To Rob, with love

When my friend Rob Eshman suggested I write a weekly neighborhood column in the Jewish Journal in August 2006, my immediate response was, “How can I do it every week? I can’t write about the same neighborhood week after week.”

His response: “So write about whatever you’re passionate about that week.”

Those words have stayed with me ever since, and whenever I wasn’t sure what to write about on any given week, I just followed Rob’s advice.

Well, now that I have to fill Rob’s pretty considerable shoes as the Journal’s publisher and editor-in-chief, I will try to do the same.

My first issue in my new role will be next week’s Sukkot issue. I approach this moment with some trepidation. Already, from my experience of just the past two weeks, I can tell you it is a huge amount of work to produce quality journalism every week.

When I started a spiritual magazine many years ago called OLAM, we had months to put it together. We could agonize for weeks over the articles, the writers, the images, the design, everything. Will I have as much time to agonize at the Jewish Journal? Not a chance. Will I try to be as meticulous? Yes. Wish me luck.

Producing a weekly community paper is, above all, an enormous responsibility. The eyes of a community are on you, on every word and on every image. The more I get into it, the more appreciation I have for what Rob did over the past 17 years as editor-in-chief, week in and week out.

First, I’m learning that everyone thinks they’re Ernest Hemingway, everyone has a piece that absolutely must be published. Rob knew how to manage sticky situations like this — where you want to be honest without hurting people’s feelings — with class and grace. Will I have the same grace? I don’t know. I’ll try.

Second, many readers get angry when they read content with which they disagree. Rob had this remarkable willingness to publish letters to the editor that completely reamed his own paper. Will I be as fearless? I don’t know. I’ll try.

Third, Rob was a journalist at heart. He loved news. He loved everything that would advance a story. He loved stories, period. Will I be as great a journalist and storyteller? I don’t know. I’ll try.

One of Rob’s great contributions to the Journal and to our community is his appreciation for diverse voices. I know from experience. Occasionally, I would send him an op-ed from another writer that I knew he would sharply disagree with, and I’d get this kind of response: “I disagree with it, but it’s well written and well argued.” And more often than not, he’d publish it.

You can never underestimate this talent. At a time when the nation has been as polarized as ever, when people are repulsed by views they disagree with, when disagreements easily turn into animosity, it takes guts to publish stuff you completely disagree with.

Will I have that same courage? I don’t know. I’ll try.

One thing I do know is this: If there is one thing that has bonded Rob and me over the years, it is our love of fresh and different voices, our love of trying new things, our love of shaking things up and keeping readers on their toes.

In fact, when he first brought up the idea that I take over his role, one thing he said was, “Hey, maybe the place can use some new blood.”

Am I that new blood? I don’t know. I certainly hope so.

What I can tell you is that Rob had a genius for constantly providing that new blood. His eyes and ears and taste buds were always open for something new to share with readers. If he tasted something he liked at my Shabbat table, he’d show up at my home the following week and film my mother making her famous galettes.

It is that openness I will miss the most. Those impromptu conversations in our offices about movies, food (always food), the Jewish community (don’t ask), a new book, Israeli politics (always polite), a new person we met, a cool event we attended or that was coming up, a story about one of our kids … there were always new stories to share.

Will I continue to follow Rob’s lead and tell all those new stories with fairness and passion? I’m not Hemingway, but I’ll try.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at

Letters to the Editor: NSA, Western Wall, Millepied and super grads

If You Have Nothing to Hide …

Whilst [Marty Kaplan] may be right vis a vis freedom versus security, my main concern is who is minding the minders; absolute power corrupts absolutely (“Dear NSA [NSFW],” June 14). The president may have lofty ideals and good intentions, he is a good man (although I would never vote for him), however the minions surrounding him are unelected and unaccountable.

We are living in very dangerous times and actions have to be commensurate with circumstances. We here in Israel have some of our freedoms severely restricted. You are subjected to searches by security every time you enter a store, your ID number is in common use. I am a law-abiding citizen and have nothing to hide. Given the alternative, I would rather this level of scrutiny than have a leg blown off. 

Brian Freed, Netanya, Israel via

Particularly good piece. (She said as she logged in via Facebook.)

Karen Joseph Gilman via

Issues at the Western Wall

The issues raised by Women of the Wall are complex (“Respect, Inclusion and Tolerance at the Wall,” June 14): 

1. Should the rules of Orthodox Judaism be the default position in managing the wall? 

2. To what extent should Jews in the Diaspora dictate to Israeli Jews what rules of the wall should be?

3. Religious observance in Israel has been controlled by the Orthodox since the inception of the modern State of Israel, as determined by its founders. Why should that change? 

4. Is this really a fight about what religious practices should be allowed at the wall or actually a fight that the non-Orthodox have little power in Israel? 

5. Why should Israel care what Jews in the Diaspora think if these Jews are not willing to make aliyah and live with the danger of living in Israel? 

There are so many fragile toes to be stepped on. There are so many issues not addressed but danced around. There are real existential issues facing Israel. Is this one of them?

Ilbert Phillips via

Respect Millepied, Portman as Individuals

“Before anybody ever heard of Natalie Portman …”? This is the kind of catty comment that pervades the arts and, in particular, the dance community (“Can Dance Maverick Millepied Make It Up to L.A.?” June 14). Natalie Portman has been acting since she was 12 years old; plenty of people certainly heard about her long before Millepied began getting high-profile commissions. That’s not to say his success is attributed to her, but let’s be fair to them both.

Jessica Dunn via

The Value of Chabad

I was a client at Chabad on Robertson (“Welcome to Rehab City,” June 14). Those were the best years of my life. I later became a staff member at the center, and I have 16-plus years clean. I have watched many young men change before my eyes. I believe Chabad is the best.

John A. Ostlund via

Support for Nazarian Center Benefits Everyone

I’ve attended several Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies events — films, lectures and their fabulous annual One Day University, where alumni like myself and other “civilians” get to experience talks by the center’s fabulous and inspired array of scholars (“Woman of the Pomegranate,” June 14). It’s not just the student body that gains from the presence of this department as it’s really open to all. 

Yes, if we could have Dr. Sharon Nazarian’s elegance, it would be enough. If we could have her thoughtful intelligence, it would be enough. If we could speak as warmly and eloquently as she, and if we could all be in the position to do for Israel’s profile what she is engendering, that would be enough. 

That said, the center still relies on outside support so they can continue doing this good work. So take some classes, join them and support them here (

Jane Sobo via

Kudos to New Graduates

Mazel Tov to all of the high school seniors featured in the Jewish Journal’s cover article “Super Grads” (June 7). It is impressive to read that a majority of the teens listed volunteer with children who have special needs. Our organization has benefited from the kindness of seniors Joelle Milman and Gabe Freeman in addition to the 1,000 Jewish teens who have volunteered with our special kids over the past 10 years. The L.A. Jewish community is producing talented and compassionate young adults who will make incredible leaders of tomorrow — something we can all be proud of. 

Gail Rollman, Development Director, Friendship Circle of Los Angeles

Letters to the Editor: Survivors. Garcetti cartoon, 99 Cents Only store

Survivor Stories Have Merit

I was not raised Jewish, but I like to read the Journal and discuss articles in it with acquaintances and friends. I learn so much from the Survivor stories.

I have just read the story of Charlotte Seeman (May 31). I read it twice! I couldn’t believe how much terror she and her family and friends went through, chased and hunted like animals and forced to run and hide from city to city, to try to keep living without basic provisions. It was a very moving story that brought me to tears, along with the section on Albert Rosa from Salonika, Greece (Survivor, March 15). I have visited a Nazi concentration camp in Europe, and it greatly impacted me.

I save these stories and plan to use them in public school for my students to read and discuss. I hope you will always publish them, along with their photographs.

In our narcissistic me-me-me age, these stories are a way to teach myself and my students about others, their incredible sufferings, to build a conscience and to teach mercy. I feel this is very important — and this builds community responsibility to others.

Since most public school texts have little about the Holocaust, and never survivor stories, I want my students to know that the Holocaust involved millions of REAL people, with lives, families and loved ones and stories to tell, which the Nazis snuffed out. Every person’s story is priceless! I enjoy learning about these survivors so much!!

The Journal provides a way to present their stories and photographs so they will be acknowledged and not forgotten.

This is an outstanding section of the Journal. Thanks again for publishing them!

Sharon Swan
Redondo Beach

Not Equal, Not Funny

As I read this week’s Jewish Journal, I looked at Greenberg’s View cartoon and found it offensive, confusing and not even funny (“Eretz Garcetti,” May 31). Mr. Garcetti is between the Latino and Jewish communities; in one hand he is holding a Kiddush cup and in the other he is holding a Margarita glass. Really? How is that an equivalent? How about a glass of agua fresca or a bottle of Jarritos, the popular Mexican soft drink? Seriously, I don’t get it and but it bothered me as a Jew and a Hispanic.

Cecilia Victor
Los Angeles

Unfair Assumptions

I don’t understand why people assume that an author writing about a shady character who happens to be Jewish automatically means the author is anti-Semitic (“ ‘Gatsby’s’ Jew,” May 31). One’s religion is hardly an indicator of one’s business ethics or how he or she might comport him or herself in relationships. There are plenty of people in this particular tribe — and all others, by the way — who are thieves, liars and miscreants. To infer that all people who happen to be Jewish must be portrayed in good light is absolutely ludicrous.

Nancy Nadler Frank
La Jolla

Such a Deal!

Many years ago, a friend and I strolled up and down the aisles of the Wilshire 99 Cents Only store (“Humility and a Deal,” May 24). I marveled at all the name-brand products that were being offered for 99 cents. It caused me to wonder out loud, “How do they do this?” At which point, a rather small, elderly lady with white hair pushed her shopping cart past us and remarked, “Who the f— cares?!”

Arlene Ford
Culver City


An article about the Teen Impact program at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (“Helping Teens Face Cancer,” May 17) stated that the organization has served 700 families. It has actually served 7,000 families.

In the Survivor profile of Charlotte Seeman (May 31), incorrect dates were included for the Anschluss and Kristallnacht, which took place in 1938.

Letters to the Editor: Women of the Wall, Gun Violence, Angelina Jolie

Words at the Wall

If praying with tallis and tefillin was all that Women of the Wall (WOW) wanted, they would be satisfied with the Sharnsky compromise of a third section for all other forms of Jewish worship (“Stone-Walling,” May 24). If they accepted that, they would also be allowing the Orthodox to have a place where they could pray the way they wanted to. The 2,000-year history of ritual and prayer at the Kotel should be allowed to continue and have its place as well.

This type of “theater” illustrates that it’s not just equality that WOW want, but rather to impose their practices and values on others. This is frighteningly similar to Muslims who want to impose their will on democratic societies.

Adrienne  Eisenberg

I hope every Jewish person comes to the Kotel; every man, woman and child who can get there, comes to the Kotel, regardless of level of frumkeit, age, attire. Come, just come, and maybe when the whole squawking mess of us shows up at the Wall, unable to discern who is enemy and who is friend, we’ll come to realize that we all are Jews and we are all friends; that there has never been the need to fight. Am Yisrael Chai.

Rachel Ann Anolick-Hindarochel

Tefillin Not for Sharing

I don’t find this exciting at all (“My Grandfather’s Tefillin,” May 24). In my opinion, it’s really a shame and disrespectful. I think we women must remember how holy it feels to have a man that is not equal to us; being the man, they are unique and special.

Doreen Cohanim

Gun Violence

What’s with the obsession with gun violence (“Scandal!” May 24)?  It’s not even among the 15 leading causes of death in the United States, according to National Vital Statistics Report. It’s down a stunning 49 percent since 1993. 

And according to a recent Gallup poll, most Americans (86 percent) think job creation and economic growth should be Congress’ top priority (gun control is next to last).

Warren Scheinin
Redondo Beach

Advances in Breast Cancer Surgery

Dr. Albert Fuchs’ column on Angelina Jolie’s preventative double mastectomy addressed the difficult issue of breast cancer surgery very well but it’s worth emphasizing an often overlooked aspect — the type of mastectomy performed (“Understanding Angelina,” May 17). The mastectomy that Jolie underwent is not the old-fashioned procedure that leaves a woman with a horrible scar across the chest in place of her breast. This operation, a leftover from the early days of surgery, is gradually being replaced by operations that join the best of plastic surgery with cancer surgery, together known as oncoplastic surgery. These surgeries are proven to accomplish cancer prevention or treatment as effectively without the deformity that destroys the lives of many breast cancer survivors.

Jolie’s surgery, a nipple-sparing mastectomy with implant reconstruction, is just one version of these operations that remove the cancer-forming breast tissue inside the breast but leave the skin and even nipple intact. The volume inside the breast can be replaced with an implant, as in Jolie’s case, or natural fat from elsewhere in the body. As a result, Jolie can look forward to a new life without high risk of developing breast cancer but still have breasts that look and feel normal. The important point for readers of the Journal is that you don’t need to be an A-level actress to access these advanced oncoplastic procedures. Most preventative mastectomies and breast cancer surgeries are amenable to similar surgical techniques, but, like many things in medicine today, it pays to do a little homework and be a more informed patient.  

As doctors involved in the treatment of this heartbreaking disease on a daily basis, we applaud Ms. Jolie opening the discussion and Dr. Fuchs for his informed column.

Dr. Joshua D. I. Ellenhorn, director, Tower Breast Center
Dr. Joel A. Aronowitz, director of plastic surgery, Tower Breast Center

Poetry Men

I may be mistaken but each and every time I pick up the Jewish Journal and there is poetry in your Poem section, the poet just happens to be female. Is there a reason for this bias or is this just the quirkiness of my no longer religiously reading your journal and fortuitously missing the males?

Daniel Goodman 
via e-mail

Editor’s Note: In just the last seven issues, the Journal has published the poetry of Tony Barnstone, David Gershator, Jake Marmer and Bill Yarrow. Look them up at and see what you have been missing.


In the photo caption for “A Match Made in … Israel” (May 17), Nevo Segal is on the left, not the right.

Letters to the Editor: Cleveland Kidnappings, Hawking, Mount Zion Cemetery

How Much Involvement?

This is a thought-provoking article about our own responsibility as neighbors (“We Must Be Our Brother’s Keeper,” May 17). How do we strike the balance between being intrusive and being helpful?

Haya Leah Molnar


In light with teachings of Holy Quran, we Ahmadis hope to bridge the gap and form bond of love with the fellow Jewish brethren (“His Holiness,” May 17)!

Noor Ul Amin
New Delhi, India

Boycotting Israel

I want to thank [Stephen Hawking] for boycotting Israel (“Hawking and Mohammed,” May 17). It was an insignificant, petty declaration with no real consequence. Had he not, I would have mistakenly continued to think he had integrity.

Israel should also be boycotted for receiving 180,000 Palestinians into their hospitals for medical care each year, too!

Phillip Pasmanick

I am sure that a lot of the Palestinians in Israeli jails, including young boys, do not feel Israel is so wonderful. Bravo, Mr. Hawking.

Ann McCoy

Global Warming: Real or Not?

On atmospheric CO2 reaching 400 parts per million, Marty Kaplan’s article on global warming attempts to gin up high drama about a subject waning in the public’ consciousness (“Say Goodnight, Earthlings,” May 17). Professor Kaplan: “Our planet’s hair is on fire.” Catchy, entertaining, but is it science? Data from the NASA Climate Change public Web page suggest otherwise.

A plot from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at the top of the page, shows atmospheric CO2 steadily rising since 2005.

Lower on the page, a plot from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies indicates that global average temperatures have been slightly declining since 2004.

In other words, global temperature is not following the atmospheric CO2 concentration. An unbiased analyst would see no correlation between the two. Therefore, CO2 concentration exceeding 400 parts per million is no reason to panic and to dismantle our economy. Which is why the American public lost interest in the issue.

Professor Kaplan is using “disaster porn” (his words) and “grab us by the eyeballs” (his words) to push a gloom and doom picture in support of a Luddite economic approach. Solid data from two of the world’s research powerhouses prove him wrong.

Alex Abramovici

Marty Kaplan responds: Mr. Abramovici bases his case on global temperature from 2004 to the present. Anyone who’d like to see what’s happened from 1880 to the present — both to global temperature, and to CO2 concentration — should look at the same graphs on the same NASA page he The facts really do speak for themselves.

Mattel Details

I read your article on the Autry exhibition with great interest and hope you will accept one comment/correction (“How the Jews Changed L.A.,” May 3). Mattel was started by both Ruth and Elliot Handler. Ruth was the CEO and Elliot the chief development officer (now would be referred to as chief creative officer), and both were responsible for developing and bringing out the Barbie doll and then Hot Wheels.

Irwin Field
via e-mail

Giving Credit Where Due: to L.A. Times

I was gratified to read Jared Sichel’s extremely well-reported and -written story “Restoring Mount Zion” (May 10). I’m glad that the Jewish Journal is covering the sorry state that this cemetery finds itself in — as well as nascent efforts to do something about it.

It was pointed out to me, however, by the person who forwarded the article to me that there was no mention of the fact that the publication I work for, the Los Angeles Times, broke that story. In fact, I was the person who reported and wrote the story about Mount Zion’s condition. As you know, these stories get picked up elsewhere, and people are none the wiser that the L.A. Times had a thing to do with breaking this story.

Hector Becerra
Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times

Editor’s note: The Journal has written about the decay at Mount Zion Cemetery before, including in 2007, as has The New York Times. The Los Angeles Times article mentioned did not break the story, but it did provide another look. We regret that omission.

Letters to the Editor: Prager on Newsweek’s Top Rabbi list, Slavin Library closure, AEPi

Rabbinic Recognition

I have an answer to Dennis Prager’s column criticizing the annual list of 50 top rabbis published by Newsweek/Daily Beast (“Time to End the ‘Top Rabbis’ List,” March 29). Prager complains that the Newsweek ranking brings the cult of celebrity to the fragile institution of the rabbinate, inflicting “gratuitous pain” on those rabbis who don’t make the cut and inflating the egos of those who do.

It’s too bad that Prager missed the Forward’s latest project, published a day before the Newsweek list, in which we profiled 36 rabbis who have inspired Jews throughout the country. The rabbis were selected from hundreds and hundreds of nominations submitted by our readers, who sent us compelling stories of men and women offering inspirational leadership in synagogues, classrooms, Hillels and hospices. Only two of the rabbis cited in our project were also on the Newsweek list, illustrating how very different the process and criteria were. And we didn’t rank the 36 rabbis, preferring to present them as an assemblage of the extraordinary work quietly done on behalf of the Jewish people.

The Forward is following up on this project with hard-hitting analytical stories on the challenges facing the American rabbinate, but we wanted to start by listening to our readers. I have no beef against the Newsweek list — the editor this year was a fine journalist who used to work at the Forward. But there are other ways to highlight inspired leadership, and we have shown how it can be done.

Jane Eisner
The Forward 

Lamenting Library’s Closure

We read with dismay about the impending closure of the Slavin Family Children’s Library (“Slavin Library to Close,” March 22). As a whole, its collection represents the best in Jewish children’s books, music, DVDs, programming and more. Broken up, it is bubkes.

It is disconcerting that the collection can’t be placed in a more accessible and visible location. A library is so much more than the sum of its parts! They are synergistic enterprises that give a foundation to its ethnic, religious community. Cities with smaller Jewish populations than Los Angeles, such as San Diego, Montreal and Cleveland, support Jewish literacy with libraries. While the library has never been a priority of the Federation or the BJE — otherwise resources would have been found to support it — it is still a dream of these two professional librarians to lift the children’s library out of the 6505 space and situate it in the current nexus of the community where families may visit and use it on the way to and from schools, markets, bakeries and so forth, fully integrated in communal life.

Abigail Yasgur
Sylvia Lowe
Los Angeles

Two Jews, Three Opinions?

I commend Jonah Lowenfeld for covering the story of the first three UC student governments to vote (overwhelmingly) to approve resolutions urging their campus administrations and the University of California as a whole to divest from companies that either assist or profit from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (“Three UC Student Governments Endorse BDS,” March 22). I commend him for including the voices and perspectives of Palestinian students and Students for Justice in Palestine activists in his story. And while he included the voices of Jewish students and activists who opposed these measures, he completely left out the voices of the many Jewish activists both on and off campuses who promote the non-violent BDS movement and the rights of Palestinians to equality, justice and self-determination in their homeland. Two Jews, three opinions, but one is being silenced within the Jewish community and the Jewish Journal.

Estee Chandler
Toluca Lake


The Greek Life

As a longtime reader of the Journal and also of David Suissa, I must comment on his column regarding fraternities (“Life of AEPi,” March 8).

I am a member of a ZBT fraternity (Michigan State University ’57), and I remember that McGill University in Montreal, at that time, had a ZBT chapter on that campus. ZBT is still a viable and active fraternity and has been around longer than AEPi. I am still in contact with many of the “brothers” I knew then.

Ted Toback


The article “Moving and Shaking” (March 29) omitted Rabbi Sarah Hronsky, senior rabbi at Beth Hillel Day School, from the entry about the Passover celebration at Los Angeles City Hall.

In the column “Jewlicious Works” (March 15), the Marx Brothers’ stateroom scene was from “A Night at the Opera,” not “Monkey Business.”

Letters to the Editor: Bill Maher, Witold Pilecki, ‘Lincoln’

A Word to the Unwise

I didn’t get around to reading the Dec. 7 issue of the Jewish Journal until late last night, and when I saw the Danielle Berrin column, “Q&A With Bill Maher,” the words of Joseph Welch came to mind when he said to despicable Sen. Joe McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

Not only did Bill Maher use the “C-word” when talking about Sarah Palin, but he proudly defended his use of that hateful, disgusting anti-woman expletive.

How a family Jewish newspaper can treat this piece of filth with dignity and seriousness is beyond my understanding. What about all the articles devoted to women the Journal published over the years? Would you do a Q&A on any matter with David Duke? How about Louis Farrakhan?

I will never again look at another issue of the Journal, and I will inform my thousand-plus readers about this.

God, what has happened to our educated, intelligent, caring Jewish people?

Harvey B. Schechter
via e-mail

More Stories of the Righteous

I had never heard of Witold Pilecki and was quite surprised to be reading about him for the first time (“Beyond Bravery,” Dec. 7). Please continue to keep us informed about the non-Jews who helped us out during World War II. We will no longer walk meekly into ovens and turn our heads the other way. We are aware now and count on people like Rob Eshman to keep all of us Jews and non-Jews aware of helping each other, because, truly, are we all not one people?

Lolly Hellman
Venice Beach

History Reveals the Extent of Lincoln’s Greatness

Joseph Dostal’s letter about Abraham Lincoln was not fair to our greatest president (“ ‘Lincoln’ Twists History,” Nov. 30). It is estimated that there have been more than 7,000 biographies of Lincoln written — some adoring and some quite hostile. Lincoln experienced tremendous opposition during his presidency. Southerners considered him a dangerous radical, abolitionists considered him a procrastinator, “peaceniks” considered him a warmonger. Had it not been for Sherman’s spectacular victories, Lincoln’s own party would have dumped him after his first term. His mainstay of support came from the Evangelical community.

Study Lincoln’s second inaugural address — it is an amazing document! Lincoln tried to create a theodicy of the carnage of the Civil War; namely, he felt that the Civil War was Divine punishment for the sin of slavery. 

One-hundred-forty-seven years have passed since Lincoln’s presidency and we are just beginning to fathom his greatness. 

Rabbi Louis Feldman
Van Nuys

Appreciation for Journal’s Philanthropy Coverage

The Jewish Community Foundation applauds the Jewish Journal for its in-depth coverage of philanthropy. I was pleased to be included in your insightful story on using insurance as an effective tool for charitable giving (“The Gift of Life insurance,” Nov. 23).

However there is one point to clarify regarding the use of insurance to fund a Lion of Judah Endowment (LOJE). The Lion of Judah program is a vital initiative of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to reach out to female donors, and LOJE donations referred to in the article support The Jewish Federation, not The Jewish Community Foundation.

The Foundation has collaborated over many years with The Jewish Federation and has helped establish numerous Lion of Judah endowments. With our expertise in handling a variety of assets — including insurance, securities, real estate and personal property, among others — The Foundation serves as a facilitator of charitable resources to The Jewish Federation, and, in particular, for women who wish to endow their annual gift to the Federation.

Elliot Kristal
Vice President, Charitable Gift Planning
Jewish Community Foundation
of Los Angeles

Importance of Jewish Ritual

I read with interest your profile of Jewish Federation chair Richard Sandler (“Richard Sandler: A Philanthropic Life,” Nov. 23). While it is not my intention to criticize Sandler’s (and his late father’s) level of Jewish ritual observance, I found it hard to reconcile two important statements made in the article. Sandler is dismayed by how many Jews are opting out of Jewish lives, because he understands the meaningfulness Jewish connection can offer. He then recounts how his grandfather taught his father that it was more important to live Jewish values than to follow all the rituals.

I am convinced that the reason so many Jews opt out of Jewish life is precisely because there cannot be a meaningful Jewish connection without Jewish ritual. It is Jewish ritual, which so often emphasizes community, family and individual, responsibility, unity and spirit that gave birth to “Jewish values.” Take away the former and you are left with an empty shell of the latter.

No wonder so many Jewish youth (in age and knowledge) fail to see the beauty of Jewish values — they have no idea what differentiated it from anything else.

Moshe Weiss
Sherman Oak

Letters to the Editor: Ayn Rand, Romney, Obama, Rachel Corrie

Dissecting Ayn Rand 

In “Rand … Rosenbaum?” (Aug. 17), Rob Eshman tries to convince us (or himself) that Ayn Rand’s support of Israel confirms her Jewishness and contradicts her philosophy. Neither is true. 

Eshman seems to think that her Jewishness is proved by her ignoring her Jewish background (of which there was precious little; although her Russian family celebrated some Jewish holidays, it also celebrated Christmas), and being an atheist. Interesting “reasoning.” All you have to do to prove your “Jewishness” is to ignore the cultural aspects and reject the philosophic aspects. Hard to think of a stronger case.

Rand’s support of Israel no more establishes her Jewishness than it contradicts her philosophy. Of course, she urged people to support Israel, but so have many non-Jews. She held that Israel (despite being semi-socialist and having a state religion) deserved support because it’s a bastion of Western Civilization, and Western Civilization is the embodiment of Rand’s philosophy of reason, rational self-interest and individual rights. “[The culture of the Arabs] is primitive,” she said, “and they resent Israel because it’s the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent.” 

Her “Jewishness” is ignored by Ayn Rand Web sites because of its insignificance in her life. 

Michael S. Berliner
The Ayn Rand Archives

Rob Eshman  responds: Mr. Berliner is almost exactly correct. I do indeed think Ayn Rand’s Jewishness is proved by her willful excising of her Jewish past and identity from her biography. The list of successful Jews who have done or do the same — yet whose world views and thoughts are nonetheless shaped by the force they strive to suppress — is as long as Jewish history. 

He’s also correct that Ayn Rand fansites ignore her Jewishness. But in her masterful biography “Ayn Rand and the World She Made,” Anne Heller, who is a nonacolyte and a critical thinker, goes into the Jewish impact on Rand’s life in fascinating — and honest — detail.

Election 2012 

Mary Kaplan shines a blistering light on the sad shortcomings of the contemporary media when it comes to their failure to form a persistent and enduring counterbalance to the mega-money machine of lies and propaganda that constitutes the Republican campaign effort (“Romney/Ryan and the Lullaby of Lying,” Aug. 31). 

The Republicans have nominated an even richer cipher than they did in 2000, and (who thought it possible?) a vice presidential candidate to the right of Dick Cheney; yet the one-and-done mainstream media have demonstrated collective amnesia on what this pairing wrought last time around, while essentially allowing a billionaire-fueled campaign of falsehoods, innuendo and race-baiting to pass for ideas. Kudos to Kaplan for pointing it out. 

Mitch Paradise
Los Angeles

It seems like there’s been some tough love in The Jewish Journal, too (“Where’s the Tough Love for Obama,” Aug. 24). For the first time in years, I am unexpectedly yet delightedly reading a “centrist-liberal” take on the hypocritical double standard of a president who claimed to be the change that everyone was hoping for  but has turned out to be just more of the same.

If self-criticism is such a virtue, then the president would have engaged in enough of it by now to realize that he has been advancing the same spend-and-spend, go-and-fight foreign wars statecraft of the previous administration. This is one nasty trend in American politics that must not be “sanitized.”

I commend Suissa for his open call for real scrutiny of this president, and I think more people in the Jewish community would be better served by concentrating their criticism on a president who has done much harm to this country’s relationship with our one ally in the Middle East — Israel. From pressuring Netanyahu for land swaps to open appeasement with hostile Arab countries, one can only ponder: “With friends like Obama, Israel needs no enemies.”

Thanks again, David. Keep up the good work.

Arthur Christopher Schaper

The Death of Rachel Corrie 

If Rachel Corrie deserves to be remembered at all, it is as one who was not interested in the injustices to be found in her own city, her own state, her own country (“Rachel Corrie Suit Hinged on One Small Question,” Aug. 31). She was not one who was motivated to act on behalf of the victims of Russia or China or Iran or Iraq or Syria or Libya or North Korea or of the regime in Gaza. She was, as well, indifferent to the mortal struggles in dozens of other places where the victims have no powerful allies and do not enjoy the slavish, obsessive solicitude of the United Nations. 

No, Corrie wasn’t interested in any of that. The 23-year-old Corrie, who did not know anything but who had all the answers, eagerly traveled halfway around the world to make herself an accomplice of the hateful, jihadist dictatorship in Gaza. In so doing, she made her own contribution to that ancient hatred, that convenient hatred, that most durable hatred, the hatred of the Jews. 

While that is quite enough to make Corrie a hero in many parts of the world, decent people should not be confused about who and what she was.

Chip Bronson
Stephanie London

Beverly Hill

How much is Jewish innovation worth?

On May 8, in a very cool space in Culver City, I listened to a hundred very cool people talk about their very cool vision for the Jewish future.

The occasion was something called — OK, bear with me — “ALCHEMY: The Science & Art of Jewish Innovation: an evening of thought-provoking learning and conversation presented by the Joshua Venture Group, Jumpstart & LimmudLA with the Joshua Venture Fellows.”

I know, almost as long as the production credits for “Prometheus.”

But this title at least shows there is a bull market in Jewish innovation. Groups like these have arisen, at least in part, to find, develop and fund young, or young-ish, Jews who are trafficking in innovative approaches to Jewish life.

Indeed, “innovation” is the hottest word in organized Jewish life these days. Say you are doing something “innovative,” and Jewish organizations will roll out the welcome mat and funders will prick up their ears. To what do these young people owe their windfall? Three things.

First, society has never looked more kindly on innovators. We all live in the post-Jobsian glow of the next new thing, and it’s no surprise that a people who lay claim to the “Start-Up Nation” are particularly susceptible to start-up ideas.

Second, there is a deep fear among the older Jewish generation — the people giving away the money — that Judaism is losing its hold on the younger generation of Jews. “Innovation” is the solution begat by the last buzzword of Jewish anxiety, “continuity” — the fear brought on by the 1990 Jewish Population Survey that younger generations of Jews are detached, assimilated or marrying out of their People. In Los Angeles, of course, we have zero proof whether this is still true because, unlike in other large Jewish communities, there has been no subsequent scientific survey. (New York just released a new comprehensive survey this week, as it does every decade.) But, hey, data is so old-fashioned.

Third, social media has made the cost of seeming to build an organization or movement fairly cheap. Your parents’ chavurah never had more than 15 people in it, and their synagogue maybe only had 500 members. In the Internet age, 500 is how many people join Facebook every minute.

I’m not saying that the organizations that presented at Alchemy were not thoughtful or serious or worthy. Just the opposite. To become recipients of Joshua Venture grants, they had to prove their abilities at organization and leadership. Nati Passow of the Jewish Farm School, Eli Winkelman of Challah for Hunger, Ari Weiss of Uri L’Tzedek and Alison Laichter of the Jewish Meditation Center, to name a few, all spoke impressively.

The Alchemy organizers asked me to listen to the evening’s worth of these and other presentations and then, at the end, “synthesize” what had been said, especially in the context of the Los Angeles Jewish community, in a final wrap-up speech. I did just that, but with the fair warning that as a columnist it takes me at least a week to think on my feet. The interim has allowed me time to innovate some further thoughts.

I told the Alchemy attendees, first, that I was humbled. 

I said that they do need to recognize that they are just the latest in a long line of innovators. In fact, the coolest, youngest innovators I know in the Jewish community are all between 60 and 90 years old. Think about it: Rabbi Marvin Hier created the Simon Wiesenthal Center out of thin air. Rabbi Uri Herscher built the Skirball Cultural Center from the ground up. Rabbi Harold Schulweis has been at the forefront of the chavurah movement, the righteous persons movement, the Jewish response to Darfur, the acceptance of converts and intermarrieds. Rabbi Laura Geller keeps creating new models for women and synagogue leadership. There’s Brandeis-Bardin, the Shoah Foundation, the Israeli Leadership Council and everything the Cunin family initiated years ago — I mean a Chabad telethon.

Today, the institutions these men and women built look like … institutions. But in their day, they struggled against a status quo that, to put it mildly, did not welcome them with grants and conferences. What looks mainstream today was anything but at the conception.

The lesson from this is that innovation is not new: It is built into Jewish life. That’s because Judaism itself was once an innovation — a radical departure from the status quo that realized only through balancing tradition with hiddush, innovation or renewal, can a culture move forward and thrive.

And that’s what leads me to my caveats and worries: I wonder if true innovation among young people isn’t hampered, rather than helped, by our rush to reward innovators with grants and aid. If innovators have an idea and don’t get communal monies to pull it off, can they develop the skills, or cojones, to just strike out on their own and sustain their ideas, like the Hiers and Herschers did?

It’s one thing to create the next new Web site or cool organization, but lasting innovations have always been solidly linked to visionary leadership, often forged in adversity, and committed for the long haul.

I would hope, too, that existing Jewish organizations understand the benefits of bringing young innovators on board, of just saying yes to more outside ideas, if only to save on the money and energy expended to start yet more groups.

And finally, I hope — pray — that grantors balance their eagerness to fund “new and cool” with the much less sexy need to fund “old and sick,” or lonely and disabled, or poor and weak. Maybe we as a community are so awash in money that we can afford to spend millions getting perfectly healthy, smart, upper-middle-class Jews excited about Judaism and Israel. Fine. But before we spend a penny there, let’s make sure we have taken care of the needs of all those who otherwise could use that money: the Holocaust survivors, the working poor, the hungry and disabled and ill. That’s not innovative. It’s just Jewish.

Letters to the Editor: Peter Beinart, Dennis Prager and ADL

The Argument for Two States

In reviewing Peter Beinart’s new book, Rabbi David Wolpe states that “Israel’s settlements” are an “impediment” to peace (“Inconvenient Truths,” March 30).

Is Wolpe arguing a Palestinian state must be Jew-free? Why can’t 300,000 Jews live among 2 million Arabs in Judea and Samaria, when 1.2 million Arabs can live among 6 million Jews in Israel proper? Not to mention that the Jewish community makes up less than 2 percent of the West Bank.

Not a single new Jewish community has been built since Oslo began in 1993.

Wolpe also wrongly claims that “Beinart’s argument for two states has tremendous support in the U.S. and in Israel.” Not so: The American Jewish Committee’s 2011 Survey of American Jewish Opinion found that American Jews oppose the creation of a Palestinian state by 55 percent to 38 percent. A June 2009 Israel Project poll showed that 66 percent of Americans believe that Israeli support for establishing a Palestinian state and stopping the expansion of Jewish settlements will not bring lasting peace to the region. A July 2009 Maagar Mohot Survey Institute poll found that 70 percent of Israeli Jews believe that Israel’s interests are best served by a Palestinian autonomy, as against only 15 percent who believe it would be better served by a sovereign Palestinian state.The real reason there’s no peace is Palestinian incitement to anti-Jewish hatred and violence in their schools, mosques, media and speeches; refusal to arrest terrorists and to outlaw terrorist groups; and accept Israel as a Jewish state.

Michael Goldblatt
Chair, Zionist Organization of America

Prager Column So Close to Commendable … Yet So Far

As I read Dennis Prager’s opinion piece (“Tamara Doesn’t Want to Date a Republican!” April 6), I finally felt the joy my Jewish Republican friends feel when they read Prager and nod their head in agreement. What a disappointment it was, therefore, when I got to the end of the article and read Prager’s irrelevant comment, which counter-factually implies that liberal Jews are (or were) against the execution of Adolf Eichmann. I was actually about to share his editorial with my liberal Jewish friends on Facebook until I got to that sentence, which forced me to reconsider. Prager’s thesis was so strong and it should have gone to people who needed to hear it most, but I could not, in good conscience, send something with a comment that offensive.

Guy Handelman
via e-mail

Dennis Prager responds:

Apparently, in his great enthusiasm about my column, Mr. Handelman did not carefully read what I wrote.

Here is what I actually wrote: “I would have found it very hard to marry a woman who was passionate about keeping all murderers alive and thought that Israel was therefore immoral in executing Adolf Eichmann.”

I was writing about opponents of capital punishment, not about all liberals. Many liberals support capital punishment.

And yes, abolitionists — Jewish and non-Jewish — do indeed regard Israel’s executing of Eichmann as immoral. How could they not? The moment one deems some executions moral, one is no longer an abolitionist.

Mr. Handelman can now in good conscience send my letter to his liberal friends.

Behind Every Winning Decathlon Team Is a Great Coach

The Academic Decathlon could be the most successful high school competition (“Save the Academic Decathlon,” March 30). LAUSD rightfully should be commended for its success, but more importantly for its support of this great event.

For those unaware, this isn’t a geek confab. There are three A, three B and three C students. All they do is study together for the better part of a year. They learn teamwork. Teams are respected on campus like any future draft choice. Schools like Bell High School and Franklin gain a new sense of pride in their teams’ achievements. There hasn’t been any study, but someone should look into the GPA of C student alums.

The loosed-lip secret is that the key to these successes has been outstanding coaching. You do not get many coaches willing to work for free. It’s easy to see other extracurricular subjects suffering for the same reasons. Many track and field coaches are unpaid volunteers.

Anyone interested in spending a day next January with 500 focused high school kids, get in touch.

Bill Kabaker
Volunteer Interview Chair
LAUSD Academic Decathlon

Longtime ADL Member Sounds His Clarion Call

During my 41-year career with the Anti-Defamation League [ADL], I delivered thousands of speeches, many of which were captioned “The Fight Against Anti-Semitism, Progress and Problems.” In those talks, I spelled out in great detail how much better life was for Jews in the United States in the fields of employment, housing, higher education and public accommodations.

Then I said that anti-Semitism is like the flu virus. It never goes away forever. I closed with, “Show me a complacent Jew, and I will show you a damned fool. Jews, enjoy what we have but always be involved, be informed, be organized, and be ready to act.”

This was my trumpet call to the Jews who heard me.

Harvey B. Schechter
Beverly Hills

Getting that giving is getting

When Eli Tene, co-chair of the Israeli Leadership Council (ILC), first called to tell me about a new initiative they had cooked up, I knew it was something big. I could hear it in his voice.

And as I sat down with Donna Kreisler, whom the ILC had plucked from a successful career in Israel as a business consultant to bring her here to head this massive project, I could see I.L.Care’s unique vision: to create a tight-knit community of Israeli and American-Jewish volunteers, changing lives — the lives of people in need, as well as their own. Getting involved by giving, Tene told me with conviction, had changed his own life.

Throughout my interviews with the leaders of I.L.Care, they explained the challenge they faced within the Israeli community and, therefore, the enormous potential impact of the project: Put simply, most Israelis aren’t volunteers or philanthropists. And the ILC wants to change that.

I am only beginning to realize just how monumental the ILC’s challenge is.

I bought my ticket to the concert, and I wanted all my friends and family to come. I sent an e-mail to my sister and my two sisters-in-law: “Tickets are only $18, but the catch is you have to promise to volunteer four hours in the next year, which I think is amazing, but you’ll have to get your guys to volunteer, too.”

For some reason, I knew the women (none of whom are 100 percent Israeli) would be on board, but I had a feeling the men (all Israelis, including my sister’s boyfriend) would take some convincing. But, Moshe Peretz for $18?! It couldn’t be that hard a sell, could it?

“He wasn’t into the whole volunteering thing,” one of my sisters-in-law wrote back.

Not into the volunteering thing? Who says that?

An Israeli, that’s who.

And herein lies the challenge. It’s not that Israelis aren’t wonderful, giving and generous people. In fact, my brother-in-law is one of the kindest, most unselfish individuals I know. He is always the first to lend a hand to a friend in need. Which is why I was quite shocked at his response. So I asked him about it.

He shrugged and said he doesn’t have time to volunteer. When that excuse didn’t get me off his case, he went with the “it’s just not for me” defense. By the end of the night, after relentlessly chipping away at him, I managed to elicit a not-so-promising, “I’ll think about it.”

The truth is, most Israelis are not into the whole volunteering thing. They weren’t raised to be. Volunteerism, it turns out, is a learned cultural value, and as I wrote in this month’s cover story, there are clear explanations as to why Israeli culture has not yet adopted the tikkun olam (healing the world) mentality.

My other sister-in-law, who is Russian but moved to Israel when she was a teen and always had a difficult time adjusting to the Israeli mentality, put it well: “In Israel, you learn that you never do something for nothing.” There’s a word for that in Hebrew: frier. It’s a mentality that doesn’t leave much room for giving for the sake of giving.

Changing this pattern of behavior in an entire community is precisely what I.L.Care is attempting. This is not just about convincing a bunch of people to volunteer — there’s nothing new or remarkable about that — it’s about re-educating a population and introducing a new value: Giving is the greatest gift you can give to yourself.

The late Steve Jobs once said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Israelis don’t know they want to give, but the ILC is going to show them.

We are family

How do you define family?

A father, a mother and two children? A single mom raising two girls? A divorced mom and a stepfather, two stepkids and a half-sister? Two sisters, one half-sister from the same mother, and a half-brother and half-sister from the same father?

These aren’t different types of families. It’s the same family — mine — at various points in my life. The meaning of family is not static; it’s constantly evolving over the course of our own lives, as well as over the course of human history.

The fact that the term “nuclear family” no longer describes most American families is old news. One study, cited in the Wikipedia entry for nuclear family, found that as of 2000, nuclear families consisting of both biological parents made up only 24 percent of American households. The same study indicated that U.S. households are so diverse, there is no longer a definition for the average family.

I’m sure that doesn’t come as a shock.

In the age of ABC’s Emmy Award-winning “Modern Family,” MTV’s popular “Teen Mom,” tabloid-darling Octomom Nadya Suleman and Angelina Jolie’s mini-U.N. clan, the hodgepodge postmodern family has clearly gained prominence and social acceptance.

But what happens to a word when you keep adding more and more definitions, each one taking you further from the original meaning? Does the word become so vague that it loses its value, or so dense that it no longer has a connotation — like a child mixing paint colors, forming a dull grayish hue?

A father, a mother and two children are a family. We can all agree on that. A married man and woman are a family. Most people, according to the latest studies, will agree with that statement. An unmarried couple cohabitating — a boyfriend and girlfriend — are they a family? Most of us would say they are not. But what if they have a child together?

Let’s take it one step further: A man lives with a woman and her child, but they are not a couple. Does the presence of a child automatically turn a house into a household? Then is a household without any children a family?

These are some of the questions we tackle in this issue of TRIBE. As you will read in our cover stories, each one of the families we profile has had to struggle with the concept of family, and all have had to figure out a way to define themselves — to their community, to their own families and to themselves.

We don’t need sociology books or the results of the U.S. census to tell us what family means to us. It’s a definition that we each form for ourselves and adjust as we move through life. Sometimes it’s a deliberate decision — for instance, choosing not to have children, or choosing to have a child alone — that defines a family. Other times, a family is formed by chance and forces beyond our control. Whatever shape or color that family unit takes, we all seem to thrive on the intimacy, the comfort and the familiarity it affords us.

What does my family look like now?

Husband, wife and child. Oh, and Mom, Abba, stepfather, two sisters, three brothers-in-law, two nephews, half-sister, half-brother, mother-in-law, best friend … 

Morally Kosher; Defending the Dennis; <BR>Teddy the Great; Jane Ulman means ‘brilliant writing

Morally Kosher

Perhaps you wonder whether your column has an impact (“Moral Diet,” Jan. 5). Upon reading it last week, my wife and I — longtime vegetarians and supporters of organic farming — were struck by the justice and power of [Rob Eshman’s] words. I immediately spoke with our president, executive director and others at the synagogue, and all agreed that Sinai Temple would join Hazon’s Tuv Ha’Aretz program. We will encourage our members to buy shares in a local farm and enjoy their organic produce. Perhaps we will even persuade some members to till a little local soil!

Kashrut is the Jewish expression of our stewardship of the earth. As the Midrash teaches us, God told human beings at the outset of our journey, we are responsible for the well being of the world, for if we befoul its air and destroy its earth, no one will follow to undo our neglect. This kashrut initiative expresses that holy purpose of taking care of God’s gift. Along with our program to encourage buying fuel-efficient cars, which has so far enabled more than 50 members to purchase hybrid vehicles, this is our synagogue’s attempt to fulfill the ethical underpinning of the mitzvot.

Rabbi David Wolpe
Sinai Temple

I am responding to your article, “Moral Diet.” I will quote your words: “Many kosher-observant Jews would argue that kashrut is not about morality, but about obeying a set of divine but incomprehensible laws. That’s a fine line of reasoning for infants and automatons, but most of us who struggle with kashrut do it to elevate our souls….”

Your words deeply offend, hurt and disgust me. I indeed keep kosher because it is Divinely commanded and at a certain point incomprehensible on a strictly rational level. I do not believe the Almighty needs to make His laws with my approval, nor do I think He needs yours. Of course everyone has free will, but a servant of God does not demand of his Master to explain Himself or His directives.

Beyond insulting an entire group of Jews, your words serve to alienate and destroy, instead of creating and building. A person with such a position of influence like yourself has an awesome responsibility. Do you think it’s fine to be so judgmental and condescending? I disagree with Jews who don’t keep kosher, but I do not call them names or insult them.

Josh Horwitz
via e-mail

Prager’s Right

Dennis Prager has every right to express his opinion, and those criticizing his view that a congressman should take his oath on the Bible are intolerant and judgmental (“Democrats Call on GOP to Condemn Prager, Rep. Goode,” Jan. 5).

The blatant disregard and disdain for American customs and values is the hallmark of the left, which bullies its way into schools, health care, the workplace and every other segment of American life, from education to social issues, trying to impose its will on a majority that neither believes in nor wants its advocacy. But when one member of the right dares to defend a tradition honoring a belief system that built this country, the left wants him to humbly apologize.

Those criticizing Prager should instead apologize to him for trying to isolate him and intimidate him into submission — very un-American approaches to disagreeing with someone’s views.

Caroline Miranda
North Hollywood

It is time for all Americans and all Jews to eschew calls of “racism” whenever Islam or the Quran is commented on in ways felt to be “politically incorrect.” The name calling is not productive and honest debate about the issues is squelched by this type of unthinking emotional outburst.

The Judeo-Christian Bible is clearly the basis for American values, and Dennis Prager and Rep. Virgile Goode were correct in making that point.

It should be noted that the Jeffersonian Quran that Rep. Ellison chose to use for his ceremonial swearing-in was the book that Jefferson studied prior to advocating war against the Muslim pirate slavers of the Islamic Barbary States of Morrocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Tripoli. It was the Bible that provided the values to oppose Muslim slavery, not the Quran of the Muslim Barbary pirates.

The Democrats for Israel should save their condemnation for Rep. Ellison, a man who built his career on Jew-hatred as the spokesman for the Nation of Islam. The demand by the group, that the Republican Jewish Coalition rebuke Prager and Goode is vulgar, pathetic and misguided.

Michael A. Wienir
via e-mail

Jane Ulman

Jane Ulman always writes well, whether it’s about her sons, Torah references or others (“Who Needs Law School? Just Marry a Lawyer,” Jan. 5). I was particularly touched by her latest column for it’s humanity, expressions of love and the nature of her marital relationship, warmth, subtle humor and personal insights.

Even though I didn’t want to overstate my initial response upon reading her very human account, still “brilliant writing” first came to mind.

I hope to see much more of Jane’s work in this vein.

Allan Boodnick
Los Angeles

Teddy Kollek

As Mormons around the world celebrate the reopening of Brigham Young University’s Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem on Jan. 8, we pause to mourn the passing of Teddy Kollek, a leader of compassion and vision whose support was crucial in securing permission for the center to be built in the mid-1980s (“Teddy Kollek, Jerusalem’s Modern Day Herod, Dies at 95,” Jan. 5).

BYU students have studied in Jerusalem since 1968, and “Mr. Jerusalem” helped the university to secure the land and building permits necessary to erect the permanent facility, which was opened in 1987. For many years the mayor maintained close ties to BYU, which granted him an honorary doctorate in 1995 during one of his visits to Utah; his last visit to the university took place in 2002. Mayor Kollek praised the Jerusalem Center as a possible bridge to peace and a symbol of Israel’s capital as an open city.

Kollek’s graciousness to the Mormon community was not limited to BYU. In 1979 he bestowed the Jerusalem City Medal on LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball on the Mount of Olives, where they had participated in the opening of a memorial park commemorating the church’s dedication of the Land of Israel for the gathering of the Jews in 1841. In addition, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in Israel at the invitation of Mayor Kollek during his last year in office. May his name and memory be blessed, and may his dream of peace be fulfilled in our lifetimes.

Israeli-Palestinian Confederation; CAIR; Borat; Elections; More JewQ questions


Josef Avesar says of the Israelis and Palestinian Arabs that “each side demands that the other relinquish crucial aspects of its identity,” and that therefore, some form of confederation would be a “pragmatic” solution to their problems (“Mideast Solution: A Confederation,” Nov. 3). Both Avesar’s diagnosis and prescription are wrong.

Palestinians aim to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state, not merely to change some aspects of its identity. Israelis only demand that Palestinian Arabs relinquish this aim, not their identity.

Avesar envisages Israel and the Palestinian Authority in time relinquishing their power to what “will become the de facto authority to establish rules to settle issues, solve problems.” There is a simple term for this — binationalism, something which would see Israel gradually dismantled and Jews turned into a minority in a greater Palestinian state.

Avesar’s confederation scheme is therefore simply a program for foisting a creeping binational scheme on Israel.

Morton A. Klein
National President
Zionist Organization of America


It is curious how Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), defines the terms “extremist” and anti-Semitic (Letters, Nov. 10).
He claims his organization merely “denounce[s] human rights violations committed by Israel.” But in fact, Ayloush himself is known to use the term “Zionazi” to refer to Israelis and compare Zionism to Nazism, once writing in an e-mail, “Indeed, the Zionazis are a bunch of nice people; just like their Nazi brethren! It is just that the world keeps making up lies about them! It is so unfair.”Ayloush cavalierly accuses me of engaging in “guilt by association” but avoids comment on CAIR’s involvement in the promotion of anti-Semitism.

He does not dispute the virulently anti-Semitic language used by Wagdy Ghoneim at a CAIR-sponsored event, in which he led the audience in a song with the lyrics, “No to the Jews, descendants of the apes.”

Additionally, CAIR has invited neo-Nazi William Baker to speak at various conferences, whose presence at such events Ayloush has defended. How dare people infer anti-Semitism and extremism from such incidents.

As for Ayloush’s claim that CAIR “defend(s) the civil rights of unpopular individuals,” such defenses typically involve attacking any terrorism investigation or asset forfeiture as, for example, an “‘anti-Muslim witchhunt’ promoted by the pro-Israel lobby in America.” (One should note that the individuals involved in that company have been convicted of providing material support to Hamas and violating sanctions imposed on state sponsors of terrorism, receiving sentences up to seven years in prison).

Of course, Ayloush himself responds to any criticism of his organization in the typical fashion employed by all CAIR officials: smearing anyone who reports on uncomfortable and disquieting facts by labeling them an “Islamophobe” or “anti-Muslim.” Ayloush’s own record of engaging in and tolerating anti-Semitic viewpoints speaks for itself.

Steven Emerson
Executive Director
Investigative Project on Terrorism

Ed. Note: Hussam Ayloush’s previous response is online at, where the two men are invited to continue their exchange.

Orthodox Split

I believe that your article on the Modern Orthodox/Charedi split underplays the differences on the ground between the two communities (“Two Neighborhoods Reveal Orthodox Community’s Fault Lines,” Nov. 10). By interviewing only moderate rabbis (Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is the local Charedi apologist, far to the left of his colleagues) and few congregants, one gets an overly rosy picture. I believe more animosity and derision of the other exists.

Modern institutions will find more like-minded teachers and clergy will not respond to Charedi book-bannings, and Charedim will have to look elsewhere to fund their causes.

Name withheld by request
Los Angeles

Steven Rosen’s review of “Borat” was right on target in regard to the satirical elements of the anti-Semitism depicted in the movie. However, Rosen failed to comment on the fact that when Borat spoke to his cohort/producer, Bagatov, he did so in Hebrew. My husband and I thought this added to the satire in that a “flagrant anti-Semite” would never even know lashon Hakodesh. Kudos to Sacha Baron Cohen!

Nancy Cooper Federman
Westlake Village

Size Matters

A better approach than making a car that gets 100 miles per gallon is to develop one that rarely uses gasoline (“Size Matters,” Nov. 10). A plug-in hybrid would do most driving based on battery power from being plugged into an outlet and switch to gasoline when the batteries are depleted.

I’ve read about alternate approaches for storing energy in a car. These include using flywheels or compressed air. The “Tel Aviv Project” that you propose does not have to limit itself to improving gas mileage or batteries.

David Wincelberg
Beverly Hills

Loss of Interest

Rob Eshman’s editorial caused me to stop and think. He poses the question: Why is the attendance at the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities so low (“Size Matters,” Nov. 10). Why only 3,000? Why not 25,000? After all, Los Angeles has the second-largest Jewish population in the United States.

I can offer an explanation for the apparent lack of interest among our Jewish community. Certainly I speak only for myself, but I believe what I say would apply to many others like me.

Until several years ago, I was very interested in the Jewish community, but then I experienced the workings of The Jewish Federation, with its abandonment of the Jewish Community Centers and self-aggrandizement, and the workings of the Greater L.A. [Federation] administration. Then I realized that our leaders are more inclined to cushion their own portfolios, rather than the good of the Jewish community, and too many leaders suffer from exaggerated egos.

So today, instead of donating to the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, I have found more worthy causes, where more of my contribution goes to the charity and not to the leaders. Very likely, my perception has rubbed off on others with whom I relate. And perhaps many other have the same opinion.

George Epstein
Los Angeles

P.S. I enjoyed reading about Theodore Von Karman (“Jewry’s Role in Human Advancement,” advertisement). What few people know about him is that he played a key role in the development of the armor systems helping to save lives in Iraq and elsewhere. In 1956, as the program manager at Aerojet General Corp. for an Army program to develop advanced personnel armor concepts, I was fortunate to have Dr. Von Karman as a consultant for my program.

Cluster bombs; again with the ‘Dumb Jews;’ Democrats vs Republicans one more time; Jews in Space!

Cluster Bombs

Calling for condemnation of the IDF’s use of cluster bombs against Hezbollah would degrade Israel’s ability to defend herself, thus encouraging Hezbollah to again employ their vast rocket and missile inventory to terrorize and murder Israeli civilians and to damage Israel’s economy (“Cluster Silence,” Oct. 31).

When the IDF’s attempt to neutralize Hezbollah’s missiles with precision guided explosives failed to reduce Hezbollah’s rate of fire against Israel’s civilian population, the only alternative approaches remaining were area suppression weapons, such as airborne cluster bombs.

Howard Laitin
Lt. Col. U.S. Army Reserve (ret.)

My brother says you are a coward. You sit in Los Angeles and give morality lessons to those who risked their lives every day during the Lebanon War. If the choice is between your children being killed by Hezbollah’s Katyusha rockets and the enemy’s children being killed by Israel’s cluster bombs, what do you prefer?

My brother and his family — as well as thousands of Israelis in the north — were in danger whether they sat in their homes or went out to get food. They are among the Israelis who thank the IDF for dropping those cluster bombs on Hezbollah, their supporters and future Hezbollah members.

Lilly Cohen
Via e-mail

Interesting, you’ve received a torrent of protests against your “Dumb Jews” headline, but judging by the Nov. 3 Letters, minimal reaction to your courageous “Cluster Silence” editorial. Don’t know what that says about Jewish sensitivities, but where I come from, two wrongs don’t make a right, and if the innocent on their side are killed or maimed in the course of protecting the innocent on our side, then we who know better should be the first to admit the shame.

Betsy Korbonski
Pacific Palisades

The real problem is Israel’s survival — nothing less. Bomblets spread throughout southern Lebanon in the recent imbroglio are a lesson that Israel can make life very miserable for all Israel’s enemies, no matter what. The bomblets say, “Never Again.”

Jerry Green
Los Angeles

Truth About CAIR

It is perplexing to see an extremist, anti-Muslim voice make the pages of The Jewish Journal (“L.A. Times Violates Ethics in Council Race,” Oct. 20).

Steven Emerson’s real aim is for the Jewish community to shun Council on American-Islamic Relations’s (CAIR) , solely on the basis of guilt by association. CAIR is the largest advocacy group representing American Muslims, with hundreds of volunteers and tens of thousands of members. It is ludicrous of Emerson to hold CAIR responsible for the alleged infractions of former affiliates acting on their own volitions.

Emerson also attacks CAIR for defending the civil rights of unpopular individuals. Organizations are judged on the quality of their work and substance of their statements. Like the ACLU, we, as a civil rights organization, are bound to defend the rights of all Americans, even those perceived to hold unacceptable views.

CAIR ( is a human rights organization. As such, it is our duty and Islamic obligation to speak out against human rights abuses, whatever the faith of the victims or the perpetrators. We recently issued a statement against a predominantly Muslim country, Tunisia, for banning Muslim women from wearing the head scarf. We have regularly been critical of our government’s handling of the Iraq War. Yet, we are not labeled anti-American, anti-Christian or anti-Muslim. However, when we denounce human rights violations committed by Israel, we are quickly criticized as being anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic.

People of all faiths must challenge and repudiate extremists. CAIR, through initiatives like its fatwa on extremism, is doing its part. Will the mainstream Jewish community do the same with extremists like Emerson?

Hussam Ayloush
Executive Director
CAIR Southern California

Jews in Space

I was thrilled to see the “Jews in Space” cover and stories, two subjects near and dear to my heart (Nov. 3). I was less thrilled when I realized that every single scientist and engineer mentioned was male.

While it may not be possible for reporters to get every side of a story, the omission of female voices reinforces the idea that the hard sciences are strictly a male preserve. Yes, there are female Jewish astronomers, engineers and space scientists — a pity that their thoughts on their work and their religious feelings weren’t presented.

Jo Pitesky
Via e-mail

Dems vs. GOP

I am tired of Bill Boyarsky and others of the radical left who would foist on society judges who wish to legislate through fiat nonmainstream positions.

I am tired of advocates of eliminating Israel, whether by calling for one state, confederation or any other euphemism.I am tired of cartoonists who think if they draw anti-Republican, they are drawing Jewish.

And that’s just politics. Don’t get me started on religion. There’s sure to be something exasperating every week. Thanks, Jewish Journal.

S.Z. Newman
Los Angeles

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s ad campaign has appropriated my words (which are solely mine and don’t necessarily represent the views of Democrats for Israel, Los Angeles) to advance an agenda quite the opposite of my own.

I emphatically do not advocate that Jews abandon the Democratic Party. Jews who are concerned about Israel’s welfare must redouble their commitment to the Democratic Party to combat the influence of the ill-liberal left and maintain the party’s historic support of Israel.

Paul Kujawsky
Vice President
Democrats for Israel, Los Angeles

Dumb Jews

Which “dumb Jew” thought up the cover story for Oct. 20 titled, “Dumb Jews”? Horrible! Perhaps they will put Jesus’ picture in a December issue.

Lois Zelickson
West Hills

Ed. Note: An artist’s rendering of Jesus appeared on the cover of our Feb. 20, 2004 issue.


As stated in “Feathers Fly” (Sept. 29), the chicken roaming Pico-Robertson before Yom Kippur was neither the property nor the responsibility of Pico Kosher Deli.

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

Letters to the Editor

Chamberlain Ad

I do not know if I can communicate how deeply offended I was by the Republican Jewish Coalition’s (RJC) Neville Chamberlain ad on page 6 of the Sept. 8 Jewish Journal. Besides the complete lack of intellectual honesty, the appalling lack of logical reasoning fails beyond the pale to measure up to the traditions of Judaism specifically and humanity in general:

Rather than deal with the threat that Al Qaeda actually presents to our national security, President Bush has chosen to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on a personal vendetta in Iraq washed in five years of the blood of the Iraqi people and citizenry of our great nation.

Rather than communicating with a government seeking to open communication between the United States, President Bush consciously closed all potential paths of dialogue and continuously vilified and threatened a sovereign nation in a tinhorn cowboy attempt to force Iran into a diplomatic mistake of nuclear proportions.

Rather than assist Israel to defend itself against continuing malicious attacks from Hezbollah or Hamas, Bush specifically chose to do absolutely nothing for five years, and more importantly, two weeks of Israel’s invasion into Lebanon, then sent the single most ineffectual secretary of state within the last century to negotiate a failed cease-fire proposal.

If The Journal is so strapped for cash, it would be a far better use of its ad space to place a plea for donations and financial support from its readership, rather than compromising all dignity and integrity by running further tripe from the RJC.

Richard Adlof
North Hollywood

Shame on the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) for running two ads which desperately tried to denigrate the Democratic Party.

First, shame on the RJC for taking an issue of great bipartisan agreement — support for a strong U.S.- Israel relationship — and turning it into a wedge issue for tawdry partisan political advantage. Any objective observer of U.S. politics has to agree that both of our major political parties are remarkably supportive of Israel. This fact is crucial in maintaining the strong relationship between the United States and Israel. For the RJC, however, it appears that twisting the truth for some petty partisan gain is apparently more important than maintaining bipartisan support for the Jewish state.

It is true that in both parties there are a handful of politicians who are not part of this bipartisan consensus. Carter is one of these outsiders who find no support for their positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict within their own parties.

Jewish newspapers, like all newspapers, have an obligation to not print false and misleading ads. We hope in the coming weeks, as RJC slings more mud, this newspaper will fact-check their ad copy to make sure the RJC doesn’t continue to use these pages to violently twist the truth.

Marc Stanley
First Vice Chair
National Jewish Democratic Council

The Republican obsession with Iraq has left Israel open and vulnerable to the possible nuclear overtures of a Holocaust-denying Iran. The Republican obsession with the Cold War almost led to a military defeat for Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War (and did lead to a country-permeating malaise). The Republican obsession with a fundamental Christian theology that is based on the apocalyptic demise of not only Israel but Jews everywhere is too eviscerating and too self-evident to even require an elaboration.

Does any Jew still believe that the Republican party has their true interests at heart?

Marc Rogers
Thousand Oaks

We applaud the recent public discussion about the support for Israel by the political parties (“GOP Sees Israel as Way to Woo Democratic Jews,” Sept. 1).All who are pro-Israel should appreciate the positive influence our growing Jewish Republican community is having on the GOP. Our access to senior GOP leaders is warmly encouraged, and, in return, the Jewish community is increasingly impressed by an administration and a Republican Congress that have been deeply pro-Israel.

The example of U.N. Ambassador John Bolton is instructive. The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) was virtually alone among national Jewish organizations in supporting the nomination of this hero of the Jewish people, who not only helped to defeat the odious “Zionism is racism” resolution years ago, but who now vigorously defends Israel at the United Nations against unfair demonization and delegitimization. Many Jewish Democrats now see that Bolton is the right man at the United Nations.

Putting aside the issue of Israel, moderate Jews might approach 21st century American politics with an open mind on who is best on both national security and domestic public policy issues. It is time that respectful attention be paid by Jews to positive GOP ideas about economic growth, welfare and entitlement reform, medical liability and tort/legal reform, energy independence and educational choice and competition to best serve children.

To the benefit of Israel and the United States, the days of one-party Jewish voting are, thankfully, over.

Joel Geiderman
Larry Greenfield
Republican Jewish Coalition, California

Illegal Jewish Immigrants

Your articles focused on illegal Israeli immigrants who are not terrorists and do not take low-paying jobs away from minorities (“Living and Working [IL]Legally in America,” Sept. 8). Instead they engage in commercial activity that is beneficial to Israel.

Thanks to your article calling attention to them, perhaps immigration officials will divert attention from terrorists to crack down on these Israelis.

Are you The Jewish Journal or the anti-Jewish Journal?

Marshall GillerWinnetka

The Jews Didn’t Do It

Not all conspiracy theories are equal (“The Lie That Won’t Die,” Sept. 1). Richard Greenberg’s article asks us to believe otherwise, holding out only two possibilities to the American public: Either you accept the government version of Sept. 11 or you are a “conspiracist.”

But the world is much more complex than these two positions allow, and the democratic process itself depends on citizens who question official stories. David Griffin, author of “The New Pearl Harbor” and three additional books on Sept. 11, raises important questions about the adequacy of the Kean Commission report.

Letters to the Editor

The Left

Gary Wexler (“Left-Leaning Jewish Groups Out-of-Touch Now,” Aug. 4) ought not to be surprised by the wrath of his former compatriots in last week’s Letters to the Editor. It is the standard fury against an apostate.

Instead, he is to be commended for doing what too few of us are ready to do: bravely changing his views as a result of new facts. What Wexler’s new critics miss is what is obvious to the vast majority of Israel’s supporters: Those who attack the Jewish state are not doing it for land or to redress some grievance. Rather, they simply wish to destroy Israel and all of its inhabitants.

If the Jewish left in this country chooses to continue to live in a fantasy world, insisting that it knows better than the Israeli public and its elected leaders on how to respond to its foes, it will simply remain of no interest to the rest of us.

Mel Aranoff
Valley Glen

Although I appreciate and value Gary Wexler’s commitment to Israel, I was astounded by his lack of understanding of the situation, especially his comments on the left and the supposed lack of dialogue partners.

I have no fantasies about the horrors of suicide bombers and real terrorists on the Palestinian and Arab side. But I am also harboring no illusions about our part in the scenario.

Again, sadly, and with a few exceptions, there has been a true lack of leadership and vision of the future on all fronts. History has shown that a guerilla war cannot be won.

I can see no good at all coming out of the current situation. Perhaps the problem of the left is not their vision but rather that they have not spoken loud enough for us to hear.

David Greenfield
Los Angeles

Who Is a Jew?

We mourn Michael Levin (“Who Is a Jew?” Aug. 11), an American Jew who understood like thousands of volunteers before him that Jews will no longer go quietly to the gas chambers and the crematoria or the other places of extinction which the terrorists have planned for us.

I was 19 on June 6, 1967. And I instantly understood that if Israel lost that war, there could be another Holocaust. So I volunteered. But not for myself — for the 6 million who could not and for the Jewish children not yet born.And so I consider the sacrifice of Michael Levin. And I contrast it with those Jews who blindly protect every last civil liberty of our enemies (Skokie, Guantanamo, NSA phone eavesdropping, etc.). And it makes me wonder if they have forgotten the 6 million and the suffering.

Michael I. Brooks
West Hills

Take Chance

My son, David Landau, is about to join Nativ 26. He and four other former Far West Region United Synagogue Youth Regional Board members will join the almost 100 USYers nationally for the largest group from Far West in the history of this College Leadership Program in Israel. Thanks to J.J. Jonah who is our USY Israel shaliach this and next year!

I told my children since they were young that as Ms. Frizzle said on the “Magic School Bus”: “take chances and make mistakes.” Going to Israel is always a chance but so is flying on an airplane as we have been reminded last week.

A victory to terrorists is to live in fear. A victory for us who love freedom and Israel is to choose to travel, live and learn in Israel, is to participate on programs. I look forward to the drive to the airport with tears of joy sending my son David off with his friends and exclaiming a n’siah tovah, a wonderful and safe trip and year in Israel. And also maybe l’shana habaa B’Yerushalayim.

Diane Roosth

Mel Gibson

We all regress. We all have regions inside of us, ugly, sometimes barely repressed aspects of us that contain the worst kinds of thinking, some taught to us from our environment, some we teach ourselves. Those ugly regions, however, do not define who we are. When they come up, they are not our “true self.” (Hush Falls Over Jewish Hollywood Post-‘Mad Mel,” Aug. 4)

We are defined, rather, in how we struggle against those destructive aspects of the self. No person lives without brokenness and the shadow self, but not every person gives in to that abyss and lives according to it.

The good people among us are ashamed of ourselves when it erupts. The true self –religiously speaking, the self most aware of the soul and the Divine within us — works hard to contain those destructive aspects, to neutralize them, to sublimate them.

I know that when people drink, when they are angry, when they are frightened and ashamed, they regress. Spouses, when they argue viciously, do this. Basically good people who learned hateful things, or teach themselves hateful things about others, say things that do not define who they are but rather tell us about destructive parts of the self they are trying to control.

Mel Gibson has apologized for his remarks and says he did not mean them. I take that to mean that the conscious man conducting his life does not operate according to those prejudices that erupted from a deep and disturbing region of his being. They are buried deep within, and in an atavistic, regressive, drunken and frightened moment, they burst out.

He should introspect and apologize, as he has done, but he should not be reviled or banned. Jewish ethics teach us that he should be helped to repent and repair.As a great Jew once taught, the one who has never sinned, let him throw the first stone. Another great Jew said what you don’t want done to you don’t do other others.

Imagine your worst, most regressive moment caught on tape, posted on the Internet. Would you want that moment to define who you are? I would think not. You would want the help of others in finding a way to repentance and repair. Mel Gibson deserves the same.

Rabbi Mordecai Finley
Los Angeles

Bush and Israel

Bravo to Rabbi Steven Z. Leder for his superb and courageous letter of thanks to President Bush (“Mr. President, Thank You for Standing by Israel,” Aug. 11). Superb, because Rabbi Leder acknowledges the president’s supportive stance toward Israel and places it knowingly within the context of Jewish history, and courageous because he commended the president eloquently in a public forum, despite the fact that the majority of Jews identify as liberal Democrats, and many of them bear tremendous animosity toward Bush.

Rising above partisan politics, Rabbi Leder has the clarity of vision to recognize support for Israel where it exists and the good will, despite disagreements with the president on other issues, to render thanks where they are critically due. My thanks, in turn, go to Rabbi Leder for his shining example of righteous gratitude and moral strength.

Susan Ehrlich
Beverly Hills

Carvel Ice Cream

Your article about kosher Carvel ice cream (“Carvel Ice Cream Sprinkling More Outlets in Southland,” Aug. 11) is certainly welcome during these hot summer days. Thanks for the information and keeping it accurate is very important.The photo caption states that the new Carvel store is “certified glatt kosher.”

This statement is, in and of itself, ludicrous, since the term glatt is a reference to the smoothness (i.e., free of lesions) of a cow’s lung, not applicable to anything other than beef products.

Even if the term was meant in is colloquial and erroneous usage, as meeting the highest standards of kosher, it is still wrong, since, as stated in the article, the ice cream is not chalav Yisrael. It may be kosher, even acceptably kosher by many, but it is not strictly kosher.

And by the way, chalav Yisrael does not mean coming from kosher cows, as all cows are kosher. It does mean, as stated further in the article, as having a mashgiach (supervisor) at the milking process.

Nitpicking? Perhaps. But for those who take their words and their kashrut seriously, the angel is in the details.

Gershon Schusterman
via e-mail


Beth Levine offers some sound tips on throwing an affordable bar mitzvah party, while teaching good values like tikkun olam (heal the world) and tzedakah (charitable giving. (“Personal Touch Can Tame Parties, Trim Expenses,” Aug. 11).I’m not familiar with the study preparation software she borrowed from a friend, but it might be worth checking its license. Most software is limited to a single user, so “borrowing” it might actually be computer piracy. Tikkun olam is a lofty goal but not at the expense of the Eighth Commandment.Jay Falk
Playa del Rey

Tisha B’Av Dilemma

I’m writing to express my disappointment with Jane Ulman’s article about Tisha B’Av observance (“Tisha B’Av Dilemma: Day of Solemnity or Celebration?” July 20).

Ulman suggests that Reform Jews don’t celebrate Tisha B’Av, relating an anecdote about a synagogue in Cincinnati, that held a rummage sale last year on the fast day. Her only source for the story is an unnamed “spokesperson” for the temple’s sisterhood.

The story serves little purpose to the article. Who cares if she can find some congregation somewhere (in this case, suburban Cincinnati) which doesn’t celebrate TishaB’Av? It is inappropriate that she infers generalizations about Reform Jews from this one example.

Furthermore, I challenge the factual accuracy of her assertion that Tisha B’Av is “a nonevent in some, usually Reform, congregations.”

What evidence does the author have to support such a claim? Has Ulman done a statistical survey of holiday practice at synagogues in America?

Since she failed to cite such research, I gather that her statement was based on her own assumption, a reflection of popular stereotypes about Reform Jews. What is the value of a newspaper article in which the author simply shares her own assumptions, reinforcing stereotypes?

It is particularly strange that Ulman reported on last year’s activities in Cincinnati, instead of reporting on Tisha B’Av observances at local Reform congregations. For example, Temple Judea in Tarzana planned an event titled, “Lunch Without Lunch — Does Tisha B’Av Have Meaning for Us Today?”

I wonder why Ulman chose to discuss a congregation thousands of miles away that didn’t commemorate the holiday, when a congregation right on her doorstep did indeed mark the occasion.

Later in the article, Ulman writes, “Some Reform Jews, as did 19th century Rabbi David Einhorn, actually see the holiday as celebratory.” While the author’s understanding of Jewish history is not incorrect, her inference that modern Reform Jews celebrate on Tisha B’Av is ridiculous.

She mentions “some Reform Jews” who “actually see” (present tense), but then fails to cite any examples or quote anyone born after 1809. As an active Reform Jew, I can say that I’ve never met anyone who celebrated on Tisha B’Av, and I would challenge Ulman to find a normative Reform Jew who does.

Einhorn, it should be noted, believed a lot of things that today’s Reform Jews would find ridiculous. Citing Einhorn in a discussion of modern practice is like a political writer reporting that “some members of the Democratic Party, as did 18th century President Thomas Jefferson, actually believe in owning slaves.” Like Ulman’s mention of Einhorn, such a statement is an oversimplification of Jefferson’s complex views and, more importantly, has nothing to do with today’s Democratic Party.

Unlike Einhorn, today’s Reform movement is outwardly Zionist, chants “Kol Nidrei” on Yom Kippur and believes that the Jewish textual tradition is important. And many of us commemorate Tisha B’Av. Ulman’s attempt to discuss Reform practice in historical context is sloppy at best and inflammatory at worst.

Ulman’s reporting was irresponsible, inflammatory and contrary to norms of journalistic standards. In the future, I urge you to give her writing the much closer editorial supervision it deserves.

Joshua Barkin
Los Angeles

Israel’s Iraq?

I am passionately angry over your cover headline, “Israel May Come to Regret ‘A Quagmire of Its Qwn Making'” (Aug. 4). I didn’t need to look further. For some reason, The Jewish Journal seems to feel that Hezbollah should be free to continue to come into Israel and kidnap and murder as they wish. If that’s not what the article says, I’m sorry that you felt the headline on the front page should join the world in berating Israel.

Lora Colaffi
via e-mail

I’m truly sorry that Jack Miles holds the views he does regarding Israel’s incursion into Lebanon, and I’m truly thrilled that you are not part of Israel’s current leadership (“Is Lebanon Israel’s Iraq?” Aug. 4).

Israel pulled out of Lebanon six years ago. The U.N. passed a resolution two years ago, asking the Lebanese army to take over the southern part of the country. By its inaction over these many years, whether because of weakness or collusion with Hezbollah, the Lebanese government has forfeited it’s right to complain about the results.

As you can readily see, Hezbollah has dug itself in very well in south Lebanon, created bunkers and supply depots, accumulated thousands of missiles supplied by Iran and Syria and has created it’s own ministate. It has become the forward phalanx of an Iranian and Syrian initiative to attack Israel’s northern areas with the aim of eventually attacking Israel as a whole.

Hezbollah’s killing of the soldiers and the kidnapping of two of them needed an incredibly strong response, not a weak “let’s negotiate” answer. This is exactly the time for Israel to do it’s best to weaken Hezbollah and by extension, Syria and Iran.

Bill Bender
Granada Hills

Lebanese Casualties

In this era, unlike World War II, with GPS, laser, high-speed data transmission, unmanned aerial vehicles and high-resolution aircraft photo reconnaissance, in addition to radio, communications are better than ever, and the tragic incidents of civilian dead in Lebanon are not due to inaccurate Israeli weapons, carelessness or malice but to the genocidal Hezbollah freely engaging in the war crimes of firing and concealing their weapons among civilians.

It is quite clear in international law that Israel is entitled to attack the rocket-firing and storage areas, even if in civilian locations. Some of your correspondents show no recognition of these considerations.

If the Israelis really wanted to cause civilian deaths, with more than 1,000 artillery and 14 fighter squadrons, they have the capability to do so on a massive scale comparable to World War II, where Hamburg saw 45,000 dead in one week from July 22 1943. Israel clearly does not do so.

In addition to this issue of discriminate force, the issue of proportionality has been mentioned by many people. Even if you use the much higher recent Lebanese government claim of 925 dead in Lebanon, quoted on Sky News, which gives no breakdown whatever for the Hezbollah element, which must be a significant part of any such total, that still equals: one dead for every 9.3 Israeli air force sorties, one dead for every five targets hit and one dead for every 14 Hezbollah-held Iranian-Syrian rockets.

Is that either in discriminate or disproportionate?

Tom Carew
Dublin, Ireland

I find it astounding, yet unfortunately predictable, that tiny Israel is for not the first time in a battle that bigger, more powerful nations should be fighting right along with her.

How can we not judge the European countries (with the exception of England) in this current conflict as an international performance rated right around dismal?How can the citizens of these European countries, who stand to gain so much if and when Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic extremists are crushed, not feel belittled and shamed seeing their countries stand by, watching the small army of Israel fight and die in what’s supposed to be the global war on terror.

What makes matters worse is the French and several other European nations take every opportunity to want Israel to cease fighting Hezbollah, forgetting, apparently, that this is a terrorist organization and destroying them is exactly the idea of a war on terror.

The French military should be launching attacks against Hezbollah right alongside the Israelis, as well as the Italians, the Spanish and, for that matter, the former East Bloc countries, as well – they’re supposed to be against terrorists groups and supposed to be allies of America and Israel.

You would be very hard pressed to actually believe the European countries truly are allies and with us in this war on terror, when it seems if they aren’t outright siding with terrorists groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, then they are standing by letting tiny Israel fight their battles for them.

Peter Shulman
Playa del Rey

Best Friend

I strongly doubt you will post this suggestion, but if we Jews were intellectually honest, we would support Israel by supporting George W. Bush, the best friend Israel has ever had. Beyond that, vote for Republicans who far and away more strongly support Israel than do the Democrats.

Bobbi Leigh Zito

‘Greenberg’s View’

Steve Greenberg’s political cartoon from the Aug. 4 Journal portrays a woman asking, “So why can’t Israel and Hezbollah just have an immediate cease-fire and go back to how things were before all this fighting?” and shows how things were before all this fighting to be clandestine warriors climbing over a border wall with a barrage of missiles overhead flying in the same direction.

We know that the fighters are coming from Lebanon and into Israel because we see the flags of the two countries on opposing sides of the border.

I only wish that “Greenberg’s View” had been the real one, but unfortunately there were no Lebanese flags visible on the border with Israel when I visited — only yellow Hezbollah flags flying boldly and brazenly.

Jacob A. Hall
Beverly Hills

Red Crescent Ad

I was shocked to see the ad inviting Jews to donate to Palestine Red Crescent Society (Aug. 11).

Just to remind you that their ambulances carried terrorists and arms with the intention of killing Israelis.

As for the Lebanese Red Cross, let Hezbollah, who is responsible for their suffering, take care of them.

Israel is in dire need for money. Donate to your family (the Jews in Israel), to Magen David Adom or other nonprofit organizations whose volunteers are risking their lives to help the people in the shelters.

Lilly Gottlieb
via e-mail

With all the destruction of lives and property in Israel and all the money needed to rebuild Israeli lives and cities, there are still soft-headed Jews who spend money on an ad in The Jewish Journal urging its readers to donate to the people who have vowed to destroy us.

I’m ready to send a check to the Palestinian Red Crescent as soon as one of the ad signers can show me an ad in an Arab/Muslim newspaper urging its readers to donate to an Israeli relief organization.

William Azerrad
Los Angeles


It seems to be that every time Diaspora Jewry wants to comprise a list of ways to help Israel, they manage to skirt the one thing which would be the most impacting and the most helpful: making aliyah.

This is something that I did 11 years ago, and countless Israelis, especially the soldiers that I served with, were very grateful and felt supported to a great degree. Perhaps it isn’t mentioned, because you may feel that it is unrealistic to ask that of comfy and cozy L.A. Jewry, but it is not a dream if you would but will it, and Judaism at its core asks always to overextend in your service of God and man.

Who knows, maybe if we say it enough as an ideal, then people will take it more seriously. But if we don’t mention it at all, then surely, Diaspora Jewry will never actualize this great and ancient Jewish dream.

Ariel Shalem
Bat Ayin, Israel

Liberal Jewish Left

I applaud Gary Wexler’s ability to see the reality of today’s liberal left and to have the courage to admit that he was wrong (Left-Leaning Jewish Groups Out of Touch Now,” Aug. 4). It is time for American Jews to look at today’s liberal movement and today’s Democratic Party and to be clear about what their vote supports.

A recent Los Angeles Times Poll on Israel found not surprising but very troubling partisan differences, considering most Jews vote Democrat. The poll results suggested a growing partisan divide over Israel and its relationship with the United States.

Republicans generally expressed stronger support for Israel, while Democrats tended to believe the United States should play a more neutral role in the region.

“Overall, 50 percent of the survey’s respondents said the United States should continue to align with Israel, compared with 44 percent who backed a more neutral posture. But the partisan gap was clear: Democrats supported neutrality over alignment, 54 percent to 39 percent, while Republicans supported alignment with the Jewish state 64 percent to 29 percent.”

Jews need to open their eyes and stop this irrational blind faith in a party that long ago left them and our Jewish values.

We live in an age of stupidity, where moral relativism has rendered so many incapable of making moral judgments of good vs. evil (just take a look at our colleges, and that includes the professors). This is even true when it is as clear as Hezbollah initiating the attack on Israel and openly pledged to Israel’s destruction vs. Israel fighting in self-defense for its existence.

This is not a cycle of violence and never has been. If Hezbollah and the Arabs stopped their aggression against Israel tomorrow, there would be peace. If Israel stopped defending itself, the Arab attacks would continue, and Israel would cease to exist.

President Bush has had the strength of character, integrity and courage to stand firmly on Israel’s side. Thank God that President Bush does not have a broken moral compass as so many of our politicians, in particular Democrats, do.

Dr. Sabi Israel
West Hills

Mel Gibson Fiasco

I’m not a Jewish Hollywood mogul, a political writer, religious leader, etc. I’m a disgusted human being who happens to be Jewish, and I have what I feel is a very simple solution when it comes to Mel Gibson: Forget about him. He doesn’t like us, so be it.

Let’s just rip our lapels, and then he will no longer exist in our world. We don’t talk about him, write about him, acknowledge him like in the old days. He’s dead to us, and those who run after him for interviews, repentance, speaking engagements, etc., should be dead to us also.

We owe him nothing, especially acknowledgement of his existence.

Batiya Anna Kugler
Palm Desert

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

The Lichtenstein Formula for a Jewish Paper

“The role of a Jewish newspaper is to connect the Jewish community, not to unify it,” said Gene Lichtenstein, founding editor of The Journal.

During his nearly 15-year tenure, which ended in 2000, Lichtenstein’s formula was to hire good, independent writers and columnists who could produce articles that raised the interest, and frequently the hackles, of both professional and peripheral Jews.

“I wanted stories that people would discuss and argue about the following day,” Lichtenstein said during a lengthy interview at his home near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

This concept doesn’t seem so revolutionary now, but it went counter to the tradition of most American Jewish weeklies in decades past.

The purpose of those publications was precisely to unify their communities in material and moral support of their federations, which usually financed the papers, and other Jewish and Israeli causes. A basic rule was to avoid criticism and controversy.

In that sense, Lichtenstein was an odd, even risky, choice as editor, and his selection split the then Jewish Federation Council, he recalls.

When Lichtenstein visited Los Angeles in 1985 to court his future wife, Jocelyn, the city’s Jews had the unusual choice of three competing weeklies.

They were the venerable B’nai B’rith Messenger, the maverick Heritage, both independently owned, and the Jewish Community Bulletin, the official Federation organ.

Much of The Federation’s leadership was dissatisfied with the coverage of all three papers and decided to explore a new format with a new editor to replace its own Bulletin.

At this point, Lichtenstein remembers, he was contacted by Ethel Narvid, a key player in Democratic and city politics, on behalf of a Federation committee appointed to find a new editor to shape a new paper.

Lichtenstein, the grandson of Russian immigrants, had a resume combining experience as psychologist, journalist and academic.

He had worked for The New York Times, Fortune, London Economist and as literary editor at Esquire, where his contributors included the likes of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.

On the academic side, he had served as chairman of the journalism department at the University of Rhode Island and taught courses in mass communications at USC and UC Berkeley.

Perhaps equally important for the position at hand, he had started a newspaper in the Boston area, the Jewish Journal of the Northshore.

As he recalls it, in his first interview with The Federation committee, chaired by attorney Richard Volpert, Lichtenstein outlined his concept for the new paper.

“I wanted an American newspaper, Jewish but connected to the larger world,” he said. “It wouldn’t just reflect the viewpoint of The Federation or be mainly about fundraising. It wouldn’t print only favorable stories about the Jewish community and Israel.”

In addition, he would insist on good writing, and the contributions of columnists would be central to the paper.

After that presentation, Lichtenstein thought that his chances of getting the job were pretty slim, and he and Jocelyn went on a vacation trip to London.

To his surprise, “I got a midnight call from Volpert and he offered me the editorship,” Lichtenstein said.

Shortly afterward, Narvid gave a lunch at her home for some old friends, including Los Angeles Times labor editor Harry Bernstein and this reporter, to introduce Lichtenstein.

“Harry told me that I was kidding myself if I thought The Federation would let me put out an independent paper, and you backed him up,” Lichtenstein reminded me.

Despite the prediction, The Federation committee and larger Federation board of directors agreed, in the face of considerable internal opposition, to establish an independent Journal, to advance a $660,000 loan for its operation, and to pay a subsidy to mail the paper to each of its 52,000 donors.

There had been two other finalists for the editor’s job, Yehuda Lev, an outspoken, liberal journalist, and Marlene Adler Marks, a talented writer active in politics and feminist issues.

Lev and Marks were the first editor/reporters hired, soon joined by such early staffers as Tom Waldman, Sheldon Teitelbaum, Joe Domanick and Naomi Pfefferman.

The first slim issue of The Jewish Journal appeared on Feb. 28, 1986, with Volpert, whom the often-critical Lichtenstein praised for “a real standout job,” as the first publisher.

Early issues won kudos for lively writing, outraged criticism by some Federation leaders and Jewish organizations, and a weak response from advertisers.

Within one year, the paper was hemorrhaging money, and some influential Federation leaders demanded that in the future they approve all major stories and editorials. Lichtenstein refused and, in a committee vote, carried the day by a narrow margin.

However, there was enough dissatisfaction with the editorial and business performance of The Journal that The Federation invited Charles Buerger, publisher of six successful East Coast Jewish papers, to buy out The Journal.

Buerger made a “low- ball” offer, then raised the stakes, but “to my astonishment,” The Federation decided not to sell, Lichtenstein said.

Nevertheless, by June 1987, the paper had run through the $660,000 lent by The Federation and faced an early demise.

At his point, major Federation leaders, with Edward Brennglass, Stanley Hirsh and Osiah Goren in the lead, rode to the rescue, putting up their own money to repay the loan. The Journal lived to fight another day.

Brennglass took over as publisher for the next 11 years, the paper established a solid reputation and actually started to make a profit. After Brennglass’ death, Hirsh, an influential businessman and Democratic heavyweight, became publisher in 1997.

However, by the year 2000, strong editorial and personality differences between publisher and editor-in-chief led to a parting point. Lichtenstein resigned and was succeeded by the managing editor, Rob Eshman.

Looking back on his 15-year tenure, Lichtenstein said he had “a wonderful time,” which included reporting trips to Israel, Germany, Hungary and Croatia.

“I think we put out a pretty good paper, though not as good as it could have been,” he reminisced. Part of the problem was a running conflict between himself and Federation leaders, which, he acknowledged, were partly his fault.

“I was really always an outsider, with one foot in the community, and one foot outside,” he said. In addition, “I believe that a Jewish weekly belongs to the editor and staff, and it is the editor’s job to make the staff realize that the paper belongs to them.

“That is hard for some organizational leaders to accept,” Lichtenstein added in an understatement.

His major contributions, Lichtenstein said, were to publish as many diverse viewpoints as possible, recruit talented writers and columnists and insist, at all times, on good writing.

True to his initial inspiration, “I tried to put out a paper that was part of America and the world,” he said.

“I’ve met some Jews, very wealthy and powerful Jews, who embrace Jewish victimhood, who told me that you can never trust a gentile,” Lichtenstein said. “I don’t champion that. I believe that the walls we build around ourselves are only in our minds.”

The “victim” mindset is encouraged by many Jewish organizations, Lichtenstein said, “which wave the flag of anti-Semitism to keep their members loyal and to raise funds.”

For Lichtenstein, there is a busy life after journalism. While he still writes, he has returned to his first profession as psychologist and is the director of mental health and social services for 26 clinics of the Aegis Institute, which specializes in the treatment of opiate addicts.

In addition, he has established a private practice, which includes family and marriage counseling.

He draws a distinction between core committed Jews, who go to synagogue and contribute to Jewish causes, and the “integrated” Jew on the periphery of the organized community.

“It is not the job of the American Jewish press to ‘convert’ the integrated Jew,” he said. “Our job is to open a dialogue with him.”


Risks, Rewards of the Jewish Angle

Jewish journalism has its risks, as veteran newsman Daniel Schorr has pointed out.

Addressing a Jewish audience in Los Angeles some years ago, Schorr recounted that his first professional job, in the mid-1930s, was as a correspondent with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in his native New York.

He eventually quit and moved on to CBS and fame because, he said, “I became aware that I was looking at everything through a Jewish lens.”

There are other dangers in covering the Jewish world. They include indigestion and glazed eyeballs from too many testimonial dinners, the wrath of machers who do not suffer criticism lightly and the unforgiving grudges of VIPs whose names were left out of the story.

“Community leaders” might have overlooked such sins in a goyishe urban daily — what do they know about the suffering and incredible accomplishments of our people? — but to be slighted by a Jewish paper was intolerable.

When I started moonlighting for a Jewish weekly in the late 1950s, I often encountered sneers that implied that if I were any good, why wasn’t I working for a “real” newspaper?

Since I had just come off a number of years at the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press in Spain, I naturally resented such slurs.

But looking at the American Jewish press in those days, I had to admit that its viewpoints and professional standards might well frustrate a reporter of Schorr’s abilities.

In the typical Jewish weekly, an inordinate amount of space was given to birth, wedding and death announcements — known in the trade as hatched, matched and dispatched — and, of course, the ever effusive bar mitzvah stories (although in those leaner years, few parents led safaris and rented baseball stadiums to mark their progeny’s passage to manhood).

Most of the remaining space was taken up by large photos of earnestly smiling men and women passing checks to each other for this or that worthy cause, while editorial and rabbinic columns fearlessly exhorted readers to study Torah and support our struggling brethren at home and abroad.

Questioning the competence of communal leaders amounted to heresy and the slightest criticism of Israeli policy meant excommunication.

I toiled on weekends for an upstart weekly, Los Angeles’ now defunct Heritage, which was an erratic exception to the general blandness.

Its founder, publisher, editor-in-chief, reporter, columnist and advertising manager was Herb Brin, who would have felt right at home in the frontier journalism of the mid-19th century, when rival editors settled differences of opinion with horsewhips and six-shooters.

Brin had been raised in the “Front Page” tradition of Chicago’s brawling journalism and was never happier than when scourging communal wimps who did not share his enthusiasm for decapitating real or imagined enemies of the Jewish people and Israel.

But in the last 20 years, Jewish journalism in the United States, particularly in New York and Los Angeles, has undergone a really remarkable transformation.

Its best editors and writers aim for the same professional standards (and frequently come from) leading general dailies, and they regularly hold up our leadership to scrutiny and try to reflect the changing modes and diversity of the Jewish world.

Still, Schorr’s reservation about looking at every problem from the Jewish perspective is still valid, and inevitably so.

As much as we consider ourselves part of the American mainstream, we reflexively look at every happening and ask, “What’s the Jewish angle?”

That “angle,” though, is less parochial and circumscribed than it used to be, reflecting the broadening interests of the American and worldwide Jewish community of which we are a part.

Though we still tend to obsess about every anti-Semitic scrawl and every neo-Nazi rant, we have gained enough self-assurance to look at our people and community with a degree of openness and honesty unthinkable in the past.



Very Funny

The funniest part of your recent Purim issue was the article on Rabbi Aron Tendler’s departure from Shaarey Zedek Congregation (“Tendler Resigns Under Cloud,” March 10). In lieu of any substance, it was filled with rumors and speculation — a hilarious send-up of real journalism!

Yacov Freedman
Valley Village

Razing the JCC

Thank you so much for Tom Tugend’s insightful bit of muckraking on the Soto-Michigan JCC demolition (“Federal Government Razes Eastside JCC,” March 17). Bravo!

Unfortunately, we are still left with many unanswered questions:

1 — Where are the assets of the nonprofit. If the land was sold for $1.5 million, who benefited from the sale? A nonprofit’s assets must be reinvested into another community nonprofit. They cannot go to a private entity.

2 — How do we address the lack of coordination between elected officials? [Rep. Lucille] Roybal-Allard’s [(D-Los Angeles)] office, the mayor’s office, [City Councilman Jose] Huizar’s office?

3 — Why did the Social Security Administration building need to move in the first place? What will replace the current Social Security building?

4 — Can the important role this site played in the history of the Chicano movement, in multicultural politics and in the history of the Jewish community be commemorated within the new structure? They owe the community at least something like that.

5 — Why isn’t there yet a citywide survey of historic structures? This has never been done for lack of funds, and critical links to the past are being lost each week because of this.

6 — Where’s the mayor’s office in all of this?

7 — Who is going to finally be accountable for this debacle?

Aaron Paley
Yiddishkayt Los Angeles

My earliest childhood memories include visits to the Soto-Michigan Center, where for several years I attended Camp Manayim, the day camp that JCA operated there. My older brother was in Boy Scout Troop 171 that met at the center, and Strauss AZA also held its meetings there. The building contained far more history than anyone realizes. One more example of the historical Jewish presence has now been erased.

Brooklyn Avenue as a symbol of the Jewish community is now named for a Mexican American labor organizer who never lived on Brooklyn Avenue.

Everyone seems to have been caught flat-footed by the bureaucratic move to tear down the old center. So much incompetence at so many levels of government officialdom should be awarded a medal for stupidity and shortsightedness.

One wonders which remembrance of the Jewish past in Los Angeles will be the next to go.

Abraham Hoffman
Canoga Park

Conservative Jews

My Orthodox background and my 20-plus year commitment to Conservative Judaism make me realize how shallow Rob Eshman’s column really is (“Carnival Time,” March 17).

Our problems in Conservative Judaism have nothing to do with needing more dunk tanks. Rather we need to figure out how to engage congregants in Jewish observance and ritual.

The number of families who keep kosher declines yearly, as does the degree of Shabbat observance. Synagogue-going in general is also in great decline.

Soccer has replaced shul on Shabbos morning for many families. The movement needs to figure out how to instill in Conservative Jews the passion and desire to become more observant.

My children played sports, took music lessons, etc. Yet we went to shul every Shabbos. My son has returned to his Orthodox roots, and my daughter is an observant Conservative Jew who reads Torah and participates actively in synagogue life.

Maybe the choices parents make have something to do with it. Maybe the loosening of some observances in the entire movement are at fault. Maybe both…. But the absence of more rabbis in the dunk tank is not at the heart of the matter.

Pearl Taylor
Sherman Oaks

Hancock Park

In your article, “An Ugly Day in the Neighborhood” (March 3), my quotes and misquotes did not truly express my sentiments. I ran for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council hoping to get beyond the polarization characterizing relations between the local homeowners group and the Orthodox community, following the battle over Etz Chaim.

However, the election itself was bitterly and nastily contested, and I was one of only four Orthodox representatives elected. Still, after being contacted by an activist outside the Orthodox community seeking rapprochement, I remained guardedly optimistic.

Three meetings, six months into the process, my hopes have been dashed. The council did not meaningfully address or even discuss any issue other than a new set of by-laws that are clearly aimed at disenfranchising the Orthodox community.

The Orthodox have been labeled as “other” and are being effectively marginalized. This is true regardless of where one stood or whether one was involved with the Etz Chaim issue.

Ideally, the Neighborhood Council would follow its mandate of reaching out to the greater community and fostering tolerance and collegiality. Unfortunately, this council, elected by a mere 2 1/2 percent of the population, has no apparent interest in these ideals and is just another forum for heavy-handed political machinations and ongoing divisiveness.

Larry Eisenberg
Los Angeles

Bush’s Jewish Moment

It’s always interesting to get a glimpse of the inner workings of a left-leaning political scientist’s mind, especially when they try to analyze the reasons why many Jews are now Republicans. The amazing thing is that these political scientists almost always get it wrong.

In his essay on what he calls “The End of Bush’s ‘Jewish Moment'” (March 17), Raphael J. Sonenshein makes his whimsical use of the word “moment” to imply that those of us who are Republicans did so for a short period of time and are now re-evaluating our positions and are or will be soon returning to our womb in the Democratic fold.

The interesting thing is that many of us were Republicans long before Bush took office, even before the Reagan years, and we did so for a myriad of reasons, with clarity of purpose being one of the most important.

Finally, many of us have been impressed with the president’s actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sonenshein incorrectly calls them unilateral (ignoring the participation of Britain and others), but perhaps if another Democratic president would have taken similar action, the world would have been a much better place.

Just think if Roosevelt would have taken the same unilateral action (along with Britain and others) against Hitler before the Holocaust, but I forget. Roosevelt probably listened to political advisers like Sonenshein — progressive intellectuals.

Bill Bender
Granada Hills

Enough Europe Bashing

I am not sure as to whom I should write about my amazement as I visit Los Angeles during my spring break from Washington University and look at your paper.

The Jewish Journal, when I lived here, seemed to have more substance, but I feel that I am now reading a cheap, sensationalistic paper:

1 — I see an end of February cover with an African man (wow!) who could be Jewish, says the headline (“Is This Man a Jew,” Feb. 24). Imagine people of Los Angeles, an African Jew. Is that racism or what raising its big head? That outrageous story made it to be your cover.

2 — In “Just Joking Around” by Ed Rampell (March 17), another rant under the guise of humor: “I have so many reasons to dislike the French…. We bail this country out every 30 years…. The last war France won was led by a 12-year-old girl,” the words of Keith Barany.

3 — This kind of stand is echoed by Judea Pearl, with all my sympathy for his murdered son, who slips similarly down another dangerous generalization — now extended to all Europeans: “….What every child in Europe knew all along — who causes the troubles of the world and who can be bashed with impunity” (“For Ilan, a Eulogy,” March 17).

As a Jew, a U.S. citizen, a Frenchman and a European, I feel ashamed to read such statements being given prominence in your pages. I hope you will raise the level of your discourse soon.

Pier Marton
St. Louis, Mo.

Singled Out

Just read Amy Klein’s singles column and it tickles me how on the one hand, she dogs her well-intentioned suitor for his mid-’90s-era garb, and yet, hilariously, in the very same article, she repeatedly summons like a mantra (what else?) that well-worn, way-played out, mid-90s “Seinfeld” cliché “….Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” (“I Want You to Want Me,” March 10).

With rationale like that, there’s no need to read past the column headline to figure out why she’s so miserably and utterly unattached. Please re-title the Singles Column “Unintentional Humor.”

Name Withheld by Request

“Aryan Nation?”

Your cover photo and the caption that accompanied it on Volume 21 (Feb. 24) are chilling. Do American Jews plan to keep Israel white?

What if the photo was of an Eastern European Jew with caption: “Is this man an American and should American money be used to bring him home?”

Are we promoting a Jewish “Aryan nation?” When will it stop? Re-read “Animal Farm” by George Orwell.

Dr. Margaret England
Los Angeles

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


This Week – Not Our Movie

By launching a public, pre-Oscar campaign against the movie “Paradise Now,” Jewish activists all but guaranteed that people who might not otherwise see the movie would now be curious to give it a chance.

I was among the curious.

“Paradise Now,” written and directed by Hany Abu-Assad, follows the lives of two would-be Palestinian suicide bombers as they embark on their final mission. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film.

The weeks prior to Oscar night saw a concerted publicity campaign organized by some Jewish groups to protest its nomination. The most plaintive voices were those of the fathers of three Israeli victims of suicide bombers. One of them, Yossi Zur, whose 16-year-old son Asaf was killed in a Haifa bomb attack, saw the movie and wrote an online commentary accusing the movie of legitimizing the kind of attacks that killed his son.

“The movie,” Zur wrote, “attempts to explain away the actions behind mass-murderers. This mere act in effect legitimizes this type of mass-murder and portrays the murderers themselves as victims.”

The letter spawned an online petition campaign that garnered almost 40,000 signatures from around the world. The movie lost last week to the South African film “Tsosti,” but something tells me the controversy surrounding it won’t go away any time soon.

I don’t know Yossi Zur, and I can’t begin to fathom his pain and his loss. But many people I do know, whose opinions on art and politics I respect, believe that “Paradise Now” is a dangerous movie, a piece of anti-Israeli — even anti-Semitic — propaganda.

I watched the movie last week, and I disagree.

In fact, if the Jewish protests against “Paradise Now” draw more attention to the movie, and encourage more people to watch it — as is usually the case with such protests — that is all to the good.

The crucial thing to keep in mind when you see the movie is that it’s written and directed from a Palestinian point of view. An Israeli movie about suicide bombing would no doubt begin where this one ends — after the screen flashes to white and freezes, indicating that the murderer has set off his bomb, obliterating himself and the Israeli bus passengers around him.

The Israeli movie would track those passengers’ lives, the little dramas and comedies that filled their days leading up to that moment. Or it would dramatize the aftermath, when their families and friends are left to pick up the pieces — literally at first, then figuratively — of lives cut sickeningly short.

A Palestinian couldn’t make that movie.

A Palestinian can make a movie that helps us to understand how it is that humans turn themselves into bombs.

That’s what Abu-Assad has done. The reality he portrays is, of course, highly critical of Israel, but it is not as simplistic or one-sided as the film’s critics argue.

Critics have said Abu-Assad doesn’t just explore the phenomenon of suicide bombers, he justifies it. I would urge them to reexamine the movie.

We meet the two main characters after they have already agreed to their mission. They are impoverished, willful losers, empowered by religious belief.

But as much as the movie charts their commitment, it records their doubts.

The filmmaker clearly believes there is something absurd and wrongheaded in their decision. The terrorist leaders who control the bombers munch humus sandwiches as the men each prepare their last will and testimony.

The moral center of the movie is a woman, one of the bombers’ love interest, the articulate daughter of a Palestinian leader.

“Don’t you see what you’re doing is destroying us!” she screams at her lover during a climactic car ride.

Her words echo those of the filmmaker.

“I make films to resist,” Abu Assad said in an interview with journalist Jordan Elgrably. “There is a civilized way to resist, by using art to tell your story, or the uncivilized, violent way. I don’t believe in bullets. I make films to tell stories, and to have a dialogue, but without denying the rights of others to have their stories.”

I’ve seen all of this year’s issue-oriented movies, and “Paradise Now” is by far the most gripping, the most challenging. If it weren’t, I doubt its critics would bother to raise their voices against it.

This movie is not a justification for terror. It’s a justification for movies.



Ugly Neighborhood

Without reading a word of the inside article, I write because I am distressed about the depiction on the front page (“An Ugly Day in the Neighborhood,” March 3).

I am all too familiar with many issues that cause divisiveness among Jews, secular, religious, somewhat religious, etc. Those issues merit addressing and solving. But the image on the front page of physical violence gives us Jews a face we do not want or deserve.

I grew up in the neighborhood and have always known the problems of the shul on Highland Avenue and the neighbors…. They are serious and need to be solved.

No one I know who is involved is violent and abusive in the manner your cover depicts. We divide ourselves quite well, thank you…. We don’t need false images like this to add to the problem.

Pearl Taylor
Sherman Oaks

Your March 3 edition was superb. Many very interesting stories and an excellent in-depth, seemingly unbiased article on “An Ugly Day in the Neighborhood” that even an Orthodox Jew like myself found very informative. Keep on writing more detailed articles.

Robert Rosenberg
Los Angeles

Ilan Halimi

Time after time we hear and say, “Never again,” when referring to World War II and the Holocaust (“French Rally Against Jew’s Torture Death,” March 3). As the warning signals around the world multiply and Jews continue to leave France in droves, we have reached the breaking point.

What does it mean when Muslims gather around the world, create havoc and receive in-depth media coverage over a newspaper cartoon? We, on the other hand, witness for the first time in decades the cold-blooded, brutal slaying of a Jew in a modern democracy, simply because he is a Jew, and nobody seems to care. Rather chilling, wouldn’t you say?

Tyla Hamburg Bohbot
Via e-mail

As the associate director of the American Jewish Congress, Western Region, and a former program director of, none of what is happening in France today regarding anti-Semitism surprises me.

When the burning of the synagogues started more than three years ago in France, I and other members of the community picketed outside of the French consulate. We spoke to the consulate general, who at that time told us “there is no anti-Semitism in France,” repeatedly.

Had he or the French government acknowledged our concerns, perhaps Ilan Halimi would still be alive. I only hope that the French government realizes the depth of its problems, addresses them and corrects them immediately.

We can not allow any more of our Jewish family to die burned, tortured and dumped out like garbage. No more excuses; no more blaming “hooligans,” and no more capitulation to being politically correct.

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Associate Director
American Jewish Congress

Off Key

I am writing in response to Erin Aubry Kaplan’s article, “A.M.E., Rhythm and Jews” (Feb. 24). I am a member of the Temple Emanuel Choir and participated in the evening in question, where our choir and that of Bryant Temple A.M.E. Church joined to sing in a Shabbat service. I am very glad Kaplan took the time to attend, but I differ from her on several points.

She suggests that the Bryant choir felt awkward about the way “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” was performed. I certainly did not detect that, either in the performance or rehearsal.

She objects when an usher assumes she is with the visiting choir simply because she is black. This is a valid point.

However, it is undermined when she goes on to stereotype what the response should be by a cantor to a powerful gospel number. Apparently for cantors, no physical expression of emotion is allowed.

I am glad to be participating in a dialogue between two congregations and communities in Los Angeles, and I am proud to be part of a choir where the uplifting power of music can be freely expressed. I look forward to being able to welcome Erin Aubry Kaplan to a future event.

Patric Kuh
Los Angeles

A Dying Language

I would like to applaud Hannah Pollin, who is doing a terrific job teaching Yiddish to high school students (“A Dying Language Comes to Life,” Feb. 24). I have visited one of her classes at the New Community Jewish High School and was enormously impressed with this remarkable young teacher and her eager, dedicated students.

However, I must point out that The Journal is not doing enough to assist in the revival of Yiddish as the living, vibrant language it should be. I’d like to offer a couple of suggestions.

First, that The Journal periodically list the various locations where groups of people come together regularly just to speak Yiddish. I belong to three such groups, and we all have lots of fun, and our command of the language, which ranges from paltry to fluent, improves steadily.

Also, that it introduce a regular column, written in transliterated Yiddish. I am confident that many Angelenos would like to contribute stories of recollection, either dramatic or hilarious. Other readers would probably like to write notes, commenting on the stories or correcting somebody’s grammar or simply adding stories of their own.

The Jewish Journal is an excellent periodical, and here is an opportunity to make it even better. Ich hof az ihr vett meine forschlagen oifnemmen.

Lou Charloff

Ugly Day

As a Chicagoan with L.A. ties (my daughter lives in Hancock Park), I could not help but be disgusted with the anti-Orthodox slanted piece written by Julie Gruenbaum Fax (“Ugly Day in the Neighborhood,” March 3).

I call it an anti-Orthodox piece because of not only the digs interspersed throughout the piece (“those Orthodox sure have lousy aesthetic taste”) but also because of the seeming equivalency of disparate claims (for example, anti-Semitism, fraudulent organizations created on the day of voting, etc., to “line jumping” and holding parking spaces for allies).

And how the writer praises a particular zoning proponent as being “blunt,” “resolute” and “doesn’t mince words” and yet leaves unchallenged highly illogical and farfetched explanations of her blunt words, calling the other side “bad guys” and “bogeymen” or disparate treatment of the writer explaining the pain felt by Jews on one side being called anti-Semitic and failing to explore the pain or anger felt by the other side being called bad guys and bogeymen.

However, another major deficiency of the article is its further failure to inform the reader about the genesis of the dispute, as well as of the details of some of the actual disputes themselves.

No explanation is given as to why the Orthodox may feel a shul might be necessary in an area where the nearest shuls are a 20-25-minute walk away. Or what is so terrible about the synagogue’s architecture, where just across the street a house sits that looks abandoned or, frankly, how it could not take away from the suburban look of the neighborhood, when both Third Street and Highland Avenue are major vehicular thoroughfares to the extent that children have to be very careful crossing the street, and that it is almost impossible to either park on the street (for fear of being hit by other racing cars) or to back into it.

Or what is the objection to an eight-foot security fence around a parochial school in this age of AMBER alerts, when there is another school on the very next corner that seems to have a 10-15-foot chain-link security fence covered with eyesore green tarpaulin? Or what is the background for Yavneh having a limited-use permit on a site where there has always been a school and where another public school is next door?

Maybe if the writer had spent more time in outlining the source of the problem — or at least the Orthodox perception to the problem that these questions answer — then the readers could better understand the dispute.

Harold Moskowitz

Hamas Victory

Are Bushra Jawabri and Michael Bergman that naive as to think a Hamas-run government will be any different than the Hamas terror organization? (“Opportunities Exist in Hamas Victory,” Feb. 24)

Hamas is only maintaining its temporary truce with Israel to buy enough time to solidify its power, build and import weapons and ally itself with like-minded neighboring countries. When they feel the time is ripe and Israel has increased its vulnerability by giving away more land, Hamas will drop the truce like a bomb, literally, and will probably be accompanied by the full military force of its allies, Iran and Syria.

Remember, Hitler laid out his intentions in “Mein Kampf” long before he was democratically elected. It took several years after he took office, however, before the Nazis implemented The Final Solution.

Like Hitler, Hamas made their intentions clear early on and have backed them up with deadly actions. Pie-in-the-sky liberals who sang the praises of Oslo, while Yasser Arafat was receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, think they can eliminate evil by offering land, a la Neville Chamberlain.

They need to learn from history and face the grim truth. Truces and land giveaways just delay the inevitable. Evil neither civilizes nor fades away. It must be defeated.

Daniel Iltis
Los Angeles

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



Muslim Majority

Salam Al-Marayati’s apologetics miss the mark entirely (“Don’t Ignore the Quiet Majority of Muslims,” Feb. 17). In the wake of the mass violence throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia, it is impossible to argue that a small, extremist element, “a handful of reckless Muslims” in Al-Marayati’s words, is responsible for weeks of mayhem. Tens of thousands of rioters have rampaged, killed, and looted with governments either abetting or unable to control the violence. They are not a tiny fringe. And they are not reacting to alleged anti-Muslim bias in Europe, as Al-Marayati tries to argue.

Whether the rioters and their silent supporters represent the majority of Muslims or a sizable minority is debatable, but one conclusion is certain: They and the intolerant strain of Islam they adhere to threaten all who disagree with them.

Linda Abraham
Los Angeles

The op-ed of Salam Al-Marayati is a well-articulated presentation that falls short of explaining the “civilized response” of U.S. Muslims to the caricatures of Mohammad. It is difficult to accept the representation that “free thinking is a cornerstone of Islamic law” when the essence of Islam is submission to Allah and violations of fundamental Sharia law are dealt with by dismemberment, stoning and decapitation.

Most troubling is the accusation that racism and bigotry in Europe are disguised as freedom of expression or democracy. Yet, many instances of quite the opposite is being reported — Muslims who choose to live in their own communities, following Sharia law in their dealings with each other, even if it contravenes the law of their adopted countries.

Quiet Muslims will be ignored until they speak up loudly against the violent actions of their fellow Muslims.

Aggie R. Hoffman
Los Angeles

School Pesticides

Thank you for your wonderful and important article about Robina Suwol and AB 405 (“Parent Wins School Pesticide Battle,” Feb. 10). Suwol is a tireless worker for our children’s health. Unfortunately, you did not mention that she and others helped to establish the Integrated Pest Management Team in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). This team, which has been operating for about five years, is one of the leaders in the country in minimizing the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides in our schools. LAUSD should be recognized for their pioneering spirit.

Dr. Cathie Lippman
The Lippman Center for Optimal Health
Beverly Hills

Cartoon Controversy

Hurray for The Journal! Although lacking the courage to print the riot-provoking cartoons, the honesty of the stated reasons for not doing so was refreshing (“Drawn to Controversy,” Feb. 10). That’s more than can be said for most of the country’s major news outlets.

Kenny Laitin
Via e-mail

Jack Abramoff

Over three decades ago, Equity Funding Corp., a Century City-based financial conglomerate, was forced into bankruptcy due to massive fraud and embezzlement. The trustee surmised that approximately 60 employees (about 10 percent of the workforce) were involved in some level, in the illegal activities (“Sympathy for the Devil,” Jan. 27).

Twenty-two of them, mostly Jewish, pleaded guilty to participation in the conspiracy.

Although both my wife and I were employees, we were neither involved nor knowledgeable, primarily because we joined the corporation long after the fraudulent activities began. Nonetheless, I’ve often wondered what I would have done, had I been asked to assist in the illegal activities.

The point is that given the opportunity, many otherwise honest people are easily seduced into immoral activities that they sincerely regret after the fact. Most of Equity Funding’s conspirators are truly repentant.

Because of that experience, I truly believe that men like Jack Abramoff are sincerely remorseful. So while it is important that they pay for their crimes, it is also important we accept their apologies at face value and practice forgiveness.

Leonard M. Solomon
Los Angeles

Kosher Gourmet

I was impressed with the excellent article in The Journal titled, “Oxnard Kosher Dining is a Sur Thing”(Feb. 3).

I did however take issue with one of the authors’ comments: “Kosher gourmet sounds like an oxymoron.”

Apparently the authors of this article have never sampled the food at Pat’s Restaurant on Pico Boulevard, or sampled the cuisine of Pat’s catering or Brenda’s catering, among others. Far from being an oxymoron, kosher gourmet has been alive and well in Los Angeles for many, many years!

Martin Shandling
Los Angeles

Military Hitch

I was stimulated by the recent article on Rabbi David Lapp (“Rabbi Ending Long Hitch in Military,” Feb. 17), which focused on his ability to bring all major branches of Judaism to work together to support the needs of Jewish soldiers.

I am wondering whether there might be other important areas in which such cooperation can occur, and whether Rabbi Lapp’s experience might suggest how that cooperation can be brought about to the benefit of the entire Jewish community.

Barry H. Steiner
Department of Political Science,
Cal State Long Beach

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



Midnight Clear

Kudos to Darcy Vebber for her evocative account of childhood Christmases in the Arizona desert and her spiritual journey to Judaism as an adult (“A Midnight Clear,” Dec. 23), particularly fitting this year, when Christmas Day and the first night of Chanukah happen to coincide. The “surrender of her past,” as she terms it, is described with poetic grace and an open heart exquisitely attuned to the feelings that underlie most religious experience: “the longing for peace and the connection to something holy.”

Throughout the essay, Vebber touches on what was left behind — her family names, her Christian identity — without regret while retaining a deep acknowledgment of the power of Christmas and the early, indelible imprint it made (and continues to make) on her sense of the sacred.

The author’s words remind us, most especially in a world so torn by sectarian religious violence, that true Holiness knows neither dogma nor denomination. That the manifestation of the Divine in the material world, whether it be to Moses on Sinai or to the Apostles in the thrall of Pentecost or to Mohammed rapt in the Ghar-i-Hira — to each of us everyday when we look into the eyes of our fellow human beings, is an expression of transcendent, unconditional love, not of the rigid intolerance, ignorance, hatred and paranoia that only serve to limit the Infinite and threaten to fracture the world community beyond repair. Amen to Vebber’s midnight clarity.

Barry Smolin
Los Angeles

Stop the Fighting

The Dec. 23 issue containing letters from rabbis attacking each other hits the nail right on the head. Not one word focused on the importance of Israel in maintaining Jewish identity. After 57 years, many American Jewish leaders still don’t get it. Rabbinic dictates do not exclusively define Jewish identity to millions of American Jews. If they did, there wouldn’t be a need to change the rules to allow sexual orientation or ability to pay synagogue dues to become a basis to join a synagogue.

Myles L. Berman
Beverly Hills

As an Orthodox Jew active in the Modern Orthodox community, several adjectives come to mind after reading the Orthodox Union leadership’s criticism of Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky’s call for greater dialogue with non-Orthodox Jews (“Orthodoxy Has Chance to Reshape Role,” Dec. 9). These include ironic, baffling and disingenuous.

Ironic because the night the letter appeared, all three synagogue rabbis on a panel at the OU Regional Convention supported such dialogue. Baffling because I wonder what all the fuss is about. Is the OU concerned that after engaging in such dialogue Orthodox Jews will abandon Orthodoxy? If so, we have a lot more to worry about than dialogue. Are we concerned about legitimizing non-halachic Judaism? Frankly, non-Orthodox Judaism, composed of 90 percent of American Jewry, doesn’t need our legitimization.

Finally, the whole “slippery slope” argument is disingenuous. Halachic Judaism has remained vital precisely because it has adapted over time. From Hillel’s prozbul to the incorporation of bat mitzvah ceremonies, halachic Judaism has always sought to come to grips with the issues of the day. The greatness of halachic Judaism is its struggle with the tension between the demands of a changing society and those of halacha. Unfortunately, what those who invoke “slippery slope” often really are doing is trying to alleviate the neck aches caused by looking over their shoulders, worried about what the more right-wing Orthodox will think.

Robert M. Smith
Los Angeles

Misguided Single

I have liked several of Orit Arfa’s columns and disagreed with some. Overall, I regard her as a writer who sides with the traditional Jews who support Israel 100 percent.

So I was concerned about this column (“The Married Charedi and Me,” Dec. 23).

If you think about it, what does this piece really serve? Wouldn’t it have been possible to speak to the young man about how to meaningfully reconnect his soul to the tradition — get marriage counseling, anything but encourage his slide into the soulless secular world.

It is painfully ironic that this column appears during Chanukah time when the real battle of Chanukah was not only against the Syrian Greeks, but against the Hellenized Jews who wanted to live secular lives focused on the body and not on the soul.

Joshua Spiegelman
Via e-mail

‘Munich’ Missteps

Tom Tugend’s article on the film “Munich” says both too much and too little (“Judgment on ‘Munich,” Dec. 16). Why present as a negative someone else’s view that “Munich” is really about America’s response to Sept. 11? Of course it is and more. All good drama is universal at heart. “The Merchant of Venice” does not survive because we are desperate to understand the Venetian merchant oligarchy; it survives because the drama provides insights for audiences today. “Munich’s” exploration of what vengeance does to one’s soul and civilization is a universal topic, worthy of discussion. All other questions ignore the purpose of art and send the debate to dead ends, devaluing the movie and its potential contribution to our lives.

Stephen Mark
Santa Monica

I wonder how Steven Spielberg would react to a film that portrayed Nazi concentration camp officers as reluctant soldiers merely following orders, despite the bouts of conscience and inner turmoil in their hearts. The Shoah Foundation creator would, I assume, walk out of the theater in disgust.

The problem with “Munich” is that it takes an actual historical event — one which continues to have a powerful impact on Israelis and Jews around the world — and twists the facts for a political agenda. While we should feel pride at Israel’s response to the Munich massacre, carrying on the tradition of “Never Again,” Spielberg inaccurately portrays the Israeli heroes of the story as guilt-ridden and doubting the justness of their mission. He disappoints us, choosing to cast his lot with the rest of the radical Hollywood left by trying to draw a moral equivalent between terrorism and the forces that seek to destroy it. By doing so, he insults the integrity of those brave people who have fought and continue to fight terror, as well as the memory of its victims.

Daniel Iltis
Los Angeles

In an article on Steven Spielberg’s new film “Munich,” you quote Spielberg as stating that he objects to the “tit-for-tat” cycle of Arab attacks on Israel, Israeli responses and Arab counter-responses. Spielberg misunderstands what’s going on. The “cycle of violence” exists only because the Arabs’ numbers and territory are too vast for Israel to conquer and occupy as the World War II allies did to Germany and Japan. The Arab states dropped the regular-warfare option some years ago, finding it ineffective. They turned to the political offensive (delegitimizing Israel and offering it a “peace process”), which is aided by their Islamic and leftist allies, and the terrorist option, which is subsidized by Arab and Islamic states and wealthy sympathizers. The means have changed, but the goal (destroying Israel) has not.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles


In the obituary for Rabbi Jacob Ott (Dec. 23), it should have been noted in the headline that he died at age 86. Also, he died on Dec. 17 and retired in 1994. The Journal regrets the errors.

Orthodoxy’s Role

People who write well are to be admired. For this, I do appreciate Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky’s article (“Orthodoxy Has Chance to Reshape Role,” Dec. 9) about interfaithing with non-Orthodox groups. How wonderful it is that these outside groups are adapting some Orthodox ideas and examples. What Rabbi Kanefsky doesn’t say, and has no intention of doing, is adapting any non-Orthodox ideas. In the words he doesn’t write is the implicit fact that these ideals and tenets are non-negotiable. As with many Orthodox, the only correct way to be a Jew is his way. Read his words and listen to his remarks from his pulpit. This rabbi is not interfaithing. He is just proselytizing,

Howard Fink
Van Nuys

The OU is a commercial organization that strongly competes for kashrut business with other Jews and wants to be the last word on Torah.

Sadly, it was totally silent while Jews were expelled from their homes on God-given Jewish land. Once the expulsion was complete, the OU sent e-mails asking for money to help the settlers.

It is perfectly rational to place more trust in a local rabbi, such as Rabbi Kanefsky than in a commercial organization that stood idle while birthright land of the Jews was transferred to terrorists.

Last week, five Jewish members of the Israel Defense Forces were injured by terrorist shrapnel fired from the land formerly occupied by the Jewish settlers and there is no peace from the expropriated land.

“Each generation gets farther and farther from the Torah,” taught a local rabbi and it has never been more true.

Bunnie Meyer
via e-mail



Singles Solutions

Your article on “A Single Problem” described my sitation as an intellgient single woman very accurately (Dec. 9). However, you only begin to touch upon the problem with Jewish men. In my experience, men say they would like a smart woman, but, in reality, do not. I find most men don’t really know what do to with an intelligent woman. I can tell you endless stories of dates where the lawyers, accountants, doctors, etc. did not have one intelligent word come out of their mouths. I am also very Jewish — I cannot wait until I have a family I can make Shabbat dinner for. Men don’t seem to be very interested in that either. I am not tall; I am not blonde. But, if I have to go on what the e-mails in my JDate account tell me, I am attractive. I am independent, make more money than most of the men I date, have my priorities straight and can fix things around the house (another skill I find most Jewish men lacking in). Did I mention I cook, too? I am all of the things men say they want, and then, when I am standing in front of them, they don’t know what do to.

I am 34, and yes, I feel my biological clock ticking. It absolutely pains me to say this, but I am starting to think I might have to have a child on my own or look for someone outside of my faith. I still have hope of finding my beshert, but that hope is dwindling.

Name Withheld by Request
Sherman Oaks

The problem is, I know far more wonderful Jewish single women than men,” you wrote in your Dec. 9 editorial. “And this is all they want: a nice, eligible Jewish guy in his late 30s or 40s…. Such a creature is as rare as a Narnian Efreet.”

Hah! I’m such a creature, and I’m right here. Successful in my business, good sense of humor and not too bad to look at (my face doesn’t frighten small animals or anything). Raised Conservative, not terribly observant at the moment. Likes books, bicycling and Beatles. Not bad at smooching, or so I’ve been told. Faults? A few, but not anything I’d discuss in a family newspaper.

Narnian Efreet, my eye. (Both of which are blue, by the way.)

David Seidman
West Hollywood

Scary Sign

High praise should be given to Elizabeth Chase, “The Swastika in My Binder,” for her understanding of the urgent need never to forget the Holocaust from 60 years ago.

Recently, as a physician seeing patients, I experienced a similar incident observing a swastika on the wall at one of the hospitals. Immediately after notifying the CEO, it was removed. However, the revolting disgust of this “hate crime” yes, even 60 years later, is very relevant and very real. It is said — if history is forgotten then we are doomed to repeat it.

Never again.

Dr. Martin Hauptschein
Los Angeles

Thank You

Seldom have I read a more relevant essay regarding “holidays” than your article, “Thanks for Everything” (Nov. 25).

Not many of us have the courage and the erudition to reflect on all the historical facts surrounding a holiday or celebration. It is time that we recognize that no nation, ethnic group, or religious body can boast of an unblemished past. Invariably, it comes down to the survival of the group — whoever has the greater power, wealth, weapons or knowledge is going to outlast and celebrate.

How helpful it would be to teach our future generations the many aspects of historical events. It would certainly promote open-mindedness, and possibly even humility. Acceptance of our own wrongdoings might enable us to tolerate the shortcomings of others.

Going one step further, if we as teachers, parents or other significant adults would openly share and admit our past failures to our children, we would help them to better deal with their own defeats. As human beings, we are fallible, even more so as a community. How refreshing it would be if children all over the world were taught to examine history from many points of view. It would help to alleviate chauvinism, and finally bring about the peace for which we all so fervently pray.

Edith Ehrenreich

Above the ‘Bodice’

While I appreciate the positive review of my novel, “The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell,” by Keren Engelberg, I must set the record straight (“No Religious Bias in Racy “Bodice Ripper,” Nov. 25). I don’t write romance novels unless by the term you include all love stories. I don’t know much about “bodice rippers,” but my impression is the designation implies books written fast and to formula. William Morow/HarperCollins calls my books literary fiction. My first novel, “The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc,” was a 2002 Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, along with “Lovely Bones” and “Life of Pi.” However, because I work hard to make my books easy to read, witty, and page-turners — OK, they’re pretty steamy, too — romance readers snap them up. “Sissy” was a national best seller.

I grew up Jewish in the Bible Belt. Our house had white columns out front and bullet holes in my bedroom wall courtesy of a vigilante gang who tired to run the family out of town. Far from writing to a formula, I wrote “The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell” about the life of the only Jewish family in a small town (my family) during the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

Loraine Despres
Beverly Hills


I am thankful for your having chosen to publish my opinion column titled, “Orthodoxy Has Chance to Reshape Role” (Dec. 9).

I implore you however, to clarify for your readers that the omission of the title “Rabbi” in the references to Rabbi Soloveitchik, was your editorial decision. Neither I, nor any student of Yeshiva University, would ever refer to our teacher Rabbi Soloveitchik without his proper title. In fact, we usually simply refer to him with the super-honorific, “the Rov.” Thank you for publishing this clarification.

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky
B’nai David-Judea
Los Angeles

No Comparison

As a longtime reader of the Jewish Journal, I was very disappointed to find such a biased cover article as Joel Kotkin’s “Hol(l)ywood — L.A. Undergoes a Religious Renaissance” (Dec. 9).

For example, he writes that “liberal commitment to secularism is reflected in the anti-religious jihads conducted by groups like the ACLU.” Comparing the ACLU’s legal struggle for a separation of state and church (according to the principles of the U.S. Constitution) to a jihad, i.e. religious warfare that cost hundreds of thousands of lives, is nothing short of chutzpah.

In sum, Kotkin might have had the best of intentions, but even in the City of Angels, they often lead straight to hell.

Benjamin Rosendahl
Los Angeles

Singles Solutions

Could it be that the separation of Jews into different religions creates the problem? If as Rob Eshman claims that Reform/Conservative women are very eager to live a true Jewish life then it might help to place the following ad in the newspaper: “Jewish woman, 20 years old, raised Reform/Conservative seeks opportunity to learn more about authentic Torah Judaism for the purpose of marrying a Jewish young man compatible with my goals.”

Bernard Lindner
Via e-mail

Scary Sign

I was very impressed with “The Swastika in My Binder” article written in the Tribe section of The Journal (Dec. 2) by Elizabeth Chase.

It goes without saying that I would agree with Chase. All too unfortunately, hate exists everywhere — in all its ugliness — and it should never go unremembered.

Andrea Russel

A Bris Is Bad

Caleb Ben-David’s article, “Snip Judgment,” understandably attempts to defuse the growing trend, making headway even among Jews, to not circumcise (Dec. 9). After all, what self-identified Jew wants to see a practice so associated with Judaism rejected. Unfortunately, the reality is that circumcision has negative consequences.

The foreskin serves a function. It protects the head of the penis, keeping it more sensitive. The circumcised penis has more layers of skin to protect it since it has no foreskin, thus reducing its sensitivity. More important, circumcisions result in the amputation of much or even all of the frenulum. The frenulum is sensual, nerve-rich tissue. The parent who has his son circumcised deprives his child of many very pleasurable sexual sensations that can never be recovered.

It is time for Jews to rethink circumcision. While tradition is important, tradition for its own sake is meaningless. Outside of the Orthodox, few Jews today really believe that God commanded Jews to circumcise. Most Jews do not practice the other rituals. It makes no sense to reject most other practices, yet insist on cutting one’s son’s’ genitals (thereby reducing his capacity for sexual pleasure) simply because it is a Jewish practice.

Stephen D. Jerome
Ft. Lauderdale

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



Interfaith Dialogue

As Rabbi Harold Schulweis wrote (“Interfaith Dialogue Can Bring Change,” Nov. 25), interfaith dialogue is indispensable for countering mainline Christian divest-from-Israel campaigns. But dialogue alone simply has not and cannot turn the tide, much as we wish it could.

Despite the rabbi’s claim, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has not revoked its 2004 divestment resolutions, and other denominations are still active in the larger, well-orchestrated campaign to demonize Israel and turn divestment into this era’s cause celebre.

The church effort is especially dangerous because it legitimizes anti-Israel propaganda and is influenced by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian group that has infused anti-Semitism into the debate. Many of us attended Sabeel conferences and heard the lies and distortions this purportedly Christian ‘peace’ group uses to whip up support.

If the tide does turn, it will be because many Christians mobilized to revoke the resolutions, because pro-Israel activists protested and exposed these groups and because some Jewish leaders sent a forceful, clear message that divestment would seriously damage interfaith relations and hopes for peace.

The Jewish community should not be lulled into thinking interfaith dialogue alone will solve the problem.

We must continue to act forcefully on all fronts: dialogue, supporting Christian friends, exposing the lies in divestment resolutions and firmly asserting that demonization of Israel is unacceptable.

Roberta P. Seid
Director of Research and Education
and Member Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East

Roz Rothstein
Executive Director
and Member Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East

Rabbi’s Death

I was so saddened upon the death of Rabbi Tucker (“Car Crash Claims Northridge Rabbi,” Nov. 18).

He is not a man I knew at all well, except through the programs and Tot Shabbat services he conducted at Temple Ramat Zion, where my grandchildren are students in the preschool. He had such a sweet and gentle manner with the children.

The speculations and conversations regarding his passing went on endlessly, and clearly, his family wanted and needed to have complete privacy.

When it became clear that his death was through extraordinary circumstances, it was not the place of The Jewish Journal to report those particulars. Simply printing an obituary, along with the highlights of his life and the comments of colleagues, should have been enough.

It was indeed sensationalistic journalism on your part to discuss the specifics, and this, too, must have further troubled Tucker’s family.

Better judgment on the part of the writing staff should have been used, and I hope that in the future, you will consider the long-range implications of your words.

Jo-Carole Oberstein
Van Nuys

Swastika in Binder

I would like to respond to Elizabeth Chase’s article on “The Swastika in My Binder” printed on Dec. 2. I was elated to read that someone had the guts to write in and state that this type of action of inscribing a swastika, in a high school no less, is in fact a “hate crime.”

I think back to 1997, when my family moved us from Manhattan to the Deep South, in Atlanta. My parents enrolled me in a Christian preparatory school, Westminster, as it was one of the best prep schools in the Southeast.

I remember coming out of chemistry class, and the most beautiful girl walked up to me and stopped me in the hallway. I thought, wow, this girl wants to get to know me.

She asked me: “I want to know if it’s true what everyone is saying, are you really a Jew?”

I responded, “Yes.”

And she did a 180 and walked away from me, never again acknowledging my existence. Other kids in school treated me the same. They either ignored me or picked fights with me.

But the point that I’d like to make is this: I did nothing about it. I let them do this to me. Maybe it was because I was outnumbered. Or perhaps I put the fault on myself for just not being able to fit in.

The real truth is that there is anti-Semitism in America in schools. And to let people walk on us while remaining quiet would be like replaying how the Holocaust began.

Therefore, Elizabeth, what you just did was a giant leap; something that I never did in my three years of anti-Semitic abuse in the South.

So, thank you for standing up, because if we don’t, who ever will?

Gregory Diamond
Los Angeles

Stick to Issues

I was shocked at David Klinghoffer’s attack on Abe Foxman in your Thanksgiving issue (“ADL Stokes Fear as Ploy to Raise Funds,” Nov. 25). Reasonable people can disagree on whether fundamentalist Christianity is a threat to American Jews, but where Foxman lays out a rational argument, Klinghoffer attacks Foxman in a very personal way. Klinghoffer should stick to the issues. He might be more convincing.

Barry Wendell
North Hollywood

Republican Party

As a 33-year-old “South Park Conservative,” I found the Republican Jewish Coalition conferees hip, young, fun and optimistic (“Lincoln’s Party Parties,” Dec. 2). What The Jewish Journal fails to understand is why middle-class people like me are Republicans. The answers are twofold:

1) My parents are retired teachers who owned no stocks but did possess common sense. They worked hard, emphasized honor and integrity and wanted their government to do what government should do: lower their taxes and leave them alone. They left Long Island for South Florida and a lower tax burden in a nicer house.

2) My father is a Holocaust survivor, rendering me unable to sing “Kumbaya” with homicidal lunatics whose main objection to the Jewish community (and all Americans) is our obstinate refusal to allow them to murder us.

We are at war. The fate of the world is at stake. Civilization or barbarianism is the choice. Barbarianism must lose. Civilization must win.

Republicans understand that the reason Barbra Streisand can charge people $25,000 per concert and The Jewish Journal can distribute its newspaper is because American soldiers are fighting and dying for these freedoms.

The Republican Party is totally committed to reducing taxes, killing terrorists and leaving people alone when they wish to teach their children parental values, not governmental values.

For these reasons, I, along with ever-increasing multitudes of young Jews, are committed to the GOP.

Eric Golub

Marc Ballon’s coverage of the Republican Jewish Coalition All-California Conference was more witty than wise. There is a rule of history that is as axiomatic as plane geometry: Yesterday’s revolutionaries have a way of becoming today’s insufferable bureaucrats and tomorrow’s tyrants.

Contemporary liberalism, being true to the cycle, is quickly moving from the “insufferable bureaucrat” stage to the “tyrant” stage. Jews have a record of bitter experience with this cycle and the warning signs are everywhere.

This is not just a Jewish phenomenon.

Members of the Spanish-speaking community tend to be devout Catholics and have very traditional values. They are miles away from being “Brentwood politically correct.”

Furthermore, it is no coincidence that some of the most articulate conservative voices in our nation are black Americans; they have suffered most from liberal tyranny.

The time is nigh for the Jewish, black and Spanish-speaking communities to join hands in casting off the pharaoh of contemporary liberalism.

Rabbi Louis J. Feldman
Van Nuys

Take a Chance

I have to respond to Amy Klein’s singles article (“He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Dated,” Nov. 25). In regards to her wanting to say “Me … what’s wrong with me,” why not say it?

And this is what really gets me: Guys can’t read minds or some of the subtle clues like women expect us to. Let us know you are interested.

What is the worst that can happen? Rejection? Waa waa, your poor fragile ego! Guys get rejected constantly. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

We may just want to be friends, or we may be dying for the hint or knock over the head to let us know you are interested. Sure “The Rules” may advise against it. But what have you got to lose?

You might be the one that we have been waiting for. The one that we are willing to commit to and give up the waitresses for.

Remember men and women are different. Use your friendships to understand men and find a way to use that knowledge to turn that “friendly” conversation into a potential romantic one.

Dan He-Who-Could-Be-Dated(name withheld by request)

Rights Commission

I testified at the briefing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on campus anti-Semitism and disagree that any of the commissioners were “testy” or unsympathetic to the hostility that Jewish students are facing on our college campuses (“Libby, Judaism and the Leak Probe,” Nov. 11).

All of the commissioners expressed concern about the problem, though legitimate questions were raised about how best to address it without impinging on constitutionally protected rights.

In fact, the commission expressed an interest in issuing and circulating a publication to inform students of the protections afforded them under Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act.

This would be an important step in helping Jewish students be aware that if their university administrations are failing to address any harassment, intimidation or discrimination they are experiencing, legal recourse is available.

Susan B. Tuchman
New York, N.Y.

Where’s the Justice?

The U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law. The exception appears to be former Jewish Defense League (JDL) members. Let’s summarize the information provided in The Jewish Journal article (“JDL’s Krugel Killed in Phoenix Prison,” Nov. 11): In 1990, Rabbi Meir Kahane is assassinated while giving a speech. In spite of hundreds of witnesses, his murderer gets off scot-free. In 2002, Irv Rubin dies in a Los Angeles jail. Officials call it a suicide, although his family suspects he was murdered. Now, Krugel is murdered in a Phoenix jail, yet FBI and prison authorities are silent on the matter.

Who killed Krugel and why isn’t there an investigation? Are the deaths of Rubin and Krugel related? As Jews, we should ask: Where is the justice? Where is the outcry?

Dr. Ted Friedman
Los Angeles




It is not only American Jewry but younger Israelis, particularly, who are not aware of the sacrifice many North Americans made for Israel (“The Americans Who Fought for Israel,” Nov. 18). Sabras take the state for granted; it was in existence when they were born.

It was, therefore, most gratifying to read your feature and to see the quote by my late brother, Ralph Moster, who on his own initiative left the comfort and security of home in Vancouver, because of his conviction that the history of World War II destruction of the Jewish people must not be repeated. He was determined to go to Palestine and aid his people in their struggle for a homeland of their own and, above all, for a place of freedom from persecution.

When he first arrived, the Jews had no planes, and he fought in an armored unit of the Palmach, soon acquiring a name for efficiency and resourcefulness. When the Israeli air force was established, he became one of its ablest pilots.

Appointed commander of a squadron in the Negev and the Tel Aviv area, he arranged bombing raids at night, going to Tel Aviv each day to plan them. In the Negev, whenever Israeli planes flew overhead, the Palmach boys would point and say, “There goes Ralph.”

In recognition of his exceptional service, he was promoted to officer in charge of Tel Aviv Flying Field, with the rank of major.

On the day of the opening of a key road, when supplies could finally reach a beleaguered Jerusalem, Ralph was asked to do a flyover during the celebration. But he had committed himself to testing a new type of naval plane. There was a malfunction, and it crashed in the Kinneret.

Buried in Givatayim, he remains in his beloved Israel.

Jules Moster
Los Angeles

Insecure Feeling

Steven Rosen’s Oct 21 article (‘Protocols’ Exposes Ugly Legacy) prompts me to write this letter. My friendships, both U.S. and European, tend to gravitate to other Jews, so I was shocked to hear non-Jewish acquaintances (both American and European) remark matter-of-factly on several occasions (the most recent being yesterday) that no Jews died in the Trade Towers.

Hearing otherwise well-educated people spout this story makes me feel as if I have been living with a false sense of the firmness of the earth beneath me.

I am curious what percentage of the non-Jewish public, both in the U.S. and in the world, believe this story and just how tenuous is our safety as Jews in this world? I also wonder what I should say when confronted with this blatantly anti-Semitic remark.

Sharon Alexander

The Hillel Connection

It was wonderful to see Jewish college students, many active in their campus Hillel, featured prominently in your Nov. 18 edition (“How They Choose to Be Jews”).

Many parents and Hillel professionals are grappling with strategies and methods to connect young people to Jewish life on campus and in their community. Los Angeles Hillel Council (LAHC) offers three avenues for parents interested in their children/students connecting with Jewish life.

The FACETS Conference and college fair help parents and students find the edge they need to get into the university of their dreams, as well access Jewish life on campus. One father who attended with his first two children told us that he is anxious to attend again with his third child, who will be graduating high school next year. The FACETS Conference will be held Sunday, March 19, 2006, at the UJ.

LAHC’s Freshman Transition Network connects L.A. graduating high school seniors to the Hillel on their future college campus.

Finally, anyone concerned with the rising cost of tuition should visit our Web site at and click on financial aid. There you will find our guide to Jewish scholarship opportunities for students attending schools around the world.

Saul Korin
Director of Engagement and Regional Programs
Los Angeles Hillel Council

Stories Offensive

As an Orthodox Jew who grew up on the north shore of Massachusetts in the 1950s, constantly harangued, harassed, sermonized to by Christians and assaulted for my being a Jew, my views are conservative. I have no innerspace for liberalism and placating people for the sake of making everyone have fuzzy and warm happy feelings. I don’t care for sacrificing my values for the sake of being trendy or politically correct.

Therefore, your allowing platforms for Muslim perspectives with peace-loving aspirations and rosy endings, in stark contradiction with bitter and violent realities, and your advertisements of Christian books and stories about Jesus are offensive and an unwelcome addition into my home and heart (“Rice Weaves Rich Tale of a Young Jesus,” Nov. 25).

I believe that your paper has dramatically evolved over the last few years in a way most contradictory to Jewish readers’ desires to bask in and absorb strictly Jewish themes and perspectives, and will thus serve to alienate those who are unlike you, those who are riding on the same wave, sharing the same dreams as the other liberals who gnaw away at Jewish essence under the guise of fairness and open-mindedness.

There may be a time when the name of your journal will have to change in order to accurately reflect who and what you stand for.

Robert Blum
Los Angeles

Not Working

Rabbi Harold Schulweis is right. Interfaith dialogue can bring change (Interfaith Dialogue Can Bring Change,” Nov. 25). However, the Jews and Israel are under constant attack by organizations such as the Christian Peacemaker Team, Sabeel and the mainline Christians who follow the World Church of Christ (WCC).

Recently in Portland, the WCC declared the security fence in Israel unjust and that divestment was a way of showing solidarity for the Palestinians. However, this was done without any mention of terrorism, or why the fence was put up in the first place.

As with Yasser Arafat, in order to have dialogue, we need partners. While Israel is busy rerouting the fence, no mention in these dialogues has been the responsibility of the Palestinians, by their leaders to stop terror.

Israel cannot always be the one giving things away, and talking is not stopping hatred, incitement or the promises of paradise by killing Jews.

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Associate Director,
American Jewish Congress
Western Region

Not Fulfilling Role

The Sfas Emes says, “It is beautiful to take part in one’s traditions, to rejoice with family and friends, to feel pride in one’s people. With pride must come a deeper understanding of the true essence….”

In this current issue of The Journal, you focus on a very few Chasidim who “explore” outside, implying a bad view of observant Jews; you, unbelievably, give much attention to a book that celebrates the life of the founder of Christianity, and you waste ink on dicey novels (“Rice Weaves Rich Tale of a Young Jesus,” Nov. 25).

As the Jewish(?) newspaper of Los Angeles, one would hope that you would feel pride in your people, but you consistently do the opposite. Sadly, you probably feel that your view is the proper one to foist on the rest of us. And I’m sure you get letters from unaware Jews who just love your paper.

But The Journal is so distortingly unrepresentative of the real Jewish communities of Los Angeles that most conscious Jews don’t even look at it because it upsets them too much.

When will you honestly endeavor to come to a deeper understanding of the true essence? And I don’t mean your self-righteous pomposity about issues crucial to the Jewish people.

To really learn, to really begin to understand, it takes some humility and a willingness to see that maybe you really don’t know everything. With all the mess that you printed in this issue and others you could have made valuable and significant contributions to uplifting and educating the Jewish community.

Why don’t you really make an effort to consult and include the observant and more conscious Jews of Los Angeles in your pages? Are you unaware that the great rabbis, such as the Sfas Emes quoted above, actually can make excellent statements of depth and meaning relevant to all Jews and all people?

It is heart-wrenching to witness the paper for the third-largest Jewish community in the world continue to do such demeaning, degrading and insulting work. The next time you decide what to write about, reflect on the impression it will make on all the teenagers, elders, survivors, observant, secular and other Jewish people. And please consider that your point of view just might not match the wisdom of the great rabbis like the Sfas Emes, Aryeh Kaplan, Abraham Heschel, Reb Nachman of Breslov, the Tanya, Rav Mordechai Elon, the Tanach.

Is there really any shortage of brilliance here? And yet, your editors/writers and some of your readers either don’t know or couldn’t care less. Meanwhile, 10,000 Jews from Gaza are homeless with no jobs and no future, but that subject is not “fit” for your pages.

You really need to consider the serious responsibility you have and begin to live up to it in a more substantial, meaningful and respectful way. We, as a people, did not come through 4,000 years to have the current Journal staff disgrace and misguide the Jewish community of Los Angeles.

Joshua Spiegelman

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



Tookie: Live or Die?

I was really quite shocked at the noose on the cover to illustrate the articles on the [scheduled] execution of Stanley Tookie Williams (“Should Tookie Die,” Nov. 11). Pairing lynching imagery with a discussion about the controversial impending death of a black man is quite crass and inappropriate.

I understand that as a publication you have to try your darndest to put interesting pictures on your covers to attract readership or some type of attention to your magazine. But this is just ignorant and obnoxious.

Seeing this cover does not make me want to read The Jewish Journal; it just makes me question the integrity of it.

Randie Welles
Barnard College

Your latest issue, in which a large noose is shown with the words “Should Tookie Die?” is highly offensive. In a city as racially diverse as Los Angeles, I expect more from a publication about Jewish issues. Your cover is insensitive and shows a callous disregard for the feelings of African Americans in your city.

Michael Sales
Via e-mail

It never ceases to amaze me how people will fight to save the lives of convicted murderers. As it is, the death penalty in California is practically a joke. Letting Tookie Williams live would do nothing to change this. I have no doubt Williams has changed and repents his former life as a gangbanger, and founder of the most notorious street gang in Los Angeles — too little too late. The fact that he was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize means nothing. After all, Yasser Arafat was awarded this very prize! In addition, the death penalty is not meant as a deterrent. No murderer thinks he will be caught. Executing Williams is the only way to assure justice for the victims, their families, and Californians; so, my answer to Daniel Sokatch’s two questions is a resounding “Yes.”

Amy Schneider

Larry Greenfield argues, obliquely, that the execution of convicted murderer Stanley Tookie Williams is justified by “the wider evil [Williams] brought into the world” — that is, the “Crips super-gang.” Talk about chutzpah.

Many Los Angeles residents have long averted their eyes to the unpleasant realities of life in neighborhoods such as “South Central.” Unlike my siblings, I chose to attend “neighborhood” public schools: Audubon Junior High and Crenshaw High. I saw firsthand the conditions that give rise to “gang activity.” I also witnessed “gang activity” long before 1971 (we called it “juvenile delinquency” back then). Certain teachers worked tirelessly together with parents to break up “proto-gangs” as they coalesced; such little-known efforts delayed the onset of the “Crips” phenomenon by several years. But it is so much easier to blame it all on Williams.

Williams deserves severe punishment for the brutal murders he committed. The families of the victims also deserve to see justice done. “Life without possibility of parole” sounds about right. But that’s not enough for Greenfield: “This just execution will dry some of their tears — and offer some closure and peace.”

The State of California — that is, all of us, collectively — should not take the life of Williams just so that others might feel better.

Leroy W. Demery, Jr.
Bainbridge Island, Wa

Where Credit Is Due

In the article “Rescued Souls and Torahs Meet at Shul” a very important fact was missing (Nov. 18). Beth Chayim Chadashim, the original gay and lesbian shul, now an inclusive community, organized the entire event, housing it at Leo Baeck.

Lynn Beliak
Temple Beth Am member
Los Angeles

Rabbi Tucker’s Death

We wish to offer our sincere condolences to the family of Rabbi Steven Tucker and the members of Temple Ramat Zion. (“Car Crash Claims Beloved Northridge Rabbi,” Nov. 18). Tucker’s death is a profound tragedy as well as a loss to the Jewish community.

Tucker’s untimely death reminds us of the importance of educating ourselves regarding suicide prevention. To this end, we would like to remind the Jewish community about Project Tikvah: Jewish Youth Suicide Prevention Program. This program teaches Jewish educators, clergy, parents, and students to recognize the warning signs of suicide, identify at-risk youth and take effective action toward suicide prevention.

For more information about Project Tikvah, call (310) 446-6625

Jeff Bernhardt
Janet Woznica
Project Tikvah Co-Directors
Los Angeles

I was saddened to hear about the passing of Rabbi Steven Tucker. I was further shocked and terribly disappointed when I read in The Jewish Journal the article regarding Tucker and publicizing facts that should have been kept private with the family. In such a difficult situation regarding a community leader, it was of no benefit and served no purpose to readers, his congregation and especially his family to have made public that he committed suicide and his contract was in question. I found this reporting totally irresponsible. Maybe The Journal should change its name to the Jewish Enquirer.

Melinda Feldman
West Hills

Obesity Wars

Instead of task forces and “obesity coordinators”, why not fight the fat with old-fashioned personal responsibility and accountability (“Wanted: A General in the Obesity Wars”, Nov. 18)?

OK, coordinate this: Eat a salad, go for a long walk.

Frederick Singer
via e-mail


The article “Car Crash Claims Northridge Rabbi” (Nov. 18) included an incorrect date. The funeral service for Rabbi Steven Tucker was held Nov. 15.

The article “A Major Reason to Study at CSUN” (Nov. 18) incorrectly stated that UCLA does not offer a Jewish studies major.

IRS vs. All-Saints

Rabbi Leonard Beerman speculates that the IRS investigation of the Rev. George Regas and Pasadena’s All-Saints Episcopal Church is a “selective application of the law” (“All Saints’ IRS Fight Gets Jewish Support,” Nov. 18). He couldn’t be more right.

While going after All-Saints and Regas, the IRS repeatedly overlooks brazen violations by a number of clergy on the right — even when those incidents are brought to the attention of the IRS again and again. This selective prosecution –and persecution — of Regas is just the latest scary example of the Bush Administration’s un-American tactics in attempting to silence its critics. Whether, rather than challenging content, it’s making ad hominem attacks on a newspaper that editorializes against the war; whether it’s calling elected officials who criticize the war unpatriotic or telling citizens who protest the war that they are hurting the troops; whether it’s implying that those who would protect separation of church and state are somehow ungodly: This concerted attempt to squelch debate, this tyranny of Bush and Cheney is just more of the same from the folks who brought us the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay prisoners and is most certainly the greatest threat to the American Way.

One last thing: Regas made himself vulnerable to the IRS when he did not stick to the issue of the Iraq War itself, instead focusing on a rather subjective comparison of presidential candidates, two short days before the election. Because he did not explicitly say, “Vote for John Kerry,” or “Don’t vote for George Bush,” does not get him off the hook. Even a cursory reading of his sermon (at shows it to be unmistakably about whom to vote against (and tacitly for), even ending with “When you go into the voting booth on Tuesday.”

If asked, objective separation experts would certainly have told The Jewish Journal, that whether we agree with Regas or not, whether he’s on the left or right, whether he’s right or wrong isn’t at all relevant. What is, is that as a nation we have decided to give tax-exempt status to religious institutions, and while they are allowed within that nonprofit status to sermonize on issues, they are expressly prohibited from endorsing — even in veiled terms — candidates. Once the line between issues and candidates is crossed, as in this case, the religious institution’s tax-exempt status is at risk. And Regas, as much as I admire him and agree with him, clearly crossed that line.

I am proud of the left, especially the Jewish left, for coming to the defense of the wonderful Regas. At the same time, I worry that we are erring by focusing on whether he did it or not, rather than on the ominous pattern of intimidation that’s behind the IRS investigation.

Joan H. Leonard
Sherman Oaks

Tookie: Live or Die?

I appreciate the balanced, if polarized, coverage you gave the tentative execution of Stanley Tookie Williams. I also appreciate seeing the Jewish perspective on both sides of the capital punishment issue. Not being Jewish myself, I would have never imagined the Jewish community cared one way or the other about Tookie’s execution.

What I do not appreciate is the lengths the publication went to get my attention. Admittedly, the cover was a successful eye-catcher, but using a noose to illustrate the execution of a black man, regardless of whether it is justifiable or not, is historically insensitive and tastelessly sensational. As a people who deal with terrorist assault to this day and have a history of genocidal efforts taken against them, one would think the Jewish community would be empathetic with the Black community’s own struggle against the same evils.

Ike Moses
Los Angeles

I am troubled by Daniel Sokatch’s substance and style.

He campaigns against lawful state execution of even “the most wicked” because “the divine spark always contains within it the potential for change.” He gets to this conclusion by making up his own religion (“my Jewish values convince me that the capital punishment system… is beyond repair”).

This is illogical. If the legal system were repaired, he would still oppose executing even the most wicked.

He then plays the race card, also disingenuously. If the system were proven to be unbiased, he would still not support capital punishment.

Finally, he states we cannot know if a potential killer might be deterred by the death penalty, yet he claims to know the heart of an allegedly rehabilitated murderer? I call this selective reasoning.

This is a classic case of ideological liberalism, using (poorly) religious and sociological arguments to support his personal preferences. I am unimpressed.

Lawrence Peck
Los Angeles

Don’t Fault Sharon

You reported that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressured Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to ease Israeli controls on the Gaza border (“Sharon Feels Heat From Home, Abroad, ” Nov. 18). Rice’s goal is certainly to increase the likelihood of peace, but in fact, this move may only lead to more weapons being smuggled into Gaza, increasing the likelihood for more terrorism.

To move toward a real peace, pressuring Israel on border issues should not be Rice’s priority. Instead, she should concentrate on pressuring Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, to honor his commitments to the Roadmap, to disarm and dismantle the terrorist groups, arrest the terrorists, and end the anti-Israel incitement in the government-controlled schools and media. If that were achieved, it would be a real step toward a real reconciliation.

Morton A. Klein
National President
Zionist Organization of America



Tookie Williams

Larry Greenfield’s article pointing out the reasons why Tookie Williams should die defeats itself by way of his last paragraph (“Should Tookie Die?” Nov. 11). In it, he writes that if Williams is allowed to live, the tears of his victims’ loved ones will not dry, their bereavement will not find closure.

True. But juxtaposed against that unhappy truth is a fact that a substantial number of potential victims will have their lives spared because of Williams’ extraordinary about-face, which has resulted in a truce between two of the most violent street gangs and which has undoubtedly prevented a number of the very crimes he perpetrated from taking place

So one would not have to search too deeply into the meanings beneath the surface of the Torah to conclude that allowing Williams to live and go on with his work balances favorably against taking his life.

Arnold Laven

Only a pessimist would argue that Judaism has no interest in encouraging and rewarding the process of teshuvah. Long ago, Ezekiel declared in God’s name (33:11): “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.”

Tookie Williams is not the same violent person today that he was at the time of the murders for which he was convicted. Much evidence establishes that Tookie has gone through a moral metamorphosis during the years since 1981.

Larry Greenfield dismisses all of us who seek from the governor clemency for Tookie as “misguided leftists who are all too eager to be kind to the cruel.” If the governor extends clemency to Tookie, it will be an act of legitimate mercy to a man who will continue to work effectively against gang violence, while he remains in prison for the rest of his life.

To execute Tookie will pour more blood on the ground, both his and that of countless young people whom he would have influenced to change their ways. Please go to and sign the petition requesting clemency for Stanley Williams.

Rabbi Jerrold Goldstein
Former Chair
California People of Faith
Working Against the Death Penalty

In your excellent cover story debate, Daniel Sokatch argues not only that a Death Row murderer has “rehabilitated” himself, but also that we should abolish capital punishment due to racism and nondeterrence.

He is far off the mark on both accounts. A huge percentage of national and California executions are of whites. And, legal executions certainly prevent many murders of prison guards and inmates by convicts who have nothing to lose by murdering again.

Furthermore, does Sokatch really oppose capital punishment for genocide? For mass terrorist attacks? For the torture and mass murder of schoolchildren?

In my view, Larry Greenfield concisely won the debate with one powerful sentence: “….The value of innocent human life is best established by exacting a proportionate and ultimate sanction upon a murderer.”

Jay Hoffman
Los Angeles

Do the Right Thing

Last year, and again recently, Donald Trump had an opportunity — in front of tens of millions of television viewers — to send the obvious message that bigotry is unacceptable in American society, and people who make bigoted remarks cannot work for him (“Anti-Semitism Trumps Sex,” Nov. 11).

In a world where serious and sometimes violent anti-Semitism is growing, it becomes all the more important that a powerful figure like Trump does the right thing.

Trump’s words carry considerable weight in business, and more lately, in the world of reality TV. He should have said to Clay — just as he should have said to Jennifer Crisafulli last year: “There is no room in my company for someone who makes anti-Semitic statements. You’re fired!”

Dr. Rafael Medoff and Benyamin Korn
Director and Associate Director
The David S. Wyman Institute
for Holocaust Studies

Return to Party

Reading that Lewis Libby is Jewish just adds to the shame that many, if not most of us, Jews feel about the merger of Jews, Republicans and neocons (“Libby, Judaism, and the Leak Probe,” Nov. 11).

Libby, Jack Abramoff, Paul Wolfowitz, Ken Mehlman and the rest represent greed at its worst, ethics at its lowest and Judaism with a black eye.

I urge all reasonable and moderate Jewish Republicans to come back to the Democratic Party and work for change within the party. For those Jews of the extreme right, please stop admitting that you profess to be a Jew –you are embarrassing us.

Lawrence Kopeikin
Santa Monica


Call me crazy, but is there another actress out there who could’ve handled the role of the Jewish mother in the movie, “Prime,” other than the amazing Meryl Streep (“What, Meryl Worry?” Oct. 28).

How about the amazing and Jewish Barbra Streisand or Lanie Kazan or Julie Kavner or Amy Irving or Bette Midler or Valerie Harper (is she Jewish)? And that’s just the short list.

Taking nothing away from Streep, but is she the only “name” that could’ve opened the picture? Of course not.

What is this fear of casting a Jewish woman who might look, uh, you know, Jewish? Yeah I know, plenty of Jewish women are tall, thin, have Nordic noses, straight blond hair and alabaster skin, just not the ones most of us have seen and will see the rest of our lives.

Have we fallen over in our attempt to bend over backward not to stereotype ethnicity, culture or religion (especially our own)? Give me the curves, curls, eyes, mouth and nose of a Jewish woman every time, especially when that is what the role screams out for.

It doesn’t take a therapist to see behind the curtain here. Keep your anxious, assimilationist, green-light Jewess-a-phobia where it has lived for 20 years, cowering and casting the Jewish male as the permanently flawed, shiksa-chasing, nerd supreme of the universe. Thanks for the choices guys!

Cliff Berens
via e-mail

Upsetting Film

Have you seen this movie (“What Makes Bombers Tick in ‘Paradise,'” Oct. 28)? I had no idea what the movie was about, and my friend and I were completely upset when we left the theater. We both called to ask how this movie was allowed to be shown in his theater.

It was pro-Arab, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. I would not have minded seeing a movie that was about the Arab culture, customs and family life.

The trailers made the movie seem like these Arab terrorists would change their mind and not go through with the assassination of innocent people. I don’t consider myself prejudiced and know there are good and bad people in all cultures. I do resent giving my money to pay for a movie that is anti-Israel.

The Laemmle theaters are owned by a Jewish family of Holocaust survivors. My friend and I were very angry and upset to know that this movie may make Jews and non-Jews alike become not only sympathetic with the Arabs but believe they are right in becoming human bombs and destroying Israel’s people and property.

My friend and I were assured that the Anti-Defamation League, The Jewish Journal and other Jewish organizations had passed this movie as “OK” to be shown in his theaters.

I have a hard time believing this. Is it true? I have not read your paper for the past month or so and do not know if you had any articles addressing this movie and what our Jewish leaders’ opinion of it is.

If so, then where do we stand as Jews?

The State of Israel and Jews around the world will be more hated by those seeing this movie. It presents a view that all of the problems in Palestine are caused by Israel … specifically that the Arabs have been treated inhumanely and their dignity has been stripped. That because of the Jewish people, they are poor and their streets are dirty.

Jewish Grandma
Name withheld upon request

Rabin Wasn’t Right

Yitzchak Rabin’s assassination was an evil act, but that doesn’t mean Rabin was right when he and Shimon Peres initiated the disastrous peace process (“With Us — Always,” Nov. 11).

Rob Eshman says that Rabin realized that “ultimately, a nation cannot survive in constant conflict with its neighbors.” True enough, but the only way to end that conflict is by a decisive victory, allowing one side to impose terms on the other (for the Arabs, that has always meant destroying Israel), exhaustion by both sides leading to a realization that peace is the only way out or a real change of heart by both sides.

Unfortunately, none of these events has happened. Rabin and Peres deluded themselves into thinking that their sworn enemy had changed, with the horrific results we can all see.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Distortion of Values

Your piece on Tookie Williams sickens me (“Should Tookie Die?” Nov. 11). The manipulative use of a noose on the cover implies an innocent black man is to be killed. And in your twisted use of Jewish values, you make the religious side look cold and unsympathetic.

So I ask you two questions:

1 – Did you ever consider the pain and suffering of the victims’ families, one of whom was a military vet? How do they feel about this murderer being made into a hero?

2 – Do you really want school kids to look at his example and think, “Gee, Tookie killed people, but he did some good stuff, so now it’s OK, and if you kill people, as long as you try and do good stuff, it’s OK.”

Jewish people should be outraged at The Journal’s distortion of Jewish/Torah values in this case. What really concerns me is that in your self-righteous delusion, you actually think you’re “doing good stuff”.

Name withheld by request

Age-Old Disease

Very interesting that The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ David Gershwin objects strenuously to Oxford University Press’ depiction of Exodus in newly opposed textbooks – “There is no historical record of the Exodus!” – but that no one in the organized Jewish community — including The Federation — uttered one word of dissent or criticism when Rabbi David Wolpe made this identical declaration to his congregation four or five years ago. Age-old disease of the human race: “It’s not what’s being said that’s objectionable, but who’s saying it.”

Oh, and just for the record: When I wrote a letter of protest to The Jewish Journal pointing out that Rabbi Wolpe was setting a dangerous precedent for anti-Semites, the letter, of course, was never printed.

But whaddayaknow? Not too long after that, the Arab nations were chanting the same line, and naturally, we were up in arms. How hypocritical can our hierarchy be?

Let’s clean our own house before castigating condition of anyone else’s.

David R. Moss
Los Angeles


The Conversation

Things started to go bad quickly.

The United Airlines agent informed us our flight from Denver to Aspen was over sold — not everyone with a valid ticket was going to get on board.

Dozens of passengers were trying to be the ones past the gate.

Among them, lots of Jews.

We were flying in to join The Conversation: A Project of The Jewish Week — a novel, never-done-before two-day conference on the Jewish future.

The idea was the brainchild of Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of The Jewish Week in New York. What would happen, he wondered, if a group of people concerned with the future of Jewish life meet in an unstructured, relaxed, off-the-record atmosphere, trading ideas, analyses and solutions.

It was to be the Jewish equivalent of those Renaissance weekends the Clintons and their gang made famous — minus the touch football and the gentiles. Gary got funding from major private philanthropies, secured a location in Aspen and invited about 70 people from across the country.

And even in the Denver airport waiting area, it was shaping up to be a heady experience. Journalists, scholars, rabbis, activists and filmmakers were deep in conversation.

The rest of the passengers in the busy hub seemed positively sedate compared to our animated group. It was a combination of class reunion and high-octane graduate seminar, getting to wrestle big problems with people passionate about the same things.

But first we had to wrestle with getting to our destination.

When the ticket agent pleaded for people to give up seats for a later flight, one of the Conversation participants called out a pledge.

“If some of us don’t go,” he said. “none of us will go. Can we agree on that?”

Evidently we couldn’t: Not three minutes later, when the final boarding call was made, the same man disappeared onto the airplane.

Within an hour, the storm worsened. The next flight was cancelled.

Rather than wait for a 6 p.m. flight to be scrubbed as well, 20 of us opted to arrange for two separate vans. A film producer worked his cellphone and in an instant made the arrangements.

“That’s what I do,” he shrugged, “I produce.”

So off we went. Strangers mostly, but all familiar with one another’s work or world: In our van were my wife, Rabbi Naomi Levy (spouses were not welcome at the Conversation, Naomi and I received separate invitations); the president of a national Jewish organization; a distinguished professor; a film director and producer, and a nonfiction author. I’m not mentioning their names because the rule was that even our participation would be off-the-record.

Ray, our driver, turned out to be a Muslim from Tehran. He asked what we were all doing in Aspen.

“There’s a conference for Jewish academics, thinkers, leaders, rabbis,” someone said.

“Just Jewish people?” Ray asked.

I had to wonder if he’d seen the new documentary on the “Protocols of Zion,” which debunks the notion that Jews met late in the 19th century to plot their takeover of the world (see article on Page 31). I made a mental note to send him a copy.

Just before we got to the Eisenhower Tunnel, an organizer at the conference called. The event had begun in Aspen with a facilitator asking the group to come up with discussion ideas. Dozens had been narrowed to six.

At this point, with the president of the Jewish organization relaying information over the phone, we tried to take part. She listed the potential discussion issues.

“No. 1: Helping people choose Judaism. No. 2: Congregations of Torah, tzedakah and chesed. No. 3: Using television and movies to strengthen Judaism. No. 4: How can Jews contribute to creating positive images of Israel? No. 5: Gender and Judaism, why do boys fall out of Jewish life, and why do girls feel excluded? No. 6: Why be Jewish?”

We jumped into the discussion, already on a first-name basis. We had four hours to go, and no one was shy.

The professor, a researcher with a deep and fluent knowledge of the state of Jewish practice, went first. One fact of Jewish life, he pointed out, is that women call the shots. In an intermarried couple, it is the woman who decides the faith. It is the woman who keeps Judaism alive in the home. Boys and men, he said, are opting out of Jewish practice after their bar mitzvahs, and few return.

We debated this, bringing our experiences and anecdotes to flesh out the data. The discussion deepened over several miles.

In the background, the car radio was tuned to the Phillies game for Ray’s amusement. Outside, snow whipped through the transcendent pine forest. I was in a special place, among remarkable individuals. I felt fortunate to be on this journey.

Then Ray stopped.

He had no choice. Traffic had slowed to a standstill. Somewhere up ahead, a big rig without chains had jackknifed. Not only weren’t we flying to Aspen, it began to look doubtful that we would be driving there either.

We pulled off the road in Silverthorne for a restroom. The snow was coming down in globs. I stepped out of the van into six inches of frozen slush; ice water filled my shoes.

Moments later, Ray re-started the van and quickly realized the defroster didn’t work. He dove under the dashboard, fiddled a bit. No go.

The windshield turned opaque.

“I think we just hit the trifecta,” said the president.

The other van went ahead. Ray couldn’t raise a traffic report on the radio; there were no police or emergency workers in sight. After a month of hurricane and earthquake news, we were all hyperaware of how easily social order can spin into chaos.

The professor suggested we check for rooms at nearby hotels: “It’s not pessimism,” he said. “It’s precaution.”

We crossed the frozen highway, the author wiping down the windshield as Ray inched along. But the hotel that appeared just ahead of us was pitch black. There was a regional power outage, which was expected to last until morning. No one was allowed to check in, and the lobby full of stranded travelers looked like a Red Cross shelter.

The idea we all clung to — of eventually laughing this all off over drinks by an Aspen fireplace — gave way to the image of eight people shivering in a van under a snowdrift, a Jewish Donner Party.

“Years from now,” said the producer, “people will ask why this is called ‘Conversation Pass.'”

Ray banged the dashboard, flipped a switch — and the defroster kicked in.

Van 2 called back to say they were stuck in traffic, but after a group vote we decided to push on. We sailed up the interstate. Ray, our driver, broke the silence.

“Really,” he said, “I find what you are saying so interesting.”

Ray said he’d come from Tehran 11 years ago. He’d married a Christian woman, and no longer practiced his Muslim faith. His four children were being raised Christian.

“That’s my point,” said the professor, “the woman decides.”

“I say, every man finds his way to God in his way,” Ray said. “My children, whatever they choose is OK with me.”

The Conversation started up again, spurred by the Muslim in the driver’s seat. We traded life and work stories. We drove about three miles — and then hit bottom: an unbroken, miles-long line of snarled 18-wheelers, SUVs, pickups and sedans.

We were going nowhere, ever — if ever meant Aspen.

I asked the professor what book he’s writing. Maybe we wouldn’t get to talk all night in a room in Aspen, but we could just as well talk in a van all night on the way.

The professor launched into a lucid, compelling distillation of his series of lectures he gave at Yale University about the future of Zionism. We pitched in with questions and our own experiences. But carsickness and despair had taken over a couple of us. The Conversation wound down.

Some of us wanted to head back to Denver. Others wanted to forge ahead. I was in the latter group, for a while. I had romantic visions of dealing with these multiplying dilemmas the way we knew best, the same way Rosenblatt assumed we could tackle some of the Jewish world’s thorny issues: by talking. I figured we’d sit in traffic and talk through the night, and the hours would pass quickly in stimulating debate, and by 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., things would be moving.

Finally, Ray was able to tune into a traffic report: The highway was closed indefinitely with continuous wrecks. Van 2 called to say they had turned back. Our adventure was becoming less “Gilligan’s Island” and more “Lifeboat.”

We caved. Not pessimism, pragmatism. There are some situations, I guess, you just can’t converse your way out of.

Ray somehow maneuvered the van into the opposite lanes. There were a few gasps.

“Believe me, I have four kids,” Ray said, “and I want to see them.”

The road back to Denver was clear. A phone call from Aspen informed us that the handful of people who chose — we thought foolishly — to wait in the airport all day for the evening flight had arrived safely at the conference. Our van grew quiet for several more miles.

“So what’s the moral of the story?” my wife the rabbi asked. “What’s the life lesson?”

“You’re better off in the airport than you are on the road,” the director said.

“Until,” the producer added, “you’re better off on the road than you are in the airport.”

Naomi and I headed back to Los Angeles the next morning. We had little alternative. An even bigger storm had come in, and, in any case, all flights to Aspen were booked.

The Conversation, I heard, was a great success. The problems of the Jewish people were kicked around, hashed out, pondered, debated. Nothing got solved — that’s not the purpose of these things. But there is a certain magic in intense discussions, among caring people, in closed quarters.

The film director from our ill-fated van put it this way, somewhere along mile Marker 221, eastbound on Highway 70: “I have faith in our journey, and we will arrive at the place we need to be.”

Or, conversely, we won’t.