A Tradition Is Born

I was upset to read that the Guilford Association denied a menorah display alongside its holiday tree (“Right to Light Denied,” Dec. 19). Shame on this refusal! For eons, Christmas trees have represented the non-Jewish faiths and was never a “Jewish” thing.

I live in a condominium in Hunt Valley, and every year a large Christmas tree is in our lobby. Many other Christmas holiday decorations are also displayed. One small menorah is on view. This year, I spoke to Jewish and non-Jewish residents asking if they would like a display of many menorahs, and all agreed. On the first night of Chanukah, many of us brought our menorahs to our Great Room, and all were lit at sundown while the prayer was said.

What a sight it was with the candle lights in front of the Christmas tree. Some brought latkes, cookies and candy, and all said that this new tradition will continue from year to year. It warmed my heart.

A Show of White Power?

The Jewish Times’ analysis of the recent Maryland gubernatorial race (“Hogan Dominates,” Nov. 7) attributed Hogan’s victory to voter disco-tent with the O’Malley administration’s tax hikes. But the real “elephant” in the room of this unexpected GOP triumph lies elsewhere.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D.-La.) put her finger on it with her comment about ”the South not always being the friendliest toward blacks.”  And Maryland is, indeed, a Southern state. Nationally, besides President Obama’s failure to publicize and defend his achievements, I really believe the underlying issue was race. Since whites couldn’t vote against Obama directly, they went after candidates in his party. That trumped even threats to Social Security and Medicare. Even, it seems, in blue Maryland.

True, there was an element of complacency in the Brown-Ulman camp, and poor minority turnout was an issue, but how else can Hogan’s whopping 5-point margin of victory be explained, other than the rednecks on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland and in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties were highly motivated to come out and make sure that Anthony Brown did not become Maryland’s first African-American governor. Conclusive proof:  League of the South affiliate Michael Peroutka won a seat on the Anne Arundel County Council.

The fact that Boyd Rutherford, Hogan’s running mate, is African-American is beside the point. After all, there were African-Americans who fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Roy Amadeus

Freedom of Religion As a Power Grab

Saul Edelman was spot-on in noting that “For Maccabees, Goal Was Power” (Your Say, Dec. 26).

Judah Maccabee was an advocate of freedom of religion in the manner of “freedom of religion” espoused today in America by many Christian conservative groups: namely, the freedom to impose one’s own dogma and practice of religion upon everybody else, even at tax-payers’ expense. The same holds true in the State of Israel, where “freedom of religion” only exists for the Orthodox, with other forms of Judaism being officially discriminated against.

Secondly, let us recall that the Maccabees/Hasmoneans, being of priestly lineage, were illegitimate rulers to begin with, inasmuch as the Torah insists upon a separation of priestly and royal power. Once in charge, they then fell prey to the same corruption of which they accused their foes, eventually embarking upon an alliance with, and subsequent takeover by, Rome, the imperialist hegemon of the day.

The end result was Judea being consigned to backwater provincial status for centuries, politically and especially economically. Which explains how a psychopath such as Pontius Pilate wound up stationed there. First-century Judea was where the Roman Empire bureaucracy sent the trouble-makers, head cases and malcontents it was stuck with, because it could find no legal basis to discharge them.

Menorah Claim ‘Baseless, Hurtful’

In response to your article “Right to Light Denied” (Dec. 19) in which both Dr. Gary Pushkin and his wife, Kathy Abbott, accuse the board of managers of the Guilford Association and the trustees of Stratford Green Inc. of being motivated by anti-Semitism in making their decisions regarding a request to place a menorah in Sherwood Gardens, such allegations are baseless, indefensible and hurtful.

I have been an active member of the board since 1995 and served as the first Jewish president of the association for seven years (1999 to 2006). At the present time, two board members are Jewish, and two others have Jewish spouses. This 20 percent representation on the board far exceeds the percentage of Jewish families living in our 800-plus home community.

A longtime Jewish board member was given the task of chairing the committee that worked for two years to run the year-long Guilford centennial celebration. She was Guilford’s representative to the public for this major commemorative and fund-raising event.

The final decision to allow only the holiday tree in Sherwood Gardens was made by association president Tom Hobbs and the other trustees following the board of managers’ recommendation for such a policy. The Pushkins seem to be saying that Tom Hobbs is the leader of a group that is anti-Semitic and has allowed anti-Semitism to rear its ugly head in the Guilford community. No one has worked harder than Tom Hobbs to ensure that the board remains sensitive to all issues relating to the racial and religious diversity of our Guilford families.

One cannot reasonably conclude that the board as presently composed is anti-Semitic or that it made an anti-Semitic decision in this instance. It seems more likely that the Pushkins are using the tactic of playing the race-religion card when they receive an unfavorable decision.

Chanukah Glitz? It’s Not Our Way

When I worked in offices, I was often the only Jewish girl. Come holiday time, I used to help decorate the office’s Christmas tree as a goodwill gesture. Why should I offend my Christian co-workers when they simply did not understand what a Jewish person was expected to do or not to do.

In that regard, I was invited to bring in my menorah to the office as well. I always declined because to my way of thinking, Jews did not observe Chanukah in any over-the-top way, at least while I was growing up. I observed my holiday by lighting my menorah at home at night and giving presents and retelling the story and celebrating with other Jews. That was enough for me.

In attending Rabbinical lectures, I learned that Jews do not need a humongous menorah or dazzling Chanukah fixtures in order to celebrate our holiday. Yes, Chanukah palls with Christmas, but so what? We should not try to compete with Christmas trees and the glitz and glamour of the holiday decorations. It is for them, and not for us. We are happy and content with the
way we celebrate our own holidays. Or should be.

The subject of the article “Right to Light Denied” (Dec. 19), Kathy Abbott, takes offense at her neighborhood board’s rejection of her putting up a menorah near the community’s holiday lights-only tree. She lives in a community where there are rules and regulations drawn up by a board. This board has outlined what its requirements are. Abbott decided to live in an area that is more Christian than Jewish. If she is not happy with the board’s decision, she could move. They are not being anti-Semitic. The lighted tree is not a Christmas tree, unless a star of Bethlehem is placed on top.

What Abbott should consider is goodwill. What she is doing is presenting herself as an argumentative and not-so-nice Jewish person. The mere fact that she is Jewish, whatever she does and says is reflective of Jews. We must always present ourselves as people who show loving kindness and tolerance toward others.

‘Deal with It’

John H. Wilcox (“No Doubt, Maryland Is a Southern State,” Dec. 18) is totally missing the point of the letter that I wrote Nov. 21 (“‘White Power’ Letter Is Insulting”). It was not meant to be an historical narrative. What happened in the Civil War has little to do with the events of the victory of Larry Hogan. The person who wrote the letter that I replied to is the one who dragged in the Civil War.

The comment about Maryland being a Southern state was related to Sen. Mary Landrieu’s comments. She lost her runoff election in Louisiana, making her another incumbent Dem-ocrat to lose last month.

As for my heritage, I have lived in Baltimore City and County for 65 of my 66 years. I’m sure that Wilcox is probably one of a handful of people who care where the silent cannons on Federal Hill or at Fort McHenry are pointed in this time in our lives.

The two letter writers to whom I have replied are from Annapolis and Laurel. Thankfully,  those of us in “Northern Maryland” are adapting to the election results better that these two gentlemen from “Southern Maryland.”  Deal with it. The election is over.


‘Between’ Is Poor Choice of Words

The JT’s Dec. 5 editorial “The Irreplaceable Netanyahu?” referred to “increasing violence in Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians.” That terminology failed to make it clear that one side is the aggressor and the other side is simply defending itself.

Palestinian terrorists in Jerusalem have been ramming their automobiles into crowds of Israelis at train stations and randomly stabbing Israeli passers-by. On several of these occasions, Israeli policemen shot and killed the attackers. That is not violence “between” the two sides.

We note that your editorial was published just prior to the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Surely, nobody would describe that act of aggression as “violence between Japanese and Americans.”

Public Menorah Lightings: Yea or Nay?

The “Editor’s Note” (‘Your Say’, Dec. 19) is summarily contradicted by Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb’s “But by My Spirit” in the very same issue. This learned d’var Torah knows nothing of “various halachic decisors’” justification of public menorah lightings in violation of the Talmud.

Quite the contrary: The estimable O.U. luminary sharply contrasts the “garish, commercially motivated” Christian celebrations with the “relatively modest manner in which Judaism celebrates Chanukah.” Orthodox Judaism, Weinreb holds, is content to “let other religions celebrate their holidays as they wish: colorfully, dramatically and publically. By way of contrast, he stresses, that for authentic Judaism, “the mitzvah is … every person with his family.”

For Maccabees, Goal Was Power

In “Chanukah and the Holidays” (Dec. 19), Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Druk characterizes the message of Chanukah as “the victory of freedom over tyranny.” This is factually incorrect.

Commenting upon the common belief that Judah Maccabee was a crusader for freedom of religion, Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser points out that this “statement is true only if you add two words to the end of the sentence: ‘for himself.’ The Maccabees today would be regarded as religious zealots. As much as they fought a military war, they also fought a war for religious domination. To the Maccabees, ‘freedom of religion’ meant freedom to kill Jews who adopted Greek worship.”

Furthermore, according to the Union for Reform Judaism’s website, “The book of Maccabees says that the Israelites celebrated their triumph with garlands made of ivy — a Greek symbol of celebration that is identified with the god Dionysus. That says a lot. The Maccabees’ fight was not about assimilation, as the Maccabees themselves were assimilated; rather, their fight was about nationalism and power, not cultural identity.” Sad to say, the Chabad-Lubavitch understanding of the import of this festival, as presented by Rabbi Druk, amounts to little more than assimilation-driven truthiness.

Israel: Democracy Despite Its Faults

I think it’s ludicrous to spend time and money polling people on whether Israel should be a democracy or a theocracy. Surely, they’re not mutually exclusive. For those who are concerned that Israel will become “too Jewish,” fear not. One need only remember that Israel was founded by secular Jews and is home to an impressive majority who are secular.

Indeed, it is scary to think of any country, especially the Jewish state, becoming a dictatorship dominated by ayatollahs. The editorial “A Bad Bill for the Jewish State” (Nov. 28) that criticizes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s timing is certainly debatable, but one wonders if world critics do “show appropriate sensitivity to Jewish values.” Israel is a democracy, and just as America is fractious and less than perfect, so too is the tiny democracy situated in that awful neighborhood. I believe that if Israel is to lose its Jewish character, then those of us who sacrificed and sent our children to build the land will have done so in vain.