Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

Readers respond

(Photo from Flash90)
(Photo from Flash90)

It’s time for J Street to face the facts
While there is much to dispute in Mark Fichman’s April 5 column (“J Street is committed to electing officials who are pro-Israel and pro-democracy”), the urgency of the moment requires a focus on J Street’s inexplicable endorsement of Summer Lee for the 12th District House seat. It is unfathomable how a rational analysis of Ms. Lee’s behavior and voting record could justify an endorsement from an organization touting a pro-Israel raison d’être.

It is not unreasonable to expect that a leader of J Street would make an effort to explain its endorsement of such a rabidly anti-Israel candidate. Yet Mr. Fichman’s only argument appears to be that it is important to keep the lines of communication open. While this is true and commendable, communication needs to be reciprocal. Ms. Lee has “ignored more than a dozen interview requests” from the Chronicle since her election to Congress and has, most recently, failed to respond to requests from the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh to appear at its “Coffee and Conversation town hall-style event,” intended to allow the Jewish community to interact with the candidates. Nor has Ms. Lee attended the many vigils and rallies in support of Israel following the horrific Oct. 7 attack. Also, as reported in the Chronicle, in early March of this year, a letter written to Ms. Lee by 40 local rabbis and cantors, ranging across denominations, denounced her for her anti-Israel voting record and divisive rhetoric, which, at times, they felt was “openly antisemitic.” This letter was a follow-up to an apparently fruitless meeting they had with her months earlier to discuss their concerns.

Ms. Lee’s voting record has, indeed, demonstrated an unremitting hostility to Israel.

On April 25, 2023, in honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution — by a vote of 400 to 19 — supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship and the Abraham Accords. Summer Lee was one of the 19 members who opposed the resolution. Along with eight other members of Congress, she also skipped Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address to a joint session of Congress in honor of the occasion. This was an affront, not to the government of Israel, but to the state of Israel.

On Oct. 25, barely three weeks after Hamas’ horrendous assault, the House approved a resolution expressing support for Israel in its war against the terror organization. The vote was 412 to 10. Summer Lee opposed the resolution.

On Nov. 16, 2023, six weeks after the Hamas attack, six members of the House proposed legislation intended to block a $320 million arms sale to Israel. Summer Lee was one of those six.

Communication is certainly important. But Ms. Lee doesn’t’ want to listen. She cherishes her acceptance in the “Squad” — the congressional faction of neo-Marxist comrades whose

conditions for inclusion mandate that members regularly act to delegitimize and demonize Israel. She relishes that membership and, for fear of expulsion, rejects any action resembling a more balanced approach to Israel. It’s time for J Street to recognize that.

Reuven Hoch

It’s ‘shortsighted’ to support a candidate based on one factor
At the risk of alienating many of the readers of the Chronicle, I would like to explain why I am voting for Summer Lee (Primary election coverage, ongoing).

I have never been a single-issue voter. Because our elected officials affect our lives in so many ways, deciding whether to support or oppose a candidate based on one factor seems extremely shortsighted.

In addition, I make a distinction between supporting Israel and supporting everything its government does. That isn’t the case with organizations like AIPAC, which targets those candidates who do not follow its demand for total loyalty.

Congress should be a place where different opinions (except extreme ones) should be represented and debated. But some, like Bhavini Patel, think nothing should ever be asked of Israel’s government.

That is a problem given that those in power in Jerusalem comprise the most extreme government in the country’s history. Ministers like Ben Gvir and Smotrich never miss an opportunity to denigrate and dehumanize Palestinians and most other Arabs. And they get their way because Netanyahu needs their support to stay in power and out of jail.

The ongoing assault on the independence of the judiciary is another part of his strategy to remain in office. That is why over the last two years when asked if they were optimistic about the future of democratic rule in their country never more than 46% of Israelis said yes.

To placate its right-wing supporters the Netanyahu administration focused intently on the West Bank and completely failed to anticipate the horrific terrorist attacks of Oct. 7. To salvage something it can call victory from this debacle, it has destroyed more than half the buildings in Gaza, killed tens of thousands of the people including women and children [according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry], and allowed humanitarian aid to only trickle as starvation killed more.

One of the most tragic ironies of this war is that the country that was created because of the Holocaust is now accused of genocide in the International Court of Justice. That charge is extreme, but it cannot be dismissed with the usual assertion that international organizations are biased against Israel. Condemnation of Israel is widespread and growing.

There is almost nothing in the Middle East that is simple, but the way out of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians can be reduced to a bumper sticker: “No Palestine, No Peace. No Peace, No Palestine.” Neither side can get everything it wants and give nothing in return.
As someone who is Jewish, lived in Israel for three years and has friends and family there, my heart aches every day for those lost and those held hostage. And as I look at the videos of my 2-year-old grandniece who lives in Jerusalem I wonder if she, her children, and grandchildren will ever know peace. There is only one way to achieve that even if the extremists here and abroad refuse to accept it.

Ambassador Dennis Jett (Ret.)
University Park, Pennsylvania

Standing together against antisemitism
These past months have been fraught with challenges for our community. In the aftermath of recent events, we have witnessed a distressing surge in antisemitic actions and sentiments around the world (“Antisemitic incidents continue locally post-Oct. 7,” April 5). The invasion of Israel on Oct. 7 left us grappling with fear and uncertainty as hatred and misinformation spread like wildfire.

What is perhaps most troubling is the deafening silence from the broader community. We’ve seen displays of solidarity in times of crisis before — after 9/11, during periods of political upheaval, and amidst social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. While these gestures of support (safety pins, tweets, black squares for profile pictures) may have been superficial, they were undeniably visible. Yet, when it comes to standing with our Jewish community, the silence from the broader community has been deafening.

Our early childhood programs, the heartbeat of our community, are struggling to weather the storm. The recent events, compounded by the ongoing challenges of the childcare staffing crisis exacerbated by the pandemic, have pushed many of them to the brink of collapse.

Temple Ohav Shalom Center for Early Learning has been showing pride online for many of our beautiful values, such as repairing the world (tikkun olam), fostering community (kehilla), cherishing family (mishpacha), and practicing loving-kindness (chesed). However, instead of receiving the encouragement and support I hoped for, I was met with a barrage of hateful comments, such as “#1 Jewish value: Genocide of the Palestinians” and “murderers.”

Not only was it a stark reminder of the urgent need for solidarity and action, but it was also a sad reminder of just how many people are happy in their ignorance and willing to target any Jewish institution, including a preschool, to have an outlet for their hate.

Your support for Jewish early childhood programs can make all the difference. Support can manifest in various forms — it doesn’t have to be financial. You can offer to read stories to the children, help repair broken toys or books, or send a kind and encouraging note. By coming together, we can cultivate a network of individuals who believe we should nurture our children with good, strong Jewish values.

Let’s join forces to uplift Jewish early childhood education, embracing our collective dedication to nurturing our youngest learners. By championing these essential programs, we fortify our community’s resilience and take a stand against antisemitism and division. Together, let’s proudly showcase the importance of investing in the education and growth of our children, paving the way for a future illuminated by the values of compassion and unity inherent in our Jewish heritage.

Now is the time for action. Now is the time to stand together against antisemitism. Now is the time to support the youngest members of our community.

Amy Jacobs, director of early learning
Temple Ohav Shalom Center for Early Learning

People left out of Big Nosh
I recently attended the Chronicle’s Big Nosh event held at Beth Shalom and couldn’t help but appreciate the vibrant atmosphere and delicious offerings. However, my enjoyment was tempered by a disheartening observation: The event lacked thoughtful consideration for individuals with disabilities.

While I understand why the event was held at Beth Shalom, that space poses challenges for those with mobility impairments. The absence of clear signage directing individuals to accessible routes and the lack of alternatives for those unable to stand in line were glaring oversights. Furthermore, obtaining ingredient lists for attendees with dietary restrictions proved to be difficult.

In our quest to foster inclusive communities, it is imperative that we acknowledge and address the needs of all members, including the elderly and persons with disabilities. All of our Jewish organizations should look at this as a lesson to do better in disability inclusion. Each organization should have an inclusion checklist that they review during event planning to ensure that our entire community is welcome.

Mara Kaplan

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