Thursday, October 06, 2022

To the Editor:

While I appreciate a good d’var Torah as much as the next guy, I was a bit perturbed by the tone of Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s piece about the Arba Kossot. While his fine academic analysis of the Halakha and bringing it to the highest madreyga was patently clear, it seemed disturbing that his conclusion was that a poor man, if he must, should go begging in order to fulfill the mitzvah. That is definitely the case, but I am sure a less cold rendering of the conclusion could have led to a pointed lesson many of us already understand and a mitzvah we fulfill....Instead of chiding a poor man and telling him he must humiliate himself by begging, how much more important would it have made the article if the good rabbi would have concluded that no one should have to humiliate himself or herself to fulfill a mitzvah, and it is the obligation of those in the kehillah who have parnassah to provide for those who don’t have the money for gefen for Pesach—long before they have to beg for it.

Philip Sieradski

To the editor:

My family has lived in Palisades Park since 1951. Today’s Jewish community is now tiny. I feel isolated, so I’m writing to ask for your help to explain to our public library director why I have an issue with the permanent Santa Claus mural that was installed on the wall of the children’s library. I noticed it in December, though it has been there for a while. While I have no problem with the characters from other literary works being painted on the walls, I took issue about the Santa Claus mural, and also the permanent foil Xmas trees that are installed on both sides of the Korean Comfort Women’s memorial on public library grounds.

Although I am aware that the Supreme Court of the United States has declared Santa Claus and Xmas trees to be secular symbols, I do have a problem with these symbols permanently painted on a public library wall. There is also a sign on the stacks in the religion section of the library which lists many aspects of Christianity. Instead of listing “Other Religions,” the sign clearly states “Non-Christian Religions,” implying that  Christianity is the only religion that matters.

In December, I tried to bring the Santa Claus and Xmas trees to the attention of the Library Director in person. She dismissed my concerns and said Santa is in all the shopping malls (as if they were government owned properties).  She also said that the only people who have complained about the mural are ‘people who don’t have children.’

Shaken, I posed questions to her via e-mail after that and she often refused to answer or provide factual information. Instead, she insisted I attend a Library Board meeting. When I expressed my concern that the mural can be interpreted as a means to indoctrinate or convert a child’s religious beliefs, I was rebuffed.

It is now April. Santa is permanently ensconced on the wall, and the Xmas trees, with all their decorations, are still on either side of the memorial. The sign describing us as  “non-Christian” is still on the stacks.

I am alone in this battle for freedom of and from religion. I need allies who understand the issues and will take immediate action to restore our public library to being a welcome place for all taxpayers.

I have created an email address where folks who want to help me can contact me.  It is [email protected] I will also pass any comments you have to the Palisades Park Library Board.

Please help me before your public library ends up like this one.

Robin Katz

To the Editor:

Recently, the Conference of Material Claims Against Germany (the Claims Conference/CC) published a list of properties in the former East Germany to which they have claimed title from 1994 to date. From December 1992 to February 2013 the CC submitted 168,000 law suits/claims in the German courts for ownership of those properties. (They came up with 168,000 claims by going through German phone books from 1936 and pulling out all the addresses with Jewish sounding names. They even listed property owned by Rosenberg, the Nazi Foreign Minister.)

We recently discovered that the addresses of the properties on the list are invariably those in the then-Berlin phone book. But today’s street names are not necessarily the street names from 1936. To verify the address, one needs to get a picture of the exact property via Google Earth to see what the name of the street is today. For example, Neue Konigstrasse in Berlin became Hans Beimler Strasse in 1966 and since 1995 has been called Otto Braun Strasse. On the list drawn from 1936 phone books, it is still Neue Konigstrasse.

Of 138,000 cases so far settled, the German courts granted ownership of 15,000 properties to the Claims Conference. That means that only 10.88% of the cases so far have been successful. 89.12% of claims have been rejected by the German courts. But the courts never sanctioned the Claims Conference for bringing erroneous suits, although the German court system has been clogged for 20 years by Jews who have no proof of ownership seeking to claim properties in East Germany—a cause for anti-Semitism if ever there was one.

So, to date, in my estimate of 45,000 properties on the latest list, only 15,000 have been handed over to the Claims Conference, while 30,000 additional properties remain in active litigation. What compounds the problem are those independent claimants to personal family property not always knowing if said property has already been handed over to the Claims Conference or not. Thus any claimant to a property on the Claims Conference list is in a bad spot since the Claims Conference does not know the identity of the heirs of the 30,000 properties they are claiming.

Most of the properties granted to the Claims Conference have been sold in the biggest and most secretive sale of property in German history. How this was done is an open question and how much heirs will receive of the true value of a sold property is unclear. (Simple math: The fund for such allocations has been set at 50 million Euro. If a claimant comes forward for each of the 15,000 properties the Claims Conference received, each claimant will receive but 3,333 Euro.)

It was my extended family’s wishes to claim property owned by Kohn-Markus-Max—my grandfather—who I knew well and who died in 1968—and Michael and Isidor Aschheim, my grandmother’s brothers who died in Hitler’s death camps. (Isidor was a bachelor so my wider family and I are his heirs.) Until the list with the street names from 1936 was published, we couldn’t find the properties they owned. Now that the list is available we still do not know if their properties were given to the Claims Conference or are still in litigation. I can but presume that our situation is common to most heirs of East German Jews caught in this Catch-22 situation.

Martin Stern

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