In my article “The indigent survivor: a global emergency” (Jan. 12), I drew attention to the plight of survivors living in poverty in the former Soviet Union (FSU). Further research has revealed that I provided an incomplete picture of the situation and did not clarify the distinction between survivors (Nazi victims) and other Jewish elderly living in poverty (non-Nazi victims).
An overall picture of the precarious lives the elderly poor lead in the former Soviet Union is gained through an appreciation of the scale and scope of the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) operation. In the former Soviet Union, the organization has a caseload of 164,000, consisting of a first tier of about 82,000 survivors (Nazi victims) and a second tier equal in number, of non-Nazi victims. Although Nazi victims qualify for additional assistance from the Jewish Material Claims Conference Against Germany, it still leaves them mired in poverty, but they are the better-off ones! Imagine the situation of non-Nazi victims! A third tier of destitution, however, exists beyond the reach of the JDC. Severely curtailed by budgetary constraints, the organization is forced to turn away an estimated 60,000 indigent elderly who can’t afford a basic diet, let alone medicines.
These bubbies and zaides, Nazi victims and non-Nazi victims alike, deserve better! JDC is on the front line with a distinguished record of serving the Jewish People. It continues to burnish its reputation at times like these when a winter of exceptional hardship in the former Soviet Union has left many elderly poor with additional needs.
* * *
Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut understood the “big picture” and lived his life accordingly (“We were blessed he was in our midst,” Feb. 16). He was a man forged by the forces of the Holocaust, the disciplines of his training as a lawyer and the love of God. Rabbi Plaut had seen the devastation of Nazi Germany, not only on the Jews but on the German people. He fought for human rights and freedoms for all on a global scale. He was a man driven by his studies of the Torah and its compelling teaching that learning is not enough. We must do. He understood Proverbs 114:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach of any people.” He loved Canada and wanted the blessings of God to rest upon it. His dreams and goals extended far beyond his own Jewish community. He was Canada’s rabbi and, in many cases, Canada’s conscience.
Through his scholarship, he has given to Reform Judaism a refreshing view of the God that he loved and served. His goal was to draw the individual into an intense personal study of the Scriptures and how they should affect their lives. His legacy to all of us who follow in the pathways of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will have an impact for generations. I stand erect as a Christian, head bowed in respect, and thank my God for the life of such a man as Rabbi Plaut.
Richard G. Schmelzle
* * *
Fight anti-Zionism with written word
The annual hate fest Israeli Apartheid Week will soon take place on North American campuses (“Journal seeks to make Jewish thought accessible,” Feb. 16). Why not use the next edition of the University of Toronto Journal of Jewish Thought to deal with today’s most important subject, that of countering Israel delegitimization at universities? The journal and all other Jewish academic journals ought to deal with the antisemitic, anti-Zionist programs at North American universities. While we cannot compete with the millions donated by oil-rich countries to universities, we can fight with the only tool available to us: the written word.
As total madness has captured academia, the media and other elites in the western world, contaminating the minds of uninformed youths – the leaders and voters of generations to come – it is our duty to enlighten them with the truth. There is ample material available to remind everyone of the crucial historical events and legal documents that attest to the rights of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel, notwithstanding the deniers’ vociferous voices.
Founder and Chair
Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights