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January 28, 2005

Ad Against Withdrawal Crosses Communal Line

The Forward ran an ad in the January 21 issue about the Gaza withdrawal plan, listing the Zionist Organization of America’s Washington office as its sponsor.

We need to inform your readers that the individual who personally wrote and placed this ad did not receive the approval or authorization of anyone at the ZOA’s national office to run this ad. This was made more evident by the omission of the ZOA’s official logo in the ad. Although we at the ZOA, believe the Gaza withdrawal plan is a serious mistake, we do not subscribe to the views and reject the analogies, direct or indirect, expressed in this ad.

Morton Klein

National President

Michael Goldblatt

Chairman of the Board

Alan Mazurek

Chairman, National Executive Committee

Zionist Organization of America

New York, N.Y.

We were shocked that the Forward chose to publish an advertisement placed by the Zionist Organization of America’s Brandeis district that was filled with hateful imagery and incitement aimed at members of the Jewish community who do not share the political views of the advertiser.

As disturbing as the content of the ad is the Forward’s decision to accept it; this shows a complete disregard of acceptable standards for advertising. No publication is required to print a paid advertisement. The vitriolic rhetoric in the ZOA ad certainly has no place in the Forward, which reaches such a large segment of the Jewish community.

We know — as the Forward should — that hateful words can have devastating consequences.

Abraham Foxman

National Director

Anti-Defamation League

New York, N.Y.

Community Absent on Ethiopian Immigration

Thank you for your report on a new coalition advocating the speedy immigration to Israel of the remnant of the Ethiopian Jewish community, consisting of Knesset members, the Jewish Agency, members of Congress and Jewish communal federations (“Knesset Urges Raising Quota for Ethiopian Jews,” December 31, 2004 ).

The North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry is thrilled by this development and that Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Charlie Rangel are lending their prestige, compassion and intelligence to the effort to expedite the immigration of the remaining Ethiopian Jews. They and their staffs regularly ask to be briefed on the issue and have expressed many times their disappointment at the slow pace of immigration and family reunification, especially when they were told directly by Prime Minister Sharon and others in the Israeli government that it would be achieved quickly.

The congressmen both clearly recognize the heroic and historic role that the State of Israel has played in the ingathering of Jews-at-risk and the very positive impression that has left with many in the United States and elsewhere. They have even offered to seek additional funds for the Jewish Agency to help resettle the remnant of this ancient Jewish community. Shockingly, no one in the Israeli government or the federation system has initiated a request for such expanded funding, even as the government states that there is not an adequate budget to quickly bring the Ethiopian Jews out of their ghastly living conditions to be reunited with their families and realize their centuries-old prayer for a return to Jerusalem.

We hope that the new coalition of advocates on behalf of Ethiopian Jews will move quickly to take advantage of the interest of Rangel and Nadler to seek funds from Congress, and also from the federation network, to ensure a speedy immigration. Thus are miracles made.

Ricki Lieberman

Chief Operating Officer

The North American Conference

on Ethiopian Jewry

New York, N.Y.

Turning Another Page

Of the American Story

I would like to tell you how much I enjoyed the January 7 article on public libraries (“How Public Libraries Turned Us Into the People of the Books”).

For 30 years I was the children’s librarian at a public library north of Chicago. I was the library lady to a new generation of immigrant children from Korea, the Middle East, India and Mexico. In the 1950s, my children enjoyed the series of books about “All-of-a-kind Family” by Sydney Taylor. They were beloved books about a family of immigrant Jewish girls in New York who were helped at The New York Public Library by their “library lady,” who was of an Irish American background.

The seasons turned, and I, one of the Jewish children, became the library lady to a new group of immigrants. Everything came full circle. This has always touched me.

Joan Gross

Glenview, Ill.

Open Discussion About Alcohol in Our Society

I was intrigued by the December 31, 2004, article on Natan Sharansky’s visit to the Bronx (“Tipplers in Exile After Refusenik’s Synagogue Visit”).

At first I thought perhaps it was a friendly poke at modern-day activism, or perhaps a snippet from a “Where Are They Now?” cable television show. Only when you began delving into a supposed age-old conflict regarding the holiness of Kiddush clubs did it dawn on me that the Forward might have passed on an important opportunity to raise the level of conversation about alcoholism in our Jewish schools, synagogues and homes.

Not clinical alcoholism, per se, but the alcoholism that drives away children from their parents and congregants away from their rabbis. This type of alcoholism is on the rise, and we should be applauding efforts to address the problem rather than poking fun at those who do.

For years, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale has not been using alcohol at our functions, religious or otherwise. The Orthodox Union has also weighed in on the debate. In a public letter dated January 18, the O.U. introduces a massive educational and clerical initiative to discuss and teach about the dangers of alcohol. They assert that the Kiddush club signifies “lack of respect for the synagogue and the elevation of the culture of alcohol.”

By my count, the Forward has lumped together Sharansky, Rabbi Avi Weiss, the O.U., the Soloveitchik Institute and many others who publicly decry Kiddush clubs as “dissidents.” Now that’s a breakaway movement I would be proud to be a part of.

Marc Spear

Executive Director

Hebrew Institute of Riverdale

Bronx, N.Y.

Team of Demographers Worked by the Numbers

We are disappointed with the Forward’s linkage of our report, “Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza: The Million and a Half Person Gap,” with opposition to the Gaza disengagement plan (“Right Mobilizes Against Gaza Pullout as Bush, Sharon Plan to Meet Abbas,” January 14).

Our eight-member American-Israeli team is composed of individuals who possess a variety of political views on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Our report is a data-driven, nonpolitical document. We wonder whether other reports, which rely heavily on Palestinian Authority-supplied data, ever would have been branded as political in the pages of the Forward.

The study, begun in March 2004, was recently released because we finally finished our exhaustive analysis and audit of the population figures released by the P.A. Central Bureau of Statistics. Annual data released by the P.A. Ministry of Health and data released by the P.A. Central Elections Commission with this month’s election helped seal the conclusion: The P.A.’s reported 3.8 million population figure for the West Bank and Gaza was grossly overstated. Our analysis found only 2.4 million Arabs living in the territories at the start of 2004.

There were fewer births, emigration instead of immigration, and double counting of Jerusalem residents and individuals who have left the P.A. territories to live abroad or in Israel. The full report and methodology is available for review at Critics might benefit from actually reading the report and should understand that other documents they have seen, such as figures from the Jewish Agency, have simply plugged in numbers released by the P.A.

If the Forward had consulted with the more than 25 Washington leaders who attended our debut presentation at the American Enterprise Institute, you would have found that the most common compliment received by the team was that we kept distant from politics altogether. Our news release voices disagreement with the contention that Israel is being demographically overwhelmed because those are the facts we found in our examination.

Bennett Zimmerman

Project Leader

Los Angeles, Calif.

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