Letters to the editor: Ancient rituals, gender politics and more

Ancient Ceremonies

Why do we always try to find new rituals and borrow them from our neighbors, like “baptizing” the feet of a newborn girl (“Alternative Rituals for Girls’ Naming Ceremonies,” June 24)? Judaism has its own beautiful ancient ceremonies.

Since at least the 10th century (the time of Rashi), it was customary in Germany to host a festive event during which they would give a daughter a name, both Hebrew and secular, known as “Chol Kreisch.” With emigration of Western European Jewry to Poland, the custom was accepted there but did not last. But this ceremony has been preserved until now among German Jews and is being revived today in other Jewish communities (see Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz).

By the 1400s, this ceremony would always be on the fourth Shabbat after birth, at the Torah reading when the mother was well enough to come to the synagogue. All the children in the community would participate, as well as a minyan of adults who would study Torah. Appropriate verses from Jewish scriptures are recited by all. A Humash or siddur is placed in the crib. The focal point of the event is the lifting of the crib by the children and declaring the name(s) of the infant loudly, three times. “How shall the child be named? … So and so!” The children were then given sweets and fruits followed by a festive meal.

Rabbi Israel Hirsch via email

Trump and Weiner

Question: What do Donald Trump and Anthony Weiner have in common (“Trump and Weiner,” June 10)?

Answer: A major character flaw.

Question: How is the flaw manifested?

Answer: A demonstrated capability of being a bad role model for American children, adolescents and adults.

Consequence No. 1: Losing a mayoral election contest.

Consequence No. 2: Struggling to win a presidential election contest.

Marc Jacobson, Los Angeles

Gender Politics

Danielle Berrin thinks that Hillary Clinton’s nomination is cool because she’s a woman (“The Torah of Female Power,” June 10). Berrin is only promoting identity politics without assessing the merits of the candidate. Hillary did not break the glass ceiling. She got to where she was because she married the right man. There are women who rightfully deserve recognition for their achievements. Hillary is not one of them. But for the fact that Hillary Rodham married Bill Clinton, Mrs. Clinton would have been just another lawyer trying to dig her way out of career mishaps.

Berrin would have us believe that the major issues of this election are women’s reproductive rights and equal pay for equal work. It’s obvious that a woman who wants an abortion can get it legally. Also, the reason that women may not be earning the same as men is not because of any discrimination against them. It’s because of other factors, primarily career choice. Research in 2013 by Anthony Carnevale, a Georgetown University economist, shows that women overwhelmingly choose college majors that lead to lower-paying careers.

Berrin is not at all cool. She’s just engaging in identity politics to justify her political bias toward liberal left Democratic candidates.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills

Observations About Michael Bernardi

Naomi Pfefferman errs in her article about Michael Bernardi and his father, Herschel (“Stage Legacy Michael Bernardi Carries the ‘Fiddler’ Torch on Broadway,” June 3). The latter broke through the McCarthy-ite blacklist not in “Fiddler,” but — years before he took over the role of Tevya — in the musical “Bajour.”

As Herschel told me on a chance encounter in Manhattan in 1964, he had auditioned for the role of Tevya but was offered only the part of the butcher. As a longtime reader of Sholem Aleichem stories and monologues in English and Yiddish here in L.A., Herschel was incensed at what he saw as a slight. He then auditioned for “Bajour” — a musical about Roma (“gypsy”) life in New York and won the leading male role.

When I ran into him that day, he and his co-star, Chita Rivera, were about to visit a gypsy fortuneteller to gain authenticity in their starring roles. “Fiddler” opened on Broadway on Sept. 22, 1964; “Bajour” followed exactly two months later.

Hershl Hartman, Los Angeles


The edited version of a personal appreciation of philanthropist Jona Goldrich written by Samara Hutman, executive director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, included text not by the author (“Jona Goldrich, Philanthropist and Real Estate Developer, 88,” July 1). To read the original, visit Hutman’s blog, Conversations With Survivors, at jewishjournal.com/conversationswithsurvivors.

An article about the history of Temple Israel of Hollywood (“90 Years of Temple Israel of Hollywood’s Leading Men,” July 1) included incorrect dates for when Rabbi Max Nussbaum left Berlin and when he arrived at the synagogue. Nussbaum fled the Nazis in 1940 and joined the temple congregation in 1942.

A “Moving and Shaking” item (June 17) about the Israel Cancer Research Fund incorrectly identifies the title of Martin Finkelstein. He is the organization’s regional president.

Letters to the editor: No Iran Deal; NIF and Torossian battle; David Stern

What About Considering Both Sides?

First, let me commend Rob Eshman for his courageous stand (“What If There’s No Deal?” Aug. 7) and for being willing to open himself to all kinds of vicious attacks. 

I wish I were as optimistic about the future. After reading “How Would You Vote If Your Children’s Lives Were at Stake?” by Michael Oren (Sept. 4, Times of  Israel); “Iran’s ‘Frozen’ Assets: Exaggeration on Both Sides of the Debate” by Patrick Clawson (Sept. 1, Washington Institute for Near East Policy); Secretary Jacob Lew’s op-ed in The New York Times (“The High Price of rejecting the Iran Deal,” Aug. 13); “Did AIPAC Just Waste Tens of Millions Fighting the Iran Deal? Not Really. Here’s What  It Got,” by Lee Drutman and Heather Hurlburt (Sept. 4, at vox.com); and a whole slew of other such visions of bias and immovable preconceived positions, I can only anticipate continued bitterness and the pursuit of payback.

One thing puzzles me greatly. I picture a key fact being that the day after the agreement was announced, the furious opposition erupted. I deem that to mean that no matter what the agreement was to be like, it had already been fully decided by the antis to fight it — at any cost. Thus, why didn’t you make full use of the material various nuclear experts have presented at sites like that of the Arms Control Association and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, and articles by people like Tariq Rauf (such as on why the Associated Press report on Iranian self- inspection is based on a forged document)?

The Jewish people are impossibly ignorant in this present case, and it is as if they got all their information from Fox News. Briefly put, the talmudic model we use involves examining fully both sides and then tearing them apart to find their weaknesses. Here, that model was not just ignored but totally trampled upon. Worse yet, the resulting misrepresentations and perversions of the truth introduce the principle that when such is imposed upon the people, not even repentance or forgiveness is applicable.

Ben Lebovits, via email 

Quoting Emails

Regarding the story “NIF, Torossian Battle of Words Over Israel Escalates to Legal Threats — Against Jerusalem Post” (Sept. 4), I find it highly objectionable that the reporter used quotes made by me in confidential emails with the parties. Let me say for the record that this is unprofessional and unethical. I do not think Mr. Ronn Torossian is “nuts,” and we never said we wouldn’t run another op-ed by him. On the contrary, The Jerusalem Post is open to hearing both sides of the story, just as I’m sure you are.

Steve Linde, Editor-in-Chief, the Jerusalem Post

The editors respond:

We stand by Debra Nussbaum Cohen’s reporting. Using emails to report stories in the public interest is established journalistic practice supported by case law and engaged in by all responsible media, including The Jerusalem Post. That said, in an email dated Aug. 20, 2015, Mr. Linde wrote to Naomi Paiss of the New Israel Fund regarding Mr. Torossian, “Will you help me when they sue us? (Which you know they’re going to do, because they’re nuts).” In an email dated April 21, 2015, to Naomi Paiss and cc’d to a Jerusalem Post editor, Mr. Linde wrote, “We have already taken a decision never to run a Ronn Torossian op-ed in the paper again. My apologies.”

A Question of Morality

Why do we treat animals more humanely than we do people? David Stern is being forced to suffer in an intolerable state of nonbeing because his family adheres to Jewish law (“Legal Dispute Pits Jewish Law Against Medical Director,” Aug. 21). Because he can raise his eyebrows and blink means that he is not suffering? He signed an advance directive because he didn’t want to end up in this state. He signed an advance directive, and now his family is contesting it. Jewish law supposedly disputes that he’s not suffering enough to “pull the plug.”

Does Mr. Stein’s daughter want her father to prolong his nonlife because she loves him, or because her God demands that he suffer?

Bettina Gantsweg, via email


A credit was not included with the photos illustrating recipes from Amelia Saltsman’s new book, “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A New Take on Tradition” (“Falling for the Flavors of Autumn,” Sept. 4). The photographer is Staci Valentine.

The byline included on the opinion piece “In Defense of Portman” (Sept. 4) was incorrect. The writer is Gregory J. Wallance.

An article about a vegan perspective on honey (“Cruelty-Free Rosh Hashanah,” Sept. 4) misstated the name of an advocacy group. It is the Jewish Vegetarians of North America.

Letters to the editor: Mensches, Rabbi Toba August, OAN and more

Leading Lady of Lev Eisha

The article “Female Rabbis at Forefront of Pioneering Prayer Communities” (Dec. 19) gave well-deserved recognition to women rabbis who have defined and inspired several previously unserved groups of Jews in the L.A. area and beyond. However, it overlooked one of the first such “pioneers,” who is still growing and innovating after more than 14 years. That woman is Rabbi Toba August, the spiritual leader of Lev Eisha.

Formed in 2000, Lev Eisha is “a joyous community of Jewish women engaged in prayer, study and spiritual growth.” It is post-denominational, not affiliated with any specific denomination or institution. Under Rabbi August’s guidance, the monthly services in West L.A. attract over 100 women (and men) from as far away as Pasadena, Agoura Hills, Orange County and San Diego. Our congregants identify as secular, atheistic, agnostic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform and Renewal. Our backgrounds vary from traditional practices to no practice at all.

Rabbi August, like Rabbi Naomi Levy, was a member of the first class of women to be ordained in the Conservative movement. These two pioneers study together on a weekly basis. Rabbi August draws on wisdom from many sources to instruct and inspire the congregants who regularly attend Lev Eisha services. Under Rabbi August’s direction, prayers are led by our well-known and well-respected Cantorial Soloist Cindy Paley on guitar, two to three additional vocalists and two additional musicians.

Rabbi August constantly searches for ways to make Lev Eisha soulful, fresh and meaningful to everyone … and all leave inspired. With her deep and broad knowledge of Judaism, coupled with her sense of humor and personal caring, Rabbi August has made Lev Eisha a long-term success.

Lev Eisha Board of Directors

OAN and Only

Marty Kaplan’s column about One America News (OAN) is very timely (“My New Favorite News Network Is Not Liberal (and Not Fox),” Jan. 9). I have seen OAN and was wondering what their agenda was. I am glad to learn from his column that nonpartisan news, like CNN when it was first launched, is available round-the-clock on TV again. Thanks for the heads up!

Jeff Gurman via email

Honorable Mensches

Thank you for the annual Mensch List, a group that I was honored to join in 2009 and happy to see growing and inspiring others (“The Mensch List,” Jan, 2). There are two honorees mentioned this year I know personally:

Joe Samuels greets everyone with a smile and positive outlook on life that is simply contagious. He used to lead the congregation at Kahal Joseph with his popular refrain, “This is the day the Lord has created — let us rejoice and be happy with it!” When my daughter would see him in synagogue on Shabbat, he would present her with a mini-rose that he grew in his Santa Monica home, and he brought enough for all the girls, old and young!

Nira Sayegh has been on the executive board of the Sephardic Educational Center for five years and is always a picture of grace, calm and patience, and never says no to any project, that will help make our community a better place. These are qualities that make someone a “Ben-Adam” — the way they treat others and reflect the image of God that is part of their nature, and this is what I applaud the most.

Neil J. Sheff, President, Sephardic Educational Center

Kudos to the Journal for recognizing the extraordinary volunteers of our community. While they all are amazing, I was so happy to see Harriet Rechtman acknowledged and so very proud for her. I have known this quiet, selfless person all my life.  Growing up, our mothers were close friends. She is an inspiration and represents the true meaning of the word “mensch.”

Frayne Rosenfield, Encino


A photo caption accompanying the article “How Jews Helped Build L.A’s Music Center” (Jan. 9). incorrectly identified the man at the far left of the image. It is Los Angeles County Supervisor Ernest Debs.

A photo of Bob Klausner that accompanied a story about NCJW/LA (“Rags or Riches? Longtime Retail Clothier Thriftily Blends the Two,” Jan 9) was incorrectly credited. The credit should have read courtesy of NCJW/LA.

An article on the arts organization Artis (“Avant-Garde Israel,” Jan 9), incorrectly cited Peter Eleey, a curator at New York’s MoMA. The name should have been Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1 and chief curator at large at MoMA. In the same article, it was incorrectly stated that LAX><ART presented a project with Nira Pereg in 2014. Peleg was not part of the project.

Letters to the Editor: Sam Bacile, Rabbi Naomi Levy, Jewish Journal redesign

Not All Christians Are the Same

I study modern Hebrew at the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center, and on my way out I grab your newspaper and read some of the articles at home. I usually read the Torah Portion and meditate on the wisdom there.

I am not Jewish, yet I am attracted to Jewish things, especially reading parts of the Bible in Hebrew. Being a Christian woman myself, my devotion is to the Bible and its Author.

The content of Rob Eshman’s Sept. 21 column (“Sam I Am … Not”) makes sense to me, except one sentence, where I read about the setting off of all your “kooky-Christian-homophobe alarm bells.” This saddens me. Not all Christians are homophobic, and not all Christians who aspire for the marriage between a man and a woman are kooky. I know some Christian parents who love their gay adult children, inviting them to their homes, including their partners — even though they do not agree with their lifestyle.

All the best to you and a very blessed New Year of 5773.

Lucine Iskenderian via e-mail 

Rob Eshman responds: Ms. Iskenderian is correct that the Christian view toward homosexuality is as diverse as Christians themselves. In my column, I used a hyphen to indicate I was speaking solely of the “kooky-Christian” variety, but I plead guilty to being less than clear. 

A Mother to Cherish

I have just finished reading Rabbi Naomi Levy’s article about her marvelous relationship with her mother (“The Meaning of Memory: A Yizkor Reflection,” Sept. 21). How blessed she is to have had such an incredible home life with such a caring and nurturing mother. What an inspiration for those who came after Ruth Levy. How I wish that I had come from such a home. I cannot stop crying; it was so beautiful. 

Bette Hirsh Levy, Tarzana

Redesigned Journal Is Better Than Ever

I write to you today to celebrate your accomplishment in making something great even better with this new iteration of the Jewish Journal (Sept. 14). I loved every ounce of it. I absolutely delight in the stylistic and substantive choices you made. I am moved and engaged by the new participatory segments that will allow the community to connect and share their images and their advice and their jokes. You have opened the communal doors even wider with these invitations, and I have no doubt that what you have built will give a rich, diverse group of individuals a wonderful place to gather, to share, and to be one and to be singular at the very same time.

What a gift to all of us. Thank you, thank you, for that.

Samara Hutman via e-mail

Shana Tov and Mazel Tov on the most recent edition of the Jewish Journal. This is a treasure trove to be cherished and kept away from the recycle pile.

I have been an appreciative reader/subscriber for the past six years. Prior to that I was one of the hordes who searched for the freebees wherever I could find one. During an enforced homestay because of severe back problems, I had no access to the Jewish Journal. I felt so isolated from the L.A. Jewish community — to my surprise.

The solution was easy. Thank God for home delivery — with a little help from the circulation department. I look forward to many years of enjoying your marvelous coverage of local, national and world Jewry.

Estelle Markowitz, Los Angeles

Reuniting Father and Son

The article “Father and Son” (Sept. 7) exquisitely embodies the spirit and challenge of Rosh Hashanah. Father and son come to the other asking, first, to be heard and, only second, to hear the other. After an exchange or two of this, we can’t be sure whether the conversation will be healing, bringing them closer to each other, or alienating, pushing each more deeply into the isolation of despair.

Fortunately for us, Rabbis Feinstein and Farkas show them how to achieve harmony by communicating in a both-and — rather than an either-or — way that embraces the other’s point of view while coming away comforted that each is understood as well. 

That it took Dad’s enticement of lox at shul for his son and his son’s buddies following Neilah only underscores how miraculously food can serve the cause of prayer and repentance.

Roger Smith via e-mail


Due to a text conversion error in our layout software, the direction of Hebrew letters for our “Yiddish Word of the Week” in the past two issues was reversed.

A letter regarding Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s (HUC-JIR) DeLeT program (“Innovative Teaching,” Sept. 21) should have been attributed to Michael Zeldin, senior national director of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Schools of Education.

Letters to the Editor: Milk, languages, kindergarten, breakfast, philanthropy

More on Milk

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is restirring a tempest in a glass of milk (“How Kosher Is Your Milk,” June 22). This issue was addressed in great detail in the fall 2007 issue of the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society in the article “The Kashrut of Commercially Sold Milk” by Rabbi Michoel Zylberman. The conclusion of the article:

“In the contemporary situation, there appears to be no credible evidence that a majority of dairy cows harbor adhesions. It is, however, quite likely that a prevalent minority (mi’ut hamatzui) of cows have terefot, such that more than 1.6% of milk that gets mixed together comes from such cows. To date, while a few individuals have stopped drinking commercially sold milk, major kashrut organizations have endorsed the continued consumption of milk, following the implication in Shulchan Aruch that we may assume that every individual cow comes from the majority of cows that are kosher, even if such an assumption contradicts a statistical reality.”

Rabbi Israel Hirsch
Valley Village

A Lesson in Languages

In your June 22 issue’s Letter From Egypt by Al-Qotb (“Egypt’s Election: An Argument Without Resolution”), you identified Al-Qotb (“The Writer”) as a pseudonym for The Jewish Journal’s Egyptian correspondent. Al-Qotb (correctly Al-Kotb or Al-Kootb) means “The Books,” and the Arabic name for anyone who writes is Al-Kaatb or Al-Kaateb, depending on one’s dialect. The proper letter (binyan in Hebrew) to use in this instance is “K-T-B” not “Q-T-B”. There is no equivalence in the English language nor in modern Hebrew for the Arabic letter “Q.” The best illustration would be in pronouncing the Hebrew letter “kaf” gutturally as in the case of the letter “khaf.” Quick pronunciation illustration is in the name of the leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and ’60s, Sayyid Qutb — Qutb could mean pole or region, as in the North Pole or the South Pole, but Kutb signifies books.

Ed Elhaderi
Los Angeles

Kindergartens of Hate

Micah Halpern’s piece is profoundly disturbing (“Finishing School,” June 22). It states that Arab children in Gaza and the West Bank are taught to hate Jews and to aspire only to slaughter them as a duty of their Islamic faith. This despite 20 years of a “peace process” that earned Nobel Peace Prizes for its originators. I suppose the indoctrination of Jew-hatred, not to mention the suicide bombings, rockets and turning children into murderous robots described by Halpern only proves, as then-President Clinton said in late 2000, that “the peace process hasn’t gone far enough.”

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Synagogue Breakfast

Last week’s calendar section mentioned a dog-walking tour for June 24. It did not mention the 20th anniversary breakfast of Congregation Bais Naftoli honoring Zvi Hollander and Dr. A. Richard Grossman. At this breakfast, not only will the Israeli and Hungarian consuls general attend, but also two members of Congress, Sheriff Lee Baca, Supervisor Mike Antonovich, the city attorney and controller, four members of the City Council and two members of the state Assembly.

Why does the canine event take precedence?

Andrew Friedman
Congregation Bais Naftoli

Editor’s note: The Jewish Journal calendar desk did not receive notice about the Congregation Bais Naftoli breakfast. Please send all event notifications at least three weeks in advance to calendar@jewishjournal.com

Philanthropic Teens

It came as no surprise to me that a cross-section of community schools participated in National Conference of Synagogue Youth’s (NCSY) philanthropy project (“Philanthropy Project Puts Teens in Charge,” June 8). NCSY has been breaking down barriers to Jewish involvement for quite some time with creative programs geared to young people from all spheres. 

My wife, Sara, and I [spent] a magical Shabbat with NCSYers at their regional Shabbaton in Woodland Hills recently. The diversity of the participants was amazing. There were kids from public schools, Jewish schools, Yachad for special needs, all singing, clapping, standing on chairs with a thunderous spirit that was inspirational and meaningful.

The philanthropy project was a good chance to bring to light the creativity NCSY displays in reaching out to all kids with the goal of bringing them closer to Judaism.

Ron Solomon
Executive Director
American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, Western Region

An article on a project exploring Los Angeles history (“UCLA Mapping Project Goes Back to the Future,” June 22) did not mention that the “Mapping Jewish L.A.” display of the digital project at the Autry National Center of the American West will be part of the larger exhibition “Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic,” scheduled to open at the museum in May 2013.

Temple B’nai Hayim’s Rabbi Beryl Padorr is not retiring (“Ner Maarav to Merge With Ramat Zion,” June 15).

Your Letters

Lowering the Bar

Gary Wexler is right: B’nai mitzvah celebrations are oftenexcessive and inappropriate (“A Plea to Lower the Bar on Bar Mitzvahs,” Jan.10). But before blaming rabbis for their lack of attentiveness he ought to havedone a little asking around. If he had, he might have discovered that whenchildren are in fourth grade, I meet with their families to discuss the valuesof the Shabbat morning ceremony and how those same values can be carried overinto their evening celebration. We talk about not placing children in an adultparty environment. We talk about alcoholism, overt sexuality, materialism, loudmusic that makes the elderly uncomfortable, and the lack of spirituality. Iencourage them to participate in MAZON. I talk about setting the appropriatetone, from choosing the invitation, to choosing where their child’s tzedakahwill go. I suggest they read Jeffrey Salkin’s book, “Putting God on the GuestList.” I remind parents that they are the parents, and the planning of theparty is an opportunity to teach their kids about their family’s and ourpeople’s best values. I remind them that we as a people are not true to Torahwhen we overindulge. I meet with each family again in sixth grade to redo theentire exercise.

I mention all that I do to confront the problem Wexler hasidentified not to aggrandize myself, but to refute his assertion that rabbisavoid discussing this important issue. I and many rabbis approach the problemof over-the-top b’nai mitzvah celebrations in a forthright and rigorous way.Had Wexler done a little asking around, he would have known as much. Then hemight have fashioned a more productive solution.

Rabbi Steven Z. Leder, Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Principally, I agree with Gary Wexler’s article, but heshouldn’t assume that Jews who throw big parties for their children are solelymotivated by money and public acclaim. How about the religious well-being ofthe family?

Some think a lavish Jewish wedding is OK, but not a child’sbar or bat mitzvah. Unfortunately, this reasoning ignores the obvious passingof time and the diminishing odds that parents will live to see theirgrandchildren and great-grandchildren walk down the aisle.

Our children’s b’nai mitzvah provided wonderfulopportunities for my husband and I to honor our parents and remaininggrandparent with joyous celebrations that marked how their devotion andnurturing values shaped us as individuals and as parents. Who can say when thenext time the intergenerational family will come together to celebrate anotherritual in our children’s lives? As the parents of daughters, and sole payersfor the parties anyway, it was great fun not to have the pressure of anotherfamily to split the guest list with.

Elisa Wayne, Los Angeles

Davis vs. Laemmle

Avi Davis is supportive of Israel as a country, and hissupport is not dependent upon who is in power at the time (Point/Counterpoint,Jan. 10). I wholeheartedly agree with him.

Rabbi Susan Laemmle asks whether Davis’ restraint is reallyso admirable. Well, yes it is. It demonstrates his loyalty and patriotism to aJewish homeland at a time of grave crisis. It demonstrates his ability to seebeyond partisanship when the lives of Jews are at so much risk. She may wellbelieve in a “transnational justice and peace,” but if it endangers the safetyof a secure Jewish homeland, count me out.

Laemmle also asks for an “end of occupation,” as do thePalestinians. On the surface, it appears that if only we would agree with thatposition that common ground has been reached and resolution is possible.There’s just one problem: All of Israel is “occupied Palestine” to thePalestinian Authority.

Faith Schames, Los Angeles

Avi Davis’ touching tale of his Zionist upbringing leadingto his remarkable stoicism — holding his tongue when the Israeli governmentpursued policies that were obviously wrongheaded to him and his comrades –would play better were it the complete truth. A quick perusal of Davis’ recentwritings shows that he has no problem criticizing the Israeli government orlobbying for policies that the Israeli government has discarded, as long asthey are to the right of the government. Davis has argued at different timesagainst recognizing a Palestinian state, for killing the leadership of thePalestinian Authority and for an even more massive incursion and reoccupationof the territory nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Hiscomfortable seat in the Diaspora doesn’t seem to negate his right to critiquefrom the right.

Rabbi Susan Laemmle is to be applauded for articulatelyvoicing the opinion that support for peace and justice does not stand in[conflict with] support and care for Israel. Her respectful rebuttal of Davis’arguments stands in sharp contrast to Davis’ own rhetoric in the recent past.

Dr. Aryeh Cohen, University of Judaism


To contact Roe Gruber regarding her Cuba project (“CubanJews’ Plight Sparks Drive to Help,” Jan. 3), please call (800) 243-7227.

In “It’s a Full Plate in Nourishing the Sick” (Jan. 10),Project Chicken Soup is a 100 percent volunteer nonprofit organization and allfunding comes from individual donations and grants. Additionally, the presidentof the organization is Rod Bran.

From L.A. to Tel Aviv

In David Margolis’ story about The Federation’s Tel Aviv-LosAngeles Partnership (“From L.A. to Tel Aviv — A Partnership That Works,” Jan.3) he did not distinguish between projects, which are conceived, developed andexecuted by the Partnership’s staff and lay committees, and those in which thePartnership is a partial source of funding for implementing projects ofindependent institutions with goals that complement and reinforce those of thePartnership. The Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity is one suchindependent institution.

One example of the center’s recent work is “The Dybbuk”project, a two-year-old, ongoing three-way collaborative effort among the TelAviv University and UCLA theater departments and the Center, with each institutionproviding the talents of its respective artists in the creation of a pioneeringworld-class contemporary dramatic musical work based on a Jewish classic.

Despite the article’s unfortunate omission of the Center, welook forward to continue sharing the Center’s accumulated experience andexpertise in developing and strengthening Israeli-Diaspora relations throughJewish culture in the communities of Tel Aviv and Los Angeles, and to involvingthe Partnership in future Center initiatives directed toward shared goals.

John H. Rauch, President Center for Jewish Culture andCreativity

David Margolis’ otherwise comprehensive article missed oneof the more ambitious projects which is currently being explored by the TelAviv-Los Angeles Partnership of The Jewish Federation. That is, the attempt tocreate in Tel Aviv a legal services agency modeled after Bet Tzedek LegalServices. Bet Tzedek is the only Jewish organization in the country that isdedicated to providing free legal services to the poor, elderly, and disabledmembers of the community, covering a wide variety of legal areas. Further, itis the only organization to provide free assistance to, and representation of,Holocaust survivors in applying for reparations and other available programs.

Tel Aviv has a significant indigent population who havevirtually no access to the legal system and is very much in need of anorganization like Bet Tzedek. We hope this project will take root and come tofruition during the coming year.

Stanley Kandel , President  Board of Directors Bet TzedekLegal Services

Second Generation

I would like to thank Rachel Brand for the thoughtful andcomprehensive article about the Second Generation (“Support Group Helps SecondGeneration,” Dec. 27). In addition, I would like to clarify a few minor points.Many Second Generation individuals have achieved fully actualized lives,successfully incorporating the lessons learned at home to become some of themost productive members of our community. You will find them among the leadersof congregations, Jewish communal service organizations, and overrepresented inprofessional vocations.

The goals of our organization now are to provide asupportive environment where those who share our legacy can exchange ideas andfeelings about their heritage. We promote Holocaust education and memorialization,foster an understanding of the implications of the lessons of the Holocaust onsociety and support both the State of Israel and the Los Angeles Museum of theHolocaust.

Dr. Morry Waskberg, Vice President Second Generation

I wanted to thank you for writing such a sensitive andcaring article about the noble organization Second Generation and survivors ofthe Holocaust, especially now when so many people that I know and work with tryand say that the Holocaust never existed and that it’s only a big lie createdby Jews.

Some day, people like the doctor you interviewed won’t bearound to tell their story or their parents’ story. And the people who say theHolocaust was a lie and that Jews were never singled out and murdered will winthe public over with their lies.

Name Withheld by Request, Los Angeles

Thank you Gary Wexler for openly saying what too many of usdo not have the courage to say when it comes to extravagant, vulgar, inappropriate,hedonistic, tasteless parties that have come to define the terms bar mitzvahand bat mitzvah all too often.

Wexler’s article should be required reading for every Jewishparent of children 10 and older. It should be sent by synagogues and rabbis toparents and children. It should be given to every parent when the bar mitzvahdate is given. I hate to use the term “silent majority,” but I hope there isone, and that more parents develop the character to do the right thing and notsuccumb to peer pressure, social pressure or their children’s whiney demands.

Howard M. Fields, Hidden Hills

Your Letters

Spiritual Agoraphobia

Rabbi David Wolpe (“Spiritual Agoraphobia,” Nov. 15) pounces on a carefully posed straw man by characterizing Orthodox leaders’ objections to two recent books as rejections of the Talmud’s dictum “there is wisdom among the nations [of the world].”

It was not, however, wisdom that evoked the criticism of the books, but rather dangerous misinformation. The books included attributions to Judaism of ideas that are utterly foreign to, and irreconcilable with, our faith. Maimonides, with whose works Wolpe demonstrates familiarity, was quite explicit about the dangers inherent in precisely the sort of ideas that the books included.

There is, unfortunately, no dearth of distortion and misinformation in the Jewish literary marketplace — or even, sadly, in the pulpits of Jewish congregations. Rabbis, as teachers, have the responsibility to draw lines between explications of Judaism that are authentic and those that are not. “I’m right, you’re right” is simply not a valid approach to Judaism, and hardly what we ought to expect from rabbis.

The true rabbinical leaders of our generation are neither burning books nor rejecting wisdom, but rather unabashedly standing up for — and teaching all us Jews — the truth of our spiritual heritage.

Rabbi Avi Shafran Director of Public Affairs Agudath Israel of America

Battle for Jewish Souls

If the Jewish community put some resources into reaching out to the entire Jewish community — affiliated or not — and embracing them, then threats such as Jews for Jesus would vanish overnight (“The Battle for Jewish Souls,” Nov. 15).

If Jews for Jesus can locate Jews who are so ignorant of their religion they could accept a doctrine that is totally alien and anti-Jewish, then why can’t the organized Jewish community find these same people and preemptively do the same in the name of true Judaism?

My only question is, when Jews for Judaism does its job, and the “Behold Your God” campaign moves on, will the Jewish community once again forget those Jews that almost went over to the other side?

Harvey Farr. Los Angeles

With the worldwide campaign currently under way to discredit, disgrace and humiliate Jews, why is it that a Jewish publication is compelled to put the Jews for Jesus program on its front cover?

This organization, as their own agenda claims, is not about Judaism, but all about Christianity. They run their operations through deception and lies. You should be ashamed of yourselves for acting as the public relations arm of this despicable organization — giving them free advertising to tens of thousands of Jews.

Robert Kershberg, Los Angeles

We Want You!

Shalom from Israel! Thanks to your article by Mike Levy on May 3, 2002 about Jomie Garelick (“We Want You!, May 3), I am now in Israel on the Sar-El program. It’s a satisfying adventure beyond belief. To be able to lend a hand to these young Israel Defense Force Jewish warriors is very fulfilling.

Robert Clarke, Pacific Palisades

Jewish War Vets

I would like it to be known that the reality of my statement regarding Jews in combat was that I spent too much time experiencing WWII to make an insensitive comment that Jews were not on the front lines (“Jewish War Vets Remember,” Nov. 8). I removed the dog tags off many of my fallen buddies who never came home. Some of them were imprinted with the word “HEBREW.” Yes, I am proud to say that I am a Jewish war veteran. Yes, I am proud to say that I fought along with many other Jews on the front lines.

If this episode has embarrassed any Jewish War Veterans of the United Stares (JWV) member in any way, I wish to state emphatically that what I recall saying to the reporter and what was printed are two completely different views. I hope in some way that the above article has not diminished the commitment and overall good that the JWV brings to our sick and disabled vets in hospitals all over the United States.

Joseph M. Ellis, Woodland Hills

Irv Rubin

Today, I buried my best friend, my brother, Irving David Rubin. Most of you knew of Irv only through the eyes of the press. And if that is true you really did not know him. Irv was a kind, compassionate Jewish warrior. Irv stood up to bullies, protected the weak, the elderly and was a very patriotic American. Irv battled Nazis, the KKK and racist bigots of all types. Irv protected not only Jews, but African Americans, Hispanic Americans and others who were victims of racism. Irv never gathered a committee to find out the causes of bigotry, nor did he believe in writing petitions to stop the same. Instead, he put himself in harms way to defend those in need.

Irv was the one person we could always call upon when the chips were down and no one else would help. I know there are thousands of you who benefited from Irv’s generosity. I ask you to repay Irv’s altruism by contributing to charities in Irv’s name; especially those in the Jewish community that help the elderly and the poor. Learn self-defense and ask your synagogue to teach more Jewish self-reliance. It is not un-Jewish to defend one’s self (look at Israel). This will truly honor the heroic stature of Irv Rubin.

I am proud to have been Irv’s friend for 32 years and pray that you will continue the ahavat Yisrael (love of the Jewish people) that Irv so freely gave.

Dr. Leland S. Shapiro. Simi Valley

As a corrections professional with more than 30 years experience, I must come forward and proclaim that the “facts” in the official version of Irv Rubin’s death do not add up. Irv was politically incorrect, controversial and, indeed, used methods that made most of us uncomfortable, but the bottom line is he was a brother Jew who at least deserves that the truth surrounding his death be known. We owe at least that much to his widow and children.

Jerry Cutler, North Hollywood

Orthodox Pursuit

I was pleased to see the article in about Jewish life at UCLA with programs such as JAM and TLC (“Orthodox Pursuit,” Nov. 15). I think it’s great that Orthodox students, such as myself who did not go to New York or Israel, have a place to go for that dose of Judaism in our lives.

I go to USC and the Jewish life here is really growing, too. The Chabad came to USC about two years ago and they have provided a home away from home for many Jewish students of any denomination. I don’t know what I would do without them being a support system. The Hillel is also doing great and getting more members each year.

Rivka Katz, Los Angeles

The Wedding Singer

I was thrilled to find my beloved grandson’s wedding mentioned in a great article by Michael Aushenker (“Behind the Music: The Wedding Singer,” Nov. 8). There were a few omissions. My greatly loved new granddaughter, Daphna Shozland, is a doctor, and my grandson, Dr. David Hollander, is in his second year to get certified as an ophthalmologist, not an optometrist. On another subject, I find your magazine an excellent publication.

David Lerner, Valley Village


In the Up Front, “Mom, Can We Keep Him?” (Nov. 8), the Web site for Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land is www.safehaven4donkeys.org.

In the article, “An Eye for Modernism” (Nov. 15), the person that Julius Shulman snapped photos of Googies Coffee Shop for was Douglas Haskell, editor of Architectural Forum.

A New Home for Hillel

In addition to UCLA, of Los Angeles Hillel Council’s 18 campuses only UCSB has built a new facility in the past 15 years (“A New Home for Hillel,” Nov. 15). The number of participating UCSB students has grown exponentially since the building opened its doors one and a half years ago. While both CSUN and USC have vital, active Hillels, neither campus has a new facility. USC Hillel is currently reviewing its needs in anticipation of planning for a new building. CSUN Hillel alumni will host a gala mortgage-burning celebration in February 2003. Alumni of UCLA, USC, UCSB and CSUN are invited to visit their campus Hillels, meet terrific student leaders and get involved in the exciting Jewish renaissance.

John D. Hanover President Tobi Inlender Executive Director Los Angeles Hillel Council

Horseman Without a Horse

I am outraged, but not surprised, by the Egyptian government’s decision to air the television series “Horseman Without a Horse,” and in effect, use its state-controlled media to indoctrinate its own people and inflame the Arab and Islamic world with hateful anti-Semitic propaganda (“Variety Comes Down on Egyptian Television,” Nov. 15).

Sadly, this is just the latest example of Egypt, under Hosni Mubarak, betraying the late Anwar el-Sadat’s 1979 commitment to Middle East peace by promoting hatred for Jews and Israel in its media. Other recent examples include pieces in Egypt’s state-controlled press promoting the blood libel against Jews and praising Hitler for the Holocaust.

Stephen A. Silver, Concord

Whatever can be said about Irv, it should be noted that he was a man of great conviction, a man of passion, with a love of Israel, of Judaism, of Jews. An advocate for the free and open expression of Jewish life has passed. May he rest in peace, and may his children walk freely as Jews, wherever they may live.

Alyse Golden Berkley, Encino

I am certain that Jews for Jesus appreciated greatly your publicity and reprint of their religious beliefs. I would like to have learned from the article how to respond to such a threat, how to protect my children and my loved ones from such deception. How to immunize my community when they come to my city, Baltimore, which is also on their “hit list.” I want to know how I can stop them.

Shoshana Miriam, Baltimore, Md.

Your Letters

Not That Easy Being Gifted

“It’s Not That Easy Being Gifted” (Oct. 25) badly distorts reality. I wish that your reporter had taken the time to visit Sinai Akiba Academy. Had she done so, she would have written a different article.

Instead, she chose to contrast what we are supposedly not doing in Judaic studies with what our sister schools are doing in general studies. Our teachers have been trained in a wide variety of active learning strategies. Coupled with various groupings and enrichment projects, these enable our teachers to differentiate instruction. The result is that we meet the needs of a surprisingly diverse student population, including many gifted children and many with identified learning problems.

We’re proud of that. And we would be glad to show it to your reporter in person.

Laurence Scheindlin , Headmaster Sinai Akiba Academy

With reference to “It’s Not That Easy Being Gifted” (Oct.25), I wish to advise that it was not my intention to discredit the name of Sinai Akiba Academy. The author failed to highlight the positive attributes of the school.

Jenny Gelb, Beverlywood Hebrew School Horror Stories

I could not decide what was worse: the horrendous tastelessness of your front cover or the distortions in the article “Hebrew School Horror Stories” (Oct. 25).

The truth is that the 1950s were the heyday of Jewish education. I am a child of the 1950s who attended Los Angeles Hebrew High School, the excellent afternoon Hebrew High School run by the Conservative movement. We were the most blessed of generations. We had luminaries such as David Lieber and Eliezer Slomovic as our frontline teachers. Competence in Hebrew conversation, reading comprehension, composition, spelling and grammar were gifts given us, which we graciously accepted. In the senior high division, even our history courses were taught in Hebrew. Proof lies in our success: 80 percent of the class of 1961 went on to higher Jewish education to become rabbis, cantors, educators and leaders of the Jewish community. Each denomination had such successes.

Rabbi Louis J. Feldman, Van Nuys


Dennis Prager is naive with his adoration of “VeggieTales” (“Proselytizing Through ‘Veggies,'” Oct. 25). Last Purim, I purchased their video of “Esther.” My children (then 4 and 6) had just learned the story of Esther in Hebrew school. After watching only part of the video, they were confused and upset. The stories were so different that they did not know whom to believe — their teachers or the video. Nondenominational? Definitely not. With this company, Scott Hillman is correct. “VeggieTales” are biblical morality interpreted in light of Christian scriptures. Jewish parents should beware.

Alexander Werner, Studio City

Thank you for yet another article alerting us to the ever-present danger of evil Christians trying to convert us. Why is it that while Muslims around the world are referring to us as swine, accusing us of using children’s blood to make matzah and calling for our death, The Jewish Journal is more preoccupied with inventing a threat from evangelical Christians?

I love “VeggieTales” and so do my children. If it is an effort to proselytize us, it is laughably weak. The messages in the videos are those of moral values shared by all civilized people. Given that our children are barraged by sex and violence, I welcome the wholesome entertainment that “VeggieTales” provides.

Cindy Jacobs, Rosemead

When I’m 44

While reading David Wolpe’s column “When I’m 44” (Oct. 25), I was reminded of a story about the great leader of the previous generation, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky. Once, while he was flying home from Israel, seated next to him was Yerucham Meshel, the secretary-general of the powerful Israeli labor union, Histadrut. Meshel noticed, as the flight progressed, that Kamenetsky was solicitously being attended to by two passengers. Upon inquiring, he was amazed to learn that the two were Kamenetsky’s own son and granddaughter. Meshel confided that he almost never saw his own grandchildren. Kamenetsky explained to him that the differences between them and their offspring reflected their differing views of creation.

“We revere our forebears, for we believe that we descend from the actual handiwork of G-d, as well as from a generation of 3 million people who God actually spoke to. But you and your children, believe in Darwinism and random selection. As far as your children are concerned, you are one generation closer to apes than they are. So why honor you?”

This story illustrates that advancing in years, and concomitantly raising generations of children, grandchildren and students is a fantastic privilege. The older one gets, the more the opportunity one has to teach, to inspire, and to strengthen the next link to Sinai. I think that much more important than waxing poetically on different views of time passages, instead we need to daily consider the wonderful blessings we have been given. We need to realize and inspire others to realize that we are never trapped! We always are given choices to make.

Yehuda Frischman, Los Angeles


In the article, “Israel or Bust for Determined Teens” (Oct. 25), Yael Kessler is a student at Shalhevet High School and Sophie Fellman is Israel’s emissary for the USY Far West region.

The last paragraph of “Hebrew School Horror Stories” (Oct. 25) attributed a statement to Raif Cogen. Cogen never made the statement nor any statement like it. We regret the misattribution.

Your Letters

Deeply Regretted

Six weeks ago, I wrote a piece that was distributed to a few friends that eventually made its way on to the Web. It criticized a number of Jews. I have been frankly shocked by the level of communal uproar it has inspired. It is true that we are living in dangerous times, but that provides no justification for allowing our passions to overrule either our intellects or our sense of propriety. We all have too much at stake.

While my piece, written with admitted despair during a time of increasing violence in Israel, was never intended as a character assassination, the escalation in rhetoric it has generated is counterproductive and damaging to our community. I therefore wish to state publicly that it was improper for me to cast slurs on the motivations of fellow Jews, just as it was inappropriate to draw comparisons with a Holocaust-era situation. I implore all those who insist on using my words to threaten or berate members of our community, to cease from doing so.

Let me also state plainly to those who are now using my writing to inflame hatred: It is reprehensible to make death threats against any Jew or non-Jew and unacceptable to use language of extremism.

While I still believe that there are some very serious issues of balance and fairness that must be addressed in our community, any wound that I have delivered to any fellow Jew, in particular Chaim Seidler-Feller, however inadvertently, is deeply regretted.

Avi Davis, Los Angeles

The Bookstore and the Jew

In Hank Rosenfeld’s article, “The Bookstore and the Jew,” (May 24) Rosenfeld’s “protest” was a demand that we “take that racist thing out of the window,” as if we do not have a right to display a point of view. The clerk refused. A conversation ensued (our version is somewhat different than Rosenfeld’s), after which Rosenfeld went into the window area and tore down part of the article he demanded we remove. At this point, he crossed every acceptable line.

Regarding his question, “whatever happened to ‘the customer is always right?'”… the customers are never right when they abuse my staff and vandalize our store. What Rosenfeld calls “exercising the racist war sentence” is illegal. We take threatening behavior seriously.

Several weeks ago, when your paper ran what many considered a racist anti-Palestinian cover, there was another protest. Many people complained about what they thought was a disrespectful and insulting newspaper displayed in your free rack outside the front door. However, no one trashed your newspaper or demanded that we remove it (which we didn’t do). Nor did they yell or swear at us or scream at our front door before running away, as one of your readers did.

On Sunday, May 26, a few days after the Rosenfeld piece appeared in your paper, someone went into the front window and tore down the entire Said article and a picture of Israelis in Tel Aviv demonstrating against their government. Was he seriously trying to emulate Rosenfeld? I hope not.

I do not think Rosenfeld is an evil or even mean-spirited person. But I do think he is arrogant and ignorant if he believes he has a right to behave in the way he did at our store last week.

Margie Ghiz, Midnight Special Bookstore

The Fence

The recent decision by the Israeli government to fortify the border between Israel and the West Bank is every bit as important as the decision to go ahead with Operation Defensive Shield. In the long-run, it may well have a more lasting impact. Yet few periodicals saw fit to give this historic event the coverage that it deserves. The Jewish Journal is a notable exception. Rob Eshman’s “The Good Fence” (April 19) put the issue on the map. This was followed by Ron Unz’s “Sharonism vs. Building a Wall” (May 17) and Avi Davis’s powerful rebuttal (Letters, May 24). The latest, “Do Fences Make Good Neighbors?” by Leslie Susser (May 31) covers all sides of the issue in a fair and objective manner. The coverage of this important story by The Journal is an example of journalism at its best.

Leonard Beder, Encino

The Curse of Certainty

After reading Alexander Maksik’s article (“The Curse of Certainty”, May 24), and the subsequent letters to the editor regarding it, I was left with a deep feeling of sadness and hopelessness. It seems to me that unless we as Jews can see and understand the world through the eyes of the other side (whether or not we agree with it), we will remain polarized and at war. Maksik should be commended for his courage as a teacher to open his student’s eyes to different ideas and opinions.

Renee Sandler, Los Angeles

Play Ball!

The arrival of your May 31 edition brought great joy as I saw the face of one of my Synagogue Softball opponents smiling at me from behind his catcher’s mask. As one of the 400 players in the league and the manager of one team, I am quite pleased that word of the league’s presence has been spread to the greater Jewish community.

I offer two items for your consideration. First, we play the “modified fast-pitch” version of softball, not “modified slow-pitch” (as noted in the text). Second, I was a little disappointed to find that the article did not include a list of the participating synagogues: Valley Beth Shalom, Kol Tikvah, Judea, Aliyah, Emanuel, Menorah, Beth Haverim, Ahavat Shalom, Adat Ari El, Sinai, Or Ami, Leo Baeck, Ramat Zion, Shomrei Torah, Stephen S. Wise and Beth Am.

Joe Blachman, Manager Temple Ahavat Shalom

I am offended about your comment about there being no females on the team (“Synagogue’s Biggest Hit,” May 31). As one of the starting catchers for Team Beth Am, and the only female on the league, I object to the concept that it is simply a boys’ club. I am confused how it is possible for you to make such an error since I am in the picture on page 14.

Molly Weisser, Team Beth Am

Ed. Note: Sorry. We almost batted .1000.Checks and Balances

I wholeheartedly approve and support what Rob Eshman said in his editorial in the May 17 issue (“Checks and Balances”). Many Jews insist that Judea and Samaria are part of Israel, based on historical and biblical reasons. But the reality is that 4 million Palestinians demand their own state and will continue to wage war until they get it. So I can’t conceive how we can deny them.

I watch the evening news and ask myself what can I do? Well, the only thing I can do is give money. So I will substantially increase my gift to the Jews in Crisis fund.

Dr. Donald Rosman, Beverly Hills


The May 31 issue of Seven Days included an incorrect phone number for the “Where Do Babies Come From?” box office (Friday, June 7). The correct number is: (323) 655-8587.