January 27, 2006

Memory Under Attack

I am very disappointed in the Forward, as well as in many other recent news articles, that seem to take a derogatory tone in their discussions of Elie Wiesel’s intent or that place disproportionate stress on small nuances, changes and minor mistakes in his memoir, “Night” (“Six Million Little Pieces?” January 20). I also take exception to the Forward article’s headline, which I find irreverent and trivializing.

As an educator and a child refugee of the Holocaust, I have worked with survivors most of my life, teaching about the Holocaust, attending conferences and speaking to numerous survivors. After the war, many survivors were so traumatized that they couldn’t speak. Then many didn’t speak because family members already in America, for instance, said: “Shh, it’s over; let’s not talk about it; it’s too terrible to discuss, move on.” Finally, when the survivors began to be encouraged, and their stories flowed from the depths of their souls in a never-ending stream of relief to tell and to tell again, the deniers reared their ugly heads and said “not true” — and survivors had a new barrier to speaking freely from their memories.

Now, survivors are even being questioned as to whether what they are writing and telling is really a “memoir” because of some half-forgotten moment or possible slip of memory or language nuance lost in translation.

To me, this is outrageous and must be stopped, for the benefit of the survivor community and because there is a great need for them to continue telling and documenting their memories without fear of petty criticisms getting in the way of their monumental truths.

Miriam Klein Kassenoff

Miami Beach, Fla.

State Legislators, Too

The Forward’s coverage of the recent International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians parley in Jerusalem neglected to mention the participation of three state legislators representing the National Association of Jewish Legislators (“Jewish Legislators Build International Network,” January 20). Three of the association’s officers, Texas Rep. Elliott Naishtat, Utah Senator Patrice Arent and Massachusetts Rep. Ruth Balser, joined the five members of Congress as part of the American delegation.

The National Association of Jewish Legislators is undertaking an effort to identify every state and local Jewish elected official in the United States in the hope of creating an active network able to address issues of importance to the Jewish community from the statehouses to the city halls and county governments.

Jeffrey M. Wice


National Association of Jewish Legislators

Washington, D.C.

Hitchens Unchanged

In your article about the controversial selection by the Republican Jewish Coalition of writer Christopher Hitchens as speaker, you wrote that Hitchens has “moderated his views since the outbreak of the intifada and the attacks of September 11, 2001” (“Controversial Writer To Address Jewish GOPers,” January 13). But that is simply untrue. Since the outbreak of the intifada, Hitchens has approvingly cited the views of those who he said believed “that Zionism would be a false Messiah for the Jews and an injustice to the Arabs”; accused Herzl of telling a “demagogic lie”; called Likud ideology “thuggish”; urged that “Sharon tear down this wall”; referred to the so-called truce as an “apartheid truce,” and suggested that Israel has “degraded,” “humiliated,” “deported” and “dispossessed” the Arabs. He also called the Sabra and Shatila episode a “filthy pogrom.” He has called Elie Wiesel “a contemptible poseur and windbag” who receives “grotesque deference on moral questions,” and defended Holocaust-denier David Irving on the grounds of freedom of speech.

No one who has made these sorts of outrageous anti-Israel statements should be welcome to speak by any Jewish organization. Even if such a speaker’s topic is not Israel, such hostile rants against Israel should disqualify him from a Jewish podium.

I am puzzled as to why Hitchens attacked me for distributing copies of his anti-Israel screeds. You’d think if he wrote them, he’d be happy that I made sure more people read them. I can only urge Hitchens to disseminate any of my writings to anyone he pleases. I am proud of them and would be delighted to have more people see them.

As for his obnoxious statement that “it’s true that I have allowed myself to imagine Jewish life without Herzl, and I shall keep trying to imagine Jewish life without Klein,” I must say that only Abe Foxman should be allowed the fantasy of life without Klein.

Morton A. Klein

National President

Zionist Organization of America

New York, N.Y.

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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January 27, 2006

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