I was very confused after reading Rabbi Engelmayer’s column regarding Jerusalem and Frisch’s letters of support sent to President Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (“Jerusalem, Frisch, and Jewish law,” January 26).
While there can be a legitimate debate regarding the role of politics in a high school classroom (I think it is pretty settled that politics in the college classroom is rampant), the nature of Rabbi Engelmayer’s response as a whole has me wondering whether he is opposed to politics, in general, entering the classroom domain, or whether he opposes only a specific kind of politics that might enter this domain. With great respect to the rabbi, his first point that we did not need official recognition from the United States (to be read, President Trump) that Jerusalem is the Ir Ha’bira (the capital) of Israel is simply stating the obvious. By the same token, we don’t need anyone’s stamp of approval that Israel is the Jewish homeland, but I doubt Rabbi Engelmayer takes issue with the U.N. resolution recognizing this fact back in 1947.
More to the point, I would submit — as those in the ultra-Orthodox camps did and continue to proffer — that it was this recognition that has caused the loss of so many Jewish lives both in Israel and abroad. But for the existence of the State of Israel, it is argued, we would be living at peace with our Arab cousins. The “pikuach nefesh” argument takes one down a very slippery slope and I’m uncertain why Rabbi Engelmayer has chosen the Jerusalem recognition issue as the paradigm of this argument more so than any other.
For example, I lived in Ma’aleh Adumim. To the surrounding Arabs neighbors living in Abu Dis, Jahalin, and alZa’im, I was a “colonist.” Perhaps my living there was contrary to Jewish law on the same grounds that Jerusalem should not have been recognized — “pikuach nefesh.” So here’s my take: Rabbi Engelmayer had a great opportunity to discuss the tension between politics in the classroom vs. a well-entrenched Jewish value known as Hakarat Ha’tov (expressing gratitude) vs. the role of the parent body. However, he used the Frisch-Jerusalem incident as a pretense to insert his own politics exposing an obvious disdain for our current President. While I can’t prove it, my gut tells me that had President Obama made the same “cynical political decision” the good Rabbi would not have weighed in on this one. Like so many of the “Never Trumpers” and “#Resist” groupthink, they seem to be consistent about one thing: they never seem to miss the opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Don’t teach kids to overlook racism
Kudos to Alexander Lichtenberg for his “Toward a more perfect union” (February 2).
It is very disheartening to read of Jews supporting Trump (I will not say President Trump) due wholly to his supposed support of Israel. As Jews and Americans we have a responsibility to adhere to our moral responsibility, our ethics and principles toward all people. We have a deep responsibility to our children to teach respect and tolerance of all people.
We cannot teach children to overlook Trump’s lying, his language, his blatant racism, his name-calling, his disrespect for women and women’s rights, disrespect for the handicapped, and disrespect for our press by telling them he is okay as long as he is a friend of Israel’s. The Frisch school should have a better dialogue with their students, telling them political activism is certainly respected and a big part of what Jews have always stood for — but it was always done with using our voice for all Americans.
Whitewashing Polish complicity
The current nationalist government of Poland chooses to ignore not only responsibility of some Poles for the Holocaust but also the anti-Semitism that was rampant both before and after World War II in the Polish community (“Poland wants to ban the term ‘Polish death camps,’” February 2). Prior to the war, Poland had passed laws similar to those in Germany barring Jews from many professions and universities. After the war there were massacres by Poles of Jews returning to claim their property.
Certainly although not all Poles cooperated with the Germans, many did. Polish guilt should not be ignored by the current government.