Letters Week of Jan. 3, 2007


Just Whose 'Holiday' Does That Tree Represent?
Your article on holiday observances (Cover story: "Deck the Halls — With What?" Dec. 20) reminded me of an issue that I faced as a teacher last December.

I'd been employed for 12 years at Pemberton Township High School. During the last three of those years, the high school building had a Christmas tree in the lobby, and there were other ornaments, including stockings and tinsel, hanging in the main office.

I requested having a menorah in the lobby beside the tree in the name of diversity. I said that I was even willing to bring in my own menorah.

The principal refused my request, insisting that the menorah was a religious symbol, like a creche. He tried to make it sound as if the Christmas tree were something secular, claiming it was a "holiday tree."

At the urging of the district superintendent, who wanted to defuse the situation, the principal bought a huge blown up "dreidel bear" and put duck tape over the Stars of David depicted on the animal's paws. The bear was put in the lobby adjacent to the tree.

A public building like a high school should make everyone feel comfortable — no matter what religion they follow. And it shouldn't matter how diverse the student population happens to be.

Many schools, including the one where I'm currently employed, do not put up any type of holiday decorations.

That's probably the best solution — until it's all resolved in court.
Pamela Shepard
Cherry Hill, N.J.

Immigrant-Bashing's Now the Hot Thing on CNN
Jonathan Tobin's analysis of the immigration problem and its impact on the presidential election was very welcome (A Matter of Opinion: "Dead-End Debate Club," Dec. 13).

As a second generation Hispanic, I feel embarrassed and hurt for my people.

CNN charlatans, such as Lou Dobbs (known for his nonstop attacks on immigrants), have become a modern version of Joseph Goebbels. This trend needs to be stopped!
Jaime Beltran
Perth Amboy, N.J.

Quizzing the Candidates: It's Like a Trivia Contest
Now that we've been totally briefed by the press about Barack Obama's drug use, Hillary Clinton's meanness, John Edwards' extravagant hairdos, Rudy Guiliani's infidelity, Mitt Romney's newly acquired conservatism, Mike Huckabee's evangelism, Fred Thompson's laid-back approach and Tom Tancredo's one-note immigration campaign, are we any better informed as to the candidates' policies for dealing with foreign policy and the Islamofascist threat (A Matter of Opinion: "Dead-End Debate Club," Dec. 13)?

The attacks against U.S. troops supported by the state sponsors of terror, coupled with the existential threat to Israel from Iran and the Palestinian Authority, are the real issues here.

Shouldn't all candidates be questioned in detail — not only about these matters but also about Condoleezza Rice's statement comparing the Jim Crow South to Israel's influence in the territories and about the long-term consequences of the National Intelligence Estimate report on Iran?

We need to assess whether the policies of our presidential candidates will ensure our way of life and continue strong support for a democratic State of Israel.
Doris Yarczower

He's Dead Right — Faith Has No Place in Politics
Abe Foxman's reminder to politicians that it's wrong to tell people to vote for candidates because they are religious, or belong to one faith or another, couldn't be more timely (A Matter of Opinion: "Should We Fear Faith?" Dec. 20).

About a year ago, I had just such a discussion with Foxman at an ADL function.

As a result, he sent me a copy of Jon Meacham's book American Gospel: God, The Founding Fathers and the Making of a Nation.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who's having trouble reconciling "one nation, under God" with the Constitution's statements on the separation of church and state.

"The great good news about America — the American Gospel, if you will — is that religion shapes the life of the nation without strangling it," the author writes. "Belief in God is central to the country's experience, yet for the broad center, faith is a matter of choice, not coercion, and the legacy of the Founding Fathers is that the sensible center holds."

The present administration has ignored the "American Gospel" by turning over the control of many programs to the religious right.

This must be changed, and Foxman is correct in reminding the Mike Huckabees, Mitt Romneys and others on the right that the Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state.
Marc B. Kaplin
Blue Bell

Condemn the Saudis for How They Treat Women
Regarding Neal Sher's column (Opinions: "Scoping Out the Saudis: Are They With Us or Against Us?" Dec. 20), he urges action against Saudi Arabia for its support of terrorism because "it is simply the right thing to do."

An equally strong, if not more moral, reason to urge sanctions against Saudi Arabia is that it is one of the most repressive countries in the world concerning its treatment of women, even for an Arab country.

The failure of the media and our national leaders to raise the Saudi women's issue — except when an isolated egregious example is given brief publicity — allows this misogyny to continue unabated in the 21st century.

Taking a strong moral stand against this horrific maltreatment of women is also the right thing to do.
Elkan Katz



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