July 25: Harsh choice

I would never demand that our government make any deal, except one-for-one. I would weep and try to comfort my family; no more.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Harsh choice Sir, - We are a bereaved family. Our son fell in the Yom Kippur War, serving in the Tank Corps. When, three years later, our next son volunteered to join the same corps, his mother and I had to give our notarized permission, which we did. Since then, I and all our children and their spouses have served in the army, as have all our grandchildren who are old enough. Every time the question of a prisoner exchange has come up, I have pondered how I would face the situation if one of our grandchildren was abducted by terrorists. I have wrestled with my conscience, and have decided: I would never demand that our government make any deal, except one-for-one. I would weep and try to comfort my family; no more. I apologize to the grieving parents of abducted soldiers, but, believe me, no good can come of dealing with terrorists ("Your freedom is our freedom," July 23). NAME WITHHELD Israel Sir, - However much we want to end the families' suffering, we should never release live murderers for our dead captives. And although in principle I am against the death penalty, I agree with Shmuley Boteach ("The death penalty for terrorists," July 22) that exceptions should be made for brutal child murderers such as Samir Kuntar. One only has to look at that maniacal face to know that he will surely kill again, and it is our own government that will have made it possible for him to do so. MITZI KLEIN Jerusalem Shoah history... Sir, - Yad Vashem's spokesperson defends the omission of the Bergson Group from the museum's exhibit by saying the focus is on the perpetrators and victims of the Holocaust and not on "the responses of Jews in the free world." In fact, the story of this group is not just part of the American Jewish response, but of the US government's and public's response ("Hillel Kook's role," Letters, July 11). This group operated independently of the organized US Jewish community, mobilized large numbers of prominent non-Jewish political and cultural figures and built an ecumenical coalition that made rescue a major issue in 1943. These efforts, culminating in a Congressional resolution on rescue, played a critical role in pressuring president Roosevelt to establish the War Refugee Board - which sent Raoul Wallenberg to Budapest, financed his life-saving work and engaged in other rescue activities which, all told, saved more than 200,000 lives. That is not some kind of "sidebar" but an important part of Holocaust history, and it deserves to be acknowledged in Yad Vashem's exhibit. The museum already has in its exhibit a number of documents, films and other materials about various aspects of the American and Allied response to the persecution and then genocide of European Jewry, including the voyage of the S.S. St. Louis, the 1938 Evian refugee conference, the rigid US immigration quotas and the failure to bomb Auschwitz. As an American, I am deeply troubled that it does not also thus acknowledge the accomplishments of those in America who helped bring about the rescue of so many Jews from the Holocaust. DAVID S. WYMAN Amherst, Massachusetts ...and context Sir, - I read Isi Liebler's "Yad Vashem and Hillel Kook" (July 8) and found it convincing. Then I read the response by Yad Vashem spokesperson Iris Rosenberg that "[i]nserting a discussion of Bergson here would be out of context." If that is correct, methinks it's high time to change the context and amend the Yad Vashem Law from 1953. This museum is not the property of the historians, but of the whole Jewish people. Let's stop pressuring Yad Vashem and start lobbying the Knesset. It's never too late to set the record straight and honor all the heroes. M. HAGENAUER Jerusalem Successfully on Sir, - I'd like to clarify a few points in Judy Siegel-Itzkovich's "Hadassah confronts financial problems, dwindling membership" (July 17) on Stewart Greenebaum's comments related to Hadassah's membership and fundraising: Although our membership numbers have declined by a small percentage this year because of the death of some of our oldest members, we have been encouraged by the accelerated growth in our ranks of younger members, and are outreaching successfully to engage many more. We are also proud of the increase in membership of close to 30,000 men associates, as well as of our thousands of supporters in Hadassah International from around the world. As to our fundraising, Hadassah has never raised as much money, so quickly, as we have in the past two years - more than $200 million in pledges and cash donations for our new Sarah Wetsman Hospital Tower at Ein Kerem; and more than $80 million this year to support all our other efforts. What has decreased are monies raised for traditional "operational" support, not special gifts. Last year alone we forwarded $99 million to the Hadassah Medical Organization. Of course, there's no denying that an organization raising most of its money in dollars has to work harder than ever to keep up with costs, and we are doing just that. And as we live in a volatile world economic market, Hadassah must sustain its future in many ways. Reinforcing best business practices by decreasing costs while increasing income is the very first step. Stewart is a very dear and good friend of Hadassah's. We can reassure him, and others, that at the Los Angeles Convention, Hadassah's 94th, with a deep passion for our mission, we passed the "tipping point," on to continued success. NANCY FALCHUK, National President Hadassah New York