May 1: Fitting rituals and prayers

"To this day, I am still waiting for an answer."

letters 88 (photo credit: )
letters 88
(photo credit: )
Fitting rituals... Sir, - Matthew Wagner did an excellent job analyzing the complexities surrounding the observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day ("An anchor for national mourning," April 29). As an Orthodox Jew whose mother was a Holocaust survivor, the date should be a significant one on my calendar. However, I am uncomfortable with the emphasis on secular ceremonies such as lighting torches and observing a minute of silence. The Six Million were killed because they were Jews; would it not be more fitting to memorialize them with Jewish ceremonies and rituals? KENNY FISHER Jerusalem ...and prayers Sir, - Contrary to the statement in "An anchor for national mourning" that no special liturgical lamentation prayers were written to be recited on the 10th of Tevet, I should like to draw readers' attention to the prayer penned by the late Dr. Shlomo Fundaminsky, a former inspector of the London Board of Jewish Religious Education, which appears in the (Abraham) Rosenfield Selichot. COLIN L LECI Jerusalem Still waiting Sir, - It appears that the Claims Conference does not like any criticism ("Claims Conference seeks to block documentary," April 29). So here is a personal experience. In July 2005 the conference advertised in the Israeli media that Austrian Jews who left after March 12, 1938, the Anschluss, and had not had any compensation from Germany should apply for a one-time restitution payment from the German government. I duly applied and received my file number. In 2006 I contacted the Tel Aviv office on two occasions to ascertain what was happening. The first reply was that my case was being dealt with; the second told me to contact the Frankfurt office, which was dealing with the matter. In May 2007, nearly two years after the advert, I wrote to Frankfurt. To this day, nearly one year after my letter, I am still waiting for an answer. (What happened to the so-called yekke efficiency?) I have heard nothing from the Tel Aviv office. If the negotiations are still ongoing, surely applicants could be informed? Or perhaps the lump sum has already been paid and is sitting in an account somewhere earning good interest? EMANUEL FISCHER Jerusalem (formerly Vienna) Silence and belief Sir, - I was deeply moved by Menachem Rosensaft's eloquent "Sanctuary in Auschwitz" (April 30). That Jews argue and debate with God is well known; that Jews refer to Him as a liar - that's one for the books! For me, the lesson is one of silence and belief in the white spaces between the letters of Mr. Rosensaft's words: the ineffable suffering of those in the death camps surely resonates within this generation's prayers. Their hopes were our hopes, their dreams ours, and their memory lives on in ours. YOEL NITZARIM Skokie, Illinois Gotta choose Sir, - In response to Sarah Kreimer's "Moving on to 'stage-two Zionism'" (April 30): I agree 100% with MK David Rotem's challenge to the Arab citizens of Israel - choose between being Israeli or Palestinian. You can't be both because the core values are different. Israel is a free country, and Israeli Arabs who are not happy living here can move and get all the benefits the Palestinians are receiving from their government. Israel is the only country in the world where Jews are a majority. Why should this change? After 60 years, they are no longer victims. They have the choice of getting on with their lives. I can't go back to the home in Germany that was in my family for generations. It's gone. I can't change the past, only the future. Being PC is not always good for the majority. If we are not careful the civilization we know will be lost to future generations. ANDEE GOLDMAN Netanya Sir, - Sarah Kreimer argues for recognition of a Palestinian state and equal rights for Arabs. I'm left wondering: Are there any articles like hers in the Islamic press, arguing for recognition of Israel and equal rights for Jews? It might be helpful in establishing a two-state solution if Israel's neighbors wanted a 58-state solution: 57 Muslim countries and one Jewish one. DAVID KATCOFF Jericho, Vermont Culture and care Sir, - Caring successfully for the "Other" is highly relevant in our multicultural environment, and Judy Siegel-Itzkovich's "Cultural sensitivity at the bedside" (April 27) highlighted the importance of health workers being sensitive to the cultural norms of different ethnic groups. In the Israeli health system, frustration is deeply felt by both patients and carers when cultural differences lead to misunderstandings, insult and sub-optimal care. In addition to the crucial quality of empathy without which it is hard to care successfully, the experience of Coney Island Hospital in New York - and more recently of the Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem - should teach us that important aspects of cross-cultural consultation can and should be learned. In an admirable attempt to improve the quality of care in the Beduin sector, Maccabi Health Services have initiated an academic course in cultural competence, the first of its kind in Israel, for their health workers, including doctors, nurses, paramedics and managerial staff. With the help of Ben-Gurion University, these primary care workers are learning about Beduin history, culture and attitudes to traditional and modern medicine. This should create much greater job satisfaction for the workers in the field and, most importantly, significantly improve the quality of health care in the Negev. DR. PETER BERKELEY Metar Mom vis-a-vis dad Sir, - Re the letter ("With mom & dad," April 30) asking why we are not promoting joint custody of children after a divorce: When I worked as a psychologist in the New York Family Courts, it was clear that joint custody worked well only when the parents had a reasonably positive relationship with each other and could cooperate fully in the best interests of the children. And, of course, both had to be interested in such an arrangement. Unfortunately, these conditions - and the parents living close enough so the children's daily lives are not disrupted - are not often met. DR. CHARLOTTE SLOPAK GOLLER Jerusalem Who rules Australia? Sir, - Your correspondent left the impression that Australia's head of state is the queen of England and that Australia is not a fully independent country ("Aussie gumption," Letters, April 28) - an impression regrettably held by many uninformed Australians today. As a result of a series of constitutional developments, including the 1937 Statute of Westminster, the queen concurrently holds the separate and distinct statutory role of queen of Australia, which she may exercise solely under the advice of her Australian government. In practice, the role is delegated, in the case of the Commonwealth government, to her personal representative, the governor-general. Similar delegations are held by the various state governors. No one should infer that any vestige of power regarding the governance of Australia remains in any foreign hands, and that the Commonwealth of Australia is anything but an independent power. MERVYN DOOBOV Jerusalem