Letters for 7-4-13


What about Kar-Ben?

Many fans of Kar-Ben Publishing were surprised that you gave credit to PJ Library for changing the “publishing industry” by publishing Jewish books for children (“The pleasures of reading,” WJW, May 30). Kar-Ben was started by Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler in 1974 with My Very Own Haggadah followed by other holiday-related books. Only Nine Chairs was published 30 years ago followed by many other story books. Many children (mine are in their early 40s) grew up with these books. Kar-Ben books were sold around the country, and new ones are still being published each year. In fact, the PJ Library includes many books from Kar-Ben Publishing.

Kudos to PJ Library for helping parents build a free library of good Jewish books in their homes. And kudos to Kar-Ben Publishing for finding authors, illustrators to put good stories into the hands of our children and grandchildren over the past four decades.



‘Next to nothing’

Fred A. Kahn, in his letter (“FDR saved Jews,” WJW, June 13), challenged the notion that President Franklin Roosevelt did “next to nothing” to advance the work of the War Refuges Board. According to Mr. Kahn, the fact that FDR admitted about 1,000 refugees (who were sent to Oswego, N.Y.) in 1944 shows that he was not “reluctant to save Jews.”

In her book Token Refuge, the only detailed study of the Oswego refugee shelter, Dr. Sharon Lowenstein describes how the War Refugee Board proposed to FDR that the United States “furnish temporary asylum” to “all” Jews fleeing the Nazis. That certainly would have involved a lot more than the token 1,000 to which FDR agreed. Josiah E. DuBois, Jr., the War Refugee Board staff member who came up with the “temporary asylum” idea, said in a post-war interview that the single, small group which Roosevelt admitted “was far, far below what this government should have done.”

It’s interesting to note what a number of prominent Jewish voices said at the time about the Oswego plan. I.F. Stone, writing in the newspaper PM, criticized Oswego as a “token payment to decency” and an “unwillingness to do more than indulge in sentimental gestures when confronted with human suffering.” Marie Syrkin, in Jewish Frontier, said Oswego was “impressive neither as a practical measure of alleviation nor even as a gesture.” Even Congress Monthly, the publication of the American Jewish Congress, which fervently supported President Roosevelt, wrote in an editorial: “Most of us will feel that even as a gesture the rescue of a thousand souls is somewhat puny compared with the magnitude of the catastrophe and the vastness of this country.”

So, yes, Mr. Kahn, FDR’s admission of 1,000 refugees was indeed “next to nothing.”

PROFESSOR BAT-AMI ZUCKER, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel


I am somewhat amazed that WJW did not cover the recent Supreme Court decision that Myriad Genetics Laboratory could not patent the BRCA genetic mutation. This ruling will allow for more genetics research and testing and more competitive prices for laboratory tests for those of us who want to know and understand our genetics.

BRCA genetic mutations are found in people of Ashkenazic Jewish descent. To have BRCA mutations is to be at higher risk for certain cancers. To be on notice of having the mutations is to have the opportunity to possibly head off the cancers or to discover and treat them early.

Angelina Jolie stole the spotlight by announcing her BRCA positive status and her pre-emptive double mastectomy. Supposedly, on hearing of a test that would allow one to bypass cancer, women flooded their doctors’ offices wanting one.

Angelina should have anticipated this. It would have been useful for her to point out that in order to have a BRCA mutation, there must be Jews in the family tree.

I wonder if there was a Jewish (as in — “are you Jewish?” “are you related to Jews?”) box Angelina had to check before the BRCA test was administered. If she checked “No,” everyone would have known that the test would have been pointless.

Breast cancer killed off my women in my family for three generations. I, like Jolie, could have had a test and at least sorted through options, not all of which included pre-emptive double mastectomy. But no doctor ever asked if I am a Jew.

There was never any box. So now that we have a major movie star, a Supreme Court ruling and hopefully this letter, perhaps doctors will begin to take notice of BRCA testing.

And genetic differences beyond race.


He’s an apostate

In his  “Ill-advised list” (WJW, June 6), Daniel Pipes credits one Marvin Olasky for calling attention to the NEH’s “Muslim Journeys Bookshelf” project.

What readers of WJW need to know is that Mr. Olasky is a Jew turned Bible-thumping Christian fundamentalist. Which from a Jewish perspective, means that he is a faith-traitor of the very first order.

Olasky has as much credibility in matters relating to the Abrahamic faiths as Todd Akin and Richard Murdock do when it comes to women’s reproductive issues.

It is bad enough that Pipes thinks so highly of this apostate, but for Pipes to cite him so approvingly in a Jewish publication is a slap-in-the-face to the Jewish community.

Further, presumably in the interests of diversity, WJW policy is to limit letter writers to one per month. Fine.

So why does this not also apply to the opinions column as well? This is Pipes’ second article in three weeks.

WOJO COHEN, Severna Park, Md.

No way for Jews to live

Jews deserve to live in peace and safety. That is the idea behind Zionism, that Jews could only be secure in a state of their own. And it made sense given the history of violent anti-Semitism and European pogroms against Jews. The Holocaust seemed to clinch the argument. But the Jewish state has not delivered as promised.

Jews in Israel have been engaged more or less in constant warfare since before its birth. Israelis must be on guard night and day against border attacks, terrorist bombers and rockets. Military service is compulsory at 18 with few exceptions. Active military service is followed by long-term reserve requirements. Jews in kibbutzim in northern Israel live behind barbed wire bordered by lighted and patrolled perimeter roads. They can be spotted at night on hilltops ringed by lights.

This is no way for Jews to live. It is time to reconsider Zionism’s strengths and weaknesses. I know those wedded to the status quo would refuse to engage in such thinking. But somehow this must change. I still search for an answer. Perhaps someone reading this letter might know a solution.


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