Letters week of May 8, 2008



Don't Make Assumptions About Lobbying Group! 
Jonathan Tobin's column on J Street, the new lobbying group in Washington, sent me to its Web site to assess his claims (A Matter of Opinion: "Making Sense of the J Street Jive," April 24).

How is one to take the column seriously when his tactic is to misrepresent and ridicule positions he disagrees with?

Tobin suggests that J Street is not necessary because its views are already expressed in the U.S. media, which is "flooded with abuse of Israel and where defenses of Jewish rights in the conflict are lacking."

In his usual journalistic slight of hand, Tobin equates a pro-Israel, Zionist, yet pro-peace group with those who abuse Israel and deny Jewish rights.

He suggests J Street believes that more Israeli concessions will transform the Palestinians into peace partners, when J Street makes no such claim on its Web site or in its materials.

Again at the end of the column, Tobin claims that J Street will "probably" undermine the efforts to hold Hamas and Fatah responsible for their support of terror. A glance at J Street's Web site shows their firm policy commitment: "J Street will support efforts to hold the Palestinians to their commitments to prevent terror and violence that targets Israel and its citizens."

It is these kinds of misrepresentations and knee-jerk accusations that make productive dialogue in the Jewish community so difficult, and motivates many to look for alternatives to the usual reactionary responses of the Jewish establishment. 
Paul Root Wolpe 
Center for Bioethics 
University of Pennsylvania


Jonathan Tobin replies: No matter what a Web site may say, the notion that foes of AIPAC do not oppose efforts to restrict aid to Palestinian groups that support terror is nonsensical since their opposition to such measures in the past is a matter of record.

Real Goal of AIPAC's Foes: Politics, Not Peace 
Jonathan Tobin put the new "pro-Israel" lobby J Street in perspective (A Matter of Opinion: "Making Sense of the J Street Jive," April 24).

Like its allies Brit Tzedek v'Sholom, we can expect it to oppose serious efforts to link U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority to that group's support for terror and hate education.

J Street seeks to prod the United States to push Israel to make more concessions.

What makes this all so absurd is the fact that it takes place as, Tobin says, after 15 years of Israeli and American efforts to make peace via concessions. The result has been more terror, not peace. Israel needs no such prodding.

But instead of drawing rational conclusions from recent history, J Street and its backers wish to undermine Israel's friends at AIPAC. One wonders if their real goal has more to do with the politics of the Jewish left and their abhorrence for pro-Israel centrists than it does with peace. 
J. Gold 

Who's an 'In-Your-Face' Atheist? Not This Author! 
In his column about the e-zine jbooks.com (Media Clippings: "Secular Story," April 24), Robert Leiter writes that the magazine covers Jewish subjects from a secular view.

He adds that this approach is refreshing, except when the writers get too secular.

Case in point, my ongoing series in Jbooks titled, "Godless Jews: The Original Atheists With Attitude."

According to Leiter, my article is an example of "when writers become aggressively 'in your face' about their atheism." He adds that my "trumpeting" of atheism was a consequence of my "need to counteract the seeming triumphs of the opposition."

Leiter makes the assumption that just because I write about Jewish atheists that I subscribe to their anti-theological worldview. He is confusing my essay, which explores the contribution of Jewish intellectuals to the discourse of atheism, with my own personal position. He not only makes an erroneous assumption, but accuses me of aggressively pushing my atheism in people's faces.

Finally, his claim that my work is a hyperbolic response to some imaginary triumphant opposition, I must profess ignorance. Who on earth does Leiter think I am counteracting? 
Roi Ben-Yehuda 
Barcelona, Spain

Graduating From That Lox-and-Bagel Judaism

Since moving from Philadelphia to Omaha, Neb., 20 years ago, my husband and I have continued to subscribe to the Jewish Exponent and still look forward to receiving it weekly.

You can imagine my surprise when I noticed in this year's Passover Palate a review of a new book by Omaha native Nancy Rips ("Good Words," April 10).

The review ended with a few sentences I had jotted down months ago in preparation for a discussion of Passover memories conducted by the Rosh Hodesh Group of Beth El Synagogue, Omaha's Conservative, egalitarian congregation, where I am an active member.

In my jottings that appear in Rips' "Seder Stories," I identify myself as a "lox-and-bagel and matzah" Jew.

I should, however, have been more careful to use the past tense with that too-cute identification, as it no longer applies.

Today, thanks to the appreciation for Judaism instilled by my parents, and to the support, guidance and example of many caring Beth El members, I am an involved and active Jew.

I attend Shabbat services and morning minyan regularly, and a few years ago, I even became a Bat Mitzvah. 
Diane Axler Baum 
Omaha, Neb.

Many Happy Memories of Communal Seders 
Mara Sokolsky's description of her shul seder mirrored my own (Life & Lore: "Magic Meld of Peoples at the Pesach Table," April 10).

Growing up, I attended the Workmen Circle School in Philadelphia, and our third seder was all in Yiddish.

I still use an updated version of that Haggadah at my own seders and am fortunate to have daughters, now mothers themselves, who sing "Zog Maran" in a harmony that gets me every time. We also sing the other songs you mentioned, as well as a jazzed-up version of "Tyereh Malkeh." 
Geetie Cohen 


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