Your letters to the editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light


Changes to petition process would curtail grassroots efforts

Status-quo politicians in Jefferson City are attempting to gut the Initiative Petition process, a vital piece of our democracy. This process allows citizens to directly vote on topics important to them without the need to rely on politicians to keep their “promises.” Making this process more difficult would effectively eliminate any chance of a successful citizen-led effort to address issues that politicians are ignoring. Recent successes of the Initiative Petition process include raising the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid and the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.

As Missouri citizens, it is our constitutional right to be able to directly influence our government and vote on matters we care about. However, politicians are directly stating that Missouri citizens are unable to be trusted with these decisions. Not only are they trying to diminish the power of citizens, they are using intentionally misleading language. They added in language to suggest that non-citizens are allowed to vote in Missouri elections, which is not the case. 

The Missouri Constitution already states that a person must be a citizen in order to vote. Politicians are trying to weaponize anti-immigration fears to pass their bill and have more control over Missouri legislation. Missouri citizens should not give in to this bill’s deceptive language and relinquish our right to have a say in our government through the initiative petition process.

Please contact your legislators today and tell them to vote “no” on these bills attacking initiative petitions.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

Carly Ferdman and Jennifer Stephenson
NCJWSTL Practicum Students

Hearing student voices in the Capitol

I share Cheryl Adelstein’s enthusiasm for witnessing kids and teens speak out on issues they feel strongly about (“Some students cut short from speaking on controversial bills. Here’s what they would have said,” published online Jan. 30, also included on opposite page). I, too, have chaperoned students to our state capitol to protect their history education and LGBTQ rights. When students travel from St. Louis to Jefferson City to speak out, it’s because they are anxious for their education, their safety and their peers.

Missouri legislators, including my Senator Andrew Koenig, need to hear voices of actual students to understand how policy decisions affect vulnerable minority children every day. Laws that undermine teaching about oppression or prevent students from participating in activities as their authentic selves take an emotional toll on kids and create an environment where students are endangered.

I’m glad the sports bill in question in Adelstein’s piece will no longer ban transgender girls from participating in school sports. Yet I hope the next time anti-trans bill is under debate, students will be unhindered in sharing their perspectives to the committee and our elected officials will be ready to truly hear them.

Cynthia Changyit Levin
St. Louis

Local AIPAC leaders pen open letter to the St. Louis Jewish community

Dear Members of the Pro-Israel Community:

Linda and I have been keeping up with events in the state of Israel and, most importantly, and lately, we have shifted some of our focus from the threats to Israel to the concerns raised by the current political energy in the new Netanyahu government.

While Linda and I share a deep concern over the domestic politics of Israel, we also recognize our limitations.  We are not Israeli citizens or eligible to vote, but we recognize that the state of Israel is defined by shared values, a commitment to God and Torah, and a “beacon unto the nations of the earth.”

Our work with AIPAC and the pro-Israel community is about the security and defense of the people of Israel.  The security challenges faced by Israel and its people from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic jihad, etc., represents a threat not just to democracy and freedom, but a threat to the existence of the Jewish state.

While AIPAC focuses on the security of the State of Israel and the strength of the U.S.–Israel relationship, we cannot ignore our conscience, our values, and our beliefs about what is important to a free democratic Jewish state.

I don’t think it is appropriate to check our feelings at the door when it comes to Israel, especially when we have strong beliefs, morally, ethically and politically, but it is likewise equally as important to remember our role.  

The people of Israel have democratically elected this government. Like our own government in the United States, it is built upon fragmented and competing values and issues.  Democracy is a mess. But, the strength of a democracy is its people. I trust, and I think we should all trust, the citizens of the state of Israel to make choices for their own destiny.  And, as we have seen in the last several years, democracy faces challenges.  We see that in our own government.  Tribalism, conflict, and the denigration of people whose views oppose our own, are in evidence in both societies.

Remember this: The United States and Israel share an unbreakable bond. That bond has its roots in democracy and a liberal society, open to views and challenges that appear to undermine what we have come to know as the true spirit of democracy.

In the end, we are Americans, we are Jews, we love this nation, we love the state of Israel, and we must stand tall as proud American Jews supporting the only free and Jewish democratic state in the world.  

Let us be frank about our criticism but let us not lose faith with the security of the people of Israel.

Nathan and Linda Cohen
St. Louis AIPAC Co-Chairs