letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - Re "Jury still out on Nefesh B'Nefesh" (October 9): Yoav Fisher's pessimistic outlook on the new wave of olim through the services of NBN sounded like the typical Israeli response of "Why the hell are you coming to this country?" Where's the sense of patriotism and dedication to our core Jewish values - at least the olim from NBN are taking a chance, leaving the comforts of home to seek their place in God's land, while Israelis are looking for the American Dream in the malls in South Carolina.
Those who browbeat an organization for continuing the Zionist vision are just wrong. NBN has made it easier for olim to make their place in Israel. As a beneficiary myself, I know a deciding factor in making aliya with my wife and children was the professionalism of this great organization.
Happy and sad
Sir, - "At tense, heart-rending conference, scholars shed light on the Holocaust in the Ukraine" (October 5) brought back memories, happy and sad, of the time my wife and I visited the Jewish community in the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine in 1989. We were warmly welcomed by the remaining Jewish community, which then numbered about 10,000. We delivered many items in our six suitcases - clothing, medicines, Jewish books, presents for the children and a menora from the Barnet Soviet Jewry Committee in Barnet, North London. The local synagogue, undergoing restoration, had recently been returned to the remaining Jewish community after many years as a theatrical storage facility.
The community leader asked if we would like to see the Holocaust museum. This was housed in three rooms in a tenement block close to where 70,000 Jews, partisans, homosexuals and gypsies were murdered by the Nazis in 1942. A mural depicted what had taken place: The victims were shot and thrown down a coal-mine shaft. Very few survived.
We were given testimony by the custodians of the museum, not all Jewish: The place where the tragedy occurred is now a memorial site of two mine shafts quite close to the museum. I have never seen any mention of this despicable act in any literature on the Holocaust in Ukraine.
Thirteen members of our group returned to Donetsk the following year and delivered a coach-load of much-needed items to the deprived members of the Jewish community. A proportion of the medicines were gifted to the local hospitals.
On a happier note, we are in contact with some of the extraordinary people we met on our two visits to Donetsk, who are now living in Israel. Recently we attended the wedding of the son of a dance teacher whose group we saw performing in Donetsk. He now leads a similar group in Israel.
The Nazis tried very hard to eliminate the Jewish people in that part of the world, but they did not succeed. The living proof is here, in Israel.
MARTIN BERNARD COHEN
Sir, - One of the things I love about Israel is that the managers here often wear jeans and no tie. Not dressing above the blue-collar worker is what our greatest Talmud sages did. They frequently worked as cobblers, water carriers and the like ("No jeans here, Knesset fashion police declare," October 9).
Sir, - Does the new no-jeans rule in the Knesset mean that haredi influence has made the Knesset into a Beit Knesset?
MARTIN D. STERN
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