Letters: Lessons From History, Liberalism and Free Speech

August 13, 2020

Lessons From History
Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy reveal quite well the Jewish approach to history (“Taking a Jewish Approach to History,” (July31).

One question, though, remains unanswered: Why has America not learned from its past? Why are the same mistakes being repeated to this day? What is the main obstacle that prevents a person or a nation from learning from its past? I think most religious books have the answer.
Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles

Liberalism and Free Speech
The danger of the “cancel culture” that Thane Rosenbaum and Karen Lehrman Bloch write about has taken root in academia, media, tech and corporate businesses. It is a real threat to America’s ethos of individual freedom of speech and thought. We have work to do if we are to honor the founding tenet of liberalism that informed our republic. Allowing it to be weakened would be catastrophic.
Alice Greenfield, Sherman Oaks

Thank you, Thane Rosenbaum, for your timely and spot-on stories “Why Is Anti-Semitism So Easy to Forgive?” (July 13) and “The Devaluation of Free Speech in the Land of the Free,” (Aug. 7). Both are must reads
Susan Mishler, via email

Trump and Groupthink
In his story “The Devaluation of Free Speech in the Land of the Free,” Thane Rosenbaum laments the mandatory conformity of the “cancel culture.” As examples, he points to firings and other totalitarian tactics to suppress conservative views and purge certain words, practices and even facts from the public domain. Later, he states, “The presidency of Donald Trump hasn’t helped matters …” But Trump’s presidency has not resulted in the censorship of anyone’s opinions, let alone the opinions of those who condemn him.
When Rosenbaum puts blame on a “polarization” that he attributes to Trump, he is no longer denouncing “groupthink.” He is practicing it by condemning the existence of groups with opposed  views. The problem is not the polarization of opinion, it is the attempt to homogenize it.
Robert F. Helfing, Pasadena

More Inclusive Planning For Disability
I recommend a disabled person or people be included on trustee boards and direct  funding where possible to synagogues needing support. With adequate support from the Jewish community, fewer synagogues will close. Where a wheelchair goes, so can a baby stroller. This then, keeps the community connected, and helps to prevent loneliness among those with disabilities.
Helen Dudden, via email

Remembering Rep. John Lewis
With the death of Rep. John Lewis, the Jewish community has lost a great friend.

Lewis (D-Ga.) was an original Freedom Rider. In 1963, he helped organize the March on Washington, D.C., where he spoke just before Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. (My parents were there.)

In 1965, Lewis led a march in Selma, Ala. The bloody beating he endured laid bare racial segregation’s barbarism and led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Lewis not only crossed bridges, he built bridges, too. In a 2002 op-ed, Lewis lauded African Americans’ and Jewish Americans’ “special relationship.” He noted their shared history of being uprooted involuntarily from their homelands, enslaved, confined to ghettoes and “subjected to oppression and genocide on a level unprecedented in history.” 

He also noted King’s advocacy for Soviet Jewry and support for Israel. He recalled King saying in 1968: “I see Israel as … a marvelous example of … how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.” Lewis also recalled King equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. 

Lewis will be greatly missed.
Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco

Listening With a Humble Heart
I was 8 when Daddy, an immigrant Jew, took me on his cigarette and candy route through the neighborhoods of L.A. We met laborers waiting on corners for a job. Men in offices dressed in fancy suits. Disheveled people, screaming, tearing at their hair. Elderly women who wept in hospitals. People of all nations. Daddy called everyone “boss.” When I asked him why he said: “Everyone has a different way of seeing the world. Listen with a humble heart  even if you don’t like what you hear.”
Mina Stern, Venice

Now it’s your turn! 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.

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