November 10, 2006
Study Exposes the Real Denominational Divide
The study conducted by Steven M. Cohen described in your October 27 article “Orthodox See ‘Youth Advantage’” sharply defines the differences among the three major Jewish “denominations.” Its findings demonstrate that American Judaism does not consist of distinct religious streams among the laity as is true of Christianity and Islam.
Orthodox Judaism is a serious religion with true adherents. Reform Judaism is a rite-of-passage mill whose clergy provide religious life-cycle services at puberty, marriage and death for by-and-large secular Jews.
Conservative Judaism was a generational way station for those on the road from the Orthodoxy of their parents and grandparents to the secularity of their children and grandchildren.
My Uncle Was a Fighter Inside the Ring and Out
Gerald Eskenazi recalls that at one time, “boxing had its Jewish heroes,” citing Benny Leonard, the world lightweight champion in the 1920s (“Boxing Writing That Pulls No Punches,” October 27). My uncle, Barney Ross, was often regarded as a hero by American Jews for his prowess in the boxing ring — where he was lightweight, welterweight and junior welterweight champion in the 1930s — but I like to think that he was as much a hero for what he did after retiring from boxing.
In response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Barney, although well past draft age (he was 32), enlisted in the U.S. Army. In the famous battle of Guadalcanal, he was seriously wounded while rescuing injured comrades from a Japanese ambush. His heroism under fire earned him a Silver Star.
Thanks to research by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, we know that upon Uncle Barney’s return to the United States in 1944, he became active in the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, also known as the Bergson group. The Emergency Committee used full-page newspaper ads, public rallies and Capitol Hill lobbying to pressure the Roosevelt administration to rescue Jews from Hitler.
Uncle Barney was also active in another of the Bergson committees, the American League for a Free Palestine, which sought to rally American support for the creation of a Jewish state. He spoke at its rallies and chaired its George Washington Legion, which recruited American volunteers to aid the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Jewish underground militia (headed by Menachem Begin) that was fighting the British in Mandatory Palestine. The legion was patterned on the famous Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which had recruited Americans to fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. One of the Bergson group’s newspaper ads featured a photo of Uncle Barney with this message from the boxing champ: “There is no such thing as a former fighter. We must all continue the fight.”
Barney Ross fought the good fight, inside and outside the ring. He fought for America in World War II, and he fought for the Jewish people in his efforts on behalf of Holocaust rescue and Jewish statehood. That is a powerful and inspiring example for today’s Jewish athletes to follow.
Holocaust Community Services
For Israel’s Sake, Cut Out the Appeasement Seymour D. Reich’s attempt to defend Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s speech before the American Task Force on Palestine is consistent with his unrelenting advocacy of policies inimical to the security of Israel (“Condi’s Unsurprising (Yet Praiseworthy) Speech,” October 27). Reich championed the Oslo Accords, Israel’s abandonment of the security zone in Lebanon and the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. More recently, Reich met with Secretary Rice and urged her to push for the reopening of Gaza’s border, even as terrorists continue to use the Palestinian-controlled territory to stage attacks against Israel. The consequences of the policies of appeasement urged by Reich have been as tragic as they were predictable: The forces of fanaticism and terrorism have been encouraged and strengthened, and Israel is far less secure. Analyses of the Middle East conflict over the past decade of the sort offered by Reich have been wrongheaded and dangerous because they are based on the delusional premise that Israel will find a willing partner for peace if only it makes enough concessions. For the sake of Israel, Reich must now be ignored.
Steven M. Goldberg
Los Angeles, Calif.
Pick Up the Pace on Ethiopian Immigration
I was heartened by your October 27 story, “Immigration Cuts Likely To Be Reversed,” which quotes Ze’ev Boim, Israel’s immigration and absorption minister, as saying that the recommended reduction in Ethiopian immigration to Israel from 300 a month to 150 would not be sustained in the Knesset. I recently spoke with Minister Boim about my long-standing interest in the Ethiopian aliyah and reiterated my hope that the Israeli government would honor its commitment to increase the rate to 600 a month. Tens of millions of dollars have been raised for Operation Promise, and I encourage United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Agency to immediately begin using that money to make the Ethiopian-Jewish community “Israel-ready,” as the Israeli government reviews its immigration and absorption budgets. “Israel-ready” programs are readily available for Western Jews and are consistent with basic Zionist principles of family reunification and the ingathering of Jews in distress.
I urge American-Jewish leaders at the upcoming UJC General Assembly in Los Angeles to devise a work plan and timetable for use of the funds already raised for the Jewish community now languishing in Ethiopia. By improving living conditions and providing Hebrew-language and job-training program, we can help these new citizens succeed at less cost to Israeli society.
Member of Congress
New York, N.Y.