Pinchas Landau's focus on American Jews' love affair with money was spot-on.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFFSpot-on analysis...
Sir, - After reading tens of thousands of words about the Bernard Madoff scandal, it took Pinchas Landau to write the seminal piece on the subject ("Beyond money," December 19). He cut to the core, presenting the most critical aspects of the crisis clearly and concisely.
His focus on American Jews' love affair with money was spot-on. Some months ago, another of your writers recounted her first trip to the US in over 20 years; her observations on the wealthy Jewish suburbs of New York and Los Angeles were first-hand illustrations of Mr. Landau's most cogent point.
I have sometimes thought that prehistoric man would have had a better chance of extracting the mastodons embedded in the LaBrea Tar Pits than we would of trying to separate our brethren in America from their fleshpots.
Perhaps, though, this will prove to be the silver lining of the Madoff episode, which comes on top of the housing-credit-financial crisis. With those fleshpots rapidly emptying, perhaps our co-religionists in the "goldene medine" will finally see the light and move to Medinat Yisrael.
MICHAEL D. HIRSCH
Sir, - I was very sorry to see Pinchas Landau's discriminatory and insulting remark about Orthodox Jews. Regarding financial fraud such as Bernard Madoff's being a crime against humanity, he wrote: "Typically... it is the gentiles who have identified this central issue, quicker and more clearly than the Jews, including - perhaps especially - the Orthodox rules-observant but mostly morally blind 'religious' Jews."
Evidently Mr. Landau has chosen to base his description on Orthodox Jews who make headlines for committing moral crimes (this group does not include Madoff who, despite his affiliation with Yeshiva University, is not Orthodox). He seems to imply that Orthodox Jews' preoccupation with ritual observance comes at the expense of moral uprightness. Yet many of the "rules" Orthodox Jews observe relate directly to business conduct, as your Ethics @ Work column by Asher Meir makes abundantly clear every week.
Part of being Orthodox is being fair and honest, not to mention charitable. Even if someone like Madoff were to identify himself as Orthodox, his self-identification would be rendered meaningless by his actions.
RABBI MOTI NOVICK
Blue boxes, black times
Sir, - Charitable giving in the Jewish world had reached such astronomical proportions before the economic tsunami and the collapse of the Madoff empire that those of us capable of donating in only small amounts often wondered if our minuscule donations were even worth sending in view of the millions being contributed by millionaires and charity foundations.
Maybe this financial catastrophe can teach us something. The old days, when most of the Jewish world was very much poorer, had some virtues. Almost very home had a JNF Blue Box, and it was a tradition for each family member, including the children, to put in a donation, whatever they could spare - no matter how small - for charity. This practice could be revived.
Who will collect the full boxes? With unemployment rising throughout the world, there are going to be a lot of people with unlimited spare time but no spare money who could perform this function as their own contribution to charity.
NORMAN & LOLA COHEN
Sitting & ducking
Sir, - Re "Gazans fire dozens of rockets at Negev towns as 'truce' ends" (December 21): Perhaps Defense Minister Ehud Barak would like to tell the citizens of this country when he will put into effect the motto "The best defense is a good offense."
In the meantime, he appears to be waiting for a missile from Gaza to land in the middle of a kindergarten in order to justify a counterattack.
Ramat Bet Shemesh
Sir, - Imagine a terrorist organization firing missiles and mortars at a US or Russian border town on a Sunday morning. Would there be anything left of the terrorist infrastructure the following day? Israel will achieve deterrence and calm only if our Gazan neighbors realize that every rocket attack will be met with a crushing response.
Sir, - A military operation in Gaza to rid Israel of the Kassams being fired at it will receive international condemnation - but who can object if Israel sends in a few tour bus drivers?
Peaceful, yet potentially deadly ("Driver in tourist bus crash put under house arrest," December 19).
Sir, - Enrico Mandel-Mantello's letter "Unknown hero" (December 19), raised two painful points: why we, the Jewish people, ignore Jewish saviors; and why Col. Jose Arturo Castellanos has not been declared a Righteous Among the Nations.
The Salvadorans' report on their foreign ministry's Web site proves that Castellanos was a hero. I hope the Wallenberg Foundation will help Yad Vashem determine that he deserves the above title, the same as it did in regard to 94-year-old Stanislawa Slawinska.
He can't get real, but...
Sir, - Re "PM announces trip to Turkey, says peace with Syria 'feasible'" and "Olmert criticizes reality TV" (both December 19): It would seem that our-lame duck premier is unable to face anything even remotely resembling reality.
...ordinary folk appeal
Sir, - All the moaning we've been hearing about our lack of culture reflected by the enormously popular "Big Brother" reality show made me think about many of our professional entertainers and the childish, inane antics in which they indulge on the shows in which they star.
Watching "normal people" interact in an odd setting was truly entertaining. They didn't act out stupid situations that were far from reality. They didn't belittle others or insult the audience's intelligence as entertainment celebrities too often do. They evoked enthusiasm in other ordinary people because we were interested in studying their reactions to the pressures of being thrown together while cut off from the rest of the world, having to get along as best they could.
Bravo for the normal people in this country! ("Jerusalemite Shifra wins 'Big Brother,'" December 17.)
Sir, - I would like to stress that Encore! Educational Theater Company's production of The Yeomen of the Guard, opening this week at Jerusalem's Beit Shmuel, owes as much to the Yeo-women as the men.
Arlene Chertoff doubles as choreographer and business manager and excels in both departments. The production will be performed in English with translation into Hebrew (surtitles) above the proscenium thanks to Shelley Adler and Louise Fischer, who have adapted Jonathan Howard's literary translation for the LED screen ("Gilbert & Sullivan are back in town," December 21).
ROBERT BINDER , Director
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