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Equality is not equity

In “Racial orthodoxy has made a comeback” (October 23) Max Kleinman writes of a vision of equal opportunity and the importance of merit. He looks back at the rallying cry of the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s dream of a colorblind society and equal opportunity. Somehow, Mr. Kleinman fails to recognize that 50 years later, the vision of a colorblind society in which Black people have equal opportunity has yet to be achieved.

Many who work for justice today acknowledge that equality is not the same as equity. The classic illustration of the difference shows three children of different heights trying to watch a ball game on the other side of a wooden fence. Equality is when each child stands on a crate of the same size, but only one of them can see over the fence. Equity is when each child is given enough crates so they can climb as high as necessary, and so each each of them can see the game.

“Equal opportunity” that fails to recognize centuries of oppression and discrimination in education, employment, and housing is not true equality. We do indeed need to remedy our past transgressions, not because “white people are permanently flawed,” but because our society continues to disadvantage Black people. Mr. Kleinman flirts with racism when he suggests that the success Jews have achieved in America is solely due to merit. As white Jews, we must educate ourselves about systemic racism that advantages white people, and we must work to change those systems.

I am currently president of the Summit Interfaith Council and have been an active member of the Interfaith Council’s Anti-Racism Committee. For the past five years, the Summit Interfaith Council has offered Dialogue Circles on Race to hundreds of people. In the Dialogue Circles, we read and discuss the work of anti-racist thinkers such as Ibram X. Kendi, Robin D’Angelo, and many others. Mr. Kleinman has taken their words out of context and seems to have misconstrued their intention, which is not to blame white people, but to create a society that truly lives up to our highest ideals of equality and justice.

I would like to issue a personal invitation to Mr. Kleinman to participate in one of our Dialogue Circles on Race. We all have work to do in examining our own assumptions and biases.

Rabbi Hannah Orden
Beth Hatikvah, Summit

Democracy wins

Democracy wins! Joe Biden has defeated Donald Trump. He will be sworn in as the nation’s 46th president on January 20, 2021.

Trump will not concede to Biden that he lost the election. He will not congratulate Biden because he has no class. Every other president who lost or finished his term of office congratulated his opponent and left the office peacefully. Trump, who is a big crybaby, will not do this. If he refuses to leave the White House, then he should be forcibly removed and even arrested. Maybe the phrase “Lock Him Up!” will become popular.

He’s like a spoiled brat. If he doesn’t get his way, he’ll take the ball and go home. He is a nasty, inept, corrupt person, the worst president n our history. His gigantic ego has been shattered by the first loss in his life. As an ex-president, jail awaits him. There will be plenty of lawsuits awaiting him when he leaves office.

My faith in democracy has been restored. I’m hanging out my American flag for the first time in four years.

Dick Burnon
Dumont

Decency wins

The past four years have been divisive, led by a president who had a problem speaking the truth. We did not have a president for all the people. We had an unlawful president. He could not face the fact that he lost the presidency to Vice-President Joe Biden, and falsely claimed the election a fraud and announced himself the winner.

Our country can now rejoice knowing that we will have a president and vice president with experience, truthfulness and be law abiding and an administration whose first important job will be to seek out the scientists for for handling the coronavirus.

Congratulations to President Joe Biden, to Dr. Jill Biden, First Lady, to Kamala Harris, Vice President, and to Doug Emhoff, 1st Second Gentleman.

Good luck to the new administration and the big job ahead of them.

Decency won out.

Grace Jacobs
Cliffside Park

National health crisis should not be used as political football

A few days ago, Rabbi Menachem Genack, the esteemed rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Englewood, penned an article critical of those who blatantly ignore health precautions. These precautions are required by medical professionals, government rules and, above all, our Torah. As Rabbi Genack stresses, “Life takes precedence.” On this we have no disagreement.

In a fleeting potshot, Rabbi Genack lumps those who violate health regulations together with those involved in “protests and lawsuits.”(“Saving life takes precedence,” October 23.)

Protests? Nobody I know. Lawsuits? That’s me.

Conflating these three groups — those who ignore health rules, those who protest, and those who are involved in lawsuits — is surely as unfair as it is inaccurate. As a plaintiff in the lawsuit, I take exception.

Our shul, Agudath Israel of Madison, closed before we were required to do so and opened when allowed to, before Shavuous. We have required our mispallelim to wear masks, added minyanim, and staggered the davening schedule for proper social distancing. B’chasdei Hashem, we have not had a positive covid-19 case in many months. Five days after Succos we did testing in our shul. Thank G-d, the test results all came back negative. We understand and appreciate the health issues.

Why, then, is there a lawsuit?

For one reason only: because the current regulations are not based on health considerations.

When Red Zone boundaries were drawn to connect separate yarmulke-wearing neighborhoods, one suspects that this has nothing to do with science. When, after the governor’s order, the state stops publishing weekly positivity rates by zip code, one suspects that there is something to hide. And when a recording surfaces, with the governor himself saying that he is dealing with fear, not science, we feel justified in our suspicions.

When regulations allow 10 people in a basement shtiebel and the same 10 people in the Satmar Beis HaMedrash, one suspects that these rules are arbitrary. The federal judge hearing our lawsuit understood this, prompting her to ask the State’s lawyer:

“You haven’t answered my question. Is it rational to have a temple with a 300-seat capacity limited to 10, when another temple or church or other house of worship has a congregation maybe of 15 and they are still allowed to have 10 in it?”

A few decades ago, before America became so polarized, there was communication between those who disagreed. Disagreement, then discussion, then compromise. This led to reasonable outcomes, to fair laws and directives.

Today there is no discussion. In this case, there is not even the pretense of discussion. How sad that a national health crisis has become a political football.

We did go to court. So did the Roman Catholic Diocese, on behalf of more than 180 churches in Brooklyn and Queens. Muslim and Christian groups are filing amicus briefs supporting our position. Respected newspapers have criticized this ill-advised executive order.

Rabbi Genack — are we really all people who ignore the Torah concept that “Life Takes Precedence”?

Rabbi Yisroel Reisman
Agudath Israel of Madison

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