Agreeing to Disagree
I am glad I misunderstood Rabbi Shai Cherry. I am also glad I disagree with him.
In his Torah commentary (“Fiction is as Fiction Does,” Feb. 6), Cherry tells us to take Torah literarily, not literally. He says the Amalek of today, the enemy of the Jews, are people who take Torah literally. At first I thought he was condemning Orthodox Jews as Amalek. I subsequently learned that Cherry sees Amalek in people who take Torah at face value, without the oral law. And here I thought that the Amalek in every generation were people who want to kill us, not those who interpret Torah naively.
Cherry’s commentary demotes Torah to a beautiful fiction to make it appealing to the unaffiliated. But people are drawn to truth, not fiction. The Torah is beautiful. But it is also true. Readers, please seek out the full range of what your heritage has to offer. Instead of the fictional, literary interpretation of Cherry, seek Torah guides online such as rabbis Fohrman, Tatz or Sacks. Check out Aish.com, Chabad, Aish Chaim, and Partners in Torah (to get a learning partner and free books). I wish you the joy of Torah … and its truth.
Shoshana Siegelman | Philadelphia
Correcting the Record
Morris Olitsky (Kvetch ’N’ Kvell, March 12) falsely claims that President Franklin Roosevelt let “none, zero” Jewish refugees immigrate to the United States from Europe during his administration. This is patently false. Among others, my mother-in-law and father-in-law, Frances and Paul Greenhood, immigrated to the United States from Vienna via Zurich in 1940, and in 1938 my cousin Martin Kupferberg emigrated here from Galicia. Granted that Roosevelt could have done more, his efforts were constricted by the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924, which severely limited immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe and was mainly intended to target Jews.
And, it matters not at all that current refugees from Central America or the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are not victims of genocide, as Jews were in Europe. What matters is that their lives are in danger. One example: The Iraqis and Afghans who served as translators for the United States military, and their families, have been targeted by the Taliban and by bad actors in Iraq. Many now live in Philadelphia, thanks to the efforts of HIAS PA. Because of the Holocaust, we can be sympathetic to the current crop of refugees. It does not diminish our enduring suffering of the Holocaust, which continues to this day and into the future, to help those other refugees in need. In contrast, it strengthens our resolve as Jews who are commanded to love the stranger as we were strangers in the land of Egypt.
David Broida | Bryn Mawr
HIAS PA volunteer
David I agree with your statement that there are groups of people who deserve asylum in America. The Iraqi’s and Afghans who aided our military are two such groups, but it sounds like you wish to grant asylum to the entire populations of Central America, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Compassion is a good trait, but anything taken to extremes is not. Allowing entry to the Iraqi and Afghan military translators is compassionate, allowing entry to the entire populations of Central America, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan is insane. The vast majority of these people aren’t in danger but rather want to come here for a better life.