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December 24, 2004

‘You Gotta Go to Iran’

David Twersky’s selective quote in his December 17 opinion article on the exchange between Bill O’Reilly and his radio caller is misleading (“A Lesson in American Civics”). According to Twersky’s rendering, O’Reilly said that the United States is “a predominantly Christian nation.” “If you are really offended,” O’Reilly added according to Twersky, “you gotta go to Israel then.”

But here’s what O’Reilly said, as reported by James Taranto in “What I’m tellin’ you is I think you’re takin’ it too seriously. You have a predominantly Christian nation. You have a federal holiday based on the philosopher Jesus. And you don’t wanna hear about it? Come on, if you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel then.”

O’Reilly recommended emigration as a remedy for dealing with the caller being offended, not for being Jewish. The choice of Israel, however ill-informed, was a knee-jerk reaction to the caller’s self-proclaimed Jewish identity. Actually, O’Reilly is wrong, but not for the reasons that Twersky gives.

The remedy for avoiding Christmas is not immigration to Israel, where the holiday is celebrated publicly and the country contains numerous religious and historical Christian symbols. There are, no doubt, some disconcerted Christian celebrants in Israel who observe Christmas as members of a minority religion, just as the converse situation applies to some Jews in America.

A better option for those offended by Christmas-Hanukkah is emigration to Saudi Arabia or to Iran. I believe that Twersky, O’Reilly and the radio caller would easily reach a consensus by contemplating that option.

Elias Greenbaum

Knoxville, Tenn.

Give Credit to Camps

The fine December 10 article about Shlomo Shulsinger and Camp Massad was a moving and well-deserved tribute to both this important camp personality and the institution he founded and headed for so many years (“Summer Camp Alumni Gather To Commemorate Founder”).

However, the Forward is mistaken in making the sweeping statement that “Massad is single-handedly responsible for the contemporary phenomenon of Jewish summer camps in the United States…. In ways large and small… almost every American Jewish summer camp owes a debt of gratitude to Massad.” Such a statement is not only unfair to other Jewish camps that have contributed so much to informal Jewish education over time, but it is also misleading.

The first two Jewish educational camps on the North American scene were Boiberik and Cejwin, each founded in 1919 — decades before Massad was created. Not only was Boiberik a pioneering Jewish educational camp that lasted 60 years, but it also was the first of no fewer than 40 camps, most opened prior to 1940, where the Yiddish language was taught and was an integrated part of the program, just as Hebrew was at Massad in the 1940s and beyond. These camps’ commitment to Yiddishkeit, Jewish continuity, culture and tradition, and their unique use of a Jewish language as an educational tool, provided many innovative models for future camps to which Massad added.

The fact that there were many other Jewish education camps predating and following Massad in no way diminishes that camp’s contributions to the field. But in all fairness, in writing about Jewish camping and its accomplishments, one must include the various Zionist youth movement camps, the Ramah camps, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and National Council of Synagogue Youth camps, and others that offered intensive Jewish educational programs. All helped change the face of Jewish education in North America, and also can produce, as Massad has, rosters of now famous alumni.

Fradle Pomerantz Freidenreich

Herzliya, Israel

Assets Report on Target

As chairman of the Survivors of the Holocaust Asset Recovery Project of Washington State, I am fully aware of my state insurance commissioner’s position in regard to the performance of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (“Agency Slow To Handle Holocaust Claims,” December 10). I was therefore dumbfounded by survivor spokesman Roman Kent’s denunciation of the insurance commissioner’s report. For the past five years, I have worked closely with the Office of Insurance Commissioner of Washington State and have been very much impressed by what that office has done, and still is doing, on behalf of Holocaust survivors.

I, too, have read the October report by the Washington State Insurance Commissioner’s Holocaust Survivors Assistance Office and found it accurate in contents. I am impressed that it points out that Icheic has failed in its commitment to survivors. Icheic has spent millions of dollars for travel and administration, and we survivors have seen very few results.

Taking more than three years to match 52,175 of 519,009 names in Icheic’s database is disgusting — particularly given that, as I understand it, 45,152 of the 52,175 names were received from Generali. This points out major inefficiencies.

I have been in the computer business since 1952, and have provided mail-list management services to customers in the Seattle area since the 1970s. I have done name matching for databases that hold more than 300,000 names — it never required more than 12 hours.

At the rate Icheic is going, I, too, wonder if we survivors will ever see any of the insurance money in our lifetime. I will be 72 years old next month, and already have had a five-way heart bypass. I only hope that the insurance money for which I have fought will be distributed to my heirs in their lifetime.

Fred Taucher

Via e-mail

The Dynamics of Abuse

I was dismayed but not surprised to learn from a December 17 article that Rabbi Yosef Blau has recanted his support for Amy Neustein, whose legal battle to protect her child from a sexually abusive Orthodox Jewish father failed (“Mothers Push Reforms in Family Courts’ Handling of Custody Cases”). As a formerly battered mother and a psychologist whose specialty is abusive dynamics, I am painfully aware of the typical pattern that emerges when a woman alleges that her child has been sexually abused by the father: No one wants to believe her — especially those who, like the leaders of the Orthodox community, are invested in maintaining an aura of respectability. Consequently, the mother is deemed hysterical, a liar, a “parental alienator”; her circle of support collapses, and the court system, her friends and, yes, even her clergy, turn against her.

In our society, where one fourth of girls and one sixth of boys experience some form of sexual abuse by the time they turn 18, mothers are morally, spiritually and legally bound to protect their children from abuse. But when they take the necessary steps to protect their children, as did Neustein, she is disbelieved and abandoned, trapped in a Catch-22 situation that never ends.

Mo Therese Hannah

Associate Professor of Psychology

Siena College

Loudonville, N.Y.

Respect Yiddishkeit

A November 26 article presents an audacious review of “Fun with Dick and Jane,” a tasteless book which the reviewer describes as a “first-rate primer for mastering the basics that fall from your bubbe’s lips, and is a playful baby-step in keeping Yiddishkeit alive for the next generation” (“See Dick. See Dick Kvell. Kvell, Dick, Kvell”).

The book’s Yiddishkeit teaches words like dreck, shnorrer and shtupping. What a dearth, the book’s authors remind us, we suffer of lovers of Yiddish.

I keep recalling the Arbeter Ring primer we so proudly handed out to new registrants for our Yiddish classes. The first page reads, “Motele geyt in shul, Gitele geyt in shul.” — setting Yiddishkeit with a gracious tone of emphasizing learning. Even the French primer I remember starts with the very bland, “Le crayon est sur la table.”

The Forward should be the penultimate newspaper, second only to the Forverts, to keep Yiddish alive, respected and beautiful. How can you commend a review when Yiddish is cheapened and painted in muddy shmutz and raggedy schmattes?

Marjorie Schonhaut Hirshan


Palm Shores Yiddish Club

Boynton Beach, Fla.

Tired Liberal Prejudices

James Goldsborough’s December 10 opinion column on how Jews voted in the recent presidential election might have been nixed by his former newspaper because “it might offend some readers,” but it didn’t offend this New York Jewish Republican (“Too Hot for San Diego: Why Jews Voted for Kerry”). It simply saddened me to read another out-of-touch and over-agitated Jewish columnist convinced that non-Democrats are Cossacks in cowboy boots.

Of course, President Bush wasn’t going to win the Jewish vote this time. But this election did show that more and more young Jews realize that our place is in the party that better addresses our concerns now. We care about social justice, but we don’t equate that ideal with the increasingly incoherent, paranoid and oppositional Democratic platform. We do not think that all of Jewish history culminated in the 2004 presidential election.

Fifteen years from now, when Jewish Republicans are not the exception but the rule, Jewish ideals will go on as they always have done. Only Goldsborough’s prejudices will be offended.

Isaac Meyers

Cambridge, Mass.

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