Westport understands

In the wake of the tragic earthquakes in Haiti, some remarkable people and organizations have demonstrated that human sympathy, empathy and generosity are not on vacation.

The congregants of Beth Israel Synagogue and the residents of the Wesport area are to be thanked for donating medical and humanitarian supplies to help the Haitian victims, via the Afya Foundation. Established just over two years ago, Afya, a not-for-profit medical supply recovery organization, has shipped 20 40-foot containers packed with medical and humanitarian supplies to Haiti, including 12 since Jan. 15, 2010.

Several of these 40-foot container shipments bound for Haiti were funded by the Joint Distribution Committee, and some by donations from individuals and organizations. Without financial help, we would never be able to ship these donations; without donations of medical and humanitarian supplies, we'd never be able to amass enough to make a significant difference; and without volunteers, we'd never have enough hands to sort, pack and load the donations onto containers.

Founder and Executive Director Danielle Butin has just returned from Haiti, and will return next month with a team of physical and occupational therapists to deliver rehabilitation services to Haitians with disabilities, and to teach local care providers how to teach others to use crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and prosthetics.

It's interesting and important to note that in 1937, the Haitian government issued passports and visas to Eastern European Jews who were trying to escape Nazi persecution. Tikkum olam is a Hebrew phrase that means "repairing the world" or "perfecting the world," and is a mandate.

The Jewish community of Westport clearly understands this, and for the people of Haiti, I express my gratitude.

Ellen Schorsch,

The Afya Foundation of America,

Yonkers, N.Y.

Response to Whitnum

letter, Feb. 12

Ironically, Congressman Himes' unfortunate participation in a letter supporting Gaza draws its strongest backing from his fringe opponent, Lee Whitnum, who was thoroughly rejected in her 2008 campaign. Whitnum says this is the first time she has respected Himes.

Whitnum's support alone casts doubt on Himes' action. Whitnum spews false and inaccurate accusations and ignores five years of assaults by Gaza upon Israeli civilians and its kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.

Israel voluntarily left Gaza in 2005, letting Gaza govern itself. Philanthropists provided high-tech greenhouses so Gazans could develop agribusiness.

Rather than promote economic development and responsible governance, Gazans destroyed the greenhouses and overthrew their leadership in favor of Hamas, a fanatical Islamic group on the U. S. terrorist list and a self-avowed enemy of Israel. Thousands of rockets were launched into southern Israel, including its cities. Many were sophisticated and deadly Russian-made Katyushas, smuggled through tunnels from Egypt.

In 2008, confronting an untenable situation, Israel reluctantly commenced military action. Now that the more active war has subsided, Israel has provided hundreds of thousands of tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza and welcomed more than 10,000 patients for treatment last year while straining to prevent further smuggling of rockets, munitions and other weapons to a hate-filled Hamas which would gladly create civilian casualties in its irrational crusade to destroy Israel. Israel's delicate balancing occurs while Israel is also striving to negotiate with an unwilling Palestinian Authority, which governs the "West Bank," to achieve the mutual peace and security that it craves. Neither Himes' action nor Whitnum's rant is helpful.

Mark I. Fishman


Challenging times

On your questions last week (Westport News, "A question for the ages," Friday, Feb. 12), "Did other generations find themselves in this same predicament?" and, "Is this hopeless feeling something unique to the kids just entering the workforce or is it a feeling everyone goes through at some point in their career?" While these are the most difficult economic times we have experienced, the answers to your questions are yes and yes. Other generations found themselves in similar (though -- recently -- not as difficult) predicaments, some at the beginning of their careers-- e.g. careers started in 1970, 1974 (me), 1981 and 1990.

Almost every worker suffers a job loss at some point in his/her career. The hopeless feeling experienced when we can't control the outcome in a job search can be very tough, and we must confront it -- accept we can't control the hiring decision and continue to do the best we can on the daily job search tasks we can control. This isn't easy, but eventually this attention to the daily tasks pays off.

These are particularly difficult times, but this too will pass. In the meantime, those seeking employment -- new entrants and experienced workers -- should not be alone with their frustrations. Seek support from friends, family, mentors and professional career counselors. Those currently employed ought to do whatever they can to be of assistance to those who are searching by accepting informational meetings and shadow work days and being available to empathetically answer questions and make referrals. We can all help to make things better by working together as a community through these challenging times.

Gilbert Donovan


Repairs needed

I want to comment on Frances Moore's editorial notebook piece on Feb. 12 (Westport News, "A question for the ages").

I was extremely impressed by her thorough examination of the many facets of the unemployment dilemma that exists today. A hot point for me was her awareness of the fact most people are in jobs for the sake of having a job. How sad. Naturally, with the status of our anemic economy, just having a job is clearly a windfall. However, the old adage, "you have to take the job you need, before you get the job you want," has an entirely new feel.

No longer are we in a position to choose a desired field at entry-level with the vision of at some point climbing the ladder to a more satisfying position within that genre. It appears that, as Ms. Moore points out, "people are broke," and that forces them to look for work just to maintain some level of existence, not to begin their journey to success. That seems to go completely against what this country was once all about. Sadly, and this is due to the myopic individuals who, fortunately for them, have not been in the position that many are in now, there lives an ignorance as to how those who are struggling are perceived.

Some say, "There must be work out there, you must not be looking hard enough," or "You're just going to have to lower your expectations a bit." While those may be well-intentioned comments, the reality is that those who hear these statements obtain feelings of inadequacy. I have always felt that if you settle for less, then that is what you'll get. Admittedly, there may be times when we all must acquiesce, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have high aspirations.

Ms. Moore also opines, "most of us find something that we can tolerate." My, how dark and empty that is. It's more like a punishment than a career move. She also mentioned that our situation now is not likely as dire as during the great depression-- it's close. And while she said, "Let's hope we don't get there," hoping is not going to help us.

Our attitude as a republic must change. Right now it seems our government is treating our situation like a pool with a leak in it: just keep filling it with water while water hemorrhages through the bottom and no one will notice. We must repair the leak, not top off the pool.

Ms. Moore ends her column by asking if this hopeless feeling is unique to kids just entering the workplace or if it is affecting everyone. I don't know about everyone, but it is affecting more than ever before. Those who are fortunate enough not to completely understand the feelings. emotions and helplessness of the "in search of" crowd need to take a step back and appreciate how very lucky they are to have the security they posses in their careers.

If we are to extract something positive from this horrible point in our economic "Dante's Inferno," perhaps it will be a much greater sense of gratefulness and satisfaction for being employed, and an awareness and respect for those who are not.

Joe Miro