Letters to the editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light


Troubling history 

The online article published April 3 about Holocaust rescuer Varian Fry (“New Netflix show ‘Transatlantic’ chronicles an effort to save artists and thinkers from Nazis,” by PJ Grisar of the Forward, reprinted with permission on stljewishlight.org) noted how he helped more than 2,000 Jews escape Vichy France in 1940-41. Your readers may be wondering why Fry’s mission came to an end.

Sadly, prior to America’s entry into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policy was to maintain cordial — sometimes even friendly — relations with Nazi Germany as well as with the Nazis’ puppet regime in Vichy, France. Thus, when the Nazis and Vichyites complained to Washington about Fry, the Roosevelt administration responded by taking action to curb his activities. 

Secretary of State Cordell Hull instructed the U.S. ambassador in Paris in September 1940 to tell Fry “that this Government cannot, repeat not, countenance [him] carrying on activities evading the laws of countries with which the United States maintains friendly relations.” Hull also sent a telegram to Fry, demanding that he “return immediately” to the United States. When Fry refused, the Roosevelt administration refused to renew Fry’s passport, forcing him to leave France. 

The administration also punished Hiram “Harry” Bingham IV, a U.S. diplomat in Marseilles who had been aiding Fry; Bingham was transferred to Portugal, then to Argentina. 

It was the administration’s actions against Fry and Bingham that forced an end to their rescue effort.

Dr. Rafael Medoff, Director
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, Washington, D.C.

Equality in Israel

Rabbi James Bennett (April 19 commentary, “Trust in Israel’s future despite challenging present”) asserts: “Surely, no one can claim that the complete equality of social and political rights of all Israel’s inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex, is being pursued…”

Well, let’s see. 

Israeli Arabs vote freely in every Israeli election; Israeli Arabs serve in parliament; Israeli Arabs have served as cabinet ministers, deputy ministers, ambassadors, and consul-generals; and there is an Israeli Arab justice on the Supreme Court. So while Israel obviously is not perfect — neither is the United States — it is, in fact, doing a very good job of pursuing complete equality for all its citizens, especially for a country that is under daily siege by terrorists and is surrounded by aggressive totalitarian regimes that constantly threaten to annihilate it.

In fact, if you consider how civil liberties have fared in America during periods of internal or external threats—such as in World War II, or in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks—it could be argued that Israel is doing an even better job than the United States in that respect.

Stephen Flatow
Long Branch, N.J. 

Judaism and abortion

The Access MO Clergy Board wrote a letter to the editor (April 5 edition) in response to Jordan Cherrick’s March 8 op-ed in which he expressed a cogent presentation on traditional Jewish Biblical views toward abortion. 

The Clergy Board wrote that since “Judaism mandates abortion when it is necessary to save the mother’s life … one can easily conclude that Judaism is indeed pro-choice, pro-freedom and pro-personal autonomy.” 

It certainly is true that Judaism places the life of the mother over her unborn child. However, in the United States, well over 95% of abortions take place on healthy mothers carrying healthy unborn children. Therefore, to conclude that a mandated abortion when a mother’s life is endangered leads to the conclusion that Judaism is pro-choice — meaning, Judaism allows abortion as an elective procedure under any and all circumstances — requires a leap of logic greater than motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel’s jump over the fountains at Caesars Palace. 

Knievel failed in his outlandish 1967 stunt, as does the criticism of the Access MO Clergy Board of Cherrick’s exposition of the traditional Jewish Biblical view of abortion.

Richard Senturia
University City