Having read--and reread--Alexander Charns' confession of his grandfather's anti-Semitism [First Person, May 2], and the anti-Semitism of many Polish Catholics, I'm floored. Not by the history--my ancestors were Polish Jews, and I'm familiar with that history. No, what I'm floored, impressed, and a little unnerved by, is the tremendous guilt that Charns feels on behalf of Polish Catholics, including his own family. And his family actually helped Jews during the war.
Just a little background of my own: My dad and I recently learned that various members of his family (a grandmother and cousins he'd never met) were murdered by the Nazis in Pilzno, Poland, in 1943. Nevertheless, it doesn't seem fair for Charns to bear a burden of guilt for the Poles who let that happen, just as it would be grossly unfair for me to claim moral superiority for being descended from victims.
What Charns claims as his "penance"--to continually remind everyone that in this country we are all "equally human and precious under the law"--I see, rather, as the example that he and I can set together. I actually know Alex Charns just a little bit. Our children are classmates at day care. Unlike our ancestors, in this country Alex and I can be equals, and therefore friends, as our children already are. The example that we and our children set together should be the reminder, to ourselves and to the bigots and xenophobes among us, of what America, at its best, is all about.
--KATHY KAUFMAN, CHAPEL HILL
The inside cover photo for last week's Casa issue listed the wrong artist in the caption. Pam Smith is standing beside artwork by Steve Cote.