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February 27, 2004

Negative Assessment Of War Is Premature

Your editorial’s conclusion (“Intelligence and Wisdom,” February 20) that the administration committed an error of great magnitude in taking us to war in Iraq is, respectfully, premature.

After more than 40 years we miraculously emerged unscathed from a world in which our very survival rested on the concept of mutually assured destruction, only to enter into an even more dangerous world. Now our survival is threatened not by one superpower restrained by the knowledge that our destruction would mean its destruction, but by several unfriendly states developing nuclear weaponry, and many scattered groups and individuals altogether unrestrained by any concerns for their own destruction and searching for the best means to bring about ours.

Yeats envisioned a time when chaos and anarchy are loosed upon a world with many falcons but no falconer. Whatever its other failings, this administration correctly concluded after 9/11 that there is no other falconer, that for our own survival not only terrorists but the nations which harbor them must be stopped, and that the war on terror may be a very long war indeed.

In that kind of war, was it wrong for the administration to select as its next target, after the Taliban in Afghanistan, a brutal dictator who twice invaded other states and who used weapons of mass destruction against his own people? Can the war on terror ever be won if no one, not even the United States, is willing to fight it?

It has yet to be decided whether we are good enough and smart enough and persistent enough to win that war even within Iraq. But heaven help us if we don’t.

Theodore R. Mann

Philadelphia, Pa.

Worrying About All The Wrong Things

Surely something is seriously wrong at the Forward when an editorial asserts that America went to war against Iraq and Saddam Hussein “because of a worldview that makes an ideology out of alarmism” (“Intelligence and Wisdom,” February 20) and elsewhere in the same paper there are articles given over to alarmist concerns about the threat a movie about Jesus Christ poses to the Jewish community.

There can be no crying wolf over a murderous dictator and the pre-war realities of Iraq. By contrast, a hysterical preemptive strike over a motion picture predicting it will fuel rising antisemitism is not just unwarranted and illogical, it is tactless. As I read the attacks against Mel Gibson and any Jew who might dare to fail to protest his pro-Jesus flick (“Some of Mel’s Best Friends Are Jewish,” February 20), I could find no sense in the Forward that the Christian reaction to this film could be something other than ominously bad for our community.

While the Jewish left is loudly protesting and predicting disaster, Christians are quietly predicting that this film will be ennobling for the Christian community and will have no anti-Jewish consequences. Since the film is made for the Christians, isn’t their reaction the pertinent one?

David N. Friedman

Bethesda, Md.

Yoga Service Empties Judaism of Content

Because I struggle with finding meaning in prayer services, I began to read your February 20 article about yoga and prayer with an open mind (“Grasping for God With Arms Outstretched,” February 20). By the end, I was reminded of the old saying, “one can only be so opened-minded before their brains fall out.”

Isn’t Jewish prayer supposed to be about connecting with God? Is that no longer the agenda? In the article, one practitioner said that yoga can be integrated with “the depths of Torah.” Sounds good. When the rabbi who leads the yoga services mentions a specific prayer, the Shema, it is simply described as “a focus on openheartedness.” That’s about as deep an understanding as referring to “Romeo and Juliet” as about relationships.

Jeffrey Korbman

Highland Park, N.J.

Please Don’t Be So Modest, Neil Sedaka

Your article on Neil Sedaka was very informative, but Sedaka, characteristically, understated his contribution to the music scene (“Brighton Beach to Carnegie Hall: Neil Sedaka Sings a Familiar Tune,” February 20). Besides the languages he related to the Forward, Sedaka also recorded in Hebrew, and had a best-selling 45 in Israel, which included Hebrew renditions of “Oh Carol” and his mother’s favorite “You Mean Everything to Me.”

His versatility as an artist was recognized early in his career by RCA Victor, which released an album of a 22-year-old Sedaka singing standards written by, among others, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Rodgers and Hart. The list of artists who recorded his songs are too numerous to mention, but Abba, Gloria Estefan and the Four Seasons should have been noted.

Sedaka is modest when he says that the last time he hit the pop charts was in 1980. In 1995, he recorded a CD of classical music, titled “Classically Sedaka,” for which he penned the lyrics. This best seller remained in the Top 30 in England for more than two months, and it reinforced his status as a truly versatile performer. And now Yiddish at Carnegie Hall. Wow! Sedaka has almost come full circle — after all, wasn’t it his bar mitzvah tutor who suggested, after Sedaka’s performance of his haftorah, that he become a chazan?

Martin S. Labow

Montreal, Quebec

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