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Suicide is never a viable option

I can appreciate Michael Cohen’s point of view regarding the show “13 Reasons Why” (“Don’t be afraid of ‘13 reasons why,’ June 16). However, I’m sorry to say that he misses the point of all those who are so vehemently against the airing of this program.

He intellectualizes the issue and is able to be quite objective in his reaction. Those of us who are alarmed by the program, unfortunately, cannot view this issue quite so intellectually and we have, unfortunately, lost the luxury of objectivity.

We are not against dialogue in the least. We are, however, alarmed at the presentation of this material.

Hiding behind the excuse that the program will begin a conversation about important issues like bullying, adolescent date rape, the need for parental supervision, drinking and drug abuse, etc., is at best perverse and misguided, when put into the context of its glorification of the taking of one’s own life. Perhaps it is the case that the program is starting a discourse, but the program itself has been seen, and can be seen, by vulnerable people who no doubt will be affected by it.

I have no doubt that as terrifying as it is to realize it, unfortunately “13 Reasons Why” will cause some young people to take their own lives. That’s the problem.

Is there no better way to start a discourse and bring important issues to the fore, without encouraging or seemingly justifying suicide, or presenting it as a viable option for those in emotional pain? The results of a risk-benefit analysis are obvious. Is even a lot of discourse worth the death of one single suffering child who gets this horrible message?

We need go no further than current headlines, in which a young woman, Michelle Carter, is convicted of involuntary manslaughter because she convinced her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to take his own life via text messages and phone calls. In rendering a guilty verdict the judge, in effect, ruled that Ms. Carter’s words — in texts and phone calls — are what killed Conrad Roy. Her words were a murder weapon.

Doesn’t this demonstrate the warped perception of suicide on the part of struggling young people? It offers us a real-life example of how impressionable they are and how easily influenced they can be to view suicide as a plausible and reasonable option. Isn’t presenting suicide, in a polished television production, as noble, and as an effective way to get one’s message across to one’s bullies, horrifyingly irresponsible when viewed in this context?

Those of us whose lives have been touched by a loved one’s struggles with depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder, etc. — and in our community this is more prevalent than you would imagine — have no fear about getting out the message or starting discourse about difficult topics. We are, however, frightened of discussion initiated in a terrifyingly reckless manner.

Ruth Tepler Roth
Teaneck

Toxic political discourse harms all

Last week’s shooting of five members of the Republican Congressional baseball team brings to mind the horrific assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv in November 1995.

At that time, an ultranationalist enraged by Rabin’s political views took it upon himself to assassinate the prime minister. A number of elements within Israeli society, including several ultranationalist groups, were highly critical of Rabin for considering the establishment of a Palestinian state. While none of those individuals who criticized Rabin or even suggested that he might be guilty of a capital crime conspired with the murderer, Yigal Amir, the atmosphere and influence that they created surely helped incite the assassin.

Many religious leaders issued calls to tone down the aggressive rhetoric. Clearly they were chastened by the violence. Although deep divisions remain in Israeli society, internecine assassinations have not happened since.

Yitzhak Rabin and Donald Trump have little in common. Rabin was a lifelong general and politician whose views became more dovish over time, whereas Trump is a political outsider who recently became a Republican. Nonetheless, much of the writing and rhetoric regarding Trump has echoed the irresponsible hysteria about Rabin. A comedian thought it was funny to hold Trump’s severed head, his family has been verbally abused, and support for him has been considered criminal or worse. Whether or not specific points made have been strictly correct, the tone and sense of the discourse has been irresponsible.

Now, five public servants have been shot and one at least remains critical.

Colleges and the media must continue active political discourse, but it must happen in a responsible way. Views must be heard and positions should be reasoned and respectful, not ad hominum. In Deuteronomy, the Bible suggests that an entire town bears a sense of responsibility when a murder occurs. If we do not change the nature of our political discourse, we will all have to answer for the next shooting.

Alan Kadish, MD
Teaneck
President, Touro College and University System

Please sign the petition!

The Senate is fast-tracking a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Like the American Health Care Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives by a narrow margin, reports indicate the developing Senate bill is likely to include devastating cuts and changes to Medicaid.

These changes would severely hinder Jewish social service agencies ability to provide needed services to seniors, low-income community members, people with disabilities, and women — the most vulnerable in our community.

The Senate could vote before the July 4th recess, short circuiting discussion and debate. Health care should not be a partisan issue. Urge your senators to do due diligence in ensuring that changes in policy do not hurt those in need.

Many Jewish organizations raise millions of dollars annually to provide needed services to the most vulnerable.

If the “American Health Care Act” (H.R. 1628) is enacted:

23 million people would lose their health care coverage; thousands of health care workers, including Jewish workers, would lose their jobs; hundreds of Jewish social service agencies will be unable to provide services to tens of thousands of their clients and community members —Jewish and non-Jewish alike; seniors and those with pre-existing conditions will lose much needed coverage. Jewish seniors are the fastest growing population in the Jewish community, and many are dependent on the safety net this coverage provides for their health and well-being; people with disabilities will lose much needed support to live independently; and women will pay more based solely on their gender.

As the Talmud instructs, he who saves a single life is seen as having saved the whole world.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs urges you to sign a petition asking Congress not to pass the ACHA.

Please go to jewishpublicaffairs.org, follow the links there to the petition, and sign it. This matters tremendously.

Please help save lives. Help save the whole world.

Rabbi Neal Borovitz
Rabbi Emeritus
Temple Avodat Shalom
River Edge

At least it’s somewhere else

Israel is temporarily off the map as the heart of terror attacks in the world of today, and I for one am grateful.

There are terrible episodes of terror in London, Paris, the United States, and naturally right in the midst of such nations such as Syria and Afghanistan. I am very grateful that the many years Israel has been the front and center of terrorism against its citizens, have not so much decreased, as left the public eye.

No one is grateful for what is happening in this world; it is shameless how many are dead or maimed from radical Islamic terror. Now, it doesn’t matter where the terror is occurring, just that it is no longer predominately against Jews or the Jewish state

Remember how little the world cared about tiny Israel and its 60 to 70 odd years of being assaulted by Hamas, the PLO, or any group of Jew-hating neighbors and citizens? Nobody cared. Not even many of its own citizens. It was a blip on the media mainstream.

The wave of terror since 9/11 has grazed the world over, starting with the bombing of the World Trade Center. If anything was a wakeup call to Americans and Europeans it was that horrific event; yet it passed and the attention went back to Israel as the instigator of everything wrong with the Middle East.

I am relieved, and it sort of shames me to say so, that the attacks of late are not in Israel. Despite that a young woman was killed this week, and my pain is as great as her family’s, it is one death — one more death — not dozens..

Maybe I am wrong in stating these feelings, but after what Israel has gone through in world opinion and in the number of large and small attacks on women and children, and lastly on soldiers, I feel self-righteous in saying that it gives me satisfaction that the shoe is on the other foot, or on the conscience of other nations. After all, who cared about Israel, other than the Jews of the world?

Just as no one cared what the Nazi regime did to the 6,000,000 million Jews while it was ongoing, we are ignoring the same kind of genocide in other areas of the world. We as Jews are trying to help — but still we are relieved that it is not against our people.

Sandra Steuer Cohen
Teaneck

A nation apart

I believe that a major cause of anti Semitism is the obsession that many Jews have to assimilate into the identity of the host nations of our exile.

We owe our hosts our gratitude, our loyalty, our creative efforts, our good behavior, our contribution towards the economy and defense (etc.). However, we should not identify with our host.

For example, it is correct to be a French (or English) Jew, but not a “Jewish” Frenchman or “Jewish” Englishman, etc. We should keep our Jewish appearance and our Jewish community (and religious) behavior in full view of our hosts (as did our father Abraham). We should avoid positions of policy and power. Rather, we should limit ourselves to the role of advisers (when such advice is sought).

The exception to this is the United States, which in reality is a coalition of nations and nationalities.

Of course, we must always defend and act upon our Jewish values which were given to us in Torah.

I know that this is a very radical idea and is not likely to appeal to most Jews, but it is a big mistake to attempt to have two identities. This invariably will lead to suspicion and hostility among many of our hosts.

G-D commanded that we be a nation apart.

Jerrold Terdiman MD
Woodcliff Lake

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