Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

Readers respond

(Photo from Flash90)
(Photo from Flash90)

Adding context to community meeting story
The Chronicle’s coverage of a recent community meeting (“Community members voice concern over JAA’s new non-kosher food option,” online Aug. 24; this issue, Page 1) was a fair and concise representation of the meeting. Having been quoted in the story, I’d like to add some context. Most notably, my quoted remarks were preceded by my statement that I, like other attendees at the meeting, personally keep kosher, understand the importance of obeying the laws of kashrut and am heartbroken at the prospect of Jewish Association on Aging no longer have strictly-kosher facilities.

Of course, as stated in the story, “some tension occurred” when I spoke. My goal at this meeting was not to “side with JAA,” as some seemed to perceive, but to bring about a more constructive conclusion to the meeting: viable and plausible solutions in the event that current JAA plans move forward in the very short time frame cited. There was no talk of a Plan B, should Plan A (a request that JAA slow the process) fail.

Yes, I spoke of “JAA’s financial status,” not because I don’t believe kashrut is important, but because I know the cost of keeping kosher can be exorbitant, and even more so on an institutional level. However, having had my own mother suffer injuries while living in Weinberg Terrace, I worry about the dangers of directing funding toward kashrut at the risk of
jeopardizing health care that can, literally, mean the difference between life and death for residents.

I am not diminishing the value of spiritual health, but attempting to appreciate the broader notion of keeping our seniors safe and healthy.

In saying “this is going to happen,” I was begging those at the meeting to consider other ways to effect change if they do not realize their ultimate goal of reversing JAA’s decision.

I hope I am wrong. I hope JAA can find another way. I hope this passionate, well-intentioned group of community members can succeed.

More than anything else, I hope for the anger to subside and reasonable, productive conversations to take place.

Ellen Roteman

Chesed should be primary goal of JAA, not kashrut
I am disturbed when reading some of the views of the opponents of serving non-kosher meals at Weinberg Terrace and AHAVA Memory Care (“Community members voice concern over JAA’s new non-kosher food option, online Aug. 24; this issue, Page 1). I wish to make three points.

1. Being Jewish is not synonymous with being kosher. Those who believe that it is are trying to force their own religious beliefs on other Jews.

2. According to the JAA CEO Mary Ann Foley, 80% of the JAA residents interviewed favored a non-kosher option. Doesn’t this mean anything? It does — in a very real way.

It reduces their financial burden of paying for expensive kosher meals as opposed to cheaper non-kosher meals. Reduction of cost may enable some Jewish people to live and be taken care of in the quality facilities mentioned above, which they could not afford otherwise.

3. I totally agree with the board chair, Lou Plung, that the primary goal of Jews involved here should be chesed — the ability and willingness to help other Jews; and if this involves lowering expenses for those who opt in, so be it. Everything else is of a secondary importance.

Martin Winkler, M.D.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

To let costs outweigh kashrut is ‘an abomination’
The concept the Jewish Association on Again has put forth, “to offer a non-kosher option,” is (deliberately?) misleading. The plan, as I understand it, would actually be to convert the kitchen to non-kosher and offer a kosher option, obtained from an off-site caterer, sealed and certified. As someone who was recently hospitalized, and who has several food allergies, I can verify that this is a terrible idea. While in the hospital, kosher residents would be given a pre-prepared meal of the caterer’s choosing, allergies and tastes be damned The JAA was established by families who wanted, perhaps needed, a kosher Jewish facility for their loved ones. This concept is reflected in the JAA bylaws. To reduce this concept to a matter of dollars and cents is a moral affront and an abomination.

Carole J. Stone

Summer Lee showed her ‘politics of division’ in recent tweets
In your article about Congressperson Summer Lee on Aug. 25 (“AIPAC, J Street and Summer Lee wrangle over 2024 District 12 race”) you made note of her tweets responding to AIPAC, which really seem to lay bare her politics of division. They show her tendency toward racial discrimination, the very thing she claims to be fighting.

The congressperson doesn’t see Jews as a put-upon, oppressed minority, although we were one of the very first to be “othered” (Exodus 1:8) and are all too apparently still dealing with attacks. Her implying that (a) AIPAC represents all Jews; (b) this means that Jews hate progressive, Black and poor folks; and (c) it is therefore appropriate to so demean us — such assault being justified because we are a bunch of wealthy oppressing white guys — is a perfect example of the problem. And then she takes an indignant stance about being labeled antisemitic.

I generally walk a political path separate and different from both AIPAC and J Street.

But my history as a liberal is much longer than Ms. Lee’s. If her goal is pushing liberalism, she is facing in the wrong direction. And she is deeming everything to be a “fight.” And she is playing a separatist card when we really, finally have to be using our collectivist approach.

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of a conversation with Bhavini Patel. I believe we should take a hard look at her as representing the way we want the future of this country to unfold.

Audrey N. Glickman

Who is pro-Israel: J Street or AIPAC?
Recently, AIPAC and J Street have featured prominently in the Chronicle.

It followed AIPAC’s decision to endorse over 100 Republicans who voted to overturn election results on Jan. 6, including Ted Cruz, Scott Perry and Joe Wilson (who yelled “You lie” at Barack Obama). Then debate came closer to home, as AIPAC’s Super PAC took several million dollars from Trump-supporting mega-donors and used it to attack Summer Lee in her primary race, and then to support her MAGA opponent.

And it followed J Street’s continued support for Lee. Some in the community strongly oppose her position that better oversight measures are required to prevent the Israeli government from diverting U.S. security aid toward supporting settlement
construction and endless occupation. Lee is joined by others in her views. Yossi Beilin (a former Israeli justice minister), Martin Indyk and Daniel Kurtzer (former American ambassadors to Israel), Jacob Siegel and Liel Leibovitz (editors at Tablet) and Aaron David Miller (a former State Department official) have taken stronger positions on military aid than Lee. I expect AIPAC thinks Beilin, Kurtzer, Indyk and others are insufficiently “pro-Israel.”

Who is pro-Israel, AIPAC or J Street? Let’s stop labeling and examine their positions.

At its core, we are debating what it really means to be “pro-Israel” and who best represents our community’s views. For myself, living two blocks from the Tree of Life synagogue, I cannot fathom AIPAC’s standing ovation for Donald Trump and the campaign contributions it’s given to his allies through 2022. Many believe Trump fomented the antisemitic beliefs that fueled the despicable shooting on Oct. 27, 2018. There are no excuses for supporting political actors in the U.S. or Israel in an anti-democratic direction, breeding intolerance, bigotry and hate.

In Israel, intolerance and anti-democratic measures are ascendant, but AIPAC continues to unconditionally support Israel, no matter her behavior (be it by undermining the judiciary or building settlements). This puts them at odds with the overwhelming majority of American Jews and AIPAC’s former top lobbyist, Douglas Bloomfield, who last week wrote in the Jerusalem Post, “AIPAC has plunged into partisanship with a hard turn to the Right, embracing Evangelical Christians, hardline conservative Republicans, and election deniers whose views on everything but Israel were largely anathema to the mainstream Jewish community.”

Israel’s pro-democracy protesters made their position clear in an op-ed in Haaretz, accusing AIPAC leadership of “siding with the enemies of democracy” and “steering the organization away from its original pro-Israel mission, and toward an ultra-right-wing organization.”

In contrast, J Street believes we can champion Israel’s future, the U.S.-Israel relationship and U.S. security aid. We can both criticize the Israeli government when we disagree and stand up for justice, democracy, equality and peace (values enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence). J Street’s view aligns far more closely with the overwhelming majority in our community — no matter the misstatements, distortions and smears thrown its way.

Mark Fichman
Chair, J Street Pittsburgh

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