was a prejudiced, near-sighted and perhaps antisemitic group who called for the action. Weinberg could have accomplished something important if had he accepted the invitation to honor Salam, his friend and fellow Nobel laureate. He also would have had the opportunity to confront the University and College Union head-on and to openly criticize its attitude. It might have even helped Jewish-Muslim relations for a Jewish physicist to honor a Muslim physicist for his contributions to science.

Bakery Listed in Guide

Nancy Brenner’s June 22 opinion article incorrectly asserts that Gertel’s Bake Shop was not rated by Zagat (“A Tasty Piece of History Is Sold”). The opposite couldn’t be more true.

Gertel’s has been included in the Zagat’s New York City Marketplace guide for years. It most recently received the following ratings:

Quality: 23
Variety: 20
Service: 18
Cost: Inexpensive

The review of Gertel’s reads: “‘Kosher never tasted so good’ enthuse loyalists of this Lower East Side ‘true old-style Jewish bakery’ that’s been around nearly a century (‘my grandmother went there when she was my age’) and still produces babka, rugalach, Russian coffee cake and rye bread ‘the way they’re meant to be’ — ‘yum’; P.S. expect ‘lines down the block’ around Passover and other Jewish holidays.”

We regret that because of the sale, Gertel’s will no longer be in our Marketplace survey.

Let Lone Stars Shine

While I was delighted to see a picture of my custom-made Star of David cowboy boots on the front page of the Forward, I was dismayed that there was no photo credit (“The Tribe in Texas,” June 15). The boots, by a craftsman named Jesus Campos who works for the Justin Boot Co., are the central image on the book jacket of “Lone Stars of David: The Jews of Texas.”

The cover photo was taken by Ellen Appel. The boots were custom-made in my size, 8, so that I could wear them while promoting the book.

I was delighted to see the June 15 coverage of Southern Jewry. It was a gratifyingly comprehensive and intelligent treatment of an area of the American Jewish experience too often overshadowed by that of such Northern enclaves as New York City’s Lower East Side, Boston’s Dorchester and Roxbury and Chicago’s South Side.

But I found myself searching in vain for two books that should surely have been found in this section, namely “Glimpses of Southern Jewish Roots” and “Call Her Blessed.” These two books by Juliene Berk, respectively a series of stories and vignettes and a biography-memoir about the author’s mother and family, give a vivid and detailed picture of the pioneer Jewish community in Florida at the beginning of the 20th century.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.
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June 29, 2007

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