Several people are upset that the Hillel Jewish University Center is involved in a presentation by Efraim Eitam. However, some will put this in the category of free speech. I think not. Some remarks do not deserve a forum.
Given his extensive record of racist remarks about Palestinians living in Israel and the territories, it is actually astonishing to me that Mr. Eitam would be given a forum by a Jewish organization in which to speak about anything, particularly if there is no disclaimer or counter-response to those views. Would we tolerate a speaker who advocated sending Black Americans back to Africa, or stated that Muslims were a fifth column and should be expelled or at least denied the vote? Yet, Mr. Eitam has said all these things and much more about Palestinians.
I am particularly dismayed that the organization hosting Eitam is Hillel. I have a special connection to Hillel, for I was literally raised within its fold. My father, Rabbi Maurice Zigmond, was one of the very first Hillel directors, initially at Yale and eventually for all of New England, and I spent six formative years living with my parents in the Harvard Hillel House. Moreover, I lived in Israel for 18 months while my father directed Beit Hillel at Hebrew University.
I am certain that a Hillel that invites Eitam to speak unopposed to college students and even high school students is not what the founders had in mind. The same is true for two of the other organizations that are involved in this invitation, the JNF and the UJF. The only way to repair the damage is for a public statement by the organizational leaders that they reject Mr. Eitam’s racist remarks and ideology.
Michael J. Zigmond
Don’t forget today’s genocide
Sixty-five years ago last week, 7,000 prisoners from Auschwitz were liberated by the Soviet Union. To commemorate the lives of the Holocaust’s victims and to educate people about the Holocaust so it would not be repeated, the United Nations General Assembly made this day International Holocaust Remembrance Day. President Obama chose to deliver his State of the Union Address on that day.
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Obama needed to use his address as a platform for committing himself to take campaigns to end and prevent genocide, particularly in Sudan, to a new level.
Concerted political, diplomatic and financial efforts are necessary. Such efforts could be implemented by a meaningful international coalition — including important actors such as China and Egypt that have financial incentives to prevent further violence. Present Obama could use his popularity abroad and draw attention to the material interests of other players to bring together such a coalition.
For over a year, the Genocide Prevention Task Force, convened by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, worked to develop a practical set of recommendations that the U.S. Government could put in place to increase the capacity of the United States to prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities. The total price tag would be $250 million a year. Obama should create an international committee that would implement these recommendations.
President Obama’s State of the Union Address may have been a mere distraction from our memories of the atrocities that took place in Europe 65 years ago. Conversely, it could have been used as an opportunity to convince us that the painful memories of our ancestors can inspire and drive us to create more uplifting memories for our descendents. We must urge President Obama to develop the policies that would convince us of this.
(The author is the national programming coordinator of STAND: the Student-Led Division of Genocide Intervention Network.)
The suffering were afflicted
A tragic and predictable end has occurred in the case of the woman who sought to have her father’s remains disinterred from an Orthodox cemetery so that her elderly and ill mother could be buried alongside him in the cemetery in which the mother’s son’s remains rest, and whose family undertook legal action to honor her wishes after being rebuffed by the leadership of the synagogue that controls the facility.
The woman’s mother recently passed away, no doubt in anguish and torment over the unnecessary and cruel edict to which she and her family were subjected by intransigent opponents.
When he passed away in a sudden and untimely manner in 1965, the woman’s husband, although not pious, had been buried in an Orthodox cemetery at the direction of one of his brothers. The woman hoped to exhume the remains so that she could spend eternity next to him in the cemetery of her choosing, but she ran up against “Jewish law” as it was strictly applied in this case. She was told in so many words that she has no ownership interest in her husband’s casket and its contents, that the synagogue controls it.
I find it stunning and deeply disturbing that those who are leaders of a faith one of whose hallmarks is to “comfort the afflicted” would choose to do the opposite for no reason but to uphold what it saw as longstanding religious dogma. I hope that those who participated in the decision to inflict worry, anguish, and additional suffering on a dying woman and her family are pleased with their handiwork. Could this type of extremism possibly have been the will of a just and righteous God?
Oren M. Spiegler
Upper St. Clair
The Chronicle’s drift to the left has been apparent for some time, but you have clearly crossed the line on page 5 of the Jan. 28 issue.
To take copy word-for-word from an adjacent display ad (presumably a paid ad) and incorporate it directly into editorial copy is inexcusable and a violation of responsible journalistic practice. It does fit in well with the naive, pathetic opinion piece on page 9, “J Street, ZOA should strive to find common ground.”
Perhaps we shall soon be notified of a change in title to The J Street Chronicle.
William D. Benswanger