Letters to the Editor: February 1, 2017

Do not let U.N. Security Council resolution divide our community

The Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis believes in the power of people to come together to influence change in our region. Our capacity to make an impact is based on our ability to mobilize and speak on behalf of the community after we go through a deliberate process of developing a policy that reflects the community’s view.

We have received many letters, emails, and calls in response to U.N. Security Council (UNSC)  Resolution 2334, the United States’ decision not to veto the resolution, and Secretary John Kerry’s speech on the matter. All of the responses we received supported the State of Israel. It was wonderful to see so many people choose to express their support for Israel and have their voices heard. 

The authors of the letter in last week’s Jewish Light expressed one view and represented a number of people in our community. We have also heard from many other members of our community who shared with us a different opinion: some who supported the U.N. Resolution, some who were conflicted about the resolution, and some who were opposed to it but believed the JCRC should not take a position. 

Most distressing, though, were those who reached out to share they felt alienated by the community, pressured to publicly share a stance on Israel they did not personally believe, and there was no place for them within our St. Louis Jewish community. If we allow Israel to become a partisan issue, a source of division in our community, a source of fear in our community, a source of shame in our community – that will be far more damaging and have far deeper ramifications. 

As an umbrella organization of 32 member agencies that strives for consensus, it is important JCRC is a place where all members of our community can come together to discuss difficult, complex issues. We risk losing many if we adopt the positions of some without considering the views of all. 

When there is no consensus on an issue, JCRC believes we would damage our credibility and hurt our ability to generate support for important matters such as Israel. We can, though, as we did on (UNSC) Resolution 2334, provide information to the community so members can better educate themselves on the issue. As a first step in trying to understand the varied views in the St. Louis Jewish community, JCRC dedicated its first Council Meeting in 2017 to hearing from community leaders on the Resolution and what JCRC should do on the matter. The feedback at the Council meeting was as varied as the other forms of feedback. 

We are grateful to all who shared their opinions with us. While there are passionate and sincere difference in what people believe is best for Israel, we are thankful there are many engaged in the discussion. JCRC will continue to listen, take in the opinions and search for common ground on how we engage even more people to support the Jewish State of Israel.

Robert Millstone,President, Jewish Community Relations Council




Faith, history compel us to support refugees

For the past six months our congregation has been actively partnering with the International Institute to welcome and provide assistance to new Americans here in St. Louis. We do this because of our faith. 

“We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt,” we recite each year at the Passover seder. This statement not only calls upon us to remember our roots but has also been a guiding principle for the most often repeated commandment in the Torah, “Love the stranger, for you know the heart of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” 

Caring for refugees and new Americans is not optional for us. Our faith compels us to do so. 

We also engage in this work because of our history. 

We remember a time when the world closed its doors to our people. Before World War II, as Europe descended into darkness, the United States closed its doors to German Jews claiming that Nazi infiltrators would hide among the refugees. 

How many of our ancestors’ lives might have been saved if our country had found a way to welcome those most in need? 

We know what closing our borders to refugees does to families and can do to an entire people. Caring for refugees and new Americans is not optional for us. Our history compels us to do so. 

We oppose President Trump’s executive order which unjustly halts the admission of individuals and families, whether immigrants, refugees, or visitors, from certain “terror-prone countries.” 

We call upon all who feel similarly to contact their elected officials. 

Rabbi Jim Bennett, Rabbi Andrea Goldstein, Rabbi Jonah Zinn, Cantor Seth Warner and Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman, all of Congregation Shaare Emeth




Hitler comparisons offensive

I am tired, dismayed, and sickened by the constant comparison of Trump to Hitler. Henry Schvey’s commentary last week (“A shameful blessing at Trump’s inauguration”) made direct and indirect references to Donald Trump as Hitler, which is an insult to any Jew, but mostly to victims of the Holocaust.

In Nazi Germany, anti-Semitism was promoted by the government and a huge propaganda infrastructure, not by a minority or a single individual. No such thing is occurring in the United States. Furthermore, Schvey alleged that Trump is a fascist simply because he uses the term “America First,” which was used by Charles Lindbergh in his non-interventionist campaign in the early 1940s to convince America to refrain from entering World War II. While the term may have distasteful connotations, I expect the majority of Americans who voted for Trump are not familiar with Lindbergh and the America First Committee.

Shvey attacked Rabbi Hier personally for his participation in the inauguration, claiming Rabbi Hier “has sullied the reputation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the eyes of the world…to a bigoted racist who will stop at nothing to attain his ends.” What an insult to Rabbi Hier, who has spent his life fighting against bigotry.

Rabbi Hier has the right to officiate at a president’s inauguration without being disparaged as a “self-serving, short-sided person.” I hope that readers of the Light will recognize that even though we may not agree with some of our president’s verbiage and executive orders, that does not make Trump the same as Hitler.

Rachel Katzman

Richmond Heights




Support for JCRC’s approach

We wish to express our support for the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of St. Louis in its recent statement regarding the United Nations vote on the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334. 

We applaud the wisdom and restraint of the leadership of our local JCRC in issuing an informational statement rather than taking a public position on this very divisive and controversial resolution. We share the love of and support for the State of Israel expressed by many critics of the JCRC’s decision, and we believe that the leadership of our JCRC shares that love and support as well. 

We believe that the JCRC must remain a big tent that encompasses a wide spectrum of views about Israel in our Jewish community and, therefore, we recognize that, at times, the JCRC must abstain from taking a position on issues. At the same time, we remain committed to an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will result in two states for two peoples, and we condemn those who work actively against peace, threatening the security of Israel and all of those who dwell there. 

We believe that any successful resolution of the conflict must be negotiated directly between Israelis and Palestinians and we oppose any efforts to undermine the possibility of a two-state solution. We look forward with optimism and hope to the fulfillment of the dream of a Jewish and democratic State of Israel, and the dreams of self-determination for the Palestinian people, and a lasting peace for all who live on earth. 

St. Louis Rabbinical Association




Commentary critique 

Marty Rochester’s appeal to color-blindness in his Jan. 18 commentary, “A New Year’s resolution as we begin the Trump era,” may or may not be a good idea, but his new year’s resolution would have been more persuasive if he had also argued for the end of voter restriction laws aimed at non-white minorties and lower income citizens, offered suggestions on how to integrate our public schools that are becoming more segregated even under an African American president and finally, encouraged mixed race marriages, the subject of the film, “Loving.” 

 He also misrepresented Thurgood Marshall. Best known for his arguments in Brown v,. Board of Education, Justice Marshall saw color blind law as an ideal, but he supported race conscious forms of affirmative action until his passing. Cherry picking a quote from Marshall out of context misinforms Light readers.

And to compare the experience of Asian Americans to African Americans is ahistorical and overlooks the different obstacles to success experienced by voluntary immigrants and people brought over to the United States as slaves. 

As a Jew, I am very proud of how the Jewish work ethic and commitment to education has led to major successes in every profession. However, we also have to acknowledge that, like other white ethnic groups, Jews benefited from being white.

Dennis Lubeck, Ph.D.

History Education Consultant, Education Plus




Corrections needed

I am writing to correct two misconceptions in the Jan. 25 commentary, “Local JCRC taking right approach.”

First, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) did not “criticize” the JCRC.  

In its Jan. 18 edition, the Light reported on a letter that my wife Marcy and I, with several others, wrote to JCRC about its decision not to take a stand on UNSC Resolution 2334. The Light identified Marcy and me as local AIPAC leaders. 

However, our letter to the JCRC stated that we were speaking for ourselves, not AIPAC. Like nearly every mainstream national Jewish organization, AIPAC took a strong stand against the U.N. resolution and the U.S. abstention. But it has no position on what other organizations, including JCRC, should say about it.

Second, the writer is incorrect that a J Street poll shows “the majority of American Jews supported either the resolution or the abstention of it.”  Here’s the question the pollster asked, six weeks before the U.N. vote:

“As you may know, the U.N. Security Council is considering a resolution that calls on Israel to stop building Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Do you think the U.S. should support, abstain from, or veto this resolution?”  

That was not the resolution the U.N. passed. The pollster asked nothing about the actual resolution being a one-sided condemnation of Israel; nothing about it calling the area containing Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter and Western Wall illegal, occupied territory; nothing about it calling for boycotts and divestments against Israel.

Perhaps the poll shows that a majority of American Jews would support a resolution that simply called on Israel to stop building West Bank settlements.  It shows nothing about this one.

Rick Cornfeld

Creve Coeur



A frustrating visit

Last week, I attended a discussion at Central Reform Congregation on the recent U.N. Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements and the United States’ abstention.

Since I am a 33-year resident of a “West Bank settlement,” I would like to inform the attendees of first-hand facts:

• Settlements are the key to peaceful coexistence, not an obstacle

• Not one Arab family became homeless by Israeli settlement activity

• Generally Arabs and Jews in Judea and Samaria get along wonderfully

• Oslo, the “Peace Process,” created a situation of restricted travel both for Jews and Arabs

• Arabs, as well as Jews, suffer because of Arab terrorism

• Arafat said no “West Bank settlement” is illegal; but Tel Aviv, Haifa, and a hundred other cities in Israel proper are

• Most Arabs believe that their leaders are the main obstacle to peace

• Most Arabs see their Jewish neighbors in their midst as both an economic and security blessing

• The illegal occupation of “the West Bank” had already ended … the second week of June 1967

• The very term “West Bank” is loaded since the genuine name, Judea, means “The Land of the Jews.”

• Who are the “colonizers,” the Jews who speak Hebrew, the indigenous language of the area, or the Arabs, whose language is native to Arabia?

• The settlements are legal.

The same internet where these truths abide is also the residence of untruths, exaggerations, half-truths and noise that obscure facts. A quote often attributed to Mark Twain says, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.” 

How much more-so, modern media.

Real facts do, however, reside at places like PMW, MEMRI, Arutz 7 and IMRA.

Bruce Brill

Nokdim, Israel