To the Editor:
Marc Galanter criticizes the Brother Daniel decision [“A Dissent on Brother Daniel,” July], holding that an apostate is not a Jew under the Law of Return, because: (1) the Israeli Court looked to the “ordinary meaning” of the word Jew, whereas the word Jew is used in a variety of ways; and (2) the Court passes without mention the noble aspects of Judaism and defines the past exclusively in terms of suffering and persecution at the hands of the Catholic Church.
[But] there is nothing unusual or arbitrary about judicial reliance on popular or current usage in defining terms. The “ordinary meaning of words” is the primary test used in the interpretation of terms in a contract. It is the primary test used in the law of torts in defining the actions of the “average reasonable man.” It is used in defining “due process.” Galanter, though, looks for a prescriptive meaning of “Jew.” One ought not however to expect the same statutory or decisional precision on the meaning of a complex term, such as “Jew,” as on a term, for example, in the law of property or statute of limitations. . . . Admittedly, the issue before the Court was emotion-charged, and the decision of the Court, paragraph by paragraph, is a highly emotional document. To be subjective means to be human. . . .
Galanter points out that the love of learning, the thirst for justice, the attachment to reason and law, and other aspects of Judaism are all passed by the Court without mention. “The decision tends to visualize all of Jewish history in relation to Christianity. . . . There is a type of masochistic bias here which tends to define the past exclusively in terms of suffering, persecution, and martyrdom.” The Brother Daniel decision is thus taken by Galanter, and others, as identifying the essence of Judaism with . . . self-hatred.
But what is the reaction of any group when someone wants to join who does not go along with the principal ideas of the group? A group cannot tolerate it or allow it. The United States cannot tolerate Communists; and Professor Galanter’s university surely cannot tolerate persons who do not go along with it on fundamental tenets.
Brother Daniel was touching the State of Israel in a tender spot. The country is founded . . . on a religious premise. For centuries the Jew lived as “an alien in the Christian midst,” pinning his hopes on a spiritual return to Zion. . . . The Court had to talk in religious terms. There is some feeling of guilt in Israel that many of the old norms are no longer followed. Brother Daniel was reminding Israel of this, and the decision, in part, is the result of a guilt reaction to the fact that the country is not “religious” whereas the foundation of the country is based on a religious idea. . . . In the United States there was a furor following the Supreme Court’s decision outlawing the reading of an innocuous prayer in schools. A large segment of the American public was reminded that they were not truly religious and were hiding behind an empty form; out of their guilt, they were angry at the Court. . . .
In the Brother Daniel decision, the Court did not provide a definition of a Jew in positive terms. That was not necessary, assuming it were possible. The allegiance to the group is fixed negatively—that is, by a rejection of Roman Catholicism. As the State Attorney said: “We do not know who is a Jew but we know who is not—an apostate is not.” Specifically, an apostate to Roman Catholicism who makes religion an integral part of his life is not a Jew, at least under the Law of Return. Brother Daniel, the petitioner, was a monk, an arm of the Church. . . . Perhaps the decision would have been different in the case of a convert to another religion. . . .
The decision does not, as some say, give the State a mandate to pry into a man’s beliefs in order to determine his eligibility under the Law of Return. There is no distinction between believing and non-believing Jews. Israel is a country of immigration. It sets no qualification on wealth, professional skill, country of origin, age, or sex. The Law of Return is designed to offer a “home” for Jews.
Who is a Jew? The Christian Century, commenting briefly on the Brother Daniel case, said: “If Jews cannot decide what a Jew is, it will be best for gentiles not to make the attempt.” Ever since the Diaspora, the identity of Jews was essentially determined by the outsider. Through the centuries of persecution, it was always the oppressor who made the . . . definition. The opinion of the oppressed was of secondary, if any, importance. One’s own definition of his religion, for example, would not influence the Nazis’ classification.
Can the Jew himself decide? The attribute commonly ascribed to Jews may present a fair composite picture, but one aspect of Judaism, taken in isolation as the essence, leads to distortion. . . . In isolation, any attribute can be explained away. Yet, a composite view of Jewry does not lend, because of its complexity, to formulation in a statute or judicial decision. Though a positive definition is extremely difficult, it is possible however to say precisely who is not a Jew.
New Orleans, Louisiana
To the Editor:
I agree with Mr. Galanter’s inclusion of religious, ethnic, and political factors in the makeup of “Jewishness” and wish to add a fourth: emotional identification which is often based on sympathy for the victims of anti-Semitism. Any combination of these four factors is sufficient to decide who is a Jew. . . .
The clerical elements in Israel have acquired an unwarranted influence in public affairs because our claim to the State of Israel was based in large measure upon Biblical tradition, a state of affairs perpetuated by the political split in Israel’s labor movement. The Law of Return is, in general, a racist piece of legislation which was dictated by humane and political considerations of the day. On the other hand, Israel has no legally enforceable guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion; the only constitutional laws deal with the technical running of the government.
Thus the Supreme Court’s decision was indeed a case of religious disqualification, as Mr. Galanter states, and it was widely interpreted and, in the light of the above, justified as such by the Israeli public.
(Dr.) Alex Hershaft
To the Editor:
Marc Galanter used the Brother Daniel case as a point of departure for asking: Who is a Jew?
With the exception of Nazi Germany, no country in the world has adhered to the concept of the Jew by race, only . . . by religion. If a Jew does not himself practice the Jewish religion, he may refer to his last progenitor who did. However, if he or his direct progenitor had ceased to practice the Jewish religion because he converted to another faith, he is no longer considered a Jew by the gentiles and for the Jews becomes an inactive member of the Jewish community. His Jewishness remains, so to speak, dormant till the time when he renounces the conversion to the alien faith. Thus religious adherence (not practice) is the criterion of Jewishness and an individual applying for admittance to Israel under the Law of Return must give proof not that he practices the Jewish religion, but that he does not adhere to another.
Spring Valley, New York
To the Editor:
. . . Once all the rhetoric is pushed aside, the deciding factor in cases such as that of Brother Daniel is and should be, “Is it good for the Jews?” I am not being facetious. . . . The all-important question is: What will best contribute to the perpetuation of the Jews as a group? . . .
In ancient times, our leaders . . . realized that the Jews were a small island in a large sea . . . that unless certain walls were erected around them, the Jews as an entity would assimilate and disappear. The dietary laws, for example, were laid down not only for reasons of health, but also to separate the Jews from their surrounding neighbors. . . . The restrictions in Jewish law served to keep the Jews separate and thus prevent their disappearance.
These considerations should be the basis for a decision in the case of Brother Daniel. If he were allowed admission on the basis of having been born a Jew, and the fact that he considers himself a “Jew,” in spite of having embraced Catholicism, this would prepare the way for diluting the definition of a Jew. Once this breach is made others will follow . . . militating against the perpetuity of the Jewish group. . . . I cannot accept Mr. Galanter’s phrase, “an anti-Semitic Jew.” A Jew may be anti-religious, or anti-Zionist; he may hate his fellow Jews, but he can never be called an anti-Semite, any more than a Negro could be called a “white chauvinist.” . . .
Certain liberals tend to be purists in their interpretation of the laws . . . rejecting, for instance, demonstrations by the Negro people in the United States on the basis of “illegality.” Let us stop being strict legalists. . . and let us judge laws or actions not by arbitrary standards . . . but by standards that are important to a people themselves.
(Dr.) Eli Ross
Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
To the Editor:
. . . All that made Brother Daniel a Jew to start with is that he was born to parents who were Jewish and who raised him in a background of Judaism. Judaism is a faith and one may be attached to it in many ways from orthodoxy to atheism, but to consciously accept the tenets of another religion is to reject Judaism. Is not the apostate in a position of necessarily renouncing his former religion?
Brother Daniel . . . is said to have cried, “My religion is Catholic, but my ethnic origin is and always will be Jewish. I have no other nationality. I did not accept Christianity to leave my people. I feel like a Jew.” This is the expostulation of a confused, lost soul. . . .
Not long ago, in a town in Italy, barely literate peasants born and raised as Catholics, having read the Old Testament, were drawn to Judaism. Two dozen or more of these villagers of San Nicandro are now settled in Israel as Jews. They may “feel” like Catholics, at times, but unlike Brother Daniel, do not feel that they added to their Catholicism by entering our faith. . . .
Nowhere in this affair have I found an attempt to examine Brother Daniel’s new standing in relation to those of us who remain faithful to God and Judaism by a look into the New Testament which he has taken to his heart. His ideology teaches Brother Daniel that “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema” (I Corinthians 16:22). . . . Am I to hold Brother Daniel still one of us, when by the book he believes in, I am marked Godless—“Whosoever denieth the son the same hath not the Father” (I John 2:23.)?
David B. Trypho
Miami Beach, Florida
To the Editor:
Mr. Galanter . . . may have missed one point. Brother Daniel was very determined to enter Israel under the Law of Return and not through other channels of immigration. His motive for entering this way could have been to enhance his proselytizing . . . by showing prospective converts that it is possible to become a Catholic and remain a Jew, . . . recognized as one by the Supreme Court of the State of Israel.
I can see no other decision . . . than the one the judges handed down.
West Hempstead, New York
To the Editor:
Mr. Galanter bases his dissent . . . on a plea for broadmindedness, urging that such cases be judged individually on their own merit. . . . But what did Brother Daniel’s conversion imply? He professes to love the Jewish land and the Jewish people—so his conversion seems to mean that it was the Jewish religion up to the time of Jesus he found inadequate. . . .
Mr. Galanter’s idea that an anti-Semitic Jew is still accepted as a Jew is refuted by his own account of those barred under the Law of Return, namely: [those] “. . . engaged in an activity against the Jewish people.”
Mr. Galanter suggests that the irreligious person is on a level with the convert. But irreligion or secularism do not mean the swearing of allegiance to another religion. He who does not believe in the dogmas . . . may believe in the Ten Commandments even if he denies their origin.
I cannot equal Mr. Galanter’s learnedness but can answer him only on the basis of my Jewish emotion. On that basis may I ask what “impels him to resist the pressure to blend indistinguishably with the outer world . . .” if he would accept the “enrichment offered by such Jews as Brother Daniel”? Would he also accept the missionaries, intent on “saving” Jewish souls? Can’t he see that we must draw the line somewhere? . . . We are ready to help other minorities in their fight against bigotry, illness, poverty, . . . but we cannot accept among us those who—no matter what they profess—proved to be enemies in the past and who therefore are unable to offer us any enrichment, either in theory or in practice, in the future.
(Mrs.) G. Grossberger
Brooklyn, New York