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June 8, 2007

Access to Holocaust Archive Is Critical

The failure of the International Tracing Service to respond promptly to survivors’ requests over the years prompted the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to lead the effort to open the archive (“Shoah Survivors Slam Museum’s Archive Plan,” May 25). Negotiations with 10 nations and the International Red Cross have been time-consuming and problematic. But the diplomatic negotiations are only part of the project.

Creating accessibility is also critical. The current ITS search software was designed only to be used by ITS staff on site. The data from the vast majority of the documents has not been entered into a searchable database, and hence Google-like searches do not work.

The inadequacy of this system is part of the reason for the backlog of hundreds of thousands of requests. Therefore, the Holocaust Museum is developing new software to facilitate searching the records. No survivor will have to come to Washington, D.C. Survivors will be able to request and receive information via the Internet, mail or fax. This is the fastest way to ensure that survivors get the information they are seeking.

The most urgent issue, however, is that Greece, Luxembourg, France and Italy need to ratify the agreement that will permit opening the archives. Survivors can help by contacting the embassies of those four nations and encouraging them to ratify the agreement.

Sara Bloomfield
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Washington, D.C.

Youth not Interested in Intermarriage Divide

We hope opinion writer Steven M. Cohen will listen to the young adults who tell him that they “find established Jewish institutions implicitly coercive — aiming to induce younger Jews to marry each other,” and that such an approach is alienating to them (“Continuity Beyond Communal Walls,” May 25).

These findings are less surprising than the person finding them: Cohen has been among the most vocal proponents encouraging the organized community to take just such an approach. Considering that the young people he studied are among the most highly engaged Jews in their age cohort, it behooves the entire community to recognize that the next generation is not at all interested in dividing us between in-married and intermarried, but instead in grappling with what Judaism means to them in the 21st century and how they are going to contribute to building a more diverse, inclusive Jewish community.

It is also important to note that younger Jews are not the only ones who appreciate Jewish programming outside the walls of communal institutions. Jewish film festivals, musical events and arts exhibits held in secular venues attract less affiliated Jews across the age spectrum.

Chabad has long recognized that to reach the unengaged, the community must go out to them rather than wait for them to come to us. And since 2001, the Jewish Outreach Institute has been training communal professionals to find and bring Jewish meaning to Jewish households on the periphery of the organized community regardless of their age or marital status. It is not only a way to serve them where they are, but also to inform them about some of the offerings they might find of value within the walls of our synagogues and Jewish community centers.

Rabbi Kerry Olitzky
Executive Director
Paul Golin
Associate Executive Director
Jewish Outreach Institute
New York, N.Y.

Why Is Activist in GOP?

How can Mikey Weinstein still be a Republican? (“Church-State Crusader Takes Aim at ROTC,” May 25)

It is the Republican Party that has tried to insert planks in its platform stating that the United States is a Christian nation. It is the Republican Party that has allowed evangelical Christians to hijack the political process and to impose a conservative Christian agenda on education, the military, the Justice Department and the Supreme Court.

Weinstein is to be praised for his activism, but can he not see that the leaders of the Republican Party don’t want him to succeed?

Donna Halper
Boston, Mass.

Terrorism Came First

Opinion columnist Leonard Fein complains bitterly that Israel’s victory in the Six Day War has resulted in the creation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem (“The Sour Legacy of the Spring of ’67,” June 1).

Fein conveniently omits the fact that Arab hatred and terrorism against Jews existed long before the 1967 war, and even before the creation of the Jewish state in 1948. There is no peace because the Arabs reject the very existence of Israel within any borders. History proves that it is Arab terrorism that has caused the occupation, not vice versa.

Israel has made strategic errors since the conclusion of the Six Day War. Those errors, however, have nothing to do with the establishment of settlements in any part of the Jewish homeland.

Israel’s mistakes have been the result of wishful thinking that unilateral concessions would bring peace. To the contrary, the Oslo Accords, the abandonment of the security zone in southern Lebanon and the forced evacuation of Gaza have done nothing but damage the security of Israel and its citizens.

Steven Goldberg
National Vice President
Zionist Organization of America
Los Angeles, Calif.

Wolfowitz Was Naive

A May 25 editorial approvingly quotes Fred Kaplan’s assessment that Paul Wolfowitz’s “chief failure was a failure of imagination” (“A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing”). The contrary is true.

Based on Wolfowitz’s ignorance of Islam, his imagination worked overtime to imagine that it was possible to establish a democracy in Iraq. The idea sounds good, but it is fatally flawed.

Perhaps whatever Wolfowitz thought he knew about Islam he learned from his enlightened, progressive Muslim girlfriend, who in no way represents Islam and who herself does not understand it or the power it has over people’s minds. This naive, wishful thinking by Wolfowitz and others has led to an enormous waste of lives and resources, and it has prevented us from focusing on the real war against jihadism.

Carl Goldberg
Tempe, Ariz.


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