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April 20, 2007

New Envoy Will Leave Politics at Water’s Edge

An April 13 (“Controversial Envoy to Belgium Vows More Campaign Giving”) article reports that Sam Fox “is vowing to continue donating to political candidates during his time in Brussels…. This decision… could prove contentious for Mr. Fox, given the tradition that ambassadors leave politics at the water’s edge, and could further inflame the debate over his selection.”

I was on the phone call between the Forward and Fox, however, and if Fox vowed anything, it was to drop his participation in politics.

“I am no longer taking sides,” he told the Forward. “In the role of ambassador, I feel I should be neutral.” He said that as an American citizen, he believed he retained the rights to vote and to make donations to individual candidates; however, he added that he would no longer raise money for candidates, no longer encourage individuals to run for office, no longer donate to 527 committees, and no longer donate to any political party or political action committees.

In fact, the entire thrust of Fox’s remarks in the interview was that he was leaving politics at the water’s edge. There was nothing remotely suggestive of a dug-in partisan position or an invitation to more conflict. There was every suggestion of a man who just a few days earlier had been appointed to a new post and was attempting to carve out a nonpartisan position in politics while retaining what he understands to be his prerogatives as an American citizen.

Paul Wagman
Senior Vice President
St. Louis, Mo.

Group Called for Iraq Withdrawal Last Year

We must, in terms unweakened by their respectfulness, dissent from opinion columnist Leonard Fein’s observation that last month, “the Union for Reform Judaism became the first national Jewish organization to take more than a tongue-clucking position on the Iraq War” (“Leaders to the Right, Followers to the Left,” March 23).

At our 2006 convention, The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring formally adopted a statement calling on the American government “to make immediate plans for withdrawing our troops as soon as possible.” And as early as October 12, 2002, we released an official statement urging the United States “to work together with its long-term allies rather than engage in unilateral military action,” and calling on the American government “to explore diplomatic and other alternative approaches to resolving the serious issues posed by Iraq’s weapons program.”

We have arranged letter-writing campaigns and public events against the war, and we’ve brought active contingents to the mass protests around the country. You might have spotted us on the streets of New York City on March 18, leading our friends in the Yiddish chant “Bush iz a shande, un oykh zayn gantse bande!”—“Bush is a disgrace, and so is his whole crowd.”

Peter Pepper
Adrienne Cooper
Executive Officer for External Affairs
The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring
New York, N.Y.

What About the Recipe For Financial Success?

I enjoyed reading Mark Levenson’s article on the spiritual and financial rewards from baking challah (“Baking Challah in Order To Put Bread on the Table,” April 13). Alas, the recipe was missing!

Ira Sohn
New York, N.Y.

Acknowledge Efforts Of Founding Editor

As a charter subscriber to the English-language Forward, the 110th-anniversary issue, published April 6, surprised and disappointed me. At best, I could find only two references, both in passing, to the founding editor of the Forward, Seth Lipsky.

Regardless of one’s views of him or his politics, he made the English-language paper a reality. That his 10 years of effort as editor should be passed over so lightly is chilling, almost Orwellian, especially for a paper that prides itself on its social democratic heritage.

Dennis Gura
Santa Monica, Calif.

I fondly remember my grandfather of blessed memory reading the Forverts. Today, as Shabbat waited, I picked up a copy of the recently published “A Living Lens: Photographs of Jewish Life From the Pages of the Forward.” As the bride arrives, so, too, does my love of our people and the many memories of what and who we are.

Robert Fusfeld
Greenleaf, Wis.

Palestinians Were Not The Only Refugees

Whenever I read an article about the Palestinian refugees, I wonder why there is never any mention of the fact that there were more Jewish refugees forced to flee from Arab countries when Israel was created than there were Palestinians who fled from Israel (“For Many Palestinians, Right of Return Is Primarily Theoretical,” April 13).

The Palestinian refugees are only one side of the refugee issue. At the time that the United Nations was debating the partition plan, there were hundreds of thousands of Jews living in Arab countries. Arab leaders warned that if the partition was approved, the lives of these Jews would be jeopardy.

When the U.N. voted to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, the Jews were indeed forced to flee from Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and other Arab countries — countries they had lived in for hundreds of years. Their lives were threatened, and they were forced to flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs, leaving behind all their possessions.

Today, the former Jewish refugees and their descendants are an integral part of Israeli society. Unfortunately, the Palestinian refugees and their children and grandchildren for the most part continue to live in poverty in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere in the Arab world.

Sylvia Lewis
National Vice President
Na’amat USA
Akron, Ohio

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