Letters to the editor: May 15, 2019

Former B’nai El leader responds to story

Regarding the Light’s May 1 story on the Miriam Foundation’s purchase and use of the former B’nai El Congregation building, I would like to correct Westwood chairman Fred Berger’s statements in this article. 

His statements and innuendo when commenting about the pending purchase and occupancy of the former B’nai El property are not factual. As a duly constituted nonprofit of the state of Missouri, B’nai El did not have “owners” as he states, but was governed by a board of directors. Continuously, and without interruption throughout the 50 years of ownership of the property, the Board of Directors, comprising many fine business men and women, professionals and volunteers alike, including many attorneys, have always complied with the specific statutory and regulatory requirements for the use and ownership of the B’nai El parcel.  

I object to Berger impugning the fine reputations of those hundreds of board members over the past decades by his assertions that the property “has been used illegally for some period of time now without proper permits from the Village of Westwood.” The board has always complied with the zoning and occupancy requirements as directed by the City of Frontenac. Not once in all of those years did the Village of Westwood contact the Board of Directors, nor anyone else, until after B’nai El merged with Congregation Shaare Emeth, which has attempted to sell the property. 

It wasn’t until a possible sale was contemplated that most were even aware that a portion of the property was in Westwood and that includes only a small portion of the building. Westwood provides no services to the property and never has — all services come from Frontenac. 

Berger is correct on his statement that what Miriam does is a mitzvah and it would be a shanda to not approve a use that has been present on the site legally for decades and was supported by every resident who spoke at the first meeting on the special use permit. What a wonderful opportunity for everyone in St. Louis to have this property be the home of the Miriam Academy, continuing the legacy of the Miriam Foundation founded by dedicated Jewish women in 1910. 

Marci Levison Rosenberg, Past President/ Chair, B’nai El Board of Directors

MMR Vaccine is safe, effective

We are writing in response to Michelle Goldstein’s letter to the editor about the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine. As pediatricians for the past 26 years, we continue to be shocked at how many people distrust the medical community so much that they are willing to put their own children’s lives at risk by not vaccinating them. 

The letter described measles as “a rite of passage” and “ an uncomfortable infection that is self limited.” Before the MMR vaccine was developed, an estimated 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) each year in the United States from measles, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

In addition, according to the website for the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a review of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System data reveals that many of the death reports for MMR vaccine involved children with serious preexisting medical conditions or were likely unrelated to vaccination. This is in stark contrast to Goldstein’s claim that thousands of people have been injured by the MMR. Just because thousands of families have filed claims does not mean that those claims have been substantiated. In fact, according to the NCBI, most of these claims of MMR dangers were proven to be false. 

In our two and a half decades as pediatric physicians, we have vaccinated thousands of children. And none of these patients have sustained any significant injuries from any of these immunizations that we have given them. However, we have had several patients sustain very serious, life altering, permanent physical and neurological damage and even death from H. influenzae and S. Pneumoniae infections that they got several years before those vaccines were available. 

Medical researchers have proven, through top-notch, unbiased, research that vaccines are safe and that it is the infections themselves that pose a threat to our well being. If we allow unvaccinated children to mingle with the rest of their peers, they will continue to spread life-threatening diseases to the masses. Parents have the right to refuse gold standard medical care. But, they do not have the right to then harm the rest of the population by putting their kids in the midst of others. Your freedom stops when you start to endanger other people’s safety. 

If you choose to get drunk at home, that’s your choice. But if you choose to drive intoxicated, then you put everyone else in danger, just as you do when you send your unvaccinated child into our child’s classroom. 

Sharon Dunski Vermont, M.D.

Laird H. Vermont, M.D., Chesterfield

Synagogue shooting

The recent shooting at Chabad of Poway, on top of the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand and Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh have many of us shaken and angry. People should be able to pray without fear of being gunned down. We must continue to show solidarity with people of all faiths and let them know we stand with them against the hatred fueling these mass shootings.

However, we need to do more than show solidarity. Unlike in New Zealand, where strong action by the prime minister and support from New Zealand’s cabinet led to an almost immediate ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons, our country still has political leaders unwilling to vote for any policy that restricts access to guns by anyone for any reason.  

In Missouri, we have legislators who introduce bills to increase places where concealed carry of firearms is allowed, rather than restricting guns from sensitive places and out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. 

The evidence shows that the way to keep our families and communities safe in schools, college campuses, houses of worship and elsewhere, is by adopting common sense, proactive solutions to prevent people with dangerous histories from obtaining guns. We need to urge the U.S. Senate Majority Leader to call a vote on the background check bills (HR 8 and HR 1112) passed by the House. We also need to contact our Missouri state senators to oppose HB 575, which would loosen state gun laws to force guns on public college campuses and private K-12 schools (including Jewish and other religious day schools). 

Both working to address the behavior that fuels hate crimes and supporting reasonable, commonsense restrictions on gun ownership are needed to address the epidemic of gun violence we now witness far too often.   

Gail Wechsler, St. Louis Volunteer Interfaith Lead and National Mentor for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America