Letters, March 11, 2015


Wiesel no icon
Like former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, memoirist and Holocaust performance artist Elie Wiesel is a one-trick pony. In the case of the former, the forte is municipal crisis management; the latter, the legacy of the Shoah. But Giuliani no more owns 9/11 than Wiesel does the Shoah. And when they venture outside their comfort zone, they commit stupid stuff. (“Icon Makes Political Statement,” Feb. 27).

The truth is, Wiesel is no icon, no exemplary role model, no Jewish Mother Teresa.

The WJW editorial characterizes Wiesel as the “face and voice of Holocaust memory … a moral conscience.” Yet, he lives in America, not Israel. Living here while raising his son made sense, since America offers so much more culturally and educationally than does Israel. But that son is now grown up. So why hasn’t Wiesel made aliyah? What kind of message does it send to the world?

Icon, indeed!


Lawyer argued largely Orthodox-interest cases
Nathan Lewin’s Obama-bashing op-ed (“A disgraceful precedent,” WJW, Feb. 26) identified this fiercely Orthodox attorney as having “argued many Jewish-interest cases before the Supreme Court and lower federal courts.” This is incorrect, in the sense of being misleading.  It should read “largely Orthodox Jewish-interest cases.”

Break the glass for happiness

Argh! Argh!

For 50 years of my rabbinate I’ve been correcting the misteaching that the breaking of the glass concluding the wedding ceremony has anything to do with the destruction of the Temple. That notion has no place at the simcha of a Jewish wedding. But there, in a WJW article, (“What’s in a Wedding,” WJW, Wonderful Weddings, Feb. 26) wouldn’t you know it? A photo of me officiating at a wedding and the couple is shown with the groom breaking the glass — so far so OK — and then the caption reads “to commemorate the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem,” perpetuating that misteaching with my beaming punim attached. Shame. Pain and suffering!

Thank you for not identifying me by name as the handsome rabbi associated with that false information. But the perpetuation of that nonsense is inexcusable and calls to question the research for the article.

If you must speak about origins of the practice, which in itself is entirely unnecessary, it is better to think of where the smashing of glass really came from. Think smashing a Champagne bottle across the hull of a ship. Think of two glasses clinking in a toast. Think of flinging a crystal goblet into the fireplace after proposing a toast, etc. That was then. Now is now. Origins do not determine validity.

The best interpretation I prefer is my own: “We conclude our service with the breaking of the glass signifying that there can be no vessel which can possibly contain the amount of happiness we all experience at this smashing moment in your lives.” Mandatory laughter appropriate! And both the bride and groom are encouraged to crunch together as a sign of equality and egalitarianism.

Nothing to do with the Temple’s destruction. That’s Tisha B’Av, not a wedding.

P.S. I liked the photo.
Congregation Bet Chesed, Bethesda

People paid attention to Netanyahu speech
This being Washington one can expect the usual hoopla of the spinmeisters, heaping their praise or vitriol on the speech to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (“Netanyahu slams ‘bad deal’ with Iran,” WJW, March 5). However, one dimension likely overlooked, I suspect, was the impact on the general public.

Seated in a reception area while my car was being serviced, I was struck by the assembled group of several individuals paying rapt attention to his remarks.

His was a primer in the convoluted and mysterious world of the Middle East, so far removed or abstract for many, if not most, Americans.

So at the end of the day should a broader and clearer idea of what is at stake for any Iranian treaty (be presented), that is well worth the price of partisan Washington angst in both the short and long term.

Snow job
For American Jews who believe in divine providence, the message — i.e., the timing — of the unusual Purim (March 5) snowfall in the Baltimore-Washington area is transparent.

It was condign heavenly punishment for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s meretricious and overweening address to Congress (“Netanyahu slams ‘bad deal’ with Iran,” WJW, March 5).

In the words of the Kringler Rav, “One good snow job deserves another.”

Wiesel has profited from Holocaust

It has to be said, and if no one else seems willing to do so, let it be me:
“Icon” Elie Wiesel (“Icon makes political statement,” WJW, Feb. 26)) is one of the few individuals of whom it can be stated without the slightest fear of contradiction that he personally, professionally, financially profited from the Holocaust.

Therefore, it was only fitting that his ill-gotten lucre was taken away from him by Bernie Madoff; and that the subsequent Imagining Madoff kerfuffle exposed Wiesel’s overweening vanity for all to see.
Those who are theologically oriented might be inclined to comment that God works in mysterious ways.

Appreciative of obituary
Thank you for your beautifully written obituary [about my father] (“Rev. John Steinbruck, a champion of refuseniks, dies,” WJW, March 5).

I benefitted from a rich experience growing up which included standing at the vigil in front of the Russian embassy, and a trip to Israel  Funny aside — my dad was detained by the KGB when he went to Russia; they tried to smuggle in cassettes of sermons by rabbis, and tiny copies of the Torah for the refusniks.

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  1. re: Wiesel letters. I don’t care what they think, no matter how true.
    Elie Wiesel is a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and should be honored as such. Like Yasser ‘Arafat.


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