June 2007

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News and Opinion

Letters to the Editor

Imus Be To Blame

We need to do more than look over our shoulder to see if another Imus is on the loose, because if there was one or many, with the most hateful Jewish message, our communal response would be the same. Wordsworth wrote "No motion has she now, no force: She neither hears or sees."

It is more than just a loss of confidence in ourselves as a community. Once we called ourselves a Civilization, a People, the Chosen and could demonstrate our self-acceptance as Jews and our authority in the market place of ideas and behavior, and a most vigorous response when Jews were being victimized due to their Jewishness.

As you indicated we are plagued with a double irony. Neither our mythical power or our real influence and position can guarantee our safety in this post-modernist world. Choice, personal autonomy, relativism, the pleasures of wealth and position have sapped our courage as a people and we have become an interesting ethnic group.

-- Irv Kaufman, Bryn Mawr, PA

Is Abortion Good For The Jews?

Regarding partial-birth abortion, could someone please explain something to me? When did support for legalized abortion become a tenet of Halacha (Jewish Law)?

I have been an observant Jewish woman for a major part of my life, and I have yet to find any justification of abortion on demand in Halacha. What I do find, however, is that Jewish Law opposes abortion on demand, only permitting it in the most extreme of cases when needed to absolutely save the life of the mother of the unborn baby.

Do you realize how Jewish support of legalized abortion on demand makes us look to the Gentile community, and why it is important to care? Are we not the light unto the nations? When will we start acting like it?

-- Anita Waserman, Philadelphia, PA

Roe v. Wade Protects Minority Religious Beliefs

While there are clearly many who construe the abortion debate in terms of "choice" -- of "abortion on demand" -- the recent Supreme Court decision against the use of intact dilation and extraction, termed by its critics as "partial birth abortion," argues only in terms of the fetus, its viability, and the harm inflicted by this procedure on the unborn child. In general, this procedure is rarely performed, and is (under the Roe decision) available only under exception for the life or health of the mother. Anita Waserman's perplexity about "abortion on demand" in such cases is unwarranted.

The Roe exceptions for the life and health of the mother were clearly inserted to allow Maimonides and his arguments into the picture, without raising the issue of free practice of minority religious beliefs. It is perhaps justified that the justices of Roe argued their decision on the purely technocratic grounds of fetus viability -- to avoid raising another judicial controversy in a country reeling from the results of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, and of the earlier Brown decision. In the current openly religious political climate fostered by proponents of Graeco-Roman Hippocratic revisions of halacha, it is time that minority religions made their case that:

  • The argument on abortion is not merely one between secular amoral child murderers and religious protectors of life; it is rather a religious difference about the beginning and end of life, as well as a difference on the value of a sinless soul and that of its presumably sinful adult carrier, complicit in the conception which brought about the fetus's existence.
  • The argument that the fetus can assault the life or health of its mother, even unto the third trimester, is a legitimate religious and moral belief, and is not a matter for situational ethics, of "abortion on demand."
  • The argument to address only the fetus's viability (when Roe was decided) was a political choice, to avoid the very religious arguments which now consume our legislatures, our ballot initiatives, and our courts. The logic of that political choice has run its course.
  • The free practice of halachic Judaism, of liberal Judaism, or of any other recognized religious faith tradition, is worth defending against the tirades of majoritarian religious legal coercion.

This is not just a matter to be turned over to Republican "stealth" Supreme Court justices for their pseudo-religious whittling exercises. We must show as much "chutzpah" here for the free practice of our faith as we do for the continued existence of Israel. We must unite on the issue of religious freedom for all of our Jewish faiths, or suffer the darkness of the illegitimacy which led to Kristallnacht.

-- Ben Burrows, Elkins Park, PA

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice welcomes the submission of articles and letters to the editor letters @ pjvoice.com. Please include name, address and phone number for identification purposes. We cannot publish every submission we receive. We also reserve the right to edit submissions for length, clarity, grammar, accuracy, and style, though we will never intentionally distort the author's intent.

Editor-in-chief Charles Smolover editor @ pjvoice.com

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