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January 9, 2009

Warren Pick Doesn’t Speak to This American

Would you explain again how honoring Rick Warren at Barack Obama’s inauguration is, as your editorial put it, “speaking to all Americans” (“Praying With Rev. Warren,” January 2)? For whom will he be praying? And what will he pray for — our conversion?

It’s one thing to work with people with whom one doesn’t fully agree, or even to socialize with them. But to give Warren such a place of prominence on Inauguration Day is neither necessary nor wise.

Elaine Reuben
Washington, D.C.

The Real Shande Is Our Tribalism

There is absolutely no doubt that what Bernard Madoff has done is a great shande. I am surprised, however, at the tone of articles in Jewish publications, including the Forward editorial on the subject, that make it seem as if is a shande gadol because Madoff cheated so many Jews — as if it is more of a sin to have cheated his fellow Jews (“Other People’s Money,” December 26).

Personally, I find that stance to be an even bigger embarrassment. This is tribalism run amok.

Kitty Goldman
Buffalo, N.Y.

Anti-Israel Cartoonist Draws an Ugly Picture

Eddy Portnoy has written a thoughtful review of Joel Kotek’s “Cartoons and Extremism: Israel and the Jews in Arab and Western Media” (“Simple, Offensive and Out There,” December 26). Portnoy makes a convincing case that the book suffers from a failure to provide historical context or to make necessary distinctions among different types of antisemitism.

It is unfortunate, however, that Portnoy bends over backward to exonerate extreme-left Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff of the charge of antisemitism. True, unlike some of the other cartoonists featured in the book, Latuff does not seem to be influenced by Nazi techniques of Jew-baiting. But, pace Portnoy, it is not unreasonable to regard Latuff’s “furiously critical” cartoons about Israel as profoundly antisemitic. There are two reasons: First, Latuff’s equation of Israel’s actions with those of the Nazis goes beyond anything that could be considered reasonable criticism. Second, Latuff criticizes real and imagined transgressions of the Jews of Israel without ever apparently directing his critical attention to the plethora of brutality and hatred that emanates from Palestinian sources.

Werner Cohn
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Victims Are Equal, But Killers’ Motives Differ

The debate over how Jews should understand the Mumbai attacks demonstrates once again that we scions of Talmudic tradition can talk our way into missing the obvious (“Why the Jews? Debate Erupts Over How to Explain the Mumbai Terror,” December 26).

In almost every aspect of their attack, the Mumbai terrorists implemented the same strategy Al Qaeda used on 9/11. Aware that they could not physically overwhelm their enemy, as a regular army tries to do on the battlefield, they sought to deliver a blow, limited in scope but of great severity and daring, designed to inflict psychological damage that makes it difficult, even impossible, for life to go on as it was before the attack. By hitting the railroad station and hotels frequented by affluent locals and business travelers, the perpetrators sent a message to India’s government and the international business community that it was no longer safe to do business in Mumbai. The victims’ race, religion, ethnicity or nationality seemed to be of little interest to them, just as their Al Qaeda counterparts showed no hesitation about killing fellow Muslims along with anybody else who happened to be at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

At Mumbai’s Chabad center the terrorists pursued a different objective. Here, the victims’ religion was the only thing that mattered. The killers’ sole purpose was to murder Jews. Their fierce determination in this regard can be seen in their willingness to divert men and weapons from the larger targets, just to get at a rabbi, his wife and a handful of guests.

Jews must mourn all those who died in Mumbai, just as we mourn our own dead. Indeed, the Chabad-sponsored memorial I attended in Santa Barbara had 200 candles set out, one for each victim. But equality in death does not imply that all the victims died for the same reason. The Jews murdered that night were not killed for their role in India’s economic growth. They died because they were Jews.

Rabbi Ira Youdovin
Santa Barbara, Calif.

Don’t Caricature Orthodox Concerns

As a member of the Orthodox Jewish community who voted for Barack Obama, I too found some of the arguments against Obama circulating in Orthodox circles distasteful, unfounded and (at their worst) bigoted. Yet the most enlightened (and effective) way to fight bigotry is not to engage in counter-bigotry. For that reason, I object to the Eli Valley cartoon “The 1-in-5 Majority,” printed in your December 12 issue.

Many of the Orthodox Jews I know who feared an Obama presidency were motivated not by an uncritical allegiance to Israel, or by a blind hatred of blacks, but rather by a world view that sees Islamicist terror as the greatest danger facing our country and other Western states. They noted Obama’s documented association with Rashid Khalidi, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and others, and they suspected that the senator would be lax or indifferent in facing the barbarism of Middle Eastern terrorist groups.

I chose to vote the way I did not because I idolized Obama, as some in the Jewish community did, or saw him as a surrogate for racial healing, as others did (and as he, in his notable speech in Philadelphia, urged voters not to do). Instead, I voted for Obama because I believe he is a bright thinker and a savvy politician, who was more aware than John McCain of the centrality of economic woes to the health of our polity and better skilled to deal with that reality. But I respect the concerns of my fellow community members as well.

The Forward has spoken out recently against shortcomings by Orthodox leaders in the Rubashkin case, by invoking values of our tradition that compel us to treat all humanity with respect and decency. I would respectfully point out that these same values apply to your Orthodox co-religionists as well.

Harry Glazer
Highland Park, N.J.

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