Letters to the editor: Being wrong, understanding Islamophobia and more

Benefit of the Doubt?

David Suissa has written a very interesting column on how we know what we claim to know (“What if I’m Wrong?” Jan. 8). He lists three reasons why Journal columnist Dennis Prager does not seem to express any outward doubt about his views, but I think he missed a fourth reason. 

I have found that the essential difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives think their views fall into the realm of truth and fact, while liberals understand that most issues fall into the realm of interpretation and opinion. Let me offer three examples.

Religious fundamentalists believe their views of the Bible constitute truth, not interpretation. Furthermore, they believe they alone know what God wants, thinks and feels, and that God is on their side alone. 

Second, Constitutional fundamentalists believe they alone know the correct intent of the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution. For instance, they believe their understanding of the Second Amendment is inherently correct and does not constitute interpretation, and therefore any attempt to regulate guns is inherently unconstitutional.

Third, conservatives think they alone know what makes America great. When they object to Obama’s views, it’s not just because they disagree with him, it’s because they are convinced they possess the unique truth about what makes America great. 

If Prager thinks like most conservatives, I don’t believe he has many doubts about his views.

Michael Asher, Valley Village 

Stepping Up for the Future

I love this description of the Iranian people with its “culture and disposition, its tolerant, forward-looking, gracious character” (“Top This,” Jan. 8). I have witnessed all these qualities in my own family who migrated to Israel from Iran. But I would go further than holding up the success stories of Iranian Muslims in the U.S. as models for what the people of Iran could have achieved. I would challenge any tolerant, gracious character in the Muslim world, Arab Iranian or otherwise, to solve many universal problems that even the U.S. has trouble solving. Simple example: global warming. What if the Muslims who made billions of dollars in oil revenue attempted to invest some of this money in developing solar energy? What if they would be the ones to show the world that they can think of improving the lives of future generations?

Sarah Bassilian via jewishjournal.com

Just a Vessel

The last few issues of the Jewish Journal contain several criticizing letters to the editor.

Basically, the letters state that [Rob Eshman] the publisher and editor destroyed the Journal. 

I have a completely different opinion. I think the Journal became better and I want to encourage the him to follow the journalistic path he selected.

American Jews are tremendously divided at this time. There are conservative and liberal Jews. There are pro-AIPAC, pro-J Street and Jew-hating Jews. Certainly there are Jews of other orientations I am not aware of.

All of them have different political and social views and goals. The Journal has no chance of making peace between them and pleasing all of them. I strongly believe, following the selected direction, the Journal will receive many letters from satisfied readers complimenting its job in the future.

Igor Krigman, Lynnfield, Mass.

Understanding Islamophobia

Thank you for publishing Rabbi Reuven Firestone’s column about Islamophobia (“You Are an Islamaphobe,” Jan. 1). Before reading it, I would have thought that fears about Islam were the product of, in 2015 alone, the attack on Charlie Hebdo, the attack on HyperCacher market, the shootings in Copenhagen one month later, the shooting in Garland, Texas, in May, shootings in Chattanooga in July, the stabbing of three Jews outside a Paris synagogue (October), the stabbing of a Jewish teacher in Paris (November), the mass violence in Paris (November), the San Bernardino shootings (December), and the mass sexual assault in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, not to mention the almost daily attacks in Israel.

Fortunately, Rabbi Firestone corrected this misimpression, so we now know that concerns about Islamic violence are caused by a poem, the Song of Roland, written over 900 years ago.

Mitchell Keiter, Beverly Hills

Proud Pedalers  

I congratulate Claudia Boyd-Barrett on completing her 29-mile bike adventure on Pacific Coast Highway and Highway 101 (“Swell on Wheels,” Jan. 1). And I thank her for composing and sharing such an inspiring, joyful rendition of the ride, along with those detailed, “idiot-proof” directions and tips. Count me as one who’d like to follow her lead.

I’ll certainly share the article with out-of-town guests for an activity option during their respective Southern California stays.

David Walstad, Studio City


In the Jan. 8 obituary for Teresa Susskind (Teresa Susskind, Women’s Royal Naval Service Member,94, Jan.8) Rob Pettler was listed incorrectly as Susskind’s husband. Pettler is her son-in-law and is married to her daughter, Pamela.

Letters to the editor: The evil you know, racial disparities and more

The Evil You Know …

I support the views of Rep. Adam Schiff and Rob Eshman that the present deal may be better than no deal (“What If There’s No Deal?” Aug. 7). America, in 1945, taught the world a bitter lesson in atomic warfare, explained in two words: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then, at least five other countries developed the atomic bomb. Some of them were hostile and antagonistic to each other. Yet, none dared to use it to settle international disputes. Iran is slowly learning that dollars may be better for its people than bombs.

Ken Lautman, Los Angeles  

Rob Eshman said it magnificently and fairly with clarity and courage. He left me in tears. Thank you, Rob.

Gail Heim via email

Racial Disparities: Deliberate or Ignorant?

The Jewish Journal deserves plaudits for its culturally sensitive reporting, but there were two pieces in the Aug. 7 issue that made my “race-dar” spike:

1) Steve Greenberg’s cartoon about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement: I am no supporter of BDS, but Greenberg’s decision to portray the “face” of the movement as brown is a racist distortion. BDS was created by Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, representing a people generally considered Caucasian and not measurably “browner” than the average Israeli. Since the movement’s founding, people of widely diverse backgrounds — including many Jews in and outside of Israel — have joined its ranks. Many readers will doubtless recall a recent tense family gathering in which the pros and cons of BDS were argued. I certainly do.

2) Joe Hicks’ account of the Watts Riots (“Fifty Years After ‘Burn, Baby! Burn!’ ”) excoriates the more than 30,000 rioters as “nihilists” and willful dupes of pro-violence black activists, while downplaying the role of virulently racist police practices (which he wonders were perhaps just “insensitive”). Incredibly, he wonders how a riot could possibly happen immediately after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. If he had read the other excellent Journal article on the subject by Raphael Sonenshein (“Watts: The Day the Mirror Cracked,”), he might have recalled how Californians had, the previous November, voted in Proposition 14, permitting racial discrimination in housing.

He would have us believe that legislation and affirmative action have ended racism. In fact, racially discriminatory practices are still employed on a nationwide scale in many forms. You have to get through nearly the whole article before finding Hicks’ weak disclaimer that he doesn’t think “black Americans don’t have social or cultural problems in 2015.” But he lays the blame squarely at the door of black “radicals” and their credulous liberal dupes. Note also his dismissal of voter ID laws as “not disenfranchisement,” when numerous proponents of such laws have explicitly stated their discriminatory intent. 

It is plausible to deny the disparity between these two (or more) Americas are discriminatory in intent. However, if you accidentally run over someone, they’re still dead. To look the other way because it was an accident, to fail to recognize the deep emotional pain this disparity causes, is to divide the world into “us” and “them.” It is today’s socially acceptable form of soft racism. 

Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen, Sherman Oaks

Thank you, Theo

Thank you so much for the heartfelt article about this Jewish and American icon (“Crossing Borders: A Tribute to Theo Bikel,” July 31). I was introduced to Theo by the great and talented Cantor Mike Stein and took part in a bunch of song circles with Theo. A man that gave so much to our society will leave a lasting mark on the American and Jewish people. I was honored to have been in the same room with such a giant and hear his music in such an intimate space. The Jewish people have lost one of its greatest.

Jeff Gold via email

California’s Conservation Conversation

Great piece by Glenn Yago on what California can learn from Israel in dealing with our drought (“High-Tech New Water: Next Steps for Sustainable Water Solutions in California,” Aug. 7). Now all we need are leaders who have the guts to implement 21st-century solutions. Example: Our Southland lawns look like 1950s “Father Knows Best” America. Let’s move on already.

Aviyah Farkas, Los Angeles


An article about the work of Elana Sztokman (“Let’s Talk About Sex,” Aug. 7) incorrectly stated that Sztokman moved to Modi’in in 1993; she moved to Jerusalem in 1993 and later settled in Modi’in with her family. It also stated that both she and her husband are nondenominational Jews; Sztokman has identified as “non-Orthodox” for two years, while her husband identifies as Orthodox. Sztokman’s next telecourse, “Hunger,” is one of many she will offer in the fall, not the only one. The article also suggested Sztokman only “designed curricula” for Orthodox women; she has worked with Orthodox women in many capacities.

Letters to the editor: Trevor Noah, Koreatown transportation, JFS and more

Golden Age of Expansion

I am a recently retired baby boomer who turned to Jewish Family Service’s Freda Mohr Multipurpose Center and Eichenbaum Fitness Center for reconnection to the Jewish community, which is aiding me into this life transition of retirement (“JFS Expands Its Own Heart in the Heart of L.A.,” April 3).

How excited I became after reading in the Jewish Journal of the generous, thoughtful lead gift the Gunthers, Lois and Richard, are contributing to our Jewish senior community. 

The Gunthers possess wisdom in recognizing the value a new building will have for our community on Fairfax Avenue. 

Thank you, and thank you again Mr. and Mrs. Gunther and Jewish Family Services, for we deserve to represent our growing Jewish senior population in a grand building. Many blessings.

Dakota Sands via email

More Listening, Less Talking

I’m a quiet-mouthed person. God gave us two ears and one mouth — the more to listen than to speak (“Let’s Leave Obama Out of Our Seders,” April 3). This is an excellent article with lots to think about. How about each of us has four children inside of us? We can be knowledgeable, arrogant and sometimes do not know how to ask. Maybe all of us, good and bad, have all these qualities.

Barbara N. Roff via jewishjournal.com

Comedy Conundrum

I watched Trevor Noah’s show on HBO and I found him very funny (“The Day After for Trevor Noah,” April 3). He was not politically correct, which made him funnier.

Ilbert Philips via jewishjournal.com

I believe he wouldn’t have gotten away with it if he weren’t part of a certain minority group, which he also disparages. Shame on you, Comedy Central.

Elizabeth Crawford via jewishjournal.com

Trevor Noah’s mom is biracial and Jewish. His father is Swiss, so most probably white. We don’t know any details. In apartheid South Africa, with that family composition, he must have had a bullying hard time, unless they had money and he went to a private school. His humor, if you can call it that, comes across somewhere between juvenile and sophomoric, like most tweets. I’m betting he’s insecure, not quite sure who he is or wants to be, and has layered on this obnoxious persona the same way he tried to acquire “Black American” lingo to impress the Apollo Theater audience. I wonder how that went over. They are tough customers.

Leona Rund Zions via jewishjournal.com

Hop on the Bus, Gus!

This is a terrific article and it’s wonderful that Joel Epstein included [Wilshire Boulevard] Temple’s investment in Koreatown as helping to enrich the communities that make up Los Angeles (“Stop Waiting for the Bus,” April 3). The temple is blessed to be on Wilshire Boulevard, which is well traversed by buses, and we’re especially excited to be equidistant between two subway stops (two blocks in either direction!) 

I think that today’s youth and young adults, in general, and Jewish youth and young adults as a subset, are becoming increasingly comfortable with the use of public transportation — especially if they have lived and gone to school or worked in cities where people have historically used buses, subways and trains. I see that trend among Jewish friends, family and neighbors and it gives me hope!

Karen Schetina via jewishjournal.com

Democracy or Dictatorship?

I work for La Opinion of Los Angeles. I and others here wonder why a Jewish publication would print a cartoonist’s vitriol on a regular basis of Israel’s democratically re-elected prime minister. Do you know if others at the Journal agree with Steve Greenberg’s vitriol toward Benjamin Netanyahu, and why? 

Raffi Padilla, LA Opinion

Our Children’s Keeper

I do believe what God did next — while at one time I would not have, I cannot help but believe now (“Pharaoh Said ‘No.’ You Won’t Believe What God Did Next.” April 3). And I agree that the Jews gave us much more than monotheism — God, through Jacob’s noble descendants, gave us the knowledge of the nature of God — that God isn’t an abstract, imperceptible power (though much about God is unknowable) but, according to Moses and the prophets, God is literally like us as we are in his image, and he continues to deal with us as his children.

John Zimmerman via jewishjournal.com


In the April 3 issue of the Jewish Journal, a photo caption in the Moving and Shaking section incorrectly spelled American Jewish Committee past President Fredrick S. Levin’s name. 

Democrats and Republicans again; Suissa’s Pico-Robertson ‘hood; A correction

Bill Boyarsky

Bill Boyarsky’s piece on public schools neglected to mention both Bob Hertzberg and Dr. Keith Richman’s contribution to the movement to transform Los Angeles schools (“Mayor’s Plan for Schools Gets ‘E’ for Effort,” Sept. 22) Most importantly, teachers not politicians, will be the final arbiters of whether our schools set high standards, improve and obtain excellent results or not.

David Tokofsky
Los Angeles School Board
District 5

Fire in the Hood

What David Suissa made explicit in his beautiful article we would like to make explicit (“Fire in the Hood,” Sept. 29). The bite of the ordeal we are going through as a result of the fire has been considerably softened by the love we feel around us. We are blessed. Thank you to everyone for your concern, for your help and for your prayers.

My hunch is that someday all of us who live in this community will look back at this period some day and realize that we were living through a charmed golden moment of the “West Coast exile.” David Suissa’s articles go well beyond describing our beautiful community, they help us to redefine it.

Kol Hakavod.

David, Deena, Aviva and Noa Brandes
Via e-mail

RJC vs. Dems

In the ongoing squabbling in these pages over whether Republicans or Democrats are better for Israel, letter writer Norman Epstein states that “[the American Israel Public Affairs Committee], the Republican Jewish Coalition, and the mainstream Jewish community supported congressional legislation to oppose U.S. funding of Hamas” while “Americans for Peace Now [APN] and other groups whose policies have long been discredited, lobbied for funding Hamas, confusing lawmakers.”

In reality, it is Epstein who is confused. The policies of APN, a Zionist organization supporting the survival of a secure, democratic Israel, far from being discredited, represent the mainstream of pro-Israel American Jewish opinion. APN has never lobbied for U.S. funding of Hamas. Rather, we opposed the House version of this legislation because it had nothing to do with opposing aid to Hamas (aid which is already barred under U.S. law), and everything to do with using Hamas as a pretext for banning, limiting, conditioning and sanctioning virtually every aspect of U.S. contacts with even those Palestinians who oppose Hamas. This is bad policy, for both the United States and Israel. In his confusion, Epstein also seems unaware that the House bill was opposed not only by the entirely nonpartisan APN, but also by President Bush (not generally known as an “aging Jewish liberal”), for very similar reasons to ours.Epstein also seems to have missed the fact that APN supported a more responsible version of the legislation that was eventually passed by the Senate.

Lara Friedman
Director of Policy and Government Relations
Americans for Peace Now
Washington, D.C.

I do not see the RJC speaking about Jack Abramoff and his crew of vicious vipers who have illegally stolen money right and left as they left the White House and Tom Delay’s office. I do not see the RJC talking about the medical bill that is hurting so many Jewish families and Jewish poor. Nor do they talk about the Iraq war, which has now taken as many people as were killed at the World Trade Center, nor the ineptness of the Afghan campaign. I could go on about Katrina, and the shutting out of any Democratic participation in laws that have been passed in the past years under the Republicans. And, lest I forget, the cutting of the estate tax, that the Republicans almost passed. And now look at how many Republicans were involved in blocking any mention of Sen. Mark Foley.

It is time that Jewish Democrats rise up and demand equal time, something that the Republicans have stymied in the media that used to belong to all the people.

Al Mellman
Los Angeles

Orthodox Youth

I would like to thank you for such an excellent article about a very touchy subject (“Orthodox Youth Not Immune To High-Risk Lifestyles,” Sept. 29). As a brother of Joel Bess, I watched him go through his “tough times” and to see him pull himself together is by itself unbelievable, but to start an Organization Issue Anonymous to help other kids is truly unfathomable. He doesn’t like to call it an organization because it might scare away kids; he calls it “a place to talk, eat and chill out.” Yoel (as the family calls him) has a heart of gold and I hope many more needed kids will join. Keep up the great work.

Meir Bess
Roosevelt, N.J.

Jonathan Bornstein

I read with interest Carin Davis’ article on the probable Major League Soccer (MLS) “rookie of the year,” Jonathan Bornstein of ChivasUSA (Pro Soccer Rookie Bornstein Gives Small Goals a Big Kick,” Oct. 13). From what I am told, he is deserving of all the accolades he is receiving.

He is not, however, the only Jewish soccer star playing in the MSL in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Galaxy started the season with two Jewish players, Mike Enfield and Ben Benditson. Enfield remains with the team and is a major contributor. (There were, in fact, seven Jews in the MSL at the start of the season.)Incidentally, Benny Feilhaber was not Jonathan’s only outstanding Jewish teammate as Enfield and he played together at UCLA.

Ephraim A. Moxson,
Jewish Sports Review

And Who Shall Die

Your thoughtful and thought-provoking column on military obituaries a few weeks ago inspired me. As stated in your column, few individuals within the Los Angeles Jewish community have a direct connection with a soldier, living or dead, serving in Iraq or Afghanistan (“And Who Shall Die,” Sept. 22).

When the people with power and money in our society simply don’t know the people who assume the personal risk of combat, it becomes painfully easy for the administration to sell the illusion that this war is necessary and moral.


The Other

David Myers’ message on the disengagement from Gaza is moving and powerful and wonderfully significant (“Show Gaza Sympathies to the Other,” Aug. 26). It is a call to conscience and a much-need reminder that what lies at the heart of the Jewish ethos is the conviction that the Jewish conscience has no boundaries. The Gaza settlers, the impoverished Israelis, the Arab citizens of Israel, the Palestinians — there must be a compassionate place for all of them on the walls of a Jewish heart.

Rabbi Leonard Beerman
Los Angeles

In his article, David Myers shows his universalism first. He has little sympathy for the settlers who did not take any money. Apparently, they had higher motives in not wanting to leave their homes.

Recently we watched the scenes of evacuees and soldiers. One could not help but be proud of the Israel Defense Forces as they carried out their duty with so much sympathy for the anguish of the settler. Disengagement was a wrenching experience for all of Israel. One needs time to mourn and contemplate its effect on the history of the nation.

Myers does not even allow a mourning period. He immediately chastises us for not showing empathy toward the Palestinians. He neglected to mention that Jews were evicted from all the Arab countries, leaving behind far greater wealth.

You don’t hear about these Jewish refugees. Israel did not keep them in refugee camps for more than 50 years. They were integrated into the society.

We teach children to first love themselves because only then can they love a friend or the “other.” This applies to adults, as well. In the fullness of time, the other will come to understand that the gestures of friendship which Israel has demonstrated over the years deserve to be reciprocated.

Bracha Malkin
Los Angeles

Like a Virgin

In response to Amy Klein’s column, “Like a Virgin” (Aug. 19), I would like to offer a response to the last few lines of the article: “But a 40-year-old virgin? Save it for the movies, because it’s so sad you’d have to laugh.”

While I would agree that it would appear to be atypical or uncommon to have existed on this planet for 40 years (let alone 40 days and 40 nights, as far as many people are concerned) without ever having had sexual relations with another person, I would hardly call it “sad.” Better a 40-year-old virgin (who perhaps is just selective and sensitive enough to want to wait for the right person and have a caring, more meaningful relationship with a true connection) than a 20-something who just wants to “romp around” because he/she “can” or because “everyone else is doing it. I’m sure my nearly 50-year-old male virgin friend would agree.

Name Withheld Upon Request

Claim Won’t Hold

A Nation/World brief in your Aug. 19 issue reported that entertainer Harry Belafonte recently claimed Jews were “high up in the Third Reich” (“Oy, Mr. Tallyman,” Aug. 19). After protests by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, Belafonte backtracked and admitted that “Jews weren’t ‘high up'” in the Hitler regime, but he then claimed: “Jews did have a role, some did, in the demise and brutal treatment of the Jewish people [during the Holocaust].” (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 11, 2005) Your article noted that Belafonte claimed my book, “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers,” supports his charge.

“Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers” shows that a number of people of partial Jewish ancestry served in the German military, but they did not even consider themselves Jews. Moreover, the vast majority of them were drafted — they were forced to serve Hitler just as other Jews were forced to become slave laborers in Auschwitz and elsewhere. In fact, many of them were later dismissed from the German military and sent to forced labor camps where they themselves were persecuted and some were murdered. Belafonte should take the trouble to read the books he cites, before claiming they support him. My book does not support him.

Bryan Mark Rigg
author of “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers”

Death by Oprah

I picked up The Jewish Journal, opened the back page and was drawn in by the title of an article by Annie Korzen: “Death by Oprah” (Aug. 19). I read the first paragraph, and became excited at the prospect of reading, finally, an intelligent discourse from an expert who writes about “the ugly stereotypes Jewish men have created about their wives and mothers.”

But it was all downhill after that. Rather than being a spokesperson for Jewish women, Korzen went on to prove these stereotypes by her own words and deeds, descriptions of her own behavior proving the reputed ugliness is all too true. Her piggish eating habits and self-denigrating jokes proved the opposite of what she supposedly set out to do, which is to destroy stereotypes, the reason she was invited on “Oprah.” Her so-called humor served only to further the ugly clichés about Jewish women.

What a pity, taking up two columns of a Jewish newspaper to serve the callous cause of stereotyping Jewish women, who deserve better that that. With friends like Korzen, we Jewish women don’t need enemies.

Carol Pearlman
West Hollywood


In “Classnotes: Genesis Generation” (Aug. 26), The first name of Jenna Barocas was incorrectly written as Jennifer.

Faith Remains

The Journal’s question, “After Gaza, Can Religious Jews Still Believe in Israel?” is entirely wrong (Cover Story, Aug. 12). In fact, it is quite the opposite. Ultimately, the vast majority of religious Jews will emerge with their faith in Israel intact — even if challenged by Israel’s secular administration and its surreal, morally evil expulsion plan, whereby 10,000 of Israel’s best citizens suffered unimaginable loss and pain.

As for the nonreligious Jews (not the non-observant, many of whom may well be Jews of faith), what will be the degree and quality of their belief in Israel now that we have experienced the expulsion from Gaza?

More than 1,000 proud and hugely productive Gush Katif families, a number of them nonreligious, are today homeless — adrift throughout Israel — due to unfulfilled government promises. Illustrative is the experience of certain expelled secularists who arrived at their promised quarters only to be turned away. The facility owners now lacked confidence in the government’s promise of payment. Once again, these Jews became outcasts.

Belief in God’s word and their spirituality enable the religious to say, “Next year in Jerusalem.” But will the nonreligious outcasts be able to recover belief in Israel? That is a more appropriate question.

Julian M. White
Beverly Hills

Terrorism Won

Notwithstanding the arguments of Hirsh Goodman (“Israel’s Future — Not Terrorism — Won in Gaza,” Aug. 26) on the strategic benefits and objectives for Israel of the Gaza withdrawal, the perception held almost unanimously by Palestinians is that tactics of terror have driven Israel out of Gaza. That is the only lesson that the Palestinians will draw from the Gaza withdrawal, and now they will try to apply it in the rest of Israel, with disastrous results for themselves and for many Israelis.

One might request that Goodman at least not repeat the Arab propaganda claim that Gaza is “the most populated piece of real estate in the world.” Had he devoted even a few minutes to fact-checking, Goodman would have found that, with more than 1.3 million people in 138 square miles, Gaza has a density of 9,971 persons per square mile. That is about 57 percent of the density of Hong Kong (17,377) and less than 15 percent of the density of Manhattan (66,844).

Ralph B. Kostant
Valley Village

Junk Science

Most paleontologists admit that fossils have not proven the validity of classical evolution (“Junk” Science, Aug. 12). Microfossils of bacteria occur immediately after the appearance of water on Earth. Almost 530 million years ago, with no hint in earlier fossils, the Cambrian explosion of life appeared with all the body plans represented in animal phyla extant today, simultaneously, in a single burst in the fossil record. Classes developed within each phyla, but they retained the basic body plan of their particular phylum. Animals make their sudden appearance highly specialized and fully developed, last their time and disappear essentially the same. One of the great mysteries of animal evolution is why no new phyla have appeared since the Cambrian age. These rapid staccato changes cannot be explained by purely random mutations at the molecular genetic level. Microevolution within a species has been well documented but there is no data to support macroevolution. The persistence of theories for a randomly driven evolution of life in the face of the data from molecular biology and the fossil record, both replete with evidence against it, is purely a matter of cognitive dissidence.

Dr. Sabi Israel
West Hills

Gaza Sympathies

David Myers, in his zeal to support our enemies and oppose our own interests, lied (“Show Gaza Sympathies to the Other,” Aug. 26). Houses were demolished in Gaza, Samaria, Judea and Jerusalem not “without reason.” As is well known, they were houses of terrorists, and a Turkish law, kept on the books by the British occupiers and still retained by us in our independence, decrees their razing; or houses threatening innocent civilians passing on the roads. Does the professor think that they were picked at random, destroyed on whim?

He turned truth on its head: In 1948 it was Jews in Muslim countries who were dispossessed and exiled (or hanged, as in Baghdad), not Palestinian Muslims: Some of those fled out of fear of reprisal for attacking Jews, or in obedience to the Arab high command to “clear the battlefield” for genocide of the Jews. Even so, their property was kept in trust for them until a peace settlement.

Nursing their enmity toward us for generations, they should not be “permitted back”. Every trace of their occupation of the land of Israel (as they originally called it) might well be erased. The millions of Arabs living well as Israeli citizens are there by Israeli sufferance, not by any right. They keep the peace. The refugees didn’t and don’t.

Louis Richter


Your Letters

Davis Cover

I was stunned by your recent cover cartoon depicting a hapless [Gov.] Gray Davis, pockets empty, surrounded by grasping Jewish hands trying to clean him out (Cover, May 2).

Strangely, this cartoon seems almost anti-Semitic in tone, conveying stereotypical images of greedy Jews sucking the governor, and hence the state, dry. Since I am certain that The Jewish Journal is far from an anti-Semitic periodical, I can only attribute this gaffe to a major editing oversight. I urge you to select your cover art more carefully in the future.

Jan Roberts, Canoga Park

Athens and Baghdad

Yours was a very tolerant, scholarly and (most important) a clear and understandable analysis of the state of affairs between Muslims and Jews (“Athens and Baghdad,” April 25). I have never seen it explained in a way that was so sensible to me. Using Japan after WWII as an example of a 180-degree turnaround even creates more hope and incentive.

I could go on and on … it was so thoughtful, intelligent and pro-active. I actually did go “on and on” as I’ve shared it with a number of friends and clients. Thank you again for a needed and well-done analysis.

Robert Newman, Los Angeles

Israel-Iraq Ties

Under the upbeat headline, “New Chance to Build Israel-Iraq Ties,” a story in the April 25 Journal by Matthew E. Berger of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported an apparent growing rapprochement between American Zionist groups and the Iraqi National Congress (INC), newly returned anti-Saddam exiles.

Unifying force for the alliance was said to be INC leader Ahmed Chalabi, who, according to Berger, “has forged strong ties” with the Bush administration and “has built a strong following in the American Jewish community.”

[Berger] wound up with a piece of more than 500 words. Not one of them mentioned the background of Chalabi. As detailed by Knight-Ridder’s Jonathan Landay, ex-banker Chalabi is a fugitive from justice in Jordan, where, in 1992, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison on multiple counts of embezzling hundreds of millions after the failure of his bank there.

This seems a curious omission.

Ted Berkman, Santa Barbara

‘The Pianist’

The issue is not whether “The Pianist” encompasses all the facts and/or if it was a good movie (“Polanski Hits a Sour Note in ‘Pianist,'” March 21). I am sure [Tom] Teicholz would be glad to have comments from me as one of the … Treblinka survivors.

The Russian internment camp in question, which, according to [Wladyslaw] Szpilman and [Roman] Polanski was a converted farm, in fact was a town known as Kawenzcyn that was located on the other side of Warsaw on the Vistula River. I personally spent 15 months in that camp until the entire Jewish prison population was transported to Treblinka on July 18, 1943.

I am sure that Teicholz erred by stating that after the Treblinka uprising in 1943, it was the end of the camp. In fact, it was not. Treblinka existed for practically another full year after the uprising and was finally liquidated when the last prisoners were killed on July 23, 1944.

I agree that the Nazis exploited prisoners who had certain professions and/or talent. So, Szpilman enjoyed such privileges, because of his talent with the piano.

It is not, however, realistic to state that a Jewish policeman was able to pull Szpilman from the train that was headed for Treblinka. These Jewish policemen did not have such power. In fact, they themselves wound up on the train on its way to the extermination camps when the trains were filled and ready to roll.

Fred Kort, Los Angeles


Thank you for printing F.M. Black’s interview with Israeli novelist Sami Michael (“Baklava and Bombs,” April 25). I hadn’t known of this author before. I found it truly refreshing to read the considered opinions of someone I would characterize as a curmudgeon. Hmm. I find it difficult to argue with his views.

David E. S. Stein, Redondo Beach


Due to an error, the following paragraphs of “Sigma Sisters Speak Out on Real ‘Life'” (May 2) did not appear in their entirety:

In response, Michele Schwartz, program director of Hillel at Davis and Sacramento, called the Anti-Defamation League and then the Los Angeles-based MorningStar Commission.

“I wanted something done publicly to show Jewish support for the sisters,” Schwartz said in a telephone interview. “I was also concerned that when school started, there would be a lot of fallout, because I don’t think they were necessarily portrayed as the intelligent, enthusiastic Jewish women they really are.”

Your Letters

Legislators Back Iraq

I am deeply disturbed and disappointed by the practically unanimous vote for the Iraqi Resolution by our California Democratic legislators (“Jewish Legislators Back Iraq Resolution,” Oct. 18). There are so many issues and so many unanswered questions about the threat, the impact on the Middle East and the aftermath of the conflict this president is intent on waging, that a reasonable person must ask, “How do you write a blank check to the administration?”

In the story, only Howard Berman had no doubts. I believe that our Jewish representatives are among the most capable in the United States and their “yes” votes are inexplicable to me.

It’s remarkable that almost the entire California Democratic congressional delegation voted “no,” except for the Jewish Congress members. What did the Jewish members know that wasn’t persuasive to the other members?

Gershon Lewis, Monterey Park

Professional-Lay Relations

I’m sure I’m not the only person to say “bravo” and “amen” to Gary Wexler for his marvelous and well-articulated opinion (“Professional-Lay Relations Need Examining,” Oct. 18). This has been a problem for many, many years, and is one that is rarely, if ever, addressed head-on.

I would suggest that every lay person serving in a leadership capacity be required to take two courses prior to beginning their service: “How to Govern Better and Manage Less” and “How to Control Your Runaway Ego.”

It’s a tribute to all the Jewish communal professionals that they stay around.

Ilene Olansky, Studio City

Big Brother

David N. Myers (“The Return of Big Brother?” Oct. 18) implies there is a moral equivalency in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict when he writes there is “a struggle between two legitimate nationalist movements [Jewish and Arab] fighting over the same land.” He could not be more wrong!

Israel, which was created by the United Nations, is fighting to maintain its very existence in a war foisted on it by the Palestinians whose “struggle” includes eliminating the State of Israel. When Arab or other Muslim university campus organizations aggressively support the Palestinian cause, the question is, are they advocating the eradication of Israel?

Joseph M. Ellis, Woodland Hills


David N. Myers fears a new program of campus watch scrutiny at American universities more than he fears the anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing.

The only way to empower Jewish students is to permit all voices of the political spectrum to exchange ideas. A campus watch cannot be viewed as the return of Big Brother because this is not a governmental agency monitoring free speech, but private individuals seeking to protect the rights of many frightened Jewish students.

Phyllis Herskovitz, Beverly Hills

Jewish Population Study

In Rob Eshman’s editorial (“Safety in Numbers,” Oct. 11) regarding the dwindling American Jewish population, I found the closing two sentences to ring true: “The difference between the Jews of antiquity and ourselves, Cohen said, is that ‘they had a clear sense of what they were about.’ The question is, do we?”

Our only hope for maintaining Jewish identity while immersed in the American mainstream is to deepen our commitment to Jewish learning and practice. We know the requirements for Jewish survival. The question is, do we have the will to implement them?

Shana Kramer, Director Torah Umeshorah Creative Learning Pavilion

Does anyone else note the irony between one articlelamenting the declining Jewish population (“Population Study Poses NewChallenges,” Oct. 11) and another lauding those dedicated Jewish women in theforefront of the reproductive rights movement (“Jewish Women Fight for Choice,”Oct. 11)?

Instead of crying about Jews not having enough children to replace themselves, may I suggest a radical notion? Jewish women should encourage their innate maternal desire to produce and nurture life.

The Orthodox often have very large families. They are more often than not as well-off financially. But somehow they manage to send their children to religious schools and keep them clothed and fed. Perhaps they have hand-me-downs and go without fancy dinners, piano lessons and vacations. But while mainstream Jews worry about declining numbers, embrace intermarriage by default and are forced to discuss the merits of Jewish proselytizing, the jam-packed Shabbat table in Orthodox households remains a testament to Jewish continuity.

Leslie Fuhrer Friedman, Venice


In “Shades of ‘Grey'” (Oct. 18), actor Allan Corduner plays the Jewish Auschwitz pathologist, Dr. Miklos Nyiszli.

Your Letters

Friedman’s Plan

Never mind that Israel has followed the prescription of Thomas Friedman and Peace Now, letter by letter, since 1993 (“Half the Kingdom,” Feb. 22). The result has been an Israel that is challenged more than anytime since her War of Independence.

Rather than take responsibility for leading Israel to its current morass, Friedman runs to Saudi Arabia, the paragon of justice in the Middle East, and comes back with this simple solution: Israel should withdraw from more territory and achieve yet another conference and pledge from the Arab world. Never mind that this withdrawal would now abandon over 10 percent of Israel’s Jewish population behind the new border. “East” Jerusalem, with a majority Jewish population, today would be ceded to the Arab world.

Jerusalem’s walled Old City would become Arab and all of Israel’s remaining neighborhoods would be less than a softball’s throw from the new Arab authority. Jane Harman notes that there could be some “border modifications.” Never mind that even the most “reasonable” Arab Palestinian, Sari Nusseibeh, says that Israel will have to leave all its eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods in such an agreement.

Friedman might get a new book deal, but as history has already shown, his ideas will not bring one day of peace to Israel.

Bennett Zimmerman, Santa Monica

Special Education

Thank you for highlighting the importance of special education (“Leave No Child Behind” Feb. 22). While the challenges in the field remain great, much has been accomplished in the past decade. With the generous support of the Harold and Libby Ziff Foundation, the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) has been able to direct more than $1 million to help support the work of resource specialists at 12 Jewish day schools. A number of the community’s day and religious schools use part of the $1.6 million of The Jewish Federation’s financial support distributed annually to schools through the BJE to provide services in support of students with special education needs. In addition to the BJE’s growing Lomed L.A. initiative referenced in The Journal, the BJE, through a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation, is working to establish a special day class for students with moderate disabilities. Information about this class can be obtained by calling Dr. David Ackerman, director of BJE educational services, at (323) 761-8606. This is a time of significant strides toward addressing a continuing, compelling need.

Dr. Kenneth Schaefler, Director, Special Education and Psychological Services Bureau of Jewish Education

A recent issue of The Journal cited the “stunning” and rather alarming statistic that 30 percent of Jewish children suffer from significant learning problems, including attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder (ADD/ADHD). Nothing could be further from the truth.

The incidence of mental retardation in the general population is 1.5 percent, that of ADD with or without hyperactivity is about 3 percent, and that of other assorted learning disabilities ranges from 6 to 8 percent. Thus, the total disability load in the general population falls between 10 to 12 percent, and that number includes many children whose problems resolve with fairly minimal treatment. The number of children with learning problems requiring prolonged remediation is most likely closer to 6 or 7 percent. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Jewish children suffer from higher rates of psychological and educational disabilities than non-Jewish children, and, in fact, the mean IQ score of Jewish kids is nearly one standard deviation (12-16 points) higher than that of the general population.

Those who raise funds for the treatment of disabled kids may, unfortunately, be tempted to buttress their cause by exaggerating the vulnerabilities of our children. However, during these troubled times, raising kids is tough enough and there’s no need to alarm parents needlessly.

Let’s focus our remedial attentions upon those youngsters who need them and avoid pathologizing the rest of our children.

Dr. Jonathan Kellerman, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Psychology, USC School of Medicine

“Trembling Before G-d”

Ivor Davis made a dangerous mistake when he reported that Agudath Israel’s Rabbi Avi Shafran saw homosexuality as “mental illness” (“‘Trembling’ Truth,” Feb. 15). Fortunately, readers can see for themselves, since The Jewish Journal printed Shafran’s piece in its entirety the following week. What he did say was that with prodigious effort, some homosexuals are sometimes able to alter their orientation through therapy.

I’m not sure who should take greater offense — Shafran, for being unfairly accused of a position he would never endorse, the entire Orthodox community which was maligned by extension or the millions who see therapists without ever considering themselves mentally ill. Confusing mental illness with seeking therapy is dangerous, because it implies that only people who are seriously ill seek the help of therapists. It thereby discourages the many who could benefit from a bit of support, guidance or crisis intervention from seeking it.

The position of the Orthodox community will continue to be one of unqualified compassion for homosexuals, while rejecting active homosexuality. Our thanks to The Jewish Journal for allowing the record to speak for itself.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Los Angeles

I am a Jewish, married, heterosexual woman who has just saw” Trembling Before G-d,” and then I read Rabbi Avi Shafran’s article, (“Dissembling Before G-d,” Feb. 22), which he obviously thought was a cute play on words. For shame, rabbi, using the article as a platform for your beliefs and plugging the organization to do away with homosexuality. The purpose of the film was to portray the plight of homosexuals. It was not to give equal time to the Orthodox rabbinate. There was nothing incomplete and distorted.

The film portrayed the deep anguish and pain experienced by Orthodox gay and lesbians inflicted upon them by their parents, rabbis and communities. They are abandoned and humiliated. The film showed one man who struggled for over 10 years with his homosexuality because of advice given to him by a rabbi in Israel, advising him to be in therapy, to pray … anything to remove his stigma. It did not work. I do not believe Shafran is an example of the “thoughtful Orthodox Jews who show compassion,” as mentioned in his article. Where are they?

Iris Chayet, Los Angeles

Chief Bernard Parks

You have to be hands- on involved with the LAPD and community crime prevention to understand the damage Chief Bernard Parks did (“Should We Join the Fray?” Feb. 15). No division has the vice, anti gang, narcotics or traffic staffing to insure safety and quality of life. Graffiti runs rampant. Wait times on 911 are too long.

Parks decimated community-based policing by eliminating senior lead officers (SLO). Only former Mayor Richard Riordan’s arm twisting got some efforts restored; SLOs still do not get the time or department resources to solve neighborhood problems. Suggestions and complaints from the public to Parks are ignored.

Write to your councilmember and to the police commission. Los Angeles deserves a chief who will respect civil rights, listen to and work with the law abiding public, discipline officers fairly and fight crime.

Neal Berke , Police Community Co-Representative LAPD Reporting District 948 Neighborhood Watch

Jewish Porn Star

As a member of Temple Beth Ami, I would like to say that a sizable number of members were not happy with the invitation to a porn star to speak to our congregation. Seeing your rabbi on Comedy Central may be good for a few laughs, but the honored speaker at Temple Beth Ami’s adult education program was a poor choice on many levels.

Perhaps it was naive to think that Nina Hartley would use her podium to examine her involvement in the porn industry in a meaningful way.

Hartley failed to express remorse, and took no responsibility for damage caused by her “profession.” Her banal advice could have been given more competently by a marriage counselor or therapist. Her mantra was, “make friends with your body,” but she also declared that she had gotten breast implants for her “scrawny chest.” Hartley and her fiancé declared their love for each other, but then announced that they still enjoyed multiple partners. More meaningful discussions of sexuality can be found on MTV. Her appearance as an honored guest of Temple Beth Ami was — dare I say it — wrong.

Sandy Hack , Valencia


The Feb. 22 calendar included an incorrect phone number for the Fountain Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s “After The Fall.” The correct number is (323) 663-1525. The play runs through March 31.

Your Letters

UJF Campaign

I would like to correct a quote I gave Michael Aushenker relative to the results of the 2002 United Jewish Fund Campaign (“Coming Out on Top,” Jan. 25). The campaign was extremely successful. However, I stated that the $45 million total did not include an additional $1 million raised for the Victims of Terror Fund. In fact, the $45 million does include these funds. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused your readers.

William S. Bernstein,Executive Vice President The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

Cynthia McKinney

As an African American who reads your journal on a weekly basis, I think that your decision to reprint such a nasty piece on Rep. Cynthia McKinney without comment from her camp and an equal number of comments from insiders who didn’t share such an anti-McKinney viewpoint was in poor taste, not to mention poor journalism (“In-Your-Face Crusader,” Jan. 25).

While The Journal was not originally published with African Americans in mind, a large population of us are out there who do read The Journal on a weekly basis. We don’t appreciate you spreading lies and breeding discord without provocation.

Francis Johnson-Rosenthal, Los Angeles

Editor’s Note: Rep. Cynthia McKinney failed to return several phone calls from the reporter asking for comment. Her lawyer spoke on her behalf.

Israel Solidarity

Having just returned from an Orthodox Union solidarity mission to Israel, I can certainly agree with the point made by MK Avraham Burg and espoused by Rob Eshman that “the simple days are gone” (“Nostalgia,” Jan. 25). I would also concur that eventually Israel will return to negotiation, though this statement is itself simplistic. The real question is, when and with whom?

That Israelis are suffering physically, emotionally and financially is readily apparent. But what most impressed me was their determination to persevere. Repeated horrific acts of terror have not led Israelis to conclude that further concessions are the answer. Instead, the attacks have reinforced a belief that the Palestinians are currently unprepared to make peace, and indeed retain as their goal the destruction of the State of Israel.

Burg’s timetable for negotiations is one the majority of Israelis reject. They are waiting for a sea change in Palestinian thought and behavior, not just a temporary lull in violence. The Israelis I met are prepared to wait for a generation if need be, rather than commit national suicide.

If American Jews are to consider being more discriminatory with their financial support, as the column seemed to advocate, I would suggest that they first make the trip to Israel and see for themselves. They will likely conclude, as have I, that we “simply” must stand with our people in these difficult times.

Larry Eisenberg, President West Coast Orthodox Union

J.D. Smith

I caught J.D. Smith’s column (“Bundles of Joy,” Jan. 18) and he made me laugh out loud. My refrigerator used to be covered in pictures of my friends, and now it’s covered in pictures of their toddlers.

I opened the Jan. 25 Journal looking for Smith’s column and found a letter to the editor from someone who just doesn’t get it. People need to relax and have a sense of humor. Smith is the voice of single people. I look forward to reading more of his columns in the future.

Valarie Shaw, Gardena

I thought J.D. Smith’s Jan. 18 column was great and right on. I am in that boat. Just two weeks ago my twin sister had a son, my first nephew. I totally relate.

Marina Janofsky, Alhambra


The Calendar listing for “Shared Roots: A Dance Partnership” at the Skirball Cultural Center in our Jan. 25 issue contained some inaccuracies. Please see the corrected calendar listing on page 22.