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Reasonable readers may differ over whether your weekly Service Industry feature is good satire or poor taste, but publishing bigoted and ignorant letters about an entire religion has the Washington City Paper moving right down there alongside Czar Nicholas II’s secret police and their infamous forgery, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, not to mention the libels used for hundreds of years to justify the persecution and murder of Jews throughout Europe. I refer in particular to the letter (The Mail, 11/21) from one Mark Oller of Alexandria, who purports to know “the best way for non-Hebrew-speaking Americans” to understand all of “Jewish theology.”
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With the gracious help of your printing presses, Oller managed to summarize for the masses in a mere two paragraphs the entire Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, the other sacred Writings of the Torah, the entire Talmud, and thousands of years of rabbinic and scholarly interpretation. Had you fact-checked Oller’s source, you would have learned that this absurd synopsis of Judaism was culled from a book written by a retired Israeli chemistry professor known mainly for his self-hating diatribes and fabrications against the religion of his birth.
Your offense in printing Oller’s anti-Semitic drivel was compounded by what I’m sure your headline writer thought was a clever little play on words: “Hebrew Schooled.” I can assure your non-Jewish readers that in three afternoons a week of Hebrew school at an Orthodox synagogue from ages 8 to 13, not to mention my entire childhood in an observant Jewish home and the many Sabbath and holiday services and sermons I have sat through in every branch of Judaism over the course of my 50 years, I have never once heard any of the absolute baloney that Oller attempts to pass off to the unsuspecting reader as “Jewish theology.”
The quote from Israel Shahak’s book, reprinted in full by the City Paper, might make an interesting religion for someone, but it most certainly isn’t what Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist Judaism teaches or believes. Perhaps you thought you’d let the lunacy of Oller’s claims speak for themselves; if so, your assumptions bespeak a profound ignorance of history. Unfortunately, there are all too many people out there ready and willing to hate and even kill on the basis of ignorance and falsehoods about another group. You owe a big apology not only to your Jewish readers, but to any reader offended by the use of your paper to promote rank bigotry.