Letters | The Opposition and the Ottoman Empire

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Missing the Point

Steve Heitner (“Kvetch ’n’ Kvell,” Nov. 14) misses the point of Greta Thunberg’s mission, instead resorting to the Republican game plan: Demean the opposition and then make unsubstantiated claims about them — someone convinced her the world is about to end thus rendering her a frightened, abused child, full of fear, hate and mindless aggression.

Heitner, we’re still here, but in case you haven’t noticed, the ice is melting, sea levels are rising and our weather has taken a turn for the worse. But no mind; it’s all a Chinese hoax.

Heitner’s prediction is a bold one. But I suspect we will not be here 50 or 100 years from now, so we’ll never learn of the efficacy of his look into the future. However, our children and grandchildren will be here, left to deal with the mess we are making.

Why? Because, rather than behave like the adult humans God created, we resort to infantile behavior: name calling, innuendo and unsubstantiated claims. Those of us who are concerned about climate change could be wrong. But we could be right, in which case further dithering will make the world a pretty unsafe place for all us. Not nice.

Frank L. Friedman | Philadelphia

Letter Writer Is Half-Right

In his letter reacting to Leon S. Malmud’s op-ed statement that the U.S. is the first nation in post-biblical history to grant equal citizenship to Jews (“Kvetch ’n’ Kvell,” Nov. 14), Mehmet Fuat Ulus claims that the Ottoman Turks “not only generated and maintained a refuge for … Jews fleeing oppression … during [the] 14th and 15th centuries, but also granted them equal citizenship …”

Ulus is only half-right. Although the Ottoman Empire was a haven for Jews fleeing from oppression in Western Europe during that time period, the Ottomans did not treat them as equal citizens.

According to the Encyclopedia Judaica’s entry on the Ottoman Empire, Muhammad II, the empire’s sultan from 1451-81, “… imposed taxes upon the Jews: bash karaj, an annual poll tax; rab akcesi, a rabbi tax which permitted them to appoint a rabbi as leader; and avarid, an extraordinary tax paid in the time of war.” The fact that none of these taxes were imposed on the empire’s Muslims who made up the majority of Ottoman Turks clearly indicates that Jews were discriminated against since they had to pay taxes that the majority of Ottoman Turks were exempt from paying.

Ulus paints a rosier picture of the Ottoman Empire than the historical record indicates. Consequently, Malmud’s statement about the U.S. being the first post-biblical nation to treat Jews equally still stands, despite Ulus’ protestations to the contrary. l

Jerry Stern | Merion Station

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