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Letters the Week of Nov. 11, 2013
In Jonathan Tobin's postmortem on the recent elections and the Jewish vote that went heavily in favor of the Democratic Party (A Matter of Opinion: "Reversal of Fortune Still Possible," Nov. 16), there was not enough emphasis on an issue that has been in the media for a very long time: Iraq.
Why doesn't Tobin acknowledge the probability that the vote was a stinging rebuke of the Bush administration's failed efforts in Iraq, which have led to chaos -- not to mention the loss of countless Iraqi lives, and the cost in U.S. lives and resources? This factor, I believes, trumped Bush's support for Israel when most American Jews cast their ballots.
We are not a single-issue community and, while our love and unstinting support for the State of Israel is high on our agenda (at least, in my generation), we are nevertheless very cognizant of what is happening in the larger world.
The war in Iraq remains the overriding concern.
Rabbi Robert Layman
Don't Draw Conclusions Not Supported by Data!
Douglas Bloomfield suggests that the election results were a referendum on the Bush administration, and that Iraq was the main issue that resulted in the Democrats taking control of the House and the Senate (Opinion: "Time's Running Out: GOP Needs to Get Its Act Together," Nov. 16).
Before viewing the election results through a pair of national eyeglasses, Bloomfield should recall former House Speaker Tip O'Neill's admonition that all politics are local.
Looking at the House of Representatives, we can also find a wealth of local rationales for the changes that took place, as well as for those that did not. Iraq, immigration, embryonic stem-cell research, gay marriage, government spending, taxes and other issues all contributed to voter decisions.
I would also like to correct another assertion that Bloomfield made. The Jewish vote was not 88 percent Democratic!
The Republican Jewish Coalition conducted exit polls whose results showed the Jewish vote for Republicans held steady compared to reported results from 1992 to 2004.
These polls show that support for the GOP among Jewish voters was 26.4 percent in Florida (22nd District), Pennsylvania (6th District) and in New Jersey, all places where there were competitive races.
This was not a mandate, but voter annoyance with a number of issues, as well as the historic second-term sixth-year "itch." Democrats and pundits like Bloomfield ought not to draw the wrong conclusions.
Scott M. Feigelstein
Republican Jewish Coalition Pennsylvania/South Jersey
Bolton's Defeat Will Mean Less Support for Israel
Douglas Bloomfield seizes on President Bush's decision to renominate John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations as the primary example of his alleged continuing divisiveness (Opinion: "Time's Running Out: GOP Needs to Get Its Act Together," Nov. 16).
Bloomfield describes John Bolton as "controversial."
Does that label have something to do with Bolton's unflinching defense of Israel, when the rest of the world goes along with its condemnation?
Bolton has a sterling record in the service of our country and in his support of Israel. On that point, there is no controversy.
John Bolton deserves the unqualified endorsement of every Jew and every fair-minded citizen. The probable demise of his nomination will be a major setback for the Jewish state.
Historic Town in Portugal Proves an Inspiration
We were pleasantly surprised to read the article on Belmonte, Portugal (Travel & Leisure: "The Belmonte Stakes," Nov. 16).
We were there on a "Jewish Heritage in Iberia" trip in 1997, right after the Sinagoga Bet Eliahu was dedicated.
The Jews of Belmonte -- all Conversos -- had reclaimed their faith, and the synagogue had been rebuilt by a wealthy Polish Jew.
We attended Shabbat evening services, and were given a Shabbat meal that Friday evening. The congregants were thrilled with our attendance, as we were with their hospitality.
Belmonte, along with other towns in Portugal and Spain on the trail of the persecution of Jews during the Inquisition, is a wonderful place to visit.
Ruth and Bennett Nathanson
Inherent Problem Rests on Legality of the 'Eruv'
Jonathan Tobin's column was all wrong about opposition to the eruv erected by Lower Merion Synagogue (A Matter of Opinion: "Anti-Orthodox Bias Inside the 'Eruv,' " Nov. 9).
The problem is not "Jewish intolerance," as maintained by the original article in Philadelphia magazine. It's a question of the violation of the separation of religion and state, as mandated by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
I'm a member of Lower Merion Synagogue, and a professor of constitutional law at Temple University. Right now, I'm teaching at Tel Aviv University.
I oppose the eruv as a transgression against the First Amendment because government has imposed a Jewish symbol upon the community. It makes no difference whether the neighborhood is all Jewish, which it is not.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the community of Kiryas Joel near Monsey, N.Y., violated the separation of religion and state by zoning a school district to benefit handicapped Orthodox Jewish children. I believe the Lower Merion Township approval of an eruv to benefit Orthodox Jews is similarly unconstitutional.
Jews joined other civil libertarians to object when the government favored Christians, as, for example, when the City of Philadelphia built a platform for Pope John Paul II to conduct a mass. I was involved on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union to declare that a First Amendment violation.
Jews should not violate the separation principle simply when it benefits them. The Constitution is the best protection of minority rights -- and Jews should know exactly what that means.