Opinion | How American Jews Feel About Israel

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To the Editor:

Re “American Jews, You Have to Choose Sides on Israel,” by Thomas L. Friedman (column, March 8):

As a rabbi, I take issue with Mr. Friedman’s column, particularly when he suggests that I will become “irrelevant” if I remain silent regarding Israel’s judiciary controversy.

Rabbis are spiritual leaders, not political pundits. Our responsibility is to unite our congregations, not divide them. However, I do believe that rabbis have a moral obligation to speak out on issues that are inherently religious, such as condemning the actions of Israeli settlers who ransacked the Palestinian village of Huwara.

It’s important to note, however, that turning every issue into a religious one can be dangerous.

That said, I am deeply concerned about the independence of Israel’s judiciary, and I pray for a peaceful resolution to the current situation. I can hold this thought without asserting my own political views to those in the pews.

Jonathan Leener

To the Editor:

Thomas L. Friedman writes that American Jews have a special responsibility to oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial plan. While I share his concerns, it is not American Jews’ place to take a stand.

As a Jewish student at Harvard, I have the unfortunate duty of defending Israel from campus criticism. But my high school classmates who immigrated to Israel are entrusted with an infinitely more trying and consequential task: They wake up every day and defend the Jewish state on its front lines.

There’s a reason my friends have a right to vote in Israel and I don’t — Israeli law is their lived reality in a way that doesn’t touch me.

We ought not dictate how Israelis live their lives from our privileged perch in the States.

Jacob Miller
Cambridge, Mass.
The writer is Harvard Hillel student president.

To the Editor:

My family and I, American Jews, visited Israel three years ago. We spent time with my cousin and her husband, who was born and raised in Palestine before Israel became a state and served in the Israeli armed forces.

Somewhat to our surprise, he told us: “The greatest threat to Israeli security isn’t Hamas. It’s the ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox Israelis who want to destroy Israeli democracy.” Unfortunately, he’s being proven all too prescient.

Miles Mogulescu
Malibu, Calif.

To the Editor:

I commend Thomas L. Friedman for writing this column. However, seeing the words “American Jews, You Have to Choose Sides on Israel” makes me very sad.

Although I respect diversity, as an American Jew I do not want to see us divided and angry with one another. It is hard for me to understand how we can support the state of Israel, and support Benjamin Netanyahu as well. He is destroying the country! His policies are causing a resurgence of antisemitism!

We must stand together and fervently hope that the protesters in Israel cause the dissolution of the current government.

Ruth Menken
Mount Kisco, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Thomas L. Friedman’s excellent column urging American Jews to take sides in the current Israeli political controversy does not answer the critical question: What does it mean to take sides?

Does it mean, for example, not donating to the Jewish Federation, although most federation funds go to supporting U.S. charities? What about boycotting Israeli products or not buying Israeli bonds, which will hurt the Israeli economy and affect all Israelis — Jews and Arabs alike?

We need another column by Mr. Friedman answering this question.

Stanley Newman
Sarasota, Fla.

To the Editor:

American Jews do not “have to” have a position on Israel any more than Muslim Americans have to have a position on ISIS or Chinese Americans on Communism. Certainly many Jews do, and as long as that position is based on each person’s conscience, that is perfectly good. But to require American Jews to choose sides on Israel because they are Jewish is just wrong.

Irvin Cemil Schick
Newton, Mass.

To the Editor:

Israel is an imperfect democracy, as all democracies are, and like our own it is aspirational. Our talented founders hoped “to form a more perfect union,” and we are still working on it. Israel can change its flawed government the way democracies are meant to — by the next election.

Harvey Golden

A Food Journey

To the Editor:

Re “Proust’s McNugget,” by Adrian J. Rivera (Opinion guest essay, March 5):

Mr. Rivera chronicles his transition from being a “processed-food connoisseur” craving McNuggets to a grown-up professional craving Waldorf salad.

Although he understandably mourns the loss of his processed-food favorites’ being able to transport him to a place of warmth and safety, he should take heart that his evolving food preferences likewise come with benefits, supporting health and wellness long into his future.

Alice H. Lichtenstein
The writer is a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University.

To the Editor:

I absolutely loved Adrian J. Rivera’s essay about food and social class. Despite our middle-class status, my poor children grew up on a heavy diet of SpaghettiOs and pizzas from Papa Gino’s, while I attempted to balance work with motherhood. They also liked SpaghettiOs, reliably, while my own cooking often fell short.

For three years we lived on an Army base in Micronesia where Jell-O and Cool Whip played a large role in the menu, along with food frozen so deeply and so long ago that it no longer had any semblance of taste, and had to be revived with ample applications of sauces and marinades out of jars.

Thanks for a wonderful article, beautifully written.

Peg Espinola
South Setauket, N.Y.

Nude Photos in Singapore

To the Editor:

Re “A Couple’s Risqué Posts Test Singapore’s Limits When It Comes to Sex” (news article, March 5):

The photographs by Jeffrey Chue of his wife, Nguyen Thi Anh Thy, exposing herself had been taken in places — including shopping malls, supermarkets, restaurants and cafes — frequented by the public, including children.

Furthermore, the couple had made money from the distribution of obscene material, including photographs of sexual acts between Ms. Nguyen and other men, on public platforms.

Our laws on obscenity reflect Singapore’s norms and social values. While we have much in common with the West, Singaporeans generally do not share permissive Western views of nudity in public and pornography. We take pains to keep our streets and public spaces safe for all, especially children.

We see no reason to conform to The Times’ ideological preferences — especially since your values on such matters do not reflect the values of many Americans.

Ashok Kumar Mirpuri
The writer is Singapore’s ambassador to the United States.

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