Letters week of Aug. 16, 2007

Hebrew Charter Doesn't Breach Church-State Wall

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on the Ben Gamla Charter School, a Jewish charter school soon to open in Hollywood, Fla. (Cover story: "Florida Opens First Hebrew Public School," Aug. 2).

When most people think of religious charter schools, they imagine private religious schools operating as charters. But there are many ways a charter school may be religious.

Regardless of the motivations of their founders, charter schools in Florida (and most states) are public schools, and thus must operate within the requirements of the separation between church and state.

But that does not mean that charter schools cannot adapt to the religious needs of students. Numerous Supreme Court decisions have laid down a clear principle: public schools may accommodate the needs of religious students, but may not endorse the beliefs of any faith or religion. It is between these legal principles that Ben Gamla must operate.

Furthermore, there is no reason that a charter school would be prohibited from teaching Hebrew, anymore than a school would be prohibited from teaching Arabic, Latin, Spanish or French.

Jews and others who remember the daily Bible readings in school before the Supreme Court banned them feel rightly concerned that the wall of separation between church and state may be eroding.

But religious charter schools cannot legally return to that regime. They may only accommodate the specific needs of their students. The wall of separation does not prohibit the accommodation of Jewish beliefs or culture.
Lawrence D. Weinberg
Hillside, N.J.

Questions Surround Israeli-Arab Allegiance

The Jewish National Fund is correct in continuing its policy to sell land that it owns only to Jews. Israel's Arab minority is already a privileged class among Arabs, but its allegiance to the State of Israel is a mile wide and an eighth of an inch thick (Israel & Mideast: "Critics Slam Knesset Bill for Support of Ban on Leasing Land to Arabs," Aug. 2).

If they were offered privileges and benefits in Jordan comparable to what they have in Israel, they'd be on the next bus. Putting them on JNF-owned land would serve only to place potential insurgents among the Jewish settlers who will be pioneering on this land, as did the early Zionists.

It makes no political or practical sense to worry about Israel's "image " or "world opinion." Countless incidents have already demonstrated how little value these have in the real world.

Israel is the only Jewish state. It should remain so.
Robert M. Cohan
Blue Bell

Don't Force the JNF to Help Deconstruct Israel!

I hope that the words of the Jewish Exponent's editorial on the Jewish National Fund are heard in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, and in New York, Los Angeles and in the boardrooms of every major Jewish organization the world over (Editorial: "Politically Correct Zionism Versus JNF," Aug. 2).

If Israel is not to be deconstructed, we Jews have simply got to wake from the moronic dream that Israel is somehow just another European country that happens to be located in the Middle East.

It's a nice idea on the surface, but it will never wash in practice and could well prove lethal.

Some Jews may think we are ready for "post-Zionism," but the rest of the world — whether we like it or not — simply isn't, no matter how "safe" we may think we are.
Rena Cohen
Rockville, Md.

Thanks to Grant, Camp JRF Continues to Grow

In bringing attention to the important work of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation's Institute for Jewish Philanthropy (City & Suburb: "New Challenge to Summer Camps," July 26), one camp that we noticed that went unmentioned was Camp JRF, the Reconstructionist movement's summer camp in the Poconos.

Camp JRF was among the original group of camps benefiting from a Grinspoon Foundation challenge grant program that provides a 1:2 match on gifts of $5,000 or more over three years. In addition, an anonymous donor raised the stakes of the Grinspoon challenge for Camp JRF that effectively makes its program a dollar-for-dollar match for those making gifts to the camp by the September deadline.

Organizations such as the Grinspoon Institute and the Foundation for Jewish Camping have been instrumental in the growth Camp JRF has seen over the past few years. This summer, by the time the season concludes, the camp will have had 308 children over two sessions.
Carl A. Sheingold
Executive vice president
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation

Waldheim's Crimes: Alive and Well, Sad to Say

In June, former U.N. Secretary General and Austrian President Kurt Waldheim died quietly at age 88 in Austria with family at his bedside.

Waldheim was a German intelligence officer during World War II and a member of the Austrian SA "Stormtroopers."

And as an intelligence officer in Bosnia, he was awarded the Ustashi's (Croatia's fascist political party and paramilitary) highest award –the Order of the Crown of St. Zvonimir.

In addition, Mr. Waldheim was actively involved in organizing the deportation of Greek Jews and Yugoslav partisans to concentration camps.

As secretary general of the United Nations from 1972-1982, he presided over successful anti-Semitic and anti-Israel votes.

Long forgotten are Waldheim's victims. Most of the Greek Jews and Yugoslav partisans deported to camps by Waldheim were murdered.

These anonymous human beings did not "pass away quietly" with family and friends gathered by their sides.

Austria's World War II legacy cannot be rescued by Waldheim's quiet death. Hitler's homeland welcomed the Nazis in March 1938, but skillfully perpetuated the myth of "victimization" after the war.

Time is running out for Austria to confront its past before it buries its history.
Eric Epstein


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