Take the virus seriously

I have never met Banji Ganchrow but I feel like I know her and her family quite well. (In fact I do know Husband #1, and he is a wonderful guy.) I look forward to reading her column in the Standard every week, and feel it’s one of the most delightful aspects of reading your paper.

I was therefore surprised and unsettled to read her last column (“What is a vacation?” November 27), where she says she would prefer to put herself at risk for contracting covid on a cruise ship so she could enjoy herself, rather than take an experimental vaccine. It is this attitude, of people taking risks to go to weddings, kiddushes, dinners with friends and extended family, in the name of having a good time, that has put us precisely where we are.

Furthermore, she says that she would rather be a guinea pig for a cruise than for a vaccine “that may or may not work.” Really? To date, the two most promising vaccines, made by Pfizer and Moderna, have enrolled more than 70,000 volunteers in their trials, with not a single serious adverse event. The data show these vaccines to be 95 percent effective. That’s as good as it gets, and is far from the vaccine “maybe working or not.”

I had the good fortune to be in the Moderna trial, and I received the vaccine. The fear, stress, and worry that I had lived with for six months is gone.

I’m sure that Ms. Ganchrow may have said what she did in a tongue-in-cheek manner. However, she may underestimate the influence she has on her readers. Fake news may be in vogue now, but I think columnists have a responsibility to the public not to be irresponsible.

As a primary care physician, I have been dealing with this scourge of a disease daily. I have seen the havoc it has wreaked both emotionally and financially, not to mention the illness and death it has caused. We have short memories of the long tehillim lists posted by our shuls and the many friends and relatives who were gravely ill or now are gone.

I think Ms. Ganchrow’s column is a good-feeling oasis in a desert of gloom in which we all have been suffering. I may be overly sensitive, based on my experience. However, I don’t think being flippant about covid or references to vaccine efficacy belong in a humor column, especially if they dissuade people from taking the vaccine because of a perceived lack of effectiveness.

In the meantime, I look forward to continuing to read about Ms. Ganchrow’s life experiences and God willing hearing about a DIL #2, or even a Grandbaby #1.

David Wisotsky, MD

Ms. Ganchrow responds: My column was meant to be entirely tongue-in-cheek, as Dr. Wisotsky guessed. I take the virus extremely seriously, and I hope that my readers do so as well.

Equality and equity

While I agree with Rabbi Orden that we have not yet achieved a color-blind society or ended racism, I have a more optimistic viewpoint of progress made and the path for the future, echoing Martin Luther King’s vison that the the moral arc slowly bends to justice. (Letters, “Equality is not equity,” November 13, in response to “Racial orthodoxy has made a comeback,” October 23.”)

Since the heyday of the civil rights movement, we had LBJ’s war on poverty, which helped Black families disproportionately; affirmative action that seeks to recruit and engage qualified minorities for advancement, provides set-asides for minority businesses for federal and state contracts, urban opportunity zones, Head Start, and many other initiatives to foster Black economic mobility. Helping to achieve success through equal opportunity, not quotas, should be the goal.

Racism exists in our country, and we must combat it. But we are not a racist country. Witness the two-time election of a Black president and 75 million plus Americans voting for a Black woman. I thought this would not be achieved in my lifetime.

If by addressing inequity you mean supporting reparations that Ibram X Kendi call for, that’s a bridge too far. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, who endured untold horrors, received reparations from Germany. My siblings and I didn’t. Japanese Americans herded into concentration camps under the order of California’s Attorney General Earl Warren received reparations. Their children didn’t.

Providing reparations for the fifth generation descendants of slaves is unwarranted. Instead, we should provide social and other supports for the disadvantaged of all races. Another area that needs addressing by the Black community is the dissolution of the nuclear family. Seventy percent of Black families don’t have two parents. Numerous studies, including by leading Black scholars, have demonstrated that single-parent households have fewer high school graduates and greater under-employment. Greater poverty is the inevitable result. Cultural change is called for by Black leaders, because combatting racism, while necessary, will not be sufficient to overcome poverty. Yet Black Lives Matters believes that the nuclear family “needs to be disrupted” as a Western construct.

Lastly, you accuse me of “flirting with racism” when I mentioned that Jews succeeded because of merit, ignoring their “whiteness” and the acknowledged centuries of oppression and racism against blacks. How then do we explain the economic success of Asian Americans, who suffered extensive discrimination, and yet, though merit, not “whiteness,” have a higher per-capita income than the white population? You don’t know me or my decades of service to the Jewish people and other minorities, and you accuse me of flirting with racism.

Our people in the U.S., whose ranks include hundreds of thousands of people of color, encountered four times the number of hate crimes than Muslims. Unfortunately, we don’t have a shield of “whiteness’ like other groups.

But I don’t believe in comparative grievances. I stand by the words of the late great Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who said, “We’ve seen the emergence of … the politics of anger…the culture of competitive victimhood…. And we need a culture of responsibility, not one of victimhood, because if you define yourself as a victim, you can never be free…. We need…collective responsibility for the common good.”

I would be delighted to participate in your summit dialogue group on racism.

Max l. Kleinman

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