For the ZOA, No Palestinian State

Issachar Friedman contends that the choice for Israel lies between “nuanced ‘land for peace” or the “hawkish territorialism and revanchist one-state” ZOA agenda (Your Say, April 24).

The ZOA does not support a one-state agenda, as Friedman would know if he examined our website and publications. Rather, we presently oppose creating a Palestinian state, because neither Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority nor Palestinian society in general accept living in peace alongside Israel in a Palestinian state. Abbas and the PA have repeatedly rejected accepting Israel as a Jewish state, demanded that a future Palestinian state be judenrein and refused the idea of ending the conflict even if such a state is created. In case there is any doubt, Abbas reiterated all these points to President Obama just weeks ago.

Friedman claims that pikuach nefesh — protecting and saving lives — has priority over territory. So it does, but his point is irrelevant when experience has shown that ceding territory to unrepentant and unreconstructed Palestinian terrorists has led to a massive increase in the loss of Israeli lives. That is why, for example, the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which initially cited the imperative of pikuach nefesh in supporting the Oslo Accords, has since admitted it was tragically mistaken to do so.

Creating an irredentist Palestinian Authority state, which can import heavy weaponry, along Israel’s longest border and within mortar range of Ben Gurion Airport and Jerusalem and the coastal plain, which house the vast majority of Israel’s population, drastically endangers Jewish life and statehood.

Morton A. Klein
National President
Zionist Organization of America

Wohlberg: Rabbi or Self-Serving Figurehead?

The last time (and it was the very last time) I attended services at Beth Tfiloh, I listened to Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg’s “sermon” praising then presidential Republican candidate John McCain while denouncing Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

Now I read that Beth Tfiloh recently hosted right-wing Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer, warmly introduced by Rabbi Wohlberg (“Right On! Beth Tfiloh hosts political commentator Charles Krauthammer,” May 9). While the rest of Jewish community may worship Rabbi Wohlberg as a spiritual leader, I find him nothing more than a slick, self-serving, smooth-talking figurehead whose political views have no place in any house of worship.

Perhaps when Rabbi Wohlberg retires, which I truly hope will be soon, he can pursue a second career as a Fox News commentator alongside Krauthammer.

Richard B. Crystal
Pikesville

Presidents’ Conference ‘a Rickety Contraption’

The rejection of J Street’s application for membership in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is curious (“Not So Fast,” “What is the Presidents’ Conference?” May 9). Nevermind what some may consider J Street’s controversial Mideast positions or its separately incorporated political action committee, the rejection speaks worlds about the Presidents’ Conference itself.

Curiously, the vote was by secret paper ballot. But voting at the Presidents’ Conference isn’t the same as individual citizens voting for school board members. The concept of “one man, one vote” doesn’t apply here. Rather, the Presidents’ Conference is more akin to a parliamentary body. Votes are cast by representatives of the Presidents’ Conference’s constituent member organizations. In this context the voters are answerable to the membership of their own organizations for the votes they cast on their behalf at the Conference. Why do so many of these representatives not want their memberships to know how they voted in their names?

Commendably, some organizations such as Ameinu and the ZOA were quite public about their voting intentions. But why won’t all of the 22 organizations opposing the J Street application state their opposition publicly? It is in this context that one appreciates the principled contemplation by the Union for Reform Judaism to reconsider its Presidents’ Conference membership.

J Street’s views and outlook may be controversial and distasteful to some. It is also clear that J Street represents a large stratum of American Jewish opinion. URJ’s potential withdrawal from the Presidents’ Conference belies the Conference’s claim to represent organized American Jewry.

The Presidents’ Conference was always a rickety Rube Goldberg contraption, co-founded by a most unlikely pair of statesmen: John Foster Dulles and Nahum Goldmann. Are its pieces now falling apart?

Elihud Davison
Morristown, N.J.

Bring Alan Home!

It breaks my heart to read about Alan Gross (World Briefs: “Alan Gross goes on hunger strike,” April 11). Alan and I go back to fifth grade at Campfield Elementary School, when his family first moved to Baltimore and he showed up in my class on the first day of school. We became instant friends and stayed close through high school. We joined Chesapeake AZA together. I remember frequently staying for dinner and sleeping over at his house when we were kids. We lost track of each other in college and reconnected, like many in our generation, on Facebook a few years ago. I remember meeting his wife when they were dating, early in our college days.

I lived in Miami from 1978 to 1984, and I understand the hurt of losing a business, or worse, losing your country. Two of my grandfather’s brothers left Cuba after having their businesses confiscated by the Castro government. Many cannot stomach the idea of any contact with Cuba. Their representatives, Bob Menedez, Democratic senator from New Jersey, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican congressional representative from Florida, do not want the U.S. to make a deal with Castro. Cuba is personal to them.

Alan Gross is personal to me. The United States could negotiate his release, probably in exchange for the three remaining prisoners of the Cuban Five.

If Israel can negotiate with Hamas to release an Israeli soldier, if we can have trade relations with Russia, China and Vietnam, then we can talk about a prisoner swap with Cuba.

Alan went to Cuba on a U.S. government program. I’m sure he thought the government would help him out if he got in trouble. If our government can’t help this one man, then no one working for the U.S. can feel safe. It is up to President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who attended Sudbrook Junior High School with Alan and me, to find a diplomatic solution and bring my good friend home to his family.

Barry Wendell
Morgantown, W. Va.

In Memory of Inge Weinberger

The [Yom HaShoah] commemoration in Baltimore (“Legacy of Loss,” April 18) included candle lighting in memory of our Holocaust survivor family members who died this past year, along with a candle for Ms. Inge Weinberger z”l, whose work with HIAS was a beacon of light to survivor family members when we came to the United States from the displaced-person camps and knew no one and had no one.

Frania Kryszpel Block
Baltimore

Prefund Benefits? ‘Outrageous’

I’m glad the May 2 editorial “The Postal Service’s easy button” finally got around to mentioning the 2006 Congressional mandate to prefund 75 years’ worth of future retiree health benefits within 10 years. Prior to that outrageous misuse of Congressional power, the Postal Service was debt free and profitable. Indeed, that single factor is responsible for 80 percent of the USPS’s losses and 100 percent of its debt. Eliminate the mandate, and the Postal Service will be sustainable indefinitely. Otherwise, it will continue to be forced to cut facilities and staff, and your claimed deterioration in service will become a reality, much less the norm.

Phyllis L. Isaacs
Dallas, Texas

Jacobs Needs a History Lesson

[Americans for Peace and Tolerance president] Dr. Charles Jacobs (“Not So Fast,” May 9) peevishly accuses J Street of breaking  a long-standing agreement that Americans “who do not live there [in Israel] or have … children on the front lines do not have the right to use … American power to circumvent Israeli democracy and to try to lobby to get an American administration to impose our views and policies on the Israelis.”

Really?

That would be jaw-dropping news to Mort Klein and the Zionist Organization of America, who did exactly that when a Labor government was in power in Israel.

For example: Klein, dubbed “the ambassador from Likud” by the Jewish media, actively schemed with hawkish GOP elements in Congress to undermine the peace-oriented policies of the Rabin/Peres administration, conducted in association with then-President Bill Clinton.

Jacobs needs to brush up on his American Jewish history. Or is it that, given his own political bent, such behavior is acceptable when engaged in by the right, but not the left?

Saul Edelman
Baltimore

The Holocaust Story:‘Our Responsibility’

A “thank you” to Simone Ellin and the Baltimore Jewish Times for the thoughtful “Legacy of Loss” (April 18) cover story. We agree that members of the younger generation must learn and share the stories of Holocaust survivors.

For the past decade, we have had the privilege of teaching a Oral History of Holocaust Survivors course each year at Goucher College. More than 100 students (Jewish and non-Jewish) have interviewed 31 survivors and a liberator. Our students interviewed their survivors three times, learning about their lives before World War II, during the Shoah and after the war.

Later in the semester, the students performed stories of their survivors’ lives at Goucher Hillel and Perry Hall High School. Former student Tova Tenenbaum performed the stories of Leo Bretholz z”l at the Yom HaShoah community commemoration last month.

From April 25 to 29, students from our 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2013 courses shared the stories of nine Baltimore-area survivors with more than 1,000 people at Beth Tfiloh, Beth Israel, Chevrei Tzedek and the Krieger Schechter Day School and in Raleigh, N.C., at Beth Shalom.

Each member of our community holds the responsibility and the privilege of listening to these stories and passing them on from generation to generation.

Dr. Uta Larkey
Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff
Dr. Steve Salzberg
Goucher College

Staples, USPS Deal: Return to Sender

I like reading the Baltimore Jewish Times on issues that pertain to the Jewish community and Israel, but I wanted to put a cancellation stamp on your editorial, “The Postal Service’s easy button” (May 2). If you had done your homework you would know that the Postal Service’s no-bid sweetheart deal with Staples is bad for consumers as well as postal workers. The USPS plans to get out of retail and eliminate the local post office and instead have stores such as Staples operate postal counters.

It’s a stupid idea. Staples isn’t accountable to the American people, they won’t even answer a reporter’s inquiries about their “partnership” with the USPS.

Staples announced last month they were closing 225 stores on top of 40 store closures at the end of 2013. This company is on a path to becoming the next Blockbuster. On top of that, Staples has incredibly high employee turnover, no background checks for its workers, offers little training to counter personnel, is known for poor customer service and has far lower security requirements than a federal post office.

The security of the U.S. mail is important. Retailers don’t have the same standard as a government-operated postal facility. Imagine if Target, instead of Staples, had been given the same deal last year and everyone who used a credit card to pay for a mail transaction in their store became a victim of identity theft?

I wouldn’t like to be dependent on a company such as Staples or Target for my mail services. I would like to see the Post Office improve its services. If the editorial writers had done just a little research, it would have been apparent that the USPS’s problems are largely manufactured by Congress, which imposed a requirement that the Postal Service pay for retiree health care 75 years into the future. In other words, the USPS is mandated to pay benefits to workers not yet born! No company or government agency has this requirement, only the USPS.

Without this $50 billion weight, the USPS would be in the black and the quality of postal service could be dramatically improved.

The American Postal Workers Union and its president, Mark Dimondstein, are standing up to the special corporate interests and others who are working to dismantle the USPS. You should have done a profile on Dimondstein, who is Jewish and newly elected to his position, rather than use your editorial page to rant. Dimondstein is trying to save the USPS, a national treasure older than the nation itself and an important national institution that should have a long future — provided we stop Staples’ sweetheart deal.

Jamie Horwitz
Washington, D.C.

A History Lesson

Nelson Marans needs to reboot his Cold War mentality or learn history (Your Say, April 25). While Russian soldiers died in Stalingrad, Ukrainian SS assisted the Nazis. The Trawniki assisted the SS by pushing Jews through the schlauch [a long corridor with barbed-wire fences that led to the gas chambers] in Treblinka and in Buchenwald. Ukrainian inmates attacked Jews. The Svoboda Party [a Ukrainian nationalist party] is an anti-Semitic group, and Ukrainian heroes Chmielnicki and Bandera slaughtered Jews. Marans should read World War II history.

Siegfried Buchwalter
Pikesville