Letter to the editor,
Every week, when I go to the MJCCA, the first place I head is to the publication area and pick up the weekly copy of the Atlanta Jewish Times. Your publication has been a source of information, enlightenment and inspiration over the years.
This past edition centered on the importance of light in our Jewish lives and is so appropriate as Chanukah, the Festival of Light, is approaching. The Jewish concept of klipot, encapsulated fragments of G-d’s light, was expressed in the article, “Eizenstat Lecture Brings Holocaust Music to AA.”
The light of joy and happiness in the children’s eyes at “Amy’s Holiday Party Celebrates 25 Years of Giving” was touching and special.
Dave Schechter’s moving article, “Looking for Light to Dispel the Darkness,” again highlighted the power of light in our lives to dispel the darkness.
Keep on keeping on in communicating and connecting with the Atlanta Jewish community in positive and meaningful ways.
Jerry Schwartz, Alpharetta
Letter to the editor,
Where in the world is Israel?
This past week I attended a group of congregants interested in immigration at my temple. The head of immigrant issues from New York representing the Reform Action Coalition presented and was recruiting members to come and protest at detention centers in Georgia, consider sanctuary policies at synagogues, rescue applicants for amnesty, and support the defunding of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol. We were all told that this is in line with Reform Jewish policy and philosophy, which I do not doubt.
My first question was how this topic was picked for resources and money from the URJ. With Orthodox Jews being beaten daily in Brooklyn, Christians being enslaved and murdered in the Middle East and Muslims in real concentration camps in China, why would this topic get the resources and action of sincere people who want to help? My second question was that if ICE and Border Patrol are defunded, what will happen to the opioid crisis we are just getting our hands around and addressing. Lastly, this past weekend with the terror attack at a naval base in Florida shows that even the military from two different countries cannot vet properly. How can these volunteers guarantee that these immigrants are really family members and have no ties to drug smuggling or do not have communicable diseases or vaccinations?
I was told that in a very Family Feud-like poll, 100 reform congregations picked their top 10 issues. Immigration, racial justice, LGBQT rights, criminal reform, and gun control were the top vote-getters. I have no idea how the poll was conducted nor what choices were given the respondents. The amazing thing was that none of the respondents chose issues of anti-Semitism if offered, violence worldwide against Jews, the marginalization and threats on campus to Jewish students, or the progressive rise of anti-Semitism on the left made the list of concerns.
I am impressed with the earnest dedication of these volunteers and certainly there is a long history of synagogues getting involved in social action. However, to not recognize Jewish issues, especially as this is Temple-based seems like counterproductive.
There are multiple immigration advocate groups and civil rights groups and LGBTQ defenders but there is only one group in the United States that is totally committed to Jewish rights and progress, and that is through the synagogues. Synagogue action should make sure all our brothers and sisters and children in the United States and the world are safe, sheltered and fed before we expend money and time on everyone else. Moses did not lead all the slaves in Egypt to freedom, just the Hebrews. We must discuss the focus of aid efforts and make immigration reform based on what is good for America and not empathy.
Dr. Jeffrey A. Kunkes, Atlanta
Letter to the editor,
A Jew During Christmas …
I’ve been a Conservative/Reform Jew for as a long as I can remember. I’ve had a naming, bat mitzvah and even worked at Gesher L’ Torah’s Hebrew school every Sunday for a total of eight years. But the one thing I am not too fond of about being Jewish is the bombardment of Christian holidays I deal with every year.
Specifically, the “holiday season,” or otherwise known as: three months of the year where Santa Claus runs amok in every department store imaginable.
At school, we always had Christmas parties. I remember as a kid always wanting a Hanukkah party. That never happened. Us Jewish kids had to be sat down by all the adults as they said: “You have to keep secrets.”
We were forced to keep the secret of Santa Claus’s supposed existence from the Christian kids. I remember one Jewish kid getting in huge trouble because he broke that secret.
On the other hand, did anyone care about how to spin a dreidel? Or how to make latkes? The only Jewish learning that ever happened was when my own mother would come in on occasion and teach about the nearest holiday.
I always looked forward to those days. Even though I already knew a lot, I was eager for my classmates to learn about my religion.
They didn’t seem to care. But I wanted them to. I wanted so badly for someone to put the time into learning about my way of life as I had done for so many others.
It’s not about religion for me. It’s not about who believes what or if that person is right or wrong. I believe people can choose what to put their faith in and I have no say in that. I just want the respect that seems to be given to Christianity to be given to other religions as well.
I have to put this point out there though, not all places are like the U.S. Some places have different religions as their main. There are places where Christians are prosecuted.
All I want, from anywhere in the world, is the same amount of respect from one religion or way of life to another.
Yes, that means respecting your one vegan cousin who refuses to eat anything at Thanksgiving. Yes, that means making sure your aunt who’s gluten-free has something to eat. Yes, that means respecting people’s lifestyles, wishes and religions, as long as they do not physically harm you.
It’s the same for our Muslim brethren as well. There aren’t any Muslim holidays that are mainstream like Christian or even Jewish holidays.
I believe all religions, major or minor, belong in the mainstream media. All are equal, and all deserve the same amount of recognition.
One thing I say is I wish I had learned about Islam and other religions at a much younger age. I didn’t learn much about Islam until I was 19 years old. At Georgia Perimeter College (now Georgia State University), I took a world religions class.
During that semester, I learned the history and major holidays of several different religions. Those included: Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and even Hinduism and Zoroastrianism.
I have to be honest; Hinduism was my favorite to learn about. I may be Jewish, and plan on being so for the rest of my life, but if I was forced to pick another religion, it would be Hinduism. There’s just something alluring about having someone different to go to for everything and anything I could pray for.
So, this coming New Year, I implore everyone who reads this to look outside their own cultures and learn something new and exciting. For example, maybe I’ll learn how to make figgy pudding, or why people put ornaments on a tree. Or even why putting a tree up is a tradition. Maybe I’ll offer to make an Iftar meal for a family celebrating Ramadan in the spring. Maybe I’ll go back to the Hindu temple I had to visit for an assignment. Not to hate, nor to judge, but just to learn.
All I ask is you learn something new. Some new tradition that you may not have known before. Then we can work our way to the religions tolerance and peace we all crave.
Chava Shapiro, Leesburg, Fla.
Letter to the editor,
Beyond an Abuse of Power
On this day, as I write this, Friday, Dec. 13th, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee has voted to impeach President Trump on the grounds of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. No president, outside of Bill Clinton, has been impeached since Andrew Johnson in 1868, nor prior. Justice in our country is served after carefully examining evidence and applying the evidence and facts to the law.
The Andrew Johnson impeachment trial affirmed our existing law and set precedent that “Congress shall not have the right to impeach a President simply because its members disagree with him over policy, style, and administration of the office,” and maintained that to impeach a United States president, a crime must be committed. Clinton was impeached due to the alleged crime of perjury, and the Senate did not confirm the impeachment.
Is it an abuse of power to impeach a president without a crime being named? The impeachment hearings began on the basis that the crime committed was a quid pro quo with the Ukrainians. When no evidence supported that, the target became something else, and when they couldn’t show evidence on that, something else. What country holds impeachment hearings without any evidence supporting the purported crime? Congress ran impeachment hearings with a moving target of what the purported crime was and ended with naming no crime but voting to impeach.
The moving target is simply, anything. Impeach him for anything. Find a crime and remove him from office. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, stated as recently as yesterday, “I have been trying to impeach Trump for 2 ½ years.”
They have all been trying. Just after Trump won the Republican nomination, Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid for a Russian dossier that claimed Trump “colluded with Russia.” That dossier was the substantive evidence presented to the FISA court in order to obtain a warrant to wiretap and spy on the Trump campaign. The dossier is now known, indisputably, to be a fabricated document.
The FBI obtained a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign during a presidential election based on false evidence provided by the party in power, which gave them what they believed to be an “insurance policy” (Strzok-Page texts) that Trump wouldn’t be elected. They created a false narrative the American public would be sure to believe, and simultaneously (through wiretaps and spying) obtained the opposition party’s strategies and next moves. If this isn’t an undermining of our democracy, I don’t know what is.
Treason is defined as “the crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government.” Illegal obtainment of a warrant to spy on the opposition party during a presidential campaign, and an ongoing effort to harass, intimidate and impeach the president without just cause, and a circus in the Congress with no rules, no grounds and no facts to impeach this president, is the definition of treason.
Sheri Okun, Atlanta
Letter to the editor,
Now-abandoned charges of quid pro quo, bribery and extortion were designed to attack President Trump and damage his reputation. Knowing these charges were groundless, President Trump decided to fight them in court to determine if Democrat demands would withstand a legal challenge.
Fearing the outcome if their efforts to compel were examined in court, Democrats asserted that refusal to comply with any of their demands was, by definition, an impeachable offense.
Bear in mind that after President Obama’s decision to invoke executive privilege regarding internal documents demanded during an investigation into the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning operation, he was not subjected to an “impeachment inquiry.” Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress after he refused to comply with a congressional subpoena, but the Justice Department refused to prosecute him, and also refused to prosecute White House Counsel Harriet Miers, held in contempt after failing to appear before the House Judiciary Committee.
Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz warned that Democrats have created “open-ended criteria which bear no relationship to the words of the Constitution itself” and impeachment of President Trump would set a precedent that will weaponize impeachment.
Julia Lutch, Davis, Calif.