The Mail REPLY TO ROTHSTEIN
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
Jay Rothstein's letter of February 4, "Jewish Painters' Helpers," not only misrepresents the motives of Jews working in SDS but slanders a noble and ancient tradition of Jewish radicalism. Mr. Rothstein paints his organization as the official protector of Jewish workers and Jewish sufferers all over the world ("I would hope that SDS... will support us..."). yet he shows remarkably little appreciation of the historical struggles of oppressed Jews and non-Jews in the United States.
American Jewish workers-be they painters, garment workers, or cigar makers-discovered their collective strength not by membership in equivalents of respectable Hillel Societies but by joining, and often leading, their non-Jewish brothers in militant labor organizations. The uprooted, first-generation Jewish immigrants aligned by choice and by necessity with other workers for "the right to live in dignity" (social, political and economic). In helping to build the American labor movement, they gained a foothold for themselves and their families in the new land. As liberal activists, socialists, and Communists, many of them, together with their children, continued to participate to the full in the great struggles in this country for civil liberties, racial justice, and economic emancipation. It would be sad if the lessons of those struggles are now lost on their better-heeled grandchildren. For only now, when the economic position of most Jews (especially those at Harvard) is fairly secure, is it possible to forget that the liberation of the world's Jews ultimately depends on what happens to the rest of the world's peoples-including painters' helpers, including Palestinians. And only now is it possible to label those Jews who have not forgotten that fact as "self-hating Jews who are trying to pass."
In the end it will not serve the interests of Israeli self-determination nor the interests of peace to railroad American Jewish radicals into carte blanche acceptance of all acts of the Israeli government. It would be tragic to remember only (and thus pervert) Rabbi Hillel's injunction, "If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?" and to forget that he added. "But if we are for ourselves only, what are we? If not now, when?"