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December 22, 2006

Calling Prager a ‘Bigot’ Is Simply Irresponsible

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Dennis Prager, he is not taking issue with Keith Ellison’s religion or the Quran (“Koch: Kick Pundit off Shoah Board,” December 15). He only takes issue with the fact that Ellison has declared that he will leave the Bible out of his private swearing-in ceremony.

Prager has been very clear that he would make the same statement whether Ellison were an atheist, a Mormon or a Jew. If one believes he is sincere on that point, then what makes him a bigot?

Moreover, it is highly irresponsible to say that no matter how much Prager has embraced the many gays, atheists, blacks, Hispanics and people of other races and religions throughout his life, one heartfelt statement representing his beliefs about a precious symbol of this country disqualifies him as a decent human being.

It’s simply reckless and irresponsible to sling the term “bigot” in Prager’s case. Here’s a man who, as a passionate Jew, fought to retain the cross on the Los Angeles County Seal, who has flown to other cities to support black politicians for re-election, who has spoken at mosques, and has likely brought more Jews and even people of other faiths to their religions than anyone else alive today. It would be hard to find someone less bigoted than Prager.

I have had a very warm relationship with Prager for more than 20 years, and a more loving and decent man I have never known.

Those who disagree with Prager on the position he takes regarding Ellison’s swearing-in should take that disagreement as a very small price to pay for having such a remarkable man sitting on such a board as prestigious as the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

Joel Alperson
New York, N.Y.

Having read Ed Koch’s diatribe against Dennis Prager, it might be good to remind ourselves that while Prager is wrong on this issue, he is not a monster.

Prager misjudged the requirements for office, misrepresented the oath of office and misunderstood the quest for religious freedom in the United States, including the efforts of American Jews to get rid of religious requirements for public service. He should be persuaded by evidence, not by invective.

This is not Prager’s finest moment, and a wise man should always be open to changing his views. But he has had many fine moments, and his writings should be respected even as one dissents from his views.

One may disagree without being disagreeable. And one should dissent within the bounds of civility.

Michael Berenbaum
Los Angeles, Calif.

Bubbe and Zaide Still Fighting for Justice

We got great naches from reading our daughter’s December 1 opinion article (“But Bubbe and Zaide Were Hippies”). It is rare to hear such wonderful words about oneself from one’s children while one is still alive.

However, we would like to make it clear that Bubbe Lala and Zaide Eric are still hippies and their story is not yet completely written. Despite the fact that Zaide Eric’s arthritic shoulder prevents him from lifting the Torah or carrying a placard, and that Bubbe Lala needs a large-print prayer book to read the service and no longer can join protest marches without special shoes, we are still using our strength to build the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people.

We are still fighting to build a better tomorrow, one that we may not see but one that the world needs. We hope to devote the rest of our 60s, 70s and 80s (and however much we have left) to this struggle.

And for the record, we are both much younger and much younger looking than we are rendered in the art accompanying our daughter’s opinion article.

Lillian and Eric Mendelsohn
Toronto, Ontario

Shoah Deniers Show Their Own Stupidity

A December 15 editorial on the international gathering of Holocaust deniers in Tehran is exactly on target in arguing, “In a way, the Iranian regime may have done the world a favor…” (“The Conclave of Hate”). No Danish cartoon could have made Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his fanatic followers look more ridiculous than Ahmadinejad himself has.

A cartoon is meant to be light and humorous, and so even when it ridicules it never can be totally negative. A meeting such as the one in Tehran — convened by the head of an important and powerful state, and called for the purpose of promoting hatred as well as nonsense — shows that the Iranian president and his cause are not only bad but also stupid.

George Jochnowitz
New York, N.Y.

Music Bridges Faith’s Different Movements

I would like to commend the Forward on a very fine article about Josef “Yossele” Rosenblatt (“A Cantor’s Tale,” December 1). It should be noted that the Cantors Assembly recently re-mastered and released six compact discs featuring the recordings of Rosenblatt. We did so in recognition of the prominent role that he continues to hold for all who enjoy cantorial art.

Music is a wonderful vehicle for bridging the differences among the various movements of our faith. The same musical setting of “L’cha Dodi,” for example, can be equally appreciated in Orthodox, Conservative and Reform congregations. A dynamic synagogue service is one in which there is a healthy balance between participation and listening.

Hazzan Stephen Stein
Executive Vice President
Cantors Assembly
New York, N.Y.

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