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Letters Week of Nov. 22, 2006

November 22, 2006
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'Kristallnacht': Too Soft a Word to Describe Pogrom

In reviewing Martin Gilbert's new book, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction, Robert Leiter notes that the author claims that "the perpetrators saw in this name both their sense of triumph and their contempt: triumph at what they had destroyed, laughter at the thought of the sound of broken glass" (Books & Writers: "Kristallnacht, Remembered and Reported," Nov. 9).

At one point, Leiter refers to the events of Nov. 10, 1938, as a pogrom. Nearly 100 Jews were killed. Perhaps as many as 30,000 were sent to concentration camps. Synagogues, Jewish businesses and homes were burned and plundered.

German Jews rightly feared for their lives as they desperately tried to find refuge. So why do we continue to describe such events euphemistically as "Kristallnacht?"

What occurred on that date was nothing less than a pogrom. Germans use the word Reichpogromnacht or "Night (of the) Government (sponsored) Pogrom" to describe the events of Nov. 10, 1938.

As German society struggles to accept moral responsibility for the Shoah, it has to select a more accurate word for this calamity. Perhaps it's time for us to do the same. 
Dr. Eric S. Cantor 
Philadelphia 

Call for Unity: Important and Well-Stated in Piece

Yasher koach to Jonathan Tobin on his thoughtful exposition on the Philadelphia magazine article about Orthodox Jews on the Main Line (A Matter of Opinion: "Bias Inside the 'Eruv,' " Nov. 9).

Tobin's comments added a balanced view of the problem of bias against Orthodox practices. This is a topic that's not been expressed, and deserves further attention in the media.

Moreover, his statement about the need for Jewish unity is important and well-said. 
Ronald and Marguerite Werrin 
Bala Cynwyd 

If Tolerance Is to Work, All Jews Must Adhere

Jonathan Tobin's column about intra-communal bias against the Orthodox was, no doubt, accurate, but it only covered one side of the coin (A Matter of Opinion: "Bias Inside the 'Eruv,' " Nov. 9).

It is absurd for one Jew to be inherently biased against another; we have no Jews to spare. However, the Orthodox community itself displays plenty of biases toward fellow Jews, who avail themselves of our religious freedom to practice Judaism a bit differently.

When you ask the non-Orthodox to be more tolerant and accepting of the Orthodox, you are asking, in many cases, otherwise tolerant people to be tolerant of those who are not.

In the same issue of the Jewish Exponent, two egregious examples of such intolerance were detailed. One was the situation regarding the failure of the rabbinate to take action on the problem of women denied religious divorces by their husbands. The other was the account of mobs of haredi running amok in Jerusalem because of anti-gay prejudice.

The Orthodox, like evangelical Christians, present themselves as having a monopoly on morality, but at the end of the day, it's just about power.

The Orthodox have as much right to religious and societal freedom as the next person, but parallel to that right is respecting other practices that do not interfere with theirs. 
Richard Saunders 
Philadelphia 

Gutmann's Core Beliefs Testify to Her Character

In response to your coverage of the incident in University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann's house on Halloween, I would like to give another more personal view (City & Suburb: "Scare of Another Type Greets Penn President After Halloween Revels," Nov. 9).

I have worked with Ms. Gutmann for five years now, ever since arriving from Israel, as a postdoctoral student and as her special assistant. During this time, we have become friends.

Ms. Gutmann's commitment to democratic values and her pride in her Jewish heritage are as evident in her scholarly work as they are in her personal life.

Anyone familiar with her core beliefs would flatly reject any suggestion that she would, under any circumstances, be tolerant of terrorists or what they stand for. 
Sigal Ben-Porath 
Philadelphia 

Penn President: She's a Firm Opponent of Terror

I've read with interest, but great discomfort, your reporting on the Halloween-party photographs taken at Penn president Amy Gutmann's house (City & Suburb: "Scare of Another Type Greets Penn President After Halloween Revels," Nov 9).

The costume and behavior of the student was offensive, but for anyone to suggest that Amy Gutmann might harbor even the tiniest sympathy with terrorism or Muslim suicide-bombers is completely preposterous.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ms. Gutmann's scholarly work and personal character sit in direct opposition to extremism of all stripes.

It was but six months ago at Stanford University that she delivered a lecture on the topic of extremism, and it was plain for anyone to see that she would find offensive and unjust any claim that terrorism could be excusable.

To impugn her character over what was a Halloween-party prank played on her -- as your editorial does (Editorial: "A Frightening Gaffe," Nov. 9) -- is not merely ridiculous, but positively scurrilous. 
Rob Reich 
Stanford University 
Palo Alto, Calif. 

Editor's Note: In fact, the editorial described Gutmann as an "unwitting victim" of the costume incident, even as it also chided academia for the promotion of moral relativism about terrorism.

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