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No Coincidence

Your August 3 article, “Circle of Pro-Israel Writers Rises,” mentions two former editors at Foreign Affairs, David Feith and Jordan Hirsch. What the article didn’t say was that each got his position, in subsequent years, through an extraordinarily competitive annual search for our junior editorial slot, beating out hundreds of other super-qualified candidates — and that each hire was a smashing success. When told during the Civil War that Ulysses S. Grant had a drinking problem, Abraham Lincoln supposedly replied, “Find out what he drinks and send a case of it to my other generals.” That’s pretty much how I feel about any editorial development program that produced the two of them, regardless of its politics or funders.

Gideon Rose
Editor, Foreign Affairs
New York, N.Y.

Members and Non-Members

I found the August 17 article about discrepancies between synagogue membership and those who actually attend one very interesting. However, one part of the discrepancy in membership counts is missing. I expect that if you get membership numbers directly from the synagogues, they are not accurate, anyway. This is a part of the challenge the movements face when reporting actual membership numbers.

Many synagogues carry some members with no dues for financial reasons, and the member will claim membership but not show up in membership reported by the synagogue. There are a lot of non-paying members in a synagogue for many reasons. If a synagogue reports the number of paid members, I would expect it is lower than it actually is. Since dues to any of the movements are based on members reported, any reduction in that number lowers the dues they have to pay.

The difference between the UJA-Federation of New York study and those reported by the movements is probably less than in the article. These days, saving money is a driving force in keeping the doors open and dues obligations lower.

Bernard King-Smith
Lake Katrine, N.Y.
Defining Terms

While Jay Michaelson’s August 3 column, “When the Right Is Right About the Left,” constitutes a breath of fresh air, there’s one point at which he opens up a problem from our common progressive perspective. It’s in how we define our terms.

The very fact that Michaelson and I (plus the left-wing Israel bashers we both oppose) all call ourselves “progressive” or “left” is a problem in itself. We need to resuscitate the notion of the liberal left, center left or moderate left — or even the much-maligned and shunned label of “liberal.” This is a way out of the confusion expressed by Michaelson in the following: “… the radical-left shell game also causes conservatives to be rightly suspicious of anything the left says. J Street, for example, consistently and regularly repeats that it supports the existence and security of the State of Israel. Yet because its further-left allies do not make the same assurances, the whole progressive enterprise is viewed with suspicion by the right….”

I wonder what “further-left allies” of J Street he’s referring to. I am only aware of one group arguably to J Street’s left that can properly be regarded as its ally, and that’s a pro-Zionist organization, Partners for Progressive Israel (formerly Meretz USA).

J Street doesn’t proclaim its support and concern for Israel as a ploy; being “pro-Israel” is its raison d’etre.

Ralph Seliger
NYC Communication Committee Member, J Street
New York, N.Y.

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