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Letters to the editor

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Anti-Semitism fact of life

For a long time the phrase “Israel’s right to exist” has bothered me and I have to give vent to my problem with it.

I want to express that we, Jews and Israel, do not need anyone to recognize that we have “the right to exist.” We do exist and that is a fait accompli.

We, all of us, would certainly prefer that obscene expressions of hatred would be eliminated from the vocabularies of those who wish us harm and who do, in fact, wage continuous war against us. The fact that Israel is an established state, with all of the ramifications and all of the rights and responsibilities that denotes while in such stark contrast to its neighbors, can certainly engender jealousy.  

Rather than gather their resources and embark on an effort to “catch up” the Arabs expend their energy on hatred and terroristic acts.

There are, of course, a multitude of causes — some real, some imagined — for how Israel is regarded. What is impossible to accept is the nearly universal contempt expressed by the governments and the people of the constellation of countries with no close contact with Israel. 

The specter of anti-Semitism, which has been on the rise, is a fact of life and I do not believe we can do more than be watchful and counter it with all the means at our disposal. We have been around for a few thousand years and should persist for as long as does all of civilization. That is the long and short of it.

Steve Sherry

Kansas City, Missouri

Condemnation of anti-Semitism

We are appalled, saddened and distressed to learn of the growing and escalating number of incidents that target our friends and neighbors in the Jewish community. Bigotry and hate have no place in our society. Anti-Semitism like its ugly twin of Islamophobia is a deplorable disease that must be condemned and eradicated. The wanton and blatant desecration of the Jewish cemetery in St. Louis along with malicious threats against Jewish Community Centers across the U.S. are an affront to human dignity. As a Muslim, I feel the pain of my Jewish friends. I hope and pray for the safety of all and especially the beleaguered Jewish community. These are challenging times for many of us facing hate and divisiveness. We can and must be better than the vitriol we are witnessing. 

Akhtar “Art” Chaudry

Heartland Muslim Council

Interfaith Council responds to anti-Semitic violence

Following the recent events of vandalism at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St. Louis, and the subsequent bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country, the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council (GKCIC) would like to remind citizens of the greater Kansas City area that we stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters during these difficult times. We are deeply disturbed and can’t imagine the pain the families and community are experiencing by these violent acts.

We believe these types of events are an attack against all faith traditions and life philosophies, and the values we hold dear. When we see violence or attempts to discriminate against whole groups of people based on faith, life philosophy, race, national origin or ethnicity, we are called to remain steadfast in expanding our awareness of the spiritual values of any faith tradition. We know it is these values that can help us resolve issues and challenges occurring in every area of our lives and communities.

Sheila Sonnenschein, director-at-large for GKCIC says, “The desecration of a Jewish cemetery where loved ones are buried and bomb threats to Jewish institutions is appalling and does not reflect American values. It is heartwarming to see the outpouring of love and support from the Muslim and other faith communities who are banding together to raise money and help fix this cemetery, a sacred place for the Jewish community. These acts of support are American, religious and moral.”

When confronted with senseless and vicious acts we can become overwhelmed by confusion, grief and anger, yet this is the time of year for celebration and commemoration in many faiths, a time when communities look to the renewal of spring as a message of hope. In that energy of hope, appreciation and inclusion, the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council is offering prayers for peace, healing and understanding.

Today, we invite you to join the GKCIC in focusing your words, thoughts and deeds on promoting peace, inclusion and acceptance. We honor the rich diversity of culture and religions that enhance our lives, and we speak with one voice of peace and respect for all.

Rev. Kelly Isola

Chair, Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council

Why is kitniyot prohibited on Passover?

I’ve been doing research in order to plan for a Passover seder and found a post from a Chabad website dealing with the subject of kitniyot (beans and rice and the tradition encouraged by many religious scholars to avoid these on Passover.) This Chabad post, “The History, Rationale and Practice of Avoiding Kitniyos on Passover” exquisitely articulates what pushes me away from Judaism. (Editor’s note: The most common spelling for this Hebrew word is kitniyot.)

As I understand this, back about 800 or so years ago, some rabbis got the idea that out of an abundance of caution, beans and rice (and other healthy plant-deprived foods that are clearly not chametz) should be avoided on Passover. (Editor’s note: chametz is defined as any mixture that contains flour and water that has been allowed to rise.) This tradition took hold in some, but not all geographic areas, and has now become a source of division amongst Jews from different places.

It appears to me that Chabad’s only concern about this custom is the fact that it divides Jews. But they completely ignore an important problem here, namely that this custom has the additional consequence of encouraging and increasing consumption of meat, dairy and eggs (all of which they do consider kosher for Passover).

There are several problems with this:

1. Environmental organizations have stated that animal agriculture is a major cause of the most serious environmental problems facing humanity today.

2. In order to obtain meat, dairy and eggs, humans must engage in the practice of making other beings into, “chattel property” and “owning” them, which seems contrary to the spirit of Passover.

3. Eating meat, dairy and eggs has been clearly shown to contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and many cancers — the leading causes of death and disability in the Western world today.

4. Rearing animals for food means large amounts of grain and beans get fed to animals — a very inefficient use of resources (70 percent of grain grown is for animal feed and it takes many pounds of grain to produce a single pound of meat) contributing to food insecurity for the poorest humans. Also, while many areas of the U.S. experience drought, the major use of water is for animal agriculture.

I think it is time that Jews speak up and encourage religious leaders to address this glaring hypocrisy that undermines many of the important ideas that Torah appears to embrace: Feeding the hungry, healing the world, protecting human health, compassion for animals, and taking care of G-d’s creation.

JoAnn Farb

Lawrence, Kansas