Letters to the editor: June 30, 2021 edition

Act would ensure voting rights, fair elections 

We now have a historic opportunity to bring about transformative change and strengthen American democracy by passing the For the People Act (SW1). The act incorporates key measures that are urgently needed, including automatic voter registration and other steps to modernize our elections, which would guarantee free and fair elections without voter suppression. This would reinstate full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for all Americans. This is not a partisan issue; this act protects everyone equitably.  

The majority of Americans want the reforms that are in the For the People Act. This act would stop many of the restrictive voting bills in a number of states, including Missouri, such as imposing strict voter ID requirements, which is a solution in search of a problem. There is no empirical evidence of systematic voter fraud anywhere in the United States. Our democracy functions at its best when more people participate. The For the People Act is a comprehensive set of reforms that would revitalize our voting protocols and implement an equitable system that works for everyone. National Council of Jewish Women St. Louis (NCJWSTL) urges you to contact Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley now at 202-224-3121 and insist that your voice be heard by passing S1.  

Debbie Gilula and Andi Schankman  Co-Chairs, NCJWSTL Get Out the Vote Initiative

To achieve fairness, we must correct past evils

In his latest Op-Ed, “What ever happened to compromise” (June 16 edition), Professor Marty Rochester took umbrage at one of his critics who insisted that colorblindness was wrong. The retired professor’s op-ed is, to say the least, pretextual.   

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In 1959, Professor Herbert Wechsler of Columbia University Law School authored “Towards Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law.” The premise of Wechsler’s magnum opus was, that cases should be decided on “grounds of adequate neutrality and generality, tested by . . . the language of the Constitution, of history and precedent — where they do not combine to make an answer clear — itself a matter to be judged, so far as possible, by neutral principles…”

Rochester embraces the language of Chief Justice Roberts, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”   These are lofty goals. But they fail the test of history and common sense. 

We cannot ignore that slavery existed in the colonies and then in the states from 1619 through 1865 when the 13th Amendment was ratified and adopted. A healthy person who has been in training for the 100-yard race for 20 years, has benefited from a healthy diet, excellent medical care, a personal trainer — is in shape to run the race. But what of someone who has just had the shackles of slavery removed from his ankles, has not had excellent medical care, a healthy diet and a personal trainer. Is it fair to make him compete against the healthy athlete? Wechsler saw no problem. Nor does Rochester.   

If society is to move towards neutral principles, then we must all acknowledge the evils of the past. Correct, Professor Rochester? Society cannot move forward in relegating the badges of slavery to the ashcan of historiography if as a society posited upon equity, we do not engage affirmatively in restoring to health the former slave.  

I close this letter by setting forth an example. Example: There are two children trying to see over a fence to watch a baseball game. One child is three inches taller than the other. If they are given a two-inch block to stand on, the taller will be able to see over the fence; while the shorter child, despite equal treatment — will still be unable to see the game. This is “neutral principles.” Instead, if the taller child is still provided with a two-inch block, but the shorter child is given a three-inch block, they will both be able to see over the fence. This is equity.   Fairness is the objective which the law seeks to achieve. How we achieve fairness, speaks to our humanity and not to our pretextual ability to hide behind lofty phrases such as, “neutral principles.”   

Rabbi Joseph Fred Benson, Jefferson City

New normal should include online options

Dear leaders of the Jewish community: As we all rejoice in the great blessing of life slowly returning to normal, I pray that the rush to hug those we love will not overcome the very real need many have for continued online options. 

Whether sick, homebound, parenting small children, traveling or for other reasons many Jews in our community and around the world have found comfort in being able to participate in Jewish spaces during the pandemic. 

Moving forward it doesn’t take much money or time to continue to offer online spaces for classes and worship. Please don’t forget there are many of us who cannot make it in person to services, now or maybe ever.

Claudia Hall, St. Louis