Letter to the editor:
I would like to extend my condolences to the greater Jewish community for the tragedy in Pittsburgh. Not just for the loss of life, but also for the fear it must have stoked in the community, and the current atmosphere in which such an attack could be conceived of and carried out. I am impressed with the grace in grief demonstrated by the community, and I am confident that the determination to thrive and move forward is as strong as it has been for thousands of years. It is not, unfortunately, the first time the Jewish community has had to recover from a tragedy. I am not one for crowds and vigils, protests and marches. But please note that there is love and respect as Jews and non-Jews alike are sitting shiva in the quiet corners of the city. My husband and I attend the Jesuit St. Thomas Moore Catholic Church in Decatur. We will offer prayers of mourning, and also, hope.
Mary-Denise Roberts, Atlanta
Letter to the editor:
As a child of survivors, I see an atmosphere in this country that is becoming dangerous to Jews. The atmosphere is very similar to what Jews experienced in Germany as the Nazis were gaining power.
The Democratic Party has become a party dividing our great Republic.
Antifa is dangerous and violent. Rhetoric calling for harassing Republican senators or people working in the Trump administration in restaurants, outside their homes or cars is NOT OK.
Hearing Hillary Clinton stating that Democrats “can no longer have civility until they regain the House and Senate” is promoting violence.
Eric Holder stating, “When they are low, we will kick them down.” This is all NOT OK.
The Democratic party is becoming the Brownshirts of the past, anything goes and is OK with them even if it means creating a different kind of civil war in this country. This is NOT OK.
The Democratic party is promoting violence, chaos and eventual overthrow of our government. This will create a very dangerous climate for Jews because it is always the Jews who are scapegoated.
I know that many Jews are die-hard Democrats, but I am writing as a 66-year-old child of survivors who sees a dangerous anti-Semitic climate reminiscent of the early Nazi uprising in Germany.
I plead with my fellow Jews NOT TO VOTE FOR ANY DEMOCRAT no matter how you feel about who is in the White House. Please do not vote for these thugs, for these modern version Brownshirts. It will be a big mistake for the safety of Jews in the United States and for Israel.
C. Leah Starkman, Atlanta
Letter to the editor:
I appreciate the response your article on “Israel’s Leading Role” in medical marijuana stimulated. I stand by your entertaining and accurate description.
Cannabis Sativa is a plant described in ancient literature as helpful for medical conditions like pain, headache, menstrual cramp. And cannabinoids are now better understood for their role in treating not only seizure disorders and pain, but also relief from the symptoms of cancer and the nausea and vomiting that goes along with its chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and other indications which states that have legalized medical marijuana (MMJ) have listed.
Dr. Robert Wiskind is correct that we do need greater scientific study to answer questions about dosing, safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis/MMJ, but this should not prohibit those patients or families that have conditions not well controlled with presently prescribed medications to avail themselves of the potential benefits of medical cannabis. That is why so many families moved to Colorado when recreational marijuana was first legalized so their children with intractable seizures could more easily obtain this plant/drug.
While I share Mr. Herbert Kaine’s concern about the effect of marijuana on the developing teenage brain (which continues to develop until age 25), he’s way off the mark comparing its supporters to snake oil salesmen and attributing the opioid epidemic to teenagers starting to use marijuana. In fact, in states where MMJ has been legalized, the use of opioids has decreased, so rather than being a “gateway” drug, MMJ can be considered an “exit” drug to combat opioid dependency, as the NIH National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) is now investigating.
Rather than only “caveat emptor,” I also suggest “primum non nocere”– first do no harm. While there may be adverse reactions to cannabis use such as anxiety, hyperemesis and overdose, there are no reported deaths, and much has been learned about the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to merit continued research of its benefits. We all have cannabinoid receptors in our brains and bodies (CB-1 and CB-2), so G-d gave us the ECS for a reason. Let’s learn to use it well.
Thank you, Marcia and the AJT, for this interview, its education and hopeful enlightenment to the readership. I very much appreciate my friendships with the Atlanta Jewish community from my internship and medical residency days at Grady/Emory, and would only wish to do Tikkun Olam.
Dr. William S. Silvers, Denver
Clinical professor of medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine
For reference: www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/medicalmarijuana and www.denverpost.com/2018/10/26/colorado-marijuana-impact-report/
Letter to the editor:
“Can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw the optics. I’m going in.” Such were the words of Robert Bowers, who then went into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and killed 11 Jews and injured six others, including police officers.
“Watch my people get slaughtered” — what world is he in? Certainly not the world of reality! No one is getting slaughtered except Jews and other people of color in senseless attacks by hate-filled individuals.
To believe otherwise is to be immersed in the most divisive environment imaginable. The computer world of Bowers and the pipe bomb sender, Cesar Sayoc, is filled with such hate and vitriol. For them, there is no room for facts, human decency and compassion.
And true compassion is not possible without facts. How do we ensure that facts are the currency that is valued? We must ensure that we ourselves are not spreading false rumors or hampering the ability of people to learn the facts. We each of us are responsible for finding out the facts and refusing to repeat what are obvious and not-so obvious lies.
Lies should be called out for what they are: lies. People everywhere must stand up and shout – “A fact-free environment does not represent us!” This means everyone. And the most visible person in the country, the president, must lead that charge in meaningful ways. He is the one who can set the tone of the country. Thus far, he is setting the wrong tone. Even when he said the rights words after the Pittsburgh horror, they seemed to be rote and without conviction. His lack of empathy is telling. He must develop an ability to truly express and show empathy if he is ever to be a true leader.
I am unhappy that I must criticize the president at his nearly every turn, but he has not shown an ability to be a leader worthy of the title of president. Sure, there is a segment of the country that thinks he speaks for them. But a real leader does not speak for or to just a segment of the population; he must lead with facts and unite the country. His words and actions should reflect a leader who wraps his arms around everyone in the country. Instead, his words and actions have usually led to an environment of divisiveness and permissiveness to articulate hate-filled rhetoric when talking and acting towards major segments of the population.
Any decent leader who discovered that a supporter of his sent pipe bombs to former presidents and others and had his van covered with bumper stickers obviously supportive of him would say that he hoped that his words had not promoted such acts and would implore, in no uncertain and empathetic terms, no one take any action that would harm or abuse verbally or otherwise any other person.
All of us must do our part to be civil in our conversations and in our actions. We must redouble our efforts – personally and in our organizations — to reach out to all segments of our society and work hard to ensure an environment of compassion, decency, factual encounter and civil discourse.
Harold Kirtz, Atlanta
Letter to the editor:
No, I didn’t grow up in Squirrel Hill, but I just might as well have. In many ways, it was my second home. Both sets of grandparents lived about 10 blocks apart. I’ve calculated that I have spent about three years of my life visiting there on weekends, for family events, and doing medical school rotations. I went to summer camp at the Pittsburgh JCC summer camp with kids from that neighborhood. It’s a welcoming neighborhood for immigrants of all religions and nationalities. So many moved there over the years and were warmly embraced by the community and given a safe haven to live. That included my mother, her sister and her parents after The Holocaust. People cared and looked out after each other. What happened there just breaks my heart.
I vividly remember walking down Murray and Forbes avenues, lined with interesting bookstores, restaurants, five and dimes, record stores and theaters, all with the amazing smell from bakeries on every other corner. It was hard to walk a block without running into someone my grandparents knew – friends, neighbors or relatives. So many were Holocaust survivors.
Within an hour of arriving for a visit, my grandmother’s living room would fill with their survivor friends and their children – known as The Friendship Club – all speaking German. We were the center of attention.
They seemed to know everything about us. As I got older, I realized that we represented the next collective generation to all of them. We, in some ways, were their grandchildren too.
There are dozens of synagogues within blocks of each other in Squirrel Hill. My father is a member of Tree of Life synagogue and thankfully was not there that morning. His mother and her sister lived about five blocks away. Her twin sister lived about five or so blocks the other direction.
I’ve walked and driven past that synagogue hundreds of times. It’s located on a street corner in a beautiful neighborhood with wide, tree-lined streets.
We always learn that this sort of crime is done by an unstable and, often, mentally-disturbed individual. It’s not long before we start to point fingers at each other about how and why this was caused. The discussion breaks down into well-rooted and unmovable political arguments that we just can’t agree on, such as gun control, and we make no progress. But, can’t we all agree that we can inspire someone, particularly a deranged individual, with our words? Just as we can bring each other together alternatively with loving and unifying words?
My grandmother once scolded me as a child for using the word hate. She was clearly affected by this as a Holocaust survivor and was unusually direct to me about it. She told me “Hate is a useless word. Hate only causes others pain and suffering.” I knew what she was trying to say – think about what the consequences of your words because people are listening. Our leaders need to do that now.
People are listening. Some are not stable.
Can we agree on that and just start there?
Jim Roth, Atlanta