letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - As things stand now, the Palestinian leadership is much superior to the Israeli one. Hamas clearly states that its aim is the destruction of Israel. Its leaders have not wavered, they stay the course. Israel's leaders, on the other hand, are zig-zagging all over the place. They talk tough but cave in constantly, embarrassingly. They now have no credibility with their enemies, nor with their own people.
Unless there is a change, Israel appears doomed ("Following summit, eyes cast toward Saudis for help," February 20).
Coconut Creek, Florida
to the world
Sir, - "We need to enlighten the Europeans," says Yuval Steinitz, re Iran's thus-far successful attempt to lull the Europeans into thinking the Iranian nuclear threat is directed against Israel alone ("Any nuclear project on the face of the earth can be eradicated," February 20). But why does Iran need missiles that can reach Greece if only Israel is the target? Steinitz believes that in a year or two Iranian rockets will be able to reach Britain and France.
"Jews are a detriment to Europe, Polish politician says" (same date) reports on a Polish member of the European Parliament suggesting in a booklet that "Jews are unethical, obsessed with separateness and a tragic community because they don't accept Jesus as the messiah."
These two issues are related. While it is possible that Prof. Maciej Giertych is an anti-Semite and no amount of "enlightening" will help, that doesn't absolve us from trying.
We err seriously in not conducting a major campaign to explain Judaism to the rest of the world, especially Europe. Europeans' attitudes toward Israel are likely dependent to a large degree on their perceptions of Judaism. Ideally, Jewish non-governmental organizations should undertake such a task. Failing that, Israel should do it.
We do, after all, consider ourselves a Jewish state. Our security may depend on it.
Challenge for US
Sir, - Prof. Sergio DellaPergola's "On demographics and space cadets" (February 14) reflected a lack of understanding of American Jewry and seriously misrepresented social science research. Our recent findings, showing that US Jewry is larger, younger and less identified as Orthodox contradict his prior work, but are supported by multiple sources of evidence.
Jews are a small segment of the US population, a little larger than the proportion of Druse in Israel. Unlike Druse, however, US Jews live in communities with non-Jews and are invisible to the national census.
The United Jewish Communities (UJC) spent $6 million in 2000-01 trying to identify and understand American Jewry. The study has been widely critiqued by eminent researchers and UJC has abandoned efforts to replicate the study in 2010.
The Steinhardt Institute synthesis of dozens of national studies of the US population provides contextually rich data to help us understand the size and characteristics of American Jewry. Although our methods may be unfamiliar to demographers, it is state-of-the-art science. A larger, less Orthodox American Jewish population suggests a different narrative of US and world Jewry than had been presumed, but that is not a reason to reject it.
The challenge for the US Jewish community is how to respond to the reality of a broad and diverse Jewish population. Let's not avoid dealing with key issues because we are stuck in old ways of thinking or doing research.
Steinhardt Social Research
Institute, Brandeis University
Out of context
Sir, - Lori Lowenthal Marcus's accusations against the Jewish Agency in "Not with my money" (February 14) were preposterous and totally out of context. The Jewish Agency for Israel has never funded the Mossawa organization.
In 2005 the Jewish Agency funded projects of the New Israel Fund to the sum of $96,664, and $58,366 for 2006. All these funds went to NIF projects relating to immigrant absorption, empowerment of immigrant women and religious pluralism.
Jewish Agency for Israel
Sir, - According to Google, Rosemary Tylka, who wrote "The Zionists created UNRWA" (Letters, February 20) is an UNRWA employee based in Europe. Shouldn't her letter have carried this identification?
The Editor responds:
Rosemary Tylka formerly worked for UNRWA. She left the organization in 2004.
Take our advice
Sir, - Our counselling service can attest to the "errors" made by well-intentioned rabbis who have "advised congregants on personal, emotional and family problems" because these same congregants all too often turn to us for help after irreparable damage has been done ("Rabbis who give counselling need to be trained as mediators, rabbi-psychologist suggests," February 18).
The solution offered by Rabbi Rafi Feurstein, however, that rabbis be taught counselling, cannot solve the problem. Just as therapists cannot be expected to undergo a crash course in Halacha, rabbis cannot be expected to acquire the knowledge a qualified therapist amasses after many years of study and experience.
What would be helpful would be to have rabbis understand that their expertise does not lie in counselling, and thus recognize the need to make referrals. Counselling services such as ours do exist, and they have successfully served the general population as well as the haredi one.
DR. LORELL BLASS
Council of Young Israel Rabbis
Get the drift?
Sir, - What amazed me about your report on former Shas MK Ofer Hugi's two-year prison sentence for multiple acts of fraud is that they were committed before he became an MK.
Mae West once commented: "I used to be Snow White, but I drifted." It seems Mr. Hugi "drifted" early ("Former Shas MK convicted of fraud," February 20).
Sir, - I am endeavoring to trace relatives who emigrated from Russia and settled in Israel in the early 1970s. The family name was Lakunishok and has its origins in Zeimel, Lithuania. The son's name is Zev Lakunishok; his wife's is Miriam. My late parents attended Zev's wedding in 1973-74, and I have a photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Lakunishok and their son and daughter-in-law and my parents, Ben and Lily Levy, taken at the wedding.
Should any reader have information about or connection with this family, it would be most appreciated if they would contact me.
VAN S. LEVY
Johannesburg, South Africa
Sir, - I am looking to reconnect with a grade school friend and would appreciate any assistance. From 1967 to 1972 I lived in Rehovot and went to Sprinzak elementary school. My best friend was Sari Hoch; we were both born in 1960. Over the years we lost contact, and I would love to find her again.
JUDITH (YUDIT DALLMAN) SANDS
Coral Springs, Florida