January 27, 2020

Letters: Congressional Inaction, The Term ‘Concentration Camp’

Congressional Inaction
Jon Stewart’s impassioned plea to Congress to provide funds to help 9/11 first responders critically in need of medical services fell on deaf ears: Sen. Mitch McConnell’s. The Kentucky Republican said the Senate would get to it in due time. What, eight years late?

The problem is that too many Congress members are attorneys — 38% in the House, 51% in the Senate — and lawyers, by disposition and training, don’t work to get things done but to protect and defend.

I was at Capitol Records during the Beatles’ heyday. We had a battery of attorneys that required we submit them our promotional ideas for approval. In short order, those of us in marketing learned which of them could be objective and progressive, and which were the opposite. Those who realized we were in business and not a courtroom, that the bottom line was sales and profitability, became our favorites. And helped us grow.

Congress would get things done if more members were business oriented, with maybe a touch of creativity and moxy. No one’s impressed by their taxpayer-paid-for custom-made suits.
Hal Rothberg, via email

The Term ‘Concentration Camp’
I remember about 20 years ago attending an exhibit at L.A.’s Japanese American National Museum, where I saw they referred to the camps — like Manzanar, where Japanese Americans were interned during World War II — as concentration camps. I was upset about that misappropriation and comparison until I realized our terminology was imprecise and diluted. The Nazis operated death camps, not merely concentration camps. Let’s not quibble with using an apt description of American concentration camps, both now and under Korematsu v. United States. Instead, let’s call a death camp a death camp and address the abhorrent human travesty at our border.
Bernie Resser, via email

As the child of Holocaust survivors, it saddens me to see the debate about the proper/improper use of the term “concentration camps.”  My mother was in Auschwitz and I’m sure that the detention camps on our southern border are not as horrific.  I’m also sure that they are terrible and that their conditions are inhumane.

I might not have chosen to characterize them as concentration camps. I might have preferred that “Never Again” be remembered for its specific meaning for the Jewish people.  On the other hand, I am heartened that our history as Jews serves as a reference point for calling out injustice.  

We are reminded by today’s events of how much evil a human being and a government are capable of perpetrating.  We don’t need to compete about who suffered or is suffering more. We should not be debating terminology. We need to speak out and act.  That is the lesson my parents taught me.
Jonathan Jacoby, via email

Torah Portion Commentaries
There is an important contrast worth reflecting on between Rabbi Chaim Meyer Tureff and Rabbi Aaron Lerner’s Torah portion commentaries (“Table for Five,” June 21).

Tureff emphasizes the importance of recognizing a “higher power and allow God into our lives” in order to move from “darkness, confusion and hopelessness” to “context, relevance  and meaning” in one’s life. He especially references the principles of a 12-step program as it applies to helping recovering addicts. The inescapable parallel is that of a child needing continued support of a good parent in order to survive and potentially thrive, always acknowledging the ongoing role that “parent” (God) plays in making a good life possible.

In contrast, Lerner focuses on the history of early Judaism perhaps reflected a child’s need for “parental” guidance and direction, hence God’s interventions. However, he comments on the Rambam’s belief that the goal of God’s guidance, like a good parent, is to make it possible for the now grown adult to function in the world without acting as if it were possible only if a “higher power” is  in charge. 

One acknowledges one’s own strengths and abilities, able to struggle with, and come to solutions for, the many problems faced. A good life is possible through one’s capabilities and resources.  A relationship with the parent is still possible, if desired, but without requiring regression.

The rabbis’ commentaries draw crucial differences between a philosophy that embodies perpetual dependence versus one that emphasizes autonomy. These differences have profound implications.
Sheldon H. Kardener, via email

Conservative Judaism
Conservative Judaism shot itself in both feet 35-plus years ago by not understanding what the baby boomers wanted (“Can Conservative Judaism Redefine Itself?” June 28). Older congregants used their power to prevent any progressive ideas from gaining traction.

Today, we are seeing the results of their children not identifying with a Conservative movement. Jessica Emami wrote, “the resolution [of declining membership] will require the wisdom of Solomon.”

Unfortunately, as long as the Reform movement is making it easier for the ideas of the 30-and-older crowd to identify as Jews, whether intermarried or not, the Conservative movement will surely decline. My hope is it will not become an irrelevant identity in the Jewish community.
Warren J. Potash, Moorpark

Growing Anti-Semitism
The Greenberg cartoon depicting how men wearing kippahs in public are disrespected (June 21) and the story about how two Jews wearing kippahs in Germany were targets of ethnic slurs and derogatory comments (“Two Men Wearing Kippahs Targeted in Germany,” June 21) are clear indications of growing anti-Semitism worldwide.  Regrettably, some of us choose to allay our fears by choosing to think such events occur only in other countries and rarely in our own communities.

I recently visited a friend in his office. As an observant Jew, my friend always wears a kippah. To my surprise he wasn’t wearing it. When I inquired where his kippah was, he pulled it from his pocket and said he doesn’t wear it anymore. When pressed further, he explained that morning he was walking near his office in Beverly Hills and someone yelled anti-Semitic slurs, berating him for wearing a kippah.

Notwithstanding that I was raised differently from my friend and taught to immediately and directly confront even the slightest act or evidence of anti-Semitism, I do understand and respect that other Jews may have been taught differently.

Perhaps it’s time to establish workshops that include immediate and appropriate nonviolent actions in the event people are the victims of, or witness to, anti-Semitic remarks, threats, acts, jokes, advertisements or media displays. These workshops should include how and when to contact local authorities, elected officials and the media.

The time has come for all Jews to unite in responding to this hateful aggression and inform everyone that we will not tolerate it.
Stu Bernstein, Santa Monica

In a story about the ROI’s 13th global summit, Heather Wilk’s age was incorrect. She is 33.

Now it’s your turn to send a letter to the editor. Letters should be no more than
200 words and must include a valid name and city. The Journal reserves the right to edit all letters. letters@jewishjournal.com.