Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Long before writer Peter Beinart’s birth, some felt that the influx of Holocaust refugees in the 1940s threatened the enlightened goals of Israel’s founders. Then it was the waves of Jew refugees from Arab lands in the 1950s, Jews from the Soviet Union in the 1970s, and the black Jews of Ethiopia in this century — who all threatened the “unique character of the Jewish state.”

The doomsayers have always been wrong. Each group has contributed to the noisy, imperfect and dynamic country that is America’s greatest friend and the Mideast’s only democracy. Spare us the sermon that Israelis have allegedly lost their moral bearings. For 62 years, long before she captured the West Bank and Gaza, Israel’s enemies have made her send young people to the frontlines to defend the homeland. Do you think Israelis enjoy building separation fences and checkpoints?

Palestinian suicide terror that murdered the equivalent of 15,000 Americans built those. Their daily lives are a bit more complicated than deciding whether to have a cappuccino or latte at Starbucks. Their morning menu includes Iranian threats of nuclear destruction and Tehran’s Hezbollah and Hamas lackeys pointing over 60,000 rockets at her northern and southern communities.

No one in Israel or among its Zionist supporters airbrush Israel’s many flaws. Beinart himself acknowledges Israel’s free and aggressive media. Like in America — left and right, secular and religious, snipe at, more than speak to each other. That’s not a sign of moral weakness, but of democratic strength. And those problems shouldn’t keep any young American Jew from experiencing and embracing their historic and spiritual birthright.

Finally, American Jews voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama for many reasons, including the impassioned support he expressed for Israelis’ right to self-defense when the then-candidate visited the beleaguered citizens of Gaza-adjacent Sderot. Whether that support will be there in 2012 will have less to do with Republican sound bytes than the president’s record on Iran, Israel, and the economy.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper

Los Angeles, Calif.

The writer is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I read with dismay of Bob Plotz’s bicycle wreck last week, and I wish him a speedy recovery and many years of safe cycling. In his letter, he advocates for wider roads up-Island. I must disagree. I bike the same stretch of State Road almost every working day year-round, and while I have never wished for a wider road, I have sometimes wished for better drivers. Though I must note that the vast, vast majority of drivers I encounter are as courteous and attentive as the law requires, and many are more so.

Mr. Plotz crashed when he “moved to the side of the road to allow a car to go by.” While a charitable impulse, such behavior is generally unnecessary and, as evidenced by his crash, unsafe. Cyclists and cars both benefit when a cyclist doesn’t veer in and out of the travel lane (holds his line), and I’m sure the driver who passed Mr. Plotz would have sacrificed a few seconds on his trip to spare Mr. Plotz a broken wrist. I am passed by dozens of cars daily on my commute, and state law requires that they pass at “a safe distance,” typically defined as three or four feet, and at “a reasonable speed.” Almost all of them do. Cyclists are required to ride as far to the right of the travel lane “as is practicable,” and I typically ride about a foot to the left of the white (fog) line where I have some margin for error (mine or others). Cycling is safer when these laws are followed. Conversely, studies have shown that wider roads lead to higher speeds and less safety, not more. Incidentally, State Road is, as the name implies, a state road, so the town can only request changes the from Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Not that they should.

Generally, I find it frustrating to read letters in the paper every week filled with largely uninformed opinions about bicycling safety, many from individuals whose rear ends clearly haven’t graced a bicycle seat in decades. I recommend the MassBike Web site ( for factual information about what cyclists and drivers can and must do to make the roads safer for all. Cycling safety is a shared responsibility, and one that becomes critical as cycling becomes more and more popular and important as a mode of transportation.

Again, best wishes to Mr. Plotz for rapid healing and an enjoyable remainder of summer.

Jim Miller



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Dear Mr. President and First Family:

We would like to welcome you and your family to Martha’s Vineyard.

At the same time we want to say thank you. Without the support of your administration the new YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard could not have been built.

The Vineyard had no public facility to teach swimming to generations of Islanders. Our schools had no place to teach swimming and the high school never had a swim team. The Island had no centrally located facility for after-school programs for children. The teens had no teen center, a safe place for social interaction as an alternative to participating in risky behaviors. There was no place to educate our youth about good eating and exercising habits and integrate those habits into their daily life.

With your support and help we built a 35,000-square-foot facility across from the high school within five miles of 80 per cent of the Island’s population. We were able to do this with the support of Island organizations, businesses and individuals. But even with their support we still needed additional help.

Working closely with the town of Oak Bluffs and the school superintendent’s office, we were able to participate in a grant and loan from the United States Department of Agriculture to build wastewater facilities to provide for the needs of the town, high school and the new Y. On the Island we have a fragile ecosystem, so the appropriate removal of wastewater is critical to our health and future. With your support we built these facilities.

We were able to raise substantial amounts of money from both the year-round and seasonal residents of the Island. Their support has been tremendous and without it we would never have been able to start this project. But the U.S. economic picture changed and the resources of many of our donors and prospective donors were seriously affected. To finish the project we needed a loan. A new nonprofit organization with a $13 million capital campaign was not on the top of anybody’s list for a loan. The local banks have always been supportive of our project and our programs but this was more risk than they wanted to carry. We found a USDA loan guarantee program administered by local banks. The Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank with the support of the USDA was able to provide a $1.5 million loan that allowed us to finish our project.

We opened our doors on June 19 this year with approximately 750 charter members and in less than two months our membership has grown to over 3,000 year-round and seasonal residents. We have provided swimming classes to over 200 people and we have 50 to 75 kids each day in our summer camp programs. The positive response to the new facility has been overwhelming.

We invite you and your family to come by and use our facilities as our guests.

All our best wishes for a relaxing and well deserved vacation.

Jill Robie and Chuck Hughes

Oak Bluffs

The writers are executive director and board president for the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

It was the clever phrase of an advertisement years ago. Now, as I hear the many critical statements against wind turbines, I ask the speakers, okay, if you don’t like the proposed wind turbines, what do you suggest we do to get ourselves out of this mess? How do you propose we generate electricity to meet our growing demand, replace worn-out power plants, clean up the air, reduce mercury in fish, stabilize the climate, moderate heat waves, hurricanes and droughts, slow shoreline erosion, maintain the Island’s tourist appeal, preserve real estate values, keep electric rates affordable, become more energy independent, withdraw from the oil wars, reduce the likelihood of oil spills, and create new jobs?

I’m tired of all the wasted time at meetings and the incomplete newspaper stories and letters. We need some beef — ideas and actions that truly and quickly move us forward.

Let’s thoroughly read the Web sites of the Union of Concerned Scientists, National Wildlife Federation, and other science-based organizations, set targets for reducing the Island’s energy consumption and “green” generation, and conduct our meetings with a copy of Getting To Yes close at hand.

Chris Fried

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

When considering the status of the nation’s three E’s: energy, environment and the economy, one might be forgiven for getting discouraged.

Major steps are being taken to improve the condition of these interrelated areas and there may be reason for optimism, but I for one would like to see us go all-in remedy-wise.

For example, the massive re-industrialization of America at the onset of World War II, a time when the country was still in the grip of the Great Depression, was brought about by FDR’s executive order number 9024, creating the War Production Board.

Similarly, President Obama could, also by executive order, establish an Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Production Board — a program to put people back to work on a wartime mobilization scale while tackling energy and environmental issues head on in the bargain.

That would get my vote.

Thomas N. Sullivan

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Laura Jernegan of Edgartown was a little girl of six when she went on a whaling ship with her father, mother and little brother. If you want to learn more, you can go to the new Web site developed by Nancy Cole, director of education at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and her talented staff, which was presented to the public for the first time Saturday. The site is totally amazing with a wealth of information about Laura, her family, and whaling in general. There are photos of the implements used by the whalers, the books Laura read on the voyages, definitions of words used onboard and so much more. And it is beautifully presented — a delight to look at, to read, and to learn from. While this site is certainly intended for children, adults will love it too. Laura’s diary is presented in a delightful way, both in her writing and then in text form so that it’s extremely easy to read — I could go on, but you’ll have a lot more fun if you check it out yourself!

Barbara Thomas Murphy



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

In her July 23 column, Bettye Foster Baker quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” I only know one quote of his: “When God calls man, he bids him to come and die.” I like the famous Gandhi quote: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals.” I heard the Dalai Lama speak in Central Park. He said when we have ruined this world, we will have no place to go. I hear the fear of death is behind every other fear man has. It must be what would make eight of nine Supreme Court justices recently vote that the atrocious act of selling pictures of dog fights and crushing animals to death is legal while NFL quarterback Michael Vick just went to jail for dog fighting in Virginia. If shown the pictures, how many Americans would say, “Yes, I want this to go on?” Does it matter what Americans want anymore? The law seems to have become the tragic flaw that is called an Achilles heel!

Do not get me wrong. I am not suggesting less law. I do not know what to suggest. We have hinged our pride as a nation on how just we are. Virtue was supposed to bridge the gap between the law and common sense. It has not. Our jails are full. We are a prisoner to the law.

The July 30 column question was how can America be united rather than divided. My question is, is America a Greek tragedy? I do not think so because we control the law. The question is how do we enforce the law with common sense and have it project what Americans hold dear? Which Americans, you may wonder. Well, not one judge in San Francisco. You cannot try to please every man and project what a nation wants to stand for because you end up in the courts where, generally, those who do not vote are argued for. I know the rule against a preposition at the end of a sentence but I have seen it in perfectly respectable writing of old.

Maybe Supreme Court Justices should not be elected for life. The consequences of such a change would have to be examined. The key question: What to do about everything I have written up to now is never discussed because it seems so insurmountable. Maybe we could agree that something needs to be done. We cannot go on this way.

Bonnie Green

Atlanta, Ga.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Twenty-five years ago I cashed a $500 check at the bank in Vineyard Haven and took my five $100 bills to Eden, a new fruit stand on State Road. After buying fruit with one of the bills, I returned to my home and discovered that all four of the remaining $100 bills were missing. I returned to Eden and asked owner Dee Dice if she had found any money. She asked what I had lost, and when I told her, she immediately returned the four $100 bills, which she had found in the dirt. I offered Ms. Dice a reward. She became indignant, and admonished me that no one, certainly no one on the Vineyard that she knew, would accept a reward for being honest. She did suggest an alternative — some day I could buy her a beer. I drove directly to Our Market, bought two cases of Heinekens, and dropped them off at Eden.

Don Brown

West Tisbury