“No one is vetting Syrian refugees for signs of antisemitism” (Comment & Features, February 5) correctly quotes me as saying: “Refugees coming to the US are subject to more vetting and screening than any other non-citizen arriving in America, subject to multiple layers of screening and review.” It notes that no one, however, is screening these refugees for antisemitism, and that Syrian textbooks are rife with antisemitic invective against Jews.
This is not untrue. The good news, however, is that when I visit Syrian refugees resettled by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, I always ask how they felt to be greeted at the airport by a Jewish organization and about being assisted by HIAS and Jewish Family Service agencies.
Consistently, the refugees tell me that they quickly came to realize that everything they were taught in Syria about Jews was a lie, that the first Jews they ever met were in the United States, and that these Jews welcomed them. This “Jewish” has done more to help them than anyone ever has.
HIAS has learned that the best way to combat antisemitism is by being true to the fundamental Jewish value of welcoming the stranger and the refugee.MARK HETFIELD
Silver Spring, Maryland
The writer is president and CEO of HIAS.Editor’s note:
The opinion piece, by Charles Jacobs, incorrectly spelled Hetfield’s name as Hatfield.
Diaspora and Trump
In justifying Donald Trump’s travel ban on people from some Muslim states and the deliberate lack of mention of Jews in his statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day (“Diaspora Jews lose the moral plot,” As I See It, February 3,) Melanie Phillips has lost her bearings.
She justifies the travel ban as preventing terrorism. There has been no attack in the US from anyone from the banned countries since 9/11, more than 15 years ago. Yet Saudi Arabia, where the bulk of the 9/11 perpetrators came from and which continues to fund and support Islamic militants, is not on the list. President Trump’s knee-jerk reaction requires critical appraisal rather than blinkered support.
Ms. Phillips then goes on to defend the lack of Jewish mention in the White House’s statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day by bizarrely blaming the Jews, because some Holocaust museums mention other mass murders of the 20th century. Once again, the victims are blamed for what happened.
Anyone visiting the major Holocaust museums can have no doubt that their central message is the attempted extermination of the Jews by the Nazis.
Would Ms. Phillips have made this defense of the White House statement if it had been issued last year by then-president Barack Obama? In her rush to support Trump, she is moving from being an analyst and commentator to becoming an apologist and cheerleader.
I wish to point out that I am disgusted with the way British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Rabbi Mirvis and other Jewish leaders attacked US President Donald Trump’s executive order.
Religious leaders should stay out of politics. When they decide to intervene to protest religious persecution, they should at least do so in a fair and balanced manner. I don’t remember hearing from any of these people while former president Barack Obama was persecuting, all the way to the Supreme Court, the welfare organization Little Sisters of the Poor, whose members spend their lives counseling poor people who are dying and have no close relatives – the ultimate mitzva.
As Catholic sisters, these women provided their employees with the most generous health care benefits available except for two things – abortion and contraception, because these practices are against their religion. Instead of giving them a waiver, Obama simply told them that if they did not give their employees free contraception, he would fine them out of existence.
Im addition, if Rabbi Mirvis and others now wish to redeem themselves, they should at least speak out against the unfair and unjust character assassination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. For taking the trouble to uphold religious liberty in a ruling upheld by that court, Democrats are now falsely yet deliberately accusing Judge Gorsuch of “favoring large companies against their poor workers.”
Warren J. Blumenfeld (“Fascism will fail in the US because of ‘We the People,’” Comment & Features, February 2) asks us to accept blindly that we “have long since passed the point where it is merely hyperbole to compare the rise and control of the Nazis... to the rise and possible total take-over of fascism in the US.”
We are left to wonder on what basis he makes this outrageous charge. He refers to US President Donald Trump’s use of so-called alternative facts while the Center and Left are the unquestioned truth-tellers. He ignores the many blatant falsehoods used by the non-fascists Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to advance the Left’s agenda.
Obama created the Orwellian concept of “leading from behind.” He characterized Islamic State as “jayvee” (junior varsity), refused to even utter the words “radical Islamic terror” and supported the UN resolution declaring Jewish residence in our historic capital as a flagrant violation of international law.
Perhaps Blumenfeld objects to Trump’s desire to rein in the clearly biased news media. The Left acts like Nazi brownshirts – arrogating to themselves a monopoly on truth, violently preventing speeches and threatening to burn books by anyone with whom they disagree – while Democratic leaders tell their people to “fight in the streets.”
What of Trump’s use of multiple executive orders allegedly to seize power improperly? Obama issued executive orders with impunity to change laws or legislate out of whole cloth whenever Congress failed to act as he wished. Who are the real fascists in all of this? Blumenfeld and the Left demonize Trump so they will not have to deal with a reality: Their candidate lost because the great swathe of middle America rejected Clinton’s patronizing promises and false descriptions of their well-being, freely choosing another direction.
Most shocking to the Left, Trump is actually keeping his campaign promises.EFRAIM A. COHEN
Zichron Ya’acovWomen of the Wall
If the Women of the Wall want to read from the Torah, they have their own synagogues. The Western Wall is – and was originally – a place to pray according to Halacha (Jewish law).
The Kotel is the holiest place for Jews from all over the world.
It is the true remnant of the holy Temple. The overwhelming majority of Jews come to pray or even just see and touch the ancient stones.
People pray there every day, every hour. They read from the Torah on the appointed days, according to Jewish law. Changing these laws does not comply with the tremendous holiness of the Wall.
By the way, many are unaware of why Jewish women need not practice the mitzva of wearing prayer shawls and laying tefillin.
It is because our sources teach us that women have direct access to God because of their being created according to his will. Therefore, they don’t need these things to help them reach the highest spirituality in their prayers.
There are also mitzvot for women only. Members of the Women of the Wall should try keeping them.AVIGAYIL RAVITZ