COUNTER-POINT: Boycott the boycotters?

What a wonderful idea. Let us counteract a boycott by engaging in a boycott of our own; let us boycott the boycotters who in turn can retaliate by boycotting the boycotters of the boycott.

There are several problems with the arguments advanced in this resolution.

The opening sentence troubles me: Should we really applaud the announced plan that the Federations and Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) are about to invest millions of dollars to counteract the delegitimization and demonization of Israel. Is there any empirical evidence that this investment of funds will be effective — or any more effective than the dozens of organizations large and small that are currently fighting Israel’s delegitimization? What will they do that others have not tried to do? The Federation is dealing with it.  Perhaps the money could be better spent by feeding the hungry in Israel and at home and teaching the young.

I have been in Jewish public life for more than three decades and have seen these fads come and go; these expenditures have usually been ineffective, and once they have given the funders a sense that “we are doing something about the problem,” they are usually buried quietly, having achieved exactly nothing.

The final sentence of that opening paragraph is equally troubling, equally exaggerated: The author suggests that there will be an escalation, first boycott the West Bank, then Tel Aviv, then the Jews in New York, Los Angeles and Peoria. Get serious! We’ve been down that road and it was called Nazism, which attempted to get the Jews out of German culture; ironically, the result has been that German culture deteriorated dramatically in its world influence in music, art, literature and science. American culture was the chief beneficiary of this boycott.

The author seems to have little confidence in the quality of Jewish creativity and its integration into world culture. If the English academics were serious about boycotting Israel, they would not use their Intel chips, Windows operating systems, their Apple iPads and iPhones, their cell phones and they would refrain from inoculating their children against diseases major and minor. They are making noise, and our major mistake is to take them seriously. Challenge them to be consistent. Israel is an integrated part of world culture and of the scientific and technologically interconnected global universe. Even its enemies now make use of its products. During the oil crisis of 1973 and 1979, we thought that power in the future would lie in the control of natural resources. We live in a knowledge-based universe, and Israelis and Jews have considerable power.

The issue of delegitimization is not a public relations issue but a question of actual policy not easily counteracted even by slick PR. Republican talking point guru Frank Lutz advised Jewish leaders as to how to package the pro-Israel message. His efforts were somewhat futile.

They cannot compete with what is happening in Israel. When prominent Israeli rabbis announce that Jewish law prohibits renting apartments or homes to Arabs within Israel, we don’t need our enemies to proclaim that Zionism is racism; we have rabbinical rulings endorsing a racial policy that reminds many Jews of German policy toward the Jews in the pre-exterminationist years. Their statement was so offensive that it drew the ire of the prime minister, virtually the entire non-Israel rabbinate whether Orthodox, Charedi or Liberal, and many Israeli rabbis.

When the foreign minister addresses the United Nations and undermines the policies of his own government or when he addresses Israeli ambassadors and undercuts the policies these ambassadors are assigned to represent, what is a PR effort to achieve?

Look at who is being targeted by this resolution.

Do we really want to drive these artistic men and women out of Jewish life? They are not dependent on the community financially or creatively so our only success will be in alienating them. I have known Theodore Bikel for decades. I have marched arm in arm with him to support Soviet Jewry, to rally on behalf of the State of Israel. I have seen him act in support of Jewish causes publicly and privately. His performances in cities across the world of “Fiddler on the Roof,” his shows of Yiddish songs and the way he has comported himself as a proud, informed, passionate Jew have brought honor to the Jewish people; and now this author suggests that he not be invited to Jewish events because he insists that settlements are antithetical to the interests of the State of Israel and to the Jewish people and refuses to perform in these settlements.

I have seen the work that Frank Gehry has done to recover his Polish Jewish roots. I have reviewed his unrealized design for the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. Do we want to circle the wagons so that Jewish life welcomes only those who endorse the right wing of Likud’s policies and that a rigorous standard of political enforcement determines who is kosher and who is not kosher to participate in Jewish life? Should we read out of the Jewish community talented and committed Jews who do not support parts of the current government policy and who see a danger that the failure to relinquish the territories will lead to the Jews being a minority in the lands between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea? Some of us believe that a two-state solution is the only way that Israel can remain Jewish and democratic, that a two-state solution is as important to Israel’s future as it is to the Palestinian one.

I prefer a Jewish world in which Jews care enough about Israel to be impassioned enough about its policies and its future to shout and scream even while I personally prefer civility. And I prefer a Jewish community that welcomes men and women of talent and of diverse views that contribute to this conversation.

Michael Berenbaum is professor of Jewish studies and director of the Sigi Ziering Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Ethics at American Jewish University.

Justice Has Returned to the Justice Department

The Obama Administration has decided to drop the charges against Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, two former AIPAC officials who were to be tried under a rarely used section of the 1917 Espionage Act that makes it a crime for civilians to receive and disseminate secret information.

Recall that the information they were alleged to have received was that Iranian forces hostile to the United States and Israel were poised to kill Israelis, operating – apparently clandestinely, and most certainly with the knowledge of US forces,  in Iraq. They were allegedly told by a Defense Department official Lawrence Franklin, who was then cooperating with the government and has since pleaded guilty to security leaks,  that the Iranian threat was being down played by the US government determined to focus all attention on Iraq. He turned to them because of his concern that the US policy was misguided and that Iran was the real threat.

Rosen and Weissman attempted to ascertain the truth of the information they received, they checked with their colleagues within AIPAC,  security experts in and out of government and they went to the Israelis to inform them of the threat to Israeli operatives—as well they should.

Why was the case dropped?

The reasons are many.

Apparently the two lawyers representing Rosen and Weissman – separate lawyers, different law firms – prominent Washington attorneys Abbe Lowell and Baruch Weiss simply outperformed the government’s lawyers. They won victory after victory with regard to the evidence that could be presented, the witnesses that could be called and the burden of proof that the government would have to offer. After multiple appeals the government was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the two knew that the information they received was secret and that they knowingly acted against the interests of the United States. This was virtually an impossible threshold for the Government to prove.

The simple fact of the leak by a government official to lobbyists could easily be construed by the recipients of such information that the leak was authorized and its transmission was in the best interests of the United States.

Certainly, the avowed concern of Franklin, Rosen and Weissman that US policy toward Iraq was overshadowing the more serious issue of the Iranian threat has been vindicated by history. So the focus on Iran was indeed in the interest of the United States, albeit not as perceived by the Bush administration and its supporters at that time

Nothing has more strengthened Iran than the US invasion of Iraq.

Secondly, the case was going to be a major embarrassment to the government. It would have exposed the way business was done in Washington. Among the witnesses to be called was former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, herself a Rosen protégé at the Rand Corporation, who would have had to testify that indeed secret information was routinely shared with lobbyists and foreign policy experts in order to further US interests. It would have been interesting to see how the government would have made its case that the particular information allegedly transmitted to Rosen and Weiss violated the law. 

The case was a political non-starter. The press, lobbyists and other interested parties routinely traffic in such information. Success in Washington is, in no small part, determined by one’s access to such information, to know what will be in the news in the future and to be the bearer of secrets. From the press to the think tanks – excepting those who enjoyed seeing AIPAC in political trouble – all uniformly supported Rosen and Weissman and condemned the government for its excessive zeal in employing an arcane provision of the law that is most routinely ignored.

There are several questions for the Jewish community, most especially of AIPAC.

AIPAC did not immediately dismiss the two men, but initially used the charges against them as a fundraising opportunity.  But after legal advice presumably recommended that Rosen and Weissman be sacrificed to prevent an indictment against the organization itself, they were fired.  Then AIPAC was reluctant to pay their legal fees in a timely manner.. It tried to starve their lawyers into cutting a deal that would make AIPAC’s problem disappear.

The Israeli press criticized AIPAC for violating a cannon of Israeli ethics: Israelis don’t leave a man in the field, Israelis don’t cut and run. Nor should Jews.

AIPAC also made it difficult for others within the Jewish community to employ Rosen and Weissman. Thus, for more than five years from indictment to the dropping of charges, their lives were on hold, their financial survival imperiled. They were sidelined at the peak of their careers – sidelined and virtually silenced. Only belatedly, did some Jewish officials speak out in their defense.

Furthermore, time has only vindicated Rosen and Weissman’s insight that contrary to the group think of 2002, Iran was a greater threat, not only to Israel, but also to the United States, than Iraq.  Were AIPAC officials too close to the Bush Administration to see that reality or were they too desirous to supporting the case for war to focus attention on Iran as these two AIPAC officials saw as at least worthy of consideration?

It will be interesting as the great assemblage of the AIPAC faithful descend on Washington to see if AIPAC claims victory for the dropping of charges.

It will also be interesting to see the nature of the settlement that is worked out with Lowell and Weiss for their brilliant work and with Rosen and Weissman who lost five years of their life to charges that should not have been brought in the first place.

And let us remember what a privilege it is to have an Administration that is committed to justice, to the First Amendment right to petition one’s government and is willing to reexamine previous cases – including the case of former Senator Ted Stevens – in order to ensure that justice is done. Attorney General Holder and White House officials, who were likely to have had knowledge of such a significant decision, have done the right thing. They have shown that justice can be pursued.

But there is still one more matter for Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate. The same forces within the Justice Department that went after Rosen and Weissman must have leaked the information about the non-investigation into Congresswoman Jane Harman for allegedly having a conversation regarding Rosen and Weissman. Frustrated that these charges were going to be dropped, they did not want to go down without a fight and without once seeking to damage a patriotic American with accusations that could not be substantiated. Harman was never charged with a crime, never even investigated for a crime yet her name was bandied about as if she was. While Rosen and Weissman have been vindicated, there are still destructive forces within the Department.

New ‘Encyclopedia Judaica’ goes from Aachen to Zyrardow

The editors of the new edition of the “Encyclopaedia Judaica” confronted a whole new world.

In the more than 30 years since the first edition was published, Jewish life has been revitalized in the former communist world, Las Vegas and Atlanta

Volumes of Work

Key facts about the second edition of the “Encyclopaedia Judaica”:

  • Total entries: 21,632.
  • Total new entries: 2,664.
  • Total entry words: 15,818,675.
  • Approximate number of main body pages (excluding index volume): 17,000.
  • New bibliographical references: 30,021.
  • Longest entry: Israel, land and state, approximately 600,000 words.
  • Longest bibliography: kabbalah.
  • Most writers for a single entry: Bible – the ancient biblical translations subsection had 11 writers, one for each language (Ethiopic, Armenian, Syriac, etc.).

have become fast-growing Jewish communities and women have taken a much more active role in Jewish life — and their contributions have been increasingly recognized.

“The original edition did not take into account that 50 percent of Jews are women,” said Judith Baskin, director of the Jewish studies program at the University of Oregon and the encyclopedia’s assistant editor for women and gender.

The new edition, the encyclopedia’s second, attempts to rectify that oversight with more than 300 new entries on Jewish women, including biographical entries on well-known figures such as former U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.) and entries on lesser-known women like Beatrice Alexander, founder of the Madame Alexander doll collection, and Asenath Barzani, an Iraqi woman trained by her father in the 1600s as a Torah scholar.

These are among roughly 2,700 new entries in the new edition to be published Dec. 8 by Macmillan Reference USA and Israel’s Keter Publishing. The 22 volumes contain more than 21,000 entries on Jewish life.

A licensed, online version also will be available, but the hope is that institutions, and some individuals, will be willing to fork over $1,995 — the online version will cost a few hundred dollars more — to have everything they wanted to know about the Jews printed and at their fingertips. The comprehensiveness offered by the collection is not available in any one online source, said Jay Flynn of Thomson Gale, which owns Macmillan Reference USA.

“Certainly, you can go out and find a biography of Billy Crystal and you can read it,” Flynn said. “What we’re really trying to deliver” is accessibility and authority.

Plus, Jews buy books out of proportion to their numbers, said Michael Berenbaum, the encyclopedia’s executive editor.
“It’s the smell of leather and all that stuff,” said Berenbaum, a Holocaust scholar known for his work in creating the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

It took a lot of effort to create that “stuff.” Several years in the making, the encyclopedia relied on a worldwide team of scholars, including about 1,200 new contributors. Luckily, the field of Jewish studies has experienced exponential growth in recent years.

“You’re going to a man or woman who has devoted his or her entire life to a topic and you say, ‘Give me 500 words,'” Berenbaum said.
Those scholars pored over all the entries — from Aachen to Zyrardow — and updated 11,000 of them.

Overall, the new edition has more entries covering Jewish life in the Southern Hemisphere — Australia and South America, for example — and the sections on U.S. Jewish life and the Holocaust have been strengthened.

The dilemmas Berenbaum and his team faced on how to cover certain topics are almost talmudic. For example, how do you describe Jewish life in New York City? Their answer: Give a portrait of several neighborhoods, such as the historic German Jewish neighborhood of Washington Heights and the contemporary, heavily Orthodox neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park.

“We gave it a lot of flavor, something that the first encyclopedia was much less interested in,” Berenbaum said, though he’s quick to praise the editors of the first encyclopedia for their prodigious efforts in the pre-Internet era.

Also adding contemporary flavor to the new edition are entries discussing baseball player Shawn Green and the recent popularization of kabbalah. Not surprisingly, Israel is the largest single entry, with an entire volume devoted to the Jewish state. Coming in second is the Holocaust.

Entries on Holocaust-related matters created more questions: Should the noted Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt have her own entry or should her biography be part of an entry about the highly publicized trial in 2000 that Lipstadt won after historian David Irving sued her in a British court, claiming she defamed him in a book by calling him a Holocaust denier?

The decision? Berenbaum is cagey.

“Read the encyclopedia,” he said.

More information about the new “Encyclopaedia Judaica” is available at

A Gift From Santa’s Jewish Helpers

In the sleeper hit “Elf,” Buddy (Will Ferrell) is a lovablechildlike oaf, raised by elves, who returns to New York to find his real fatherand spread Christmas cheer. It’s a hip, witty, charming fairy tale that, likemuch of Christmas cinema, was created by Jews.

“Apparently I’m following in a grand tradition,” saidscreenwriter David Berenbaum, 33, who shares religious roots with director JonFavreau, actors James Caan (Buddy’s dad) and Edward Asner (Santa Claus).

In decades past, such movies reflected filmmakers’ longingto belong to a popular culture that excluded Jews, Favreau said. But for the”Elf” filmmakers, who grew up in more tolerant times, the outsiders’perspective isn’t part of the mix. Instead, the writer and director drew onchildhood memories of Christmastime, which included TV viewings of classicssuch as “It’s a Wonderful Life.” They feel “Elf” reflects their affection for abeloved American holiday, not a Christian one.

Berenbaum (“The Haunted Mansion”), was raised in a ReformPhiladelphia home where a menorah shared space with a Christmas tree. WhileChanukah was a religious holiday, Christmas was strictly secular: “It was neverabout Jesus, it was about Santa Claus,” the wry, friendly writer said withBuddy-like enthusiasm. “It was about the buildup of excitement andanticipation, which peaked when I got to run downstairs in my pajamas onChristmas morning, and there were presents and I was shocked and awed and therewas wrapping paper all over the place.”

For Berenbaum, a cinephile who made Super 8 films as a kid,the season was also about watching movies such as “Miracle on 34th Street” and”A Christmas Story.”

He remembered the films — and the holiday spirit — when hewas 25, living in Los Angeles and cheerful but broke in December 1995. The New York University film school graduate had relocated from Manhattan and wasrenting a cheap apartment and loading trucks, among other odd jobs, whilestruggling to sell screenplays. He felt a bit like a fish out of water,especially while experiencing the holiday season in a city of perennialsunshine and palm trees.

Watching Christmas movies, many of which are set in New York,reminded him of home; he especially related to the “fish out of water” storydepicted in the animated TV special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

“It’s about a misfit trying to find his place in the world,”said Berenbaum, who was also trying to find his place.

Nor is it coincidental that the fictional Buddy is searchingfor his father: “My dad passed away when I was 9, so it’s a theme I often workaround,” he said.

The parent-child theme, as well as the holiday connection,drew Favreau when he read Berenbaum’s hilarious but poignant script in 2001.The actor-director — previously known for edgy, independent films such as”Swingers” and “Made” — grew up in an interfaith family in New York. HisItalian Catholic father attended parochial schools; his Jewish mother, Madeleine,was so inspired by a B’nai B’rith camp that she convinced her parents to keepkosher in their Bronx home.

While neither family was initially thrilled by theinterfaith marriage, all of Favreau’s grandparents regarded Christmas as animportant holiday. His Jewish grandfather had observed it since procuring giftsfor his younger siblings so they didn’t feel left out of Yuletide fun whilegrowing up with a single mother during the Depression.

“When I was growing up, we’d have the traditional ChristmasEve dinner with my Catholic grandmother, and then Christmas morning would belox and bagels with my Jewish side,” Favreau said.

The holiday represented a joyous family time — untilFavreau’s father revealed some shocking news a few days before Christmas 1979.Madeleine Favreau had been admitted to the hospital for what 12-year-old Jonthought was an ulcer; she had kept her leukemia a secret from most people.

“My father pulled me aside and said, ‘Put on something nice,we’re going to the hospital,'” the director recalled. “I said, ‘What’s the bigdeal?’ And he said, ‘Your mother is going to die today or tomorrow.’ And I wentin, and she had gone.”

Afterward, both sides of the family banded together to makesure Favreau — who had dropped out of Hebrew school to pursue acting — became abar mitzvah.

“But Christmas went from a very happy time of the year to avery traumatic time,” he said. “Over the years, I felt like I had not only lostmy mother, I had lost Christmas.”

Time helped, as did the Jewish tradition of naming one’schild after a deceased loved one. (Favreau, who is married to a Jewish doctor,has a 2-year-old, Max, and a 7-month-old, Madeleine.)

But his mother’s death “had affected my view of Christmas,”he said. “I’d been looking for a Christmas movie, to allow me to deal with mywith my issues.” When Elf came along, he added, “I did little things to hookme.”

When Buddy flips through his late mother’s yearbook, thecamera lingers on Madeleine’s picture. Favreau — who’s also written a Chasidicgunfighter movie — moreover reworked the story to make it “a little moretender,” and an homage to New York after Sept. 11. Yet he drew on all the samecinematic inspirations: Buddy’s money-obsessed father is a kind of modern-dayScrooge; a lavishly decorated department store references “Miracle on 34thStreet” and the quaint Elf village draws on “Rudolph.”

To play the irascible but warm-hearted Santa, Favreau castgruff TV icon Asner (“Lou Grant”), who did not grow up celebrating Christmas.

“That was what the ‘other people’ did,” the74-year-old-actor told The Journal. For Asner, who was one of few Jews in hisKansas City school, the holiday reinforced his feeling of being “the outsider.”

“Everywhere there were Christmas lights and Christmas trees,and I’d go to school and everyone was singing Christmas carols, which weregorgeous to hear,” he said. “I would sing, too, except I’d keep my mouth shutwhenever we got to ‘Jesus Christ.'”

But Asner curtly dismisses those who ask why a Jewish actoris portraying Santa.

“Forget the identification with Christmas,” he said of”Elf.” “The film inculcates a spirit of togetherness, which is priceless,especially during these terrible times.”

Favreau and Berenbaum, too, have fielded the “Why is a niceJewish boy making a Christmas movie” question. “Relatives ask, ‘So when’s theChanukah film coming out,'” said Berenbaum, who did write and direct anInternet Jewish parody of the Budweiser “whassup” ads, “Shalom.” “And I’ll say,’Well, you know, Chanukah doesn’t have the same cinematic tradition asChristmas.'”

Although “Elf” revolves around the Yuletide season, Favreau — who keeps a Jewish home — feels it has Jewish values. “The holiday captureswhat is best in Judaism,” he said. “It’s about selflessness, charity and thecommunity coming together.”

“Elf” is now in theaters. Â

Your Letters

Similar Times

Michael Berenbaum, in his article “In 2003, We Are Strong” (Dec. 5), correctly points out that the situation today is considerably different from that in the 1930s. However, he is incorrect that no one currently in power has the ability for a Hitler-like final solution and Berenbaum ignores other factors which make this an incredibly dangerous time for Israel, and in turn, for Jews.

Firstly, countries now developing or in possession of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons can either precipitate a surprise attack against Israel or, more likely, have it accomplished by “terrorists,” which then give them deniability. If car bombs can be placed in Israel, how difficult would it be to have a nuclear device or other weapon of mass destruction in that car instead?

Secondly, if Israel is seriously impacted, the worldwide power of “Jews” would be severely affected as a political faction, even though individual personal power might remain intact.

Lastly, the political pressures maintained against Israel are stronger now than the national pressures were against the Jews in the 1930s. One just needs to look at the vast majority of the anti-Israel resolutions passed in the United Nations or the report on anti-Semitism not released by the European Union for proof.

There are perhaps too many unnecessary declarations of “doom,” which at times make us look like “Chicken Little,” but Berenbaum paints far too rosy a picture of today’s climate both for Israel and for Jews.

Bill Bender, Granada Hills

Berenbaum, the Holocaust scholar, is too busy dissecting the trees to see the forest. Yes, Europe today comprises democratic republics with legal protection for Jews. Yes, anti-Semitism is now a tool of the powerless, not the powerful. And yes, anti-Semitism is out of vogue — in the United States. These facts differentiate today from the 1930s. And yes, Jewish organizations should not exploit the Holocaust for fundraising. And yes, using Nazi labels against opponents shamefully cheapens the Holocaust. But how should one react when the former president of Iran speaks openly of welcoming a nuclear weapon exchange with Israel — because it would destroy Israel but only damage the Islamic world? Berenbaum offers cold war comfort: “The world of mutual-assured destruction [M.A.D.] is a far cry from Auschwitz.”

But the jihadis who hold sway in much of the Islamic world are not westerners who can be deterred by M.A.D.; they are mad. With the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons looms the horrific death of millions of Jews. That is a Holocaust. The trees are different, but the forest is as dark today as it was in 1933.

Jon E. Drucker, Beverly Hills

Michael Berenbaum responds:

Both of these writers are correct. These are indeed dangerous times and Israel is vulnerable to nuclear attack from terrorists if not from states, but I think that everyone knows that such an attack would not pass without a commensurate response from Israel.

Surely, even the most ardent supporters of the war in Iraq must realize that it has left the United States in a weakened position to respond to the nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea. And surely we know that Menachem Begin’s greatest service to peace was not Camp David, but taking out the nuclear reactor in Iraq more than two decades ago, an attack for which Israel was publicly condemned and privately cheered.

Both writers concede my basic point. These are not the ’30s. The vulnerability of the Holocaust is not the vulnerability of today. I did not contend that Jews are not vulnerable, merely that we are empowered. The more clearly we recognize it, the more empowered we may feel in confronting today’s problems today.

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller

The articles and letters regarding the unfortunate incident at UCLA involving Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller give scant attention to an important aspect of his work, and that is the setting in which it takes place. It is easy to build and man the barricades, but it is hard to build trust and engage in dialogue and an educational exchange of views. More progress can be made with tomorrow’s political, business and academic leaders by reaching out to them as Seidler-Feller and other Jewish campus professionals have done. University settings need rabbis who are not afraid to enter into the academic fray and give currency to ideas that may or may not be popular. They also need rabbis who can be multidimensional, unpredictable, show compassion to all members of the community and empower our students to learn to think for themselves and express their own ideas, rather than mimic what they have heard or merely repeat slogans.

Finally, I should say that Seidler-Feller is a treasure that the Jewish community can ill afford to squander.

Rabbi Joseph S. Topek, Hillel Foundation Director Stony Brook University

Elana Taylor’s advocacy of Rabbi Seidler-Feller remaining in his position seems to ignore an important factor that I feel is at the heart of the community’s dismay (Letters, Nov. 7). We all have “out-of-character moments” yet most of us do not resort to acts of violence. How a “rabbi” behaves, especially under stress, is part and parcel of his license to retain that title. Many of us are tired of reading stories of “rabbis” who steal, engage in obvious nepotism in business or resort to acts of violence when challenged by an opposing view. And the “spin” that usually follows is sometimes more demoralizing than the terrible deed itself. It appears that the kind of “tolerance” and “virtue” that Taylor boasts of, at least as exemplified by this rabbi, incorporates something closer to the “Do-As-I-Say-and-Not-As-I-Do-ism” that tirelessly dashes our hopes of finding true spiritual leaders within our community.

Gary Hall, Los Angeles

Accord Aggravation

The greatest lie of the Geneva accords is that Israel was “represented” at the negotiations (“Accord Allure,” Dec. 5). Yossi Beilin, the “Israeli negotiator,” is so unpopular in Israel that a year ago he was bounced from the left-wing Labor Party’s Knesset list even before elections. Now out of office, the former justice minister has prostituted himself to this European Union extravaganza, and has no doubt been paid for his services. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Beilin “agreed” to ethnically cleanse 100,000 Jews from their homes, “negotiated” the surrender of the Temple Mount, “conceded” strategic depth Israel’s generals demand and failed to achieve any substantive concessions. After all, Beilin only needed to answer to the European Union, who paid for the whole show.

Nathan D. Wirtschafter, Encino

Certainly we have a right to criticize Israeli policy, but to act against the will of the citizens of the State of Israel, to endorse an extra-governmental process orchestrated by failed politicians is a terrible act of betrayal.

Shoshi Bacon, via e-mail

Israel Not to Blame

In his Nov. 21 editorial, “Dividing Lines,” Rob Eshman wrote that if Israel maintains its presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the continuing growth of the Arab population in those territories “will force Israel to face the choice of being either a nondemocratic Jewish state or a binational state that is no longer Jewish.”

During 1995-1997, Israel withdrew from large sections of those territories and turned them over to the control of the Palestinian Authority. Today, more than 98 percent of the Palestinian Arabs live under the Palestinian Authority’s rule. Those areas are indeed “nondemocratic,” to borrow Eshman’s term — but they are nondemocratic not because of Israel, but because the Palestinian Authority is a fascist dictatorship that jails and tortures dissidents, abuses women and minorities such as Christians, desecrates non-Muslim religious sites and refuses to hold democratic elections.

Morton A. Klein, National President, Zionist Organization of America

Remember Israel’s Poor

Kudos for exposing a side of Israeli life we don’t often get to see (“Israel’s Poor Endure Tough Situation,” Nov. 28). With nearly 20 percent of the Israeli population living below the poverty line, it’s time we take a serious look at both the problem and potential solutions.

For almost 20 years, MAZON and groups like us have sought to raise awareness about the thousands of struggling Israelis who face the cruel irony of living in the land of milk and honey. And the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee-Brookdale study clearly reveals the depths of the need: With an 11 percent unemployment rate and 8 percent of households experiencing severe difficulty finding enough food, it’s no wonder that soup kitchens and food pantries across the country are reporting a drastic rise in the number of people they serve.

Whatever its cause, poverty and hunger in Israel must be addressed. And before it can be addressed, it must be acknowledged. How long will struggling Israelis have to wait?

Jeremy Deutchman, Director Communications and Development MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Los Angeles

Fritos in Bad Taste

Hunger is not a mitzvah. After reading the “From Fritos to Freedom” (Nov. 28) article, I was disappointed that you accepted this piece for Fit L.A. Many Journal readers look to this section for credible fitness information from experts in the field. This is a personal story, not advice from a nutrition expert.

While I have the utmost respect for Sandy, her story should not be offered as a healthy example for others to follow. Specifically, she stated, “… I ate my breakfast, and then a few hours later I remember feeling like I would actually starve if I didn’t put some food in my mouth.”

Her solution was to eat three meals a day and rely on God for strength instead of eating between meals when starving. As a registered dietitian, I can assure your readers that it is never healthy to starve yourself in between meals; it actually slows the metabolism, causing the body to

store fat. Eating more frequently throughout the day actually helps with appetite control, preventing overeating

at meals, increasing metabolism, promoting fat loss and lowering cholesterol.

As people under the care of qualified dietitians can attest, you can eat between meals and maintain positive associations with food — all while staying on the path of emotional and spiritual growth.

Deborah A. Klein, President Los Angeles Dietetic Association


In “Bee-witched & Bee-wildered” (Nov. 28), Harry Altman was 12 1/2 years old at the time of filming.

In “A Tale of Two Cities” (Nov. 7), Beit T’shuvah is working with the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) on the Jewish Community Justice Project. American Jewish Congress is not working with PJA on this project.