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For Country and Community: Letters to the Editor

Comments from our readers about Vladimir Putin, ‘The New York Times’ Temple Mount coverage, and raising Jewish kids

October 16, 2015

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

Luttwak has a history of making predictions that turn out to have been woefully misguided. But in this instance, his assessment of Putin’s actions appears to be on the mark. It’s succinctly stated and especially accurate in its understanding of the thoroughgoing incompetence and naiveté of the Obama Administration.

There is only one thing he missed: Putin as Protector of the True Faith. Assad for years protected Syria’s predominantly Orthodox Christians from their Muslim oppressors. Western commentators are almost universally oblivious to the role religion has played in the Ukraine and Crimean troubles, and they are equally unaware of Russia’s historic ties to the Orthodox Christians of the Middle East. Recall that it was Orthodox ties that significantly compelled Imperial Russia to side with Serbia in 1914. Notwithstanding 70 years of Communist anti-clericism in Russia, Putin has put himself in a strong position to rally his public in support of his efforts in the name of protecting Christianity from the onslaught of Islam. Almost 100 years after the death of the Tsar, does Putin also see himself as the heir to the throne of Byzantium?

— Michael G. Dworkin, Ph.D.
The ugly anti-Zionist prejudice of The New York Times shouldn’t surprise anyone since it has a history of anti-Semitic bias. In her excellent bookBuried by the Times, Laurel Leff, Associate Journalism Professor at Northeastern University, exposes prejudiced Times coverage of the Holocaust. She argues that Holocaust news was often buried in the back pages, “by the soap and shoe polish ads,” due in part to publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger’s wish to avoid accusations of Jewish sympathy or identification.

Leff points out that the Times often used generic terms like “refugee” or referred to Nazi victims by nationality to avoid reporting on Hitler’s targeting of Jews. The so-called “paper of record” actually reported the Warsaw Ghetto uprising without even mentioning that the victims were Jews! Leff writes, “The Times, ​when it ran front-page stories, described refugees seeking shelter, Frenchmen facing confiscation, or civilians dying in German camps, without making clear the refugees, Frenchmen, and civilians were mostly Jews.‍ ” Leff also exposes the disturbing Vichy and even Nazi attachments of some Times correspondents.

Sulzberger, an ultra-assimilated Reformed Jew, viewed Jews as neither a race nor a people any more than Presbyterians or Methodists were a race, an attitude he stressed in staff memos and passed on to many Jewish staffers: “Between them and influential Catholics among the crucial night editors, who decided where to place news items, the imperiled Jews of Europe had no advocate in the newsroom.” So we shouldn’t be shocked that The New York Times is stretching credulity to undermine the Jews of Israel. Nothing’s changed.

— Rueben Gordon, Calabasas, CA

In response to Mark Oppenheimer’s “Far From the Tree“:

I found your article very interesting and I agree with you. I was raised in a synagogue community until my early tween years when the community made my parents leave for being too outspoken (and other things; it was late 1970’s). My parents continued to attend Shabbat and Holiday services at that same shul, but for the High Holidays we synagogue-hopped every year. I never felt the synagogue community and feel I completely missed out on it until adulthood. I, actually, didn’t like the synagogue due to not having that community to back us up as a family but I didn’t want my children to have the same experience as I did.

I refused to be married in a synagogue and was anti-synagogue for a long time. My husband and I decided that we would belong to a synagogue (even though the politics do get to you, every so often) to make sure our children have a synagogue community. Both of my children had their bar and bat mitzvahs there along with their parties. It provides a sense of identity to have that Jewish community to fall back on when you need it. Judaism cannot be “individual” as my parents made it for us. I was all over the place until I joined a synagogue and made a choice to be a part of it.

— Liz Krebs, Fairfield, CT