A remarkable family
Thank you for the outstanding article by Justin Vellucci about Yitzy Nadoff (“Yitzy Nadoff: The making of a Jewish EMT,” June 5, 2020), a remarkable and sensitive young man from an even more remarkable family.
Those of us who were so privileged to be close to Yitzy’s grandparents, Rabbi Benjamin and Miriam Nadoff, and now Yitzy’s parents, Dovie and Fraidy, can attest to their extraordinary chesed. Whether it’s an emergency, or special food for a simcha, or an overwhelmed new mother needing help late at night, you can be pretty sure there is a Nadoff involved. This concept of unconditional caring for another no matter what opinions they hold, as Yitzy pointed out, and understanding what living to help another really meant was something Yitzy learned by “seeing how my parents lived to help others.” What was also so remarkable was that it all seemed to come so natural to the Nadoffs.
How fortunate for Yitzy that he is the beneficiary of this remarkable legacy.
We must continue to demand justice for all
On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Union troops freed the last slaves in Galveston, Texas. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream for America’s future, but highlighted the nation’s debt: “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. … It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. … We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”
The legal end to the Jim Crow segregation that pervaded the country through the Reconstruction and into the racism of the 20th century, the civil rights movement and legislation of the 1960s would not have gained momentum with just the eloquent words of Dr. King. Without Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, without protests — and, yes, civil unrest — there would have been no progress.
This country would not be the country it is, either fiscally, technologically, or culturally without the 400-plus year contributions of people of color. And yet, the institutions of racism built into the foundations of this great country remain to be dismantled. If a person of color cannot run through their neighborhood without being assaulted and killed, are our streets safe? If a person can’t rest in their home without fear of having the door smashed down and being shot, are our homes protected? If a person cannot count on their police to serve and protect, and must fear for their lives at the hands of four officers, do we have a just system?
We must support our brothers and sisters of #BlackLivesMatter. On this Juneteenth, 2020, we see the promissory note as yet unfulfilled. We will continue to write, petition, speak, and march with our hearts, souls and bodies for Justice for all.
Nathaniel (Chip) Myers
Justice first, mercy where warranted
I write in response to Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel’s opinion piece “A Plea on Behalf of Brian Jordan Bartels, 20” (June 12, 2020).
Let’s suppose for the moment that Mr. Bartels did what he is charged with doing: participating in the destruction of a police car and inciting to riot as part of a demonstration against police misconduct triggered by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Rabbi Vogel argues as if the issue were only damage to a police car. Of course, that in itself is a serious matter. It creates costs that come to the public through taxes. But that leaves out the context in which Mr. Bartels was acting.
Like Minneapolis, Pittsburgh has a problem with police misconduct. The contract between the city and the police union effectively makes the Citizen Police Review Board impotent to do its job. Most of Pittsburgh’s police are fine and humane people, but there are, inevitably, some who are not. The management problem we have is the lack of effective tools to deal with those few who should not be police.
The demonstration Mr. Bartels participated in was aimed at addressing that issue, particularly as it affects our black and brown fellow citizens. To incite to riot in that context is to invite the very misconduct being protested. People could have been hurt or killed because of the actions of Mr. Bartels and his accomplices.
For the movement to restrain police misconduct in Pittsburgh to be successful, it is essential for the demonstrators themselves to have the discipline to stay peaceful. By his actions, Mr. Bartels betrayed the very cause he espoused. If he is not able to control his actions, Mr. Bartels could have contributed more to social justice by staying home.
We are enjoined to do justice and to love mercy. We are not enjoined to do mercy and love justice. In other words, justice first, mercy where it is warranted. In this case, I do not see much case for mercy. I disagree with Rabbi Vogel.
Joseph (Jay) B. Kadane
Careful with use of terminology
The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle has published many articles, letters and columns in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the continuing struggle as we are dealing with how we can and must do better. Lots of material to read and much to learn.
Many of the articles and letters are challenging us to think about white privilege, a term that can both unite and divide us. It is worthy of thought and reflection, but be careful of applying it to everyone. Labeling people and groups has partially led us to the current state of affairs, which has led us to greater polarization, racism and anti-Semitism.
When applying the term white privilege, how do you know a person’s past and individual story? Just because a person is white, does not mean they grew up without poverty and hunger, or for many, anti-Semitism. Many members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community are the children of Holocaust survivors. We also have Holocaust survivors living here. Others grew up in the Soviet Union where Jews were persecuted, imprisoned and killed for being Jews. People’s parents, and perhaps they themselves, survived two of the most horrendous periods of human cruelty. They or the parents that raised them were not raised in what some may define as a white privilege world. For them it was basic Jewish survival.
When applying general labels to people we need to be sensitive if we get a response we did not expect and may not understand; remember we all walk in different shoes. We have a long way to go to see that day when Martin Luther King dreamed that we would judge a person by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.