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August 22, 2008

What Did Kosher Plant Do for Migrants’ Kin?

It’s difficult not to be cynical about Agriprocessors’ effort to improve its image in the Jewish community by hosting a contingent of Orthodox rabbis, supposedly for them to see first hand how the plant treats its animals and its employees (“Orthodox Leaders Tour Agriprocessors, Give Plant Clean Bill of Health,” August 15).

The company’s treatment of its employees has drawn criticism in the wake of a recent immigration raid, which resulted in the arrest and conviction of hundred of workers for using false Social Security numbers.

While the government’s aggressive, and probably unconstitutional, tactics have been criticized, Agriprocessors has thus far evaded real scrutiny. Now some Orthodox rabbis and community leaders visit the plant and tell us that the company treats its employees just fine. That’s exactly what happened when an Orthodox rabbi visited the plant in 2006 after a Forward investigation revealed questionable labor practices.

After the immigration raid, when hundreds of breadwinners were detained — and hundreds of families, including many children, were afraid and forced to fend for themselves — the Postville school district and local church leaders stepped in to assist. Maybe the Orthodox leaders who visited Postville ought to have asked what exactly Agriprocessors did to help these families. One would hope that a company founded by Jewish refugees would have made an effort to assist the defenseless family members of the arrested workers — but I doubt it did much.

Jason Dzubow
Washington, D.C.

Partisans Played Role In Attacks on Poles

Whether or not Tuvia Bielski-led partisans took part in a 1943 Soviet raid on the Polish town of Naliboki, one point in this controversy must be stressed: Jewish participation in attacks on Poles is not a figment of an antisemitic imagination (“Polish Investigators Tie Partisans to Massacre,” August 15).

Former Jewish partisans have admitted their responsibility in books published after the war. Isaac Kowalski and Chaim Lazar recount their part in a punitive raid on the Polish village of Koniuchy in, respectively “A Secret Press in Nazi Europe” (1969) and “Destruction and Resistance” (1985).

These attacks were not random. Most Jewish partisans were affiliated with the Soviet partisan command and subject to orders from Moscow. Soviet policy called for the suppression of Polish partisans and Polish village self-defense in this disputed area of eastern Poland which the Soviets had annexed in 1939 and intended to keep after the war.

Jewish partisans needed Soviet support, and obedience to anti-Polish orders was part of the price of Jewish survival. One might accept that they had no other choice, but what is unacceptable is the subsequent denigration of their victims — Polish partisans and villagers — as Nazi collaborators.

Yet more unseemly are the diversionary tactics today of those in denial about the ugly realities of partisan warfare in the eastern Polish borderlands, who accuse all Poles of culpability for genocide committed by the Germans. The Polish people did not cause the Holocaust and were powerless to stop it.

Charles Chotkowski
Fairfield, Conn.

Focus on Economy, Not Reopening Lady Liberty’s Crown

What a stunning disappointment to read Rep. Anthony Weiner’s August 1 opinion article on reopening the Statue of Liberty’s crown (“Lady Liberty Is Yearning To Breathe Free”). My dissatisfaction with the congressman stems from what I can only guess is his underlying motivation in penning the article.

We’re faced with deep economic and political problems in this country that no one needs to itemize. Yet Weiner chooses to devote his efforts and the prestige of his office to restoring access to the crown of the Statute of Liberty. This strikes me as a supreme waste of time, energy and resources.

The congressman’s efforts will help no family attain a more affordable mortgage, nor it will put food on the tables of those in need. Weiner offers bread and circus to distract a constituency groaning under the weight of a Congress that can’t stay out of its own way. I expect more from a New York Democrat.

Ira Harris Grolman
Boston, Mass.

Remember Context of Hiroshima Bombing

According to opinion writer Rabbi Marla Feldman, “the Jewish and Japanese destruction narrative are stories of devastation followed by perseverance, resilience and survival” (“On This Tisha B’Av, Remember Hiroshima,” August 15). While that statement may well be literally true, it implies an equivalency that completely disregards historical context.

More than 40 million civilians were killed in World War II. Of these, about a quarter of a million were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Why should the loss of those quarter of a million lives be mourned more than the loss of the other 40 million? Is it because of the weapon that was used? Is it of no significance that President Truman’s decision to use that weapon saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of American troops — including the fathers of millions of Americans alive today who would likely never have been conceived had the war gone on for another year or two while the Japanese defended the Home Islands the same way they had defended Okinawa?

Is it also of no significance that, by ending the war sooner rather than later, far more Japanese lives were saved than were lost at Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Unlike the Japanese murder of 300,000 Chinese civilians in Nanking — let along all the other violence that that killed over 9 million Chinese civilians and millions more in other occupied countries — the dropping of the atomic bombs served a necessary purpose and brought the most terrible war in human history to an end.

This context must be remembered in any discussion of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Michael Ticktin
Roosevelt, N.J.


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