The Conversation

By | Feb 01, 2024
Winter 2024

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Thanks for the wonderful piece Dan Freedman wrote about his father Alfred Freedman’s role in depathologizing homosexuality in 1973 when he was president of the American Psychiatric Association (“Keepers of the Diagnostic Keys,” November/December 2023). In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud argued that entering into the social contract leads to many of the psychological symptoms that we experience because we can’t freely express our impulses and be members of a community. From that perspective, mental health practitioners frequently enforce the very social contract that is causing their patients distress by helping patients adapt to the dominant culture.

As the author points out, members of marginalized groups often feel they must hide their identities or face stigmatization if discovered to belong to the group. It was encouraging to see a Jewish practitioner at the forefront of the movement to advocate for, rather than add to the misery of, the marginalized. The legacy of the APA’s decision is alive 50 years after it was made, as mental health practitioners continue to work to define how identity and pathology differ and to celebrate rather than eradicate diversity among human beings.
Karl Stukenberg
Cincinnati, OH


The story on the American Psychiatric Association decision in 1973 to remove homosexuality from the diagnostic manual was a good description of the history. However, it also showed that, with the exception of Barbara Gittings, when “homosexuality” was discussed back then, it really meant gay men. Kay Tobin Lahusen, Gittings’ partner, also helped organize the panel that included psychiatrist John Fryer in a Halloween mask as “Dr. H. Anonymous,” though Gittings (and Frank Kameny) always get the credit. There were also a few women involved in the history of the “GayPA” (a play on APA), but their names never get included.
Margie Sved
Raleigh, NC



The story that Rebecca Clarren tells (“The Stolen Beam,” November/December 2023) is particularly interesting to me as a descendant of Latvian and Lithuanian Jews who came to Minnesota in the 1870s and 1880s. Unlike Clarren’s family, our tribe followed the more traditional Jewish path as peddlers and shopkeepers living in cities. But the intersection with the Native communities of the Midwest is a shared theme of our histories. Clarren’s willingness to consider the past mistreatment of indigenous populations is especially important, and her weaving of Jewish traditions into the contemporary debate—so similar to the parallel questions of reparations for African Americans—is very timely. Thank you for bringing this story to our attention!
Frederick Hertz
Oakland, CA


Rebecca Clarren’s story of land given by the government to Jewish farmers in the Dakotas in the early 20th century, which helped pave her family’s path to wealth, at great cost to their Lakota neighbors, shares themes with other stories about descendants sitting down to talk about reconciliation and possible reparations. Sandy Tolan’s book The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East, about the intersection of two families, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, is one. Another was told in a recent 60 Minutes segment with Anderson Cooper about Africatown, Alabama, and the Meaher family, who brought slaves there on the ship Clotilda and whose descendants have begun a process to make amends.

On any given day, the conflict in Israel is part of the story of repentance and who is responsible for saying “I’m sorry.” Elements such as unfair advantage, land divided up, people profiting, winners and losers all come to mind. If we want to see war no more, who is the one to extend the olive branch or plant another lemon tree? Keep up the good work—as it is said, we may not be able to solve the whole problem, but it is incumbent on us to move the discussion forward.
Martha Backer
Jacksonville Beach, FL



Robert Siegel’s review of the centenary edition of Leopold and Loeb: The Crime of the Century (“Revisiting a 1920s Thrill Kill,” November/December 2023), connected me with my teenage years. I was living with my grandparents when I read the 1956 novel Compulsion, based on the two Jewish young men’s murder of a child. When my grandmother asked me what I was reading, I told her, and she began to weep. She had come to the United States in 1921 and started reading The Forward, where she followed the 1924 crime of Leopold and Loeb. She said it was such a shanda, that everyone would think Jews were to be feared and hated. We were in the Bible Belt in Wooster, Ohio, and she was so ashamed. As a 14-year-old, I too became very self-conscious when the novel became a bestseller. Siegel’s review is wonderfully written, as his always are. Thanks for including it in Moment.
Linda Gallanter
San Francisco, CA



The recent debate (“Do Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives Harm Jews?’’ November/December 2023) was sorely disappointing. This is a contentious issue that hard-right politicians and conservative media misuse to support their hidden agenda of “you will not replace us.”

It would have been very useful to include a brief description of DEI. According to McKinsey & Company, “Diversity, equity, and inclusion are three closely linked values held by many organizations that are working to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations.” Note that DEI programs emphasize ethnicities and religion, so the question about whether Jews are “white” complicates the DEI conversation as well as this debate.

I am also appalled that neither David L. Bernstein nor Naomi Greenspan focused on women in their debate responses. Yes, Jewish men can pass and are generally accepted in many corporate, political and institutional settings. When Greenspan says that “We largely have achieved equality in terms of both access and outcomes,” she is only talking about men. Jewish women and women overall are starting to lose some of the limited gains achieved in the last century, in part because we have so few seats at the table.
Irene Schubert
Alexandria, VA


Thank you for this interesting debate. DEI is a paradigm that is inherently antisemitic and discriminatory because it disadvantages Jews, who represent a mere 2.4 percent of the population, a percentage that belies their representation in the arts, media, science, academia, medicine and the law.

DEI professes to seek the improvement of the disadvantaged. Instead, it promulgates victimhood as a tactic to gain power. It is not about lifting people up to attain excellence but rather lowering standards to achieve equity.

From a Jewish perspective, DEI could just as well stand for discrimination, exclusion and intimidation: It discriminates against achievers, excludes those who do not subscribe to its model and intimidates those who oppose it by denying them jobs in the workplace, tenure in academia, and opportunities for advancement everywhere. Although Jewish accomplishments are generally the result of entrepreneurship, ingenuity and diligence, DEI adherents dismiss and denigrate their achievements by accusing Jews of being beneficiaries of unearned privilege. Asians and Indian Americans suffer the same unwarranted criticisms by those who envy their excellence in academics, business and the professions.

Therefore, any form of forced equity is inherently unjust. America needs to continue in the pursuit of excellence and rescue herself from those who are determined to fundamentally change her for the worse.
Steve Wenick
Voorhees, NJ


In the previous issue, Moment asked if Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives harm Jews. We asked Moment’s followers on X (formerly known as Twitter) to weigh in. The majority answered yes.

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