Hillary and the Heights

Peter Noel, in an article headlined "Hillary 'Banned' in Crown Heights" [August 31], reported that a spokesman for the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council expressed various views about the probable Senate race between Hillary Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani. We are surprised that the Voice did not verify that this information was in fact the viewpoint of the Council.

Chanina Sperlin, the reported spokesman, did not speak in the name of the Council but rather as a private individual. (In addition, in a personal communication to me, he expressed dismay and surprise at some of the quotes attributed to him.) Mr. Sperlin is a well-known and respected community leader, and we find it difficult to imagine him espousing the views attributed to him.

As the elected representatives of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, it is our obligation and responsibility to make the needs of our community known to public officials. The Council has always welcomed and met with any and all officials and politicians who have expressed a desire to meet with us. We will continue to do so. Specifically, we will meet with Mrs. Clinton if she so desires.

The Crown Heights Jewish community has enjoyed a good relationship with Mayor Giuliani's administration. Along with the rest of the city's citizens, we have benefited from many of his policies and innovations, and we admire his leadership. Certainly, anyone who runs against him is aware that they will be facing a candidate with a most formidable record of public service.

The Council also has enjoyed a good relationship with our local lected representatives, including Assembly Member Clarence Norman Jr. and Council Member Una Clarke. We intend to continue working together to positively affect all the residents of our neighborhood.

Our relationship with former mayor David Dinkins is well known. Since the Crown Heights riots in 1991, we have been working with many individuals and organizations in the community to ensure continued racial harmony and positive neighborhood growth. We are proud of our relationship with our neighbors and look upon Crown Heights as a model that demonstrates how diverse people can meld into one harmonious community.

Michoel Chazan, Chairman, Board of Directors
Crown Heights Jewish Community Council

Missed the Point (Man)

Peter Noel must have been desperate for a story to quote Chanina Sperlin and label him a "point man for the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council." While the Council wields considerable influence over the Lubavitcher community, Mr. Sperlin is by no means its "point man." This is true, even if Mr. Sperlin claims, "Anybody who wants a meeting comes through me."

It is true that Hillary Clinton will not get a fair shake in Crown Heights. Her liberalism and past statements on Israel, combined with Rudy Giuliani's popularity within the community, will not win the First Lady many votes. But Mrs. Clinton's record on women's issues and children's issues, combined with recent reports that she leaned on federal investigators to begin probing the 1994 fatal shooting of Ari Halberstam and the wounding of another Hasidic student on the Brooklyn Bridge, may have earned her a meeting with Ari's mother, Devorah Halberstam, and the very powerful and influential N'shei U'bnos Chabad, the Lubavitch women's movement.

It is sad that Mr. Noel allowed the klein keppeled (small-minded) Mr. Sperlin to besmirch the community, and chose not to confirm or validate his personal opinions with the head of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council or any of its other members.

Yaakov Arnold

Huff and Puff

I am amazed and amused that one of your critics would dismiss a piece of theater on the grounds of second-hand smoke ["Two Visions of Victim Mentality Collide Across a Century," September 7]. Elizabeth Zimmer should have left. She should not have to suffer for art. However, thanks for staying. Any press is good press.


Paule Turner (Duchess), Performance Artist
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Elizabeth Zimmer replies: I would hardly call my review of Duchess's She's Out of Her Tree a dismissal. Space considerations prevented a more detailed analysis of his piece. I rarely leave a performance early, but his character's puffing and vamping, barely inches from the audience, left me sorely tempted.

Lynch for Lunch

Does writing for The Village Voice prompt scribes to react positively only to kinky or cool? Amy Taubin ["Fall Film Preview," August 31] gushes lyrically over the sordid story of Brandon Teena, then goes Saturday Evening Postal over the Norman Rockwellian epic The Straight Story. The film that I saw in preview was a profound, moving piece about coming to terms with one's own mortality and setting priorities straight. Showing a dark drama beneath the surface of a placid-seeming American landscape, David Lynch looks down the double-barreled shotgun of old age, frailty, and impending death in his characteristically unblinking fashion. And by the way, Alvin Straight did not drive across three states, as Taubin wrote in her mini review. From Laurens, Iowa, to just across the Wisconsin border is roughly three-quarters of one state. On a lawnmower tractor, it was more than enough. Pay attention, Amy!

Richard Cuccaro

Amy Taubin replies: The real-life story of Alvin Straight could have been made into an interesting and moving movie. David Lynch, however, gave Straight all the humanity of a 70-plus person in an over-the-counter drug commercial.

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