Letters: August 19

"Free to love Wagner” was an eye-opener as to the extent of composer Richard Wagner’s intrinsic hatred for Jews.

ICO head ‘insensitive’
Sir, – “Free to love Wagner” (Another Tack, August 5) was an eye-opener as to the extent of composer Richard Wagner’s intrinsic hatred for Jews.
Equally enlightening, and revolting, though, was the quote attributed to Erela Talmi, chairwoman of the Israel Chamber Orchestra, about those who endured the Holocaust being “either weaker or no longer with us,” and that “it’s hard” for those who have spoken out against Wagner “to be heard now.” Thus, Talmi concluded, we can play his music even in a concert dedicated to the composer’s veneration.
That a person with such insensitivity should be allowed to head the ICO or any government-sponsored activity is just one more example of our precious country’s values being buried beneath an unquenchable desire to become just another indistinguishable, comfortable nation on the block. Hasn’t Talmi noted that the nations of the world are not going to let us become just like them?
Sir, – I remember some years ago (maybe 10) hearing Gottfried, a great-grandson of Richard Wagner, lecturing in Israel. He gave a detailed account of the close relationship between Hitler and the Wagners, and presented much fascinating family material. For these activities Gottfried has been virtually ostracized by his family.
Interestingly, he told us of Hitler’s proposal of marriage to the composer’s sister.
She felt she could do better than a minor politician and refused him. She didn’t get a second chance!
A stranger is inspired
Sir, – I have never met David Breakstone, nor did I know his father, so this is just a short note to say how wonderful and inspiring “Sitting shiva: Things I learned from my father” (Keep Dreaming, August 5) was. It was about an obviously wonderful and inspiring man.
The world is a better place for Robert S. Breakstone having lived in it. We would all do well to be inspired by his actions and to continue in his ways.
Not this year, dear
Sir, – When hundreds of thousands of people are protesting the high cost of purchasing or renting apartments in Israel, it is extremely insensitive and thoughtless of The Jerusalem Post Magazine to publish articles, week after week, on high-price apartments and houses (“Luxury in Netanya, Homes, August 5).
Unlike the owners of the apartments and homes that are publicized, most people in this country suffer from financial limitations.
Much wider problem
Sir, – In “Can we talk honestly?” (Think Again, August 5), Jonathan Rosenblum correctly called our attention to a serious problem. However, he erred in choosing to label the issue of young teens who are swept off their feet under false pretenses as primarily an “Arab-Jewish problem.”
The real problem is not the interface of Jews and Arabs. That is the inevitable reality of living in a multicultural society. The real problem is that we have in our midst a sizable number of young women who have not learned to value themselves, to appreciate their own worth, to identify threats to their freedom or safety, to set appropriate boundaries and to defend those boundaries like the “tigresses” they are.
El HaLev, an Israeli NGO, runs a wide range of programs for young girls, teens and women that help them build self-confidence and self-esteem, and give them the tools to identify and protect themselves from threats to their safety – starting from harassment and unhealthy relationships to physical assault.
The enemy is not a specific race or religion, but an unhealthy sense of entitlement that some men have over women’s lives. It is a phenomenon that hurts us all and is what we at El HaLev work day in and day out to change.
JILL SHAMES Jerusalem The writers are founders of El HaLev.
No laughing matter
Sir, – There is much more to the issue of Holocaust humor than determining whether or not survivors will be offended (“What are Holocaust humor’s limits?” August 5).
Focusing only on the sensitivity of survivors suggests that jokes about the Holocaust will be acceptable once there are no longer any survivors to be offended. But that is precisely when such humor will be most dangerous.
One author of the “Hipster Hitler” comic displays his lack of understanding of the broader issue when he says, “We’re merely trying to understand Hitler and why he was ridiculous.” A reader of the comic says that such comedy is acceptable because it “belittles perpetrators of crimes against humanity.”
But Hitler was not “ridiculous.” He was evil incarnate. He was sui generis. Laughing at Hitler minimizes the horror he did and lowers our guard against those who would continue his work. If Hitler is nothing but the butt of jokes, then how dangerous can Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be? Hitler was able to advance his unforgivable project because the rest of the world failed to recognize the monstrousness of his evil from the outset. Humor that reduces him to an object of derision and ridicule makes him seem like a petty dictator, many of whom flourished for a short time and then disappeared. It may allow those who wish to complete his task to fly under the radar until it is too late.
While some believe that such humor empowers the survivors, it empowers evil-doers as well. This is not just a question of sensitivity but of Jewish self-preservation.
EFRAIM A. COHEN Zichron Ya’acov
Stability is key
Sir, – In “Communication is key” (A View from Israel, August 5), Israel Kasnett bemoans the fact that communication with the prime minister seems to be out of reach for the average Israeli.
Our present political system has been screaming for reform for many years, and although we hear again and again that it will come, there is no real incentive for any politician to initiate a change. Lacking a direct representative who knows he has a responsibility to you, the voter, we are in a position where we can attract attention only by blocking traffic or setting up a tent city.
To have a real effect we must form another political party and then hope the ruling party needs it in the coalition.
Sadly, the instability in this part of the world distracts voters from bringing the type of pressure needed for change. A military flare-up – always on the back burner – makes real change impossible until some type of stability or peace is achieved.

Many good words!
Sir, – I was delighted to read the article about Evan Fallenberg and the review of his second novel (“Dancing between two worlds” and “A tale of one city – and two residents,” Books, August 5).
Over the years I attended three of the writing retreats that Fallenberg co-organized. They stimulated my creative juices and I had the privilege of being in one of his writing groups.
Evan is a wonderful teacher who is sensitively attuned to what he reads, and was always able to pick up the unwritten message between the lines. He inspired and encouraged me in his pleasant, respectful and professional manner while creating a friendly atmosphere in which I wanted to bring my best possible self to the group.
He deserves all the accolades he receives!