Letters 1/16


Recalling a mensch
This is about real estate magnate and philanthropist Herschel Blumberg, who died recently (“Former Washington Federation president passes away,” WJW, Dec. 19).

When I became president of Beth Torah Synagogue in Hyattsville in 1984, I was told I would have the shortest term as president in synagogue history. That’s because the mortgage was crippling us, and the shul was intending to close in about three months.

People had tried to raise funds before, but to no avail. But I learned that no one had approached Herschel Blumberg, who had sold us the land on which the synagogue was built. I went to him, and we talked. He said “Jews do not let synagogues close.” He lent the shul $5,000. 

With that monetary incentive, we formed a committee and started raising money. Herschel turned his loan into a gift, and within six months we paid off the $75,000 mortgage. Herschel attended the “mortgage burning” at the synagogue. And I was re-elected to a second term as president of the shul in 1985.  I will always thank Herschel Blumberg as a benefactor.



Israel bashing
By now, your readers have become accustomed to the prominence WJW has been giving to J St.’s views. But the op-ed by J St’s Alan Elsner, headlined “Kerry is serious about peace, but is Netanyahu?” (Jan. 2) has reached new heights in Israel bashing. To question any Israeli prime minister’s desire to achieve a genuine peace with the Palestinians is really over the top. Both the past 65 years and recent Palestinian statements and actions demonstrate which side is really serious, which is not, and which can actually deliver on its commitments.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s ongoing efforts brought back memories of the speech I wrote as a Senate staffer back in December 1969 explaining why then Secretary of State William Rogers’ peace “plan” could not work. Since then, unfortunately, little has changed for the better. In fact, with unprecedented upheavals now in the Middle East, and the scourge of worldwide terrorism, the prospect for reaching a genuine peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is more remote than ever. It is certainly not because Prime Minister Netanyahu is not “serious” enough. He is certainly committed to ensuring Israel’s future national security. However, he is equally entitled to have serious doubts about the proposals being made by yet another well-meaning secretary of state ignoring the grim realities.

Washington, D.C.

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