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Letters

August 3, 2007

Jews Live in Deadwood

Fast Forward writer Andrew Muchin asserts that “no Jews are known to live in Deadwood today” (“Pioneers in the Black Hills,” July 20).

Not being completely sure if that was the case, I decided to dig a little deeper. I called David Lusk of AllMedia, Inc., a purveyor of Jewish mailing lists. He told me that there are between 32 and 75 Jewish households in Deadwood, S.D.

Even in the most unexpected places, it seems, there are Jews.

Stephanie Fox
Minneapolis, Minn.


Reopen Group’s Books

As the former head of a major commercial bank’s monitoring department — tasked with keeping tabs on financial reporting-compliance by corporate clients — it is my professional opinion that the Claims Conference’s financial statements are far from clear (“Group’s Finances Clear,” July 20).

The Claims Conference boasts of using 80% of its discretionary funds on social services for Holocaust survivors. How can one tell from their published statements if the tens of millions allocated to two modern, state-of-the-art Jewish community centers in St. Petersburg and in Kishinev were not included in their accounts as social support for survivors?

What about the more than 8,000 real estate properties in the former East Germany the Claims Conference received? How have they been disposed of? Was there an open auction? Who was the broker? What are the current rental incomes?

Aggregate disbursements for the totality of all survivors worldwide are bandied about — but the paltry amounts reaching needy survivors are not mentioned, and the truly relevant details are kept under wraps.

Leo Rechter
President
National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors
Flushing, N.Y.


If the Homeless Moved In

Opinion columnist David Klinghoffer objects to a church setting up a tent city in its parking lot for the homeless (“Charity Is an Individual Responsibility,” July 20). One would think that he would approve of a private, faith-based, nongovernmental measure to help the poor. But no, God forbid that people come together to help the poor. He insists that such efforts must be purely individualized, so he recommends that the church members invite homeless people to live with them in their homes.

I am perplexed by Klinghoffer’s logic. If it would make him feel “very ill at ease having an encampment of transients as neighbors,” as he says, how would it make him feel to have a homeless person living in his home, sleeping on his living room couch, using his valuable possessions and fraternizing with his children?

Judith Antonelli
Brookline, Mass.


Data on Circumcision’s Health Benefits Unclear

A July 27 letter writer’s claim that there exists “compelling evidence of multiple protective health benefits” to circumcision is, I fear, somewhat disingenuous (“Circumcision Offers Many Health Benefits”).

The data are not considered compelling by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The academy issued a Policy Statement on March 3, 1999, which it re-affirmed on September 2, 2005. The policy is quoted below, and is based on an extensive review of the medical literature concerning circumcision:

“Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision. In the case of circumcision, in which there are potential benefits and risks, yet the procedure is not essential to the child’s current well-being, parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child.

“To make an informed choice, parents of all male infants should be given accurate and unbiased information and be provided the opportunity to discuss this decision. It is legitimate for parents to take into account cultural, religious and ethnic traditions, in addition to the medical factors, when making this decision.

“Analgesia is safe and effective in reducing the procedural pain associated with circumcision; therefore, if a decision for circumcision is made, procedural analgesia should be provided. If circumcision is performed in the newborn period, it should only be done on infants who are stable and healthy.”

Carl Steeg, MD
Former Director, Pediatric Cardiology
Montefiore Medical Center
Bronx, N.Y.


As a pediatrician who has performed thousands of circumcisions over 30 years, it’s most distressing to read descriptions of a procedure that some new parents feel is a brutal, bloody operation involving intense pain. With skill, proper training and, most importantly, appropriate local analgesia, this simply doesn’t depict how the procedure is performed today.

As with any surgical procedure, analgesia prior to operating should be mandatory. And this doesn’t mean merely a topical cream applied externally a half hour prior, which may provide some numbness to the external skin only.

Instead, a local “ring block” using 1% lidocaine is infused through a tiny needle and provides for excellent numbing of the entire field. Doctors and mohelim can quickly learn this simple technique. The local adds no more than 30 to 60 seconds to the procedure and is fully acceptable by halachic authorities.

With proper and effective analgesia, I’ve had two or three boys yawn at me.

The brit is a covenant and life cycle event unlike any other; it is a basic tenet of Judaism. It pre-dates Sinai and the giving of the Torah by more than 500 years, linking each baby boy directly to our patriarch Abraham, the first Jew, and affirming our covenant.

It is the first mitzvah of the Torah that is specifically Jewish (coming after the Noahide laws for all peoples).

Brit milah is not an option for parents or our Jewish community. It is a sacred obligation of the highest magnitude.

Harry Romanowitz, MD
Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
Yale University School of Medicine
Stamford, Conn.

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