Letters to the Editor: Pittsburgh Massacre, Trump and anti-Semitism

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Each day brings new trauma and disgust

In response to “Liberal U.S. Jews and Israelis at odds in their reaction to attack” (Amir Tibon, October 29)

How can Benjamin Netanyahu write a letter to the governor of Pennsylvania praising U.S. President Donald Trump for his vapid statements following the massacre in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Trump compiled his remarks while on his way to meet with young farmers to convince them to support the Republican candidates in the upcoming midterm elections. His main concern was to board Air Force One and not be bothered with the tragedy that occurred, generated by his own racist, vitriolic statements throughout the years of his presidency and during the campaign prior to that. And our prime minister supports him. 

Then there were the remarks by Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who once again demonstrated his disdain for Conservative and Reform Jews.

I just read Lau’s disgusting refusal to call Tree of Life a synagogue because it is Conservative. He is further proof that we Jews don’t need neo-Nazis, racists and maniacs to destroy us, as we are very capable of destroying ourselves.

I am sick and tired of hearing the Orthodox, whether Ashkenazi or Mizrahi, leadership and members of that religious stream claiming exclusivity regarding their Judaism. It seems to me that people who go to synagogues, no matter which denomination, recite the prayers in the siddur, read from the Torah, observe bar/bat mitzvahs and follow the traditions of Judaism with which they are comfortable and which answer their religious beliefs are just as Jewish, or even more so, than those who bury their heads in books at the yeshiva, contribute little or nothing to the country in terms of work, national or military service, and feed off the taxpayers’ money.

This attitude, and that of our government regarding asylum seekers and the treatment they receive, make me wonder “Who is a Jew.” Thousands of these asylum seekers from Darfur and Eritrea have been applying for residency and recognition for years and our “overworked” immigration department cannot find the time to process their applications. Can we as a Jewish nation turn people away who are seeking freedom, a place to live, study, work and contribute, or do we want to emulate the position of the president of the United States, who plans to block those seeking refuge in the United States? And, by default, blames the Jews for funding them, especially George Soros. 

Can someone answer my questions, my concerns, and my fear for my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren?

Judy Telman

Mevasseret Zion

Trump’s absurd response

U.S. President Donald Trump’s response to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting is absurd. A white supremacist man walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath with a machine gun. After 20 minutes of mayhem, the gunman killed 11 people and injured several others, including two officers and two SWAT team members. Saturday’s attack is believed to rank as the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Shortly after, Trump responded to questions from a reporter on the shooting before boarding Air Force One by saying, “if they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop [the shooter] immediately.” He added, “Maybe there would have been nobody killed, except for him.”

Frankly, this is a preposterous response by the president and is nothing more than blaming the victims and condoning this terrorist attack.

We should not arm schools, churches, temples and mosques to feel safe. What’s needed is for a president who is not lax with his supporters and lets them get away with anything.

Here is what Trump can do to make America great again:

1. Trump should not tell his supporters to beat the hell out of the protesters and he will pay the legal fees. 

2. Trump should not smile in agreement when his supporters chant at rallies “shoot her” or “lock her up.”

3. Trump should advise his supporters that carrying signs at rallies that read, “Allah is not God and Mohammed is not a prophet,” or “NO MUSLIM ALLOWED,” is hate speech, not free speech.

4. Trump can start calling other countries by their names instead of “shit hole” countries.

President Trump should understand that his rhetoric and fear- and hate-mongering is what instigated the kind of violence carried out by his followers against his critics, by using mail bombs or the mass shooting of the Pittsburgh synagogue. When Trump’s followers do not respect the rule of law, the tragic terror attack carried out at a Pittsburgh synagogue will not be the last one.

Mahmoud El-Yousseph, retired U.S. Air Force veteran

Westerville, Ohio 

Anti-Semitism flourishes in the far right and the far left

On the right are the neo-Nazis and their European-style traditional racism. They are small in number and are mostly inconsequential today.

On the left are Louis Farrakhan, tacitly supported by America’s left wing, including former President Barack Obama, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Black Lives Matter movement and universities throughout the West.

Universities are spurred on by left-leaning professors and the Muslim Students’ Associations, which sponsor the boycott, divest and sanctions movement, Israel Apartheid Week and other so-called pro-Palestinian activities. MSA is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, as is Hamas.

Black Lives Matter has hooked up with MSA, making it part of the anti-Semitism plaguing America.

It has become axiomatic that the more left/progressive one is, the more likely one is to be anti-American, anti-white and anti-Semitic, regardless of their ethnicity.

The world’s oldest hatred has become socially accepted again. History has shown that attacks against Jews soon spread to others. If left unchecked, Western democracies will be imperiled.

Len Bennett

Ottawa, Ontario

Rabbinical unity after Pittsburgh

Here in Ottawa, a remarkable community-wide memorial event took place Sunday evening. It was hugely attended, despite just hours of preparation. 

The event concluded with pulpit rabbis from local congregations standing and reading together a selection of Psalms. Imagine this sight: Orthodox, Chabad, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis reciting tehillim in one voice, and concluding with the singing of “Ani Ma’amin.”

When Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau visited here a few months ago on his self-described fact-finding tour, perhaps he did not see or understand this powerful aspect of our reality. We mean it when we say “Kol Yisrael Haverim.” 

Victor Rabinovitch

Ottawa, Ontario

Attack on principles that we all espouse

The attack on the Pittsburgh synagogue is a horrendous atrocity that assails us all. That was not only an attack on the United States or the American Jewish community, but an attack on the noble values and principles we all espouse.

 It is disheartening that the plagues of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and Islamophobia are still among us, this time as invidious and subtle manifestations of patriotism, white supremacy, nationalism and populism that President Donald Trump stokes on a daily basis.

Our response should be espouse solidarity, social justice, equality, human rights, compassion and internationalism, never slipping into the abyss of division and stereotypes.

Dr. Munjed Farid Al Qutob 


Israel’s insincere, philo-Jewish sympathy

I wish I could accept Israeli government officials’ condolences as sincere. Their hyperboles and superlatives strike me as fake sympathy. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “heartbroken and appalled by the murderous attack.” He asserts that “[t]he entire people of Israel grieve with the families of the dead.” I hear no heartbreak or disgust from Netanyahu at “murderous attacks” on neighbors in Syria. I see nothing about “grief” for those starving to death in Yemen. 

Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Bennett proclaims “the State of Israel is deeply pained. ... Our Jewish brothers and sisters” while his party and government refuse to acknowledge Reform and Conservative Jews as equals in Israeli-Jewish law and disown the 25 percent of Israel’s citizens who are non-Jewish.

“All Israel are responsible for one another.” Bennett should remember this when religious parties threaten to dissolve the government instead of providing equal access for all Jews at the Western Wall in Jerusalem — Jews like those who were murdered in Pittsburgh. And remember this when similar crimes occur in non- Jewish parts of Jerusalem — annexed by Israel, yet systematically neglected by state law enforcement.

While commendable, it’s condemnable to send “emergency and resilience teams [to provide] psychological assistance and community rehabilitation” for non-citizen-Jews as opposed to deploying those resources for citizen-non-Jews in Israel or here in the Occupied West Bank, where occupation breeds psychosis and systematically de-habilitates communities.

I lived in Pittsburgh and worked near the synagogue that was attacked. My heart breaks for the patrons of the Tree of Life synagogue, as it does for those murdered here ... in Palestine.

Judy Bamberger

Volunteer in Tulkarm, West Bank, Palestine


Racism, playing with children’s lives

In response to “Netanya reassigns children of African asylum seekers to separate kindergarten” (Or Kashti, October 31)

With all the horrors, the suffering of so many around the world, I was surprised that it was the article describing the pain of little children in Netanya that elicited a scream of rage inside my head.

Is it because I am a grandmother and see daily the centrality of friendship for small children and their need for a safe, caring environment? Is it because of the memories of the battles we fought so my little grandson would not be assigned to a kindergarten where he would be separated from his little friends? Is it because I immediately saw in my mind 2-year-old Ella with her arms intertwined with 2-year-old Aloni?

Or is it the fact of coming face to face with pure evil, pure, homemade, blue-and-white evil? Despicable racism playing with the lives of little children.

 Or is it the fact that parents struggling for daily survival have found the strength and courage to fight back for the good of their small children?

Five-year-old Milcha is wondering why she is no longer together with her friends Gavriel, Aaron and Jonathan.

She is lucky to have parents fighting for her well-being, but knowing our country, our system, I am, alas, convinced that these parents will not be able to achieve their goal. They can only succeed if the parents of Gavriel, Aaron and Jonathan join them in their struggle.

 So I turn to them with the plea: Fight this despicable , racist decree for the sake of all of the children.

Veronika Cohen, professor emeritus


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