Letters to the editor: Week of January 13, 2016

Questions left unanswered 

The Dec. 30 article “Reduced county funding leads to cuts at JF&CS,” on Jewish Family & Children’s Service and St. Louis County’s Children’s Services Fund raised more questions than it answered and provided a limited view of the issues involved. For example, the funding cuts are for 2016, yet the impact on staff and clients was felt in 2015. It is not clear why there were not sufficient funds to maintain 2015 staffing and service levels through the year’s end. The article further indicated that cuts were anticipated once the Children’s Services Fund surplus was exhausted.  It is not clear why the fund, along with recipient agencies, did not plan for a more gradual reduction in grant allocations and structure services so as to minimize the disruption and, in some cases, the abrupt termination of services. The result is an unfortunate and significant impact on a vulnerable, underserved population and loss of quality, accessible mental health care in our community without sufficient understanding or accountability.

Rhea Oelbaum



Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

Commentary misses the mark

Whereas Marty Rochester’s Dec. 30 commentary calls attention to some objectionable restrictions of free speech at the University of Missouri-Columbia and other college campuses, his language calling protestors “totalitarians and little Ropespierres interested in tactics of Pol Pot,” is as cliché ridden as the language of some of the students. The article is clearly missing an understanding of the larger context and legacy of racial history in Missouri and the United States. Rochester disregards the years of documented discrimination and its effect on students of color on the Mizzou campus. Although our country has made great progress on the racial front, we are also seeing, for example, more segregated neighborhoods and schools nationwide. Historical progress is not linear, as Rochester seems to think.  

Rochester’s remarks should have been focused in a positive and academic direction, rather than deriding proposals for heightening cultural awareness. For example, institutions could design courses and activities where students (and faculty) read and discuss serious books and articles by important writers and scholars on race.  Black writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates and John Hope Franklin would be a good start, along with black conservative scholars like Shelby Steele and Jason Riley. Leading white scholars like Eric Foner and David Blight also provide invaluable insights into legacy of Jim Crow and slavery that is sadly still with us. The Mizzou situation is far more complex and in need of a balanced analysis than was provided in Rochester’s column. 

Helene Sherman, Ed. D., Creve Coeur

Dennis Lubeck, Ph.D., St. Louis



Concerns over group’s choice of speaker  

We note, with sadness, that the St. Louis Rabbinical Association (SLRA) invited Mr. Faizan Syed, the executive director of the St. Louis chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to speak at their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 5. CAIR defines its mission;  “to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”

The national organization of CAIR has consistently supported an anti-Israel agenda. CAIR was founded by leaders of the Islamic Association for Palestine, a Hamas-affiliated anti-Semitic propaganda organization. Although CAIR has denounced specific acts of terrorism in the United States and abroad, it has refused to unequivocally condemn Palestinian terror organizations and Hezbollah by name. 

The FBI suspended formal contact with CAIR in 2009, citing evidence introduced during the Holy Land Foundation trial that CAIR and its founders were part of a group set up by the Muslim Brotherhood to support Hamas. In November 2014, the United Arab Emirates placed CAIR and a number of other American Muslim groups on a list of terrorist organizations. In August 2015, the Anti-Defamation League issued a comprehensive report on CAIR that identified CAIR’s anti-Israel agenda and its support for Palestinian terror organizations and Hezbollah. 

As our name states, we support a Just and lasting peace in the Middle East.  We welcome honest dialogue with peace-loving Muslims.

And we know CAIR isn’t the only organization claiming to speak for American Muslims.

After listening to CAIR’s director, we strongly recommend the SLRA (and other St. Louis Jewish organizations) also hear from representatives of the Muslim Reform Movement, a U.S.-based Muslim organization led by Dr. Zuhdi Jasser. The Muslim Reform Movement has called on Muslims worldwide to reject violent jihad and to endorse religious freedom and secular government.  We believe those values are more congruent with the St. Louis Jewish community. 

Only after hearing from both, can the SLRA and the Jewish community intelligently “dialogue” with Muslims. 

Richard H. Senturia, Director

Citizens for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East



I was surprised that the SLRA chose to meet with representatives of CAIR. The stated purpose of this meeting was to enhance Jewish-Islamic interactions. However, CAIR has been declared a terrorist group by both the Anti-Defamation League as well as the United Arab Emirates. During the Holy Land Foundation terror fund raising trial, CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator. A 2011 Gallup poll disclosed that 88 percent of American Muslims do not think that CAIR represents them.

With many Islamic groups locally and nationally available, we need to establish closer ties to a true moderate group that can better express the needs of the Islamic community. The SLRA has stated that one of their aims is to support Israel. Meeting with an Islamic group that does not support terrorism is a good way to meet this goal.

Laura Goldmeier

St. Louis