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Letters to the Editor Week of July 21, 2005

July 21, 2005
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'Divestment' Defined as 'Bash Israel in the Media'
The editorial about the campaign of some churches to "divest" from Israeli stocks underscores the need to be clear in our language and clear in our understanding of the issue (Editorial: "Church vs. Church," July 7).

"Divestment" can only be conducted by those who have investments in Israel. As the president of a mutual fund that invests exclusively in Israeli stocks, I can attest to the fact that the most striking feature of the so-called divestment campaigns is that these institutions have no investments in Israel from which to divest.

Consider the campaigns proposed by the Presbyterians and Anglicans. Neither entity holds stock in any Israeli company.

So why are some church leaders, faculty and students devoting so much time and energy on campaigns to "divest?"

The answer is that "divestment" is not at all the goal of their campaigns. It's merely a new way to attract disproportionate media attention to the campaign to demonize Israel.
Cliff Goldstein
Elkins Park

Now's the Time to Foster Relations Between Allies

The July 7 editorial, "Church vs. Church," contains some very sound advice.

While those of us who labor in interfaith relations are profoundly disturbed by the continuing fascination some Protestant church leaders have with divestment, as the Jewish Exponent editorial observes, the vast majority of local clergy and lay leaders are opposed to such punitive and ill-advised tactics. Most of us realize that divestment measures are at best naive, and at worst driven by anti-Israel animus.

In Philadelphia, the Jewish Community Relations Council - working closely with the Vaad: Board of Rabbis, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee - has assisted our many friends within liberal Protestant denominations in their efforts to oppose divestment resolutions.

We're encouraged by their commitment to Israel's security, as well as their willingness to stand up to Israel-bashers within their denominations.

Fortunately, we have good allies within the local Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist and United Church of Christ communities. The nurturing of these relationships, built over many decades, is as important as ever.
Burt Siegel
Director of community relations
Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia


Stand Up and Be Heard on All Issues That Matter

I was deeply saddened by Jonathan Tobin's column that suggests Jews stay out of the upcoming partisan battle over the nominee to succeed Justice O'Connor in order to avoid offending non-Jews (A Matter of Opinion: "To the Abyss and Over," July 7).

The notion that we, as Jews, should not speak out on issues that concern us beyond our support for Israel is incredibly offensive. Using his logic, Jews should have stayed quiet during the 1960s, and not fought for civil rights or spoken out against Vietnam.

But we are not Jewish guests at an American table. Our people have contributed to the success of this country, and as such, have earned the right to have our voices heard.

As an ardent pro-Israel Jew - who also happens to be just as ardently pro-gay rights and pro-choice - I frequently notice how the Jewish Exponent bends over backward to embrace any politician who supports Israel, no matter how offensive their other views may be to many of its readers.

I believe that gay rights and abortion rights are Jewish interests. I want Jewish organizations to speak out against far-right religious zealots. I want them to have the courage to stand up for what is fair and what is just - whether it concerns Israel or not.

The upcoming debate about the successor to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and the possibility of a far-right president having at least one other justice to appoint before the end of his term places our country at a major turning point in history.

As an American and as a Jew, I am going to use my God-given and constitutional rights to make sure my voice is heard.
Michael A. Ginsberg
Philadelphia

Religious Freedom: At Stake in Choice for Court

Jonathan's Tobin's column (A Matter of Opinion: "To the Abyss and Over," July 7) was a shocker! Since when do Jews concerned about religious freedom stay silent?

Religious freedom - the hallmark of our democracy - speaks to every individual's right to be respected as a moral decision-maker. And it speaks to our right to make choices based on our own religious beliefs and teachings.

We call on senators to protect our rights, safeguard the checks and balances of our government, and ensure a federal judiciary that will protect fundamental freedoms, including reproductive rights.

As Tobin points out, the National Council of Jewish Women has been speaking out in this arena for years, with our Montco/Philadelphia section being particularly vocal.

In personal discussions with Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter's staff, I have been told repeatedly that such sharing of constituent opinions is welcome. We are also reaching out to President Bush, asking him to consult in a bipartisan spirit, and choose a mainstream consensus nominee to fill the Justice Sandra Day O'Connor seat and any future vacancy on the Supreme Court.

I take issue with the suggestion that "our liberty is not at risk," and that Jews stay out of this battle.

We can ill afford to yield attention to extremists who would define our rights - and our way of life. The price of our silence could mean our religious freedom.
Eleanor Levie
Chair
Pennsylvania Public Affairs National Council of Jewish Women

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