To the editor:

I’ve just come across an impassioned letter to the editor [May 31] in which Joel Sprayreger, Esq., refers to me in fascinating terms: “Let him hear leftspeak, and the knees start jerking….This is proven by Studs’s venerative reference to Bertie Russell, the looney Brit don who advocated unilateral disarmament in the 1950s.”

Joel Sprayreger, Esq.’s fervor was impelled by my letter re the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [May 17]. I had expressed sympathy for the Not in Our Name group. I had naively thought I was following the precepts of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who said something about beating our swords into plowshares and studying war no more.

To further compound my stupidity, I believed Albert Einstein, a fellow Jew, when he observed that since the day the atom was split the world has changed, irrevocably, except for one thing: the way we think. We must think anew, he said, or we’re in the soup.

So, you can see, dear reader, the pickle I’m in: choosing Isaiah and Einstein as against Joel Sprayreger, Esq. I realize that anyone who appends an Esq. after his signature is a figure of some importance.

In referring to “Bertie Russell, the looney Brit don,” I had the awed feeling that Joel Sprayreger, Esq., was on familiar terms with the philosopher. Not only was JS, Esq., an important man, he was a learned one, too. Boy, oh, boy!

One further point: “the looney Brit don” had joined Albert Einstein in issuing a joint proclamation during the most frigid days of the cold war, again paraphrasing Isaiah. Now I am faced with an even greater dilemma: agreeing with Isaiah, Einstein, and Russell as against the scholarly Esquire. The three may not match Joel Sprayreger, Esq.’s passion nor authoritative voice, but they may have a point or two.

OK, no more horsing around. First, the obvious, as though it need be said. The Jews are among the most compassionate and caring people of our species; always, down through the ages, they have sided with the dispossessed, as they themselves had been for so long dispossessed, i.e., their role in the civil rights movement of the 60s. However, they, as do all faiths, have their share of oafs and clowns. In the case of Joel Sprayreger, Esq., we have an indignant one.

One last piquant note. Joel (I have the temerity of referring to him by his first name because of a casual acquaintanceship) refers to the Tribune’s “leftist view toward Israel.” I had no idea that the Trib had gone left. Oh, my God. Fats Waller said it all long ago: One never knows, do one?

Studs Terkel