Not impressed by holiday charity

I realize I’m pretty much alone in my anger over the applause the media has bestowed on the fantasy Santas who have paid off layaway items intended as Christmas presents for people they don’t know.

I was brought up with the understanding that if you can’t afford something, you don’t buy it. For big-ticket items like homes and cars where whole payments are not possible, then there is payment with interest. That’s how our economy works. Even then, the recent real estate bust was, in measure, due to people buying homes they knew they couldn’t afford.

The layaway items were not necessities. They were gifts the giver couldn’t pay for at the time of purchase. Would a child’s life be ruined if he couldn’t be given the latest electronic app or toy? If the parents have a loving home, the child will get over the disappointment of not receiving the TV toy of the week.

Harking back to depression years, Christmas gifts were clothes to replace what had been outgrown, and stocking stuffers were crayons and candy from the 5 & 10. No one complained.

At work a colleague once announced in May that she had finally paid off her Christmas bills. I thought the pleasure of a gift to me would be totally negated if I knew that the giver struggled for six months to cover the cost.

This consumer hysteria offends and saddens me. The concept of delayed satisfaction is unknown. The media “good fairies” would be wiser to give their money to, say, a soup kitchen that provides one meal a day to the homeless and indigent. How about supporting an after-school program for children? The long-term results are incalculable.

A meal is here today, gone tomorrow and with children you have to wait so long for the results. Alas, no instant gratification. So un-American.

Maggie Wolman
Mt. Airy

On the Three Wise Men

Your recent article by Jon Landau, “The Three Wise Men” [Dec. 22], about the little-known Quaker mission to Nazi-controlled Germany to advocate for Jewish refugees, helps us to appreciate the terrible dilemmas of those dark days.

There were too few efforts in the 1930s, such as this Quaker “appeal to the Gestapo” and too few results in the face of such violent repression.

The “Three Wise Men,” working under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Philadelphia and in consultation with the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, could do little to overcome the anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic climate within the United States, much less dissuade the Nazi-led hatred of Jews in Germany. It is not surprising that so few were saved.

The Berlin trip of the “Three Wise Men” and efforts of the AFSC to overcome the anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic climate within the United States, were part of a larger Quaker program that grew as the horror of the Nazi drive to overtake Europe became evident.

The effort eventually included a network of Quaker aid offices at several locations on the continent, as well as children’s transports, emigration assistance and support for Jews and political refugees who had fled Germany but were still at risk in other parts of Europe.

Recalling the Chestnut Hill Quaker angle to this story, it should be noted that Clarence Pickett was head of the AFSC at that time and coordinated the “Three Wise Men” delegation to Berlin.  The Pickett Mastery School in Germantown carries his name.

Jack Malinowski
W. Mt. Airy


Suggestion for Magarity space

Regarding the controversy about the transformation of the old Magarity Ford property, the potential for more foot traffic on the Avenue from Fresh Market is minimal. You grocery shop and go home with your food – nobody puts those bags of perishables in the car and wanders around shopping.

A much better use of that space would have been a design center with one-stop shopping for furniture, carpets, tiles, etc. That would encourage foot traffic and shoppers from a wider area.

Meredith Sonderskov
Chestnut Hill


Local is lauded but not Caruso

I thank the Chestnut Hill Local for publishing the article I submitted about Valentin Radu and VoxAmaDeus that appeared in the Dec. 14 issue. Largely as a result of that article, more than 500 people attended the Dec. 17 concert of the “Messiah” at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. I asked people at the concert why they came, and some of the ones I spoke to said, “because of the article in the paper.”

I disagree, however, with Michael Caruso’s critical comments about Radu’s conducting of the “Messiah” in his Dec. 22 article, “Traditional and original Xmas concerts at Hill church.” Caruso wrote that Radu, by “melodramatically slowing down toward the end of individual numbers and then stopping altogether right before the final chord causes untold damage to the fabric of the music and the delivery of the text.” He called the “Messiah” a “holiday warhorse” and added, “The audience offered supporting yet not intense applause.”

Having sat in a pew close to the altar, I challenge the accuracy of his comments about the response of the audience. Two friends who attended this concert agreed with me that the audience at the conclusion immediately rose as one, giving Radu and VoxAmaDeus a standing ovation. It was loud and intense. I witnessed a man in his 70s shaking Valentin’s hand and saying, “I have seen many performances of the “Messiah,” but this “Messiah” moved me more than any other. It brought tears to my eyes.”

Caruso criticized Radu’s passion as “melodrama.” Radu recognizes that the “Messiah” is not a “holiday warhorse” but is true each Christmas season to the renewal in the hearts and minds of many people, whether they are fully conscious of it or not, of Jesus’ birth and Christ’s presence now in the world.

Similar criticisms by New York critics were leveled at Leonard Bernstein’s passionate playing. Bernstein said that conducting great music by the masters was an act of love. The heartfelt response of over 500 people at Christmas time to the “Messiah” as conducted by Radu contradicts Michael Caruso’s secular nitpicking.

Ronald Petrou
Mt. Airy