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Dear Editor:

Upon arriving in Chicago in 1970 I was surprised to find the Jewish community separated by nationality and money in a way (Standard Club v. Covenant Club) not familiar to a kid from the Yiddishkeit community of survivors that thrived in the boroughs of the great city of New York.

Now, over 30 years later, the erudite and seemingly right-wing attorney Joel Sprayregen (Letters, May 31) has demonstrated the continued existence of the sad and tragic cultural game “Who Is the Better Jew?”

As an ardent admirer of Studs and a mostly unadmiring reader of the Tribune, I was in awe of Ms. Peres’s courage in acting on her beliefs [Hot Type, May 3]. If Mr. Sprayregen wants to take a mindless “my country right or wrong” stance toward Israel, that is his prerogative. But to suggest that any other view is traitorous–or its author anti-Semitic–is out-of-bounds.

Many reasonable people (including some in the U.S. administration) believe Yasir Arafat, for better or worse, is the recognized representative of the Palestinian people and cannot, therefore, be written off as “irrelevant” by Israeli leaders. Many reasonable people (including Israelis) criticize the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Neither of these positions makes someone “pro-Arafat,” as Mr. Sprayregen surely knows.

Similarly, although Studs Terkel is more than competent to defend himself, I believe Mr. Sprayregen’s attack on him was beyond the pale. His implication that Studs doesn’t have the right to call himself a Jew because he doesn’t hold the same political opinions as Mr. Sprayregen is despicable. His implication that Studs is an anti-Semite (“a posthumous supporter of Colonel McCormick’s views about Jews”) is obscene. Does Mr. Sprayregen also believe prochoice means proabortion?

In any event, Mr. Sprayregen, obviously sincere in his beliefs, should never forget the value of free thought. Jewish people should embrace each other’s views, and their rights to disclose them! Should Studs accept Mr. Sprayregen’s invitation to a fund-raiser, he should prepare the other “better Jews” to listen to anything, as if it were a pinochle game at the Covenant Club (God forbid!).

Jeff Sussman,lawyer