A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Your letters to the editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light (Dec. 19 issue)

Open letter’ draws responses from readers

To the signatories of the open letter to Jewish organizations: you address your concerns to the wrong party. The war in Gaza could end today if Hamas released the hostages and surrendered. 

You present a one-sided history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, ignoring that Nakba refers to the failure of five Arab armies to destroy the Jewish state and ignoring the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. Attacks of Arabs against Jews have occurred for centuries, with the reason for them shifting from antisemitism to anti-Zionism. A two-state solution has been rejected by the Arabs since the Peel Commission in 1937 with the Arab side refusing anything less than their maximalist demands. 

Your modern analysis is also based on faulty data. You accept without qualification the biased U.N. Human Rights Council, and the Hamas-derived civilian casualty figures, which inflate the number of civilians. 

Israel cannot exist in freedom and safety next to the bloodthirsty monsters of Hamas. This group must be destroyed for the good of the Palestinians as well as for the good of the Israelis. 

Tzedek, Tzedek, tirdof. May we see justice for the entire region.

Laura Goldmeier
Creve Coeur

I must question your decision to publish the open letter of Dec. 6 without first exercising your journalistic discretion to delete the signatories’ self-identification of organizations they claim to represent for the reason that it inevitably creates a misleading impression that these organizations may somehow share the views expressed in the letter. (This is in sharp contrast to the open letter to Congresswoman Cori Bush of Nov. 1 that was signed by the actual leadership of many of the same St. Louis Jewish organizations expressing a totally different set of views on the subject.) 

Alan Weinberger
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

A reply…a reflection, 

“The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.”  – Alvin Toffler

I read with interest and great attention the letter to the editor “Open letter to Jewish organizations in St. Louis and the surrounding area.” In the list of signatories, I recognized the names of women and men that shared classrooms or attended camps with my children a few decades ago. While I may not have known them well, I was surprised by some of the comments expressed and the overall tone of their letter. 

Throughout history, the term “People of the Book” (in Hebrew: Am HaSefer) has been used to refer to the Jewish people, though other nations and religions have also self-identified as such. While the Book in question is the Torah, I believe the true heritage of this epithet is a legacy of learning and education. For me, learning is a continuous endeavor throughout one’s life.

I was saddened to read that the authors felt misled by their Jewish education, which they felt lacking and narrow-minded. The role of a school is not to present each detail of history, or even all the nuances of a complex geopolitical conflict. Rather, it is to teach us how to approach the world with curiosity, critical thought, and a hunger to continue learning in pursuit of a fuller understanding of the world. I felt fortunate to receive such an education from my esteemed teachers and professors. In reading your letter, it is clear that you too have received such an education, and you have formed your own perspectives and opinions, informed by your own research and learning. In doing so, you have reflected on your education as falling short of the expectations you now hold for the role of a school—expectations that are too lofty to be realistic. An education in which we learn to learn is not only enough; it is one for which we should be grateful.

However, I encourage you to approach your education with the wisdom and balance it deserves to avoid the narrow-mindedness you decry. When you mention the Nakba, contrast it to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who faced expulsion from Muslim countries. When you sing “Im tirtzu ain zo agadah,” remember that Herzl’s Zionism emerged as a defense of a vulnerable people, scattered throughout Europe in the late 1800s. Time, and modern sensibilities, have reinterpreted his words absent their relevant context.

Over 75 years, we have read a multitude of Israeli and Arab-Palestinian narratives. Neither side is politically monolithic, and propaganda, falsehood and deception can be found on both sides. As you read and learn, be cautious to not oversimplify the geopolitical complexities into unilateral impassioned talking points that misrepresent history or that mislead rather than inform. 

I hope that, as we pray for the safe return for the remaining hostages, and as antisemitism is once again on the rise, we can come together in defense of the Jewish values we hold dear. Israel is a bedrock for those values, and its continuous existence depends on our support and pride of our traditions—the very traditions you first celebrated in our Jewish institutions. During this tumultuous time, as Israel and Judaism find themselves once again under attack, I hope you continue to seek out knowledge in their defense, following your heart with honesty, fairness and a deep commitment.

Remember, our learning is far from over…

Dr. Mauricio Lisker-Melman, Professor of Medicine
St. Louis

In the open letter published Dec. 6, the authors and signatories included their personal affiliations with Jewish programs. The vast majority seemed to be limited to programs for grade school and middle school. In many ways, this was an apt metaphor for the moral argument they were attempting to make. 

While I believe the letter includes multiple inaccuracies and misleading facts, I will focus on just one. The authors use btzelem Elohim, a core principle of Judaism, as justification for a cease fire. However, relying solely on broad principals to make decisions leads to a type of moral relativism that could only ever make sense in the classroom. By themselves they provide little value as a rational solution to a complex problem. The congressional hearing this past week regarding several Ivy League schools demonstrated the culmination of this toxic thought process. The real world is much more complicated. Often moral values are in conflict with one another. 

After Oct. 7, it is clear that Hamas poses an existential threat to Israel and therefore Israel not only has the right but a moral obligation to its citizens to defend itself. This obligation does not go away just because Hamas chooses to use civilians as shields. How exactly to balance these values is very complicated. 

Precisely because of these types of issues, Jewish tradition has developed one of the most vast and expansive ethical frameworks in history to address the complexities of living a moral life in an imperfect world. In doing so, it does address some of these complexities such as the laws regarding a rodef or morality in battle. Israel has not only acted well within international law, they have held true to Jewish law and values. 

Unfortunately, the biggest take away from this essay is that we, as a Jewish community, need to do a better job at educating our youth so that their world view of Judaism matures beyond high school.

Michael Schachter
University City

Response to Marty Rochester column 

I found myself once again inspired by the writings of Marty Rochester.  Regarding his latest piece, “Equity-driven dumbing down of K-12 education accelerate” (Dec. 6 issue), I found myself in strong agreement with his contention that it is not fair to the accelerated students to slow down, on behalf of those students who are challenged. As Rochester said, the needs of all students need to be served. This can be done by not watering down the curriculum or grading standards, but by giving those students who are challenged extra help outside the classroom.

It seems to me that there is a relationship between the accountability that Rochester demands in the educational system and accountability in other areas that he has written about, such as in the workforce and in dealing with crime. There is a problem in all three areas, and the common denominator is general lack of accountability.

To those students and parents who think it is unfair to demand more effort on the part of students in general, I wonder if they realize how much effort the higher achieving students have to put forth to achieve what they have. Let’s not discourage their effort but, instead, demand the same effort on the part of all students.

Harry Toder
University City

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