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January 17, 2003

Know Law of the Land Before Advising Israel

The strategic advice the editorialist offers the government of Israel seems remarkably unencumbered by the sad facts of the last two-and-a-half years (“The Tin Badge II,” January 3).

Contrary to the Forward’s assertion, Israel has not “insisted on remaining in control of the territories.” Furthermore, the pressure exerted by Israel in responding to Palestinian violence is not, as the editorialist implies, a psychological exercise to “change their hostile attitude” but an attempt to destroy a terrorist infrastructure so that a negotiated peace might ensue.

The explanation for the Forward’s curious editorial finally emerges when the editorialist aligns the policies of the Israeli government with the “oddities of the Israeli right,” thereby exposing the partisan bias which informs the editorial throughout. In dismissing the current policies of the Israeli government, the editorialist disregards another critical fact: A significant majority of Israeli voters, confronted as they are by the tragic realities the Forward chooses to ignore, reject the politics of fantasy that you, and others, proffer.

Berl Nadler

Toronto, Ontario

Israel remains in conflict with at least four United Nations resolutions, all of which require Israel to allow a Palestinian state to exist. Israel’s apparent indifference to those resolutions makes America’s issue with Iraq look stupid to many people in the Arab world, for how can the United States cite Iraq’s lack of cooperation with the U.N. while at the same time ignoring Israel’s lack of cooperation?

There are many voices heard from Washington, and from Tel Aviv, that declare that Israel has a right to exist. But as what?

Stephen Amato

Brattleboro, Vt.

In a January 3 editorial, the Forward makes the throwaway statement, “To listen to some voices on the left, one might think that John Ashcroft was more dangerous than Saddam” (“The Tin Badge”).

Saddam Hussein is a thoroughly evil individual, without doubt. But just how dangerous is he — to other countries in the Middle East, to Israel and to the United States?

I thoroughly dislike Ashcroft and so many of his policies, and I would never attempt to argue that he is more evil than Saddam — clearly he is not. But I would gently suggest that the possibility that he is more dangerous than Saddam to the United States is indeed an arguable point. I won’t attempt to provide my answer to that argument, but I will suggest that the editorialist may have made that statement without sufficient thought.

Stuart Kaback

Cranford, N.J.

Jewish Agency Leaders Acting in Good Faith

As one of the leaders of the Conservative/Masorti movement who has been pivotally involved in all that has transpired regarding the drastic Jewish Agency cuts to the religious streams in Israel, I found the January 3 article on the subject to be most disturbing (“Non-Orthodox Blast Jewish Agency Over Funding Cuts”).

While the implications of the proposed cutbacks are every bit as dire as the article suggests, what was not stated is that there are those at the highest echelons of the Jewish Agency who agree with us — and who are working diligently behind the scenes to rectify the situation.

I know that top professional leaders of the Jewish Agency were as taken by surprise as we were by the depth of the recommended cuts, and immediately and unequivocally voiced support for finding a solution to the problem at the meetings of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors in October 2002, even before the 2003 budget was approved. I know as well that this leadership has since been involved in delicate negotiations to restore the funds of which the religious streams stand to be deprived. Furthermore, I have been assured that top lay leadership of the Jewish Agency is also playing a constructive role in this matter.

They, in turn, have the support of significant leaders — lay and professional — of the Jewish federations and United Jewish Communities who are likewise concerned about the wisdom of reducing support for the many projects of the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements that promote Jewish unity and harmony in Israel.

As a central figure in the discussions that have been taking place regarding all of this, I can also state that I believe the proposed cuts in funding were at least in part a result of misunderstandings regarding the actual sums that had been allocated in the past, as well as their origins. I am optimistic that the dialogue and educational process that began several weeks ago between the different sides in this conflict will lead to its satisfactory resolution.

The sensationalist tone of the Forward’s reportage on the subject, suggesting that the Reform and Conservative movements were on the brink of severing their longstanding and cooperative relationship with the Jewish Agency, was accordingly out of place. It would have been much more accurate to convey the message of the many who are working in good faith to allow the religious streams to flourish in Israel, contributing immeasurably as they do so to making Israeli society the religiously tolerant and pluralistic one we all seek.

David Breakstone

Mercaz Olami Representative

Jewish Agency for Israel

Jerusalem, Israel

Memories of Mickey Katz Entertain Today

The December 20 article about Mickey Katz reminded me of his heyday (“Remembering Mickey Katz, Madcap ‘King of Delancey Street,’” December 20).

In 1954, Mickey and his group put on two shows a night, seven nights a week, at Beldon Kattelman’s El Rancho Vegas Hotel, across the street from the Sahara Hotel — and they were terrific. (That hotel later burned down and the land is still vacant.)

I sat there for hours mesmerized by his Yinglish parodies. Thanks for the memories.

Jack Greenwald

Denver Colo.

Many, many thanks for the article on one of my favorite childhood entertainers, Mickey Katz. Growing up in Baltimore, my brothers and sisters listened to his “Katz Pajamas” repeatedly until we knew every song by heart. When I was 26, I found a copy of the recording on the shelf of the person who was to become my bashert; I knew it had to be a sign! Twenty-three years later we still thank the late, great Mr. Katz.

Richard Crystal

Baltimore, Md.

Letter Slurs Gays With Tired Old Stereotypes

The Letters page is a valuable forum for the exchange of ideas. Often the reflections of the writers adds a new dimension to a discussion.

But can the Forward offer any reason for printing the nasty slur from a letter writer in the January 3 issue (“Keep Gay Rabbi Ban”)?

In addition to insulting gays, lesbians, priests and the Catholic Church, the letter writer also indulges the sort of “group guilt” that stereotypes all members of a community. It repeats by way of insinuation the old screed that somehow correlates child sexual abuse with homosexuality — as if there were no heterosexual child abusers, as if being gay or lesbian somehow predisposes one to be an abuser.

I understand there are still people out there who are stuck at this level of the conversation — fine. Aside from reminding us that homophobia and anti-Catholicism are still alive and well, can the Forward offer any other reason for offering the valuable space of the Letters page for the dissemination of this type of opinion?

Rabbi Richard Hirsh

Wyncote, Pa.

A January 3 letter writer asks us to look at the Catholic Church to find out about problems associated with homosexual clergy. Could he be thinking of Father Mychal Judge, the gay Catholic priest who became one of the heroes of September 11, and who never had a stain on his name?

Martin Jacobs

Brooklyn, N.Y.

ZOA Disputes Causticity

The director of Meretz USA, Charney Bromberg, unfairly claims that I made “inflammatory and caustic remarks” when I spoke at a recent meeting concerning his organization’s application for admission to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (“Conference Rejects Bid by Left-Wing Group,” December 20).

In fact, I did nothing more than quote verbatim from statements made in recent months by leaders of Meretz and by speakers sponsored by Meretz USA. If my words were “inflammatory,” that is nothing more than a reflection of the statements and actions of Bromberg’s own movement. The Presidents Conference had good reason to reject Meretz USA’s application for admission.

Morton Klein

National President

Zionist Organization of America

New York, N.Y.

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