Letters week of Sept. 18, 2008



Obama's Strong Support for Israel Made Clear

As an American Jew, I have been surprised by my community's reluctance to support Barack Obama.

Last month, I was offered the opportunity to attend the Democratic National Convention in Denver as part of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee's non-partisan delegation (Cover story: "With Agendas Set, Conventions Should Be Major Schmoozefests," Aug. 21).

Given this opportunity, I embarked on a personal mission: to learn why so many Jews are uncomfortable with Sen. Obama and to ascertain if there's a valid reason for their concern.

I was not alone in my quest. In Denver, I was repeatedly asked by reporters, "What is the deal with Obama and the Jews?" The answer is not simple. I don't believe race is the issue. However, many Jews do question Barack Obama's commitment to Israel. Doubts left in the shadows lead to innuendo and misinformation.

But everywhere I went at the convention, I heard the same message over and over from Democrats. Barack Obama supports Israel completely. He feels that Israel is a beacon of hope in the Middle East and that Jerusalem should remain its undivided capital. He is also deeply committed to the principle that a strong Israel is essential for America's security.

He also understands that a nuclear Iran is intolerable to the United States, and to Israel, and he will do whatever it takes to keep Iran from developing nuclear capabilities.

Never once did I hear a contradiction to these points.

America's bond with the State of Israel has been unique since President Harry Truman recognized her in the first 11 minutes of the country's existence. In Obama, we'll have a president who speaks softly, but carries a big stick — wisdom.
Marc S. Cohen, M.D.

Flip-Flop on Jerusalem Shows He Can't Be Trusted

Jonathan Tobin claims that Sen. Barack Obama said the right things to AIPAC and "is every bit as entitled to the "label 'pro-Israel' as anyone else" (A Matter of Opinion: "Comedy Central Ethnic Pandering," Sept. 4).

However, 24 hours after his AIPAC comments, under pressure, he rescinded his remarks and stated that the final status of Jerusalem must be decided by negotiations.

If he is elected, he will make Jimmy Carter look good. He'll be a weak president, indecisive and dependent on advisors. And in the hostile United Nations, an Obama administration will not stand up for Israel.
Robert Beckerman
Coconut Creek, Fla.

Palin's Election Means Theocracy's on the Way 

Jonathan Tobin wrote in his column that fears that the Republicans are trying to "destroy democracy and institute a fundamentalist tyranny" are false (A Matter of Opinion: "Comedy Central Ethnic Pandering," Sept. 4).

But I have to ask what's the difference between Sarah Palin and Muslims — or any other religious fundamentalists?


I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that a genuine theocracy may be on our horizon if Palin is elected.
Dr. Rick Lippin

Defense of Embattled Slaughterer Rings False 

Rabbi Avi Shafran's querulous screed in support of Agriprocessors ("In Agriprocessors Case, Does Journalism Play Judge, Jury?" Aug. 28) is an insult to Torah-observant Jews and law-abiding businessmen everywhere.

In his emphasis upon the presumption of innocence, Shafran conveniently omits mention of the halachic principle of mareet 'ayn (avoidance of even the appearance of impropriety), which Agriprocessors' activity has violated in spades.

If the Rubashkins, Agriprocessors' owners, were accused of a ritual infraction, instead of a legal/ethical one (as is the case here), would Shafran still be humming the niggun of "innocent until proven guilty"? If the accusation were that they were attempting to pass off treif meat as kosher, we would have to presume that all Agriprocessors merchandise was suspect, pending investigation and resolution by a Beit Din — i.e., "guilty until proven innocent"!

So much for his assertion that "until the facts are known, none of us has any moral right to act."

Given their unsavory legal history, the fact that the Lubavitch-affiliated Rubashkins have so absorbed the worst excesses of American capitalism that they gave no thought to Jewish laws when engaging in their disreputable business practices is the real shandah and chilul Hashem in this matter. That is utterly indefensible and the real slander.
Stephen Arkan

'Little Shul' Will Restore Building and Keep Going

An important part of religious life in Philadelphia is facing a struggle for existence. Not only is our shul, Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron Ezras Israel, the last remaining Orthodox Sephardic-style synagogue in South Philadelphia, but "the little shul" is a beloved place of worship for the people who continue to come and pray.

The Jewish Exponent recently published an article about the expensive need for building repairs (City & Suburb: "S. Philly Shul Still in Jeopardy," Sept. 4), and I want to reiterate to the Jewish community the importance of keeping this historical house of worship alive.

Although serious structural problems exist, we are working to rectify them as soon as possible.

The Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections is aware of the situation, and we are complying fully with their inspectors. Their next inspection is due at the end of December, and we hope to have all the work completed by then. Thanks to the efforts of Councilman Jim Keeney and Sen. Vincent Fumo and their staffs, we will be receiving a state grant later this year to help with the costs of these much-needed repairs.

Our goal is to restore the building to its original beauty.

And this year, we will have our 99th consecutive High Holiday Services in the same location.
Richard H. Sisman
Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron Ezras Israel


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