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January 12, 2007

Is Global Warming To Blame for Rising Tide?

A December 29 editorial reports that the Indian island of Lohachara in the Bay of Bengal was “the first inhabited island on earth swept away by rising seas as a result of global warming” (“The Tide Is Turning”).

While I am as concerned as the Forward by the very real threat of global warming, it appears the claim about Lohachara Island is open to dispute. First, there is evidence that the island was submerged already in the mid-1980s. Second, there are many other factors at work in the Ganges delta, where Lohachara Island was located.

A BBC News article from 2003 reports, “In the past two decades, four islands — Bedford, Lohachara, Kabasgadi and Suparibhanga — have sunk into the sea.” That article says that “satellite imagery shows that the sea level in the Sundarbans [the atoll of which Lohachara is a part] has risen at an average rate of 3.14 centimetres a year over the past two decades — much higher than the global average of two millimetres a year.”

Although I am no expert, it would appear unlikely that global warming causes such localized increases in the sea level. Of course, existing difficulties may well be exacerbated by global warming. In the BBC News article, however, the problem is mainly attributed to mangrove forest depletion.

Eric Clapham
Stockholm, Sweden

‘Mr. Jerusalem’ Extended City’s Hand to Mormons

As Mormons around the world celebrate the reopening of Brigham Young University’s Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem this week, we pause to mourn the passing of Teddy Kollek, the man who made construction of the center possible (“Mayor, 95, Modernized Jerusalem,” January 5).

BYU students have studied in Jerusalem since 1968, and “Mr. Jerusalem” helped the university to secure the land and building permits necessary to erect the permanent facility, which was opened in 1987. For many years the mayor maintained close ties to BYU, which granted him an honorary doctorate in 1995 during one of his visits to Utah; his last visit to the university took place in 2002. Kollek praised the Jerusalem center as a “bridge to peace” and a symbol of Israel’s capital as an open city.

Kollek’s graciousness to the Mormon community was not limited to BYU. In 1979 he bestowed the Jerusalem City Medal on the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Spencer Kimball, on the Mount of Olives, where they had participated in the opening of a memorial park commemorating the church’s dedication of the Land of Israel for the gathering of the Jews in 1841.

In addition, the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir accepted Kollek’s generous invitation to perform with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in Israel in 1993, his last year in office. May Teddy Kollek’s name and memory be blessed, and may his dream of peace be fulfilled in our lifetimes.

Mark Paredes
Director, Jewish Relations Committee,
Southern California
Public Affairs Council,
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Los Angeles, Calif.

Saddam Invaded Iran

Contrary to the assertion in a January 5 article that “Iraq was invaded by neighboring Iran” it is agreed — by the Encyclopedia Britannica and any other reliable source one cares to consult — that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq launched the war, on September 22, 1980 (“Israeli Experts Say Middle East Was Safer With Saddam in Iraq”).

While the parlous state of post-Saddam Iraq might spur thoughts that things were better with the old murderer in charge, let us at least credit him with all his “achievements.”

Michael Jay Friedman
Fairfax, Va.

Legendary Yiddishist Also Had a Musical Side

A January 5 obituary of the great Yiddishist Itche Goldberg neglected to mention his musical side: Goldberg was the librettist of more than 20 Yiddish choral works by composer Maurice “Moyshe” Rauch, conductor of the Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus from 1960 to 1977

Goldberg collaborated with Rauch to create stirring musical adaptations of such Yiddish classics as I.L. Peretz’s “Oyb Nit Nokh Hekher” (“If Not Higher Still”) and “Tevye’s Hodl,” adapted from Sholom Aleichem’s “Tevye der Milkhiker” (Tevye the Dairyman).

Our chorus was privileged to premiere most of Goldberg’s Yiddish oratorios, and to revive “Oyb Nit Nokh Hekher” for his 100th birthday in 2004 — the first time in many years that the complete work had been performed in New York City.

We’re proud of Itche Goldberg’s immeasurable contribution to our chorus, and we’ll continue honoring his lifelong love for Yiddish by singing his eternal libretti for years to come.

Binyumen Schaechter
Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus
New York, N.Y.

Shylock Was Human

Reading Kenneth Gross’s book “Shylock Is Shakespeare” is exactly how actors should prepare for the role of Shylock, so that they can chuck the idea of whether Shakespeare and his immense character are antisemitic (“Double Vision,” December 22). Whatever stereotypical characteristics were woven into Shakespeare’s script, one characteristic looms larger: Shylock was human.

I had the privilege of playing that character twice in Atlanta theaters; off-Broadway, so to speak. When I finished the role and walked offstage, because of Shylock’s humanity I knew I had covered the whole spectrum of his being human, which is one reason for the exhaustion when the play was finished. My hat is off to Gross for his imaginative double vision in putting an end to the mystery of many intellectuals and actors about the character’s antisemitism, and to the Forward for its excellent book review.

Nathan Adler
Rome, Ga.

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