Letters April 15, 2015


A closer look at issues raised in Indiana law
I was happy to learn from the article on the Indiana Religious Freedom legislation (“In Indiana, uncomfortable turn in the spotlight,” WJW, April 9) that the Jewish community in Indiana split pretty evenly. The media presentations on this subject I have seen have mostly made it sound as if anyone who took the legislation seriously was an anti-LGBT bigot and hopelessly narrow-minded.

But a recent example from Europe may help refocus the debate. Just a few months ago, Denmark enacted a law prohibiting the slaughter of any animal unless the animal was first stunned with an electric device.  Some recent scientific studies have apparently suggested that the stun-first process was less painful and more humane than other means. The Jewish community protested that according to Jewish law, an animal killed in that fashion would not be kosher. The response of a Danish legislator to this concern, in an interview aired on National Public Radio, was dismissive to say the least:  “This law is based on science, he said, not “what someone believes.”

In fact, observant Jews in Denmark already import their kosher meat from Germany, so the immediate practical impact was not great – but please think for a moment. If you know any young Europeans, you are probably aware that a large number believe that anyone who believes in God – or practices a religion – must be, well, not too bright. What happens when Germany passes a law like Denmark’s or if such a law is passed in one of our states?  Maybe then our Jewish friends who dismiss the Indiana law and the issues raised in the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case, will think again – and will consider supporting a more carefully written protection of religious beliefs and practices.

Obama pandering to Iranian leaders


I am writing regarding the article about the framework nuclear agreement (“Jewish groups skeptical of Iran nuke agreement,” WJW, April 9. Indeed, all Jews should be skeptical.  Since the signing of the “framework” deal, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has loudly contradicted Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama about the specifics of the “deal,” asserting that United Nations inspectors would have no access to Iran’s military sites and that all sanctions will be lifted immediately under the deal. Obama hurried to explain away this latest Iranian demand as mere posturing: “It’s not surprising to me that the supreme leader or a whole bunch of other people are going to try to characterize the deal in a way that protects their political position.” In other words, “Don’t mind those nice mullahs over there, since they are just politicians pandering to their even meaner and more hard-line brethren.”

Contrast this with Obama’s anger and outrage when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made some arguably impolitic — a.k.a. truthful — comments in the heat of his re-election campaign about Arab voters and the so-called two-state solution. Obama was quick to excoriate Netanyahu, threaten Israel, demand a re-evaluation of U.S.-Israeli policy, and say, “I take Netanyahu at his word.”

Why does Obama don rose-colored glasses to exonerate Iranian mullahs who chant “death to Israel” and “death to America” and directly contradict the terms of his precious nuclear deal, while at the same time viewing Israel’s democratically elected prime minister as some sort of war-mongering racist who must be held accountable for every syllable of his electioneering rhetoric? Could it be that Obama really does hate Israel while he panders and bows to America’s sworn enemies?  All Jews should be skeptical of him.

Enlightening review of Sondheim revue
I greatly enjoyed reading your excellent review of Simply Sondheim at Signature Theatre (“Orchestra takes center stage in new Sondheim revue,” WJW, April 9). It was both entertainingly written and quite enlightening.

Torah scam artist preyed upon victims’ wishes to honor Torah
Respectfully, I dissent from Alan Elsner’s assertion that Menachem Youlus’ Holocaust Torah scams worked because “confronted with the enormity of the Holocaust…we are powerfully drawn to…stories that enable us to construct positive messages from the cataclysm.” (“Fiction that sugarcoats a painful reality,” WJW, April 2).  Elsner offers no evidence for this hypothesis, unless it is his fanciful claim that “the more outrageous the story, the more people believed [Youlus].”
“Narrative outrage” cannot be measured, and no correlation of the number of people duped with particular Youlus’ tales exists.

I want to offer two other suggestions. First, survivor narratives excite because the escapees’ peril is unrelenting until the end, thus generating anxiety/excitement in the reader. Survival of a few establishes that evildoers are not omnipotent. There’s little sweetness in that. Second, Youlus was a consummate scam artist who donned the honored garb of a rabbi and scribe and, thus robed, successfully played upon the goodness of the wealthy donors he duped. They sought to use their wealth to strengthen the Jewish community and to honor the Torah, our most revered creation. That they failed testifies to human fallibility, something any police fraud squad detective can demonstrate with compelling, and sometimes tragic, accounts of how crooks dupe ordinary people out of their life savings. None of these tales sugarcoat anything; they just demonstrate that truth is stranger than fiction, and that, like some particles that fall into black holes, a tiny percentage of those sucked into a cataclysm, human or natural, do not perish forever.  Fortunately, Youlus’ victims lost only money—and dreams of becoming benefactors. There’s no Holocaust sugarcoating in that.

From washingtonjewishweek.com

Praise for JPDS teacher
Regarding “JPDS students STEM the tide, (WJW, April 9), what a great teacher! These intelligent and curious students are fortunate to have such an inspiring teacher!

Deep condolences
Regarding “Swastikas deface Gaithersburg synagogue” (WJW, April 9), I would like to express my deep condolences at this disgusting act. I would be extremely upset if a mosque were to be defaced and since Judaism and Islam are so closely related, I can almost relate to your pain. I’m terribly sorry.

From Facebook

Sign of hate
Regarding “Swastikas deface Gaithersburg synagogue” (WJW, April 9), this is but a sign of the hate that still burns in the hearts of men, young and old. Thankfully the community as a whole takes a stand and the police are very responsive to these hateful acts committed in our community.

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