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Letters week of Jan. 11, 2007
Jewish Kids and Xmas Trees Just Don't Mix
I was very grateful to read that the experts mentioned in "Kosher Christmas Trees?" (Religion & Ethics, Dec. 21) insisted that your best bet to raising Jewish children is not having a tree at holiday time.
As a Jew raised by a Jewish mother and Christian father, I disagree with parents raising Jewish children with Christmas trees.
I grew up with no real Jewish upbringing; we celebrated Christmas and Easter and Chanukah. We went to shul, but I realized I never had a minhag (family custom) of my own and was jealous of "full Jewish" children.
If you're going to raise your children Jewish, do it right. It can still be done when a non-Jewish parent is involved. Of course, children can be taken to the non-Jewish grandparents house for Christmas, but to see a tree in a non-Jewish home and to have a tree in a Jewish one are two different things.
Forget Ellison, What Do Muslim Schools Teach?
The whole flare-up over Rep. Keith Ellison and his Koran is much ado about nothing (A Matter of Opinion: "Protestant, Catholic, Jew and Muslim," Dec. 28).
To my mind, there is a potential 800-pound gorilla in the room that nobody is willing to talk about.
What is being taught in sectarian Muslim schools in this country? Whose pictures adorn the walls in these schools? What do maps of the Middle East look like there? How is 9/11 addressed?
A bright light must be directed on this problem before we find out too late that we have a homegrown crop of Jihadists living in our midst. Since these schools no doubt get favorable tax treatment, the state has every right to closely examine their activities.
Flap Over Koran Oath: A Tempest in a Teapot
Dedicated as we are in America to freedom of speech, was it really that important for Jonathan Tobin to waste his time and ours criticizing Dennis Prager for how he chastised a new Muslim member of Congress (A Matter of Opinion: "Protestant, Catholic, Jew and Muslim," Dec. 28)?
But given the constant pressure from the State Department on Israel's foolish and weak government to yield to suicidal concessions, surely it would have been more important to focus on the continued threat to Israel's existence.
The Ellison issue is a tempest in a teapot and pursuing it is like fiddling while Israel burns.
T.S. Eliot Was Not Ezra Pound ... or David Duke
I would amend Robert Leiter's article, "Under the Lot" (Books & Writers, Dec. 21), with Isabel's caution to Angelo in "Measure for Measure": "I have a brother is condemn'd to die, I do beseech you, let it be his fault, And not my brother."
So Isabel, and so we might similarly plead for T.S. Eliot, perpetrator of the ugly lines, "And the Jew squats on the windowsill ... /Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London." And "The rats are underneath the piles. /The Jew is underneath the lot ..."
Eliot wrote those lines in the early 1920s, at the age of 32. He disliked Jews because they were "Chicago Semite Viennese" -- and, to his mind, were diluting Christianity's roots. Although it does not excuse him, it may be that the violence perpetrated against the Jews in the 1930s forced him to reconsider.
Likely, he was confronted with the reality that the Nazi crimes were the logical outcome, in part, of "nice people's" anti-Semitism. In any event, unlike his rabid buddy Ezra Pound, by the time he returned to America after the war for his first-ever poetry reading here, there is good evidence of a change of heart.
Significantly, the first of only several stops that he made was at New York's 92nd Street YMHA. Obviously, he did not read either of his anti-Semitic poems. But can you imagine a rabid anti-Semite -- say a David Duke or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- speaking there?
The place was packed, and Eliot enjoyed an enthusiastic response. Not many years after, he returned for a second reading, and again was warmly received by a packed house.
Eliot was no vitriolic Richard Wagner. It was said that in later years he mellowed. And strong indications of it, among others, were his appearances at the Y.
Donald J. Middleman
Will the Real Sodomites Please Stand Up
There are many inaccuracies in S.R. Cohen's letter to the editor (Letters: "The Real Sodomites? The Tax Cutters, Not Gays," Dec. 28).
Bereshit (Genesis 13:13) declares that the people of Sodom were evil and sinful. According to S.R. Cohen, this sin was "abuse of the poor." A careful reading of Ezekiel 16:49-50, which Cohen cites to back up his opinion, reveals a list of several sins, including committing abominations before God.
The story of the two angels who were offered hospitality by Lot in chapter 19 of Genesis clearly illustrates the major wickedness of Sodom's men. They surround Lot's house and demand that he send the two visitors out that they might be "intimate with them."
The word that Judaica Press translates "intimate" comes from the Hebrew word "yada," which means "to know." Rashi's commentary on this verse states the men wanted to have sexual intercourse with the two visitors. Sodomy has classically been understood by both scholarly Rabbinical and Christian authorities as the sin of homosexual sex.
Cohen's argument -- that the prohibition of homosexual behavior in Leviticus 18:22 is not referring to moral behavior, and that if it did, it would only apply to "residents of the Holy Land" -- manages to diminish our creator to only a local deity.
Based on the text of the Tanach, the wickedness of Sodom that warranted its destruction must be understood as including homosexuality.
There is a warning in this, and it is not a sacrilege, as Cohen asserts, to point this out to the Jewish community.