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Letters week of April 8, 2010
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld's opinion piece, "Deciphering a New Equation in Israel-Diaspora Relations," in the April 1 issue is spot on in highlighting the need to stand up to the attempt by the exclusionary haredi black-hat culture to impose its "fundamentalism" upon Israeli society.
Since when is stringency the hallmark of piety? Since when is stricter better, thus causing Jews to sin by making Torah imperatives harder for people to access and observe?
Authority in Judaism derives from interpretation, based on logic, reason and common sense; it comes from shared public canonical books, not from charismatic individuals, dynastic cults of personalities, inspired intuition, and definitely not from the personal taste of individuals who say, "I am a gadol, a holy person, so do what I say for the simple reason that it is I who say so."
The Torah was given to the Jewish people as a whole, not to some hierarchical figures.
Once again, someone trusted a Palestinian Arab leader, and once again, they were betrayed (City & Suburb: "Who's 'Kosher' at Hillel? New Guidelines Point the Way," March 25).
La Salle professor Edward Turzanski, an honorable man who has proven to be honest in his assessment of world affairs, trustingly told a Jewish Exponent reporter: "It's not as if we're going to enable Hanan Ashrawi to get up there and no one's going to challenge her."
Through no fault of Turzanski's, this is exactly what transpired at La Salle University during her talk. Ashrawi's assertions ranged from the ridiculous (Israelis committed "identity theft" by claiming falafel as their national food) to the downright dangerous ("Israel has gone beyond the pale of human behavior").
The result: Lies won the day, leaving no room for any impression of Israel other than as a nation of barbarians. Hundreds of students in the auditorium -- future leaders and opinion-makers -- have now had any positive feeling they may have had about Israel -- and, by extension, the Jewish people -- tainted.
What are we to make of the "attacks" on U.S. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren (Nation & World: "University Addresses Flurry of Campus Hate," April 1)? The attackers, and their supporters, make "free speech" their justification.
This raises two questions.
Does free speech mean the right to prevent someone else's exercise of free speech? And has the university simply become a place where, in the pursuit of truth, you suppress ideas that you don't like?
According to the article, Victor Sanchez, president of the University of California Student Association, said: "We stand in solidarity with the Irvine 11." Since the "Irvine 11" -- how 1960s -- sought to prevent Ambassador Oren from speaking, are we to understand that Mr. Sanchez (who's speaking for himself? the student government? the student body?) believes that, in the search for truth, you just suppress unwelcome ideas?
Perhaps students and university officials could form a "Welcome Ideas Committee" which will inform speakers in advance what may safely be said on campus.
Shame on the 43 Jewish Democrat members of Congress who did not step forward in defense of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the contemptuous manner President Barack Obama treated the only true and loyal friend the United States has in the Middle East.
Boynton Beach, Fla.