Thank you for your article about Albanians (“Photo exhibit pays tribute to Albanian Muslims who saved Jews,” Sept. 29). I have somewhat closely followed for many years the development, or, I should say, the re-connection between the two peoples.
It is always a pleasure to read in the Israeli newspapers, and just meeting random Jews from time to time, on their perception toward us as a people. When the kind words for our culture come from a people who have suffered immense hardships during the course of history, the remarks are not only honest, but amplified in power regarding the message that they are ultimately conveying.
Albanians have saved even neighboring forces at times that they came to occupy them (this is strange but true), so one might say, there’s nothing special about it; they do this all the time. But when it comes to the Jews, few people are aware of the connections that we share.
During World War II, King Zog [of Albania], when in Britain, asked for more than 50,000 Jews to be allowed to settle in Albania. Years ago Haaretz reported on a plan to make Albania home of the Jews as well, as its resources could house easily 7 million people if properly managed.
Another thing worth noting here is that not only King Zog, but even [Albanian] communists, who hanged Catholic priests and pretty much abolished all religions, never touched any Jewish person who remained in Albania. Some rose to very prominent positions; some, like Mr. Robert Schwartz, have been forever placed in the “hall of fame” of Albania for their immense contribution to our culture.
And let’s not forget that Albanians hold themselves very proud to the fact that they are among the few allowed without visas to enter the Holy Land. I don’t think this is a recompense or token of any kind, but more like a bond that has endured all the brutal wars that have put brothers against each other, let alone people and nations.
This year, the first synagogue opened in Albania (I should say the first of modern times). In the past, the two peoples have made contact because of their unparalleled mobility due to wars and because Jews were being persecuted by various forces. This time, we are coming into contact to not just survive, but hopefully build upon this long tradition of mutual respect.
New York City
(The author is an advisory board member to the Albanian Professionals and Entrepreneur Network.)
A positive thing for whom?
I would like to correct a couple points in your article on the transfer of B’nai Emunoh to Chabad (“B’nai Emunoh to become Chabad-owned synagogue,” Sept. 29).
The transfer was not decided by congregational vote, contrary to what the article claims. The congregation twice voted down such a transfer. In the last congregational meeting before the transfer, the vote was 53 percent to 47 percent to open negotiations with Chabad. Some of those who voted in favor clearly did so with the understanding that it would come back to the congregation for a vote once terms were worked out. No such final vote ever took place.
Of those who were most involved in the synagogue, coming to its daily morning minyan, the majority were opposed to giving the synagogue, nine or 10 Torahs, hundreds of siddurim and several cemeteries to Chabad. Most of those involved members voted against even entering discussions with Chabad.
The article quotes someone as saying, “This is a positive thing for B’nai Emunoh.” I can see that it is positive for several parties. It is a positive thing for Chabad, which expands into a growing Jewish neighborhood in Greenfield. It is a positive thing for Poale Zedeck, Young Israel,
Kollel, Charles Morris and the other minyanim, which have been bolstered by people who have left B’nai Emunoh. It is a positive thing for those of us Greenfield Jews who will now get more exercise walking to congregations further from our homes. It is not a positive thing for B’nai Emunoh, most of whose most dedicated members have now left for other pastures.
(Editor’s note: Following receipt of this letter the Chronicle again contacted B’nai Emunoh President Joel Pirchesky, who again maintained that the transfer of the synagogue to Chabad was decided by a congregational vote.)