Letters to the editor
In response to “The NII must do more to help the needy” (By Sami Abu-Warda, Letters, August 6).
Mr. Abu-Warda wrote a fact-filled, impassioned and moving letter about the huge holes in our social safety net, but its message is based on a faulty premise. At the end he asks “the heads of the NII and the Finance Ministry to ... open their hearts ... and allow the needy an honorable existence.” That presupposes that those people have hearts.
Parting the curtain
In response to “The curtain of Talmud” (By Anshel Pfeffer, August 3).
I would like to correct Anshel Pfeffer’s statement that Talmud study “is also one of the last men-only clubs”: On Thursday, August 2, a siyyum shas ceremony took place at Matan − Women’s Institute for Torah Studies in Jerusalem. Close to 100 guests celebrated with 30 women who devoted 50 minutes every day for seven years to learning the entire Talmud. What is unique about this first-ever women’s siyyum is that the teachers were also women (all of them graduates of Matan’s advanced Talmud program). Now they’re starting the next cycle.
Suzanne Friedman Hochstein
A full accounting
In response to “Whose crime is it?” (By Adar Primor, Opinion, July 31).
Adar Primor mentions that in July 1942 France deported “more than 13,000 Jews” to Auschwitz. It should also be stated that altogether 76,000 Jews were deported by France. Almost all of them were murdered. And France continued to search out Jews for deportation and killing until the last possible moment.
Vive la verite!
Richard L. Hirschhorn
Dealing with Orwell’s anti-Semitism
In response to “An evolved prejudice” (By Anshel Pfeffer, Week’s End, August 3).
I read with interest the article on George Orwell and anti-Semitism. In 1975 I wrote a dissertation as one of the final papers for my degree in literature on George Orwell and discovered to my surprise some of the remarks he had made about Jews in the Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters. The most fearsome comments perhaps were about the preponderance of Jews in the underground stations sheltering from air raid attacks and their preference for Hitler’s social system to England’s, written as early as 1940.
I was so taken aback that I wrote to two close friends of Orwell’s, Tosco Fyvel and Julian Symons, and both admitted that the extracts made for uncomfortable reading.
Interestingly both also commented that in their personal dealings with Orwell, who had several Jewish friends, among them Arthur Koestler, Jon Kimche and F.J. Warburg, he never demonstrated anti-Semitism.
Fyvel: “In real life,in his relations with his colleagues or friends, there was of course not a trace of anti-Semitism in him, not a trace. The very idea would have been inconceivable to him...”
Symons: “Specifically I never saw any indication that Orwell was anti-Semitic in a personal sense, and I should very much doubt that he was.”
But both writers point to his anti-Zionism, Symons claiming it was part and parcel of his opposition to all kinds of nationalism and Fyvel saying that it was another aspect of his anti-colonialism.”
As for Orwell’s anti-Semitism, Fyvel gives a range of explanations, from his background and circle of literary friends such as Anthony Powell and Graham Greene, to the working-class folk mind of which it was a strong element, and which Orwell attributed to a sympathy for the sufferings of the defeated Germans after the war!
It is interesting to me that in the 21st century Christopher Hitchens should have been as defensive of Orwell’s clear antipathy to Jews as Fyvel and Symons were in the second half of the 20th.