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Letters the Week of Jan. 13, 2011
Tragic Shootings Provide a Needed Wake-Up Call
I hope that the recent shootings in Arizona will serve as a wake-up call for our country. The violent discourse that has become all too common cannot be legislated away.
Beyond discourse, there are some basic steps we could make to improve our country.
Specifically, we could cut our military budget in half. We could also double our tax on gasoline, making the cost similar to that in Europe.
These steps could help balance the budget, provide health care for all, and allow us to invest in becoming world leaders and exporters of green energy. We could also cut our school class sizes in half and provide free college to qualifying students. A healthier and better-educated workforce would make a huge difference.
Are we bold enough to move to a more positive agenda?
Let's Get It Straight About the Father of Baseball
Andrew Sherman's attempt to show a connection between Cliff Lee and the Jews provided an interesting opinion piece, but there is one element of his article ("The Man Who Saved Baseball [for Philly Fans, Anyway]," Dec. 23) that is wrong factually.
There is no historical evidence whatsoever to substantiate the story that Abner Doubleday invented baseball or, in fact, had anything at all to do with baseball. It is a total myth, and there are ample sources to document this.
This body of fact will not fit easily into any letters column, but I will summarize by saying that the rules for modern baseball were written by Alexander Cartwright, a contribution that was rewarded by his being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. (I saw his bronze plaque myself, so I know it's there.)
The first baseball game using these rules was not played in Cooperstown, N.Y., as followers of the myth believe, but at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, N.J.
Benjamin H. Bloom, M.D.
Music Like This Shouldn't Be Confined to Shabbat
The review of the CD "A Shabbat in Liverpool" (Nation & World, Jan. 6) read as melodiously as that disc of Jewish prayers set to Beatles tunes actually sounds.
Lenny Solomon, founder of the recording group Shlock Rock, was quoted as saying: "Using the songs at Shabbat service at an Orthodox synagogue in Florida received a mostly positive reaction there."
Last month, more than 100 Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and non-affiliated Jews from small rural communities in the southern Delmarva Peninsula area attended a presentation on "The Jewish Connections to the Beatles." Short excerpts from Beatles songs were played, but the audience demanded a full hearing of Shlock Rock's "Ein Keloheinu," after hearing just a few lines (it is sung to the tune of "Let It Be").
Any rabbi would have kvelled as this diverse Jewish audience sang along in Hebrew without use of a siddur!
Foxman's 'Criticism' Needs a Bit of Fine-Tuning
In his well-intentioned opinion piece, "Jews and Money: A Potent Stereotype Needs Dismantling," in the Jan. 6 Exponent, Abraham Foxman proves that he's the victim of the very stereotype that he hopes to combat.
Foxman writes that Shakespeare's Shylock "embodies" the stereotype that "Jews will do anything for money." No one can deny that The Merchant of Venice is anti-Semitic, but its stereotype is not quite centered on avariciousness.
If anything, Shylock will do anything for vengeance, even to the point of sacrificing not just any profit from his loan, but its principal as well. This is not intended as a defense either of Shylock or of Shakespeare, but it does suggest that we might all do a better job of investigating the stereotypes around us.
For those interested in a more historically accurate, more Jewish rendering of Shakespeare's characters and plot, I would strongly recommend the English Jewish playwright Arnold Wesker's play "Shylock." It may lack the poetry of Shakespeare's language, but it is believable, dramatic and highly nuanced.
Morton P. Levitt
Emeritus professor of English