November 21, 2018

Letters to the Editor: Poland Holocaust Law, Gaza Border, and Israelis in the Diaspora

Poland Holocaust Law

The letter to the editor about Poland’s recently passed Holocaust law could not have been written by a grown-up (Letters to the Editor, April 13).

It had to have been written by a child who was raised on lies and wrong information.

Claiming that the Polish underground was the largest anti-Nazi underground army in Europe is laughable.

There are still a few of us around, so you can’t make up history to suit you.

You need to be honest and speak the truth or don’t speak at all.

Ella Mandel, Polish Holocaust survivor, Los Angeles

Gaza Border Unrest

Kudos to David Suissa for exposing the hypocrisy of the Gaza “protests” (“When Truth Comes Marching In,” April 13). His most powerful point was quoting Ben-Dror Yemini’s observation that the Palestinian marchers chanted “Khaybar Khaybar ya yahud.”  This war cry relates not to the current State of Israel but to the seventh-century ethnic cleansing of the two Jewish tribes in Medina by Mohammad’s army. Those slaughtered Jews were not living in current-day Israel but in ancient Saudi Arabia — thus exposing the virulent anti-Jewish hatred from Islam’s earliest history. This same “Khaybar” chant was sung eight years ago in the Turkish flotilla as it approached Gaza.

Hamas made a fatal miscalculation more than a decade ago. Despite being offshoots of the Sunni/Wahabi, Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida and ISIS axis, Hamas switched allegiance to Shiite Iran, prompting Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Gulf states to abandon them. Recently Israel, with the assistance of its former enemy Egypt, destroyed much of Hamas’ tunnel infrastructure, leading inevitably to the violent protests we are witnessing today.

Richard Friedman, Culver City

Israelis in the Diaspora

This is another in a long line of letters disputing wild, unsourced journalistic estimates of Israelis living in the Diaspora, which Danielle Berrin has repeated as “more than 1 million” (“Wandering Israelis,” April 13).

The most trusted demographic estimate done by Pew Research in 2010 was 230,000 Jewish emigrants from Israel living in other countries, with the most, 110,000 in the U.S. This aligns with my 1982 published estimates for Israeli emigrants in the U.S. and about my estimate of 25,000 living in and around Los Angeles.

Fun fact: Using Berrin’s source data from the Israel Bureau of Central Statistics about 2.2 million flying abroad in a six-month period, and the U.S. nonimmigrant Israeli entry estimates for roughly the same period, fewer than 1 in 10 Israeli tourist flyers eventually landed in the U.S. As we are all learning, visiting or immigrating to the U.S. is a pain.

While the Los Angeles Israeli community has become much more organized, now raising tens of millions of dollars yearly through the Israeli-American Council (IAC), in the 36 years since a realistic estimate of numbers has been published, I have not found any evidence that the number of Israelis has changed substantially from being about 1/20th of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

Pini Herman, Beverly Grove

Israeli Salad Gets Thumbs Up

Loved the article about Israeli salad by Yamit Behar Wood (“Why I Will Eat an Israeli Salad on Yom HaAtzmaut,” April 13).

I love serving it at every Jewish affair. It just speaks to me and tells me to celebrate and be grateful to be able to celebrate and be grateful to be alive.

Phyllis Steinberg via email

What a delightful, wonderful essay. You took your readers right along on part of the wonderful ride your life has been (so far), and we enjoyed both cultures as you described them and their impact on your growing years.

Miriam Fishman via email

New, Improved Journal

First, allow me to add my praise to those of other readers who commend the Journal for avoiding the need to turn pages to continue reading your columns. It is a great convenience — and much appreciated. As we age (I am 91), our fingers become less dexterous and it is harder to turn the pages to continue reading a particular article.
More important, your articles are of much greater interest to me and, I am sure, other readers. This includes articles of a broad range of interests, such as (in the April 13  issue):

1) “Adam Milstein: Promoter of Israeliness.” I wept as I read it. He is a brilliant and great leader.

2) “Israeli Taekwondo Program Has Local Source.” As a result, I am going to ask the director of the JFS Freda Mohr Multipurpose Senior Center to provide our community with a special event to meet and talk to Lois and Richard Gunther, in honor of whom the new JFS three-story building will be named.

3) “How to Tie Shoelaces Into a Star of David.” I followed the steps on paper, and will now try it for real.

George Epstein via email

Memories of the Holocaust

Writer Thane Rosenbaum appears to hedge on the ultimate reason for remembering the Holocaust (“What’s Left to Say?” April 6). Is the continuing scourge of anti-Semitism or the “moral mystery” of the Holocaust the principal cause of its refusal to stop haunting our minds and hearts? A bit of both? If anti-Semitism disappeared forever, instead of just moving from dormancy to flare-up, the Holocaust would weigh even more heavily on the memory and conscience of mankind.

The Shoah was a catastrophe for the Jewish people, a cataclysm from which recovery is gradual at best. There are only 2 million more Jews in the world than existed in 1939, and this is despite the miraculous growth of Israel and the impressive birth rate of Orthodox Jewry in the United States.

The life force is with us, but the Holocaust is in our genes.

And as for the non-Jewish world, the eradication of anti-Semitism and the marginalization of the Jews would make the Holocaust such an embarrassment to the modern world’s sense of its humanity that all of its accomplishments in science, technology and medical cures would seem incidental to a fundamental flaw in its moral compass.

Peter Brier, Altadena

An essential part of what should be commemorated on Yom HaShoah is the extraordinary courage and dignity shown by Jews living in hopeless conditions in terrifying times. “Zog Nit Keinmol” (Song of the Partisans) should be part of any commemorative program, along with a few words about poet Hirsh Glick.

While imprisoned in the Vilna Ghetto, Glick was inspired to write these strong, deeply moving lyrics when he heard about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Glick escaped the Vilna ghetto when it was liquidated in October 1943, but was recaptured and sent to a concentration camp in Estonia, from which he escaped in 1944. He was 22 years old and was never heard from again.

Here are the words of the young poet’s masterpiece (unknown translator):

Never say that there is only death for you,
Though leaden skies may be concealing days of

Because the hour we have hungered for is near,
Beneath our tread the earth shall tremble: we
are here!

From lands so green with palms to lands all
white with snow.

We shall be coming with our anguish and our
And where a spurt of our blood fell on the earth,
There our courage and our spirit have rebirth!

The early morning sun will brighten our day,
And yesterday with our foe will fade away,
But if the sun delays and in the east remains,
This song as motto generations must remain.

This song was written with our blood and not
with lead,
It’s not a little tune that birds sing overhead,
This song a people sang amid collapsing walls,
With pistols in hand they heeded to the call.

So never say that there is only death for you,
Though leaden skies may be concealing days of
Because the hour we have hungered for is near,
Beneath our tread the earth shall tremble: we
are here!

Julia Lutch via email

Letters to the Editor: Poland Holocaust Bill, Gun Violence, #MeToo and Hamilton’s Jewish Identity

Poland’s Controversial Holocaust Bill

Poland’s new law rewriting its World War II history about not having any involvement in creating concentration camps in their country is a lie. Three million Polish Jews died in their Polish camps, and Polish people were involved in helping the Germans. They pointed out Jewish homes, where the Germans took whatever they wanted, and they helped with building and running the concentration camps. And when 40 Jewish survivors came back in Kielce to claim their homes and businesses after the war, the Polish people killed them. This was going on in most cities in Poland if you dared to come home after being liberated.

This is an unfair law to pass in a country that was deeply involved in killing so many Jews. I know because I was there. I am a witness and I am a survivor.

Ella Mandel via email

No Solutions to Preventing Gun Violence

I find little reason to think that the CIA, FBI, state and local police, psychologists and psychiatrists, family, friends, neighbors or schoolmates will ever be able to identify all among us who may, someday, perpetrate a mass shooting, and it’s clear that we’ll never have the resources to track and monitor even those who are deemed suspicious.

The semi-automatic rifles debate and failed regulations won’t change until our politicians climb out of the pocket of the National Rifle Association, and there’s scant likelihood of this happening anytime soon.

The 300 million-plus guns in which we’re awash won’t be collected and will continue to be easy to obtain, and the gun manufacturers aren’t planning to go out of business.

Hunters, marksmen, hobbyists and those who own guns for self-protection shouldn’t have to fear that the government wants them.

The only solution I see for those who want to protect their loved ones and others is to move to another country, preferably one that isn’t rife with terrorists.

Hal Rothberg via email

A Dangerous Escalation Among Nations

One is cordially reminded of that ol’ shibboleth: “The more things change, the more they stay the same (“Down Payment,” Feb. 16).

It’s all very complicated, but is that still not true?

Walter Uhrman, Encino

Seeing the Light of Southern California

As a native Angeleno from Boyle Heights, it was an absolute joy to read Karen Lehrman Bloch’s piece “Seduced by the Light of Los Angeles” (Feb. 16). Especially when all one needs to do to encounter the opposite sentiment is to visit or live some 500 miles to the north of us in San Francisco, as I did to attend college in the late ’60s and early ’70s. In “The City,” as many San Franciscans like to call it, you dare not mention you are from L.A. for fear of having them look down their collective noses at you, after which you’ll invariably be the recipient of some snide remark about our great city.

Thank you, Ms. Lehrman Bloch.

Marc Yablonka via email

Can Truth Survive?

Thanks so much, Shmuel Rosner, for the excellent analysis of the Rand Corp. study about truth decay and the great conclusion at the end of your article (“Truth Decay,” Feb. 9). I would like to just add a couple of things: From my observation, I think more and more people look for the truth in the wrong place — outside of themselves — and so become addicted to collecting more and more information. And second: It doesn’t matter how much information or knowledge or richness one has. What truly matters is what he or she does with them. But both my remarks only reinforce your great conclusion “that we no longer know what’s true and what’s not.”

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles

For the people who endure blood libels, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and college campus apartheid walls, do we really need the Journal to explore the “modern” decay of truth?

While I agree with Shmuel Rosner about “leaving [President Donald] Trump [and his hyperbole] aside,” why trace the beginning of the end of the era of truth to 2014 when former Vice President Al Gore provides such a better example? In 2007, British High Court Judge Michael Burton ruled that Gore’s global warming film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” while “broadly accurate,” contained nine significant errors in “the context of alarmism and exaggeration.” Burton found that the film was a partisan political view and that its “apocalyptic vision” was not an impartial analysis of climate change. Happily, we have your Journal as a beacon of truth.

Warren Scheinin, Redondo Beach

American Presidents and Jewish Values

Gil Troy, in his story about presidents (“Why Jews Love Presidents [Most of the Time],” Feb. 16) reflects the message and mindset of the mainstream fake news, liberal left media in trying to provide some confirmation to support the bias of Jewish Democrats toward the Democratic Party, notwithstanding the fact that only 27 percent of Democrats support Israel and 79 percent of Republicans support Israel. He refers to Republican support for Israel as giving it a toxic embrace. If that weren’t enough, he then bashed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for alienating American Jewry.

He tries to give some emotional support to Democratic Jews who dislike President Donald Trump by consoling them as not being one-issue voters. The underlying premise of his story is that Jews can be patriotic Americans and hate Trump. He is oblivious to the fact that Trump is the best president for Israel and American Jews with the possible exception of Harry Truman, who recognized Israel 12 minutes after the formation of the state.

The events of this past week have proven that Gil Troy and the mainstream media are acting in conspiracy with the liberal left, mostly Jew-hating Democratic establishment.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills

Obama and #IranianWomenToo

Kudos to David Suissa for his column “Obama and #IranianWomenToo” (Feb. 16). I continue to be unable to wrap my Jewish, pro-Israel mind around the fact that liberal American Jewish Democrats don’t get it that Barack Obama, through the Iranian deal and more, was Israel and American Jewry’s worst nightmare in decades. The only fault that I found in Suissa’s column was the omission of two words: John Kerry.

Marc Yablonka via email

A Conversion With Eyes Wide Open

In last week’s letters to the editor, Peter Robinson wrote that he knowingly chose to convert to non-Orthodox Judaism, and now rails at the unfairness that his heterodoxic theology and practice of Judaism is denied legitimacy by the Orthodox branch he consciously avoided. Ironically, he appeals to a rabbi whose branch of Judaism is likewise not recognized by Orthodoxy. You can’t join one club and expect reciprocity from a club with much stricter membership requirements.

Zev Newman, Los Angeles

The Problems of a Missile Defense

Regarding Larry Greenfield’s column, “Blessings of Missile Defense” (Feb. 16):

1.  Even if the systems deployed by Israel are of limited utility, Greenfield expands his argument to include missile defense against intercontinental missiles (ICBMs), which is actually destabilizing rather than protective. If an adversary believes that an anti-missile system deployed against it is operational and effective, that adversary will indeed be more rather than less likely to use its ICBMs first in a crisis, fearing that it will be attacked and then left defenseless to retaliate.

2.  Greenfield is correct that “decades of startling scientific and technological advancements” have resulted in deployment of anti-missile systems in the U.S. (Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, for one), but he fails to note that even in “rigged” tests, when the timing and location of dummy attacking missiles is made known and no decoys are used, U.S. anti-missile tests have failed at least 50 percent of the time. The system is simply a boondoggle for defense contractors. “Missile defense doesn’t promise perfection” is a gross and dangerous understatement.

Steve Daniels via email

Hamilton’s Jewish Identity Debated

After reading your story on Hamilton several times, I brought it to share with the Freda Mohr Senior Center Current Events Discussion Group (“Was Alexander Hamilton Jewish?” Feb. 16). Being Jewish, I was pleased that Hamilton, one of our country’s honored founders, seemed to have been Jewish.

However, one of our members had extensively researched this matter. He agrees that the information that was presented about Hamilton is correct as far as it goes, but much has not been included that would likely lead to a different conclusion.

His mother, named Rachel Faucette, probably was not Jewish. She had been married off to a wealthy Jewish man, whom she left after several years. A few years later, she gave birth to Alexander Hamilton, whose father was James Hamilton — apparently not Jewish. Furthermore, the school he attended may have not been “a Jewish school.” It had a teacher who taught a class with some aspects of Judaism, including the Ten Commandments in Hebrew.

In the final analysis, the panelists at the Feb. 7 event might have looked at some circumstantial information with a biased, prejudged viewpoint.

George Epstein via email    

Memorial Days

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

It is sometimes quite amazing to see how the Holocaust, 70 years later, is still a daily subject of discussion in Israel. Not a day goes by without it being mentioned in the public sphere. Not a week goes by without it becoming a point of contention. If you think the Jewish people will ever begin to get over this tragedy, think again.

Or just listen to how Israelis discuss their daily affairs. It won’t be too long before you also realize that this trauma is far from being healed. It is constantly on our minds.

Some things force this constancy on us. For example, the fact that from January to May, Israel marks not one but three Holocaust Memorial days. There was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marked this week, and there is the religious Memorial Day, marked, along with other Jewish tragedies, on the Asarah be-Tevet fast, and then there is the actual, official Memorial Day, a week after Passover.

Yet in most cases, the Holocaust occupies us not because of special duty — a day that calls for a pause. In most cases it is us, busying ourselves with it because nothing has more power to grab our attention. We do not pause to remember the Holocaust; we remember it while on the move.

We do not pause to remember the Holocaust; we remember it while on the move.

Consider the past two weeks. The fierce public debate over a government plan to expel thousands of illegal migrants from Africa (opponents to their expulsion insist on calling them asylum-seekers and presenting them as people whom Israel must absorb) quickly descended into Holocaust-themed arguments. The ultimate weapon was pulled out when Holocaust survivors began voicing their views on this matter — implying a moral authority that trumps government considerations in such matters of conscience.

And as this debate rages, a famous Israeli writer and artist, who wrote lyrics for Israeli classics, compared a Palestinian attacker of soldiers to Anne Frank — prompting a harsh response from Israel’s defense minister. The minister demanded that the Israel Defense Forces radio station cease from playing all songs written by this author, and was then reminded by the attorney general that he has no legal authority to enforce such a demand.

The artist, Yehonatan Geffen, later apologized for his foolishness, as did another, less prominent Israeli writer who was even more vulgar in his use of Holocaust imagery. This artist said — you need to pause before you read this — that he would gladly sit on the roof of a death camp to see the smoke coming out of its chimney, provided it is novelist Amos Oz who is put to death below him. He is so angry with Oz for using “Nazi” to describe the action of right-wing radicals that he felt an irresistible urge to make his point clear, before apologizing to whatever followers he might still have.

Then there is Poland. If the memory of the Holocaust divides Israelis when they have an internal political debate, it often unites them against external forces. Such is the case with the Polish Parliament, which now plots to pass legislation that makes reference to Polish involvement in executing the Holocaust unlawful.

Of course, the story of Poland and the Holocaust is complicated. The Poles were victims of the Nazis. The Poles were not the initiators of the mass murder of Jews, nor invited the construction of death camps in their midst. Still, evidence of Polish participation in the execution of Jews is vast and irrefutable. The attempt by Poland to silence the voices demanding acknowledgment of such participation, or the scholars who dig for more evidence of how, where and why it was done, was met with unified Israeli condemnation.

The Israeli government was adamant not to let this Polish law pass without response. Israeli opposition was sometimes even more robust in its demand for retribution (while also needling the government for having ties with right-wing European parties). In a heartbeat, the Holocaust ceased to be a tool of nasty division and has become a tool of guarded unification.

Lessons are few: It would be better for Israelis to count to 10 before they use the Holocaust to score cheap points in a conventional, if fierce, political debate. It would be better for them to ignore artists who cannot properly think before they speak. It would be better for Poland to come to grips with its past and stop trying to mask it.

Most of all, it would be better for us all to realize that we are still a traumatized people. The evidence is all around us — at times in the form of cynicism or stupidity, at times in the form of serious discussion. The only remedy is time. A very long time.