On June 25, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.B. 1086 sponsored by Rep. Josh Shapiro to prohibit state pension funds from investing in foreign companies tied to Iran and Sudan -- countries that sponsor terrorism (People & Politics: "Divestment Bill Surmounts a Major Hurdle in Harrisburg," July 3).
It is morally wrong to support states that sponsor terrorism. By investing in foreign companies that do business in those states, that is exactly what we are doing.
Pennsylvania pension funds and the state treasurer invest approximately $115 billion on behalf of the commonwealth and its retirees. An estimated 7 percent, or $7.6 billion, of these funds are invested in companies doing business in Sudan and Iran. There is no excuse to continue holding assets in these companies. Pennsylvania can reinvest the assets that are currently supporting terror for equal or greater returns.
I applaud Shapiro for his hard work on this important legislation, and I commend his colleagues in the House for their overwhelming support. We need the Pennsylvania State Senate to show the same courage and foresight -- and to pass this legislation.
Marc L. Felgoise
What About Forgotten Jewish Refugees?
I agree with Jonathan Tobin about liberal and conservative Christians (A Matter of Opinion: "Real Friends and Real Enemies," June 26).
Something that the commissioners in the Presbyterian Church USA are ignoring with their resolutions for the right of return of the Palestinians is the 870,000 Jewish refugees who had to flee for their lives from Arab countries soon after Israel became a state in 1948.
They were terrorized by the Arab nations they had lived in for centuries. They left behind prosperous business, trades, homes, bank accounts, all their worldly goods and their communities. Of this group, 610,000 were amazingly absorbed into the new nation of Israel.
Other refugees scattered to different countries.
It has been calculated that the value of what these Jews lost far exceeds what the Palestinians left behind. Few people mention the need for the Arab nations to compensate these people or to give them back their property.
Education Costs Should Trump Other Factors
Jewish Living magazine's decision to name Lower Merion one of the top Jewish neighborhoods in North America should make us cringe rather than smile (News at a Glance: "Lower Merion Named One of Top 10 Jewish Neighborhoods," June 26).
That a community which fails to provide its children with an affordable Jewish education might be considered outstanding is truly disturbing.
'Growth' of Lower Merion Seen in Shul Picture
I read with interest your article summarizing Lisa Alcalay Krug's article in Jewish Living magazine. As you noted, Lower Merion was named one of the "Top 10 Jewish Neighborhoods" in North America.
We, at Lower Merion Synagogue, have known for some time that our community deserves such recognition, and now, with the publication of Krug's article, the rest of North America and indeed the world will be aware of the unique character that has contributed to our development.
However, we are forwarding to you a more recent photograph than the one published with your piece on the list.
This photo represents the "growth and rebuilding" of Lower Merion Synagogue -- two of the criteria Krug used to select our community.
Charles B. Parker
Lower Merion Synagogue
That Lost Prison Torah: It's Safe and Sound in Pa.
Concerning your article about Eastern State Penitentiary Synagogue's refurbishment ("Uncovering History -- and Mystery -- at Eastern State," May 22), we appreciate the efforts of Cindy Wanerman, Sean Kelley, Sally Elk, Laura Mass and the late synagogue founder, Alfred W. Fleisher. Without their dedication to Judaism, inmates could not benefit to the extent they deserve to.
With regard to the missing Torah that originated at Eastern State, there is no need for concern over its current custody. Our Beit Shalom Congregation at Rockview State Correctional Institution has had possession of the historic Torah since the late 1980s.
A brief history of its travels is as follows: A Jewish inmate by the name of Victor Hassine was the president of the Jewish Congregation at Graterford, and established a synagogue for Jewish inmates that included the Torah. The Torah came from Eastern State Penitentiary in 1971 to Graterford Correctional Institution.
After anti-Semitic incidents at Graterford, Hassine was transferred here to Rockview Correctional Institution in the mid-1980s. He had become congregation president at Rockview, and was able to transfer the Torah from Graterford -- originally from Eastern State -- to Rockview. The Torah has remained at Rockview since the late 1980s. In April, Hassine allegedly committed suicide at Pennsylvania's Somerset Prison.
Beit Shalom Congregation