Letters 10/3/13


WJW and Walmart together?

I was surprised to see Washington Jewish Week and Walmart agree on a matter of policy. Both think it is “Time to Raise the Minimum Wage in Md.” (WJW, Sept. 12). Walmart has recently been in the news on the other side of this debate, but that was only because a D.C. bill targeted the retailer. On blanket wage floor increase, Walmart is enthusiastic.

I would be, too, if I were them. Only a business that big can absorb the extra labor costs in the short term. Mom-and-pop competitors will lay off some workers, go out of business, or take Gov. Rick Perry’s advice and move to Texas. Less competition means higher prices and long-term windfalls for big chains. Everyone loses, except Walmart. I hear they have good sales.



World of difference

I don’t know either of the two gentlemen involved (Jay Goldberg, “False Assertions,” WJW, Sept. 5; or Jonathan Grant, “Read before Attacking,” WJW, Sept. 12). In a previous letter, Mr. Grant apparently made a statement that Barack Obama dictates the sermons for Reform rabbis, and in his latest letter, states that “Mr. Goldberg should read, research, and think before attacking a fellow Jew.”

To me there is a world of difference between “Barack Obama dictates the sermons for Reforms rabbis” and Barack Obama “in telephone conferences with hundreds of rabbis gives points that he believes that rabbis should discuss in their High Holy Day sermons.” I am very upset about two issues in Mr. Grant’s latest letter:

1. We Jews are not monolithic; whether in America or in Israel, Jews verbally attack fellow Jews (and, in my humble opinion, some for the right reasons and others for the wrong reasons).

2. There is a world of difference between “dictating the sermons for Reform rabbis” and giving “points that he believes that rabbis should discuss in their High Holy Day sermons.”

In addition, since I’ve not had a chance to research the references that Mr. Grant provided, I am unable to verify that the “hundreds of rabbis” were all Reform rabbis or whether that group included rabbis of different persuasions. If the latter, I’d like to hear Mr. Grant’s explanation of why he referred to only Reform rabbis.


Still irresponsible

In response to Jonathan Grant’s letter (“Read before attacking,” WJW, Sept. 12), I am well aware of the telephone conference he mentions between President Obama and some friendly rabbis. Being a history and politics geek, I am also well aware that there is absolutely nothing unique or even unusual about this. Every American president at times appeals to religious leaders, and every president in our lifetime has had similar meetings with friendly clergy. I would hope that in addition to this, Mr. Grant is aware that:

Nobody is forced to attend these conferences;

Nobody at the conferences is required to repeat anything discussed;

There is no KGB-type organization monitoring those in attendance or any other clergy for their domestic politics;

No clergy have ever been punished for what they did or did not say.

To the extent that clergy say things supportive of whoever is the president at the time, it is entirely because they chose to do so of their own free will. As such, I stand by my original statement that to liken this sort of thing to what went on in communist dictatorships is completely false and grossly irresponsible.

And just for the record, I personally think it is inappropriate for clergy to make partisan political statements during religious services.


Not representative of U.S. Jews

In “J Street’s time to lead” (WJW, Sept.12), the writer ignores the fact that J Street is no longer relevant to any peace process, with its diminished clout and a questionable record in the past. His general statements that the agenda is in line with the projected final two-state solution is obviously tarnished by the fact that instead of secure and logical borders for Israel that would include most of the towns and cities outside of the temporary pre-1967 armistice lines, J Street has always envisaged a return to these indefensible lines, partition of Jerusalem and final boundaries that would not include the military buffer in the Jordan Valley, all indispensable to the state of Israel.

Nor does he explain the J Street stance that Israel should simply accept the constant rocketing of its southern cities from Gaza without any military response. J Street, from its very inception, has not represented either the views of American nor Israeli Jews from its very start with its pro-Arab donors. Just ask George Soros.

NELSON MARANS, Silver Spring

Hypocritical tirade

I think it is Mr. Ratner  who is missing the point in his letter (“Missing the point,” WJW, Sept. 19) on Rabbi Weinblatt article (“It’s about more than tickets,” WJW, Sept. 5).

The points Mr. Ratner makes have hardly anything to do with the original article. Rabbi Weinblatt acknowledged that Chabad does “many wonderful things for Jews around the world,” he had no objections to providing free High Holiday services and the article never said that synagogues are more important than homes when it comes to maintaining and perpetuating Jewish life. Rabbi Weinblatt’s point is that one can invite people to free services without making snide references about synagogue membership, therefore undermining the unity of the Jewish community.

Mr. Ratner has no proof that the grandchildren of those unaffiliated Jews who once a year attend free services are more likely to remain Jewish than grandchildren of synagogue members. In my experience those who go to the free services are not particularly enchanted by the Hebrew-only services, where families are separated, and only one gender is represented on the bima. I should know, I was one of them who became a ba’al teshuvah (a Jew who has returned to the faith) at Rabbi Weinblatt’s congregation.

I find Mr. Ratner’s tirade against membership hypocritical when he is a board member of AISH DC that sells High Holiday tickets and has membership, too. AISH is a great organization, helping to build the “big tent” where every Jew is welcomed. If Mr. Ratner is dedicated to his organization’s message that “Judaism is not all or nothing,” he should side with those synagogues that are committed to the same goal.

PETER GOROG, North Potomac

Palestinian rejection

Your article “Still Debating Oslo” (Sept. 19) quotes Israeli Knesset member Hilik Bar as saying the reason Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 peace proposal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas failed was the prime minister’s “legal complications.” (He was being investigated at the time by the Israeli attorney-general.)

Hardly, as Olmert himself has pointed out. In a Washington Post commentary (“How to Achieve a Lasting Peace; Stop Focusing on the Settlements,” July 17, 2009), the former prime minister wrote of his 2008 experience, “I cannot understand why the Palestinian leadership did not accept the far-reaching and unprecedented proposal I offered them.”

In an interview with The Australian (Nov. 28, 2009), Olmert explained that he’d proposed to Abbas a West Bank and Gaza Strip state — with land swaps and arrangements on security and refugees — in exchange for peace. “Abbas promised to return with his advisors the next day.” Instead, the Palestinian team went to Jordan and Olmert, while he was in office, never saw Abbas again. Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl supported Olmert’s account of Palestinian rejection (“Abbas’ Waiting Game on Peace with Israel,” May 29, 2009). “In all, Olmert’s peace offer was more generous to the Palestinians than either that of Bush or Bill Clinton; it’s almost impossible to imagine Obama, or any Israeli government, going further.” But “Abbas turned it down. ‘The gaps were wide,’ he said.”

In his memoirs, Olmert notes of their last meeting: “I saw that he [Abbas], too, was anguishing over it [the proposed map]. Finally, he told me, ‘give me a few days. I’m no expert in maps.’ No, I answered. Take the pen and sign now. You will never get a more fair or just offer. Don’t hesitate. This is hard for me too, but we don’t have an option of not resolving this.”

Bar’s explanation of the failure of Olmert’s 2008 offer — the prime minister’s “legal complications” — distracts from what really happened.

LEE GOLAN FISCHGRUND, Washington Research Intern, CAMERA-Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America

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