Keeping Up with Foundry Row

Thanks for the Foundry Row update (Foundry Row Moving Forward,” March 28). It seems like there were a lot of unnecessary travails in this journey: competing developer battles, referendum fights and public claims of “done deal” before the zoning process even started. While I am excited about Wegmans, I believe Councilwoman Vicki Almond could have done a better job handling the process. I don’t recall these types of problems when Kevin Kamenetz was the councilman.

Mark Schneyer
Baltimore

Setting the Record Straight

Jimmy Carter revealed his anti-Israel bias in his mendacious book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid”, while others do the same by promoting Israel Apartheid Week on college campuses nationwide. In a recent letter (“Simply Amazing!” March 28), Barry Hashem cast his lot with this sordid crowd. Not content to relate his anti-Israel views in his own words, he instead resorts to a serial recitation of deliberately false and misleading quotations, inapt comparisons and gross distortions of remarks I made in my recent letter (“Two States Not Best Option,” March 21).

To set the record straight, my letter focused on the concepts of “secure, recognized and defensible borders” for Israel and “autonomy” for the Palestinians. These concepts did not originate with me or ZOA. Rather, they are practical negotiation parameters specifically set forth in landmark U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 and the 1979 Camp David Peace Accord, respectively. Barry Hashem avoids all of these key points in his scurrilous attempt to redraft my letter (apparently in order to malign the Zionist Organization of America — one of the oldest and most respected Jewish organizations in America today).

I am astounded that the JT would choose to print a letter which has no place in the realm of civil discourse.

Marc Caroff
President, Louis D. Brandeis Chapter
Zionist Organization of America
Silver Spring

The Joy of Sitting Together

In response to “America’s Other Pastime” (April 4), I would like to add a dimension not addressed in the article. Five friends and I played mah jongg for over 30 years every Monday night no matter what the weather. We are now octogenarians; some are no longer with us. There was a component of hineh ma tov (how good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to sit together). The game was a vehicle for close relationships, shared life experiences and loving support in good and bad times.

I continue to remember those treasured times with treasured friends. I barely remember the “hands,” but I cannot forget what we six friends meant to each other.

Dovey Kahn
Pikesville

Restoring Ourselves, Our World

“When the heart cries, only God hears/The pain rises out of the soul/Hear Israel my God/now I am alone/Make me strong/make it that I won’t be afraid.”

Parshat Metzora is about purity and impurity. It is about skin disease, rashes and eruptions on the body, clothing and dwelling. These are not the most pleasant of subjects. The Torah describes how impurity causes exclusion from society, shame and loneliness.

Impurity is brought on by many things. What rabbis have most discussed as a cause of impurity is the sin of lashon harah — gossip and slander. Everyone knows that the Torah talks a lot about kashrut and how we must watch what we put into our mouths. This parshah, however, stresses how we become impure for not watching what comes out of our mouths. Words have meaning and can do tremendous damage.

Parshat Metzora describes the elaborate rituals whereby one is purified through a process that is truly like a rebirth. One of the most important elements includes the mayim chayim, or living waters. This mikvah, together with the other rituals, cleanses the body and soul of impurity so one can re-enter society.

There are times when all of us need a process such as this. None of us is perfect, and we need to work to recognize when we do wrong and address it. The Torah challenges us to realize that sins such as lashon harah that make us impure are natural human traits, yet traits that we must try to resist.

As we look inward at what we need to fix within ourselves, we are also challenged to look at the impurities of the world and start to restore it. This is tikkun olam, repairing a world that has been broken into pieces.

Our job is to try to put the pieces back together. We can start to do this by helping those in need and by including those who have been left out.

The words of the song at the beginning of this d’var Torah give a message of hope and urge us to look to God for strength and courage. This song, “When the Heart Cries” with lyrics by Yossi Gispan and Arlet Tzfadia, is a reflection of how I have begun my part in the work of putting the pieces of our world back together.

As part of my bat mitzvah project, I became involved with Meir Panim, an Israeli charity that helps the hungry and impoverished in Israel. I participated in the Meir Panim singing competition and helped raise funds for the organization. Continuing this work, I have organized an event at the Meyerberg Senior Center, where I will bring many of my classmates to sing and perform for seniors. Additionally, the seniors will have the opportunity to perform for my classmates and each other. I hope this will bring joy and a sense of connection to all of us.

Each of us has a role in effecting tikkun olam. I hope we can all think about the idea of rebirth and how we can work to improve and purify our world.

Shira Pomerantz is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

Some Problematic Views

For a minute, I thought I was reading a Purim spoof issue, with Miles Hoenig’s letter claiming defense against terrorism is racism and boycotting the world’s only Jewish state shows “courage,” and where Mark Gunnery says concern with Israeli self-preservation is hypocrisy, Judaism equals social work and the only good “members of the Tribe” are those who share his agenda (Your Say, March 7).

Both men probably misinterpret the biblical saying that we Jews are to be “a light unto the nations.” Butthe Tanach makes clear that this is to be by our example to the world, not the work that Gunnery particularly seems to think is incumbent upon Jews.

I am a liberal Democrat whose beliefs do not include Jewish self-deprecation and the almost suicidal policies advocated by these two gentlemen. I suggest both Hoenig and Gunnery direct their passion toward Arabs, convincing them to make peace with Israel. Then all people in the Middle East will enjoy the benefits of tranquility, free exchange of ideas, goods, people and everything else that comes with the absence of war.

Jerry Levin
Baltimore

More Jews in Pigtown

Ben Hyman is quoted as saying, “You’d be surprised. There are some pretty active Jews in Pigtown” (“The Fight for Pigtown,” March 28). Two of them are my friends, Bill Marker and his wife, Nan Tuckett.

They have been active in their community and in Jewish congregational life for many years. Bill has served as president of Citizens of Pigtown and as a board member of the Washington Village/Pigtown Neighborhood. Bill and Nan have each even donned the Pigtown Pig costume for community events.

Both love their historic and growing neighborhood. Nan is proud to be “the vegan Jew of Pigtown,” which sounds like an oxymoron but is true nonetheless.

Joseph Glen
Cockeysville

Spouse Caretakers Deserve Praise

Your article showed how important it is that our spouse caretakers receive the praise and thank you that they deserve (“In Sickness and In Health,” March 21). People with disabilities suffer indignities in life at every turn. Our spouses have to suffer these wrongs right along with us.

When we can’t get into buildings, have to sit in the aisles because there is no designated handicapped seating, or [experience] limitations on travel, it is our spouses who must also adjust.

All these extraordinary people deserve all the praise that we can give them.

Fraeda Lewis
Pikesville

Ukraine Needs Support

Ukraine’s independence from Russia was pivotal to the U.S. winning the Cold War (“Eyes on Ukraine,” March 21). In 1994, the U.S., the U.K., and Russia concluded the Budapest Memorandum pledging to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for Ukraine surrendering its nuclear arsenal to Russia. Twenty years later, Russia invaded the Crimea region of Ukraine, overthrew its elected government, imposed an illicit referendum rejected by at least 40 percent of Crimea’s residents, including its indigenous inhabitants, and absorbed the Ukrainian territory.

Russia’s predatory action against Ukraine threatens not only Europe’s security. It also constitutes the first territorial expansion of a U.N. Security Council member by means of an invasion of another U.N. member state since World War II. Russia’s blatant violation of the Budapest Memorandum and other international obligations also jeopardizes U.S. credibility and our ability to pursue nuclear nonproliferation.

Emin Ibadov
Westminster

Fantasy vs. Reality

Ada Grodzinsky (Your Say, March 28) really should learn to read material closely and forego putting words into other people’s mouths.

This she has done twice, with regard to both Baruch Shaw and Stanleigh Cohen, imputing value claims to what was a pure and simple recitation of accurate historical fact on both Shaw’s and Cohen’s part.

For example, she characterizes “Baruch Shaw’s letter [as] suggesting that 19th-century proposals that Uganda or other places, as opposed to what was then Palestine, should be a final home of the Jewish people.”  “Should”? Shaw’s letter made no such assertion.

Further, she even proceeds to insult Shaw through gratuitous remarks such as “Jews who think otherwise should go and see for themselves.”

Ideology is not facts, except, perhaps, on Fox News. Jewish history is what it is, neither what revisionists would like it to be nor what dogmatists bellow that it should have been. And to replace the former with the latter, to confuse reality with fantasy, is nothing short of chilul HaShem, since as Rashi writes, “God’s seal is truth.”

Saul Edelman
Reisterstown

The Israeli visa question

An Israeli passport. (Wikimedia Commons)

An Israeli passport.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Most Americans who go to Israel can do so without a visa. It’s not the same for Israelis who want to visit the U.S., who must first have a 90-day visa approved in a meeting with a U.S. consular official in Israel. That certainly creates an uneven relationship. But for the vast majority of Israeli applicants, the visa approval process is not an onerous one. For the minority of young Israelis who are denied entry, however, the process by which America awards coveted visas can seem pretty random.

Israel’s congressional supporters, along with AIPAC, have been pushing for the Jewish state to be included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. If included, Israel would join a club of 38 countries whose nationals do not need a visa before entering the United States. In order to qualify for the program, however, a country must have no more than a 3 percent historical visa rejection rate. According to the U.S. State Department, Israel’s refusal rate in 2013 was 9.7 percent. And a bill that would waive the 3 percent threshold is stuck in the Senate.

There are conflicting explanations for the high Israeli visa rejection rates. Some point to many young Israelis who ignore the terms of their visitor’s visa and work at mall kiosks that sell trinkets and Dead Sea products, real and fake. Those Israelis break U.S. law and add to the growing number of undocumented workers in the United States. While we don’t encourage work documentation avoidance, the issue is a relatively minor one, and the numbers are small.

Much more problematic, however, is a statement last week from Foggy Bottom, where a spokeswoman suggested that the rising visa rejection rate for Israelis is a response to how Israel treats visiting Palestinian-Americans. “Reciprocity is the most basic condition of the Visa Waiver Program,” said the spokeswoman.

That explanation is troubling and smacks of a double standard. We hear repeatedly of visitors to the United States from the Middle East — even ones who hold American passports — who are subjected to increased scrutiny and questioning at the border because of various legitimate security concerns. So, what’s wrong if Israel adopts a similar, protective policy? And if reciprocity is the standard, why shouldn’t Israelis visiting the U.S. be accorded the same visa courtesy and status as American visitors to Israel?

We urge the parties to work together to develop a solution by which Israel can join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, thereby making movement between the two countries freer and more enriching.  Full reciprocity makes sense. Double standard policies don’t