Amherst Magazine

Letters

For country

Nice article on Bonnie Jenkins ’82 (“Reporting for Duty,” Winter 2007). She has my utmost respect for her service to our country.

In March I returned from Iraq, where I served as an Army reservist in Mosul and Al Asad with the 399th Combat Support Hospital. I couldn’t have served with better people. The American soldiers I worked with and took care of made me honored and proud just to be able to wear the same uniform. Serving only four months gave me renewed appreciation of the much greater sacrifice most of these soldiers and their families are making. My oldest son is an officer and Army Ranger who spent most of last year in Iraq, so I wasn’t clueless in this regard. But it’s another thing to be there and to see the dedication and professionalism of American soldiers away from home for 12 to 16 months or longer.

DAVE WILLIAMS , M.D. ’75
Cincinnati, Ohio

Coming to terms

In an otherwise interesting article on William Henry Lewis, Class of 1892, in my husband’s Amherst magazine (“Blazing the Trail,” Winter 2007), I was shocked to see the oldest anti-Semitic canard repeated without any context or modern analysis. The author, Evan J. Albright, states that Lewis’s summation—comparing a man with an obviously Jewish name to Judas—was “brilliant.” In reality, by citing Judas, Lewis was not only alluding to the betrayal of Christ (i.e. Christ killers) but to the notion that all Jews look alike and that all Jews are in it for the money (30 pieces of silver). This odious comparison has been used to encourage persecution of Jews from time immemorial. Many sources make this point, from a recent article by Daniel Perdurant about anti-Semitism in contemporary Greek society (“The treachery attributed to Judas led to a stereotyping of all Jews”) to Wikipedia (“Over time Judas came to be seen as the archetypal Jew”). The analogy was also played up in Nazi Germany; a book published by the National Socialists was titled Judas, the Global Enemy: What Everyone Must Know about the Jews. And early on in the anti-Jewish campaign, according to Engage Journal, a cemetery was desecrated with swastikas and the inscription “Judas Iscariot.” These are just a few hastily found references; there are innumerable others that had dire consequences for the Jews being accused.

I understand that in a less enlightened time this courtroom defense could have been effective and even, sadly, seen as “brilliant.” But in a magazine that represents an institution such as Amherst, renowned for its scholarship, I expected some effort to come to terms with what Lewis was doing, why it was a successful strategy—and what it said about him that he used it.

PATTI PARSON
Denver, Colo.

Editor Emily Gold Boutilier responds:
In “Blazing the Trail,” author Evan J. Albright quotes from a 1948 courtroom argument in which William Henry Lewis compares a witness to the Biblical traitor Judas. Parson and some other readers have written to say that they found the Judas reference offensive, and we apologize for any insult. It occurred neither to me (I am Jewish) nor to Albright that Lewis was invoking a word that can be an anti-Semitic slur. In fact, Lewis’s own client was Jewish, as were four of the other defendants. At the end of the first day in court, Lewis argued (unsuccessfully) for a mistrial because the attorney general had contested every Jew called to serve on the jury. The word
Judas is often used as a generic synonym for traitor, and we believe that is how Lewis meant it. But in addition, the label has been used throughout history to persecute Jews, and the article should have noted that.

Food network

I was delighted to read the review by John Thorne ’65 of the Lee Brothers’ cookbook (“Hip southern food,” Amherst Creates, Winter 2007). I have enjoyed Thorne’s writings over the years and have two of his cookbooks. My wife, Frieda, and I picked up The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook during Homecoming 2006 at the Jeffery Amherst Bookshop after having read a review of the book in a Washington, D.C., paper. Frieda has since prepared several dishes from the Lee Brothers’ cookbook, including the red velvet cake. We have been looking for such a cake recipe for years. The cookbook is quite enjoyable; readers should know that Thorne’s review is colored by his basic nature. Thorne likes to go into much detail and history when he writes about cooking.

I also write to point out an error and to add another Amherst connection. Ted Lee ’93 is pictured at right in the photo. He is the one wearing glasses. I was briefly introduced to Ted (sans glasses) in Valentine during his freshman orientation by his father and my classmate William Lee ’63.

NAN KING ’63
Gaithersburg, Md.

Due to an error by the book’s publisher, we misidentified Ted Lee ’93 and his brother, Matt, in the photo caption. Ted is indeed pictured at right. The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook recently was named the James Beard Foundation Cookbook of the Year and won two awards from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. (Thorne is a past Beard and IACP award winner.) –Ed.

Back to basics

This year, my wife, Marnie, and I had the thrill of sharing with our daughter, Sarah ’09, many heart-pounding hours in the basketball stands at Amherst. What had started as a not-too subtle ploy to spend quality time with our daughter gradually morphed into something approaching an obsession with basketball the way it’s supposed to be played (“What it takes,” Fall/Winter 2006). Not since the New York Knicks teams of the early 1970s have I felt such excitement while watching a game. In the NBA, it used to be astonishing to see a sculpted, 6-foot, 10-inch athlete soar through the sky and slam it home. Now it is routine. What is more exciting is to watch a well-coached group of players patiently spread the ball around waiting for the best shot, box out for rebounds, play tight defense and sprinkle in the occasional astonishing pass through the legs of the defenders.

That was this year’s Amherst men’s team, a careful mix of talents led by a great point guard, several excellent shooting forwards, a center who could dominate and tough team-oriented defense (just like those old Knicks teams). It’s easy to relate to games with two to three dunks and most points scored the old-fashioned way, with jump shots and fast-break layups.

When the Amherst men won the trophy in Salem, Va., I heard Coach Dave Hixon ’75 talk meaningfully on the radio about the character of his student-athletes, about how they had engaged in community service during their visit to Salem. An exasperated interviewer asked why Hixon did not seem to be more excited. I broke into a wide smile. At that moment, I was especially proud to be an Amherst grad.

ANDY MARKS ’76
Larchmont, N.Y.

Reading the notes
I loved “A Modest Proposal” (Winter 2007)! It was refreshing to read in print what my friends and I have always discussed. Maybe we'll write in to the class notes when we’re 90.

HONG YOON PLURAD ’93
Sierra Madre, Calif.

You’ll just know

Re. “On love” (College Row, Winter 2007): When I was in Professor William Hexter’s biology lab, each of us had a microscope with a drop of pond water on the slide. The assignment was to move the slide around until we located the amoeba.

Unsure of themselves, students called over Hexter (who is now the Edward S. Harkness Professor of Biology, Emeritus) to see if they had found the amoeba. What they had really found was an air bubble, a leaf or a piece of dirt. Hexter, exasperated, said, “Don’t call me over; when you find the amoeba, you’ll know it.”

I was moving the slide around, and each time I thought I saw the amoeba, I was tempted to call Hexter over, but I heeded his words, and kept moving the slide.

Then I saw the amoeba.

Thirty years later, my 12-year old niece asked me, “Uncle Michael, how will I know when I find true love?” Now, this is not the sort of question you can brush off; you have to put some thought into it. I told her the story of the amoeba, and I said, “When you find true love, you won’t have to ask; you’ll know it.”

Apparently it was the right answer. She is now married with two kids, and I am waiting for her six-year-old to ask me the same question.

MICHAEL RANDALL ’62
New York, N.Y.

CORRECTION
Due to an editing error, “Blazing the Trail” misstated the location of Oyster Bay, N.Y. It is on Long Island.