June 6, 2007: Letters
Letter Box Online
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As perhaps the only living relic of the Jewish contingent in the Princeton Class of 1934, I was pleased to see the piece on “60 years of Jewish life at Princeton” (Notebook, April 18). However, I was surprised to read that “the first University-backed Jewish religious service on campus was held Jan. 13, 1947.”
If that is a correct statement, then what were the Jewish religious services that were held in the University Chapel during my undergraduate years? These were the years of compulsory chapel — attendance was required at 50 percent or more of weekly services during each semester. The Jewish students were exempted from attending the Sunday services if they would instead attend the Jewish services on Thursday evenings. The Class of 1934, numbering 625, included some 15 Jewish members, with other classes having like proportions.
The administration made an area of the chapel available to us for our Thursday services. The service was usually led by John B. Oakes ’34 (who eventually became the editor of The Daily Princetonian, class valedictorian, a Rhodes Scholar, and editorial editor of The New York Times). The religious texts were provided in leaflet form by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. We also were provided with space in Murray-Dodge for discussions when visiting rabbis from Newark or other communities met with us.
In my view, this arrangement amounted to “University-backed Jewish religious service on campus.” It was already in existence when the Class of 1934 arrived on campus, and I cannot say when it began. And I cannot say whether it was discontinued during the years of World War II, then to be revived in 1947, as stated in the PAW article. I have no objection to the title of the PAW article, provided it is amended for future reference by adding the word “significant.” Then we would be talking about “60 years of significant Jewish life at Princeton.”
MORRIS M. THOMPSON ’34
As the founding chairman (in 1946) of the Student Hebrew Association, I would like to fill in a few gaps in the piece on “60 Years of Jewish Life at Princeton.”
The main motive in establishing the SHA was to overcome the incongruity of the Jewish undergraduates having to attend the Christian chapel services (there were about 140 Jewish students registered; the admissions office readily supplied the list). Associate Dean of the Chapel Burton MacLean, to whom I turned for assistance, cooperated enthusiastically and arranged for a meeting room for the SHA in Murray-Dodge. The initiative aroused the opposition of some Jewish students, but the majority were in favor. There was no faculty participation initially. Among my close collaborators were the late Don Rosenthal ’48, Herb Schlosser ’49, Hank Spitz ’50, and Marcus Aaron ’50.
The affiliation with Hillel came about after I contacted Hillel’s head office in New York for help in conducting religious services. Dr. Abram Sachar, the national director, arranged to have his two associates, Dr. Judah Shapiro and Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld, come out to Princeton on alternate Friday evenings. Both men were compelling speakers, popular with the students. This convenient informal arrangement ended when Dr. Sachar was named president of Brandeis University and Rabbi Lelyveld became national Hillel director.
Rabbi Lelyveld offered to send us a young Reform rabbi affiliated with Hillel on a regular basis, still without any formal affiliation. The SHA agreed, and Rabbi Horace Manacher drove to the campus from his home on Long Island once or twice a week. The following year Hillel sent us Rabbi Saul Kraft, a Jewish Theological Seminary graduate, after working out a more formal arrangement with the administration.
In 1948, I was privileged to introduce the first resident Hillel director, Dr. Irving M. Levey (formerly librarian of Hebrew Union College), to the campus community.
I believe these men, pioneers in a way, deserve to be remembered.
ERNEST STOCK ’49
As an African-American alumnus, I wonder if there is ever going to come a day when someone does not write a letter to PAW complaining that affirmative action has allowed lesser-qualified minorities to attend Princeton and other elite universities.
In the April 4 issue, Russell Nieli *79 expressed his strong concern that lesser-qualified black students are being admitted to elite universities due to racial preferences. He specifically asserted that “college-bound black high school graduates are systematically ratcheted upward into institutions one, two, or three levels where they would have been placed were they Asian or white.”
I am deeply offended by Mr. Nieli’s blanket assertion about college-bound black high school graduates. I, for one, graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA and never received less than an A in any of my high school courses. I also received numerous local, state, and national academic awards. So I know that I earned and deserved my admission to Princeton.
But according to Mr. Nieli, a person like me probably would have been better off at Tufts, Lehigh, or Rutgers — places where I presumably would have been able to make more cross-racial friendships due to the fact that the white students at those schools magically would have known that I truly earned my admission to those schools. What nonsense!
The truly incredible thing to me is that Mr. Nieli and his ilk seem to think that they know which students should be admitted to the elite schools, even more so than the admissions professionals at those schools. What an insult to those admissions officers, who certainly understand that a student who receives admission does not have to be better qualified than any other applicant. The student simply has to be “qualified” based on the admission criteria for that particular institution. No more, no less.
Sadly, many people have been duped into believing that affirmative action is a preference program that gives unqualified individuals access to employment, business, and educational opportunities. However, it was designed and continues to be a program that requires critical thinking about what constitutes legitimate qualification requirements and gives opportunities to qualified and deserving individuals.
Let’s just face facts and be honest with each other. Most affirmative-action opponents simply do not want to share a larger slice of the American pie of privilege with others because they know that there will be less of the pie for them and their offspring. I guess they think that others are too dumb to notice that they rarely, if ever, speak out against preferences for children of alumni or athletes. And of course they never ever mention the fact that a huge body of research indicates that white women have benefited the most from affirmative action.
KEVIN LYNCH ’85
Thank you for the article about Mohsin Hamid ’93’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, as well as the accompanying excerpt (cover story, April 18). The sensibility disclosed by the latter speaks well of the liberal arts taught at Princeton and, no less, of the importance of public and private support of liberal education in the Muslim world. Often a fine review obviates the need to buy the book, though this may be of little account with The New York Times’ subsequent report of Hamid’s “mighty debut” on the fiction best-seller list.
R.F. OBER JR. ’58
I need to take exception to Jim Baker ’52’s response to the last question asked him in the April 18 column, “A Moment with.” The question was, “As an undergraduate, you were president of the Ivy Club. Some in the University administration have been critical of the selective eating clubs. What is your response?”
Mr. Baker responded that in life, people tend to be selective about those with whom they wish to associate. He added that he did not think that people’s right to choose freely with whom they wished to associate “ought to be foreclosed to them in college.” His response concluded: “The administration [i.e., Princeton’s], for some reason I’ve never been able to understand, doesn’t like this idea of selectivity. And yet the University operates on the basis of selectivity — in faculty promotion, in tenure, in admissions.”
1) In Mr. Baker’s Ivy Club days, Ivy Club and a number of other clubs tended to select out applicants on the basis of their religion and to select in, to a considerable degree, those applicants who had attended the “right” prep schools.
2) Currently, the University selectively admits applicants who have demonstrated outstanding achievements in academics and/or extracurricular activities. Also, the University is increasingly committed to building an undergraduate body that is diverse with respect to ethnicity, religion, and geographic location.
I hope that Mr. Baker might reconsider these issues and realize that the selectivity of Ivy in his day was narrow-minded and almost the opposite of the University’s current admission criteria.
IRVIN COHEN JR. ’52
Thanks for the wonderful article on Professor Anthony Grafton (cover story, April 4). Here is a man who has his head in the clouds and his feet on the earth, and Princeton benefits from both. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my mathematics major, some of my fondest academic memories are of courses I took in philosophy and religion. My career has been very technical, but I have never regretted having chosen to ground my education in the humanities. As Princeton ventures into other areas, I hope it will always maintain a strong front in studies such as classics, history, and English. With advocates like Professor Grafton, we have little to worry about.
JOHN NASH ’67
In the March 21 issue of PAW, an adaptation of a campus speech given by former Dean of Religious Life Thomas Breidenthal asserts, “The University does not expect us, nor has it ever expected us, to promote religion in the student body.”
This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. All the presidents of the University from its origin until 1902 were clergymen, and the promotion of Christianity in the educational experience was a dominant feature.
The letter President Dodds wrote to my mother in 1939 about my enrolling as a student mentioned his own encouragement for the students to take advantage of the religious dimensions of the Princeton experience. I sang in the Chapel Choir during my Princeton years. Unless my aging memory fails me, I believe there was then a University requirement for students to attend a certain number of the Sunday services.
JOHN HOWARD ’43
Your article on “Unsung heroes” (Notebook, March 21) reminded me of the unsung heroes of the John Witherspoon community of 1945. With no request or solicitation, they opened their doors and hearts to four Navy V-12 students in an outpouring of friendship and hospitality that can only be imagined.
Mrs. Fannie Floyd (Miss Reeves at the time) was one of the popular young ladies who introduced us into the social fabric of the community. It was amazing how a community with no aspirations of becoming a part of the University student or faculty body had such a fierce love and loyalty to the University.
Local students Joseph Ralph Moss ’51 and Robert Rivers ’53 later made the transition. Simeon Moss *49 received an advanced degree.
The community provided guidance regarding the University dress style to assist us in transitioning to civilian status. It also provided valuable intelligence as to our reputations in the eyes of the student body.
I salute the work of Carl Fields in institutionalizing what the community had provided spontaneously years before.
JAMES E. WARD ’48
Editor’s note: Through the Navy V-12 program, James E. Ward became one of the first four African-American students to attend Princeton, along with John Leroy Howard ’47, Arthur Jewell Wilson Jr. ’48, and Melvin Murchison Jr.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother, Sara, moved to Boston to be near him during his undergraduate years at Harvard. A May 9 story on Jean Edward Smith ’54’s new book, FDR, incorrectly stated that the move took place during his law school years. Roosevelt attended Columbia Law School.
The April 4 profile of Archibald G. Fletcher ’38 contained a number of errors. His first wife’s father was a minister, not a missionary doctor. When Fletcher began his mission at the 350-bed Wanless Hospital in Miraj, India, there were five foreign missionary doctors, about 10 Indian doctors, plus other junior Indian doctors-in-training. The story incorrectly reported the number of doctors. After leaving Wanless Hospital in the 1980s, Fletcher and his wife were called back to Asia two times. Last fall Fletcher visited Wanless Hospital to bring a gift from his family to add to the funds provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development to finance a new wing at the hospital.
The story also incorrectly stated Fletcher’s role in what is believed to have been the first successful operation using cardiopulmonary bypass in India. Fletcher assisted R.K. Padhi, an Indian surgeon.