May 22, 2006

As an observant Litvak Jew, I find the events following the Satmar rebbe’s death to be deeply disturbing [“Cityside: Hats On, Gloves Off,” by Michael Powell, May 8]. These feuding Hasidim, whose very name is derived from the Hebrew word for “loving-kindness,” have forsaken all Torah law in their dollar-fueled power grab. Hiring mercenaries to shed blood on the holy Sabbath is a Torah transgression punishable by death in ancient Israel. Prohibiting mourners from visiting the graves of loved ones is an abomination and antithetical to Jewish teachings to honor the deceased. The Satmar community should spare themselves, and observant Jews everywhere, further embarrassment by searching for a righteous and holy leader rather than trying to pick sides between a bully and a fool.
—Lauren Levine, Far Rockaway, N.Y.

The Curse of the Kissels
Steve Fishman’s “Kissels of Death” [May 8] failed to tell us anything about Elaine Kissel, the mother of both boys, other than that she died. What was she like? How old were the boys when she died? How did she die? I can’t help but think that knowing more about her would have been crucial in shedding light on these two tragic lives.
—Barbara Glasser, Park Hill, N.Y.

Mr. Chow
My best friend and i published a food magazine in the summer of 1988, inspired by your magazine; an odd combination of my desire to be Tina Brown and eighties L.A. food hysteria. Amy Larocca’s “The Sayings of Chairman Chow” [May 8] sent me digging for a column called “Chow for Now,” where we reported that Chow’s then-wife, Tina, bought the entire stock of Hermès shoelaces so Chow could lace up in style: “A call to the Beverly Hills store on Rodeo confirmed our worst fears—there [were] no silk shoelaces to be had at this or presumably any other Hermès venue in the civilized world.” Mr. Chow is forever!
—Chloe Ross, West Hollywood, Calif.

Reading Wars
My second-grade class was featured in Robert Kolker’s “A Is for Apple, B Is for Brawl” [May 1]. He states that “[the students learn] by immersion, reading books of their own choosing, and when they mess up, which is often, they’re told to keep going.” The students do not acquire skills by osmosis. I felt that this statement in particular misrepresents the culture of my classroom. At P.S. 29, children are assessed regularly and read books that are appropriate for their reading level. They’re never thrown into the deep end of the pool.
—Lauren Kolbeck, Brooklyn

Julia Roberts, Star
I’m not sure what kind of mass hypnosis has been employed to create the bizarre love cult surrounding Julia Roberts, but for some reason, I am immune [“The Close-up Is Her Voodoo,” by David Edelstein, April 24]. Her career is truly a triumph of modern-day public relations. Her PR people have mastered an alchemy capable of dazzling the masses with the most mediocre of products.
—Jim Thomas, Hamilton, Ga.

It Happened Last Week
My new favorite in your magazine is “It Happened Last Week” [“Intelligencer”]. I don’t know who this Mark Adams is, but his column has been cracking my shit up for two weeks straight. In “Fantasy Islands” [May 8], it was something about Amy Fisher popping a cap into Mary Jo Buttafuoco’s head. This morning, I snorted my coffee when he dubbed Anna Nicole Smith a “spokesdoofus” [“Stunted,” May 15]. I mean, genius.
—Molly Fahner, Manhattan

Spring Cleaning
After following the instructions in your recent spring-cleaning handbook, I was inspired to sanitize my sponge by placing it in the microwave [“Spring Cleaning,” April 24]. Unfortunately, it and the microwave caught fire, filling our apartment with smoke, sounding off alarms, and summoning the Fire Department. While this is not something you recommended in your handbook, I thought I should warn anyone else trying this at home that it does not work.
—Philip Pavkov, Manhattan

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May 22, 2006