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(Photo from Flash90)

AIPAC threatens the future of Israel
Regarding “J Street’s new low: Calling supporters of Israel racists” by Jonathan S. Tobin (July 29): As a longtime member of J Street and the current chair of J Street Pittsburgh, I was very disappointed that the Chronicle published this nasty, mean-spirited set of ad hominem attacks on J Street and others. Purportedly, Tobin aims to push back against J Street’s claim that AIPAC’s SuperPac, the United Democracy Project, is “driving a wedge between communities of color, especially progressives, and the Jewish community” and targeting “women of color.” Instead, he spends more than 1,000 words hurling baseless attacks, explicitly calling J Street “anti-Israel.” J Street’s concerns are valid: UDP has spent heavily to oppose numerous progressive women of color running for office this cycle, such as Donna Edwards in Maryland, Jessica Cisneros in Texas, Erica Smith in North Carolina, and even Summer Lee right here in Pittsburgh. But what I found most striking was that Tobin failed to mention J Street’s core objection to AIPAC and UDP’s work this campaign cycle: their endorsement of and fundraising for 109 candidates who supported Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” and voted against certifying the 2020 election results.

J Street is a consistent, committed supporter of America’s democratic values. J Street supports Israel’s survival as a democratic, Jewish state. We support efforts to achieve a two-state solution. That is our core mission. One way we do that is supporting candidates who support democracy in Israel and in the United States. AIPAC’s support for 109 Republicans who backed reversing the election results on Jan. 6, 2021, is simply astonishing. It ends the longstanding bipartisan support for democracy at home and abroad which has helped Israel to plan next year to mark 75 years of renewed national life. A strong, democratic Israel must have solid bipartisan support. AIPAC’s support of the antidemocratic wing of one party threatens that solidarity and with it the future of Israel.

Mark Fichman
Pittsburgh

Confront antisemitism in all its forms
It was distressingly instructive to read the differing reactions reported on the first two pages of the July 29 issue of the Chronicle.

Page 1 reported the outrage directed at the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Doug Mastriano, whose postings on the website Gab elicited antisemitic comments.

A creature of a cynical Democrat plan to assure Josh Shapiro’s election as Pennsylvania’s governor by financing campaign ads highlighting the stances of the most unpalatable opponent, Mastriano achieved the name recognition and votes needed to secure the Republican spot. Now, having achieved the opposition man of their choice, Democrats hasten to condemn the outcome. Denouncing Gab as a “festering cesspool of intolerance,” Rep. Dan Frankel joined the outcry while assuring us that “all law-abiding people won’t tolerate bigotry and antisemitism.”

But evidently the problem with Gab is not so much its antisemitism per se as the crudity of its expression. For, on the very next page, the Chronicle reported a much more subdued reaction to the more sophisticated but more ominous actions of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Reflecting its long animosity toward Israel, the PC(USA) at its most recent General Assembly voted to declare Israel an apartheid state. It viewed with alarm the “heightened Zionist-Jewish” identity of Jerusalem. It accused Israel of stealing “Palestinian” land and water. It suggested that aspects of Christian Zionism tended toward “idolatry and heresy.” And, to erase any doubt of its antisemitism, it compared Israel to Nazi Germany, appropriating to itself the vow of “Never Again.”

Did anyone call all this a “festering cesspool of hate?” Where was any “law-abiding person” who wouldn’t tolerate this hateful bigotry and antisemitism? Laura Cherner, the director of Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Community Relations Council, found all this — and more — merely “disappointing.”

The spokesman for the Pittsburgh Presbytery spoke in platitudes, some of them misleading, to put it gently. A subsequent assembly could overturn the action he said, in spite of the fact that this action is a culmination of decades of anti-Israel acts and resolutions. Could he be unaware of the 2014 Presbyterian study guide that describes Zionism as a “pathology … a doctrine that promotes death rather than life?”

The president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary assured us of his commitment to “interfaith dialogue.”
Dialogue about what? How to dismember the Jewish state?

The Federation’s Cherner thinks “it’s worth a conversation…educating them about why this is harmful … working to affect positive change.” Did she notice that none of these people actually disavowed a single one of the church’s anti-Israel positions?

Anti-Zionism is the latest incarnation of antisemitism. Railing against antisemitism only when it’s encountered in its most vulgar form won’t do. A community unable or unwilling to confront it in its sophisticated environs — in the churches, in the universities, in professional societies — is a community surrendering to it. It’s time for us to be brave, to be strong, to defend Israel as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.

Ann Sheckter Powell
Pittsburgh

Not putting up with public prayer
In reference to Howard Elson’s recent letter (“Coach’s public prayer was ‘implicit coercion,’” July 29), I, too, have had one too many instances where someone slipped in a prayer “in Jesus’ name.”

Following the “blessing” I quietly speak to them about it. I explain that when it is a function that is not religiously related — such as one in a church — then the prayer should not mention Jesus or Isa or any other reference to a particular religion. If the individual repeats the prayer at another function, I leave the room and make everyone aware, privately, that I am offended.

If I am in a ceremony in a church, that is different. I have entered their religious area and cannot expect anything else.
I have been to military, professional and other functions that do not respect anything but the religion of the person leading the prayer — which is very disrespectful of others there.

If I am at someone’s home, that is a different story: It is their home and their custom. I bow my head and am quiet as they pray.

I am a proud Jew and will not put up with the above.

Elaine Berkowitz, DMD
North Hills

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