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April 11, 2008

Aliyah for Millionaires

The idea of giving financial breaks to millionaires in order to encourage their aliyah is sickening in the extreme (“Israel Targets Millionaires in Bid to Up Aliyah,” April 4).

These people need tax breaks? Talk about class warfare.

I am constantly bombarded by charities who claim they need money for Israeli kids who don’t have enough to eat and Israeli soldiers who need care packages. But the Israeli government, in its infinite wisdom, only has cash for the rich?

It seems to me that Israel, as much as any democratic society, has more than enough amenities to satisfy even the most sophisticated tastes. But then again, I haven’t met any rich Jewish princes lately, so I’m far from being an expert about what Jewish royalty needs. Still, giving money to the rich in return for aliyah is a slap in the face of everyone else who could use a break to make a decent life in Israel.

Alexander Diamond
Wiscasset, Maine

Gay Temple Open to All

Since its early years in the 1970s, Beth Chayim Chadashim — the world’s first synagogue whose primary outreach is to gay and lesbian Jews — has operated under a mandate to welcome all Jews as members (“As Acceptance Grows, Gay Synagogues Torn Between the Straight and Narrow,” March 28).

I have been a heterosexual member of Beth Chayim Chadashim since 1986. A year after joining, I had a seat on the temple’s board of directors, and at the time my husband and I were married there in 1991, I was serving the congregation as a vice president.

In more than 20 years of membership, my husband and I have never felt anything but warmth, solidarity and spiritual connection among ourselves and our fellow members. Beth Chayim Chadashim’s relative paucity of heterosexual members has more to do with demographics than anything else: It’s located in a part of Los Angeles in which heterosexual Jews tend to be too observant to get involved with a Reform institution.

Cantor Ellen Jaffe-Gill
Culver City, Calif.

Are Jews Anti-Gun? Opinion writer Eric King’s hypothesis that American Jewish antipathy toward gun proliferation in the United States is due to a “shtetl mentality” is based on ethnic stereotyping and a misreading of history (“Why Are American Jews So Anti-Gun?”, March 28).

The tradition of gun ownership in the Pale of Settlement was foreign to the poor, whether Christian or Jew. Fighting state violence was futile for everyone. In America, Jewish immigrants lived primarily in urban areas where individual gun ownership was uncommon, and Jews as a minority were not targeted in a way that required mass self-defense. Unlike in Israel, there was no need to be armed. And indeed, there was no “shtetl mentality” among Jews during World War II, when they joined others in armed struggle against Nazi Germany.

Rather, American Jews — like the majority of Americans — recognize that easy access to unregulated weaponry, particularly hand guns and assault rifles that have no legitimate use in hunting, is the source of excessive violence in America.

The idea that today’s American Jews harbor some recessive gene dating back more than a century that makes them anti-gun is but another ridiculous ethnic generalization, similar to statements like “Jews are good with money.”

David Blackey
La Crosse, Wis.

Eric King asks a good question and answers it by contrasting American Jews and Israelis Jews. What about these U.S. Jews?

I am a 70-year-old American Jew, born and bred in the Chicago area. My father was a college football player back in the 1920s, when Jews were recruited out of the West Side of Chicago. He was a tough guy: He spied on the German American Bund in the 1930s, and fought Chicago Nazis with the legendary Davey Miller gang when it counted. His teaching to his sons was when they come for the Jews, take as many of them as you can before you go.

He was a hunter, and when we were in our early teens he taught us how to use rifles and pistols. I joined the National Rifle Association in my teens because I believed then, as I believe now, that the Second Amendment was especially appropriate for vulnerable minorities such as the Jews. My brother devoted 35 years of his adult life to being a game warden in Arizona and Idaho. Two first cousins worked similarly in Wisconsin and Illinois.

Today, I am proud to say that I am a charter member of the Jews for the Preservation of Firearms.

Ronald Stackler
Malibu, Calif.

Breast Cancer Genes

An April 4 Fast Forward article sheds light on the issue of counseling and testing for breast cancer among Jewish women, but it is important to point out that inherited breast cancer is due to alterations not in “the BRCA gene,” as reported, but rather in at least two genes, BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 (“The BRCA Gene: A Positive Test, A Personal Choice”).

Ashkenazic Jewish women are more likely to carry a mutated gene than women in the general population, but much to the surprise of many women, most breast cancers are not inherited. In fact, 90%-95% of breast cancers are sporadic.

Jewish women should become familiar with their family history, both on their maternal and paternal sides. Indications in the personal and family history can be suggestive of an inherited predisposition to breast and other cancers, which occur 5%-10% of the time.

Most importantly, the genetics community has recommended that since one in 40 Ashkenazic Jewish individuals carries a BRCA mutation, every Ashkenazic Jewish woman with a diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer have genetic testing, regardless of family history.

Genetic analysis is a process that involves risk assessment, and genetic counseling prior to and after actual testing can assist women in their quest for information and assessment, as well as help them to make informed personal choices.

Eillene Leistner
Executive Director
Teaneck, N.J.

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