On anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism
Editor of the Reformer:
As the eldest son of a young man who, in 1933, managed to escape the nightmare of Nazi Germany, I read with interest Lillian Podlog’s well-written, front-page article ("Bearing witness, Working against anti-Semitism," Aug. 8). In it she describes a summer workshop for educators in Washington recently attended by Rebecca Nadeau, a teacher at St. Michael’s Catholic school, and hosted by the Bearing Witness Institute, a joint project of the Anti-Defamation League, the Holocaust museum and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
The article quotes from the Nostra Acetate, a declaration passed by the Second Vatican Council in 1965 which asserts the unity of all religions: "One is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth," reads a section at the beginning of the Acetate. This might well come as a surprise to the Arab Muslims whom Jews expelled by the thousands from their homes when Israel became a state in 1948, and whose ancient lands and olive groves are still being systematically gobbled up by (many believe) illegal, Jewish settlements.
My point here, however, is not to criticize Israel or to debate questions that continue to baffle far wiser, more knowledgeable heads than mine. Rather, it is this: Over the years, there have been times when, among friends, I would say negative things about Israel and they would, in turn, say to me something like, "I agree with you, but I can’t say that for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic."
No. If anyone, Jew or non-Jew, questions or criticizes the right of Jews to occupy, control or expand their presence in the ancient land of Palestine, they certainly may be "Anti-Zionist," but that does not mean they’re necessarily anti-Semitic. It’s an important distinction, and I would have liked the workshop in Washington to have emphasized it, but I doubt that it did. That wasn’t part of their agenda.
But I would hope that Ms. Nadeau -- and other well-meaning people, teachers and otherwise -- will be aware of it. The Jewish people and their religion and a Jewish state, created by fiat, are not one and the same. Put another way: Being anti-Zionist is, I believe, a legitimate political position, and, in a free society, one should have the right to criticize Israel and even question (as many Jews do) it’s right to exist without fear of being accused of anti-Semitism.
Brattleboro, Aug. 10
The real reason the USPS is floundering
Editor of the Reformer:
This is to answer Derek Doucette’s exasperated question about the U.S. Postal Service in his letter on Aug. 9: "How can someone lose $15.9 billion?"
In late 2006, the Republican dominated lame-duck Congress passed a law mandating that the USPS pay annually $5.6 billion to cover expected health care costs for future retirees. This is an absurd mandate. No other organization or enterprise in the U.S., whether public or private, is saddled with such an onerous burden. According the Associated Press, about $11.1 billion of the USPS’s losses last year of $16 billion were caused by the annual health care payment requirements.
Congress should immediately change this absurd law. Neither FedEx nor UPS would be profitable if they had to obey such a legal requirement.
Grafton, Aug. 12
The best way
Editor of the Reformer:
By now, I’m sure readers have heard about Timothy Szad, who was recently released from prison after serving 10 years for sexually assaulting a young boy in Rockingham. Szad has been identified as high-risk to re-offend, but after maxing out his sentence, he has been released from prison with no oversight other than a requirement to register with the Sex Offender Registry. The Department of Corrections has warned that if Mr. Szad re-offends, it will likely be on a victim previously unknown to him. Szad’s release has received a high level of press coverage and public outcry from Vermont residents who are, understandably, concerned about the safety of the community in which Szad chooses to reside.
However, it is critical for all of us to remember that individuals such as Szad are a very small part of the sex offender population; in fact a vast majority of children who are victims of sexual abuse are abused by someone known to them. Over the past year, Safe Place has worked with 77 alleged victims of child sexual abuse, and of those 77, only three cases involved an alleged offender unknown to the child. That means that in Windham County last year, less than 4 percent of the reported cases of possible sexual abuse involved an abuser not known to the child. This number is not far off from the national statistics, which estimate that approximately 7 percent of children are abused by a stranger.
Certainly it is important for adults to educate their children about how to keep themselves safe from individuals who have been identified as a risk, but we need to remember that children are far more likely to be victimized by someone they know, and likely even trust, than by a stranger. Knowing this, we much teach our children accordingly.
The best way we can keep our children safe is to talk to them about body safety and types of touching that are OK versus not OK. Emphasize that if someone is doing something that makes them uncomfortable, that it is OK to tell another adult, and most importantly, reassure them that they will not be in trouble for telling. These conversations can be difficult but are critical in opening the lines of communication between a child and a trust-worthy adult.
If you need help starting this conversation with a child you care about, Safe Place is here to help you. We can be reached Monday through Friday at (802)579-1358.
Executive Director, Windham County Safe Place , Aug. 10
Editor of the Reformer:
Utilizing the term "laid- off" meaning to discharge "temporarily" is no more than propaganda to sanitize the "termination" of jobs.
It is sad when any manufacturer is forced by market pressures to terminate employees, who must then deal with many new uncertainties. I personally wish Entergy’s 30 terminated workers at Vermont Yankee and 400-plus terminated workers at IBM the best. Many of these hard working individuals are, or will be, scrambling to pay for their mortgages, children’s educations, and living expenses. As highly skilled workers, they will unlikely be able to secure jobs in Vermont which match their talent.
I, for one am also disturbed by the crocodile tears of those that profess concern for the workers at Vermont Yankee, yet still they want the plant to close. Is it with silent breath that there are others that want the same fate for the plant in Essex due to its chemical nature?
It would be devastating for any county (and I speak as the county as its people, services and business) if any of the few remaining large employers were to voluntarily close their business or be forced to close, as the present administration is trying to do with Vermont Yankee and its 1200 plus workers.
Vermont politics needs to change its ways if we are going to shed the threat of plant closing and the termination of more jobs in Vermont.
To those workers terminated; stay well.
Former president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 300,
Barre, Aug. 7