As a traditionally observant Jew, I take deep offense at Dennis Prager's Dec. 19 commentary ("Born-Again President -- White House Hanukkah," Opinion). His stance toward Judaism and the Jewish community is presumptuous (and disrespectful of that community's diversity) -- and his simplistic justification for why he thinks Jews ought to become right-wing is offensive.
He claims that "for most Jews, secular liberalism, not Judaism, is their religion" -- thereby disavowing any non-Orthodox Jewish practice and creating a false connection between being "correctly" Jewishly observant and voting Republican. "Most Jews," he sighs, "still instinctively vote Democrat." Instinct? Has he no respect for the intellectual life and social/political activism of the Jewish community?
The fact that he doesn't agree with politically liberal Jews doesn't mean that we have arrived at our position without a great deal of thought and attention to Jewish values -- the same way, I would hope, that he has arrived at his own.
Prager's cheap shot at Franklin Delano Roosevelt for having "failed Jewry miserably" was not only unwarranted but completely false. Like many of today's glib pundits, Prager has either forgotten his history or never learned it in the first place.
Yes, during World War II a great many Jews and other displaced people suffered because the United States and its allies did not open their borders to refugees. But given the climate of prejudice then prevailing in America, we were fortunate to have saved our democracy at all, let alone the peace of the world. President Roosevelt had his hands full. He had to gauge the fickle mood of a doubting public, gradually maneuvering its desires to match his own correct reading of the world situation. It was not easy and, without his exemplary leadership, that strategy would have unraveled.
Racked by debilitating depression, which hit America harder than most advanced societies, and disillusioned by the failure of Europe to make peace after the sacrifices of World War I, our nation wanted no part of entangling foreign alliances, and that extended to immigration. Before he could offer aid to refugees, any refugees, Roosevelt had to restore America's confidence in itself, while simultaneously rebuilding our economic base. Because he was successful, sunshine critics like Prager are now able to write what they see fit and get it printed. Only in America.
Joseph V. Mizrahi
I'm an American, Jewish and a Democrat who voted for John Kerry. I also was born at the end of FDR's first term. I respect the observance of Christmas and Hanukkah by any and all people. For Prager to consider the lighting of the menorah in the White House to mean Jews have finally made it in America is an insult. That the rabbi of my former temple voted for George Bush and gets an invite to the White House is not a sign that all is well in the U.S.A.
Jews have a moral and ethical responsibility to all members of our community. Better Prager and the rabbi should "schmooze" with those less fortunate in society than have their egos stroked in high society. Especially at this time.
One line in Prager's article caught my eye. It stated "the only other group in the world to believe that the Torah is from God -- conservative Christians." What? Liberal priests, ministers and rabbis don't passionately believe that their values come from Scripture and the Torah?
Perhaps the real message of this blessed holiday season of miracles, peace on Earth and goodwill toward all humankind is that, although it is good for people of all religious faiths to dwell together in peace, it is equally good for people of all political persuasions as well.
Rabbi Ronald Levine
As an American, I am pleased that Bush has indicated, by implication, his respect for all religions. As a Jew, I am deeply disturbed that Prager would think that Jews vote instinctively. First, I would like to believe all of us vote for what we believe to be best for the greatest number of Americans. Second, I would like to believe that Prager (as a learned man of the Torah) would know that most Jews do not vote instinctively, having learned their values from "liberal editorial pages," but rather, using values learned from the Torah, vote for the greater good.
Robert S. Ellison