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Letters the Week of Feb. 24, 2011
A Tradition of Caring at Hillel Goes Way Back
I am a University of Pennsylvania 1985 graduate and I was moved by Deborah Hirsch's cover story on Emery "Eliezer" Williams ("He's Found a Home at Hillel," Feb. 3). I recognized his picture immediately as someone who looked familiar even though I did not know him well.
When I read that he had been part of the Penn Hillel community for more than 20 years, I immediately thought that it must be much longer than that. My suspicions were confirmed later in the article when it was stated that he first became involved in Jewish life at Penn in 1984.
Like Emery (I doubt he was known yet as Eliezer in 1984), I am 47 now, and it's heartwarming to hear how the Penn community has taken care of him.
It also brings to mind a woman named Rachel who frequented Hillel at around the same time. Like Emery, Rachel had a disability, was much older, and relied on the Penn Hillel community for support.
My roommate and I would often walk her back to her apartment after services. How wonderful to see this Penn Hillel tradition of caring carried through all these years.
Mount Laurel, N.J.
Brain Death Means More Than Article Suggested
I thank Bryan Schwartzman for his well written Feb. 3 cover story, "Crisis Care."
I do wish to correct his reference to brain death, however. It is a specific term referring to a set of criteria defined medically and legally. If "brain dead," a patient is legally dead and continuing ventilator support would not be an option. Though used colloquially by him, he meant severe brain injury, probably anoxic encephalopathy in the case he describes.
As a physician in the hospital trenches and former medical adviser to Jewish chaplaincy services, I fully concur with the great benefit patients receive spiritually from chaplaincy services. Unfortunately, it is less visible to the Jewish community in general and remains relatively underfunded.
Allan P. Freedman, M.D.
Temple University Health System
Shouldn't U.S. Begin Rethinking Aid to Egypt?
This past week, Hillary Clinton promised $150 million in aid to Egypt to help in the economic turmoil following the fall of Hosni Mubarak (Cover Story: "A Quandary: To Push Egypt or Not?" Feb. 3). This past week, Egypt granted two Iranian warships right of transit through the Suez Canal.
Every year since 1979, the United States has given on average $2 billion dollars in aid to Egypt. Shouldn't the government declare a moratorium on aid to Egypt, until there has been a full transition to a democratic regime -- and that regime has demonstrated that it will pursue a foreign policy supportive of the war on terror, and the Middle East peace process?
At a time when budget cuts are crucial, can we as a nation afford to gamble away $2 billion on a regime that may be controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood and is inimical to the State of Israel?
Muslim Article Trafficked in Stereotypes and Fears
I read with dismay the Feb. 10 cover story "Riding Rough Tide of Muslim Relations." This unbalanced account omits many local stories about Jews and Muslims who work hard to forge relationships while embracing the complexities and rewards of such an effort.
For the past 10 years, I have witnessed and worked with many artists, teachers, community leaders and families who support interfaith workshops, dialogues, and events that encourage Muslim and Jewish children to get to know each other.
I long to see evenhanded reporting that does not focus on our stereotypes and fears about each other, but inspires and instructs. Our children deserve our best efforts in building bridges between faiths.
School Choice: It's Not Simply About Education
In response to the Jewish Exponent's forum on school choice (Editorial & Opinions: "Will Vouchers Empower Parents and Students? Or Will They Limit Their Freedom of Choice?" Feb. 3):
School choice moves critical communal wealth to private control. It collects public funds through taxation, which are then re-distributed to charter schools through vouchers. We pay for charter schools that serve private and often exclusionary agendas.
Our public schools have integrated generations of immigrants and shaped democratic social relations. They have taught basic skills but also have been an important source of the civic and cultural knowledge necessary for citizens to think critically and engage in society.
School choice advocates see education principally in economic terms: as the acquisition of basic skills to compete with cheap off-shore labor for jobs in global competition. They argue that the quality of education can be measured and equated with test performance.
Charter school supporters insist that the game changer for effective learning is the corporate model: unilateral management authority, open shops, cost stringencies, competition and profit. The common welfare is irrelevant to these people.
But the last decade shows us clearly what happens when common goods become a cookie jar for corporate interests. The failure of outsourcing school operations to private contractors is well documented.
Numerous studies show that charter schools aren't much better than public schools when it comes to involving parents, finding and retaining experienced teachers, maintaining a decent physical plant and skillfully managing their funding.
School choice is not simply about education. It is a contest for control of crucial public space.
The result will shape the kind of society our kids will inherit and the possible futures they are able to envision and create as citizens in the ongoing struggle to sustain democratic values.
Jay M. Starr
Immediate past chairman
Board of governors, Gratz College
How Is It Bipartisanship When GOP Wasn't Asked?
Concerning the news brief, "Casey Calls for Continued Aid to Israel," in the Feb. 3 issue:
How could you write that the letter Sen. Bob Casey penned on continuing aid to Israel had a "focus on bipartisanship" (paragraph six) if no Republicans were asked to sign it?
Surely, you cannot expect any logical person to believe that it was an attempt to be bipartisan.
Robert M. Rubin