Letters to the Editor

An evil that knows no boundaries

A symposium on Terrorism: An Evil That Knows No Boundaries was held last week at the Congregation Sons of Israel, Woodmere. Co- sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (Long Island Chapter), the Conference of Jewish Organizations of Nassau County, and the Five Towns Jewish Council, it brought together four panelists – three professionals and one, Devorah Halberstam, a mother whose son Aaron was the victim of a random shooting while on a van crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in 1994. I attended, well aware of the potential for terrorist penetration of college campuses and the pall that befell our university community in the wake of this month’s shooting resulting in a critical wound to one and an injury to another.

The temple’s dynamic spiritual leader and immediate past president of Long Island Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Bruce Ginsburg, gingerly referred to the ubiquitous scourge of modern life that is the advent of organized and premeditated terror. It knows no boundaries, and, in the case of Jews, makes no fine distinction of the level of observance. As to location, one is as vulnerable in Israel as one may be anywhere in the Diaspora.

FBI special agent and supervisor of a select unit, Mary Galligan, found herself repeatedly the focus of directed questions concerning both old and new cases of terrorism. She was knowledgeable and forthcoming, revealing that anti-terrorism legislation did not materialize until the mid ’90s, and now is being implemented vigorously. She was understandably reticent to reveal tactics currently used.

Lt. Kevin Hassett, director of Emergency Services for the NY/NJ Port Authority, laid out the myriad agencies, federal and local, that cooperatively interact to assure our safety. Mark Weitzman, director of the Task Force Against Hate for the Simon Weisenthal Center, stated some obvious verities: Even with the demise of Hitler, Nazism thrives; there is a rise in terrorist incidents, even as there is a concomitant decline in reported hate crimes.

The emotional component of the evening was reserved for Devorah Halberstam who, since the fateful March 1, 1994, when her 16-year-old rabbinical seminary son was murdered, has become a roving spokesperson for prosecuting terrorists anywhere they are found. It is important to understand the wide-world view that motivates modern terrorists, For example, Rashid Baz, the perpetrator of the heinous attack on the van transporting 15 Lubavitch Hasidic students, including Aaron, was avenging the attack on Muslims at prayer by the infamous Baruch Goldstein (a Brooklyn-born doctor), killing 29 worshippers.

Such context explains the adamant hatred directed against Israel and its arch friend, the United States, by Hizballah, Hamas and the notorious Usama Bin Ladin. Vigilance and citizen participation by us all, it was disclosed, makes possible the oversight of incipient extra-legal groups bent on havoc and organized mayhem. It is remarkable that our government, as hefty as it is, and as daunting as their tasks are in the age of the Internet, still operates with respect and devotion to citizens’ rights.

The regret was the sparse attendance. Without being flippant, perhaps, our local population was cowed by the realism of the topic, or putting a more positive spin, our residents were confident, with a sense of security, that danger does not lurk so imminent, for our G-men and women never sleep, and always miss holiday celebrations!

Asha Matathias

Adjunct Professor
Political Science

Student apathy in tragedy

In the wake of the shooting of Cory Mitchell, SJU students and administrators were thrown into frenzy. The university began to enforce new rules about closures of the main gates and actually began checking the identification of all persons entering the campus after 11 p.m. Students, too, seemed enthralled by the event. As I walked through Marillac, I could hear students whispering about what had happened and what security needs to do to improve safety. Not until the Peace Rally last week, which was held in Mitchell’s honor, did I realize the indifference of our student body. I was appalled as I attended the rally on the Great Lawn and realized that there were only about 200 to 250 students attending. Students were in such a rush to criticize security for its shortcomings, but when it came to offering support to bring further awareness to the issue they were absent. I would have expected a significantly larger turnout, considering that so many students live on campus and were in the vicinity of the incident.

For those who did attend, the event was beautiful. The Voices of Victory Choir performed and guest speakers shared their thoughts on Mitchell’s life. I’m sure that students at St. John’s were well-intentioned in their concern, but as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Karen Maxell


St. Vincent’s College