On the February issue:

The Blinkens

To the Editor:
As I read Ruth R. Wisse’s recent article about her memories of meeting and speaking with my grandfather Maurice Henry Blinken, I was filled with joy, pride, and a bittersweet longing to have the opportunity to talk with him again (“A Tale of Five Blinkens,” February). He was, as Wisse expressed, a proud American patriot and a true Zionist with a passionate love for the State of Israel. Though her article was accurate in many ways, I did want to point out that his passions and his message were indeed not lost on me, my siblings, and cousins when we were younger. What Wisse might not have known was that there is a tale of seven other Blinkens who were influenced by their grandfather’s love for Israel.

One grandchild married an Israeli citizen, currently lives there, and has three children who all served in the IDF. No doubt, my grandfather would have been so proud.

Another grandchild (me) married a daughter of Holocaust survivors who is fluent in Yiddish. Over time, our family has become observant Jews, and like my grandfather, I am a proud American and passionate Zionist. Additionally, he has two great-grandchildren (my children) who both are Jewish day-school graduates. One of these two is currently in his second year of study in Jerusalem, and the second one is planning to study in Israel next year. Their love of Israel and their fellow Jews is a tremendous part of their character, which I am certain is thanks to the tradition handed down from their great-grandfather.

I like to think that my grandfather is proud indeed.
Jonathan Blinken
Englewood, New Jersey

To the Editor:
Ruth R. Wisse is such a wonderful writer, and she is right when she says that a country’s “truest gauge of freedom” is how it treats its Jews.

My grandmother made that clear to me. Her English was very limited, as was my German. I visited her (in the early 1950s) at the Home for Aged and Infirm Hebrews that was, I believe, on 106th Street near Columbus Avenue. It was difficult finding subjects to talk about, but her response was consistent: “Ist das gut fur die Juden?” I talked about New York City politics and the then mayor, William O’Dwyer. I realized finally that the mayor met her test—everyone she ever knew with the first name of Mayer was Jewish. That Antony Blinken, on the day of his appointment as secretary of state, would tell the story of his stepfather—the only survivor from a school of 900 children in Bialystok—being liberated by an American tank commanded by a black American is a very good sign. 

Rudy Boschwitz,
U.S. Senator (R-MINN, 1978–1991)
Wayzata, Minnesota

Ruth R. Wisse writes:
I’m grateful to Jonathan Blinken for filling in the Blinken family saga so that we get a more robust view of this clan and, by extension, of American Jewish life. On the political front, I share his grandfather’s belief that American Jews serve this country best when they protect the common interests of Israel and America, which inevitably coincide. Inevitably, because those who attack Israel in word and deed are assailing the same democratic traditions of the United States.

This mutual reinforcement defined the record of Senator Boschwitz, who championed the civil-rights movement here and the flight of Ethiopian Jewish refugees to Israel. Apparently, his, too, was a family tradition. 

Biden and the Abraham Accords

To the Editor:
In reading Bret Stephens’s article, I couldn’t avoid thinking that Joe Biden will not accept anything that the previous administration achieved (“Memo to President Biden: Please Don’t Mess Up the Abraham Accords,” February). To do so would give the appearance that he, in some way, supports Donald Trump’s achievements. This would incur the mainstream media’s condemnation.

The current ilk of politicians do not offer us anything resembling bravery or creativity. Biden will have to struggle with radical congressmen and congresswomen on the one hand and remnants of Trumpism on the other. What will he do? Given that he’s now hired so many people from the Obama administration, it appears there will be a return to the circumstances that gave rise to Trump’s election.
Steven Levy
Toronto, Canada

To the Editor:
Bret Stephens’s article brilliantly summarizes some reasons to have supported President Donald Trump, yet Stephens himself does not regret his support for Trump’s impeachment.

I’d be curious to know whether Stephens believes that history will validate Trump’s successes and where he thinks the U.S. would be had Trump lost in 2016. Does the trauma that Trump inflicted on the country outweigh the actual successes of his administration?
Judith Hershon
Glen Cove, New York

To the Editor:
Bret Stephens wrote a wonderful and comprehensive summary of the Mideast. I agree with you, even as you assert that as deplorable as Donald Trump was, this was one area where he did good. Biden should simply follow through on the progress.
Sidney P. Kadish
West Newton, Massachusetts

To the Editor:
Bret Stephens is a national treasure. Americans would do well to sit back and let the Israelis find peace and security on their own terms. May God lead Joe Biden and his team to follow this advice, too. As Stephens make clear, we can only hope that Biden has the humility and wisdom to follow and not lead. Things are now going well enough in the region to convince him.
Paul S. Levy
New York City

To the Editor:
I live in Israel and I’ve been to Dubai three times since the signing of the Abraham Accords. In my travels, I build bridges between Israelis and the Arabs of the Gulf.

This is a time of tremendous change, and I pray that the new president will read your memo, give it deep consideration, and understand that history is being made.
Charles Ashkenazi
Tel Aviv, Israel

Bret Stephens writes:
One of the pleasures of writing for Commentary is having the opportunity to hear from readers who—a rare treat for me these days—actually agree with me. I sincerely thank Charles Ashkenazi, Judith Hershon, Sidney P. Kadish, Paul S. Levy, and Steven Levy for their kind words.

Ms. Hershon asks where the U.S. would be today if Trump had lost in 2016. Counterfactuals are always a bit cheap, but here’s my guess: We’d have a Republican president and perhaps a Republican House and Senate, too.

Academic Degrees

To the Editor:
Thank you for Joseph Epstein’s essay about the backlash that followed his courageous Wall Street Journal article (“The Making of a Misogynist,” February). Epstein has dared to run up to the one-minded beast of public opinion, tap it on the shoulder, and let it know that he is not willing to adhere to a required perspective. Sorry to see he’s had to endure all that he’s been through, but I believe that he has the grit and wit to do so without suffering psychic damage.

Shame on Northwestern University, where tolerance of expression evidently goes to die.

I wish Epstein all the good health and stamina he needs to continue writing must-read pieces.
Ary Freilich
New York City

To the Editor:
Joseph Epstein is correct. I have a D.M.A. in music, and I don’t put “Dr.” in front of my name. Any truthful person would know that one does not want to be mistaken for an M.D. Therefore, one puts the acknowledgment of one’s degree after one’s name. Of course, the naysayers would miss the point and vilify the truthful person. Such people are dissemblers and hypocrites of the first order. I’d like to thank Joseph Epstein for writing the truth.
Carolyn Kessler
Washington, D.C.

To the Editor:
Joseph Epstein’s response to the vicious attacks on his character was even more enjoyable than his original op-ed, which I delighted in reading when it was first published. I always look forward to his essays and comments on the passing scene.  While I’m a few years younger than Epstein, I relate to his observations about our culture and its coarsening. Although I earned a Juris Doctor degree, in the 50 years that I practiced law, no one ever called me “Doctor.” Had they done so, I would have assumed it was intended as humor. Most of those flinging invective at Epstein are simply humorless bores.
Stuart Nachman
Virginia Beach, Virginia

To the Editor:
I agree completely with Joseph Epstein’s article. Having spent the better part of 13 years in a university graduate office and dealing with students who graduated with advanced degrees, I can verify that the Ed.D. degree requires almost none of the academic rigor demanded of Ph.D. programs and that most of the Ed.D. candidates I dealt with would not have been accepted into any Ph.D. program I know.

As for Jill Biden’s insistence on being called “Doctor,” even her husband Joe Biden admitted that her reason for getting the degree was to have some sort of credential to counter his.
Rebecca Harris
Waynesville, Ohio

To the Editor:
It was fascinating to read Joseph Epstein’s theory that the intensity of the reaction to his original article might have been due to its being an attack on credentialism. On the same day that I read this, there was a news item about a movement at Harvard to withdraw the degrees of some people who have been allegedly aligned with Trump. The instigators seem to think that taking away their credentials is punishment. But this ignores the fact that whatever was learned at Harvard (if anything) cannot be revoked. The idea seems to be that your credentials are more important than your knowledge and character.
Dave Schneider
Boca Grande, Florida

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