Letters to the Editor: Week of August 3, 2018
Sabbaths in Jerusalem
I found Sarah Tuttle-Singer’s beautifully and movingly written account of her deeply felt experiences, as she bravely journeyed into the thicket of the three Jerusalems, as validating universal truths.
Living in harmony and acceptance in a multicultural, ethnically and religiously diverse society is a difficult dream to attain. People the world over have tried for millennia to find systems of governance that would achieve such a desirable outcome. Yet, it’s a fact that humans are inherently tribal beings. They thrive in their own communities of shared values, beliefs and common aspirations. Even as time and circumstances have evolved, the ideas of the necessity of coexistence, it’s a constant struggle.
Baron Cohen Sinks to New Depths
Journal writer Eli Fink claims that comedian Sasha Baron Cohen has exposed “the fringe elements in our society” in his new series, “Who Is America?”
Cohen has exposed what he really is: an arrogant, unfunny elitist desperate to shore up his diminishing media market presence.
It isn’t funny to skewer innocent people, regardless of their political views. Cohen is not a comic but a boorish bully.
Arthur Christopher Schaper
Tikkun Olam and Judaism
Gil Troy, in his review of Jonathan Neumann’s book “To Heal the World?” points to the author’s concern that tikkun olam “can lure Jews away from a rich, authentic Judaism.” Rich, authentic Jewish teaching abounds in the imperative to help those in need. As Troy himself observes, “tikkun olam is one of a series of Jewish values, visions and virtues.”
Since 2006, BJE Impact: Center for Jewish Service Learning has, in partnership with the Jewish Federation, helped schools, youth groups and camps connect tikkun olam action with Jewish learning and values through consultation and coaching. BJE also runs multiple, weeklong summer day camp sessions, BJE Teen Service Corps, enabling middle school and high school teens to engage in tikkun olam activities combined with Jewish learning and reflection.
Builders of Jewish Education
Kudos for Gil Troy’s piece on Jonathan Newmann’s “To Heal the World?”
At times, it does take an outsider to make the cogent point that leftism has invaded the Reform, Conservative, and now even the Orthodox factions of American Jewry. This brings home Dennis Prager’s point that leftism is the fastest growing religion in the world.
Question: What do we do about it?
The wise and venerable Rabbi Irving Greenberg once taught us that our current pluralistic environment offered an opportunity for each stream of Judaism to expand its bandwidth:
Orthodoxy could benefit from a dose of liberal tikkun olam and liberal Judaism could deepen its commitment to Talmud Torah (Torah learning) and shmirat mitzvot (mitzvah observance).
The present struggle between Jewish universalists and particularists exemplified by the counterpoints that appeared in the Journal make Greenberg’s longstanding observation all the more poignant and timely.
And I can vouch for the fact that, to paraphrase Paul Simon, the “words of the prophets (the urgent call to act justly) rarely appeared on the walls of the beit midrash.”
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
Director Emeritus, UCLA Hillel
Think, Don’t Tweet
I completely agree with David Suissa’s column about thinking (“Thinking About Thinking,” July 20). But why are you “expected to contribute” to Twitter “all day long”? No doubt tweeting less would be good for all of us.
ICE and the Democrats
David Suissa is concerned by the self-destructive power of the two words uttered by the radical left — “abolish ICE” — and its potentially disastrous implications for the future of the Democratic Party (“Two Words Democrats May Regret,” July 27). However, there are many more two-word labels that portend bad omens: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young, Marxist anti-Israel representative in New York comes to mind, among many other factors.
Identifying as Jews
Excellent column by Karen Lehman Bloch (“We, the Israelites,” July 27). I could not agree more with her point of view. Racism has a strong social class-conflict background. I live in Argentina, a country that has very few African-looking citizens but very strong racist traditions. The “Blacks” are always the “others,” regardless of who looks darker. In the case of Jews, we used to be the Blacks of Eastern Europe but, all of a sudden, when we got to America, we magically became white.
Was that because we became somehow “richer,” like they say in Brazil? Because we moved up in the social ladder? Magic works! My zayde (zichrono livracha) used to be called “Moishe der Paraguaye” when he came from Russia to Buenos Aires because he was very dark, and two generations later, I believe myself to be blond haired (I don’t have too much hair left) but my daughters agree that I have dark hair (I still don’t agree).
We have a very deep trauma with skin color. We have been killed by the millions for not matching the race standards of old Europe (or for not matching the social class position they wanted us to belong to) and we desperately fight against our self-hate trying to show empathy or not when others are discriminated against as we used to be. I believe that rescuing the concept of an “Israelite Nation” will help us to heal some of these wounds in our soul.
Thank you, Karen, a wonderfully written column. May your assertions come to be seen as a blessing to all the family of Israel.
Facebook on Holocaust Denial
On the one hand, as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says that people should be allowed to “express themselves even if they get things wrong.” Meanwhile, he stresses that he does not want Facebook to serve as a platform for harming others (“Jewish Groups Slam Zuckerberg for Refusing to Take Down Holocaust Denial Content From Facebook,” posted online July 18).
On the other hand, Anti-Defamation League National Director Jonathan Greenblatt believes that Facebook should take a harder line on Holocaust denial, labelling it “a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites.”
Recognizing the power of the press, I would liken the Holocaust denials published in Facebook and other social networks as examples of shouting, “Fire!” in a crowded theater. No good can come of it. Most likely, it will harm the pursuit of peace in our world by inspiring deadly terrorism against Israel and Jews throughout the world.