November 24: Remember well

In the late 1980s when the first intifada erupted, Woody Allen took an unequivocal stand against Israel.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Remember well
Sir, – I was sorry to see Woody Allen’s photo in Judy Montagu’s column (“Memories are made of this,” In My Own Write, Comment and Features, November 20). It was even worse to read her praise of him.
In the late 1980s when the first intifada erupted, Allen took an unequivocal stand against Israel.
He has earned his huge fortune portraying what in my eyes is the worst of stereotypes: the ghetto self-hating Jew. He has never stepped foot in Israel. As such a high-profile Jewish personality who has peddled his Jewishness to the bank I always felt he had a moral obligation which overrides free speech to support the Jewish nation. While I was once a fan, since the ’80s I’ve never watched another one of his films.
Sir, – I’m thinking of the challenge Judy Montagu sent out in asking at the end of her topical op-ed column about how I’d like to be remembered. While I was at it I thought of how I remember her own act of kindness.
Judy came along to a meeting of Shalshelet despite having a writing deadline to meet because she knew her presence was important to the organizers. Her obituary of the still much missed Alex Berlyne that ‘With some people, it doesn’t matter how old they are; you always feel they have gone too soon’ touched a nerve in me and prompted me to share my thoughts with you.
I don’t know how I’ll be remembered but I do know some of the things I’ve tried to do which make my life meaningful.
For instance, I know that there are some whose lives have been enriched and some families I have helped to create, both through the organization I am involved in and personally.
But still, your question nags.
How would I like to be remembered? I can only quote a dear, non-religious friend of ours who could never give me a drink with milk in the evenings as invariably, in those long ago days, I had meat for dinner.
Eventually, after serving lemon tea yet again, he said in exasperation that I should have on my gravestone – “She was always fleishig.”
I only hope I will retain my memory to the end – whenever that is.
PESSY KRAUSZ Jerusalem The writer is the founder of the Shalshelet Enhancing Relationships Center Equal treatment
Sir, – While justly decrying the income inequity in Israel, and admitting that a fair, economically justifiable solution is difficult to find, nevertheless the editorial falls back on two canards; nepotism and the “ discrimination against Israelis who did not serve in the IDF such as haredim and Arabs” (“Inclusive growth,” November 20).
When nepotism is used to hire and/or promote the unfit, it is most deplorable, immoral, and unethical. However, since it has always been more about who you know rather than what you know, it is an inescapable fact of human behavior that, all things being equal, one would hire/promote those they know rather than those they do not know.
As for the charge of “discrimination,” what is wrong with giving favorable treatment to those who did not shirk their civic responsibilities, and gave up years of youth, education, career advancement and risked their lives to serve the nation? Do we not owe them a concrete gesture of gratitude? As for the haredim and Arabs, they have made a conscious decision not to serve in any capacity, have a temporal advantage denied to our soldiers, and distort all economic data about themselves by having an unreported, flourishing and lucrative underground economy, unsullied by data and taxes.
Ingratitude is worse than nepotism.
Sir, – With reference to your editorial, “Inclusive growth,” as long as the contribution of capital to productivity continues to increase and the contribution of labor continues to decrease, without corrective actions income disparities will continue to widen. This phenomenon is having, and will continue to have, serious negative social and political consequences.
Unfortunately, most of the measures taken by the Western countries have involved increasing government subsidies of various kinds to larger and larger segments of society, creating a class of citizens who are dependent in whole or in part on government transfers. In the United States at this time that segment is almost 50% of the total population.
Increasing dependency is the wrong solution to the problem.
The right solution is to facilitate the acquisition of productive capital assets by an ever-increasing percentage of the population, through such mechanisms as employee stock ownership plans and community investment trusts. These mechanisms and others of the same nature are well known and have been successfully applied in various parts of the world.
NORMAN A. BAILEY Haifa The writer is the president of The Institute for Global Economic Growth
A focal point
Sir, – Dialogue can be valuable in helping us rethink our own positions on religion, social behavior and politics.
With that in mind, I read Marci Lenk’s op-ed (“Israelis must learn to listen to our American cousins,” Comment and Features, November 15). Ms. Lenk advocates that Israel should follow the US model of pluralism in Jewish religious life.
In order to evaluate the merits of this proposal, I would like to address the following issues: How successful has this pluralist model really been in the United States? Has the Jewish Theological Seminary been true to its stated mission (1886) “to preserve the knowledge and practice of historical Judaism”? The Conservative movement in which I was raised more than 60 years ago is virtually unrecognizable today. Are there more or less member congregations since that time? Have young people who grew up in USY remained in the Conservative movement as adults? The vast majority of my contemporaries in USY either turned to Orthodoxy or slid into Reform, intermarriage, or have disaffiliated.
Is it really wise to emulate a rate of intermarriage of 71% among non-Orthodox Jews? Hasn’t Orthodoxy in America strengthened during the past 50 years, due to improved Jewish education and a number of outreach initiatives? Admittedly, there have been sad abuses of Torah standards in social and ethical behavior among those professing to be Orthodox.
These must be continually monitored and addressed.
However, it appears that the true observance of an Orthodox halachic lifestyle is, as evidenced by the demographic record, the only insurance against assimilation in both America and Israel.
Is our Orthodox system here perfect? Certainly not. There are rabbis who call themselves Orthodox whom we cannot hold up as good role models.
Although no system runs perfectly, we should always try harder to improve, and to reach out to our non-observant brothers. Unfortunately, we observant ones sometimes feel that we must cloister ourselves to protect our children from the corrosive temptations of secularism.
However, there are bright lights, such as Aish Hatorah, Migdal Ohr and others, which are more accepting and non-dogmatic.
In the end, an unchecked pluralism divides the Jewish people, rather than uniting us. Religious standards, that are informed by the ritual and moral codes prescribed in the Torah, have kept us and sustained us as a people. Our goal is to make Torah a focal point for our culture. Without Torah standards, the Jewish people may soon disappear. The Torah is the deed that records our claim to Medinat Yisrael. May our deeds prove us worthy to keep this, our homeland! ESTELLE P. HARRIS Jerusalem