August 31, 2007
College Played Vital Role
I enjoyed reading Jeri Zeder’s August 10 article on the National Yiddish Book Center and its founder Aaron Lansky (“Book Center Turns New Page”). However, I was astonished that no mention was made of its location on the campus of Hampshire College, or of the role that Hampshire and many members of that college’s community have played in the center since its early days.
Lansky, who served on my undergraduate thesis review committee when I completed my bachelor’s degree at Hampshire in 1981, became intently interested in Jewish history and culture while studying at Hampshire. Lansky was developing the center during that time, which he recounted in his book, “Outwitting History.”
The crucial and significant importance of Hampshire College is inexplicably left out, yet the article mentions the center’s location as being in the town of Amherst in western Massachusetts on “ten acres of rolling hills, towering pines and charming grounds dotted with apple trees.” The article even discusses whether the center’s geographical location is a benefit or a disadvantage, yet there is no mention of it being on the Hampshire College campus.
Would an article on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum disregard the fact that it is on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.? Would an article about The Fogg Museum fail to mention Harvard, or an article about the DeYoung omit Golden Gate Park?
Respect Reporter’s Years
Opinion columnist David Klinghoffer describes Helen Thomas as an “octogenarian” who “contemptuously badgers” the president (“We’re Suffering From a Deficit of Authority”). By tradition, Thomas is most often referred to as the “dean of the White House press corps.”
To my knowledge, no one has impugned her mental acuity, yet the casual use of the term octogenarian is aimed at undermining the authority she has gained by dint of experience and achievement. The press corps let us down by not asking hard questions as we moved toward war in Iraq; I would guess that Thomas is attempting a necessary correction.
As for President Bush himself, he has shown great contempt for the law and for the majesty of his office through his own actions and those of his designees Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.
Klinghoffer writes that “in a culture from which reverence for God is absent, respect for other people will evaporate.” Our president openly avows his faith in God. I would argue that his own lack of reverence for the law is a more pressing problem in the crisis of authority Klinghoffer wishes us to address.
New Paltz, N.Y.
It Wasn’t the Protestors
Regarding an August 10 item in the Gelt Complex column concerning the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s decision to incorporate information on the Bergson Group into its permanent exhibition, I would like to clarify the process by which the museum changes its exhibition (“Protesters Win”).
Museums should always be aware of the public’s concerns, but they should never change their exhibitions as a result of public pressure or petitions — and nor do we. We receive numerous requests to revise our permanent exhibition. When a suggestion merits further consideration, it becomes part of a careful and deliberative process.
Understanding that no 36,000-square-foot exhibition can begin to cover the enormity of the Holocaust, the museum works to ensure comprehensiveness, accuracy and educational effectiveness. If we determine that a change will advance these criteria and can be accomplished through a reallocation of space, we then conduct additional research, ensuring that any information is substantiated by original sources and independently verified by a variety of experts.
Once this part of the process is complete, changing the exhibition involves artifact and photograph selection, conservation and reproduction work, along with design, fabrication and installation. Exhibition changes must be integrated into the planned schedule of exhibition maintenance, which includes the regular rotation of artifacts, routine refurbishment and the redesign of other exhibition segments.
We decided to include the Bergson Group in 2005, and the changes will be completed in spring 2008. Changing an exhibition is a complex, time-consuming process and not one that any serious museum does quickly or takes lightly.
Director of Media Relations
United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum>Washington, D.C.
Esperanto Article Superb
I have been an Esperantist for more that 15 years, and I must say that an August 24 Arts & Culture article on Esperanto is the very best journalistic work describing the language and movement I have ever come across — and I read five languages besides English (“Crocodiling in Esperanto On the Streets of Hanoi”). My heartfelt compliments to writer Esther Schor for an astounding contribution. If I were in a position to award her a prize based on this article, I would do so without hesitation.
But there are two tiny points I would quibble with. First, the phrase “Bush, Reiru A Via Stelo!!!” should be spelled “Bush, Reiru Al Via Stelo!!!”
Second, Schor writes that “the optimistic Universal Esperanto Association” estimates “that nearly 2 million people worldwide speak Esperanto.” The Universal Esperanto Association does indeed put out that number, but anybody with familiarity with the Esperanto world knows that this number is vastly inflated. The true number of people worldwide who speak Esperanto is much, much lower.
Nevertheless, the article remains superb and I remain awed by it.