Letter week of May 7, 2009

For Israel, Hope Persists Despite All the Threats

This is an open letter to the Philadelphia Jewish community: Each year that we mark the rebirth of the Jewish state after long centuries of exile is a great cause for celebration.

On May 14th, 1948, the day the British Mandate expired, the new Jewish state was established with the signing of the Proclamation of the Establishment of the State of Israel. Included therein are the historical imperatives of that rebirth: the framework for a democratic state founded on liberty, justice and peace, as envisaged by the biblical prophets; and a call for peaceful relations with neighboring Arab states for the benefit of the entire region.

Today, we celebrate Israel's many achievements. Despite its small size, it has become a global pioneer in science and technology, is a model of international cooperation, and a vibrant democracy through its adherence to freedom of speech and religion.

But as we look ahead at this time of celebration, we cannot ignore the current challenges.

We have paid a high price to keep our independence — nearly a dozen wars and thousands of terrorist attacks that together have caused close to 25,000 casualties, and thousands more wounded.

Additionally, the president of Iran is continuing his dangerous rhetoric, calling for Israel's destruction while also questioning the Holocaust.

In spite of these threats, I am filled with hope for the future. My deepest and most sincere desire for the next year — and beyond — is for security, peace and the well-being of the Jewish people.

Daniel Kutner
Israel's Consul General

A Jewish Activist Calls for Peace and Justice

With regard to "What Are They Really Asking When It Comes to Israeli Survival?" (Op-Ed, April 23), we understand that the presence of Jewish activists with banners reading "See the whole picture" might be disturbing at events like the opening gala of the local Israeli film festival. But that's why we were there.

Jewish ethical tradition teaches "Justice, justice, thou shall pursue." I am an unapologetic activist for peace with justice, an engaged, synagogue- affiliated, practicing Jewish American and Jewish educator. I understand the history of persecution and violence against us, how it has shaped Jewish identity and informs how we respond to the world.

Palestinian rocket attacks against civilians are unjustifiable. Yet Israel has military, economic and technological superiority. The people who inhabit Gaza once lived in Ashkelon. The consequences of Jewish statehood in 1948 — the dispossession and displacement of 750,000 Palestinians — must be acknowledged, not cemented in security barriers, settlements and occupation.

We need to think long and hard about who we are as Jews in the broader human community — and empathize with all suffering, rather than simply enshrining Jewish suffering.

Two traumatized peoples need to heal. It's time for truth and reconciliation, and not white phosphorous.

Peace with justice is what's best for everybody. It cannot be achieved through Israel's violations of human rights and international law. Until American Jews understand and include these inconvenient truths into their conversations, American Jewish activists for justice will be on the streets.

Susan Landau
Philadelphia Jews for a Just Peace


Why Did So Few of Those Kids Consider Brandeis?

In your cover story in the April 30 issue, "When It Comes to Colleges, What's Leading Them Where?", it amazed me how few of the students looking for a meaningful Jewish atmosphere considered Brandeis University

Brandeis, my alma mater, offers not only wonderful Near Eastern and Judaic-studies courses, but also superior scholarship in science, the humanities, arts and business.

In addition to an active Jewish community, it abounds in diversity, attracting students — Jewish and non-Jewish — from all over the globe.

Of the students quoted, only Jessica Lippert had the right idea; she named Brandeis first among her top-notch choices.

Kenneth S. Kaiserman


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