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April 1, 2005

Revised ‘Passion’ Still Morally Irresponsible

Mel Gibson still refuses to acknowledge what more than 100 biblical scholars and church leaders have said to him publicly: He is wrong in his presentation of responsibility for Christ’s death and is relaying the seeds of historic antisemitism in displaying it (“Less Gory ‘Passion’ Still Raises Hackles,” March 18).

He is fundamentally failing in moral responsibility, as antisemitism is a sin. I am gratified that the abridged version of his “The Passion of the Christ” has not been a commercial success thus far. The real issue is whether church leaders will say clearly and publicly that the film is not in accord with post-Vatican II teachings on Jews and Judaism, which have to prevail over the film in terms of Christian education.

Reverend John Pawlikowski


International Council of Christians and Jews

The Vatican, Vatican City

Felon’s Election Raises Paradox of Jewish Ethos

The recent election of Rabbi Moshe Rubashkin, a convicted felon, to head the Crown Heights Community Council raises a nagging paradox in Jewish ethos (“Felon Elected To Head Council in Brooklyn,” March 18). Notwithstanding the occasional tacit disregard for elements of secular law among Orthodox Jews, reverence for precepts of divine law is axiomatic. Nevertheless, violation, even of divine law, does not always entail communal ostracism.

A case in point is King David. Despite his surrender to carnal instincts, he enjoyed a reign of undiminished luster barely tarnished by his flagrant violation of the Seventh Commandment and by his involvement as a possible accessory in the disregard of the Sixth.

Marcel Binstock

Tulsa, Okla.

UJC Needs To Address Core Communal Issues

In reshaping its work force to more narrowly focus on the “support of human services” at the same time as it is reducing its commitment to the distinctive substance of Jewish life, United Jewish Communities is taking a giant step in precisely the wrong direction (“Wave of Firings Hits Federation Network,” March 18).

To begin with, it is an open question whether the foremost task of Jewish philanthropy should be to use federal funds to administer services to the general population. Whether the current structure of Jewish social services based on the needs of Jewish immigrants a century ago continues to make sense today is equally not self-evident. But what weighs most heavily is that there is an increasingly obvious and urgent need to marshal every available resource to reinforce the Jewish content of American Jewish life — a need underscored by recent polls showing the declining importance of Israel for many American Jews, and the declining significance of the synagogue. The UJC decision appears to ignore this need and to move in the opposite direction.

Six years ago, we called for a fundamental reassessment of Jewish philanthropy and questioned whether the current array of social services under Jewish auspices was appropriate. We observed then that the “issues… are too important to the well-being of the Jewish community to be decided by silence or inaction.” We noted that “the federation community declines to acknowledge these questions, let alone debate them seriously.” One federation was so incensed at us for even raising these questions that it denied our organization an annual subvention of nearly $100,000.

Six years later, nothing has changed. The issues are still unaddressed. They remain too important to be decided by inertia, even if relabeled “budget cuts.”

Marc Stern


Commission for Law and Social Action

Phil Baum

Senior Advisor on Foreign Affairs

American Jewish Congress

New York, N.Y.

New U.N. Ambassador Resembles Moynihan

The March 11 editorial headlined “The Bomb-Thrower as Diplomat” practiced its own form of bomb throwing by mostly deriding the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations.

In fairness, the editorial considers Bolton’s central role in helping overturn the U.N.’s odious Zionism-equals-racism resolution during the first President Bush’s term. The Forward also recognizes that the U.N. is a nasty, antisemitic entity in need of a strong and clear American presence that is tough about the oil-for-food scandal, the failure to address the horrors that occur in so many parts of the world and the one-sided anti-Israel rhetoric. To make progress at the U.N., we need someone who will be an advocate for democratic values.

Bolton is someone who speaks the truth when the U.N.’s “tower of Babel” distorts it. He very much reminds me of another great hero of the Jewish community who served as American ambassador to the U.N.: the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

William Rapfogel

Executive Director/CEO

Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty

New York, N.Y.

A ‘GI Jew’ Remembers WW II Zionism in Guam

Deborah Dash Moore’s new book, “GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation,” makes a very credible contrast between the Jewish GIs in the European Theater and those in the Pacific Theater (“The Transformative Tale of ‘GI Jews’,”February 18). Still, Guam — where I was stationed at a Navy base — had a considerable number of Jewish personnel.

We had a very strong concern for events in both Europe and Palestine. As a consequence, we organized what may have been, in either theater, the only wartime overseas chapter of the Zionist Organization of America. We had 70 members from Navy, Marine and Army B-29 forces.

To ensure that our monthly meetings had continuous leadership even during ongoing missions, we elected a triumvirate of leaders, one from each of the services. I was the Navy member of the triumvirate. We published the monthly Guam Zionist, with news from both Europe and Palestine.

Arthur Auster

Dunedin, Fla.

Calling a Place Home Is a Personal Decision

After considering Emily Hauser’s March 11 opinion article for some time, I think I finally understand her extreme discomfort (“My Self-imposed Exile From Israel”). She is looking for absolution for her decision to leave Israel. She has made the very rational choice to spare her children exposure to terrorism and service in the Israeli army, with its obvious imponderables.

Hauser pleads that she only knows how to be a Jew in Israel. Regardless of where she learned her Judaism, she should know that forgiveness for a vow made with God may be handled during the High Holy Days. There is no confessional in Judaism, nor do we have anyone to intercede on our behalf. In Judaism, promises made between an individual and God or conscience are dealt with in private.

Hauser wants her ambivalence about Israel elevated to a virtue. However, her ambivalence is really a cloak of self-righteous disingenuousness. Her gross oversimplification of the cause terrorism is “because Palestinian lives are brutally devalued.” This grotesque distortion of history neglects the pattern of murders, bombings and sabotage dating long before the establishment of the State of Israel. Hauser feigns naiveté about the fact that Israel has lived in a state of war since its inception.

I, too, am an American citizen, and I, too, have made decisions on where I will raise my children. I do not expect nor need to justify my decision to anyone but myself.

At the same time, I have some 6 million relatives living in the same home that Hauser describes as rendered uninhabitable by the “hurricane” that is the Middle East. These 6 million Israelis can not take Hauser’s self-righteous high road to America’s Midwest.

Eric Shapiro

Ferndale, N.Y.

Abandon Arcane Ritual

Kudos to Rabbi Moshe Tendler in his pursuit to abandon the practice of metzitzah b’peh, or oral suction of the circumcision wound (“Rabbi Targeted After Call for Bris Change,” March 18). Kudos to Tendler in his scientific approach. What an arcane and primitive ritual to observe, particularly given the possibility of the death of an infant.

The literature on tuberculosis that can be found on the Internet and in medical library archives dating back to 1913 indicate that infants did contract the disease from the mohel — and who knows how many have died as a result. Then there’s syphilis, herpes and, lest we forget, HIV.

Let’s come into the 21st century and use the sterile tube and avoid the possibility of infection. And speaking of the 21st century, if Rabbi Hillel Weinberger, chief rabbi of the kashrut division of the Satmer-run Central Rabbinical Council, wants to maintain traditions practiced for thousands of years, why not really go back in time and give up modern conveniences such as computers and cell phones?

Hertzlia Henkin

West Bloomfield, Mich.

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