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Bullies, Latkes, and the Arts: Letters to the Editor

Comments from our readers on anti-Semitism in grade school, Hasidic artists, ‘potato pucks,’ and the Elor Azaria trial

January 06, 2017

Editor’s Note: On Fridays we publish a selection of letters our readers have sent in regarding articles and podcasts published recently on Tablet.

In response to Jeff Sharlet’s Bullies in the Schoolyard:

I just read Jeff Sharlet’s article on anti-Semitism. Religion is like politics. People and their kids use it to feel superior. Racial difference is more prominent since the last election which made it more appropriate to single out someone different. My 7-year-old grandson was worried about his Hispanic friend because two older boys told his friend he would have to go back to Mexico now that Trump is president. They didn’t get that idea out of the blue, their parents taught it to them. I doubt the boy is illegal but it really doesn’t matter because it is about race and bigotry, not the truth. I reassured my grandson just because he was Hispanic doesn’t mean his family will have to leave, that we have laws to protect people.

I sincerely worried about raising my children atheist because of the potential bullying they might suffer, now I worry about my grandchildren experiencing it for the same reason. Parents need to teach their children that being a different religion, a different race or rich does not make them better than others, and to think otherwise makes them a bigot.

— Ken Henderson, Mount Vernon, Washington

In response to Liel Leibovitz’s Free Elor Azaria:

That Leibovitz would write the following sentence, regarding terrorists, and Tablet would publish it, is truly Chilul HaShem: “The circumstances of their demise hardly matter…”

— Allen Mayer, Kensington, California

In response to Sara Toth Stub’s Finishing the (Black) Hat:

Please thank Sara Toth Stub for the very well written article featuring the efforts of Haredi artists. The anecdote about the artist’s mother making artistic time and space for her son in lieu of Cheder was very moving.

Although not from an Orthodox or Haredi background, I attended a Jewish day school where art was not included in the curriculum—and I always wanted to draw. I remember one of my Hebrew teachers being so angry that he ripped my Grade 6 machberet in half and threw it in the garbage as I was busy drawing instead of focusing on my Torah studies. Thankfully, a friend retrieved the pieces, and I still have it, some 50 years later.

In my last year of Hebrew school, Mr. Heilman z”l recognized that drawing and painting were in my future. He regularly tasked me with creating drawings and making spirit duplicator stencils to support the Jewish lesson of the day. After high school, while many of my friends went to university and law school, I attended the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. I have been teaching communication and design and the visual arts in the secondary panel for the past 35 years.

I have nothing but admiration for Brim (and his mother), for paving the way for Haredi kids to follow their passion as I was able to follow mine.

— Irv Osterer, Ottawa, Canada

In response to Elissa Goldstein’s The Trouble With Latkes:

Elissa’s wondrous yet flawed attack on latkes finally brought my pen to paper… And how can I not absolutely adore a someone who can describe latkes as “potato pucks,” as well as “the Two and a Half Men of Jewish fare”? Brilliant… and oh so sad.

I too come from a family of “kartoffel devotees,” at least on the side of the family chef, my late Mom. In every description of your beloved Aunt Pearl, you describe my Mom exactly. No matter what “stuff” was in our soup, be it farfel or some other “lokshin,” meat bones, lima beans, etc., Mom always had her potatoes as well. Were my Mom alive today, she’d invite you to come and partake of her magical “potato pucks.” What you fail to mention in your article is that Jews, like the Irish, always ate a lot of potatoes because they were cheap and generally available to even the poorest of peasants. But in the creation of latkes, we’ve taken the measly, simple potato, and have elevated its essence to that of the food of the Gods. Yes, heavenly I say, no less. With much respect, admiration, and latke-stained fingers…

— Norman Gold