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September 7, 2007

Double Standard Applied To Armenian Massacre

I might be able to buy into the realpolitik argument that suggests we ought to be more concerned with Turkey as Israel’s ally than with a theoretical and extremely retrospective condemnation of the Armenian deaths as genocide (“Of Genocide and Morality,” August 31).

But in that case, how can we argue that the Holocaust could or should have been prevented by the Allies fighting in World War II? Saving Europe’s Jewish population was not in the strategic interests of the Allies, was not a causus belli for American entry into the war, and had little to do with our fight to save the world from the threat of Axis fascism.

Yet we Jews have spent a lot of effort laying our communal disaster at the feet not just of the European Axis powers, but also of all the Allied nations who failed to come to our assistance. Isn’t it this double standard that the Armenians, learning from us, have been trying for decades to address?

Tom Freudenheim
New York, N.Y.

Mogul Has Long Record Of Involvement in Israel

Sheldon Adelson, in his person and philanthropy, is not the newcomer to Israeli society portrayed in an August 17 article (“Vegas Casino King Makes Bid for Israeli Media”).

He is married to a distinguished Israeli physician and medical researcher. Theirs is not a bumbling but a profound ambition to serve the interests of Israeli society, as they see those interests. In this spirit, the Adelsons long ago created medical treatment and research centers in Tel Aviv and endowed the expansion of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Having failed recently in his bid to purchase Maariv, Adelson has every right to create an alternative like Yisrael Hayom to compete with it. Do the Nimrodis and the Schockens, owners, respectively, of Maariv and Ha’aretz, have greater standing to profit from their investment in Israeli media than do the Adelsons?

The article quotes Ha’aretz journalist Daniel Ben Shimon: “They want to buy a share of Israel. Israelis don’t want the country to be made into a casino for rich people.” Is that the goal of the Adelsons? No. But Ben Simon is hardly a disinterested party.

The article fails to note the Adelsons’ effort to bring to Yad Vashem a museum of the art of the Holocaust, an inspired act dedicated to the memory of the fallen of Adelson’s wife’s own family. That memorial is a source of pride to her surviving family — one of whom I am — and to many, many others.

It is therefore troubling to read so careless a response to the efforts of a man of business whose own personal history is so much wrapped up for the good of Israel.

Allen Tobias
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Observe Memorial Days For Herzl and Bialik

Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historical Preservation, suggests that “once a year we have an international Herzl Day in which every school, synagogue and organization talks about [Theodor Herzl’s] legacy” (“Jerusalem Plans a Hero’s Burial for Long-Deceased Grandson of Herzl,” August 31).

Zionists of my generation in prewar Poland certainly remember that the 20th and 21st days of Tammuz were widely observed as memorial days for Herzl and Chaim Nachman Bialik. All Zionist organizations, and especially the youth movements, observed those two days with special programs and ceremonies.

We should revive the tradition of marking those two days on the Jewish calendar, and appropriate programs for the public should be developed.

Solomon Goldman
Malverne, N.Y.

Eliminate Kapparot Ritual From Tradition

It was good news to read in an August 31 article that a group of Orthodox rabbis meeting in Brooklyn on August 6 “issued a call for members of the community to clean up the process” of the ritual of kapparot (“Orthodox Call on Sinners To Give Chickens a Fairer Shake”). But it was bad news that they didn’t get rid of the ritual altogether.

The idea of swinging a chicken around one’s head is not an ancient Jewish custom; according to the Encyclopedia Judaica, it “appears first in the writings of the geonim of the 9th century” (Volume 10, Column 756), meaning that it is not only post-biblical, but post-talmudic.

The obvious reason to oppose this ritual is that it is cruel. Another reason is that the idea of transferring one’s sins is both offensive and silly — based, as it is, on the theory that punishment has to go somewhere.

The blessing “zot kaparati” — This is my substitute, my vicarious offering, my atonement — shows just how wrong the idea of kapparot is. It’s wrong that another creature should suffer for sins it did not commit. It’s wrong to think that we can get excused by using a scapegoat.

Since neither the Bible nor the Talmud says that we should practice this ritual, let us simply eliminate it from Jewish tradition.

George Jochnowitz
New York, N.Y.

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