September 24, 2018

Letters to the editor: Open Orthodoxy, SSFL and Brandeis-Bardin, Jews in the Poultry business

Orthodoxy for All?

David Suissa wrote an interesting cover story called “Can Open Orthodoxy Help Revive Judaism?” (Nov. 13). Open Orthodoxy can be beneficial because Judaism can modernize with the changing world around it.  Some laws in religious Judaism are dated and do not make as much sense now as they did so many years ago.  As a structure, Open Orthodoxy is more inclusive of all people, opening up to discussions with other denominations of Judaism as well as other faiths. This is a good way to educate and show people that Judaism is willing to be flexible and grow with the outside world while still maintaining its traditions.

Joseph Sassoon, Beverly Hills

David Suissa’s Jewish Journal cover story envisioned Open Orthodoxy as a sort of Chabad-for-the-rest-of-us. Suissa called Chabad “the outreach arm for ultra-Orthodox Judaism,” which is a gross misunderstanding (mischaracterization?) of what Chabad is.

Since the Lubavitcher Rebbe began sending shluchim (emissaries) around the world in the 1950s, Chabad has rejected labels such as Reform and Conservative and certainly ultra-Orthodox (seriously, does anyone self-identify as “ultra”?) and instead treats every Jew the same: with respect and devotion.

Suissa writes, “Open Orthodoxy could be especially appealing to a new generation that welcomes and expects a more open and inclusive Judaism, including, not least, a leadership role for women.”

But Chabad women already play major leadership roles. Shluchim come to communities in married pairs, and the woman’s responsibilities can range from running schools to organizing programs for the disabled to administering large budgets.

If Suissa is looking for Open Orthodoxy to be a Chabad-style group that embraces Jews of all genders, backgrounds and practices — with complete love and acceptance — he need look no further. We already have such a Chabad-style movement.

It’s called Chabad.

David Benkof, St. Louis.

David Suissa responds: The Lubavitcher Rebbe never claimed that Chabad had a monopoly on Jewish outreach. Within its halachic boundaries and with a wide open heart, Chabad has brought more Torah and mitzvot to the world than any other movement. Open Orthodoxy is different because it pushes the halachic envelope. As I wrote in my piece, this allows for progressive Orthodox innovations such as women’s prayer services and female clergy. If these innovations can bring more Jews to Judaism, what’s not to like? 

Contamination of Information

The Journal articles on Brandeis-Bardin (“Transparent,” “NBC Investigation Reopens Contamination Question at SoCal Jewish Camp,” Nov. 13) touch on an important part of the ongoing controversy over the cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL). For many years, L.A. and Ventura counties have been inundated with horror stories about the risks posed to communities surrounding SSFL. These are the same stories repeated by NBC4-TV. However, the health risks are greatly exaggerated. Over the past 20 years, there have been statements from the EPA, the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR) of the CDC and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) that there is no evidence of offsite health effects from the site. 

In 2014, I published a study for the SSFL Community Advisory Group, of which I am a member. The study reviewed the previous evaluations of offsite health effects from SSFL. Everyone who looked at the cancer registry data concluded that there is no statistical evidence connecting SSFL to offsite cancers. 

Last year, I petitioned ATSDR to revisit SSFL and complete the study they performed in 1999. This year, ATSDR accepted my petition, and then those people in the NBC4-TV segments and their political supporters attacked me and ATSDR in an attempt to stop the evaluation now that site operations have ceased and the contamination is fully characterized.

Abraham Weitzberg, Woodland Hills

Fine-Feathered Families

I really enjoyed Edmon Rodman’s article in the Jewish Journal discussing Jews in the poultry business (“Birds of a Feather — Jews in the Poultry Business,” Nov. 13).  

Harry Eisen (founder of Norco Ranch) was my grandfather, and it means a lot that Rodman mentioned him and his contributions to the egg business in his article. He was a close friend of the Zacky family, who attended my bar mitzvah. My grandmother Hilda is still alive. 

Michael Rubinstein, Beverly Hills

correction

An article about the arraignment of Sholom D. Levitansky (“Rabbi Charged with Felony Sex Abuse Pleads Not Guilty,” Nov. 13) included an editor’s error in introducing a statement by the defendant’s lawyer. The sentence should have said: “Any time there’s a delay in reporting allegations, ‘the narrative of that accusation needs to be investigated.’ ”