Letters | Feb. 28, 2019


Focus on Yiddish culture ignores many other Jews

I doubt that Saul Axelrod had any malicious intent when he wrote a recent op-ed (“The spark of the pintele yid,” Feb. 14). But he and your readers should know that his references throughout the essay, effective as they were, essentially ignored a sizeable portion of world Jewry.

My mother came from a very religious family (her father, in fact, was one of the founders of Kehila Kedosha Janina, which still exists on New York’s Lower East Side), but I have no doubt that “My Yiddish Momme” was not written for my mother. My mother’s family emigrated to the United States from Greece, not from Central or Eastern Europe, and Axelrod’s piece seems to forget about all those Jews that are generally characterized as Sephardi or Mizrahi.

But, in fact, my mother’s family is a minority within a minority. Her family were Romaniote Jews, in the Balkans from the Roman times, though in many respects their cultural influence was swamped by the large number of Sephardi Jews who went to the Eastern Mediterranean following the expulsion from Spain. The Kehila mentioned above survives today as the only remaining Romaniote synagogue still functioning in the United States (see KKJSM.com).


So, Professor Axelrod and others, enjoy “My Yiddish Momme,” your Jewish deli food and the Yiddish music wherever you hear it, just as my father did. But please don’t write off the millions of Jews around the world that have no antecedents in the world of European Ashkenazi Jewry.

Washington, D.C.

Simplistic explanation for violence leaves out real causes

In a recent op-ed, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, blamed the increase in national killings on right-wingers and white supremacists (“Right-wing killings eclipsed all other extremist-related murders in 2018,” Jan. 31). He ignored those murders committed by the mentally
deranged and left wingers.

He overlooked the bigger picture of a nation driven by hate for a sitting president and comments by public officials — like Maxine Waters — telling people to get in the face of Republicans. It was Greenblatt’s former boss who said if your opponents bring a knife to a fight, you bring a gun. What about former Attorney General Eric Holder’s comment, “When they go low, we kick them”? I don’t remember ever hearing violence so openly encouraged by government officials.

Greenblatt blames the horrible killings in Pittsburgh on a “vicious white supremacist,” ignoring the official police report quoting the gunman as saying he was killing Jews because President Donald Trump was surrounded by too many Jewish people. Greenblatt was silent on the attempted murder of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and others by a left-wing Bernie Sanders supporter.

Greenblatt politicizes extremist killings, but fails to address additional societal problems contributing to increased murders. These include the reluctance to identify and treat the mentally ill for fear of being politically incorrect and systemic failures in which governmental entities fail to maintain needed data bases so that problem people can be identified early. This was the case with the school shooter in Florida, who despite being identified early on as a problem to local police and to the FBI was not provided any services that might have prevented the mass killing.
Greenblatt has failed the mission of the ADL by not accurately calling out what divides us and not shining a light on what unites us.


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