Letters June 22, 2017

Refugee comparison invalid

Your June 15 front page photo of the HIAS vigil on refugees depicts the continuing attempt to falsely compare today’s situation with the plight of the refugees on the St. Louis in 1939.

Regardless of how irrational one may feel about the refugees, it must be admitted that fear of terrorism plays a significant role. With hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking admission, it is not unrealistic to expect that there would be a few terrorists among them.

In 1939, no one feared that a terrorist would be among the passengers. The rejection of the ship’s passengers was based on opposition to immigration in general and to anti-Semitism in particular. Any attempt to draw an analogy to today’s situation is completely invalid. While I am sympathetic to the refugees’ plight, it does seem that the only practical solution is “extreme vetting.”

And I still can’t forget how few voices (including the WJW) were heard objecting to our “do nothing policy” while a half-million Syrians were being slaughtered. It seems that, for many people, denying entry to a refugee is worse than having him killed.

ABRAHAM FINKEL

Silver Spring

Interpreting policy on Qatar

Your editorial “Our Frenemy Qatar” (June 15) overlooks what appears to be some confusion if not disarray at the highest level of the administration with regard to the recent conflict between Qatar and three of its Gulf neighbors plus Egypt. To wit: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the blockade on Qatar was hampering U.S. military efforts against the Islamic State and that the United States would support efforts to mediate the conflict.

Hours thereafter, President Donald Trump tweeted that Qatar “has been a funder of terrorism at the very high level.” In the meantime, the Department of Defense has completed a deal to sell Qatar 72 F15 fighter jets at an estimated cost of $12 billion. The deal was signed at the Pentagon on June 15.

One wonders how America’s frenemies interpret the U.S. policy at this juncture.

NIMROD RAPHAELI, Ph.D.,

Senior analyst (emeritus),

Middle East Media Research
Institute, Washington

Mocking the Holocaust

Alan Dershowitz is known as a great legal authority, and I believe him that “punishing students academically for their political views or their personal values is a serious mistake” (“Dershowitz chides Harvard on Facebook hate posts,” June 8).

But in my personal opinion, mocking the Holocaust is more than an expression of political views or personal values

Dershowitz may also have a point that “judging other people’s humor, even in the worst taste, just strikes me as somewhat dangerous.” But the Holocaust is also known as a crime against humanity (though in fact it was first and foremost a crime against the Jews), and so we deal here not so much with some humor as with a sense of humanity.

The question is: Is the university a proper place for people with no sense of humanity? Joseph Goebbels, a Ph.D. from Heidelberg, is the answer. And so for me, as a child survivor of the Holocaust, the case goes to Harvard, not to its professor emeritus. The crime was unprecedented, it had even no legal definition, and if, as the professor claims, Harvard’s actions “are not consistent with the spirit of the First Amendment,” then we need a new one, quickly.

HENRYK GRYNBERG

McLean

Poor Holocaust survivors
deserve our assistance too

We at the Jewish Social Service Agency were deeply moved by David Schizer’s account of the unimaginable challenges that aging Jews still living in Saint Petersburg, Minsk and Bobruisk are facing (“The war never ended for poor, elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union,” Voices, May 10). We also appreciate how the article amplified the less familiar narrative of the Jewish experience in the former Soviet Union during the Holocaust.

In his article, Schizer wrote that “emigration [of former Soviet Union Jews] has been a great success for the immigrants themselves.” While it’s true that those who came to the United States are better off than those who never left, they’re not necessarily living comfortably. This population, especially those who survived the Holocaust, are facing very serious challenges as they age, including physical and financial vulnerabilities.

We agree with Schizer that elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union are worthy of the nomenclature “the greatest generation.”

But it’s important to note that we have many aging Jewish heroes living in the Greater Washington area who need — and deserve — our help, too.

More than 85 percent of the survivor clients in our Holocaust Survivor Program are elderly Jews from the former Soviet Union, and 90 percent are living near or below the poverty line. Nearly all require help with activities of daily living.

JSSA is proud to offer these remarkable individuals the assistance they need to stay in their homes and out of institutions, thanks to support from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and funding provided by the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the state of Maryland, the commonwealth of Virginia and Montgomery County. We are extremely grateful for the generous contributions to JSSA’s Holocaust Survivor Program from members of our community.

TODD SCHENK, JSSA CEO

Rockville

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