Letters, Jan. 6, 2016


Accept the show for what it is
I was disappointed with the very negative review of Stars of David (“Stars of David is such a disappointment from Theater J,” WJW, Dec. 31). After reading it I thought of the Seinfeld episode where the converted Jew Tim Watley tells Jerry Seinfeld that it’s our humor that has helped us Jews to survive these past several thousand years. The reviewer showed little appreciation for the generally high-spirited tone of this romp based on Abigail Pogrebin’s interviews of well-known American Jews. Instead, she expressed disapproval of the stereotypes and chattiness and cliches and retreads of the monologues and songs.

I wish she would lighten up.

I can’t argue with her judgment that Stars is not a masterpiece like Oklahoma! or The King and I or many other great musicals by Jewish composers and lyricists and book writers (or by Cole Porter who learned to write as if he were Jewish, as we hear in this presentation). But Stars is what it is (you’ve heard that one before, haven’t you?), and the audience — including the reviewer — needs to accept it on its own terms: an interesting and lighthearted and provocative look at the Jewishness of Jewish prominent people,  with dandy, mostly comical original songs presented by four thoroughly excellent performers.
And then we can go back to the more serious stuff.

Visa waiver requirements stiffened in new measure
Although Morton Klein has raised legitimate concerns about potential security dangers from a large influx of Syrian refugees into the United States (“Don’t Endanger Americans by bringing Syrian Muslims into the United States, WJW, Dec. 31), he is wrong about favoring a total ban on their entry as the solution. Refugees from Syria and other countries undergo a vetting process. Four different government agencies screen for factors such as outstanding warrants and criminal violations. Fingerprints are also collected.


The program that poses the security risk is the Visa Waiver Program. This program, up until recently, enabled foreign citizens to visit the United States for up to 90 days without visas and without face-to-face interviews. The Department of Homeland Security has been unable to account for the far larger numbers of visitors who have entered the country this way.

Fortunately, the new law passed by Congress requires that applicants to this program undergo stricter rules and screening procedures if they recently visited Iraq, Iran, Syria or Sudan. This approach provides a way to address legitimate security concerns without compromising who we are as a nation.

Iran is bound for nuclear future

Regarding your editorial “Take Iran’s provocations seriously,” (WJW, Dec. 31), it is little comfort to those of us who lobbied Congress furiously (and to no avail) to recognize this “diplomatic breakthrough” by our president and his secretary of state as a huge mistake, to say, “we told you so.” Iran is now, with the aid and comfort of the Obama administration, safely on its way to a nuclear future without having to worry about repercussions from this president, who ignores every provocation from Iran and who, to me at least, is primarily concerned with his legacy. He needn’t worry —his legacy is assured.

Two atrocities, two child survivors
I found Ben Frank’s article about Cambodia (“Include Cambodia and temple of Angkor Wat on trip to Asia,” WJW, Dec. 24) especially meaningful. Two years ago, I was invited to speak at a Holocaust commemoration in Scotland. I had told the story of my rescue during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands by a Dutch-Indonesian family and their nanny countless times. But this event turned out to be an entirely new and deeply moving experience because I, a child survivor of the Holocaust, was paired with a child survivor of the Khmer Rouge, Arn Chorn Pond.

Arn was 10 years old when he was captured and put to slave labor by the Khmer Rouge. He survived by learning to play musical instruments for his captors, who amplified the sound to cover the cries of their victims as their skulls were being cracked. After four years in the camp, Arn escaped to Thailand and was adopted by an American family.  But he wasn’t content to live in America and returned to his native country where he founded Cambodian Living Arts, an organization dedicated to bring healing and reconciliation to the Cambodian people through music and the arts.

I witnessed that remarkable experiment as I traveled on Arn’s Magic Music Bus. It is an experiment well worth emulating in conflicts near and far.

A closer view of voter preferences

The article describing political preferences for president among Maryland Jewish voters was informative (“Having their say: Jews across Maryland weigh in on upcoming presidential race,” WJW, Dec. 31). One point to expand on is the near 20 percentage point flip in votes as seen in: “Baltimore County traditionally … a Democratic stronghold; [Barack] Obama won 57 percent of the vote there in 2012 [for president]. … the numbers flipped [in 2014] with Republican Larry Hogan winning almost 60 percent of the vote [for governor].”

A closer look at the Democratic strongholds shows that Hogan received more votes than the [2012] Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, in Baltimore County (Hogan: 150,137; Romney 144,686) and Baltimore City (Hogan: 29,158; Romney 25,501) and had less than a 2,000 vote difference with the former governor in Howard (Hogan: 52,525; Romney: 54,094) and Prince George’s (Hogan: 30,451; Romney: 32,236) counties. But, in Montgomery County, it was Hogan: 90,620; Romney: 110,940. The total number of votes in Democratic strongholds was Hogan: 352,891; Romney: 367,457. Without Montgomery County, it was Hogan: 31 percent (262,271/847,107); Romney: 26.4 percent (256,517/
971,869). Larger percent and more votes among four of five Democratic strongholds, while fewer overall votes statewide?
Silver Spring

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