June 23, 2006

Coalition With Latinos Is in Communal Interest

Opinion writer Stephen Steinlight erroneously portrays the comprehensive immigration reform adopted by the Senate as a threat to Jews and contrary to Jewish values (“Open Borders Threaten Jewish Clout,” June 16). American Jews, despite being a small minority, have always exercised their democratic rights through the political process and immigration reform will not change that.

Steinlight also misinterprets findings of an Anti-Defamation League public opinion poll as evidence that Latinos are an undesirable, antisemitic community that is a threat to Jewish interests. He misses the fundamental finding of a 2002 poll which was that Latinos born in the United States and exposed to the diversity of our country and its education system were half as likely to hold antisemitic views as first generation immigrants born abroad.

Factors like age, race and religious background have always played a role in shaping beliefs about Jews. Among all Americans, education and living in diverse communities reduces the likelihood that a person will subscribe to antisemitic views. While the findings of our poll raise concern about what is being taught about Jews in schools and churches in Latin America, they also strengthen our resolve to reach out to Latino immigrants now living in the United States.

Most importantly, the poll reaffirmed our belief that Jews, Latinos and all Americans have a real stake in promoting the values of diversity and in building a more accepting and respectful America, which includes ensuring that our immigration policy welcomes the stranger and treats immigrants with dignity.

Abraham Foxman

National Director

Anti-Defamation League

New York, N.Y.

The relationship between the Jewish and Latino communities in this country need not — and, in fact, ought not — be the zero-sum game it is posited as being in Steven Steinlight’s opinion article.

Jewish power in this country has never been predicated on numbers, but rather, as Steinlight rightfully points out, on the relationships the community has built with the outside world. It is in the Jewish self-interest to build coalitions with the Latino community based on issues of shared concern — immigration, healthcare and education, to name just a few. Ultimately, both communities and the country as a whole will be strengthened.

There is already a strong basis for coalition building between Jews and Latinos. A recent study by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs revealed that many Latinos favorably view Israelis and American Jews. The study also shows that many respondents see American support of Israel as a concern the United States should undertake since the two countries share the same democratic values. The Latino respondents also saw Israelis as sharing the same values as Latinos themselves.

Rational laws regarding immigration make sense, but reason does not preclude recognition of reality and embracing fairness in how this country handles the realities that exist. Surely, the Jewish community will not, Mr. Steinlight suggests, ignore its duty to create relationships with other ethnic, religious and racial communities because it chooses to take a rational view of the present situation regarding the Latino community.

Some of the almost apocalyptic scenarios predicted by Steinlight should be reviewed and prevented — but that review does not include hiding our eyes from the facts on the ground as they are now constituted.

Steve Gutow

Executive Director

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

New York, N.Y.

A Cancerous Analogy

In a June 2 opinion article, Gidon Remba writes that “metastasizing settlements have long occluded the emergence of a Palestinian polity” (“Convergence Toward Peace”). The accuracy of that statement aside, Remba’s medical metaphor is clear. If a similar statement had been made about Palestinians’ “metastasizing” of any kind, I am sure there would have been proper outcries of racism from the pages of the Forward.

The perspective that Israeli settlements — on territory to which, it should be noted, there are Jewish claims at least as valid as those of the Palestinians — may be casually labeled as “cancers” is one that I would not have expected to see in a responsible and sober Jewish newspaper.

Leopold Friedman

Metuchen, N.J.

Give Organs To Donors

About 60% of the organs transplanted in the United States go to people who haven’t agreed to donate their own organs when they die (“Beating the Organ Donor Taboo”). As long as we let people who refuse to register as organ donors jump to the front of the waiting list if they need a transplant, we’ll always have an organ shortage.

There is a simple solution to the organ shortage: give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer.

People who aren’t willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

David Undis

Executive Director


Nashville, Tenn.

Facts Fuddled In Letter On Ford Family History

Although a May 26 letter writer meant well in putting the Ford family history in context, what was offered was a pretty confused version of the family tree (“Ford’s Son Made Right”).

Henry Ford only had one son, Edsel. Edsel’s sons were Henry Ford II, Benson and William Clay. Edsel was the one who was a major patron of the arts, and of the Detroit Institute of Arts. He died in 1943.

Also, the Ford Motor Co. was the last, not the first, of the Big Three automakers to recognize the union.

The subject of Henry Ford and the Jews is a fascinating one. Albert Kahn, the architect for the Ford empire and of the Ford family’s fortune, was Jewish. In a published interview many years ago, he was asked how Ford’s antisemitism affected their working relationship. Kahn replied: “It never came up.”

Leonard Williams

Sunnyvale, Calif.

Name Exhibit’s Backers

Arts & Culture writer Gal Beckerman thoughtfully reviewed the exhibit “Gulag: Soviet Forced Labor Camps and the Struggle for Freedom” presently on display at Ellis Island’s Immigration Museum (“Memorializing a Crime of Monumental Proportions”). The exhibit will be in Boston in the fall, and will then tour the country over the next two years.

I would like to clarify that the exhibit is sponsored by four organizations: National Park Service, Amnesty International USA, International Memorial Society and Gulag Museum at Perm-36.

Joshua Rubenstein

Northeast Regional Director

Amnesty International USA

Somerville, Mass.

Comic Hero Demonized

It strikes me as strange that there is little mention of the fact that in spite of plenty of contrary evidence in the comics, Magneto is written as a purely evil racist and bigot in the X-Men films (“Our Own Superhero: A Matter of Pryde,” May 26). He is demonized to a ridiculous extent. The deep appeal of his cause is spun as if he’s insane for wanting to save his people, even when his fears are proven to be right.

After all, Magneto is the only Jewish Holocaust survivor superhero there ever has been, and most probably ever will be. Does no one find it interesting that this representative victim is presented as the oppressor and abuser? A Holocaust revisionist could have come up with some of the scenarios in the X-Men films. And to prove what? That Jews — or any minority — who fights oppression, even genocide, can only be a villain?

It’s not easy to paint someone fighting for the lives of his people as a villain, but the writers of these films seem to try very hard to do so. That Magneto is a survivor makes this even more suspect.

I find it strange and sad that in a film with as much cultural impact as “X-Men: The Last Stand” — a universe that is supposed to deal with the struggles of the oppressed, the different, the minorities against those who wish to exterminate them — a character like Magneto ends up being presented as the bigot, the hater, the evil-doer.

At least in the comics you get different writers presenting the character in different ways. Chris Claremont, who gave Magneto his Holocaust back-story, is one of the best. He turned the character into a three-dimensional being: a character with believable motivations and a code of honor whose side of things is presented with as much legitimacy as Charles Xavier’s. There are plenty of instances where Magneto is written as a noble, tragic hero, not as a ridiculous melodrama villain.

The complexities of good and evil are simplified in “X-Men: The Last Stand” to black and white, and it doesn’t wash. The X-Men universe has always had more shades of gray than typical comics. This script does that complex history a gross disservice.

Raven Livingston

Huntsville, Ala.

June 23, 2006

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June 23, 2006

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