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September 12, 2003

Burg: Voice of Reason, Or Defeatist Leader?

Opinion writer Avraham Burg’s words are a sign that there remains in Israel a voice of reason and justice (“A Failed Israeli Society Collapses While Its Leaders Remain Silent,” August 29).

As a Greek citizen, I could never envision Izmir (Smyrna) and Istanbul (Konstantinoupoli) ever belonging to any nation but Greece. For that matter I find it hard to believe that Cyprus is still being negotiated for today. I can therefore understand the frustration of Israeli citizens in not being able to have the whole of Jerusalem to themselves.

But I have learned to accept the fate of our Greek cities and territories and chalk it up to past neglect by none other than my own ancestors. Also it would be inhuman and morally wrong for me, or any well meaning Greek to take these cities back by force. The citizens who live there have no other place to call home, and to them my right is but a historical footnote.

I would imagine that the present citizens of Israel should be eternally grateful that they have a place to call home.

I wish Burg well in his courageous work in bringing the truth to his people. It is a joy to know that there is another side to Zionism that can truly be appreciated by the rest of us.

Konstantinos Lykopoulos

Englewood, Fla.

Former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg’s opinion article cannot fail to become the antisemite’s new point of reference. He has undermined our battle against racism, whether in the ex-Yugoslavia, Rwanda or against hatred for Muslims and Jews in Europe. Burg forgets the Biblical commandment that Jews must free the victims of slavery, but also the disdain for he who rejects his own human right to liberty.

While we Jews may strive to carry “the light unto the nations” of the Talmudic ethic “If I am only for myself, what am I?”, Burg betrays its tandem principle, “If I am not for myself, then who will be?”

Shimon Samuels

Director for International Liaison

Simon Wiesenthal Centre

Paris, France

I applaud the Forward for having the courage to publish Avraham Burg’s opinion article — a statement so bold that it would have caused many a so-called progressive publication to flinch.

Paul Woodward

Marshall, N.C.

Opinion writer Avraham Burg wants to know why everyone remains silent while the Israeli government continues what he considers failed policies. When I was in Israel in January, I didn’t notice silence; what I noticed were Burg’s allies speaking very loudly.

It isn’t that people are silent, it’s that they no longer choose to listen to the defeatist, surrender mentality of Burg. The Israelis spoke quite loudly at the ballot box and it is Burg’s party that is in danger of disappearing.

Unlike Burg’s dire prediction, Israel continues to excel academically, industrially and militarily. She remains a light to the nations — the difference being that today it is to those nations involved in the fight against terrorism.

Jonathan Reich

Lakeland, Fla.

Avraham Burg is a true hero to the Jewish people and his views are completely accurate. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to read his work. He gives me hope.

Your publication gives me hope.

Lincoln Forte

Los Barriles, Mexico

Avraham Burg’s opinion article is a very noble and wise statement on where Israel stands today. Quite boldly, he makes the humble assertion that all of the answers are not known. All we really have is a moral framework, and abandoning that framework for the illusions of comfort is the disaster that is unfolding before us.

Ignoring what is right for what is expedient or comfortable is a sure path to more discomfort, more bloodshed and more darkness.

Eli Beckerman

Somerville, Mass.

Spirit of David Theatre Dances to Beat of Love

An August 22 article about the Spirit of David Dance Theatre from Dimona, Israel, was written in a way that failed to convey the nature and purpose of the company’s goodwill tour (“Dance Troupe From Israel Wraps Up Goodwill Tour of America”). Instead of reporting on a cultural tour, the Forward wrote a hostile political piece in a spirit of alienation, separation and hostility.

The members of the Spirit of David Dance Theatre, from the African Hebrew Israelite Community of Jerusalem, came to the United States to share their life and culture as part of the family of Israel. Their performances are a celebration of the joy and delight at the goodness that is given to us by the Creator.

Dancing is a lifestyle. Their dance is the expression of truth and of love for oneself, others and God. It was evident that dance is prayer in each movement of this wonderful company of young people from the Negev desert. It is this kind of prayer that the Spirit of David Dance Theatre hoped would be the common thread that would unite people of all cultural manifestations. Dance has, throughout history, always been a dominate port of divine rites and praise.

Far from being a folkloristic dance group or religious sect, the Spirit of David Dance Theatre consists of 25 highly professional young people and young adults that embrace African, African American and Western dance traditions in a perfect symbiosis within a newly created style of African Edenic Dance. The dance mirrors their love and praise for the Creator and truth. It also mirrors the culture of their ancestors and the land of their history — Israel. It merges the different cultural traditions of black people all over the world, including those who have lived in Israel for thousands of years.

The Spirit of David Dance Theatre came to the United States at a time of unrest in Israel to inspire hope and to give the world an opportunity to see another face of Israel — a face of love and praise. One can tell stories with dance — a blessing, for if one is lacking words, one can express love and peace through movement. It is my prayer that Forward readers would want to learn more about this remarkable community.

Toni Luck

Managing Director

Spirit of David Dance Theatre

Howell, N.J.

Redefine ‘Left-wing’

An August 29 article on the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington quoted me as a “left-wing” figure “far removed from the leading national Jewish organizations” (“Jewish Organizations Absent at Civil Rights Rally”).

“Far removed from the leading national Jewish organizations”? In fact, before accepting the invitation to speak at the rally, I consulted with one of the key leaders of mainstream Jewry, who strongly urged me to speak. Those leaders blundered by choosing not to be present alongside the National Education Association, National Council of Churches, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Organization for Women and, not to mention Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King III.

Now, when American society is finally seeing through the shams and scams of the Bush administration, the “official” Jewish leadership is isolating itself both from the growing progressive energies in the country and from millions of Jews.

“Left-wing”? I condemned the White House lies that are still killing Americans and Iraqis and all the people who will die from illnesses that cannot be treated because it shoveled the money down a rat-hole for this war. I condemned the tax breaks that put hundreds of billions of dollars in the hands of the superwealthy, and the budget cuts that are starving our schools and hospitals, our local cops and firefighters. I condemned Attorney General John Ashcroft’s attacks on civil liberties, and the imprisonment of an untold number of immigrants with no access to family or lawyers. I condemned anti-woman judicial nominees, the increased poisoning of our air, the plundering of our forests.

“Left-wing”? — my father would have laughed. The first folks I saw when I arrived at the Lincoln Memorial for the rally were from the Baltimore Teachers Union. Sixty-five years ago, when it was still “left-wing” to imagine teachers in a union, my father helped found it. Forty years ago, my father and mother marched with them.

“Left-wing”? My grandfather might have cried — not for me, but for the Forward. He was a shop steward for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and read the Forverts every day of his life.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow


Shalom Center

Philadelphia, Pa.

The Yiddish Experience

Reading Benjamin and Jerrold Sadock’s August 29 opinion article made me, once again, mourn the state of Jewish culture in the United States (“Finding a Niche, Mameloshen Goes Mainstream”).

The point of the piece seemed to be that assimilation is a two-way street. True enough. But I was disturbed by its concluding message about “American Jewish language.” Is such a thing as dynamic as they say? It is absurd to say that one language, Yiddish, fades from use, while another, Hebrew, takes it place and is, in turn, adopted and adapted by the majority culture. This presupposes that Yiddish and Hebrew play equivalent roles in American Jewish life.

For nearly 1,000 years, Yiddish was not just a means of communication but a repository of an entire way of life. It was the day-to-day language of millions of Jews in the United States. Its profound influence on American Jewish culture, and American culture, is an organic expression of that role.

Hebrew has never played such a role, nor will it ever. We may pray in it, we may even brush up on it for a trip to Israel, but Hebrew will never be a lingua franca among American Jews in the way that Yiddish was. This is not to downplay the importance of Hebrew in Jewish history, khas v’kholile, but only to point out that Yiddish was always changing, growing, adapting and basically becoming a living expression of the Jewish experience — something that Hebrew has yet to do.

As we let Yiddish slip quietly into the night, it might be comforting to think that something else is waiting in the cultural wings to take its place, but, sadly, that is not the case.

Rokhl Kafrissen

New York, N.Y.

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