February 22, 2020

Letters: Pittsburgh Shooting, Mike Pence and Weaponizing Evil 

Pittsburgh Shooting
No one is born as an anti-Semite, and there are probably different reasons why one becomes anti-Semitic. One reason must be failure: failure to become educated, a failed family life, failure in the workforce. A common quality of failure is to blame everyone but yourself for your failure. Jews are a likely target because Jews are predominantly educated, usually have stable family lives, and are generally successful in the areas they become involved in. In the few instances where I have encountered an anti-Semite, I am able to consider it as a veiled compliment. The anti-Semite is basically saying, “You are successful and I am not, and I resent you for that.”
Michael Gesas, Beverly Hills

The suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogue killings, Robert Bowers, reportedly told a SWAT officer, “I just want to kill Jews.” This seems to have escaped the attention of Columbia’s student life office (“Columbia U. Updates Statement On Squirrel Hill,” Nov. 2). The office’s initial response to the murder of 11 Jews because they were Jews was intersectional. Various identity groups — but not Jews — were mentioned as victims of recent attacks.
Deflecting attention away from the stated anti-Semitic motivation of the Pittsburgh attack trivializes the specifically Jewish nature of this tragedy and is akin to giving assent through silence. This was obvious to the many people who objected to Columbia’s response. As a result of this, the words “Jewish community” were inserted into a revised statement, but the focus on intersectionality was not changed.
In this way, Columbia, like other American universities, trivializes Jewish concerns and contributes to the normalization of antisemitism.
Julia Lutch, Davis, Calif. 

Is Mike Pence a Missionary?
Two days after the massacre in Pittsburgh, at a campaign rally for Lena Epstein, a Republican running for Congress in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Vice President Mike Pence prayed with “Rabbi” Loren Jacobs, who he called a true leader of the Jewish people. As reported by CNN, this has been labeled offensive by real Jewish leaders in Michigan.

Loren Jacobs is neither a rabbi nor a leader of the Jewish people. He is a preacher in the virulently anti-Semitic Christian sect called Jews for Jesus. Jacobs has been quoted as saying that Jews will burn in ….!

From all available knowledge thus far, Pence is the nominative political voice for Evangelical Christians in the Republican Party. Can we afford this?
Yitzchok Gruber, via email

Weaponizing Evil
Of the many diverse articles and opinions in last week’s Journal dealing with the anti-Semitic massacre of the Jews at Shabbat prayer in Pittsburgh, the reflections of the astute Karen Lehrman Bloch are in my opinion the most compelling (“The Politics of Evil,” Nov. 2).

The weaponizing of evil enables the extreme forces of the alt-left and the alt-right to demonize one another even at the risk of tearing asunder the already fragile fabric of American society and the Jewish people. The blind hatred of “the other” creates this poisonous, political firestorm to the point where sane discourse is eviscerated.

Jewish community leaders of every persuasion must wake up to this threatening and present danger to every American Jew, and recognize that continuing on this demonizing path will bring no solutions, only more anger and divisiveness. This real and deplorable crisis cries out for unity among Jews, even as we disagree on certain sensitive, social issues.

It’s inherent in Judaism to disagree. Yet, for the sake of our survival we must adopt the indispensable attitude of being able and willing to listen to one another, and if need be, to agree to disagree. It’s a proven fact of Jewish history that, when outside hostile forces become a mortal threat to Jews, they looked to one another for unity, comfort, security and solace, and yes, also love and understanding. I’ve seen it, I’ve felt it in the Lodz Ghetto, in Auschwitz and during six years of Nazi hell and persecution. I implore you, in the name of the entire Jewish people, don’t let history repeat itself.
David Lenga, Woodland Hills

Trump and the Left
“Trump has said so many vile things that were once unspeakable in American politics that some people have lost the capacity to be surprised or outraged” (“The Lethal Power of Words,” Nov. 2). This so-called leftist Jew couldn’t agree more.
Kennedy Gammage, San Diego 

Uniting Israeli Jews, Diaspora
I couldn’t agree more with the agenda and focus of the General Assembly of the Jewish Federation that took place in Tel Aviv last week (“Tel Aviv GA Sought to Bridge Israeli-Diaspora Gap,” Nov. 2).

The acknowledgment of the divide that exists between Israelis and North American Jewry is the first step that needs to be recognized before a solution to bridge that gap can be discussed. The different priorities and “fundamentally different life experiences” make it harder for both sides to find common ground but doesn’t make it impossible to focus on shared values and common interests.

If we refocus our attention on what really matters to both sides, Jewish identity, coexistence and making a difference around the world, we will succeed in our quest to bring all Jews together and unite as one.
Menachem Nissim, via email

As tragic events occur, like the event last week in Pittsburgh, there is no better time to  unite various communities of Jews. A great way to join communities, as mentioned during the GA in the story, is to make a “Reverse Birthright.” This would bring so many opportunities to Jewish children in Israel to come to the United States and teach them about the greatness of life in Israel, as well as learn about the life of American Jews. This would influence and inspire Americans to travel and possibly move to Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people.

Another great connection that can be made with Israel and the Diaspora would be to set up programs worldwide that teach Jews about Israel, and grant trips for children who can’t afford to make the trip. This would help the unification of the Jews and bring forth the coming of Mashiach.
Jeremy Wizenfeld, Valley Village

Two Pillars of the Community Lost
Thank you for Tabby Refael’s column “Get a Lot, Then Give It Away” (Oct. 26).

Our Jewish community lost two huge pillars — Jack M. Nagel and Max Webb — within 10 days of each other. We all stand on their shoulders as we move ahead to the future to create a better life for our children and grandchildren. Having lived through the worst period of human sorrow, Max and Jack gave everything they had to fortify the State of Israel and the Jewish people. They lived the adage that “It wasn’t the Holocaust that created the State of Israel but the nonexistence of the State of Israel that created the Holocaust.” After working with them both for decades, I have decided, in the spirit of Refael’s column, to stop some students next time I am in Israel on the campus of Bar-Ilan, at an exact point on the promenade where you can see both the Nagel Jewish Heritage Center and The Anna and Max Webb Family Psychology Building, and to tell these students the stories of Max and Jack.

That will be my way of saying to these two giants: “We miss you.”
Ron Solomon, Executive vice-president, American Friends of Bar-Ilan University