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August 13, 2010

Wedding Erodes Intermarriage Taboo

Like it or not, the media-hyped Clinton-Mezvinsky intermarriage, discussed in your August 6 editorial, “When Marc Weds Chelsea,” will make religiously based Jewish opposition to such matches in our society more difficult. (I’m the groom’s uncle, although I wasn’t present at the ceremony.)

Chelsea did not and will not convert to Judaism. A Reform rabbi, together with a Methodist minister, officiated. Many other Judaic trappings provided a Jewish facade. The ceremony began and ended on Shabbat, before sundown. The attendance at the celebration of the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary (though he showed up only after sundown) will indicate to many concerned people that Conservative Judaism sanctions such an intermarriage. Moreover, it is significant that there has been a lack of public criticism on halachic grounds by Orthodox rabbinic leaders of this highly publicized extravaganza.

Norton Mezvinsky
New York, N.Y.

Not Every Glass Wall Is A Holocaust Allusion

In his recent review of the new building for the National Museum of American Jewish History, designed by architect James Polshek, Gavriel Rosenfeld focused inordinately on the museum’s glass facade and its supposed relationship to post-Holocaust architecture (“When Is a Glass Box Not Just a Glass Box?” July 16).

It is important to remember that everything Jewish doesn’t have to be seen through the prism of the Holocaust. I am the child of a Holocaust survivor and deeply appreciate the importance of remembering that dark chapter in our history; the many Holocaust memorials and museums in this country and around the world testify to the thoroughness with which we have done so.

But there is another story that needs to be told, the story of the historically unprecedented security and success that Jews have experienced in America. That is the story we will tell at the National Museum of American Jewish History, and there is no better place to tell it than on Independence Mall, the birthplace of American liberty and the freedoms that offered Jews and others extraordinary opportunities to thrive here.

The museum’s glass facade will front Independence Mall. It is meant to symbolize the transparency of American Jewish life today, and also to represent a welcome to all who have benefited from the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution. The reality is that we are full participants in the American experience, part of the mainstream of society, maintaining our traditions while wrestling with the challenges posed by the very freedoms we enjoy. The museum will tell the story of that struggle as well, as it is at the heart of the modern American Jewish experience.

Michael Rosenzweig
President and CEO
National Museum of American Jewish History
Philadelphia, Pa.

Don’t Discount the Marchers’ Maturity

I found Leonard Fein’s July 9 column criticizing the March of the Living program to be misguided and cynical (“The Manipulative March”).

During my tenure as executive director of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, I had the privilege of interacting with many young people who participated in the March of the Living. In San Antonio, the march was the culmination of a yearlong learning and orientation process required of all participants. In my view, the young marchers seemed more than equipped to make their own judgments about their experiences, and most of them were mature enough to comprehend and synthesize the magnitude of the evil that they viewed through the historical lens of their visits to the camps and to Israel.

Perhaps the “answers” to the root causes of the Holocaust are not as mysterious and incomprehensible as Fein professes them to be. In Nazi Germany, Hitler and his henchmen taught their youth hatred, intolerance and bigotry through propaganda, deception and coercion. That was real manipulation that had deadly consequences of enormous magnitude. If we are guilty of teaching our youth exactly the opposite behaviors of those instilled in Nazi Germany’s youth, then we are in fact manipulators with a just and noble purpose.

I would suggest that Fein go directly to the source and speak to the thousands of March of Living participants who today are better citizens of the world as a result of this life-changing experience. It would serve him far better than underestimating their powers to develop informed and valuable perspectives on the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel.

Mark S. Freedman
Parkland, Fla.

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