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September 11, 2009

‘Crazy Eddie’ Cousin Slurs Syrian Jews

We at the Sephardic Community Federation were shocked and appalled by the Forward’s decision to print Sam Antar’s slanderous comments about our Sephardic community without any substantiation (“‘Crazy’ Eddie’s Cousin, a Former Fraudster, Speaks Out on Syrian ‘Subculture of Crime,’” September 4).

To run a prominent article alleging in your headline that there is a “subculture of crime” in our community without any evidence beyond the arrests of four members of a community of nearly 100,000, and without any response from community leaders to rebut this ugly smear, is irresponsible journalism on its face. To hang such a story solely on the comments of a convicted felon and notorious liar is beneath contempt and a stain on the proud tradition of the Forward.

Our community takes great pride in our heritage and in our commitment to the rule of law. As such, we have been deeply pained by the serious allegations against the four members of our community, which, if proven true, go against every value the Torah teaches us.

Your headline and article, rather than informing your readers about the facts of this case or providing a balanced view of our community, did nothing more than add insult to injury. Our community and your readers deserve better than that.

Sam Sutton
President Sephardic Community Federation
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Respecting Our Rabbis

Noam Neusner’s September 4 column “What if Rabbis Heed Obama’s High Holy Day Appeal?” was extremely offensive and showed profound ignorance about American Judaism.

He states that American Jews in non-Orthodox congregations don’t really listen to their rabbis. I beg to differ. I happen to be a member of a non-Orthodox congregation who cares deeply about what our rabbi says regarding important issues that face our society. Our rabbi happens to be a bright and insightful man who can illuminate issues from a learned Jewish perspective. He has attempted to reach out to his congregants in a nonpartisan manner to encourage civil discourse regarding health care reform and to integrate our Jewish heritage and teachings into our approach to this difficult issue.

I also happen to be one of those doctors whom Neusner so confidently feels will be foes of current proposals for health care reform. He is wrong in this regard also. I strongly support the proposed health care reform, and I am joined by my state medical society and the American Medical Association.

Lastly, Neusner makes a vile attempt to stifle thoughtful discussion of a Jewish approach to health care reform by implying that rabbis who discuss health care reform risk fomenting “Rosh Hashanah riots.” Most likely rabbis who discuss health care reform will do so in a nonpartisan manner stressing the need for civility (unlike Neusner) and consideration of Jewish ethics and teachings in our approach to this issue.

Neil Herbsman
Westport, Conn.

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