April 29, 2009

Committee deserves credit

Thank you for writing about our recent Sunday morning Ferman Memorial Lecturer, Amos Guiora [p. 9, April 8 Jewish Light]. He spoke on a variety of Israel security related issues, and as Bob Cohn’s excellent article revealed, the 75 people in attendance felt fortunate to have heard him.

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Although the article correctly noted that the Ferman Lecture is presented by the Anti-Defamation League of Missouri/Southern Illinois, inadvertently omitted was the fact that the presentation was actually sponsored by the ADL’s Israel Advocacy and Education Committee. It was Teree Farbstein of our committee, who so successfully promoted the activity and obtained co-sponsorships from many local synagogues and agencies. We are all grateful to her for her hard work.

I want to take this opportunity to remind the St. Louis Jewish Community of this important ADL committee, which serves three specific functions. First, it disseminates accurate information about Israel to ADL Regional Board members. These successful business leaders are not only active in our Jewish community, but they have influence far beyond our local community into other spheres as well. By keeping them informed, the ADL can ensure that Israel has advocates of influence throughout our region.

Second, the Israel Advocacy and Education Committee has an “action” subcommittee that responds rapidly to urgent anti-Israel situations. In a matter of 24 hours, we recently were able to put 25 people on the street in opposition to a large virulent anti-Israel protest in the Loop. Additionally, anti-Israel propagandists are often brought to St. Louis and usually unwittingly, given a platform for their venom. We regularly provide pro-Israel advocates to attend the event and point out to the audience that there is another side to the issue. When appropriate, we also follow up to the presentation and offer to provide a counter-presentation or suggest that another speaker be arranged for later in the year for balance.

Third, of course because of its excellent diversity training and other programs the ADL has numerous contacts within the local St. Louis Community and beyond. Many have expressed interest in Israel or concern about defamatory things they hear. It is the position of the ADL that much of the anti-Israel and anti-Israel “Lobby” propaganda in circulation is in fact the “New Anti-Semitism” — the same old anti-Semitism wrapped up in a new, somehow more socially acceptable, package. The Israel Advocacy and Education Committee addresses these concerns through speakers and presentations that are factual and interesting.

As you can see, the Israel Advocacy and Education Committee serves an extremely important function in our St. Louis Jewish Community. We have an ongoing need for volunteers at all levels, from high school and college age students through retirees. We know that everyone is busy and we do not place extreme demands on our volunteers. All who are interested in helping us to help the State of Israel, are invited to contact the ADL office.

Thank you for allowing us to clarify your previous article, and most importantly, to use this opportunity to promote the very important work of our ADL Israel Advocacy and Education Committee.

David A. Rubin, Chair

ADL Israel Advocacy and Education Committee

[Editor’s Note: The letters below relate to Yom HaShoah commemorations. Some of the matters raised are very sensitive to many within the Jewish community. We fully acknowledge this concern, but The Jewish Light believes it is important to provide a platform for opinions and comments regarding all matters Jewish. As always, we reserve the right to edit for length, clarity and grammar, and always to ensure a respectful dialogue.]

Yom HaShoah participation

Last Sunday’s Yom HaShoah program at Shaare Zedek, a Conservative synagogue, was well planned and moving. The only thing missing were representatives of the most observant branch of our Orthodox community who, once again, let their doctrinal differences over the legitimacy of Conservative and Reform shuls. and singing by a women cantor come between them and remembering the Shoah. Why does the community at large allow this group lecture us on what we should and should not do as Jews when they cannot see fit to set aside their petty differences on such an important day? Even more important is why the Jewish Federation of St. Louis supports their Haredi organizations when 98 percent of its givers are Reform, Conservative or non-affiliated?

Norman W. Pressman

Crystal Lake Park

[Editor’s Note: According to a spokesperson, the Jewish Federation of St. Louis does not compile information or statistics about donors’ religious affiliation.]

Many dates commemorate Holocaust

I wish to commend the Jewish Light for its coverage of the Yom HaShoah event held at Shaare Zedek on April 19, 2009. However, it should be noted that there seems to be little consensus on marking the Holocaust on any single date. A quick glance at the Wikipedia entry for Yom HaShoah indicates that there are a multiplicity of customs.

In 1949, The Chief Rabbinate of Israel decided that the 10th of Tevet should be Israel’s national remembrance days for victims of the Holocaust. On other occasions, the Chief Rabbinate also referred to Tisha b’Av, the ninth of Av, as being a date for Holocaust remembrance.

In 1951, members of the Knesset proposed to hold Yom HaShoah on the 14th of Nissan, the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, but this was problematic because it is the day immediately before Passover.

Instead, they chose the 27th of Nissan eight days before Yom Ha’atzma’ut, or Israeli Independence Day. Until today, there are Orthodox Jews who commemorate the Holocaust on Tisha b’Av and the 10th of Tevet and avoid creating a day of mourning during the month of Nissan, when some expressions of mourning are halachically proscribed.

Most European countries such as Poland, Germany, Great Britain and others, mark Jan. 27 as Holocaust Memorial Day. This date marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

Similarly, in 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated Jan. 27 as an annual international day of commemoration to honor the victims of the Nazi era. In France, July 16 is the preferred date, as it marks the anniversary of the Winter Velodrome roundup in 1942.

More recently, film producer Steven Spielberg suggested VE Day, May 8, as a date to commemorate the Shoah, because the world was made more aware of the Holocaust when allied troops visited Nazi concentration camps.

All the dates for remembering the Shoah are no doubt sacred to those who participate in them. It is a blessing to note the rich diversity of modern Jewish practice as we pay tribute to the Six Million martyrs of our people.

Matthew Chase

University City