Letters on AIPAC, Israel and Balance
OpinionLetters to the Editor

Letters on AIPAC, Israel and Balance

Our readers found plenty of reasons to criticize what the AJT published in recent weeks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the AIPAC Policy Conference on March 6. (Photo by Haim Zach, GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the AIPAC Policy Conference on March 6. (Photo by Haim Zach, GPO)

We normally like to give each letter more attention online, but it’s better to post many letters together from the past three issues than not post them at all.

AIPAC Right to Be Secretive

As both a staunch supporter of the First Amendment and of the U.S.-Israel relationship, I found your editorial decrying closed to the press sessions at the AIPAC Policy Conference nonsensical (“Our View: Open Up, AIPAC,” March 9). I attended sessions dealing with strategy and tactics to confront BDS. I heard a way for college students to confront anti-Semitic hate speech on campus. Which of these should have been published? That would make as much sense as the Israel Air Force holding a press conference on pre-emptive strikes the first week of June 1967 or Eisenhower talking about Normandy on June 5, 1944.

A little common sense would be appreciated.

— Alan Schulman, Atlanta

Reality in Aliyah

The AJT is an excellent paper that for the most part is interesting, informative and entertaining. But was the March 9 issue supposed to have comic relief?

The article “The Stuff of Dreams Can Be Lost in Translation” seemed to be two unrelated stories. One could be seriously arrogant or naive or both, and the other could be for kids or young teenagers.

No disrespect to Harold Goldmeier, who I assume is an educated and intelligent man, but what did you expect? I could ask any non-high-school graduate, “If you moved to Bangladesh, Tokyo, Paris, Peru or any foreign country and looked for a job speaking only English, do you think you would get one?” And the answer would be no.

Israel is a foreign country and has its own language. Did you think that because we are Jewish and they are Jewish, they all came from Brooklyn and would speak English? Come on. Sorry if this sounds rude, but how was this article published?

As for the young people getting the first shot at jobs, OK. It is the same here and I believe most places.

Plus, Israel is about the size of New Jersey and has about 9 million people, compared with about 325 million for the United States. Of course there are comparisons that can be made, but many that cannot.

Israel is a wonderful country, an amazing place and a beautiful dream come true, but you need to work hard to become part of any new place and learn the language.

Thanks for the words to “Over the Rainbow”; I keep humming it.

I did not mean to be harsh, but this article should not have been published as it was.

— Eddie Greenberg, Atlanta

Between Separation, Assimilation

Eugen Shoenfeld makes some good points about the challenges facing the Jewish people and the need to develop strategies to ensure our future (“Halting the Hemorrhaging of the Jewish People,” March 9). However, the situation is a bit more complex than a choice between ghettoization and assimilation.

For instance, the classic picture of an Israeli Haredi man is someone who received no secular education, devotes himself to Torah studies, refuses to serve in the military and doesn’t work outside the yeshiva environment, which contributes to his large family’s extreme poverty. Thus, Haredi insularity affects the broader Israeli community because Haredi families are dependent on government grants. There is also a less obvious effect.

In Israel’s parliamentary system, Haredi parties can wield a good deal of power. Their rabbis are in charge of religious matters and have put barriers in the path to conversion for hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews who are not halachically Jewish but have settled in Israel under the Law of Return. In addition, interaction with the state rabbinate is often very trying for secular Israelis who need to obtain marriage licenses or arrange funerals.

I hope that this situation will improve, as younger Haredim are beginning to increase their involvement with the broader Israeli community. The last decade has seen a marked increase in the number of Haredi students enrolled in higher education, with over half of Haredi high school girls now taking matriculation exams. In addition, roughly one-third of Haredi men now serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

Today’s non-Orthodox Jews, living in democratic countries, clearly won’t seek a return to the ghetto, but their synagogues can encourage them to make Judaism an important part of their lives. If getting the children to the synagogue for Hebrew school more than a couple of days a week is too hard, perhaps lessons can be given online. Certainly, Jews should be expected to make Shabbat a special day, although not necessarily observed in a strictly Orthodox manner.

Having the children attend Jewish summer camps and participate in Jewish Scouting troops would also help. There are no guarantees, but certainly a family that does nothing specifically Jewish can’t expect its sons and daughters to feel obligated to consider only Jews as potential life partners.

— Toby F. Block, Atlanta

Israel First and Foremost

Israel must be paramount in our lives and thoughts always.

We must all be Zionists and speak out for Israel based on Genesis 35:12. Living in Israel and contributing to its economy are our most important goals.

Let us take pride in the Israel Defense Forces and rejoice in the 70th birthday of Medinat Yisrael. No matter what our level of observance is, without Israel we will die in the Diaspora.

Happy birthday, Israel.

— Phil Wendkos, Sandy Springs, Md.

Transitional Kindergarten

You may wonder whether your child would benefit from transitional kindergarten.

Not all children develop at the same pace. Some need more time to develop before entering kindergarten, whether emotionally, socially, academically or some combination of all three. For children who need this extra time or have a late birthday, transitional kindergarten, or transitional K, is an excellent option that offers a variety of benefits.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends that children have experience with the following before entering kindergarten:

  • Listening to others and taking appropriate turns for expressing ideas and questions.
  • Handling materials respectfully and putting them away.
  • Sustaining engagement with an activity or process.
  • Identifying and pursuing interests, choosing materials, and having some ideas about how to engage with them productively.
  • Being safe in relation to the group (staying within school bounds) and attending to personal needs (washing hands).
  • Asking for help when needed.

If you find your child struggles or is inexperienced in these areas, transitional K could be a good option.

It’s important to know two ways that transitional K differs from traditional kindergarten.

First, classes are smaller with a lower student/teacher ratio. Transitional K strives to give each child more individual time and attention to grow and develop before kindergarten.

Second, the curriculum is slightly different. The goal of transitional K is to be child-centered and to focus on helping a child’s overall development. It aims to build on skills children have learned in preschool, such as reading and phonics. Transitional K also emphasizes self-confidence and cooperation and helps children adopt a healthy attitude about learning.

Transitional K gives children an in-between year and offers numerous benefits to prepare them for a major milestone in their lives.

Several private schools in Georgia, including the Weinstein School at the Marcus Jewish Community Center, offer a transitional K program. I would love to answer any questions you have about the benefits of transitional K.

— Kim Sucan, director of MJCCA Preschools

AIPAC, J Street Far Apart

In the editor’s column March 16 (“Agreeing on Ends Is Good Start”), we are asked to accept that AIPAC and J Street agree on the ends. I wish this were possible. However, history proves it to be impossible.

One of the founders of J Street, Daniel Levy, called the creation of Israel a mistake in a 2010 interview. Moreover, J Street was a vigorous defender of the Iran nuclear deal, bitterly opposed by Israel’s elected leadership.

It received funding from nonfriends of Israel such as George Soros; Genevieve Lynch, board member of the National Iranian American Council, which lobbies for the Islamic Republic of Iran; and Nancy Dutton, widow of Saudi lobbyist Fred Dutton.

J Street also supported the infamous Goldstone Report from the United Nations, which tried to deny Israel the right of self-defense.

Finally, the student arm of J Street, J Street U, deleted the “pro-Israel” from its original motto, “Pro-Israel, pro-peace,” because the “pro-Israel” phrase was offensive to some of its members. I am unaware of a single instance of J Street agreeing with the position of the elected government of Israel.

Temple Sinai apparently received controversy for inviting J Street representatives multiple times. As someone who has no interest in membership in Temple Sinai, I believe they are free to invite whomever they want, even outspoken anti-Semites like Louis Farrakhan.

In fact, I would have preferred that they invite an honest anti-Semite like Farrakhan rather than a J Street representative who cloaks his goals. There are more commonalities of interest between Farrakhan and J Street than there are between J Street and AIPAC.

The article begins by describing the “Zionist bona fides” of J Street honcho Alan Elsner. This reminds me of a midrash in which a pig tries to prove it is kosher by sticking out its legs to show that it has split hooves. While I am not an authority on halacha, I know that pigs are treif. It is likely that Trojan horses are also treif.

— Herbert Kaine, Berkeley, Calif.

Hard Times Indeed

Most Holocaust survivors from the concentration camps are dying or dead. Jewish day schools are either struggling to exist or are successful.

Ignorance of Torah still abounds. Few attend services on the second and seventh days of a chag. Israel is not a priority.

Sunday mornings are an occasion for eating lox and bagels. Jewish programs are insipid and trivial.

Passover seders are a photo get-together for families, and deep discussions from the recitation of the haggadah are absent.

Shiva is barely observed correctly and for the proscribed time. Rabbis are insular and operate their congregations as fiefdoms.

American liberalism and weird causes supplant old Jewish traditions. Kosher-style restaurants far outnumber strictly kosher restaurants.

Few volunteer to serve in the armed forces. A small percentage prays three times a day, as halachically enjoined.

Respect by non-Jews for Jews is waning. More Jews are dying than are being born.

The bar and bat mitzvah celebrations are perfunctory and not traditional. Orthodox Jews are insular, smug and often intolerant.

Dues to belong to a synagogue are too high. Many younger Jews are unaffiliated and estranged from Judaism.

Movements like BDS and J Street are tolerated by Federations and JCCs. Jews criticize each other too much.

Reform and Conservative Jews are hypocrites and dislike the Orthodox. Chabad is trying to reach out to the unaffiliated but meets with questionable success.

Jewish newspapers do not include the parshah of the week and fill their pages with the superficial.

The High Holidays attract families who come to prey, not to pray.

— Phil Wendkos, Silver Spring, Md.

Handel Columns Need Balance

There’s no doubt that Karen Handel (“Congress Endorses Local Health Solutions,” March 23) operates in the best interests of her constituents. But her articles on the opinion pages of the Atlanta Jewish Times read like political election pieces: “I fought to …” and “I am committed to …” and so forth.

If she simply wrote neutrally about activities in Washington or in her district, I would not be concerned. But she is campaigning. Where are the legitimate, counterbalanced columns of her anticipated opponents in 2018? I’m sure they would “fight to” or be “committed to” certain goals as well.

Let’s not arrive at November having read only Karen Handel’s 6th District campaign literature in your newspaper.

Ed Jacobson, Decatur

Keep Thinking for Yourself

I found Eliana Goldin’s article very refreshing (“Why I Didn’t March With AJA’s Walkout,” March 23). Here is a young lady who does not follow the crowd mentality but thinks for herself.

While I agree that a memorial for the innocent victims of the Florida school shooting is appropriate, I do not agree with the 17-minute walkout.

Eliana emphasizes the #WalkUpNotOut response, walking up to students who are sitting alone or who are bullied. These gestures will teach inclusiveness and are great to boost a teenager’s self-esteem.

I object to CNN using the Florida high school students, giving them talking points before the media. Even David Hogg, as articulate as he is, is being used to push a leftist agenda to cause more divisiveness and chaos in this country. It is very unpatriotic.

Eliana, continue to think for yourself, to see right from wrong, and not to follow the crowd mentality.

C. Leah Starkman, Atlanta

We Must Defend Ourselves

In the spirit of Pesach: If we Jews were not confrontational against Pharaoh and did not war against our enemies in Egypt and in the wilderness, where would we be today?

If we do not defend Israel against our enemies today, how can we spread out in Israel as the Torah tells us to do?

We must support the Israel Defense Forces, the Mossad and the Jewish Defense League. We haven’t the opportunity to observe our laws here and to debate our leftist detractors who support Mahmoud Abbas.

Why not support the Netanyahu coalition and stand up for Israel, as John Bolton does?

Rabbis should be aggressive about conversions. Jews should enlist in the U.S. armed forces. Jews should express their views in newspapers and answer detractors. Young Jewish college students should learn Torah and practice halachah.

All Jews should learn about Hannah Senesh and Mordechai Anielewicz. We should venerate Rabbi Meir Kahane and read his books.

Phil Wendkos, Silver Spring, Md.

From the Blogs

The community conversation is always active at the AJT’s blog page, blogs.timesofisrael.com/atlanta-jewish-times. Visit the blogs to sign up for your own AJT blog or to add your comments to posts. Recent excerpts:

  • Wendy Kalman, “Gazans, Palestinians and the Future of Israel” — “I wish I had heard something in Hamas’ words as it planned this protest that would lead me to believe that a two-state solution was something the Palestinians could actually agree with. I wish I had heard Abbas say something, anything, about what the Gazans were about to do before they did it. But I heard neither.”
  • Bonnie Levine, “Passover Kashering Part 3” — “I have not accomplished all the goals I set out for myself. And in some ways I’ll probably be *eating* in a way that’s less ‘kosher for Passover’ than in previous years, given that I’m completely cool with kitniyot this year. But in terms of preparing for Pesach, you know what? I improved over last year, and under some pretty stressful circumstances to boot.”
  • Rabbi Marc H. Wilson, “PEAS and BEANS and RICE, OH MY!” — “The maelstrom erupted a few years back when a p’sak was issued by the Conservative rabbinate entirely lifting the prohibition of kitniyot, even for Ashkenazim. In brief, the rationale was that the practice had become irrelevant, because it is now uncommon even in Ashkenazic communities to use kitniyot in their heretofore manner.”

Write to Us

The AJT welcomes letters and guest columns from our readers. Letters should be 400 or fewer words; guest columns are up to 700 words. Send submissions to editor@atljewishtimes.com. Include your name, your town and a phone number for verification. We reserve the right to edit submissions for style and length.

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