Sir, - I was shocked at the reader responses to Judy Maltz's "Defying 'Silent Night' in central Pennsylvania" (December 25) and applauded her answer in "How to solve the 'Silent Night' struggle" (December 29). She hit all the nails - and blockheads - on their heads! I totally identified with her plight in that small Pennsylvania town. Having grown up in Livonia, Michigan, the only Jewish child in the school, I know what she was dealing with.
My situation was more fortunate. My teachers were very sensitive and I had a very strong Jewish identity from a young age. I sang in the school choir and just hummed through the words I didn't feel comfortable singing. I remember one girl saying she thought it "cool" that I would sing those songs even though I was Jewish. My teachers prepared special crafts projects for me while the other kids were making their Santas or Easter bunnies. Everyone was interested in learning about my holidays and it was a very safe environment that, I believe, strengthened my Jewishness.
My 9th-grade band experience in Wilmington, Delaware, was a contrast. A variety of traditions were represented in our winter concert - until a new instructor came on the scene and refused to add any Hanukka music to the repertoire. So the band lost its only piccolo player and its first-chair flute player! Surprisingly, the school population there was about 10% Jewish.
Sir, - Judy Maltz's response to her critics evoked curiosity. Although her American adventure provided a tiny inkling of what it's like to live as a minority, might her family be considering yerida? If not, why is she so passionately pushing her pursuit of "democracy" in Pennsylvania?
Sir, - Ms. Maltz's second diatribe compounded the effrontery of her first. Disingenuousness has been added to arrogance, insensitivity, ignorance and plain bad manners. At issue is not the performance or non-performance of Christmas carols in a public school but the right of said school to hold such a carol service. The rights of free speech and free assembly are enshrined in the US constitution. A carol service falls within this purlieu provided it is held with the assent, tacit or verbal, of the majority; as was certainly the case here.
As a Jew, Ms. Maltz is entirely within her rights to withdraw her children from an activity that does not fit her beliefs. This does not, however, give her the right to appoint herself moral guardian of the community and impose her will upon it.
That the school principal first assented and then recanted, and that "many Christians" supported her meddling merely emphasize the abjectness to which political correctness has reduced otherwise rational and intelligent people.
Finally Ms. Maltz says, with unimpeachable ignorance, that America is not a Christian country. Indeed it is, the many religions now practised there notwithstanding. Its founders were practicing Christians who relied upon the tenets of their faith to frame the grand charters that have guided the country ever since. They had the humility to insist upon the rights of the many, a humility Ms. Maltz could well emulate.
PROF. VELVL GREENE
Sir, - In "When wiretapping is easy to justify" (January 4) Uri Dan basically asks why anyone should get upset about wiretapping terrorists. In doing so he misses the whole point.
The law provides the administration with a method of obtaining court permission for such wiretaps, with a dedicated judge, so that warrants get issued promptly. There are even provisions for tapping now and getting permission later. These provisions were created precisely for the kind of monitoring that is necessary and almost all requests since they were passed have been granted.
To disregard the law under these circumstances is simply arrogant. We expect better from our president. Take this from a person who generally supports him.
Sir, - I read Shlomo Avineri's "Against 'presidentialism' in Israel" (January 2) with great interest. However, as one who respects Prof. Avineri for both his scholarship and his integrity, I was deeply disappointed to find one of his arguments entirely specious.
Avineri admiringly notes the ability of Israel's present political structure to deliver by citing the example of the Gaza disengagement. It shows, he says, how courageous leadership can overcome built-in limitations of the system.
Even if one is in favor of disengagement, the process that brought it about dare not be labeled "courageous." The prime minister's complete reversal of his electoral mandate and the dismissal of all ministers who disagreed with him, as well as his adamant opposition to a public referendum, all very strongly point to the inadequacy of our present system rather than to its strengths.
Count me in
Sir, - People give a lot of reasons for why they made aliya from the US which native Israelis often do not understand. My reason for coming and staying is simply this: The Jewish people, to which I belong, is going through a historic upheaval. After 2,000 years in exile we're finally coming home and rebuilding our land. How can I stay on the sidelines in the Diaspora and take no part? So here I am, being counted!