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May 20, 2005

Social Research Needs Strong Central Bodies

I am not as convinced as opinion columnist Bethamie Horowitz that the outsourcing of research about critical areas of Jewish life to universities will prove to be a more effective way of gathering and organizing information necessary for the “ assessing the condition of America’s Jews” (“Social Research: Out From Under the Organizational Umbrella,” April 29).

My doubts arise from two sources. Separating the information seekers from the programmatic and policy implementers may turn out to be a dangerous erosion of the organized Jewish community’s power to determine what is best for their community. Methodological and analytic rigor is not a substitute for the long-term experiences that these bodies have with the unique issues and problems of their community that need remedy.

Also, giving research over to academics — who have in recent years shown great disdain for faith-based institutions and their customs and beliefs — is to declare surrender for those of us Jews who believe strongly that Jewish life in America needs strong central bodies sensitive to the concerns of Jews and locked in to its system of beliefs and practices.

Irv Kaufman

Bryn Mawr, Pa.

Profile Demands Closer Read of The Nation

The May 6 profile of The Nation’s Victor Navasky omits a crucial name: that of his successor as editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel (“Sticking to Principles, Turning a Profit at The Nation”).

I’m quite fond of Navasky and his accomplishments. And he made me a contributing editor of the magazine, for which I’ll always be grateful. But the circulation gains you write about, and The Nation’s transition from keeping its books in red ink to black, happened under vanden Heuvel’s editorship. Not mentioning that is a serious oversight.

Doug Henwood

Editor

Left Business Observer

New York, N.Y.

I was surprised to discover in the profile of Victor Navasky that The Nation had “published numerous writings about the ‘Zionist entity’ by late Palestinian scholar Edward Said.” I was not surprised that Said wrote about Middle East issues for The Nation; this I knew. Rather, the article seemed to imply that Said commonly referred to Israel as “the Zionist entity.”

Said — who was a longtime proponent of peace and reconciliation and a binational state with Israel and Palestine coexisting side by side — was a careful user of language and did not, to my knowledge, make use of such blundering references. As Navasky notes in his memoir, to have the courage to abandon such rhetoric was a sign of fierce independence, and Said called on Palestinians to do just this.

A full-text search of The Nation’s digital archive produces only one Said mention of the “Zionist entity,” a reference in which he argues that the Palestinian National Council triumphs by dropping the term from its official rhetoric. Said writes:”[A]ll the resolutions [of the 1988 P.N.C.] clearly intended willingness to negotiate directly. There are no disclaimers about the ‘Zionist entity,’ or about the legitimacy of Israeli representatives. All the relevant passages about peace, partition and statehood in the 1964 Palestinian National Covenant are flatly contradicted in the 1988 P.N.C. resolutions.”

Kelly Burdick

New York, N.Y.

Article Unfairly Scores Poles for Shoah Role

In the April 29 survey of the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum, the Forward reports that Poland was the only country that “allowed a higher proportion of its Jews to be killed than the Netherlands” (“In Memoriam”).

The use of the term “allowed” implies an element of voluntary permission that simply did not exist. Both Poland and the Netherlands were invaded and occupied by the Germans, who did not need local consent to implement their genocidal program.

The Forward’s insinuation is especially unjust to Poles, who suffered greater losses than the Dutch. To the Forward I pose the question: If the Poles had it within their power to save the 3 million Polish Jews killed by the Nazis and chose not to do so, why did they not save the approximately 2 million non-Jewish Poles also murdered by the Nazis, to whom anti-Jewish prejudices would not apply?

Charles Chotkowski

Director of Research Holocaust Documentation Committee

Polish American Congress

Fairfield, Conn.

Writer Amiss in Coming Clean on Abramoff Ties

Opinion columnist David Klinghoffer’s May 13 defense of Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff and the alliance between Jewish and Christian social conservatives omits a key piece of personal information (“An Attempt To Arrest Our Alliance With Evangelicals”).

Klinghoffer was the editor of the magazine published by Toward Tradition, the Seattle-based socially conservative Jewish think tank founded by Rabbi Daniel Lapin.

Significantly, Toward Tradition shares close ties to Abramoff, who remains a Toward Tradition board member despite his own ethical lapses. Further, Daniel Lapin’s brother, David, was a beneficiary of Abramoff’s largesse. As a result of Abramoff’s efforts, David Lapin received a $1.2 million no-bid contract from the government of the Northern Marianas.

In his opinion column, Klinghoffer admits to being conflicted by Abramoff’s ethical lapses and noble goals. Klinghoffer should also have disclosed his ties to Toward Tradition and David Lapin. Indeed, in a prior column in the Forward, Klinghoffer had no qualms quoting David Lapin on the importance of Sabbath observance.

Lloyd Green

Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Bring All of Stalin’s Henchmen to Justice

The headline to a May 13 article, “Ukrainians Want Jews Probed on War Crimes,” is unfortunate, perpetuating as it does the false notion that calls for investigations into Soviet war crimes are somehow “anti-Jewish.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our view is that all war criminals should be brought to justice, irrespective of an alleged perpetrator’s ethnic, religious, racial or political identity, or the period or place where the war crimes or crimes against humanity took place. We do not believe that the undeniable crimes of a few should be used to stereotype all members of any tribe, people or nation, nor do we elevate the suffering of the Ukrainian nation above all others.

Our organization recently launched an international campaign asking Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yushchenko, to establish an official commission of inquiry into Soviet war crimes and crimes against humanity. If such a body is empowered, and its investigations lead, for example, to the criminal prosecution of an individual who happens to be of Ukrainian nationality and Christian faith, so be it.

There should be no statute of limitations on war crimes, anywhere, nor can we imagine why anyone would be against bringing Stalin’s henchmen to justice, particularly given that “Uncle Joe” was not only a genocidal Ukrainophobe but an antisemite as well.

Lubomyr Luciuk

Director of Research

Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Toronto, Canada

Israeli Songstress Story Held To Smash Myth?

The May 13 Situation news analysis column misses the real story behind the story (“Basque Twist Tarnishes Jerusalem’s ‘Gold’”). Gil Aldema, to whom Naomi Shemer admitted that her tune “Jerusalem of Gold” was lifted from a Basque lullaby, was interviewed on Israeli radio. The interviewer asked why it took so long for him to publicize the letter from Shemer.

He answered that he told journalist Tom Segev about the letter months ago and did not understand what took so long for the story to break. Anyone familiar with Segev’s work knows exactly the reason: he wanted the myth-breaking story to coincide with Israeli Independence Day, and therefore kept the story from hitting the papers.

Jeremy Stern

Bet Shemesh, Israel

Awakened Soul Tends To Garden of the Mind

In a May 13 book review, Arts & Culture writer Jay Michaelson describes Zalman Schachter-Shalomi as having “taught environmental education” at Camp Ramah — a big stretch from his designated title of “religious environmentalist” (“An Awakened Soul”).

Schachter’s responsibility was to create the kind of religious and spiritual environment that he proposes in his book.

Moshe Zwang

West Hartford, Conn.

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