November 2, 2007

For Jerusalem’s Sake

The letter sent last month by the Orthodox Union to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with regard to the possibility of his government ceding sections of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority was not, as your editorial asserts, motivated by “anger and insecurity” (“Holier Than Thou,” October 26).

Rather, it was a reflection of a policy resolution adopted, after sober consideration and debate, at the O.U.’s 2006 biennial convention. It was an appeal to Olmert to, in the words of the letter, not do “what would be unthinkable to the millions of Jews who, for centuries, could not come to Jerusalem, yet raised their voices with full conviction and deep longing” for Jerusalem. And our “assertiveness,” as you call it, is motivated by the belief that all Jews, throughout the world, have a share in the holy city.

In the weeks since we sent our letter, Palestinian leaders have continued to publicly state their denial of any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and also expressed a desire to “control” not only the Temple Mount but the Western Wall as well. Such statements should alarm anyone who, while wishing for peace, also wishes for Israel to remain a Jewish state for the Jewish people, and we welcome everyone to join us in asserting ourselves for the sake of Jerusalem.

Empathy Beats Trauma

We agree with Leonard Fein’s statement that for the Jewish people, “yesterday’s trauma still overwhelms and tomorrow’s trauma is imminent” (“‘Israel Lobby’ Writers Miss the Real Jewish Conflict,” October 26). However, the thread that links all human beings regardless of race, religion, culture or gender is the suffering of trauma on some level or another. Fear and distrust are the common denominators of all people. What is lacking is the absence of empathetic application.

Arabs need to learn the history, atrocities and traumas the Jews have experienced and vice versa. Through empathy, tolerance and compassion we may come to the understanding that we all have more in common than we may think.

I was elated to see the review by David Kaufmann of Christian Wiese’s “The Life and Thought of Hans Jonas” (“One of Most Relevant Thinkers You’ve Never Heard Of,” October 19). Yes, Jonas’s writing, like much Germanic philosophy, could be turgid, dense and difficult, but when he soared, he reached heights of insight that could cover eons of human and earthly life. His “The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology” sums up millennia of human and non-human life, sets this development in a startling light and reintroduces respectability for the concept of teleology.

Jonas’s concern with the problem of how consciousness arose out of non-consciousness will give support to closet vitalists, and his 1984 book “The Imperative of Responsibility” pointed with almost eerie exactness at the problems of global warming and of technology over-reaching itself.

I hope this new publication reverses the trend of Jonas’s obscurity.

Paternalism Lives

As an admirer of the Forward, I was shocked and offended by Paul Marx’s opinion article (“Create a ‘Bar Mitzvah’ for Black Boys,” October 19). The piece raised serious questions about the lingering effects of racist, paternalistic attitudes among the Jewish community.

It is naïve to assume that by transferring a Jewish custom to the African-American community, the complex problems of crime and drug abuse will be solved. Not only would such an idea be unsuccessful, but it is also deeply disrespectful to assert that our own traditions should be copied by the black community. Marx’s proposal for a “black boy” bar mitzvah would be laughable if it did not reflect the disturbing fact that many Americans, including the highly educated, do not consider blacks to be their intellectual or cultural equals. As Jews, we should be particularly sensitive to articles that denigrate others.

A God for Everyone

David Klinghoffer misses the nuance (“When Democrats Become Instruments of God,” October 19) when he decries the “muted reactions from Jews and other liberals” regarding the injection of religion into the Democrats’ presidential campaigns. The Democrats speak of God (acceptable to all religions). The Republicans speak of Jesus Christ. Ah, there’s the rub!

Compassion Deficit

I agree with the October 10 editorial “Bush and the Children.” I was genuinely shocked by the president’s lack of compassion when he vetoed a bipartisan bill that would extend medical insurance for poor children under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Unlike many other countries, we have an abundance of medical resources available. With our resources comes a serious moral responsibility to make them available not only to poor children but to anyone who needs help. Our government must live up to this responsibility, and Congress must override the President’s veto of the SCHIP program.

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November 2, 2007

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