MICHAEL JACKSON: Memories of my Childhood


This column originally appeared in OLAM Magazine, a journal of Jewish spirituality.  Reprinted here with permission of the editor, David Suissa. To read David Suissa’s reflection on meeting Jackson, click here.

When I look back on my childhood, it is not an idyllic landscape of memories. My relationship with my father was strained, and my childhood was an emotionally difficult time for me. I began performing when I was five years old, and my father – a tough man – pushed my brothers and me hard, from the earliest age, to be the best performers we could be.

Although we all worked hard to perform, he never really complimented me. If I did a great show, he would tell me it was a good show. And if I did an OK show, he didn’t say anything at all. He seemed intent, above all else, on making us a commercial success. And at that he was more than adept. My father was a managerial genius, and my brothers and I owe our professional success, in no small measure, to the forceful way he pushed us. He trained me as a showman, and under his guidance I couldn’t miss a step.

Those of you who are familiar with the Jackson Five know that since I began performing at that tender age I haven’t stopped dancing or singing. But while performing and making music undoubtedly remain among my greatest joys, when I was young I wanted more than anything else to be a typical little boy. I wanted to build tree houses, have water balloon fights and play hide-n-seek with my friends. But fate had it otherwise, and all I could do was envy the laughter and playtime that seemed to be going on all around me.

There was no respite from my professional life. But on Sundays I would go “Pioneering”, the term used for the missionary work that Jehovah’s Witnesses do. It was then that I was able to see the magic of other people’s childhood.

Since I was already a celebrity, I had to don a disguise of fat suit, wig, beard and glasses, and we would spend the day in the suburbs of Southern California, going door-to-door or making the rounds of shopping malls, distributing our Watchtower magazine. I loved to set foot in all those regular suburban houses and catch sight of the shag rugs and La-Z-Boy armchairs, kids playing Monopoly and grandmas babysitting and all those wonderful, ordinary and starry scenes of everyday life. Many, I know, would argue that these things are no big deal. But to me they were mesmerizing – because they symbolized, to me, a home life that I seemed to be missing.

My father was not openly affectionate with us, but he would show his love in different ways. I remember once when I was about four years old, we were at a little carnival and he picked me up and put me on a pony. It was a tiny gesture, probably something he forgot five minutes later. But because of that one moment, I have this special place in my heart for him. Because that’s how kids are, the little things mean so much to them and for me, that one moment meant everything. It was a gesture that showed his caring, and his love. I only experienced it that one time, but it made me feel really good, about him and the world.

And I have other memories too, of other gestures, however imperfect, that showed his love for us. When I was a kid, I had a real sweet tooth – we all did. I loved eating glazed doughnuts, and my father knew that. So every few weeks I would come downstairs in the morning and there on the kitchen counter was a bag of glazed doughnuts – no note, no explanation, just the doughnuts. It was like a fairy godmother had visited our kitchen. It was like Santa Claus. Sometimes, I would think about staying up late so I could see him leave them there, but as with Santa Claus, I didn’t want to ruin the magic, for fear that he would never do it again.

I think now that my father had to leave the doughnuts secretly at night so that no one would catch him with his guard down. He was scared of human emotion, he didn’t understand it, or know how to deal with it. But, he did know doughnuts.

And when I allow the floodgates to open up, there are other memories that come rushing back, memories of other tiny gestures, however imperfect, that showed that he did what he could.

With hindsight and maturity, I have come to see that even my father’s harshness was a kind of love. An imperfect love, sure, but love nonetheless. He pushed me because he loved me. He pushed me because he wanted me to have more than he EVER had, and he wanted my life to be better than his EVER was.

It has taken me a long time to realize this, but now I feel the resentments of my childhood are finally being put to rest. My bitterness has been replaced by blessing, and in place of my anger, I have found absolution. And with this knowledge, that my father loved his children, I have found peace.

Who We Are


Three times over the past six years that I’ve been editing this paper, I’ve come to work in the morning to find an old man waiting for me. A different man each time, though I remember all of them being thin and frail.

The men had walked past the receptionist and taken a seat on one of the upholstered chairs across from my desk. They had no appointment; they hadn’t called me first. They came and sat, and waited however long they had to.

They all wanted the same thing, though every conversation was slightly different. One presented me with a book he had just published and demanded that the paper review it. Another looked up at me when I walked in — to my office — and said, “I have a very important story.”

One of them, whose name I’ve forgotten, carried a photo. “I want you to see this,” he said.

It was a photo of him and his closest friends, taken in Germany just before the war. The boys in it were young men, dressed in suits, handsome and confident. Only one of them had survived — the one sitting in my office.

“You need to print this,” he said.

We spoke for a while about his concentration camp experiences, about what he knew of the fates of the others. But he kept his eye on the ball: “So, when will you print my picture?”

I said I wasn’t sure. The paper was divided into sections, I explained, community news, features, national and world news, opinion, singles, obituaries.

“I know,” he said, “I read it.”

I couldn’t think offhand where a picture like his would fit in. We run a page showing people in nice clothes receiving awards or handing out checks, and we run a photo spread of people celebrating weddings, engagements, bar mitzvahs. He and his friends were clearly celebrating, but it was 60 years ago, and then all but one of them were murdered.

I asked our art director to scan the photo, and I told the man I would think it over. Then I showed the man from my office.

He called me almost weekly after that. He was more difficult to deal with than the other two visitors. The one with the self-published book had written a Holocaust memoir. Over the years, we’d received dozens of such tomes, and I told the man what I’d told others with similar works — that we’d try hard to find a way to get something into the paper. I think we did.

The second man said that for months he’d been reading my column and figured it was time I listen to what was on his mind. I did, and he left.

But the man with the photo was relentless. Didn’t I understand how important it was to publish it? It should really be on the cover. What was taking so long? Occasionally, like many contributors, he would point out that his photo was much more important than some other article we ran. The singles columns maddened him: “You have room for some poor girl’s story about breaking up with her shaygetz but not for my photo?”

I got snappish. The singles column was for singles, I said. We couldn’t very well run a picture of him and his friends in it, could we? And the rest of the paper was stuffed with real news, about terrorism and Israel and the local community. I mean, we’re a newspaper, not the Shoah Foundation.

He hung up, and he didn’t call after that, and I lost his phone number.

After a while, I started to feel awful. What right did I have to say no to a man like that? He survived the Nazis, he saw everybody he loved destroyed, and all he wanted was to insert a fragment of their ripped-away existence into the public record, to give his lost friends a flicker of recognition after such a brutal death.

And this editor, this pisher with a corner office, couldn’t find space in any of those all-important sections to run a single, lousy snapshot.

So we ran the photo.

We put it among the photos of happy women and men in evening gowns and tuxedos attending charity banquets and handing out money and getting honorary degrees. Staring out from the midst of those penguin pictures, as we call them, are the faces of these vibrant young men from another era, who had also known a world of such wealth, and community, and acceptance, and then came face to face with its opposite.

It turned out the art director had written down the man’s number. I called and told him to look for his picture in the paper.

“I saw it,” he said. “I thought it could have been bigger.”

Why tell this story now, in the issue that marks our 20th year in print?

I guess it’s my realization — not for the first time — that a Jewish community paper is a different animal. We report on contemporary Jewish life, with its urgent or simply necessary issues, but our pages also can relate and even embody the joyful, self-satisfied or frivolous. And underlying every edition, every article, every word, is the understanding that we are rooted in something much deeper — our faith and traditions — and also something much darker — our often tragic past.

This convergence of meaning and meaningfulness, this is what I love about this paper and my job. Sometimes it arrives literally in the form of an old man wanting his book reviewed, or an old man determined to get his point across, or an old man with a picture to share with the world.

But one way or another, each day when I come to work, it is all there, waiting for me in my office.

 

Letters


Ordinary Child
Dear Rabbi Feinstein: Thank you for your article on “Perfectly Imperfect” (May 5). As educators, we wholeheartedly appreciate your position on making space for the ordinary child.

In our experience as day school educators, we struggle with balancing the parents’ desires for their child’s academic excellence, while supporting each student’s individual capabilities. We make space for our students to be three-dimensional, recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, and encouraging them to stretch where they can.

As you so eloquently say, “God offers a process of repair and renewal and return.” One of the challenges we encounter with perfection is encouraging students to make their next best choice and to reflect on the lessons of their mistakes. As students acknowledge their mistakes and make choices that increase their wisdom, they are making meaning from their experiences that will enhance their lives.

Kedushah and menschlikheit reside very closely in our hearts and in our teachings with both students and parents. We want our students to hear the voices of empathy, generosity and curiosity as they make positive and healthy choices throughout their lives.

Amy Bryman
Cheryl Hersh, Middle School Principal
Inez Tiger, Middle School Counselor Pressman Academy

Jew-by-Choice
As a convert to Judaism, it was reassuring to read your series of articles on those like me who chose to become Jews (“Did It Stick?” June 2). As a lapsed Catholic with many Jewish friends growing up on Long Island, early on, I was attracted to the ethics and worldly focus of Judaism. Following a course of study at Temple Emanuel in New York City, I converted in 1967, and my first wife and I raised our three children in the Jewish tradition.

In 1992 on the eve of her bat mitzvah, my youngest daughter asked if I would be bar mitzvahed with her. That glorious day came to pass at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, with Rabbi Harvey Fields observing that in the 130-year history of the temple, there was no record of a father and daughter having a b’nai mitzvah. At the party afterward, when Tessa and I greeted everyone, I said that I had checked around the room, and I was the only person who had had a first holy communion and a bar mitzvah.

In my life in Los Angeles with my wife, Wendy, inspired by Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller at UCLA and through my work with the Progressive Jewish Alliance, enriched by interfaith activities, Judaism has strengthened and complimented my struggle for civil liberties, human rights, peace and justice.

Stephen F Rohde
Los Angeles

John Fishel
I read with interest recently your column reported by Marc Ballon, concerning John Fishel (“A Private Man,” May 26). What he left out in his analysis is John Fischel’s relationship with his professional staff.

For me, he was both a role model and a mentor. He provided an opportunity for me to learn a great deal about Jewish communal service, about leadership and dedication to the Jewish people. He was forceful in his ability to set forward a vision for those of us who worked with him concerning his expectations of our performance and his commitment to excellence.

We strived together to work toward a better Los Angeles Jewish community, and we did so under the guiding leadership of a man who dedicated himself toward not only building a stronger Los Angeles community but a stronger Jewish community worldwide.

From these very important core values we took a tremendous amount of inspiration in carrying out our daily activities. He should be commended for all that he has done on behalf of the Jewish community and continues to do.

I know that I would not be in the place that I am today without John Fischel’s interest in who I was, what I wanted to achieve and how I could create a path toward my own professional leadership. I am proud to say that I served for eight years as a senior executive under his tutelage, and that today with his help, I am able to serve as a large city executive in the Jewish community of South Palm Beach County.

William S. Bernstein
Boca Raton, Fla.

Mischaracterizations
[Raphael J.] Sonenshein’s logic and mischaracterizations undermine his arguments (“Israel: Between Iraq and a Hard Place,” May 26). Sonenshein writes, “Wars often start because of such mutual misperceptions.”

The first such misperception that could lead to war is that the Bush administration “might even believe that confrontation [with Iran] would increase their public support.” Yet he also writes that the Bush administration is “capable of taking action with or without public support.”

The second such misperception that could lead to war is that the Iranians “have concluded that the [Bush] administration is so weakened that it can be challenged easily.” This may be true, but it’s not due to the actions of the Bush administration (no matter how incompetent). Rather, it is due to the constant bombardment by the media (including Sonenshein) attacking the Bush administration as being incompetent.

Israel is facing real dangers. The Journal could be a valuable contributor to real solutions by publishing more articles with serious ideas for debate and less articles for Bush-bashing.

Kenny Laitin
Los Angeles

Pearl Foundation
The fact that the Daniel Pearl Foundation is — as stated in your June 2 article (“Quartet of Movies to Tell Pearl’s Story” — trying “to address the root causes of his murder” by promoting “cross-cultural understanding” between the Western and Muslim worlds is very sad. Sad because those of us who haven’t suffered such a loss cannot imagine the grief suffered by Pearl’s parents and how they’re trying to deal with it, and equally sad because people of good will in the Western world still haven’t grasped that one cannot address the “root causes” of jihadist Islam (meaning to make them stop hating and killing Jews and other infidels) by “journalism, music and innovative communication,” any more than Nazism’s desire to slaughter Jews and enslave humanity could have been addressed by such means.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Correction
In the June 2 issue, “Quartet of Movies to Tell Pearl’s Story,” the Daniel Pearl photo should have been credited to the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

Wandering Jew misquoted Irving Brecher in the story, “A Man for All Seasonings,” by Hank Rosenfeld (June 2). Brecher did not say he loved Langer’s deli “for their double-baked rye” bread. He said he loved the deli for its pastrami. We regret the error.

 

Letters


One Proud Teacher

I’m a teacher at Shalhevet Middle School. I’ve been teaching the Holocaust to my eighth-grade students for the past three years.

Over a two-month period we tackled questions such as: “How was it possible for Hitler to gain such power?” “Where were the American Jews?” “Would Israel be in creation today had the Holocaust not happened?” and much more. My students also write a 10-page research paper on a topic relating to the Holocaust and become mini-experts on their topics.

I’m writing to you in order to thank you for publishing Adam Deutsch’s article “Fading Numbers” (Tribe, April 7) regarding Holocaust education. After reading the article, I realized that I could do even more. I went to my principals and proposed that next school year, instead of teaching eighth-grade history four times a week, I teach regular eighth-grade history three times a week, and a class on the Holocaust once a week. I told them about your recent article and that Holocaust education will become more prominent in the schools over the next few years. They were thrilled with the idea!

So, I just wanted to let you know of the difference that your article is already making. You should feel proud.

Ilana Zadok
Shalhevet Middle School

Miss Israel

I love Israel and its many beautiful places and people. I feel proud when The Journal has a cover story on Israel (“Beautiful Israel,” May 5). But if you want to be a community newspaper, then have some sensitivity and do not put an immodestly clothed woman on your cover so Orthodox Jews are uncomfortable bringing the paper into their homes. I somehow feel you could have saluted Miss Israel and Yom Ha’Atzmaut in a more tasteful way for all in the community to enjoy and be proud.

Pearl Taylor
Sherman Oaks

The Poland Scoop

Your article “The Shadows of Another Time” (April 21), states that Rachel Kadish went to Poland to reclaim real estate owned by her family. According to the report, her last look at Poland was in 2001. Then she published her original piece claiming that there are no Jews in Krakow, only non-Jews trading in Jewish merchandise. It appears she does not speak the language and does not seem to have made a real effort to make contact with the Jews of Krakow. Those Jews today number in the thousands.

If the Jews in Poland depend on the support of Catholic Poles, this is in some measure due to the fact that the international Jewish community has largely ignored the existence — and therefore the needs — of Jews living in Poland.

I would like to extend to Kadish an invitation to come to Poland again and feel the renewed spirit of Jews in Warsaw, in Lublin and in Krakow. I promise her that she will leave better informed and reassured that Judaism in Poland is alive and well. Then her report might appear in an anthology with a different title: “The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Optimism.”

Severyn Ashkenazy
Beit Warszawa
Warsaw, Poland

Mixed on March

Theodore Bikel complains of the “tunnel vision” of American Jews. which prevents them from appreciating the “scores” of young Jews in Poland who are rediscovering Jewish culture (Letters, April 28). While one, of course, appreciates the small communities that have been established in Poland and elsewhere, it is sad beyond words to remark the difference between these communities and what was destroyed. The March has placed the emphasis where history has mandated that it be placed.

Stephanie London
Beverly Hills

More on Munich

Three words for [“Munich”] are powerful, powerful, powerful (“Weisz Gets Gold; ‘Munich’ Out in the Cold” March 10). [Steven] Spielberg should be given a medal for bringing this piece of history to the screen. Too many people today have no knowledge of that tragedy. It needed to be documented on film. Stop nit-picking.

Barbara Sommer
Los Angeles

To read more letters this week, visit www.jewishjournal.com.THE JEWISH JOURNAL welcomes letters from all readers. Letters should be no more than 200 words and must include a valid name, address and phone number. Letters sent via e-mail must not contain attachments. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used, but names will be withheld on request. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Mail: The Jewish Journal, Letters, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010; e-mail: letters@jewishjournal.com; or fax: (213) 368-1684

 

Not Supposed to Be This Way


“I really loved your story,” Tante Mina said to me in a nearly inaudible gasp.

She looked at me and it gave me hope, for her eyes still held that sparkle, that fight, that desire to live. As I walked out of the critical care unit of the hospital to let the next family member into the room, I had no way of knowing that those would be the last words I would hear her speak.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

When I called Tante Mina on a Thursday to let her know that the article about her sister who’d died in a concentration camp had come out in The Jewish Journal (“The Leah Doll,” March 17), I didn’t expect to find her so confused and disoriented. I handed the phone to my mother, expecting that I’d talk to Tante Mina the next day, after she’d had some rest and felt better.

It all could wait a day; on Friday she would go and gather up an armful of The Jewish Journal. On Friday she would sit in the shade and read the amazing story of her doll. It could wait a day for her to walk around to the other residents at the Jewish Home for the Aging, sharing the article with them.

“Look, look at what one of my kinkerlach wrote. It’s a true story. Here, read. See that, I’m the Tante Mina. It’s me! Imagine,” she would say to her friends as she moved from table to table, sharing her delight and mine as well.

Yes, our house was supposed to be inundated with phone calls, but happy phone calls. Phone calls about how much they loved the story, how it touched their hearts. Especially a call or two from Tante Mina, asking when I was coming to visit so that she could bring me around to her friends and introduce me as “the writer.” The calls weren’t supposed to be updating us on Tante Mina’s condition, a condition that came along so quickly we hardly knew how to process the news.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The article was supposed to open up our hearts and encourage those in my family who have suffered to speak — to tell the stories that are so hard for them to tell. These conversations were supposed to happen in the comfort of one of our homes, or around one of our Shabbat tables. They weren’t supposed to happen in the confines of a small hospital waiting area, with extra chairs lining every inch of space that the fire code would allow. They weren’t supposed to happen at her funeral, just days after she was admitted to the hospital — but they did.

We sat — tissue box circulating — with quivering lips and sad hearts and talked. I heard of how Tante Mina survived the Holocaust, how she would sneak out of the camps and present herself as a peasant girl to work for food and then sneak that food back in. I learned that it was because of Tante Mina that we all ended up living in Los Angeles.

According to her, “If you’re going to start all over again, you might as well have good weather!”

I heard family histories that I had always wanted to hear. We sat, talked, listened and really learned.

It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. Yet it did.

In mourning our family matriarch, we are also honoring and celebrating her life. She was the one who made our family so strong, close-knit and most of all — magical. Yes, many hearts are saddened by her loss, but they will surely rise again. Laughter can push through tears just as surely as the happiness that Tante Mina brought to all of our lives will push through this time of sorrow.

Though Tante Mina has rejoined her sister Leah and the rest of her family lost in the Holocaust, and perhaps even more members of the family whom we will never know about, she will not become a silent memory. She will live on through pictures, stories, tears and laughter. Remembrances that may be painful now, but with each repetition will slowly lose the acidity of sorrow and regain, little by little, the joy of her life.

This article is dedicated in loving memory beyond even what words can say to our Tante Mina. May her soul be at rest and may her spirit continue to live among her friends and family.

Caroline Cobrin is a writer living in Van Nuys.

 

A Shalhevet Response


 

“What’s Next for Shalhevet?” by Julie Gruenbaum Fax appeared in these pages on Feb. 4. Reactions of Shalhevet

parents, faculty, students, alumni, administrators and, indeed, even its rivals, have ranged from rage and outrage to tears and dismay.

From the beginning of the article where Jerry Friedman, Shalhevet’s founder and the owner of a Jaguar with “vanity plates,” “kvells” in a weekly school town hall meeting — Why does he kvell? What transpired in Town Hall to give him such pride? — and then leaves to “nail” a donation, the stage is set.

Shalhevet, like all Jewish schools, is forced to raise funds in order to survive. But fundraising isn’t the least bit sexy: it is arduous, time-consuming and, more often than not, frustrating. “Nailing a donor,” on the other hand, with its implication of something less than savory, is. And what of the Jaguar? Is Friedman better defined by the car he drives or by the fleet of such vehicles he could have purchased with the support he has given Shalhevet and other Jewish organizations throughout the years? Would there be comfort in having our philanthropists live humbly?

The article departs from Friedman and goes on to repeat a vulgar, slanderous term that had been used by a teacher in a feeder school to describe Shalhevet’s young women. The initial use of this slur constituted lashon harah (gossip); its gratuitous repetition in the body of the article constitutes not only lashon harah, but rechilus (slander) as well. It was this that elicited tears from many of our seventh- and eighth-grade girls and outrage from their high school counterparts. And while, as the article states, “a number of younger siblings of Shalhevet graduates have gone … to YULA,” a number of younger siblings of YULA graduates are in attendance at Shalhevet.

The article proceeds to quote or paraphrase dissatisfied parents, all of whom spoke only on the condition of anonymity. What of the many satisfied parents who would gladly have allowed their names to appear? What of the parents who are elated that their children have found their voice, their love for Israel and their moral compass at Shalhevet? What of the parents of Shalhevet alumni whose children are in Israeli yeshivot or living as Jews on elite campuses throughout the United States? The parents of Shalhevet students who are recognized not only for their grades, but for their contributions to the community? The parents whose children write about Shalhevet in their graduate school applications? And what of the parents who have the vision and independence to be sending their younger children to Shalhevet next year and the year after that and the year after that?

Shalhevet is not perfect. Only 13 years old, the school is learning, and sometimes hurting, from its mistakes. Admissions criteria are more stringent and the financial aid process has been codified to meet the standards of other schools in the Los Angeles Jewish school system. We have changed our policy of relying upon Israeli rebbeyim, whose terms are necessarily limited in order to hire a permanent head of Judaic studies who will grow over time with the school. And Friedman, recognizing the increasing complexity of the school he founded, is seeking to share its governance with others who will perpetuate his superb vision. But Shalhevet has never been a “free-for-all.” Nor did Yale-bound senior Leor Hackel, chair of the school’s agenda committee, feel that he was fairly treated when, after an extensive interview, only a glib joke that he made toward the end was quoted in the article.

It would seem that Shalhevet should be inured to slights from The Jewish Journal. Several years ago, when the school dealt openly with a group of students who had used drugs, The Journal covered the school’s heroic responses fairly, but failed to recognize its leadership role in developing a plan of action for all schools in the Bureau of Jewish Education. All schools — were they to be honest — must deal with substance abuse among their students. Nevertheless, despite Shalhevet’s mature, professional response to the incident, The Journal predisposed readers to expect something else entirely by the article’s title — “Scandal” — scrolled across the cover in smoke. When, at the height of the Intifada, Shalhevet students spent their summer in Israel performing chesed (acts of loving kindness) with victims of terrorism, the caption under their photograph identified them as YULA students. Most recently, although Shalhevet students have mounted a major fundraising campaign to assist victims of genocide in the Sudan and even brought an escaped Sudanese slave to address the school community, other schools’ efforts were extolled in The Journal. Shalhevet’s were not.

Last week in the school’s town hall meeting, a student aptly stated that this paper is far more “Journal” than “Jewish” in its treatment of Shalhevet. This community needs The Jewish Journal; we need it to report fairly, objectively and Jewishly.

The bad news is that good news doesn’t sell papers. Sensationalized articles do. The good news is that Shalhevet is alive and well and ever changing for the better.

Editor’s Note: The balanced portrayal of the school as put forth in the article gave a fair picture of the many positive attributes of the school and its students, the challenges facing the school and the actions it is taking to meet those challenges. Our intention was never to hurt or offend Shalhevet students, and we apologize if any students, parents or administrators took accurate reports of these inane and widely known comments as anything other than a sorry reflection on their originators. The Jewish Journal and Julie Gruenbaum Fax continue to believe that Shalhevet is a vital and valued part of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

Beatrice Levavi is director of admissions for Shalhevet.

 

Letters to the Editor


 

Shalhevet’s Future

Let’s look 20 years into the future. Who will be our community leaders (“What’s Next for Shalhevet?” Feb. 4)? They will, by and large, be students from schools like Shalhevet High School and Middle School, because there they learn that when a community paper prints a four-letter word supposedly spoken about them by some misguided, anonymous person, the students are to work with their school’s external relations committee to address the problem.

They learn through weekly town hall meetings that having a voice means taking responsibility and leading a group can be hard work.

Their school is constantly under attack by misguided community members that occupy themselves with how to destroy another’s vision, rather than building for the future.

These students are in training for adulthood, and they will thank Jerry Friedman for creating a positive environment that nurtures their growth.

Had there been such schools in Europe 80 years ago, there may have been many more survivors. Sure, the school has challenges, as does every institution, and the administration is actively working through them.

But the editors who reviewed this article also have problems. They have no idea that there are educational consequences to repeating cruel words about young adults in print.

Name withheld
Ph.D program,
Gevirtz Graduate School of Education
UCSB

Your recent article was a real eye-opener. Since when are unattributed quotes, name calling and gossip allowed into print? As a journalist, my editor requires I only quote sources willing to share their name. Doing any less is irresponsible to the reader and potentially slanderous to the topic.

It was amazing that the wrongdoing purportedly done by another school was put into print, let alone anonymous parents quoted. In my opinion, an apology should be printed.

Helene Lesel
Los Angeles

As parents of two current Shalhevet students, we were disappointed with the lack of balance in Julie Gruenbaum Fax’s article. She implied that all families she had spoken to believed that despite Shalhevet’s wonderful vision, the school’s problems forced families to leave.

That certainly is not the case with us, nor with most other families we know. Yes the school has weaknesses. Name one that doesn’t.

But the school’s values and dedicated and gifted teachers easily outweigh whatever problems are present. Our children not only are learning at a high level, they are participating in such enriching activities as Model U.N., high-end drama, playwriting and film studies. Unlike other Orthodox high schools, Shalhevet encourages seniors to join with the broader Jewish community in going on the March of the Living.

We love the school; our kids love the school, and your article implies that families like us simply don’t exist. We do, and we refuse to be marginalized or forgotten.

Fran and Joel Grossman
Los Angeles

This is my 11th year as a teacher at Shalhevet. I am appalled by your article, “What’s Next for Shalhevet?” Ever since I came here, I have been amazed at the supposedly religious people who commit such lashon harah against our school.

I vociferiously protest that you printed a third party’s hurtful slander on our wonderful girls. Despite a nine-and-a-half hour school day, our girls perform hours of community service in synagogues and other organizations.

Recently, two girls started a committee to aid people in Darfur. In town meeting, they made a presentation that emphasized that as Jews, we cannot [ignore] others who are persecuted. Shalhevet girls are bright, articulate and concerned with the world around them. I cherish them all.

Your writer’s heavy dependence on anonymous sources is unprofessional and biased. Who is the “prominent community leader” quoted at such length? What is this person afraid of? The implication that there would be some sort of reprisal is another form of lashon harah.

In over 25 years of teaching, I have never worked with a better faculty, staff or student body than those at Shalhevet. I am honored to work here.

Jill Beerman
Social Studies Chair
Shalhevet High School

Mating Game

As a single Jewish woman over 40 years old, I want to express my frustration, concern and disgust regarding the lack of outreach support on the part of Rabbi David Wolpe, The Los Angeles Jewish Federation, the University of Judaism, etc., in helping singles over 40 years old find spouses (“The Mating Game: What Is the Jewish Community Doing About the Singles Problem?” Feb. 11).

I began to experience this discrimination in my late 30s, when the Los Angeles singles events cut off at age 42. The problem with the arbitrary age limit is that a 45-year-old guy wants to meet women in their 20s to 40s but can’t if you cut off the age limit. A woman in her late 30s wants to meet men in their late 30s to 50s but can’t if you cut off the age limit. And a single woman in her 40s is open to meeting men in their 30s to 50s but can’t if you cut off the age limit.

Organizations such as Stephen S. Wise offer singles programs for 40s-60s. But why would a single 42-year-old woman or man want to attend? There won’t be any people in their early or mid-40s at the event.

You are all unknowingly contributing to the abundance of Jewish singles in Los Angeles, and it’s not right. Other cities don’t discriminate. Who are you to decide what age range is right for us? All singles organization should have activities for the 30-55-year-old age range.

Frustrated SJF
Los Angeles

I liked your article on the “L.A. Lonely Hearts Club” (“The Mating Game: What Is the Jewish Community Doing About the Singles Problem?”).

What about single people who are in their 50s and 60s?

Besides myself, a single female who is 61 years old, I know of several others who are around 60 who can’t seem to meet anybody.

I did the Friday night services thing and found mainly families at the services (and nobody seems to want to associate with single people); went to singles (Jewish) dances, etc. and finally gave up even dating.

It’s been quite a few years since I have gone out on a date. I live by myself, have never married, don’t have many friends, don’t go to places at night since I don’t like going out at night by myself and I will not drive freeways (I live in the San Fernando Valley).

Where are the singles groups that have people who are about 60 years old? I am not an old person or think old or even look 61.

A few years ago, I even signed up through The Jewish Journal and put an ad in the singles section of the newspaper. I met two men; both turned out to be not what they said in their ads.

At this point, I am completely out of the loop for meeting any decent, single and sincere men who are really interested in dating.

JoAnne
Sherman Oaks

Condemn Violence

Rabbi ReuvenFirestone is correct when he points out that Muslim groups have condemned acts of violence (“Rabbis, Imams Find Common Ground,” Feb. 4). Many Muslim-American groups have done so (cair-net.org/html/911statements.html).

In addition, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Web site contains a petition (Not in the Name of Islam) vigorously condemning terrorism and violence. So far, more than 687,000 Muslims have signed the petition.

Stephen Krashen Malibu Is France Hopeless?

Two recent books argue that France is not our ally (“Is France Hopeless?” Feb. 4). “The French Betrayal of America” and “Our Oldest Enemy” both explain that France sees itself as a neutral third pole (at best) between radical Islamism and the USA.

Fortunately, Jacques Chirac is now being confidently challenged as pathetic by Britain’s Tony Blair and as a failed anti-American by likely electoral challenger Nicolas Sarkozy.

Choose carefully, France. French citizens did once inspire and donate to the Statue of Liberty. They were the kind of liberty-loving fans of the United States whose ideological heirs today disdain and emigrate from a declining French nation of socialists and anti-Semites.

Larry Greenfield
Southern California Director
Republican Jewish Coalition

Rob Eshman’s article is a fairly comprehensive report on the situation in France. However it leaves out many salient points about what certain American Jewish organizations have done and continue to do to alleviate the situation.

It was the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) call for a boycott of the Cannes Film Festival to protest the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in May 2002 that really concerned the French government and initiated a change in their policies.

Even before the election which brought a new conservative government to power, President Chirac called Ariel Sharon to enlist his efforts to get the AJCongress to back off their pressure. Interesting twist where Israelis are used to pressure American Jews – the opposite of what normally happens.

Eshman is right when he reports that disaffected and nonintegrated Muslim youths have used the streets of France to play out the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Union des Patrons et Professionnels Juifs de France has made contacts with moderate Muslims, especially the Kabils, non-Arab Muslims who number more than 1 million in France who are integrated and resist violence and radical Islam.

He also is right that it is questionable whether Jews will ever be fully welcome in France. However, it is through efforts and initiatives such as the AJCongress has undertaken that will make it more possible.

Gary P. Ratner
Western Region Executive Director
American Jewish Congress

Overall, Rob Eshman’s column, “Is France Hopeless,” was quite informative. Irrespective of the premise of the article, I did disagree with the labeling of Barghouti as an activist, when in fact, he was proven guilty of multiple murders in an Israeli court of law.

Jacques Lubliner
Encino

Sour Note

In the feature by Kelly Hartog (“Project’s Tunes Hit Multicultural Notes,” Feb. 11), the article incorrectly states that Idan Raichel was of Ethiopian descent.

 

Stay Tuned


 

Last October, a man called with a complaint. Before I could ask what was the matter, he launched into a tirade about a biased and

inaccurate article. He said he couldn’t believe a serious newspaper would print such lies. He was so angry, he was this close to canceling his subscription.

I wasn’t sure which article he was referring to, so I gently asked him to be more specific. He went on to describe a piece I had absolutely no memory of.

“Are you sure you read this in The Jewish Journal?”

“The Journal?” he said. “No! This was in The Los Angeles Times.”

“The Times?” I said. “So why are you calling me?”

“Because they won’t pick up the phone!”

I tell the story often, because among other things, it says a lot about the role of community journalism. We are the paper that responds. We are the paper that can’t help but listen attentively to its readers. We are the paper that picks up the phone. My hope is that readers will keep this in mind as The Journal embarks on a new business model that is, as far as we know, unprecedented for a Jewish newspaper.

Starting Jan. 1, Journal readers who received their weekly newspaper by donating to The Jewish Federation will still be able to get it, but not as part of their Federation donation. For 18 years, The Federation purchased annual Journal subscriptions for its donors. Last year, it purchased about 20,000 of the 60,000 papers The Journal distributed each week. Beginning next week, it will no longer do so.

Readers will be able to subscribe directly to The Journal for home delivery or pick it up for free at distribution sites around Los Angeles (subscriptions and a list of sites are available at www.jewishjournal.com).

When we announced this new arrangement earlier this year, many people approached me with their condolences, as if we had been consigned to our doom. But the impetus for this change came from us — yes, from us — and I believe it is a big step forward for the paper and the community.

Granted, of the 135 Jewish community papers in North America, none has a distribution plan like ours. But Los Angeles is a Jewish community like no other, and our new model will serve it well. Most importantly, it will enable us to reach the greatest number of readers across a vast and diverse landscape. Under the previous arrangement, postal regulations limited the number of papers we could distribute for free. But free distribution has been a boon to us — bringing the paper to readers who might otherwise have no connection to Jewish life, increasing our visibility to advertisers and giving us an audience far more diverse in terms of age and background than that of almost any Jewish institution I know of.

Our goal is to reach every possible reader we can (thereby becoming, not incidentally, the largest circulation mainstream Jewish weekly in the country), and this step takes us leaps and bounds closer to achieving it.

The move also establishes The Journal as one of a handful of truly independent community Jewish newspapers. About 85 percent of Jewish papers are either owned by or sell thousands of subscriptions to federations or other major Jewish philanthropies. These arrangements provide a cushion of guaranteed income.

But even when there is little question of outside editorial influence, as at the superb New York Jewish Week or at this paper, the arrangement is less than ideal. It diverts Federation dollars from urgent philanthropy, it involves a charitable organization in a business where it has little expertise and it creates a temptation for either censorship or self-censorship, which isn’t healthy for the Jewish community.

If a Jewish paper can survive economically free of one organization or the other, it should make every attempt to do so.

Jewish newspapers have played an important role in Jewish life since the very first one was published just 70 years after the printing press was invented. As Jews dispersed, they no sooner established mikvahs and cemeteries as they did newspapers. There is no community without communication, and these papers have functioned over the centuries to deliver important news, to serve as a kind of communal bulletin board, to broadcast the teachings and values of Judaism itself.

Is the form antiquated? If anything, I believe a Jewish paper, whether delivered on newsprint or by Internet, is more important than ever.

We are a far-flung community, spread out from the South Bay to the East Valley to Thousand Oaks. We contain multitudes of different backgrounds, practices and beliefs. And The Journal is one place where we can meet each week, if only virtually, to engage in a common discussion on the things that matter so much to us. That conversation needn’t be parochial — it mustn’t be.

The crisis in Sudan and the disaster in Southeast Asia may not have a “Jewish angle,” but they do implore a Jewish response, which can be called forth and described in the pages of the Jewish press.

Since we announced our change in the business model several months ago, the response from current subscribers has been heartening. Far more Federation subscribers than we expected to took out new subscriptions. Of course, if you haven’t already done so, I hope you will, too.

But in any case, I hope you keep reading. We are heading into uncharted waters here, but we are doing so with a terrific group of journalists, sales personnel, office staff and board of directors. We also do so with a community we are so proud to be a part of, and so excited to continue serving.

 

Your Letters


Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Talmud says, “Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.” Arnold Schwarzenegger has a long record of support for the Jewish community and for Jewish causes. If anyone has earned the right to be given the benefit of the doubt that our tradition requires, he has (“Jews Split Over Arnold Victory,” Oct. 10).

Those rabbis and other Jewish “spokespeople” who rushed to condemn Schwarzenegger on the basis of an unverified statement from a book proposal stand revealed as more devoted to the Democratic Party than they are to Jewish ethical principles. I hope they remembered to include gross ingratitude and an evil tongue among their “Al Chet.”

Paul Morgan Fredrix, West Hollywood

Split on the Recall

Funny how flexible morality can be especially when coated by religion. Bill Boyarsky visits Pico-Robertson to gauge Jewish opinion on the recall (“Westside Jews Divided on Recall,” Oct. 3). He interviews eight students at an Orthodox high school and two others.

The former heartily support the recall while the latter two do not.

Boyarsky then concludes that Jews are “divided” on the recall.

Interesting — I didn’t realize such a powerful scientific sampling of Jewish opinion could lead a seasoned reporter to such a definite conclusion. As for the morality: It’s interesting how Gray Davis’ alleged cooking of the budget books could be so “immoral” to the Orthodox boys but somehow President Bush escapes such scrutiny.

Brian Wallace, Los Angeles

Teresa Strasser

Teresa Strasser’s article (“Got Closure?” Oct 3) might be appropriate for a Larry Flint publication, but for The Jewish Journal to feature it as the cover story for it’s Yom Kipper edition is obscene. Shame on the Journal for publishing an article that mocks, ridicules and desecrates the most important day in the Jewish calendar.

Phyllis Herskovitz , Beverly Hills

Miss Strasser, you make me wish I was Jewish. You make Judaism that appealing.

Santiago Belandres, Via e-mail

Market Yourself Into Marriage

I read with much delight, Amy Klein’s inspection of the field guide for single women (“Market Yourself Into Marriage,” Oct. 10). With all the energy in self marketing that a woman has to put out to marry anyone, it seems to me that it would be easier to utilize this marketing expertise to build a career and invest in her own life. The return on investment is better and with less risk. I have often said that it’s easier to become a CEO of a large corporation than to marry a decent man.

Carole Medway , Tarzana

Jewish Charities

In course of reviewing findings of the philanthropic watchdog, Charity Navigator, Joe Berkofsky presents information about the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah (“Jewish Charities Get Favorable Rating,” Oct. 10). While the organization’s name and goal are correctly identified, most of the rest is counterfactual.

Irwin Katsof does not live and is not based in Los Angeles. He is not the president of Aish HaTorah. Our fundraising costs are not $.23 on the dollar.

Fundraising costs are not separately broken out in our budget, but the sum total of our fundraising and administrative costs, including the cost of adjunct programs, missions, and retreats comes to $.20 on the dollar.

Rabbi Nachum Braverman, Executive Director for the The Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah, Western Region

Correction

In the Sept. 30 Circuit “The IDF Meets Los Angeles,” the caption should have read: (From left) Brad Cohen, Maj. Gen. Moshe Evry Sukenik, Lenny Sands and Robert Zarnegin. The name of a speaker at the reception was Sgt. Maj. Tzahi Turman. We apologize for the errors.

In “Prisons Pay for Surge in Chaplain” (Oct. 3), the $10,000 allocation for Bibles and 12-step literature comes from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.


I read Si Frumkin’s “Why I Voted for Arnold” (Oct. 10) twice, looking in vain for a reason why he voted for Arnold. I learned that Frumkin was impressed by Schwarzenegger’s steroids-to-riches story and felt (improbably, in my view) that the governor-to-be has suffered at the hands of the media. But I saw no endorsement of his policies (or even a clue as to what they might be), nothing about his likely gubernatorial conduct and nothing about why California would be a better place with Schwarzenegger as governor rather than one of the other 134 candidates he could have voted for.

Howard Posner, Los Angeles

The critics of what Avrham Burg said in the Sept. 26 issue (“Leaders Stay Silent as Israel Collapses”), and the article several weeks before, have, I believe, missed the point.

The point here is that we can no longer point the finger outside at the Palestinians as the root of all our troubles, particularly at this time of the year. Our tradition demands that we reflect on us, not on “others,” not even God. We may wrestle with God, but in the end it’s our own self that we must do battle with — every day. That I believe is what Burg, by his writings, is asking of us.

Bruce F. Whizin, Sherman Oaks

Cape Town Clash


A controversial conversion has reignited a dispute over Orthodox Jewish standards between South Africa’s Orthodox establishment and one of the largest Orthodox congregations in the Southern Hemisphere.

Attempts to paper over the cracks between the beit din, or the Jewish law court, the Union of Orthodox Synagogues and Cape Town’s Green and Sea Point Hebrew Congregation had been made in August. At that time, Sea Point members, who had been considering pulling out of the union to set up their own rabbinical court, decided instead to give the parties six months to work things out.

However, the issue has erupted again as the result of an article in the latest issue of Noseweek, a South African publication known for investigative journalism. The article focuses on the validity of the conversion that Karin Berman underwent before her marriage to construction magnate Saul Berman, a prominent Sea Point member.

Karin Berman was married to the late Christiaan Barnard, who performed the world’s first heart transplant in 1967.

Members of the beit din reportedly told Karin Berman that they do not recognize her conversion or marriage and said the child she is expecting will not be recognized as Jewish. The credentials of the Paris rabbi who converted Berman were withdrawn 20 years ago, when he was discredited for having certified conversions for a fee, Noseweek reported.

However, Sea Point’s U.S.-born rabbi, Elihu Jacob Steinhorn, insisted that the conversion was valid. Noseweek reported further that the rabbi who married the Bermans in Rome said that he had accepted everything as kosher, based on an introduction from Steinhorn. Steinhorn denied the rabbi’s statement.

The conversion squabble, however, masks deeper issues that have been dividing the South African Orthodox world for some time. Steinhorn told Noseweek that the conversion was "the least of the issues" involved in the dispute.

The heart of the dispute centers on whether Sea Point must observe the standards of halacha demanded by the country’s chief rabbinate in Johannesburg, or whether it can adopt looser standards.

"The fact of the matter is that in the Orthodox world today outside of South Africa, which is very provincial, very closed and very British, there’s a whole world called modern Orthodoxy," Steinhorn said.

"We in Sea Point are its only representative in South Africa," he continued. Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris "can say what he likes, but he does not represent modern Orthodoxy."

Steinhorn disputed claims that the fervently Orthodox community was growing stronger in South Africa, dismissing them as "public relations." The fervently Orthodox, he said, are "disenfranchising most of Judaism."

The Noseweek article mentioned that Harris objected to an invitation that Sea Point extended to Tzili Reisenberger, an Israeli-born theologian at the University of Cape Town, to address the congregation.

"We see nothing wrong with inviting a professor who teaches Bible at the university to come and give a shiur [lesson]. That’s part of modern Orthodoxy," Steinhorn said.

A statement attributed to Harris in Noseweek, charging that Reisenberger officiated at same-sex marriages, was "baldly untrue," said Clive Rabinowitz, Sea Point vice president. Harris later apologized to Reisenberger and retracted the accusation, admitting that his statement had been incorrect and defamatory.

But Harris described as "patent nonsense" the notion that the beit din was being "unnecessarily harsh" and using the controversial conversion to "coerce" Sea Point into stricter observance. At issue, he said, is the fact that "there’s a lot of cheating going on here," with Sea Point congregants defining for themselves what modern and centrist Orthodoxy are.

"Modern or centrist Orthodoxy is observant," Harris said. "The only differences between it and ultra-Orthodoxy lie in attitudes to non-Jewish people and attitudes to general scholarship. They are not differences about the observance of Torah, and this is where both Steinhorn" and a prominent congregant, Judge Dennis Davis, "have got it wrong."

In that sense, Harris continued, Sea Point "is cheating by putting their own definition on modern Orthodoxy."

Harris described as nonsense the article’s assertion that Sea Point was "the last outpost of ‘liberal Orthodoxy,’" resisting "the flood of ‘fundamentalist pietude’ washing south from Johannesburg."

"They are defining Orthodoxy in their own way, and no one else in the Orthodox world will accept it," Harris said.

Rabinowitz, who proposed the resolution to disaffiliate from the union in August, said the public spat was "extremely unfortunate."

Negotiations between Sea Point and the union are "limping along," said Rabinowitz, who predicted that the talks "may yet lead to a resolution of the problems."

Steinhorn said he was not optimistic that things would be resolved between the beit din, the union and Sea Point. "We want unity," Steinhorn stressed, "but I don’t think they can live with modern Orthodoxy," he said.

Collection of Pearl’s Articles a Real Gem


"At Home in the World: Collected Writings from The Wall Street Journal" by Daniel Pearl, edited by Helen Cooper (Simon & Schuster, $24).

From this collection’s first article — "In Indian Quake, Death Haunts the Living" (2001) — Daniel Pearl’s journalistic qualities shine through.

Every reporter worth his salt — or his word processor — keeps his eyes open. But not all of us are able to distinguish life’s small ironies, those gleaming nuggets that make an article really worth reading.

Pearl, the Jewish American Wall Street Journal reporter who was brutally murdered in Pakistan in February, notes that the billboards advertising the area’s hotels ("Entertain your corporate clients in style") survived an earthquake, while those same hotels didn’t.

Nor would a lesser breed of reporter be able to discern that there are people willing to exploit the victims — and then have the courage to unmask them.

"Maybe everyone really just wants to help," Pearl notes. "But why does [a local religious leader] … already have the photo album ready a day after his visit to the razed village of Jodia? Photos of the guru distributing water barrels and talking with survivors are quickly posted on the Web site, along with an appeal for funds."

Pearl also had a keen eye for the absurd. In that vein is a 1996 article on an Iranian film on hostages ("This Film Has a Bus, Explosions and Veils: Call It Iranian Speed") that dealt not with the Americans held for 444 days in 1979-1980, but with 44 Iranian passengers held for three hours after their bus stumbled onto American helicopters getting ready for the failed 1980 rescue attempt.

Or his 1997 report on the battle between Ethiopia and Yemen, each claiming the Queen of Sheba as its own ("If Only King Solomon Were Here to Settle This Nasty Dispute").

In only a few paragraphs, Pearl could give his readers a true feeling of what life was like behind the headlines. His futile 1999 search for reconciliation between Serbs and Kosovars ("Search for Mercy Ends in Tears on Quiet Kosovo Street") is a case in point. So are his 1996 descriptions of young Iranians who, despite their government, want to visit America ("Tehran Wanderlust: Hot Item in Iran Now Is Visa to Visit U.S., Once the Great Satan") and the 1992 article on the mixed feelings of black policemen ("To Be a Black Cop Can Mean Walking a Very Fine Line").

And Pearl could plain write. The lead for his 1993 report ("Beauty Shows Turn Beastly as Sponsors Bare Lacquered Nails") — "At the age of 9, Ashley Kinard has discovered just how ugly the business of beauty can be" — is a classic. So is "This is a small town in search of a really big floor," from his 1997 piece on the making of a huge carpet in Iran ("Looming Large").

Whether Pearl "cherished truth more than anything," as his widow, Mariane, wrote in the book’s introduction, I can’t say.

Whether "he had not one shred of malice in his bones," as his father, Judea Pearl, said of him in his eulogy, I don’t know.

But after reading these excerpts from his career, it is apparent that Pearl was a good writer and an excellent reporter.

For a journalist, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Physician, Heal The Soul


Physicians played a significant role in the Holocaust, and today’s doctors can learn from the ethical failures of that period, according to an article recently published by Dr. Joel Geiderman, co-chair of the emergency department (ED) of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

"I’ve always taken an interest in the Holocaust and its lasting effects, because my mother was a survivor," Geiderman said. With 23 years of emergency medicine at Cedars-Sinai under his belt, he has always taken an interest in the philosophies of bioethics but became "passionately" involved five or six years ago. Now, he serves on the ethics committees of Cedars-Sinai and the Academy of Emergency Medicine. "Most of us know about the medical experiments, the doctors in the camps," he said, "but as I started reading about this, about the history, I was blown away."

In "Physician Complicity in the Holocaust: Historical Review and Reflections on Emergency Medicine in the 21st Century," Geiderman sets out a series of moral failures he attributes to German physicians before, during and after WWII. Published in the March issue of Academic Emergency Medicine journal, the two-part article enumerates ethical challenges requiring greater vigilance from today’s physicians.

"So much of the Holocaust is unexplainable. But when you start to break it down, step by step, it starts to make sense in a perverse way," Geiderman said. "So much of what doctors contributed to the horror came out of economic opportunism, greed and convenience."

The first part of the article traces the German medical establishment’s slippery slope, from being healers toward full participants in genocide. Starting long before Hitler came to power, Geiderman shows how German doctors embraced the false science of eugenics, or "racial hygiene." This made it easier to accept, with the rise of National Socialism, the exclusion of Jewish physicians from the practice of medicine (which also advanced many non-Jewish doctors’ careers).

When the Nazis passed the Sterilization Act, doctors not only participated in designing the program to forcibly sterilize the "genetically diseased," they exceeded the government’s goals for implementation. Throughout the regime, ordinary physicians acted as instruments of racist Nazi policies; doctors became murderers, and later made efforts to hide the truth about their activities.

In Part Two of his "Physician Complicity" article, Geiderman examines the ethical challenges faced by his colleagues in emergency medicine today. He worries about doctors being asked to serve as agents of the state, as with mandatory reporting laws for patients whose injuries might be caused by foul play or infectious disease. He considers the denial of modesty to patients when "reality television" films in an emergency room. He considers the various ways in which patients are dehumanized by their doctors, who may refer to them by room number, by their ailment or even by nasty nicknames. Economic pressures affecting the practice of medicine and technology that allows for genetic screening, testing and even genetic engineering also pass through Geiderman’s bioethical radar.

"These are not Holocaust analogies," he says of Part Two, adding that in the article, "I took a neutral stance on physician-assisted suicide. Personally, I’m against it. But I don’t think it’s useful to play the so-called Holocaust card in these debates."

The doctor compares his research and writings to reflection on the Holocaust in other fields. "In ‘Au Revoir les Enfants,’ the French director Louis Malle described the Holocaust through his childhood eyes in a French monastery … while others responded by building new lives or even a new nation. For me, as an emergency physician who has spent 25 years in an ED, dedicated my most recent years to the study of bioethics, and who is the son of a survivor, Part Two is the natural expression of my feelings or philosophy."

It is a decidedly practical sort of philosophy for a doctor of emergency medicine to study. "What’s become really clear to a lot of us who advocate bioethics is that you have to have considered these issues in advance," Geiderman says. "In emergency medicine, there’s not always a lot of time to call in an ethical consult." He views the product of his historical and ethical research as timeless. "Unlike hard science, where the science will change, this will never change."

Though his research relies on previously published materials, and his description of physician complicity in the Holocaust is carefully documented, Geiderman says some peer reviews of his work came back with incredulous comments — doctors who could not believe such events could have happened. He writes: "The keys to preventing such a recurrence lie in understanding and teaching the lessons of the past; in speaking, teaching and writing about ethics; in incorporating ethical principles and professionalism into our medical practices, and in being willing to stand up and make personal sacrifices for the ethical principles in which we believe."

And, as he says, "Certain things need to be learned over and over again."

Searching Jewish L.A.


The Jewish Journal web site at www.jewishjournal.com now features a search engine that allows users to find articles that have appeared in past issues of the newspaper. The engine, pictured at right, can search by author, keyword, date or title.

To access the engine, click on the words “Search Our Site” as they appear on our homepage. Then, simply enter a search term, click enter, then click on the result. The full text of the article will appear, often along with the photo that accompanied the story in print.

The engine will search issues from 1998 to the present, as well as some from 1997. We are working to create an online library of every issue from the Journal’s inception, in 1985. Our goal is to make our search engine the most complete online database for Los Angeles Jewish community news and archival information.

Log on: it’s free, it’s fast, and it’s for you.

All the News


It all began when Times columnist Al Martinez wrote a column about the events at the Pacific Palisades high school. For those of you unfamiliar with the brouhaha, a number of students took it upon themselves to publish an underground paper for no other purpose than to attack some teachers they disliked. In the course of five issues, they accused their targets of being prostitutes and pedophiles. When they promised to print the addresses and phone numbers of the teachers in an upcoming edition, the administration finally stepped in. They suspended 10 students, as I understand it, and transferred the two ringleaders.In his piece, Martinez accused the grown-ups of over-reacting. He felt that a case could be made for both sides, and wrote that, as usual, the truth was to be found someplace between the two opposing factions.Having known Martinez for a few years, I felt justified in writing him a “Dear Al” letter, addressed to his home. In it, I suggested that the students (and their parents) had gotten off lightly. The combination of blatant lies and obvious malice would make them all quite vulnerable to lawsuits, the laws of libel being what they are.

As for the statement that the truth, as usual, was to be found lurking somewhere between the two sides, I found it wholly ingenuous. I gave Martinez the benefit of the doubt, stating in my note that I didn’t believe he believed that the truth was invariably subject to compromise. After all, carried to its logical extreme, it would mean that the truth was to be found somewhere between those who claimed that 6 million Jews were murdered by Hitler and those who insist the Holocaust never occurred.

Well, imagine my surprise the following week when I opened the Sunday times and read in Martinez’s column the following rebuttal: “One writer, in a stretch beyond belief, challenged my assumption that the truth of the situation lay somewhere between the antagonistic factions. He wrote, ‘You might as well suggest that the truth lies somewhere between those who believe the Holocaust occurred and those who claim that no Jews were gassed in the ovens.’

“I didn’t even bother to respond.”

It’s true, he didn’t respond. What’s false is that during the course of the week, he saw fit to alter what he had originally written. The truth “as usual” was transformed into the truth “of the situation.”

Had Martinez written that line in the first place, I would have still disagreed with him, as I don’t believe that being transferred to a new school is too harsh a penalty for falsely accusing someone of being a child molester. But I would never have brought up the Holocaust to make my point.

It’s true that Martinez refrained from identifying me in print. He simply set me up as a straw man whom he could easily and self-righteously knock down. But I have to suspect that, in conversation, he identified me to any number of people.

In case you’re wondering, I wrote a letter to the editor and one to Al Martinez, but they both chose to ignore my response.

None of us can take comfort in knowing that revisionism is alive and flourishing at Second and Spring.

Burt Prelutsky has written for The New York Times and numerous magazines. A noted writer for television, he has written scripts for TV series including “Diagnosis: Murder” and “MASH.”

Article Links


Zarnow’s Zingers Read here

A Misunderstood Genius Read here

A Tightknit Read here

Making Difference Read here

Don’t Judge Read here

Eastward Ho! Read here