Letters from the Issue of March 7, 2002

More debate about "Strings Attached"

No, this case and your article should be called "Orthodox Jews Not Welcome" or "Payback Time Against Orthodox Jews."

Rabbi Chaim Casper

Young Israel of Bal Harbour

Details

Surfside

Surprise! The courts have already spoken: Kudos to New Times on yet another sensationalistic and factually erroneous piece of, um, journalism. Not to mention the cover art, which was tasteless even by the publication's usual standards. Although Gaspar González did do an accurate job of depicting the physical nature and background of the eruv itself, he based the entire piece on a fundamental error and refrained from mentioning case law that pointed out this error, including a 1987 case overturning the ACLU on this exact issue.

Irrespective of the faulty subtitle and text, the eruv does not constitute a religious symbol by any stretch of the imagination. To quote Judge Anne Thompson of the U.S. District Court of New Jersey: "The eruv ... is not a religious symbol. Neither the boundary markers of the eruv nor the eruv itself have any religious significance. They are not objects of worship nor do they play any theological role in the observance of the Sabbath. Under Jewish law, the eruv does not alter the observance of the Sabbath, it merely allows observant Jews to engage in secular activities on the Sabbath" (ACLU of New Jersey v. City of Long Branch). The holding in that case followed a 1985 New York case, Smith v. Community Board No. 14, which also held that allowing the eruv to be constructed on public land was not a violation of the "establishment clause."

In retrospect, however, one cannot fault Mr. González excessively. After all, if the ACLU, that great protector of civil liberties and religious tolerance, still thinks the eruv is a religious symbol, who is Gaspar to argue?

Sholom Boyer

Miami

Thanks for helping my students to understand: I suppose I should thank you. When I teach my class on the Holocaust here at Florida International University, it is always difficult to get students to recognize and understand both the nature and the pervasiveness of anti-Semitic images and the seeds of hatred they sow. At best they think such depictions are things of another time and place. And then I saw your cover illustration for Gaspar González's article "Strings Attached," which might easily have been lifted from a Nazi-era propaganda sheet, or from the exhibit "The Art of Hatred," still on view at the Jewish Museum of Florida in Miami Beach.

Perhaps illustrator William Taylor should see the exhibit; he might be surprised as to how well his illustration would fit into a long line of "images of intolerance in Florida culture." While the portrait of the Jewish man is bad enough, adhering to many of the classic stereotypes, what really caught my eye was the ball of string he holds in his hands: an almost perfect echo of the globe so many propagandists included in their images to show the "threat" of Jewish domination over the entire world. Disturbing, to say the least.

Oren Stier

Miami Beach

An apology would be nice: I was extremely shocked and troubled at the cover illustration for "Strings Attached." Its depiction of a Jew in such a derogatory manner is offensive and disgusting. While your paper has every right to publish an article about the eruv, the choice of this picture is a dark blot on the journalistic integrity of Miami New Times.

Those who are familiar with the history of anti-Semitism will recall how Nazi Germany used offensive caricatures of Jews in order to degrade, humiliate, and dehumanize Jewish people. Caricatures, which were published in children's textbooks and other publications, were an extremely effective tool in their effort. Similar derogatory caricatures of Jews were used later by the communist Soviet Union for the same purpose.

New Times owes a strong apology not only to the Jewish community but to all your readers and to all decent-minded people. I am not only writing on my own behalf but also on behalf of the many who have expressed to me similar sentiments.

Rabbi Solomon Schiff, executive vice president

Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami

Remorseful or evasive? You be the judge: Who can believe that reasonable people viewed the words of New Times editor Jim Mullin in last week's "Letters" section as remorseful? I quote from the editor's note: "In a telephone conversation following publication, Rabbi Donald Bixon ... maintained that the drawing ... was analogous to an illustration of a black man with big lips eating a piece of fried chicken with a watermelon patch in the background.' A stinging analogy indeed. New Times sincerely regrets any offense taken by our readers. None was intended."

Did not the insertion of a quote from an alleged telephone conversation serve to deflect and make the caricature containing an intentionally drawn nose and facial defects seem like humor actually produce an opposite and aggravating effect?

Besides words, are you taking action to repair damage?

Mel Kimmel

Miami Beach

What a difference a string makes: I have only recently been introduced to your excellent publication, in which I find many things of great interest. For example the article "Strings Attached." I am a nonpracticing Jew and I would be most interested to learn in what religious book the ultra and other denominations of very religious Jews have found it written that when they do not want to observe the instructions of these books, they can tie a bit of string around somebody else's property and consider the resulting area their home. Fascinating!

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