Letters the Week of Feb. 11, 2010


Why All the Vitriol When J Street's Brought Up?

I don't understand the personal vitriol so abundant in the critiques of J-Street (Cover Story: "A New Street in Town, and So Far, It's a Little Bumpy," Jan. 28). The politics in Israel are far more robust and testy than anything put out by J Street or AIPAC, so why all the personal invective? Can't the group's pronouncements be dismantled on a policy basis without resorting to all the personal animus?

I have a challenge for those who have always defended the status quo. Bearing in mind that history is not kind to countries that occupy hostile populations (e.g., Russia in Afghanistan; Britain in what was then called Palestine; the United States in South Vietnam), tell me how Israel has benefited from 40 years of doing so (outside of the Golan, whose tactical importance renders it not yieldable)?

How has it been worth it economically? How has it been worth the cost, both in terms of lives and the Israeli psyche?

Even Ariel Sharon came to realize the futility of continued occupation (of Gaza). So then, how does it help Israel, with its own very robust form of politics, to stifle conversation in our own community by applying vile labels to those who have differing views?

Richard Saunders 

Not Helpful to Argue Over Who's More Pro-Peace

As a Hillel board member and concerned citizen, I attended with interest the J Street organizational meeting held last week at Steinhardt Hall at the University of Pennsylvania.

Hillel accomplished its goal of not giving J Street a cause for complaint by renting them space.

While the presentation was not necessarily objectionable, J Street speakers insisted that their goal was to encourage dialogue, and chastised their critics for what they claimed was intolerance of J Street's views. They contended repeatedly that they were the "pro- Israel, pro-peace" movement, in implied contrast to other groups that might call themselves pro-Israel, but were not also pro-peace.

Nobody is more pro-peace than the Israelis, who have sacrificed so much of their human treasure in defense of their country. While J Street did not use the phrase "anti-peace," the implication was obvious.

By denigrating the broad swath of Israeli and American Jewish opinion, the group encourages Israel's enemies and brings harm to the cause they claim to so devoutly support.

The debate J Street claims to want should not be over who owns the title of "peace-seeker" for Israel, but how best to acquire the peace and security that the Jewish state so desperately needs.

John R. Cohn, M.D. 
Professor of Medicine 
Thomas Jefferson University and Hospitals 

Which Jews Hold the Key to Success in America?

Let's not quibble over whether Alex Cohen should or should not be thanked for his decision to "help" the cause of Judaism by his intermarriage (Letters: "He Wasn't Asking to Be Thanked for Intermarrying," Jan. 21). How he feels about it is his business.

What we should take issue with are his outrageous assertions. The truth is, the Jewish people have survived for thousands of years, despite the many societies in which they have lived where there was as much, if not more, assimilation than what we find today.

Mr. Cohen discloses his bias when he describes Judaism as a common heritage and "a few half-hearted rituals."

Those rituals, which he does not identify specifically, have profound meaning for the many Jews who understand their significance and embrace their symbolism.

What is most astonishing, however, is the chutzpah that he displays in declaring that the only hope for the preservation of Judaism in America lies with the Orthodox community.

For him to negate the possibility of living a spiritually and religiously meaningful life for anyone but the Orthodox is to disenfranchise the overwhelming majority of affiliated Jews who do not identify with that community.

How dare he!

Cantor Stephen Freedman                 
Temple Sinai 


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