Sheldon Kirshner in his article “Jews and blacks in the United States” (CJN, Sept. 18) points to Prof. Cheryl Lynn Greenberg’s thesis in Troubling the Waters: Black-Jewish Relations in the American Century to suggest that Jews played virtually no role in public debates over slavery prior to the Civil War.
It must be pointed out that the prominent rabbis at that time did indeed speak out against the institution of slavery in the decade prior to the American Civil War. Careful examination of the situation shows that Rabbi Max Lilienthal of Cincinnati; Rabbi Liebman Adler and Rabbi Bernhard Felsenthal of Chicago; Rabbi David Einhorn originally from Baltimore, which was in a border slave state; and Rabbi Samuel M. Isaacs of New York all spoke out forthrightly in favour of the Union cause of abolitionism and the emancipation of the slaves. Rabbi Isaac Leeser of Philadelphia, who had spent time in Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, took a more neutral position, with equal regard for both sides. The most vocal opposing point of view came from Rabbi Morris Raphall of New York City, who placed Judaism in direct opposition to the philosophy of abolitionism, based on his interpretation of the biblical tradition and law that guaranteed the right to own slaves. As suggested in this article, for the most part, rabbis in the South gave complete support to the institution of slavery.
Received Rosh Hashanah card from PM
I received a Rosh Hashanah card from Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently. While I do not generally complain about greeting cards, I feel this one raises a number of concerns.
The first issue is that of political pandering. While all political parties are guilty of it, I have never seen a political party go as far as the Tories have to woo niche audiences.
The second, more troubling issue is that of privacy. How did the Conservatives find out my religion? I certainly never volunteered it to them, and if they acquired it from census data, I never intended for that information to be surrendered to a third party – let alone to a political party prowling for ethnic voters.
While I am proud of my Jewish heritage, I remain cautious about divulging my Jewish identity to others. I am keenly aware of the hostility that still exists towards Jews in many circles. We often hear about vandals desecrating Jewish cemeteries and synagogues in Toronto and Montreal, anti-Semitic remarks from community leaders, and even about terrorist plots against Jewish sites. With these things in mind, it makes me uneasy to know a record of my Jewish affiliation, alongside my current address, might be available and accessible from a government database.
Hopefully, the Conservative party will be more sensitive to these concerns the next time it considers reaching out to ethnic minorities. Clearly, this is unacceptable.
Charity begins at home
After reading “New Israeli humanitarian group launched” (CJN, Sept. 4), about the work of a new NGO in Israel and abroad called Adam LeAdam that supports international Jewish aid, I was distressed, because North American and Israeli Jews are forgetting that charity begins at home.
I volunteer with Lev U’Neshama, which provides food, eye glasses, shoes and gently used clothing, as well as other services, to Safed’s impoverished citizens. We receive donations from individuals – Jewish and non-Jewish – from around the world, but the organized Jewish world just doesn’t seem to care.
I still wonder what happened to all the money raised by caring Canadian Jews for the Jewish community in northern Israel that devastated by the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Rena Dvorkin Cohen
CIJR has been on campus for 20 years
While giving extensive coverage to Jewish groups operating on university campuses, and even worthy non-Jewish groups such as STAND Canada, the article “Campus groups offer students a break” (CJN, Sept. 11) omitted any reference to the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR) and its 20-year record of on-campus activity. CIJR’s Student Israel-Advocacy Program; our Dateline: Middle East magazine, written and edited by students, and our regular colloquia series, featuring noted academics and experts, offer students the opportunity to exchange ideas on Israel and the Middle East.
Off campus, our activities include publishing the Israfax magazine, which provides Israel and geo-political analysis; our daily Isranet briefing, which counters anti-Israelism and explores Jewish and other global issues, and a weekly French communique. We also publish a biweekly online journal, Israzine, and maintain an extensive research resource, the Middle East and Jewish World Databank.
Research Associate Intern/Stagiere
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research