Critics of Israel Shouldn't Be Branded as Traitors
I write to commend you on your fair coverage of the recent J Street program held at Penn Hillel (City & Suburb: "Competing 'Streets' Meet, but Manage Not to Intersect," Feb. 11).
But I also must express my concern for the McCarthyism that is infecting the Jewish community as represented by the totally inappropriate letter to the editor from Gary Erlbaum ("Paper Got It All Wrong When It Comes to J Street," Feb. 18) and the separate vicious attack on the New Israel Fund and Naomi Chazan, who has served her country as a member of the Knesset (Israel & Mideast: "NIF Fracas: Is Group Defending Israel or Destroying Democracy?" Feb. 11).
Those who disagree with the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government ought not to be branded as anti-Zionist or as traitors to the State of Israel.
Vigorous debate within the American Jewish community about what is best for Israel by those who have long been active in promoting its well-being should, as long as the discourse remains civil, be seen as a sign of the health of the community.
Those who differ should not be stifled in the name of some loyalty oath or litmus test of the type espoused by Mr. Erlbaum and attackers of the New Israel Fund.
Judah I. Labovitz
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia
Jewish Social Policy
Names Connect Children to Something Greater
Concerning the Feb. 11 cover story, "Parsing the Language of Names," I feel that two important points need to be made.
As we approach the holiday of Pesach and so commemorating the exodus from Egypt, the rabbis teach us that one of the reasons God saved the Jewish people from slavery was that they still had their Hebrew names, and did not assimilate into Egyptian culture.
Giving Hebrew names connects infants to the Jewish people and acknowledges that they are part of something greater.
Clearly, there is a spiritual significance to Hebrew names. There is also the idea that there is divine providence when parents are selecting a name.
When you are naming after someone, the child takes on part of the essence of that person, now long gone. That is why if you don't have someone to name your child after, many people choose the names of our matriarchs and patriarchs.
Who wouldn't want a child who's kind and wise, and embodies those qualities? It's also good for children's self-esteem to know that they were named after a great person.
There Were No 'Lone Soldiers' After the Shoah
Funny, how the times have changed.
When I was in the Israel Defense Force, we didn't have the concept of the lone soldiers (Books & Writers: " 'Good for Us,' " Feb. 18). I was alone ever since the age of 7, having survived the Shoah. I was amazed when I noticed a soldier with stuff he received from home.
My situation was not unusual, since most other soldiers at the time were lone soldiers from the Shoah or soldiers from the Arab world whose parents were not yet in Israel or barely lived in Ma'abarot, the tent camps of refugees from all Arab lands.
When I finished my military service, I still had four or five vacation days left that I couldn't take, having no place to go to.
How times have changed!
Which City's the One That Captivates Your Heart?
I enjoyed Robert Leiter's book review, "Head East, My Friend" in the Feb. 4 issue.
I have visited Budapest, Prague and Paris many times during the last 31/2 decades. And that's the order in which they connect to my Jewish identity.
In spite of the recent increases in anti-Semitism there, Budapest, in my opinion, is a city friendly to the Jews. Most of my contemporaries treat me like a long-lost relative. Who knows? I might be one.
Many of the Jews I met in Prague are not native Czechs. They came from Poland to be shopkeepers near the ghetto.
The French are the French. What more can I say?
Cherry Hill, N.J.