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July 11, 2008

Lithuania Has Earned Its Place in Europe

Regarding Rabbi Andrew Baker’s July 4 opinion article “Europe’s Shameful Honoring of Vilnius,” I am amazed by the persistence of efforts to deny Lithuania its European identity.

Through the centuries, my countrymen have struggled to stay in Europe and remain Lithuanians. History was brutal to us. Wars, occupations and totalitarian regimes have taken their enormous toll. It’s a miracle Lithuania survived at all.

We are in Europe, and we share Europe’s history and destiny — with all the complexity that may entail. As a member of the European Union, Lithuania condemns both disastrous totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, Nazism and communism. All those who committed crimes against innocent civilians must face justice: Nazi collaborators, Soviet partisans, KGB interrogators, etc. There is no other way to repair the broken social fabric and heal the wounds.

With time, we will rebuild Lithuania and restore the well-being and dignity of our people — of all the peoples who once lived in Lithuania. Vilnius rightly deserves the title of the European Capital of Culture and is proud to have it.

Audrius Bruzga
Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania
Washington, D.C.

Agriprocessors Isn’t Alone in Doing P.R.

Your July 4 article “Kosher Meat Giant Kicks Off P.R. Blitz” quotes Rabbi Morris Allen, one of the most outspoken critics of Agriprocessors, taking issue with the company’s recent public relations efforts. “It appears that sometimes, people’s best defense is not to look at themselves to make change,” Allen said. But your article fails to mention that Allen is also working with a public relations firm.

Should one argue that if Allen had a real issue to talk about, he would not need public relations professionals to help him proclaim it? That would be absurd. He uses public relations to help project the issue that he feels needs projecting. Allen cannot have it both ways.

Companies hire strategic public relations firms when they want to build or rebuild their images. That’s true whether we’re talking about a startup effort or an entity that suffered from a setback.

Agriprocessors’ public relations effort — which has included hiring our company — is a means of getting its message heard in a sea of hundreds of thousands of companies, issues and newsworthy items daily. A public relations strategy can help tell consumers how Agriprocessors is in business to provide quality food, while helping middle America’s struggling economy through jobs, homes and philanthropy.

Juda Engelmayer
Senior Vice President
Corporate and Public Affairs
5W Public Relations
New York, N.Y.

Enjoy Strauss’s Music, Not His Shortcomings

From the sound of Melvin Jules Bukiet’s opinion piece (“A Synagogue Is No Place to Perform Richard Strauss,” July 4), Congregation Ansche Chesed is doing just what Bukiet quotes Arturo Toscanini as having done, namely, taking off its “head covering” to Richard Strauss, the composer — not the man. So Ansche Chesed “doffs its yarmulke” to the composer! So? As Bukiet reports, it is only renting its premises to One World Symphony to perform Strauss’s music, not to condone his moral shortcomings.

Charles Haseloff
New York, N.Y.

‘Zohan’ Message Is More Sad Than Funny

Reading your June 27 article “The Commentator: Is Adam Sandler Our Greatest Jewish Mind?” I found myself wondering why the main character in “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” is one who decides to leave his country to settle in New York City. Similarly, in Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” the hero leaves Israel and stays in America. In contrast, a typical American spy thriller would have its hero return to the farm in Iowa, not abandoning his native society for a new life in Denmark. Apparently, some in Hollywood feel that the Jewish dream is to be an American — and not to participate in a specifically Jewish society.

Indeed, the author of the Forward’s essay on Sandler, Daniel Treiman, argues: “To be an American Jew today is to be, like Sandler, a part of the mainstream, not apart from it.” In other words, to be a Jew in America is another way of being a typical American. The Jewish experience in America is focused on how it compares to that of other Americans (“mainstream”), and not how it compares the experience of other Jews. How sad.

This is an utter collapse of the historical Jewish identity, in which, no matter where in the world one lived, being Jewish was central. The central Jewish experience of today’s world is in Israel, obviously, where the Jews have their own distinctive society, language and culture. The adoption of someone else’s heritage — “mainstream” American life — is not a Jewish drama.

Reuven Kalifon
Kibbutz Tzova, Israel

Real Jewish Men Don’t Cry in the Wild

You report that Larry King recently joked at a party about getting lost in the woods as an adult. “I began to do what any dumb Jewish boy would do; I began to cry,” he said (“Larry King’s Stand Up Act,” June 13).

But the many Jewish men I know, including my husband, cousins, brothers and former boyfriends wouldn’t cry if they were lost. In fact, they would have come prepared with the necessary equipment in the first place.

Leann Sherman
West Hartford, Conn.

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