letters to the editor 88.
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Our claim to life
Sir, - While Larry Derfner worries about the "exploitation" of Yad Vashem by taking every diplomat there, as Begin took Sadat, my fear is that basing Israel's existence on the Holocaust undermines and distorts the real basis of Israel, and that is the Zionism that preceded the Holocaust, the Zionism of Abraham and Moses, of Pinsker and Herzl, all of whom lived before the Holocaust ("Holocaust denial and Jewish liberals, December 14). Jewish nationalism, Jewish religion - which sees its roots and ultimate fulfillment in Israel, the fact that a nation deserves a state - these values and ideals are independent of the Holocaust.
For ourselves, Yad Vashem is sacred, as are all the graves of our loved ones everywhere. For our enemies, who want to learn from history how to repeat history with impunity, Yad Vashem is irrelevant; or should be unless we hand it to them as a weapon to use against us. Our claim to life is rooted not in our suffering, but in what Ahad Ha'am called "the natural force of a national will to live."
If we are a nation, we do not need the Holocaust as a shield. If we are not a nation, the Holocaust will not protect us from a repetition of itself. If Derfner and his Jewish liberals agree with this first thesis, they can be forgiven for not visiting Yad Vashem, and for not taking their gentile friends there.
From a 'fool'
Sir, - Prof. Sylvia Fishman states that opposition to outreach programs is "sheer foolishness" ("Education is destiny," December 6). Consider this, then - a letter from a sheer fool.
Outreach programs in America include meetings, holiday celebrations, educational opportunities, membership in synagogues for non-Jews, aliyot and the right to become synagogue officers - a panoply of offerings designed to win over the non-Jewish spouse in an intermarriage and encourage conversion.
Sounds great, right? Not necessarily. First, where is our sensitivity to the gentile parents in these relationships? How would and do we Jews react to any attempt to reach out for our children with conversion as the ultimate goal?
I went to a wedding recently where the bride was a recent convert to Judaism. Her parents had instructed the band not to play any Jewish simcha music. The motzei Shabbat wedding was followed by two Sunday brunches, one kosher, sponsored by the bridegroom's family; one tref, sponsored by the bride's. The newlyweds had to appear at both. In other words, the lifetime of strain had already begun. And this after conversion.
Imagine the young couples with no conversion who are the targets of outreach. Gentile parents do, rightly, fight to retain their own traditions among their children and, especially, among their grandchildren.
Second, and to me most critical, is the message to the unmarried in our Jewish communities: The final barriers have been lifted. Intermarriage, not to mention interdating, is now a part of normative Judaism.
Sorry to be so abjectly "foolish," but I do feel that raising my children with caveats was good parenting. We gave them strong Jewish educations and taught them many things: honesty, integrity, avoidance of substance abuse and also of intermarriage. We did not teach them to hate gentiles, but to marry only Jews.