Letters to the editor: July 14, 2021


Bullying commentary is misplaced

Regarding the recent commentary (“Don’t let others be scared into silence,” June 30 edition) submitted by three prominent congregational rabbis and the executive director of our Jewish Community Relations Council, I have a deep respect and gratitude to each of them for their many services to our community every day. Nevertheless, in this instance I believe their letter was off the mark.

All four have faced criticism for Israel related political positions they have taken in their leadership roles. They now label it “bullying” and seek to silence it. These community leaders are reflecting current popular social beliefs as to what is permitted speech. But, regarding criticism of political and religious leaders, our laws are actually very settled. In the famous case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, our U.S. Supreme Court wrote:

“In the realm of religious faith, and in that of political belief, sharp differences arise. In both fields the tenets of one man may seem the rankest error to his neighbor. To persuade others to his own point of view, the pleader, as we know, at times, resorts to exaggeration, to vilification of men who have been, or are, prominent in church or state, and even to false statement. But the people of this nation have ordained in the light of history that, in spite of the probability of excesses and abuses, these liberties are, in the long view, essential to enlightened opinion and right conduct on the part of the citizens of a democracy.” 

In other words, it goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans that we have a right to criticize our political and spiritual public figures, even to the point of telling falsehoods. This is because our great nation is founded on the basis of free and open debate. That’s how a democracy works.

Of course, what we can do and what we should do are two different things. Our community is clearly very divided on issues involving Israel. We need to avoid inflammatory and unhelpful terms like “bullying.” Instead, let’s create a path for all of us to show each other respect and “disagree without being disagreeable.” The current atmosphere of rising anti-Semitic violence in our country compels us to come together to defend ourselves and to encourage our non-Jewish partners to stand with us. We need to put aside inflammatory words and accusations on all sides, so that we may unite to preserve and protect our small, but historic and vital St. Louis Jewish Community and secure the rights and safety of every Jew who lives here.

David Rubin, St. Louis

Good health is truly something to cherish

Ellen Futterman’s feature in News & Schmooze, “Life is no picnic, but at 105 years, he does the best he can” (June 30) I was really taken by Aubrey Yawitz, who recently turned 105 years of age. How I really envy him because he has lived so long, not to mention his many accomplishments, and the fact that he is still spry and mentally acute for a person his age. He lends credence to the fact that good health can lead to longevity.  I congratulate him and wish him at least another 105 years.

I mention this because I’ll be 81 next month, and for so many years, like Yawitz, I was in tip-top shape and physically active, never having smoked, drank, or done drugs, never having taken any medication, while exercising two hours per day, and getting down to high school weight. 

I thought I had done everything right, until life dealt me a severe blow, when I had to undergo a double coronary bypass eight years ago. This was followed several years later by Stage 4 kidney disease — my kidneys are only functioning at 15-19% capacity — followed a few years later by an operation for spinal stenosis. I now have trouble walking, as my health continues to spiral downwards.

Before my illnesses I had this grandiose idea in my mind that I could live to be at least 120 years old. No kidding.

The point I wish to make is no one should take one’s health for granted. Good health is a precious commodity, and I know now that it’s the most important thing in the world. It took me awhile to realize this; that if you have your health, you have everything, regardless of how many cares or how much money you have.

Chances are, I’ll never live nearly as long as Yawitz has, but hey, a guy can dream, can’t he? 

Gene Carton, University City