Mikulski Letdown

I was appalled and disappointed that Sen. Barbara Mikulski not only voted to approve the Iran deal (last Tuesday, Sept. 2) but gave the president the necessary 34th vote to enforce it. As a five-time voter for her in her senatorial campaigns, I had assumed that she would listen to her constituents rather than as a lame-duck senator curry favor from the president. Unfortunately, there is no way that I can retract my previous votes for her, but hopefully I have learned the lesson that actions speak louder than words when dealing with politicians.

Heed Begin’s Words From 30 Years Ago

With the looming drama surrounding the Iran nuke deal (“Iran: No Deal Is Better Than Bad Deal” and ‘Were Not Giving Away Anything,’ Sept. 4), I strongly believe as the main source of Jewish press in Baltimore, you should be required to print a speech given by Menachem Begin in May 1981. The short speech was his response when he was asked about the lessons learned from the Holocaust. Though given over 30 years ago, this speech is equally as relevant today and should be a  foundational approach to modern-day Jewish values no matter what your Jewish denomination, political party or even Jewish beliefs. One must not forget the Nazi’s did not care about any of that, and surely neither do the Iranians. Here is a link to the speech: aish.com/ho/i/Menachem-Begin-on-the-Lessons-of-the-Holocaust.html

Refugees And The (Young) Jewish Problem

Neil Rubin, Ph.D., is a former senior editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times and an area educator.

Neil Rubin, Ph.D., is a former senior editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times and an area educator.

By now the haunting vision of the dead 3-year-old Syrian boy — Aylan Kurdi — on a Turkish beach is iconic. It is a horrifyingly painful representation of the plight of the world’s latest wave of refugees, but one in a year with more forced expatriates than any point since World War II’s bloody end.

Upon seeing the photograph, as human beings we responded with horror in our hearts. As Jews, we wrung our hands. What to do? We do, of course, have a never-ceasing agenda. And a handful of groups — such as HIAS and interfaith groups with Jews — are helping.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has noted that the country “is not indifferent to human tragedy.” Yet, he added, “Israel is a very small country. It has no demographic depth and has no geographic breadth. We must protect our borders against illegal immigrants and against the perpetrators of terrorism. We cannot allow Israel to be flooded with infiltrators.”

He is backed by his electorate. Polls this week showed 11 percent of the nation didn’t want the refugees; 80 percent said the country has no role in the global crisis.

But in America we can do a great deal — and it won’t cost much time or money. And it might help in the endless campaign to invigorate our younger generation, the one that sees American Jewish life and structures as “aging in place.” Indeed, a hearty number of younger Jews, those who avoid synagogues and educational opportunities, are far from bereft of universalistic Jewish values.
So this is the moment to strike.

What does that mean? Could Jewish federations — or groups of smaller ones — each sponsor at least one refugee family? It does not mean bringing them to this country (the way we brought hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews here in my youth). Rather, it means sponsoring them in Europe, partnering with our Jewish communities there. Think of teaming up here with Hillels, Moishe Houses and other Jewish operations that on a micro-level have built deep personal relationships with Jews of the younger generation.

And let’s be crass for a moment: What a wonderful opportunity for hasbarah (positive publicity).

Rather than pontificate others to action, I am willing to serve on a committee or find other ways to help.

Why do I say this? Because as a teenager I remember being so moved by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s reaching out to 300 Vietnamese refugees driven from their country — “the boat people.” As a former Polish refugee, while not personally religious, Begin had a deep respect for Jewish tradition. As he put it: “We never have forgotten the boat with 900 Jews, the St. Louis, having left Germany in the last weeks before the Second World War… traveling from harbor to harbor, from country to country, crying out for refuge. They were refused… Therefore it was natural… to give those people a haven in the Land of Israel.”

In short, he showed us that one could take Jewish values and apply them to the planet. I was hooked. So it wasn’t just Soviet Jewish refugees I was to help, but I was to speak out — as the Good Book tells us — for the stranger in a strange land because once that was me. I also realized that with equal importance I must embrace one of my favorite Talmudic teachings. As Rabbi Tarfon said, “It is not ours to finish the task of creation. Neither is it to desist from it.”

Besides, it’s the Jewish thing to do.

Iran Situation Needs Kennedy-like Strength

There should never have been any negotiations with Iran (“The Day After the Iran Deal,” Aug. 21). This pipsqueak nation brought the U.S., the biggest and strongest country in the world, down to its knees. We should have just told them we are coming with our core of engineers to sweep the country looking for nuclear material.  Explain to them that our ships are moving into the Mediterranean and our military is on call.

In 1962 we had the Cuban missile crisis. The United States found that the Russians had put missiles in Cuba. President John F. Kennedy showed strong leadership by telling the Russians to get the missiles out and then formed a naval blockade, stopping Russian ships going to Cuba. Kennedy’s strength forced the Russians to back off. This is how we should be handling the Iranian situation.

Yes to Iran Deal? That’s Treason

Why can’t anyone say what is obvious?  Paving the way to a nuclear Iran is not just insane, it should be called what it certainly is: treason (“For or Against? Let’s Debate,” Aug. 28). There is no other word for aiding and abetting a sworn enemy, and there is no other time but now to stop it.

Truth Is, Money Spurred Switch to OU

I have no horse in the race between OU and Star-K. Both are fine with me, but your Aug. 21 article “Pearlstone Moves Kosher Certification to Orthodox Union” only confirms my observation that this is the age of useless verbiage. Not much sound and fury, but a whole half page signifying nothing: “to better fulfill its mission … to provide exciting and cutting-edge new services,” with not a clue as to what any of that might mean or why OU helps and Star-K hinders.

And then mumbo jumbo about cholov yisroel, or not, and no explanation of what the difference, if any, is between OU and Star-K on that issue. It is so, so refreshing to hear that both OU and Pearlstone are “excited” about their new relationship. All this leaves the rest of us to guess what this is really about — money!

The Iran Deal: An Outrage, Insult

I am sure that the vast majority of those in the American Jewish community, and in Israel, join me in welcoming JT’s strong stand in opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement (editorial: “The Day After the Iran Deal,” Aug. 21).

While there are many sound reasons why Congress should overwhelming reject the agreement, one under-appreciated reason needs to be emphasized and given far more credence than it has been. The Iran nuclear agreement flies in the face of the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

The NPT was painstakingly negotiated by world powers and signed by many other nations forswearing the development of nuclear weapons. In fact, almost every nation on earth is party to this treaty. Up until now, the NPT has been faithfully adhered to by almost every one of its signatories. The treaty is a pillar of stability in an unstable world — a miracle of international diplomacy.

The present Iran deal makes a mockery of the NPT. By legitimizing Iran’s creation of an infrastructure for development of nuclear weapons (in direct violation of the NPT), the Iran nuclear agreement is the antithesis of an accord designed to promote peace and tranquility in the world. In this sense, it could be said that the Iran deal is a capitulation to evil.

If Congress fails to reject President Barack Obama’s deal with Iran, and thereby allows billions of dollars to flow into the coffers of its radical Islamic leaders, an all-out war in the Middle East is inevitable. This is not a matter of speculation. It is a matter of certainty, given the absolute necessity for other Middle Eastern nations to counter the existential threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran intent on regional domination.

The Iran nuclear agreement is not only a bad deal, it is an outrage and an insult to the intelligence of the American people.

Unfounded Hysteria? I Don’t Think So

The writer of the Your Say letter “Jewish Hysteria Unfounded on Iran” (Aug. 21) believes that without an Iran deal, Iran could have the bomb “in one to six months to a year.” He also believes that with a deal, there is the “possibility of a bomb in 10 to 15 years.” Does the writer know that the “deal” includes $150 billion returned to Iran, no sanctions, no real inspections and many promises that the Iranians will never keep? Is this Iran situation being “looked at rationally?” I don’t think so.

A Dangerously Bad Deal

The Iran deal that President Barack Obama is promoting seems to be a danger to the United States and its Middle East allies, including Israel (“What Happens Next?” Aug. 21). This deal only lasts 10 to 15 years regarding Iran’s obligation to stop working on nuclear weapons capabilities when the breakout time would be near zero, In the short term, Iran would receive $100 billion, which it is going to be able to use to send missiles and other aid to Hamas, the Islamic Jihad movement and Hezbollah and to strengthen its own military might; $100 billion is more than  33 times the annual military aid Israel receives from the United States.

In a few years, ballistic missile work would be permitted as well, so by a decade under this deal Iran may have missiles armed with nuclear warheads aimed at the United States. And Iran may have international legitimacy to be a nuclear and conventional military power.

Sen. Cardin, please follow the brave example of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to stand up to the pressure from the president and be as Queen Esther, who stood up to protect her people against Haman’s plot. This is a clear threat to millions in Israel and indeed the world. Sen. Cardin, please oppose this deal as it is a dangerously bad one.

Editor’s Note: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) serves as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Black or White, No Minyan for a Woman

While I have no doubt the author has experienced racism as an African-American Orthodox woman, the question of being counted in a minyan is not applicable to her (“Confronting Racism in Orthodox World,” Aug. 14). It can be applicable to her male counterparts, but as a woman, Chava Shervington is not eligible to be counted in an Orthodox minyan. In this case, it has nothing to do with race, it has to do with gender. In other streams of Judaism, her being counted as part of a minyan is assumed.