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January 29, 2010

Filibusters Haven’t Benefited Minorities

I must disagree with your editorial on Senate filibusters (“Minority Rule,” January 22).

The filibuster is not a thing of “civic beauty” that empowers minorities and simply needs to be reformed, as your editorial argues. Filibusters are instead an assault on the legislative process.

The Senate filibuster was used for decades to prevent the passage of federal anti-lynching legislation. We Jews know all too well what lynching is; remember Leo Frank?

The filibuster is an egregious part of American history. It is time to abolish it!

Richard Mamches
Plantation, Fla.

Return Conversion to All Rabbis, Not Just Orthodox Ones

Rabbi Marc Angel makes an eloquent and important challenge to the growing hegemony of what he calls “the Haredi rabbinic establishment” over conversion to Judaism (“Return Conversion to the Rabbis,” January 15).

But I find Angel’s own position to be quite ironic.

I am the Jewish father of devotedly Jewish children of a non-Jewish mother. My children were converted by an ordained rabbi from the Reform movement.

Angel, however, advocates “leaving conversion in the hands of local Orthodox rabbis — as had been the practice for centuries.” He makes no mention of the importance of recognizing conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis.

I applaud when Angel writes that “the Jewish people as a whole should not be held hostage to the extreme views of the rejectionists.” I respectfully invite Rabbi Angel to take a look in the mirror.

David E. Cohen
Wyckoff, N.J.

Spinning a Yarn From Tablecloth Joke

Claudia Braude’s review of the exhibition “Where is Kovno?” — produced by Cheryl Rumbak, Yda Walt and myself — mischaracterized a remark I had referred to by the artist William Kentridge (“Back to Kovno,” January 8).

In the course of a public lecture, I made a joke about Kentridge having asked me, regarding the Kovno project: “Why are you writing music for a tablecloth?” His playful remark referred to nothing other than the diversity of my own work and my engagement with different media. (For the “Where Is Kovno?” exhibit, I wrote music to accompany a work by a textile artist.)

Braude, however, cited the remark as if it were evidence of Kentridge’s alleged reluctance to engage with his own Eastern European heritage. In fact, Kentridge, a close collaborator of mine, has been nothing but supportive of this project and its content.

Philip Miller
Johannesburg, South Africa

Look Beyond Wall To See the Bigger Picture

Your January 15 editorial “Liberating the Wall” misses the forest for the trees. You focus on the outrageous way women have been treated at the Western Wall — and of course that should be denounced.

But your headline should have read: “Liberate Israel From the Stranglehold of Religion.” The abominable practices at the Western Wall are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Menorah Rotenberg
Teaneck, N.J.


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