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Letters week of July 26, 2007
Captured Soldiers Require Help From the Public
"Free Them Now" was the refrain repeated over and over again across from the U.N. headquarters in New York City at a recent rally for kidnapped Israeli soldiers (Israel & Middle East: "Rally Takes Aim at U.N. Inaction," July 19).
We had been here before, at that very spot, shouting the same refrain more than 20 years ago when we were petitioning on behalf of Soviet Jews.
What was different about July 16 was that my wife, Lana, and I were there demonstrating for three soldiers -- Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev and Udi Goldwasser -- kidnapped in Israel one year ago. Their captors have not permitted anyone, including the International Red Cross, to see them. We have no idea of their condition.
This time, however, we were standing with Lev and Marina Furman, and their daughters. Twenty years ago, we were holding signs for this family, who were refuseniks being held captive in the Soviet Union. They understand how important it is to speak up.
I couldn't help but compare Karnit Goldwasser, who noted that her husband was kidnapped just four months after their marriage, to Avital Sharansky, who spoke from that same platform long ago, telling us of her marriage to Natan the night before she left the Soviet Union. Both were articulate young women hoping to see their husbands again.
Yet I don't sense the same rage in the Jewish community that we felt in the 1980s. There was barely a credible crowd in New York -- just a few thousand people and only a handful from Philadelphia.
We should have learned our lesson. Noise works. When the BBC journalist Alan Johnston was kidnapped by the very same people who are holding Gilad, the international journalists and the British government were relentless in their protests. Johnston was released.
Divest From Iran, and Use Pensions More Wisely
You reported that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for state pension funds to be divested from companies that do business with Sudan. The State Senate, however, has yet to vote (People & Politics: "State Passes Divestment Bill," July 12).
Iran is training, funding and equipping radical Islamist groups in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Afghanistan. And Hezbollah, supported by Iran, is training Iraqi extremists to kill U.S. soldiers.
America has a solemn responsibility to utilize the instruments of its national power to convince Tehran to cease training and equipping extremists who are killing our troops. Can we do something? Yes!
It's time for the citizens of Pennsylvania to let our legislators know that state pension funds must cease investing in companies that do business with Iran. I hope readers will write to their state representatives and senators urging the passage of such bills.
It is unthinkable that the pension funds of teachers, police officers, firefighter and state social workers have their pension funds being invested in the terrorist government of Iran. These funds can make money without supporting the mullahs who seek the destruction of Israel and the West.
Shul Closing Brings to Mind Cherished Memories
I was upset to read of the closing of yet another synagogue (Cover story: "Sad to Say Goodbye to Shul," July 12).
Both of my brothers had their Bar Mitzvahs at Beth Emeth, and my parents belonged to the synagogue long before it became Beth Emeth-B'nai Yitzhok.
My family and I belonged to Temple Beth Torah. I am aware of the changing demographics of both those neighborhoods. But my children had their Bar and Bat Mitzvah at Temple Beth Torah, and its rabbi officiated at all their weddings.
Of course, the mergers for both synagogues will hopefully, in the end, be advantageous.
Still, when mergers happen -- in business or religious institutions -- the warmth that existed before somehow disappears. The multitude of new members may bring in money, but the feelings between individuals no longer are evident.
The memories of those wonderful places of worship will always be a source of joy to me.
Are Interfaith Advocates Out of Step With Rome?
Concerning your editorial on the reintroduction of the Tridentine Mass (Editorial: "Quo Vadis Vatican?" July 12), the fact that the pope also recently accepted, after sitting on it for over a year, the mandatory retirement letter of Baltimore's Cardinal William Keeler does raise further speculation.
The cardinal is respected by Jewish leaders around the globe, and his interfaith outreach helped heal many ancient wounds with the international Jewish community.
So, as we see these subtle yet real Vatican II rollbacks, as outlined by your editorial, it would seem the Keelers of the church likewise find themselves increasingly out of step and out of favor with Rome.
As a Methodist convert to Roman Catholicism, I will nonetheless continue to warmly embrace my Jewish friends, as did John Paul II and Cardinal Keeler, as my ancient cousins of faith.
A Teacher Who Cared for Students and Learning
While I did not see the Philadelphia Inquirer article on Patsy Tollin, which was referenced in Robert Leiter's column about her forced retirement from the Baldwin School (Media Clippings: "Out, Not Down," July 12), I am shocked and dismayed by the results.
I taught elementary school with her many years ago in Baltimore, when we were both young and relatively new teachers. She was a remarkable, caring person who loved all of her students and cared about their well-being.
Patsy continued to be a concerned educator, who knew her students and was willing to extend herself for each child. She engaged kids in academics. And she was a model and mentor for many novice teachers.
Her loss will be felt in the school, and by future generations of children who will never have the opportunity to know this great teacher.
Sarah M. Kern