Letters from our readers.
Nov. 13 1998 3:30 AM

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Not All Jewish Women Are Like Lewinsky

The last paragraph of the Nov. 9 "Today's Papers" struck a discordant note with us. After cataloging pejoratives associated with Jewish women, which a group is trying to counter in the media, the paragraph asserts that Monica Lewinsky fits them all. This implies, unfairly and falsely, that Lewinsky is somehow representative of Jewish women. That implication is snide and condescending. Surely you wouldn't be so flippant with a list of pejoratives associated with another minority group--blacks or Hispanics, for instance--or pretend that one negatively perceived member of the group stands for the whole. The "joke" was anti-Semitic and unfunny. It is particularly annoying to read this on the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

--Maud Lavin and Locke BowmanChicago

Scott Shuger responds: I did not create the list of pejoratives thought to be associated in the public mind with Jewish women; the group of Jewish women did. I also wrote that eradicating that stereotype was a fine goal. I did not write that Monica Lewinsky was representative of Jewish women. I wrote that she fit the group's list and that, given the tremendous exposure she's had this year, this certainly reinforces the stereotype and therefore makes the group's aim more difficult to achieve. To pretend that Monica is not a problem for the image of Jewish women is like pretending that O.J. Simpson is not a problem for the image of black men. To notice such things is not bigotry. But wanting to ignore them is.


Holes in the DNA

Your Nov. 2 "Chatterbox" on Jefferson and the DNA tests is erroneous. The DNA tests only prove that a Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemings' last son. But that could include any of Jefferson's six male cousins--the sons of his father's brother. The more important finding is that the DNA tests prove Jefferson--or any other Jefferson--could not be the father of Hemings' first son, the one who was born after she returned from France with Thomas Jefferson and his family, pregnant at the time.

Historically, the Hemings family always claimed that this first son was fathered by Jefferson. The interesting question now is who was the father of her first son, since he could not have been a Jefferson. And since we can't trace the paternity of her other children because there are no male descendants, the likelihood that the paternity was from other men is as likely as any other possible answer, now that we know that she had her first child by a non-Jefferson family member, i.e., that she had children by at least two different men from different families.

Finally, the largest obstacle in proving that it was Thomas Jefferson who was the father of Hemings' last son is the fact that Jefferson was 65 years old at that time, with no record of potency for almost two decades. You jump to conclusions too quickly, forgetting that scientific answers such as DNA tests are most reliable in providing negative answers--and often ambiguous in providing positive answers.


--Harold L. OrbachManhattan, Kan.


Michael Lewis is a breath of fresh air in his "Dispatches" on the Microsoft case. He reports it to us mortals in a funny and understandable way without putting in so much information that it becomes unintelligible. He is a breath of fresh air. I also think it is commendable that his articles, although unfavorable to Microsoft in the main, are being hosted on a Microsoft-owned site. This is refreshing.

--Mary NugentCrumlin, Northern Ireland

Guatemala Gringos

I realize that "The Breakfast Table" feature is supposed to be light, breezy, and chatter-driven, but little did I realize that Kathie Lee Gifford was doing double duty this week. It is heartening to know that despite not having reaped the obvious benefits of British colonialism, Guatemala still represents a cheap silver buying opportunity for fat American wallets. Hope the hurricane hasn't ruined the shopping down there!

--Shalini Devi GujavartyJersey City, N.J.

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