McCain, Obama, cancer and cows

20 Questions With McCain

It’s too bad Rob Eshman didn’t ask the “man with the plan” for Iraq the most important question: What his definition of “victory” in Iraq is, and how he plans to achieve it (“20 Questions With John McCain,” April 4).

Lawrence Weinman
Los Angeles

Letter to Obama

The Barack Obama that David Suissa describes in his editorial this past month definitely sounds like the ideal candidate for the Jewish people (“Letter to Obama,” April 4). He’s sharp. He has street smarts. And most importantly, he’s “a human being first, and second a politician.”

Well, as just the tiniest bit of research will show, Obama went from state legislator, to the Senate, to a fancy book deal/tour, to becoming the front-runner in the Democratic presidential race. Sounds a lot like a politician to me.

I have also come across nothing that hints Obama won’t try and force Israel into strategically stupid land-for-peace deals, as Suissa suggests. I did, however, come across some nice clips of Obama’s mentor and pastor spewing anti-Jewish and anti-American rhetoric.

And I did hear Obama say he’s in favor of sitting down and meeting with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a leader who seems to decorate his every speech with promises for the destruction of the State of Israel.

So Suissa, tell me, are we talking about the same Obama?

Isaac Himmelman
Santa Monica

Your article on Obama is brilliant and not just because you agree with me.

Although I am politically liberal, Israel’s safety is of prime importance to me. I believe that only when someone without an agenda decides to take a stand will anything get done.

We can only pray the political machine doesn’t get to Obama. I really hope, somehow, he gets to read your letter.

Linda Rohatiner
via e-mail

For several years I read your [David Suissa’s] columns (“Live in the Hood”) and found them worthwhile. You came across in Olam and in The Journal as a creative and thoughtful writer, a responsible citizen and a concerned Jew — until this month. Did you write that insanity (“Letter to Obama)? Were you sober? Do you really favor turning this country into an “Obama”-nation?

Suissa, say it isn’t so.

Rabbi Baruch Cohon
via e-mail

Fortunately, Mel Levine’s article was published in The Jewish Journal (“Obama’s Record on Israel Repudiates Critics,” March 21). It was the only feature concerning Barack Obama that was truly informed, nonspeculative and supported its statements with facts rather than innuendo.

Proclaimed Hillary Clinton supporter Daphne Ziman stated, “I for one need to know the truth” (“Sen. Obama, Answer My Questions on Your Past,” March 21). If this was actually the case, why didn’t she call The Jewish Journal and inquire about contacts within Chicago’s Jewish community who know Sen. Obama in an attempt to secure those answers?

Masquerading as call for truth, Ziman’s article was nothing more than an obvious attempt to create suspicions around the candidate she opposes.

Utilizing his well-honed research skills, Edwin Black presented old information meant to discredit Obama through guilt by association, a technique similarly employed by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in his 1950s witch hunt for communists in America (“Obama Ties to ‘Separatist’ Pastor Raise Big Questions,” March 21).

Black’s Web site reveals journalistic ties to Chicago, yet he apparently interviewed no one there or anywhere else in support of his thesis that Obama was less than truthful with his recent explanations concerning the Rev. Wright or Louis Farrakhan. His article was as disingenuous as Ziman’s, just presented in a more sophisticated manner.

Roy M. Rosenbluth
Sherman Oaks

Click here for MP3 audio of the 15-minute phone interview Obama gave JTA’s Ron Kampeas on Wednesday

Cancer’s Worst Enemy

Remove healthy breasts? Jewish women please take the time to read and research further before you do such a radical act as a radical mastectomy and/or removal of your healthy ovaries.

The article, “Combating Breast Cancer Before It Hits,” March 28, is very misleading. It shows a happy woman with her happy kids after her surgery. Then the article states that this surgery “reduces the risk of breast cancer by 90 percent,” however no medical study was cited.

Common sense makes me want to read this study to ascertain how many and what group of women were tested, and what were their ages. But most importantly, over what period of time was this test done? Remember that genetic testing is fairly new, and it takes many years for even a tiny cancerous mass to appear on a mammogram.

Dr. Susan Love has groundbreaking research on early detection screening, and Dr. Matt Lederman has remarkable results with the RAVE diet. Their Web sites will lead you to hundreds of alternatives and useful information. So go Google. It’s your body.

Sharon Asher
Los Angeles

Thank you for educating readers about testing for genetic mutations, but you left out an important piece of information. In addition to Israel, genetic screening of embryos is also regularly done in the United States. It’s a process called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and is performed at virtually every fertility center in Los Angeles. It has also been accepted by Jews of all stripes, including the most traditional and Orthodox groups.

The reasons cited for not getting tested — potentially higher insurance rates and a social stigma that could affect their families — cannot possibly outweigh the benefits of PGD. A woman can eliminate the BRCA gene (as well as scores of other inherited diseases), ensuring that her children and her children’s children will not be affected by it.

Furthermore, PGD is entirely confidential, so there is no stigma attached. Aside from the patient, her husband and her doctor, nobody needs to know. And though PGD can be costly, you can’t put a price on your children’s health.

Election coverage, CAMERA, illegals, Goldberg, Spinka, Auschwitz

Election Coverage

That old joke has no place in your paper (Cover, Feb. 1). Jews, like everyone else, should be voting for who is best for the country; not who is best for the Jews.

In addition to being wrong, it is grist for the mill of anti-Semites.
What is good for the country is good for everyone, including the Jews.

Milt Waxman
Los Angeles


It is important that you printed Andrea Levin’s (of CAMERA) piece clarifying the dangerous illusions of Rob Eshman’s take on Sabeel, Ateek and All Saints Church (“CAMERA, Sabeel and The Jewish Journal,” Feb. 1). Could we get Ms. Levin to take over the job of Editor of the Journal? It would definitely be an act of pikuach nefesh [preservation of life], big time.

J. Sand
Los Angeles

I was away and just got around to reading your Jan. 25-31 issue (“Butt Out”). I believe it deserves a Pulitzer Prize. Eshman’s gutsy editorial, Gorenberg’s golden words and an array of fabulous articles by authors who represent a broad scope of Jewish and non-Jewish thoughts and actions that impact local and global issues. Great job!

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village

I write to thank Rob Eshman for your “Butt Out” editorial in the Jan. 25 edition of The Journal.

As you have on many occasions before, you have made an eloquent pitch for engaging in dialogue with those with whom we disagree. Sabeel, and the North American Friends of Sabeel may stand for many things that are controversial in the Jewish community, but surely it is the prerogative of All Saints Church to host them and enable us to know — rather than speculate on — their position.

The question that is tougher for me is: am I also obligated to listen to the views of CAMERA?

Claire Gorfinkel

So here we have it. Two blatant Israel bashers (if not outright anti-Semites) are getting together, and Eshman — being the watchdog of free speech he is — orders the Jews to “butt out” for daring to speak up! Those pesky CAMERA Jews should shut up, unless of course, they agree with Eshman’s worldviews.

I’m ashamed to admit that under the cover of the night, and away from the watchful eyes of The Jewish Journal, I sometimes read CAMERA’s forbidden stuff. Please, Mr. Eshman, don’t be angry with me.

Come to think of it, CAMERA is terribly needed in here, perhaps now more than ever.

Avi Zirler
La Canada Flintridge

As you note, there is a threat to Christians in the Middle East from Islamic attacks against them. Downplaying this threat as a Christian problem misses the point that neither Jews nor Christians are acceptable for some in the Islamic world. Ateek and Sabeel are so consumed with their anti-Judaism that they do not see that the seeds of their own destruction are sown with the potential destruction of Israel. Criticizing Israel without criticizing the Palestinians is at the root of CAMERA’s objections to the efforts of the liberal churches sponsoring Sabeel.

Samuel M. Edelman
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
The American Jewish University

Heavy Lifting

Illegal aliens are tax consumers (“Immigration: Time to Share the Heavy Lifting,” Feb. 1). According to a recent report by State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, member of the California Budget Commission, it costs Californians $10.5 billion a year to educate, medicate and incarcerate illegal aliens.

Aiding and abetting, hiring and exploiting illegal aliens is a federal offense punished by a fine of $3,000 per illegal and six months in prison.

Haydee Pavia
Laguna Woods

Having spent years living and working in Mexico and witnessing first-hand how they treat strangers, travelers and “illegal aliens” that just happen to make it to the northern border region, and that includes the vast majority of the civilian population, I have no sympathy with their so-called plight here in the U.S. The “good” rabbi may want to rethink his position regarding his desire to play with the American people under the guise of Judaism.

Dr. Leonard I. Antick
Via e-mail

I disagree with the notion that we should find a sensible way to give the illegals citizenship. The ones that snuck across our border will have to go home or be sent home. The ones that overstayed their visas will have to come forward and be checked out, fingerprinted, DNA, and made sure [they] haven’t committed a crime here, then possibly pay a fine and go to the back of the line.

Howard Poffinbarger
Via e-mail

Should Israel Care?

While it is Israel’s prerogative to negotiate Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, Diaspora Jewry should have a right to veto any proposal to relinquish places at the core of Jewish history, namely the Old City, archaeological City of David and Temple Mount (“Why Should Israel Care What We Think About Jerusalem,” Jan. 25).

First, if Israel surrendered security control over the Temple Mount, it would leave the safety of visitors there or to the adjoining Western Wall to the mercy of Palestinians who, in the past, have bombarded Jewish worshippers with rocks and boulders at the slightest pretext.

Second, it would undermine the very reason for having a Jewish state in the Middle East. The Temple Mount is not only the holiest site in the world for Jews, but also a singular national symbol and a testament to Israel’s historical right to exist.

Finally, it would invite an irreparable archaeological crime and an assault on history itself. Archaeologist Eilat Mazar has reportedly uncovered the foundations of King David’s royal palace in the City of David, and the Temple Mount may contain not only the remains of the temples, but also biblical-era archives, temple artifacts, and perhaps even the Ark.

These are not just Israeli concerns — they are concerns for all Jews.

The Tribe, eating meat, mah-jongg, MPAC

Tribal Writes

You are to be commended for initiating the Tribe section (“A Moral Dilemma: ‘No Country for Old Men,'” “A Rational Jerusalem”). The two articles printed in the Dec. 7 issue were equal to anything published in The Journal. Both the articles were well reasoned and had superior writing. It is a great page.

Masse Bloomfield
Via e-mail

Animal Slaughter

I was appalled at the articles regarding the Orthodox justification for murdering innocent animals in the name of some obscure tradition (“Schecting,” Dec. 21).

It is amazing to me that in this century, anyone would claim that animals do not feel pain. That was understandable more than 5,000 years ago, when animal sacrifice was practiced. However, we have learned a lot since then about the nature of animals — that they have emotions and feel pain, fear, terror, as well as love and joy.

Goats and cows and most other animals are sweet, docile and loving, but obviously, the participants in this gruesome, cruel activity have no interest in learning what we now know about the nature of animals but, rather, justify their cruelty by calling it a tradition.

If slitting throats is so painless, why don’t we use it when we invoke the death penalty for humans? One can only imagine the furor and outrage that would create.

I think our animal cruelty laws should be enforced, and those participants should not be exempt from punishment.

Arlene Cohen
Los Angeles

In describing a kosher slaughter scene, Natalie Rosenstock cites a rabbinical student’s deepened belief and “respect for the way Jews do this” and his conviction of the shochet’s “holy intentions” (“Watching Ritual Slaughter Generates Strong Emotions”).

There is nothing holy about slicing into a sentient being’s throat and killing it, all for a moment of crass sensual gratification. Shechita is rife with blood, death and, as some studies suggest, the suffering of the animal.

Jews who pride themselves on practicing the precepts of compassion and mercy have no business deriving pleasure from such a base, barbaric act, no matter what the theological justifications given for it.

Talia A. Shulman
Via e-mail


Congratulations to Elaine Sandberg and her new book (“Newest Mah-Jongg Players ‘Crak’ Stereotypes – Bam!” Dec. 21). Yes, mah-jongg has definitely cracked age and racial barriers. The game has grown in popularity, as Jay Firestone points out in his article in Lifecycles.

Last August, I accompanied my husband who participated and lectured at the International Association of Yiddish Clubs (IAYC) conference held in Cleveland. It was a four-day event, and each day at lunch time (we hurried to finish our meal early) and again often at 10 p.m., four women met in the lobby of the hotel and played “Yiddish Mahj.”

One of the women suggested we play using Yiddish in place of English, and so we did. Cracks became “shpaltn,” dots became “pinlekh,” a red dragon was called royte drakon and the list goes on. My Yiddish-speaking husband, Hale Porter, corrected our pronunciation and vocabulary list, and we had so much fun speaking Yiddish mahj.

Spreading the word and game even further, I am teaching mah-jongg to seniors who reside at Beverly Carmel Assisted Living in West Los Angeles. It’s also good for the memory and to help people to use their brain cells.

Thank you to The Jewish Journal, Elaine Sandberg and American Jewish University for spreading the word.

Sydney Turk Porter
Via e-mail

H.O.P.E. for Many

This Dec. 26 marked 20 years since my wife died. I have found a new life, although it wasn’t easy, having my first life turned upside down. This new life would not have been possible had it not been for the almost two years I spent in the H.O.P.E. Foundation Bereavement Program in 1988 and 1989.

It was a special thrill to read your article on the foundation, knowing that it continues to do its incalculably good work (“H.O.P.E for Bereaved, Even Years Later,” Dec. 21).

I thank the program; I thank Jane Ulman for her wonderful article, and I thank Dr. Marilyn Stolzman for her dedication to the program and for helping me cope with a great loss.

Sidney Lam
Los Angeles

MPAC Convention

Thank you for covering the MPAC convention (“Muslim Americans Feeling Snubbed in Presidential Race,” Dec. 21).

I believe that efforts toward examining each others point of views can only help bring peace and harmony if the reporting is balanced.

When it comes to Muslims, it is to be noted that few people from the Jewish community have made any significant efforts to do deep listening. The whole relationship between the two groups remains overwhelmed by the Arab-Israeli conflict.

With prevailing attitudes of mistrust, suspicion and even downright hostility between the two, only the courageous efforts of people like Rabbi Jacob can give us hope and direction. And yet your report failed to acknowledge his inspiring message.

It is my fervent hope that your esteemed Journal will take into consideration the need to acknowledge any and all efforts that embellish hope and harmony between these locked-in-conflict offspring of Abraham.

Dr. Nazir Khaja
Chairman Islamic Information Service

After reading the article, I had to make sure it was The Jewish Journal — not a CAIR newsletter (“Muslim Americans Feeling Snubbed in Presidential Race,” Dec. 21). Are you an American arm of Hezbollah or Hamas? Just because you are a bunch of leftist Jews, don’t think the they will spare you from slaughter.

If you know history, which is questionable, remember the leftist/pacifist Jews that opened the Jerusalem gates to the Arab armies during the ’48 war and got their collective heads cut off for their naïvet�(c) and stupidity. World War II, how many Jews had to die because of naivete, pacifistic rabbis and cowardice? 6,000,000. It wasn’t until the Polish ghetto that some got brave and killed a lot of Nazis.

Now you want to go through that all over again because you never learn that the only thing evil understands is power, not capitulation. There are two entities in a battle — the victor and the vanquished — and we are in a battle for civilization, and I certainly don’t want to be among the vanquished.

The second article was “Q&A With Rep. Keith Ellison.” The Qs were all questions that you would expect from Larry King or Barbara Walters — not one question of substance.

What is wrong with you people? Are you like lemmings jumping into the sea? Muslims are the enemy of the Jews, and that isn’t going to change until they change — not the Jew.

If you ever read the Quran, which I doubt, Sura 9 says it all: Lie, cheat and eventually convert or kill the infidel. You must confront the fact that you are the infidel.

If an illegitimate Austrian named Adolph Schicklegruber was running as a Democrat for high office, you people would vote for him and make excuses profusely for his, shall we say, eccentricities. That, my friends is a mental illness!

Being a leftist, progressive, Democrat or what ever you want to call yourselves these days is not a political affiliation but rather a severe mental disorder with suicidal ideation. Wake up before you condemn yourselves to the ash heap of civilization and oblivion.

I feel pity for you and yours.

Sam Snyder
Via e-mail

Perhaps you guys don’t want to publish unflattering letters anymore. It is unbelievable that you’d handle Keith Ellison with such kid gloves. The man is supported by CAIR (a known supporter of Hamas), and he sat unresponsive while a Nation of Islam leader spewed anti-Semitism.

In your Dec. 7 issue, you put a woman (Madonna) on the cover who said regarding the idea of converting to Judaism: “Don’t make me sick.” (“Not So Weird”). Are you the self-hating Jewish Journal or maybe just the peace-now, we only see our rosy glass-eyed view of life journal?

J. Sand
Los Angeles

Saudis’ Support of Terror

May I commend you on the first intelligent commentary I have read anywhere that seems to be on track to understand the problem our world faces related to terrorism and the concomitant issue in the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation (“It’s Time to Act on Saudis’ Support of Terror,” Dec. 21).

As an engineer (semiretired) and a winning poker player, I know that you can only solve a tough problem when you understand the root cause. (Dealing with the effects/symptoms can, at best, only ameliorate the situation, not solve the problem.)

Your bill of particulars neatly sums up the six facts of evidence. I realize that the situation is complicated by issues such as cultural differences and the ability of despots to control the masses in many countries.

Nevertheless, I agree that the rulers of Saudi Arabia must be convinced that it would be right to take positive action and stop playing games with the free world. I agree that it is important to make the Saudis see the light.

Perhaps, we first have to convince our own leaders that your recommendation is vital to solving the terrorist threat problem and so many related problems.

George Epstein
Via e-mail

The article "LACMA Gets Contemporary" (Arts in LA, Winter 2007) contained the following errors and omissions: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art's community weekend for the opening of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum is Feb. 16-18. The museum's Pavilion for Japanese Art was the last work by Bruce Goff, not one of the last. Neither donor Eli Broad nor the project's architect, Renzo Piano, chose the name "Transformation" for the masterplan for the museum's reconfiguration, it came from the museum's staff. Richard Riordan's wife is named Nancy Daly Riordan, not Linda Daly. The museum's associate vice president for press relations is Barbara Pflaumer.

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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



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



Ominous Signs

Mark Pelavin of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is exactly right in worrying that “the stepped-up faith-based push is an effort to push an ideological agenda, not disaster recovery” (“Faith-Based Hurricane Relief,” Oct. 7).

If it were only about giving religious organizations an equal footing to provide social services. The real crime is that in serving his obsessive goal to bring religion into all things American, Bush shows an ever more brazen hostility toward secular organizations.

At the height of the Katrina crisis, the Bush administration went so far as to use this historic disaster to advance his anti-secular agenda — the very nature of which has been what has allowed the minority Jewish community to thrive in America. Where is our indignation? Where is our voice?

FEMA widely disseminated a list of charitable groups collecting contributions for Katrina relief. It was published in major newspapers, posted on its Web site, promoted on television and radio and provided to secondary sources, such as Network for Good, which in turn is tied to large and small businesses who actively encourage their employees to donate.

This list, so powerful in fundraising terms, excluded all but two of dozens of the most respected and proven relief organizations that happened to be secular, many of whom had already set up operations for Katrina. At the same time, at the top of the list, just below the Red Cross, was Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing, the dubious nonprofit that, in addition to well-documented questionable practices that continue today, was found guilty in the late 1990s of taking donations promised to help the poor of Africa and using them instead for Robertson’s African diamond mine business.

I ask: Where is our indignation? Where is our voice?

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League is quoted by The Journal as saying of the whole religious bent in handling this disaster, “These are extraordinary circumstances … so it’s something we won’t oppose.”

This intractable complacency among us may be what has emboldened Bush, despite a clause in the Constitution explicitly stating that no religious test shall ever be required as a “qualification to any office or public trust,” to bring up religion among the qualifications of his Supreme Court nominee — and to mention it first in his defense of her troubled nomination, no less.

These are ominous signs for the Jewish community. I repeat: Where is our indignation — and where is our voice?

Joan H. Leonard
Sherman Oaks


I enjoyed reading Amy Klein’s article describing the challenges facing Jewish Theological Seminary and the Conservative movement (“In Search of a Leader,” Oct. 7).

Many of the challenges mentioned in the article are not new. It is worth noting that in its past, both the seminary and the movement have faced and successfully weathered numerous crises.

Strong charismatic leadership by an incoming JTS chancellor has often gone a long way toward strengthening both the seminary and the movement in the face of daunting challenges. The terms of Solomon Schechter and Gerson Cohen are two important cases in point.

Still, the prevailing culture in contemporary America poses new challenges that Conservative Judaism has yet to fully meet. Historically, the Conservative synagogue has had special appeal for Jews with a strong ethnic identity, who appreciated this type of communal umbrella organization. Today, however, individualism and ‘bowling alone’ are in — at least for now — along with directed philanthropic giving, spirituality and the search for personal meaning.

Ethnic attachments, as shown in the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, are on the wane. For further evidence, look at B’nai B’rith or the general federation campaign, for example. Like the Conservative movement, they are examples of the “ethnic church” or umbrella undertakings that have much less appeal for younger Jews than for older ones.

Jonathon Ament
Riverdale, N.Y.

Temple Security

I read with interest your editorial in The Journal about Jews feeling secure (“A Smile Can Be Key to Temple Security,” Sept. 30). As we begin the New Year, I thought your readers might be interested to know that for this year’s High Holidays, The Jewish Federation made grants available to small congregations in the area to help provide security. More than 70 synagogues took us up on our offer to use the funds for security guards.

The good work of the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and others in providing annual security briefings to Jewish institutions at the New Year clearly has heightened awareness to best practices. Regrettably, exposure to our dangerous world is more pervasive today among Jews, even in Los Angeles — a pity.

John R. Fishel
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

Another Hero Honor

The veterans of the 11th Armored Division Association are proud of the part our Division played in liberating KZ Mauthausen and KZ Gusen, Camps I, II, and III in Austria during the closing days of World War II in 1945.

It has come to our attention that Tibor Rubin, a then 15-year-old inmate of KZ Mauthausen, has recently and belatedly been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush (War Hero’s Medal Wait Finally Ends,” Sept. 16). We are pleased that his exceptional acts of bravery while serving as a U.S. soldier in the Korean War have finally been recognized.

Our association wishes to propose honorary membership in the 11th Armored Division Association for Tibor Rubin, and to invite his participation in our association activities.

Daniel W. O’Brien
Vice President
11th Armored Division Association

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



Back when I was working at a newspaper in New York, my editors and I tried to come up with a teen-sounding headline for a story on voting for our new teen section.

“How about ‘Gettin’ Out the Vote’?” my editor offered.

As if dropping a “g” off the end of the word is all one needs to do to appeal to teens.

I knew then, and I know now, that to really speak to teens, you just have to be one.

Adults can affect any sort of teenish language they want; they can claim to understand how the teenage mind works, to get the issues teens are thinking about. But teens know a fake when they see it.

That is why The Jewish Journal has decided to hand this page over to teenagers. Once a month, we will choose columns, feature articles or news stories submitted by teens in grades 9-12.

As you can see on this page, Natalie Goodis, a junior at Marlborough High School, has inaugurated the page with a column about how her experience in Eastern Europe and Israel changed her.

Here’s your chance. Write an article about what a teenager has to weigh when deciding whether to date only Jews. Send us your thoughts on evolution vs. creationism. Tell us about what you think about Ariel Sharon, about this country’s hurricane response, about your grandmother. Describe an event at your school that moved the whole student body to action.

The topics are up to you; the voice is yours.

We hope the monthly page is just the beginning. We want teens to talk to us — to have some input into what their peers should be writing about. That is why we are creating a Jewish Journal Teen Advisory Committee. (How would that look on a college resume?) The committee will meet several times a year to determine what topics you want covered in these pages, and to get your feedback on where things should go.

Being a teenager is intense. It is when you form your values, you solidify lifelong relationships, you choose a path for your future. Most teens are profoundly aware of just how pivotal these years are, and a lot of teens have something to say about it.

If you’re one of them, we’re waiting to hear from you. This is your chance to help more than 100,000 Jewish adults get a glimpse into your world.

Action Items:

  • Articles: First-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words — submitted as an attachment to an e-mail.
  • Jewish Journal Teen Advisory Committee: Send your name, age, school and up to 200 words on why you should be on the Jewish Journal Teen Advisory Committee.

Ground Rules


‘Evil’ Idea

We always look forward to reading The Journal every weekend and find it mostly informative and worthwhile reading.

The June 24 issue was an exception. I was appalled at the choice of your cover story, “The Evil Stepmother Dies,” both the cover illustration and the story. Was this the type of cover story about which we all need to know? Frankly, I don’t like to see the words “evil” and “hatred” splashed right on the cover, when they relate to just one family member who has already passed on — unless it’s about terrorists or the like.

Isn’t that a very personal story of Teresa Strasser’s and not one about which greater Los Angeles needs to be informed?

I think Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson said it well: “This isn’t the time to unburden yourself of your true feelings about your stepmother, but to shut up and be his [your father’s] help.”

It certainly doesn’t fulfill any purpose to have the entire city read about this woman, and should have remained private or limited to those close to Strasser’s family.

E. Marcus
North Hollywood

One-Sided Dreams

The Jewish Journal’s June 24 article (“Two Families’ Dreams Were Not Demolished”) on a Los Angeles lecture by the parents of deceased American anti-Israel activist Rachel Corrie, was one-sided. Anti-Israel groups have expanded their propaganda onto campuses, into churches and in the media.

The media often uncritically promote views like the Corrie parents by reporting their presentations without context, as The Jewish Journal did.

Like the Corrie parents’ speechmaking, The Jewish Journal did not put into context Israel’s counterterrorism measures, though the article was written as if it were, at least in part, objectively trying to explain Israel’s curbing of terrorist gun-smuggling into Gaza. Anti-Israel speakers like the Corrie parents are not Middle East experts, yet The Journal gave them infomercial-like space to distort facts and make unverified accusations and historical distortions.

Jewish Journal readers were not told of the agendas of the groups sponsoring, or allied with, the Corrie parents’ event, agendas that generally include destroying Israel.

As two Jewish organizations committed to ensuring that Israel’s side of the story is told, StandWithUs and the American Jewish Congress are concerned at how the media, intentionally or unintentionally, repeats anti-Israel perspectives in what appears, wrongly, to be balanced coverage of Palestinian-allied events.

Esther Renzer
National President
Roz Rothstein
National Director
Allyson Taylor
Assistant Executive Director
American Jewish Congress

The letters praising The Jewish Journal’s June 24 article by Howard Blume, “Two Families,” demonstrated how much his piece is part of today’s organized, anti-Israel propaganda campaign.

The international letter writers were not regular Journal readers; they wrote in response to an urgent e-mail blast sent by local anti-Israel groups. A coalition of like-minded, anti-Israel crusaders, the Rebuilding Alliance, organized the Corrie-Nasrallah event. It includes Noam Chomsky, Not In My Name and the Edward Said Foundation.

It was a coup for these groups that The Journal published Blume’s distorted facts and history, his whitewash of the International Solidarity Movement.

The Journal did a grave disservice to readers who trust that its news articles will be objective and well researched. The article did not show that The Jewish Journal is open to opposing views; instead, it acted as an agent for today’s toxic anti-Israel propaganda campaign.

Are Jews doomed to always be their own worst enemy?

Roberta P. Seid
Santa Monica

Praise for SOS

Regarding your article about the SOS Children’s Village in Arad, Israel (“‘Mothers’ Offer SOS for Abused Children,” June 24), I think it is important for readers and donors to know that SOS Children’s Villages’ SOS Kinderdorh International was the 2002 recipient of the prestigious Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. SOS was deemed worthy of this distinction after thorough screening and highly competitive nomination process that spans the globe. The annual $1 million-prize recognizes and advances the work of one charitable organization, anywhere in the world, that makes extraordinary contributions toward alleviating human suffering.

Finally, I thank you for the opportunity to read about Arad, a town where I spent an enjoyable and rewarding year and a half on the World Union of Jewish Students and Sherut La’am programs several decades ago.

Marge Brownstein
Culver City


“Factory Farms Akin to Shoah SufferingSuffering” (June 24) should have been titled “A Holocaust-Inspired Vegetarian,” because the author never equated the suffering of animals to that of humans. Also, although Mohr serves as coordinator for Jewish Vegetarians of North America, the viewpoints expressed were his own, not those of the organization.


One of the Best

I want to congratulate Danielle [Magady’s] family for finding an educator who really knows his business (“One of the Girls,” June 3).

Rabbi Shlomo Goldberg has hit the nail on the head when he says he is “less concerned with how much they [his students] know than with what kind of people they’ll be.”

Parents and educators should all realize that the fundamental objective of educating young people is getting them ready to work with other people in their community and to be menches. Without this, all the rest of their knowledge is just facts that they can get in the library or on the Internet.

Bobbie Clark


Independent Entity

While Jewish World Watch (JWW) was founded and incubated at Valley Beth Shalom (VBS), it does not remain, as was mistakenly reported in the aforementioned article, an organization of VBS (“Sudan Support Marks Memorial Day,” June 2).

In fact, JWW has 16 synagogue members, each of which synagogue has paid from $500 to $1,500 to join the organization and help underwrite its expenses.

Each of the member synagogues has embraced the mission of JWW and has engaged its membership in that mission. The mission of JWW, as adopted by its Governing Council on Feb. 14, 2005, is to mobilize the synagogue community to combat genocide and other egregious violations of human rights around the world.

Janice Kamenir-Reznik
Jewish World Watch


Prayers for Darfur

While I was happy to see your coverage of the Jewish World Watch Darfur programs, I was disappointed that your reporter completely neglected any mention of the incredibly moving and powerful evening that took place at our synagogue, the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center (“Pray for the Innocent of Darfur,” May 20).

We had more than 180 people, which included a broad interfaith coalition, with local ministers participating. The program featured Craig Taubman, who brought not only his energy and spirit, but also brought an Ethiopian singer named Alula Tzaddik, who began the program with Hebrew/African chanting and added his voice and spirit throughout the entire evening.

We ended with all of us arm in arm, together around the steps of our bimah, singing and swaying, with many people in tears.

I hope that future reporting will make sure to include the entire story. We worked hard to make our event a success, which it was, and your readers deserve to know that.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater
Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center


A Cannes-Don’t

It was very disappointing to read Carole Davis’ article on the Shabbat dinner in Cannes (“Project Shabbat a ‘Go’ In Cannes,” May 27).

In some portions she attempted to convey the good will and feelings of the participants.

However, she was unable to hide her contempt for hardworking people in the film business (or “desperate show biz climbers” as she so charitably describe them).

Of course, it’s very easy for her to sit on her elitist throne of good taste and cast stones at those who deign to make a living creating films for popular consumption. Why does she find it so incredible that many (probably most) attendees do not view the films in competition?

Cannes is not just a festival — it is also a market, a convention of film buyers and sellers. If she could get past your na?ve impressions of the film business — it is a business — she would see that.

As the “banker” (although I am not a banker, just one of many of the well-checked “facts”) in her article, I easily noticed her disdain for commercial films.

As our conversation proceeded and the condescension was oozing from her pores, I specifically asked her to put aside her own personal tastes and attempt to write an objective article to capture the spirit of the evening. I obviously failed in my attempt.

Phil Fier
Via e-mail


Anti-Semitism Continues

The letters responding to your “Jewish Festivals of Yore” note both the current divisiveness and laissez-faire approach of most of the American Jewish community to Israel, their Jewishness and a sad lack of understanding of Jewish history (“Letters,” June 3).

Anti-Semitism does not arise because of any particular action, or even the existence of the State of Israel. Arabs in British Palestine massacred hundreds of Jews in the 1920s and 1930s, before there was a Jewish State. The Nazis killed 6 million Jews, simply because they were Jews.

“Anti-Zionism” and “anti-Israel” are just the current, politically correct terms for “hate/kill the Jews.” Jews who dissociate themselves from Israel provide themselves no benefit, for the anti-Semites will define them as Jews — just as was done in Nazi Germany.

Amos Oz summed it up well: “In the 1930s, our enemies said: Jews to Palestine. Now they say: Jews out of Palestine. They do not want us here. They don’t want us to be there. They just don’t want us to be.”

Fred Korr
Los Angeles


Where Is the Coverage?

Having just finished reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about the massive anti-Semitism in European media, I find it sad and disturbing that The Journal is aggressively seeking to undermine American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an organization working to protect all Jews (“AIPAC — Let the Sun Shine In,” June 3). Anyone following the attacks on Jews throughout the world might want to acknowledge that the post-Holocaust golden age of acceptance and naivety for Jews maybe coming to an end. Ignoring what is happening to our brothers in Europe while being concerned about how liberal we can be in shul will not make our children or our way of life any safer.

The world has changed and many of us are choosing to deny what is happening. How many articles have been published in The Journal about the problems of Jews in France, Britain or the daily anti-Semitism in the European media? Why is there so little concern about the media coverage around the world that vilifies Israel and Jews, and so much judgment about Jews who are on the other side of the political spectrum? Might it be time to consider that Jews are once again being judged by a different standard and that being Jewish might expose us to some different treatment or even danger. Are we so insulated here that we have lost touch to the undertones being expressed in media bylines — including our local paper?

Articles that attack organizations working to protect Jews and Israel while at the same time giving minuscule coverage to the new reality of the increased risks of anti-Semitism tell me that history’s lessons are again being overlooked by far too many in our community.

Lou Averbach
Santa Monica




Seder Behind Bars

This is in response to the article by David Finnigan (“Holiday of Freedom Spent Behind Bars,” April 29).

We were two of the volunteers that were at the seder, for the second year in a row, that Rabbi Yossi Carron held for the Jewish inmates at Men’s Central Jail. The seder we attended was very different from the one that was written about in that article. We considered this to be one of the most touching, emotional and meaningful seders we have ever attended. The prison is not a place where emotions are easily shown. Community, especially Jewish, is practically unheard of. And yet, these men read from the haggadah, joyously sang “Dayenu,” read the four questions, put their arms around each other to sing “Oseh Shalom” and bowed their heads, many with visible tears coming down their cheeks, as Rabbi Carron offered the Birkat ha-Kohanim (the priestly blessing).

He is attempting to give to them the hope that their faith and their community will open the doors to a different life than the one they have had — that God and Judaism are within each of them.

The article did not mention what courage it took for these men to stand and share something personal about a “miracle of freedom” that each could find within these prison walls.

Carron’s work with them involves helping them to see that God is in that place, even though it may appear otherwise. He has worked with the men to find blessings even in the darkness of their cells and to work toward making the personal teshuvah [repentance] that will, God willing, keep them out of jail when they are released.

Judaism teaches that all of us have a spark worth saving. Carron treats these men with honor and with the hope that they will find a way through their own “Egypt.”

We were privileged to share in this experience and to serve these men, so they could feel a taste of humanity and of the Jewish community that is waiting to welcome them, should they decide to walk into our synagogues.

We aren’t sure why the reporter did not talk to any of us, instead of only talking to the deputies. But the seder he went to was not the one we experienced. We hope to be invited back again next year.

Farla and Hershey Binder
via e-mail

Credit Where Credit Due

As an Italian American growing up in an Italian American home and community in Brooklyn, I was greatly amused by [Tom] Teicholz’s co-opting of my culture in his article “Raymond’s End” [May 6].

Could it be that [Ray] Romano had some input here? After all, isn’t the show based on the comedy? And his family?

Talk about chutzpah. Granted Teicholz’s people invented God, but [Phil] Rosenthal worked with Romano and with Romano’s material to create his show. Let’s share the credits and cultural consciousness.

On second thought, those people are, except for their comic value, really quite appalling. You can keep them. File them away with “Seinfeld,” another appalling group. Happily, the Jews that I know are utterly unlike the characters in either of these shows.

Felicia Hammond
via e-mail

Worker’s Comp

Jill Stewart’s recent column about worker’s compensation was so grossly deficient of facts that an informed response is warranted (“It’s Time to Heal Worker’s Comp,” May 6). The most egregious inaccuracy concerns Stewart’s statement that insurance “rates are plunging … while the barely injured get less.”

In fact, four days prior to Stewart’s editorial, state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi reported in his media statement, “The information I received today is very disturbing…. I have heard complaints from across the state that injured workers are losing benefits, despite the significant savings created by the reforms…. I have also heard from large and small employers who have not seen the reduction in premiums that the reform savings would lead one to expect.” And “I can find no reason why the amount of premiums collected in 2004 rose by 11 percent, while the cost of claims fell by 15 percent.”

Stewart’s broad, sweeping categorization of injured workers as being either “severely injured,” who “receive more money,” or “barely injured,” who “get less,” is also inaccurate. By adopting the AMA Guidelines to rate disability without adjusting the disability schedule that assigns a monetary value to each percentage of disability, to compensate for the significantly lower disability ratings under the AMA Guidelines, all injured workers will receive less.

And with all injured workers’ benefits slashed while insurance companies report record profits, the numbers don’t add up.

Jeffrey Greenberg
San Francisco

Four Factors

Rob Eshman’s four factors for Palestine’s success missed the most crucial one: the fact that the PLO remains in a state of war with Israel, true to its charter, as established by the Arab League in 1964 (“Is It Good for Them?” April 29). Prime Minister Rabin, to his credit, insisted that the PLO charter calling for Israel’s destruction be changed as a prerequisite to any and all negotiations.

Well, it never was. Instead, the PLO charter remains at the rubric of the new Palestinian school system, where a new generation of Arab youth are inculcated with the idea that they must make war on the Jewish state.

Deny it all you want. The PLO is at war with Israel to win the 1948 war.

David Bedein
Bureau Chief
Israel Resource News Agency

Rob Eshman cites four factors for Palestine’s success. But my own feeling is that only re-engagement and integration will work. There has to be one entity who will rule and bring peace and prosperity. Glazer’s good intentions and billions cannot undo blind hatred.

Moshe Brodetzky

A Human Being

As one of Rabbi Karen Deitch’s congregants at Temple Ahavat Shalom, I was insulted by the attack on the rabbi by Harry Finkel (“Single Rabbi,” Letters, April 29). It is difficult to address Mr. Finkel as “Mr.” because it implies a title of respect, as does the word “rabbi” — which he chose to ignore.

The accusations made were not respectful, and were directed not only to my rabbi, but to all females who happen to be single and yet venture out of the kitchen. The comments made by Finkel were also insulting to the congregation who chooses Deitch to be our spiritual leader, and to the entire Reform movement of Judaism.

While Finkel obviously does not respect a Jew who does not worship in exactly the same manner to which he subscribes, the Reform community has enabled thousands of individuals to establish a personal relationship with God, and has given them a strong community in which to pray, to teach and learn, and to do mitzvot.

It is this thinking that Reform Judaism is somehow less that sends a rift throughout Judaism, and which can weaken us as a cohesive society.

If a woman, rabbi or not, sits at a bar to enjoy a beer and conversation, and regardless of whether she has a manicure or even (gasp) deigns to enhance her eyes with mascara, this simple act does not “debase” her. Is Finkel attacking the morality of a woman being in a bar, or is it because this woman is a rabbi?

It may be difficult for Finkel, but he must learn that a rabbi, although a learned teacher, spiritual leader and counselor for his or her congregation, is first and foremost a human being. A human being is entitled to take pleasure in conversing with others at a bar and having a drink or two without it being a disgrace to one’s self or one’s community.

A human being is a social creature, and the mere act of meeting another human to share conversation does not make one immoral, but creates community. Judaism is a communal religion. Does it not require a community, a minyan, for prayer?

Mr. Finkel, I assure you that the congregation of Temple Ahavat Shalom welcomes Rabbi Deitch, not only as a rabbi, but as a human being, and a great addition to our community.

Daryl Miles
Temple Ahavat Shalom

Hertzberg’s Loss

[Robert] Hertzberg failed to reach the mayoral finals because leftists — Jews and others — persuaded too many other Jews to vote for leftist, once-Mecha member [Antonio] Villaraigosa. Apart from being a leftist, Villaraigosa waged a drab campaign, much less exciting and promising than gentle giant Hertzberg — especially with regards to prospects of an educational renaissance in Los Angeles.

It’s no sin for Jews to vote for a Jew, even if he’s not Moses or Jesus. I suspect a lot are set to vote for Villaraigosa. He’s good for illegal immigrants, but not for the American working class or even Angelenos and Jews. Jews have the balance of power if they get out and vote in large numbers.

Jerry Green
Los Angeles

Glazer’s Plan

Stated in this article is that the study for building a successful Palestinian state was officially released the prior week (“Is It Good for Them?” April 29). The focus audience of the study was England’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is not known as especially friendly toward the Jewish state. In addition others not named were also included, such government leaders and such.

Wouldn’t it been advisable to include Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the focus group. After all, those two Israeli leaders are directly invovled in whatever is planed to save a Palestinian state.

Responding to Robert Eshman’s inquiry, Guilford Glazer the financial underwriter of the study, claimed the plan has yet received no criticism. Glazer may be a little naive, hoping that the plan he funded may still not be a security threat to Israel.

History has shown that the Palestinian Arabs, beneficiaries of the plan, have repeatedly been hostile toward Israel by many acts of violence perpetrated against innocent Israelis with suicide bombers and others. These various acts of terror have caused many deaths and wounded in the last four and a half years, as well as before.

The Arab population, unfortunately, grows up with a deep hatred of their Jewish neighbors along with their mother’s milk. This hatred has continued to the present, and is so far unabated, inspite of the new Palestinian leaders.

There is not a civilized nation in the world with as much patience and perseverance as Israel, always hoping the violence would cease. Therefore, any such plan as described herein is highly risky for Israel to be the neighbor along side a Palestinian state.

Also adding to the pressure on the Jewish state will be the huge number of returnees to Palestine, estimated to be more than 500,000, as well as tens of thousands of so-called “destitute refugees” to be absorbed. Is it believable that this time the Palestinian leaders will be able and are willing to stamp out violent factions and corruption, action they have yet to take.

I share Eshman’s concern regarding as to “why the Palestinians should heed a study largely funded by a wealthy pro-Israel Jewish businessman from Beverly Hills”.

Glazer’s reply was that he does not worry about that, but that “maybe the terrorists are tired of committing suicide and becoming martyrs.” Is Israel therefore supposed to be playing Russian roulette?” Perhaps the corollary should be turned around to ask, “Is this plan good for the Jews?” Only the Israeli government can decide that.

Bernard Nichols
Los Angeles


Letters to the Editor

Super Sunday

As members of The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance Super Sunday Committee, we were disappointed to find almost no mention in your articles of the Valley’s participation in last month’s Super Sunday. (“Super Sunday Calls Raise $4.6 million,” Feb. 18).

For months, our team of volunteers and Federation staff worked countless hours to prepare for Super Sunday; the day was a tremendous success.

In addition to raising more money than ever before, we had hundreds of volunteers of all ages dedicated to the tradition of tikkun olam – making the world a better place. Synagogues, rabbis, Jewish day schools, Hillels and Jewish camps came to support the event and represent the community.

The Valley made Super Sunday into more than a fundraising event – we made it a true community outreach event. We sent out 1,600 follow-up letters to people within our community who could benefit from Federation agency services: people who are unemployed, people who have recently experienced a death in the family, people experiencing financial difficulties and so on. We also generated several hundred letters of encouragement to the Israeli and U.S. troops fighting throughout the world.

Super Sunday is a communitywide event, covering all of metro Los Angeles, from the far reaches of the valleys to the South Bay and everywhere in between. Next year, we would hope that the coverage provided could be more extensive.

There are so many stories that could be generated from Super Sunday. We would appreciate The Journal treating it with more significance, as we feel it deserves.

David Cohan
Howard Gillman
San Fernando Valley Super Sunday Overall Chairs
Irwin Jacobson,
Valley Super Sunday Community Outreach
Laura Cohen
Valley Super Sunday Recruitment

Mating Game

The cover story by Kelly Hartog, coinciding with Valentine’s Day, describes a lonely, disillusioned single epidemic sweeping the L.A. Jewish Community from the secular to the Orthodox (“The Mating Game,” Feb. 11).

Obviously, single loneliness and a failure to meet someone special is not just a Jewish phenomenon. It’s true throughout society here in L.A. and beyond.

To paraphrase Torah, at the beginning of the Torah is Genesis, the lord G-d said that it is not good that we should be alone.

Today’s modern life does present obstacles for people, and it takes creativity to maintain balance.

The Journal article mentions in detail the wide variety of programs open to singles. They are numerous, and they have been available for years.

The dilemma isn’t that there are not enough opportunities to meet people. The reasons for singles’ despair include three important realities:

1) People don’t make the effort. They don’t participate in the community activities

2) People are losing touch, because they have been seduced by solitary distractions like iPods, anonymous chat rooms and home entertainment rooms. They are in hibernation and closed of their hearts.

3) Everyone at some point learns what is important in life. That question about the meaning of life, and the earlier this discovery is made, the sooner people will reject the obsession with material consumption, which leads to loneliness and isolation.

The answer to life’s meaning and importance is simple, and it’s no mystery. Valentine’s Day is an annual reminder. The answer is love. But finding love is unlikely if your personal priorities obsess over selfish endeavors which deny the basic need for human involvement.

The human spirit desires companionship and love, not plasma TVs and giant SUVs. Materialism does not manifest happiness, real intimacy, spirituality or an adventurous heart.

Once people embrace this awareness and reduce an empty pursuit of the inanimate, then they will participate, their horizons will broaden, their perspective will evolve from self-indulgent overconsumption to the natural inclination and theological invitation to not be alone.

Explore the world beyond yourself; open your heart and nature will cooperate.

Chuck Lewin
Los Angeles


The decision to accept any advertising from PETA makes me question the integrity of The Jewish Journal (“Cruelty Uncovered: Is ‘Aaron’s Best’ Kosher’s Worst?,” Feb. 25 advertisement).

PETA is an organization that coined the phrase, “Holocaust on Your Plate.” They have created a moral equation between the mistreatment of chickens and the atrocities that our Jewish ancestors faced during the Holocaust.

This is an affront to Jews throughout the world, regardless of where each of us may stand regarding the subject of shechitah. The slaughter of animals for food may be reprehensible to some. Still, it must never be compared to the Nazi’s attempt to systematically destroy the Jewish people.

Shame on The Jewish Journal for accepting business from an organization that has trivialized the killing of 6 million Jews.

Rich Cooper
Santa Monica

I have never written a letter to any paper before in my life. But seeing that you decided to accept the ad, “Cruelty Uncovered: Is ‘Aaron’s Best’ Kosher’s Worst?” into your paper on Feb 25, really concerns me.

If you had written a balanced investigative article on the issue, it could have served the community well. But by accepting an ad that is by nature complete propaganda and designed to undermine kashrut is no service to the community.

The charges leveled against AgriProcessors Corp. are serious and should be treated with sensitivity and great deliberation, not with an ad that obfuscates the truth and promotes divisiveness.

Mitchell Bertman
Los Angeles

Editor’s Note: Our first three articles on the controvesry are available at Our next article on the subject will appear next week.

Arthur Miller

Tom Teicholz has written a fine tribute on the recent passing of playwright Arthur Miller (“The Death of a Moralist,” Feb. 18).

But characterizing Miller as “the American playwright of the 20th century” is an untenable and far too sweeping encomium to describe his achievement.

It would have been more accurate to place Miller as one of the great triumvirate of 20th century American playwrights – the others being Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams.

To be quite frank, Miller’s critical reputation rests upon basically two plays: “Death of a Salesman” and “The Crucible.”

O’Neill and Williams each wrote many plays which have achieved great acclaim and remain in the repertory today. Also, filmmakers have turned to their plays many times through the decades for inspiration, which cannot be said of Miller’s work.

Finally the Nobel Prize committee bestowed its award for literature on O’Neill – a distinct achievement among American playwrights. Miller never achieved that pantheon.

Joseph Dostal
Los Angeles


“Polish extermination camp” expression was used to reference to the Sobibor concentration camp (Kishon – The Writer,” Feb. 25).

This information is false and offensive to Poles who suffered enormously in World War II.

Sobibor was German concentration camp, not Polish concentration camp. Sobibor concentration camp was set up on Polish soil by the Nazi-German occupation forces and administered by Hitler’s SS.

I would appreciate if you could correct above error and instruct your journalists to not use “Polish extermination camp” expression in the future.

Jan Adam Les
via E-Mail

Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman wants me to tell you what I think of your publishing Cathy Young’s piece about him (“When Jews Wax Anti-Semitic,” Feb 18).

I think it was great!

The guy was outed in just the way he deserved to be. If he claims to have been libeled by Young, as he does, then let him produce all the columns he has written discounting concerns about anti-Semitism in Europe, about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as the root cause of much anti-Semitism, etc.

The guy doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. No disapproval from me of your choice. (Now don’t back down.)

M. Louis Offen
Los Angeles

I am stunned, to say the least, that an organ of the Jewish community would publish an opinion piece that is nothing more than slander.

[Cathy] Young, in her piece, attacked Eric Alterman as anti-Semitic and self-hating as a result of his having stated his opinion that he understood why the British Muslim Council boycotted Auschwitz liberation observances. I have searched your archives and the article that Young refers to is absent.

You have allowed your pages to be used to libel an observant, pro-Zionist Jew, educated in Israel, active in his shul, who educates his children at Jewish day schools, without even extending the courtesy of publishing in full, the article that sent Young on her misguided tirade.

Is the fact that The Journal didn’t publish Alterman’s article before it allowed Young to let loose with her venomous harangue an example of your journalistic fairness? Have the editors of The Journal even bothered to read Alterman’s article?

Are you aware that The Boston Globe, where Young’s article first appeared, has, through its ombudsman, acknowledged that Young’s characterizations of Alterman as an anti-Semite and a self-hating Jew were “ad hominem” “inappropriate” and beneath the journalistic standards for op-ed pieces at the Globe?

Young has resorted to an old ploy of those who are unable to fairly debate a contested issue. She has vilified and demeaned the messenger, misrepresented the message and in so doing, attempted to dehumanize the author and set up a false argument to attack.

You of all entities in the Jewish community should realize that these are the tactics employed by every totalitarian regime throughout history.

The re-publication of Young’s diatribe is a shameful contribution to the epidemic of lashon hara. The Journal needs to publicly apologize to Alterman and publish his original piece in full, as well as his reply to Young’s article.

To do any less will have the effect of destroying the already tenuous credibility of The Journal and place you among the likes of William Randolph Hearst and other yellow journalists.

E. Hil Margolin
Los Angeles

Shoah Survivors

Rob Eshman got it only half right in his This Week column about the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation fundraiser (“First Steve, Then Bill,” Feb. 25).

Our organization, The “1939” Club, is one of the largest survivor organizations in the country ( We established the first chair on Holocaust studies in the country (UCLA) and we co-sponsor what has become the largest Holocaust Art and Writing Contest in the country at Chapman University. We continue to sponsor memorials, teacher workshops, lecture series and symposia on the Holocaust as well as honor the Righteous. We also party.

We have five dinner or luncheon dances a year. We usually have an interesting guest [talk] on the subject of the Holocaust. Our events are at major hotels. We have the largest dance floor available and a rousing band. The survivors, in their 80s and 90s, dance up a storm – including the hora and the Electric Slide. They outlast the second generation on the dance floor. They eat hardy. They are celebrating life. They are celebrating that they are in this great country, that they were able to marry, and have children. They are celebrating that their grandchildren and great-grandchildren will carry their legacy.

Yes, they remember. They are also entitled to celebrate.

William Elperin
The “1939” Club

Clarifying CAIR

It is unfortunate that Ophira Levant resorts to regurgitating lies against the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) made by right-wing Islamophobic people who are intent on marginalizing the American Muslim community by spreading untruths against their leaders and organizations (“Web Letters,” Feb 25).

To set the record straight, CAIR is an American organization established by American Muslims. CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group and has 31 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. CAIR’s principled stance against terrorism is beyond the need to be defended against baseless accusations.

CAIR enjoys the support of Americans from all ethnic and religious backgrounds. CAIR works regularly with the Jewish community and leaders to promote dialogue and cooperation. It is acceptable for Muslims and Jews not to always agree on the politics of the Middle East, but this should never become an excuse to demonize or tolerate racism against one another. Muslims are actually more hurt and disappointed when such racism comes from individuals who belong to the Jewish community, a community that suffered so much from that racism and hatred.

It is incumbent, as fellow Americans and “cousins” through Abraham, that we do not fall into the disinformation trap put out by Islamophobic characters such as Daniel Pipes and others.

It is important that we learn the truth about each other as friends, neighbors and co-workers by communicating and dialoguing with one another, as our Jewish and Islamic traditions teach us. Our children and our respective communities expect nothing less from us.

To read CAIR’s Mission, Vision Statement and Core Principles, visit

Sabiha Khan
Communications Director
Council on American Islamic Relations
Los Angeles


In “Fox Takes a ‘Walk’ Down Provocative Path” (Feb. 25), the photo is of Knut Berger as the gay German,

Axel, and Carolina Peters as his sister, Pia.

I’m surprised that you would print Cathy Young’s utterly inaccurate and slanderous column regarding Eric Alterman. This sort of hate speech masquerading as – well, I’m not sure it’s masquerading as anything in particular – accusing a fellow Jew of being a “self-hating” “anti-Semite” is loathsome. Of course, so is completely misrepresenting Mr. Alterman’s views, his words, his inferences, his connotation and so on.

I happen to be a Jew who lives here in Los Angeles, but one who has read Mr. Alterman’s books, columns and other work for 15 years at least. He is at times a polemicist, at times a historian, at times a journalist (and now a blogger), and he is always a serious intellectual and thinker, the kind with whom one needs to reckon. What you did was not reckoning, it was spreading manure across a field. Either you are ignorant of Mr. Alterman’s positions and place, in which case shame on you for running a piece such as Young’s without doing your homework, or you are partisan hacks, the kind of people that I loathe.

Whichever it is, short of an apology and/or an offer to run Mr. Alterman’s full response in The Journal, I will endeavor to get as many of my fellow readers in this town to unsubscribe, both physically and intellectually, from your Journal. I await your response.

Robert Green
Los Angeles

This week I opened to the Jewish Journal to find a full page ad with the bold headline: “Cruelty Uncovered: Is ‘Aaron’s Best’ Kosher’s Worst?”

The ad was taken out by PETA – the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA’s allegations of cruelty to animals perpetrated by Rubashkin’s AgriProcessors Corp. first hit mainstream media in an article in the Los Angeles Times in early January of this year. The article was by no means a convincing indictment of AgriProcessor’s practices; the author referenced substantial support for the slaughtering procedures under attack. This perhaps explains PETA’s new tactic: targeting the Jewish community with “splash ads” that conveniently leave out any information not supporting its agenda. In touching concern for the spiritual wellbeing of kosher-eaters, PETA appeals to the Jewish community by quoting Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank, president of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement, as commenting: “The scenes recorded are not what shechitah should be, nor does it correspond to the Jewish way of treating animals…When a company purporting to be kosher violates the prohibition against tza’ar ba’alei hayyim, causing pain to one of G-d’s living creatures, that company must answer to the Jewish community, and ultimately, to G-d.” What was perhaps most striking to me was PETA’s decision to include a quote from a Rabbi of the Conservative movement. Wouldn’t its claims of animal cruelty be made all the more credible by an Orthodox Rabbi’s condemnation of the slaughtering practices?

Indeed, it would. PETA’s problem, however, is that the Orthodox movement stands firmly behind AgriProcessors. The Orthodox Union, the largest kosher certification authority in the world, has declared that the procedures at Agriprocessors “meet all our standards to the highest degree.” In fact, in all of the articles that I have seen on the subject, I have yet to find one Orthodox Rabbi that condemns the practices. Again, PETA conveniently leaves this minor detail out of its advertisement.

So perhaps, in fact, this is an attack, not on AgriProcessors, but on the slaughtering practices of Orthodox Jewry. A sad conclusion, but unfortunately – not altogether surprising. Torah observance is not regarded as fashionable in today’s culture of self-gratification and pseudo-enlightenment. Thus, in formulating some response to PETA’s ad, I largely ignore the substantive issues of their allegations. Federal law deems humane any slaughtering “in accordance with the ritual requirements of the Jewish faith or any other religious faith that prescribes a method of slaughter whereby the animal suffers loss of consciousness by anemia of the brain caused by the simultaneous and instantaneous severance of the carotid arteries with a sharp instrument and handling in connection with such slaughtering.” Whether or not PETA’s videos reveal the animals’ consciousness I will leave to those more familiar with animal psychology. I have long understood that even when a completely dead animal might still thrash around for a while. I’ve even heard the same thing of people. But again, this not being my field, I leave those deliberations to the experts. To PETA, I have this to say: While you were eating each other; while you were pitting man against beast in stadiums for your entertainment, Torah observant Jews were stopping to help relieve the burden of a tired donkey – even when it belonged to an enemy. While you were out hunting for sport, Torah observant Jews were trying to decide whether milk and eggs are kosher since they are taken from a live animal. While you hung antlers in your dining room, and wiped your feet on animal skin, Torah observant Jews made sure to send away the mother bird before taking her eggs. While you were shooting animals in the head before sitting down to a feast, Jewish people would study countless laws, sharpen their knives to a razor, and carefully perform a procedure designed to kill the animal without pain. Torah observant Jews taught the world what it means to be kind to animals. And now, in this moment of remarkable arrogance, the student presumes to become the teacher? Mr. Friedrich, did you send a letter to Mr. Rubashkin gently asking “his Excellency” to take a more compassionate approach to animals, as you did with Yasser Arafat? You described AgriProcessor’s “level of cruelty” to the animals as “absolutely outrageous”; were you as emphatic in your description of Arafat’s use of a donkey to murder innocent men women and children? You quoted Rabbi Rank. Yet he is not an authority on the ritual slaughter of Torah observant Jews. He makes the presumptuous claim that “the scenes recorded are not what shechita should be.” And yet, unless Rabbi Rank wishes to rewrite the laws of shechita, the scenes recorded were done entirely in accordance with the laws of shechita. The company does not “purport to be kosher”; the Orthodox Union has unequivocally declared AgriProcessor’s meat to be kosher, and its practices beyond reproach.

To the Jewish Journal, for agreeing to run PETA’s ad, and to all of the conservative Rabbis that have joined in this farce, I have this to say: Shame on you. Shame on you that you so desperately seek the approval of your flamboyant, pseudo-humane friends in organizations like PETA. Shame on you, that you now seek to cast aspersions on practices that have the Torah’s approval, even if you lack the courage do defend them as your own. And when Moshiach comes, and we are once more able to bring the daily sacrifices and burnt offerings, will you then too stand beside your PETA friends denouncing Torah observance? When PETA send its undercover investigators to a Kapparot site on the day before Yom Kippur, will you stand beside them waiving your indignant little fists, and declare this age-old custom a violation of tza’ar ba’alei hayyim as well? Torah was meant be a light unto the nations. Do not darken its light by inviting the PETA’s warped perceptions of right and wrong into Torah observant slaughter-houses.


Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

As a teacher at Shalhevet, I was disturbed and saddened by Julie Gruenbaum Fax’s article on Shalhevet in the previous issue of The Jewish Journal. I found the piece to be untruthful in much that it did say and unbalanced in terms of what it left out. Ms. Fax summarized the comments of parents who report that ” the school was run so sloppily at every level that disorganization and flakiness dominated the operations and even some academic aspects of the school.” Was that the impression of the author as she sat in Town Hall where an entire school community meets on a weekly basis to discuss a prepared agenda formed by an agenda committee consisting of students, teachers and administrators? Does that sound like sloppy organization? Does she know of the beautifully run advisory program in which students meet on a weekly basis with a faculty advisor who is in turn in regular contact with the teachers and parent of that student to ensure that each and every student gets what they need and that no student “fall through the cracks” as they do in so many schools? As a teacher, I wrote over 100 detailed notes to advisors over the last two weeks. And, as an advisor I am now reviewing the notes sent to me by my advisees teachers to prepare a clear picture of my students’ progress for their parents. All of this accomplished with deadlines overwhelmingly met and on time. Does that sound disorganized? I am involved in a virtual whirl of faculty and departmental meetings with clear agenda to keep faculty and administration working together and developing as teachers and administrators. Again, does that sound disorganized?

How about a school day that includes a full range of Judaic studies at all levels: a college-preparatory general studies program complete with the full complement of A.P. classes, drama, sports and about a dozen independent student run committees and clubs? It’s a very full day and it’s a lot to juggle but I think we pull it off with a remarkable degree of order and organization. From the trenches, I can tell you that the academics at Shalhevet are not marred by anything like “flakiness.” We work extraordinarily hard on our teaching and on our programming to provide students with a very rich experience. Our kids love the school. Anyone who knows us, knows that. They thrive. As any educator will tell you, kids don’t thrive in a free-for-all. They thrive at Shalhevet because it provides them with a warm and caring, and yes, structured and secure atmosphere that’s designed to meet every child where they are at and help them grow.

It’s true enough that Shalhevet is undergoing some administrative restructuring as Dr. Friedman frees himself up from some of the financial responsibilities of the school. There is a new and active parents’ board. I suppose Dr. Friedman is a colorful and interesting character in addition to being the consummate “man with a mission” but that whole treatment in the article seemed sensationalistic and unnecessary. What Ms. Fax does not note is that the upper levels of administration and the boards are not shrouded in mystery as they are in so many Jewish institutions. In fact, they are an “open book.” Dr. Friedman’s door is literally always open. She could speak frankly to everyone and anyone in the administration and get real answers. This article demonstrates the risk of that kind of transparency. I would encourage readers to also see the courage behind that risk.

That hint of sensationalism slid into the realm of Loshon Hara. The comments about Dr. Friedman’s’ purported “abrasive” personality were unnecessary. More troubling was the repetition of the comments attributed to a teacher in another school about the supposed promiscuity of Shalhevet girls. I stood in the halls of Shalhevet as girls read the story and were hurt and shocked. That someone ever made such a comment, shame on them. That anyone ever repeated it, shame on them. That you would allow that into print, shame on you. As Jews of many different stripes I think we can agree on the universality of the moral prohibition on Loshon hara and the importance of maintaining some communal standard on the ways that we talk about each other. To make matters worse, in this case you are talking about children! Repeating such a comment is both insensitive and ultimately immoral. Our “Jewish Journal” can and must live up to higher standards.

I was especially pained by the comment that Shalhevet “was the only school with a mission we believed in, but the problems overwhelmed the mission.” It is not what I see at all. On the contrary, I see faculty and administration constantly striving toward the achievement of the mission. Again, its a lot to juggle. It’s a complex mission to create halachically committed yet tolerant modern Orthodox Zionist Jews who excel in Jewish learning and secular learning, who are socially responsible moral thinkers and decision-makers. As faculty and administrators (and to some extent students too), our days are filled with constant discussion and sometimes debate as to how to pull all that off. That too is part of the mission, to learn how to have big ideas and big ideals and put them into practice. The life of the school rests in the sometimes difficult process of refining and achieving a vision. One of our students, Leor Hackel said in the article “Certainly it’s not perfect and lots of kooky things go on in the school, but it really is a vibrant community where a lot of wonderful things happen.” Imperfection and a degree of occasional disjunction (even “kookiness”) are the very hallmarks of vibrancy, life, change and growth. Kooky things happen around folks with big missions. G-d chose a little band of expatriate Mesopatamians from the backwaters of the ancient near-east to be a light to the nations. You know the rest of the story.


Lee A. Weissman
60 Willow Tree Lane
Irvine, CA 92612
(949) 551-3998



Jewish community leaders are fierce in immediately denouncing even a hint of anti-Semitism, urging abandonment and renunciation of political or religious leaders who make even the slightest negative comment about Jews, Judaism or Israeli policies (“Bus No. 19 Makes Controversial Stop,” Jan. 28).

Our leaders can’t help but lose credibility when they then ally themselves with organizations such as the Jerusalem Connection, a group known to vilify Islam and facilely dismiss criticism of the alliance, because of the greater need to fight terrorism and suicide bombers.

Our people have been blessed to live and thrive in the United States. It would behoove us to be considerate of our neighbors here and not ally ourselves with those who publicly insult another faith, and it is certainly a disservice to Israel, situated in a region surrounded by millions of Muslims, to have American Jewish leaders condone and ally themselves with those who vilify Islam.

Millions of Jews have been murdered throughout the ages because of anti-Semitic beliefs, so we should well understand and appreciate the consequences of stereotypical thinking. And since our earliest beginnings as a people, we have been admonished not to bear false witness.

Let us not support those who bear false witness against Islam. We know that innocent lives could be lost.

Ruth Persky
via E-mail

Improper Parallel

We read your Jan. 21 story about reconstructive surgery with great interest (“Making the Cut”). However, we find the choice of wording on that week’s cover to be inappropriate. It is improper to draw a parallel with the Reconstructionist movement and plastic surgery.

The real Reconstructionist movement promotes a progressive, vibrant Judaism. We find Judaism to be the entire cultural legacy of the Jewish people.

Reconstructionist Jews precisely seek to engage with Judaism’s depth vs. its surface characteristics. Today, with more than 100 affiliated congregations and havurot, the Reconstructionist movement is a growing, dynamic presence in all corners of North America.

In the future, we urge you to choose more tasteful and thoughtful ways to promote your stories.

Carl A. Sheingold
Executive Vice President
Devorah Servi
West Coast Regional Director
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation


I am writing to correct contributing writer David Finnigan’s misinterpretation of “88” in “Two Teens Arrested in Vandalizing of Menorah” (Jan. 7).

I’ve spent many years collecting information on neo-Nazi skinheads and trying to purge them from the Central Coast (of California) punk rock scene. “Eighty-eight” is actually a reference to “The Eighty-Eight Precepts” penned by white supremacist David Lane. Though the precepts are really nothing more than weak apologetics and cheap slogans, they are regarded by most neo-Nazi skinheads as a definitive manifesto and considered as authoritative as “Mein Kampf” and Ragnar Redbeard’s “Might Is Right.”

The term “88” is often accompanied with “14” in “14/88.” “Fourteen” represents the 14 words ascribed to Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” This is the cardinal slogan of the neo-Nazi skinhead movement.

I must implore your readers not to judge the entire skinhead youth culture harshly because of these ignorant neo-Nazi pretenders. While they might dominate the skinhead scene, thanks to the sensational press they get, they do not represent the core philosophy of skinhead at its inception: solidarity of working-class nationals, regardless of race or religion. Some of the first English skinheads were, in fact, black, and there are plenty of non-white skinheads today – even observant Jews like myself!

The skinheads that are adhering to that aforementioned core philosophy (called the spirit of ’69) fall into two camps: the conservative Traditionals, or Trads for short, and the more liberal SHARPs or Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice.

Rejecting the nationalistic aspects of the spirit of ’69 but staunchly anti-racist are the Red and Anarchist skinheads or RASHs. Neo-Nazis live by their precepts not by the cooperative spirit. They are fundamentally un-skinhead. I’d like to thank David Finnigan for not confusing neo-Nazis with skins in his article.

Name withheld by request
San Diego

Burden of Incest

I want to thank The Jewish Journal for publishing the article “Shouldering the Burden of Incest” (Jan. 28). It is an extremely important article, and one that I know will help other incest survivors who have to deal with the same issues as the journalist who wrote the article.

Please let the author know how much The Awareness Center honors, respects and thanks him/her for giving the courage for being open and honest about her experiences.

This article allows other survivors out there to know they are not alone, and that there are people out there who have had similar experiences, care and want to do something to help.

Vicki Polin
Executive Director
The Awareness Center
(The Jewish Coalition Against
Sexual Abuse/Assault)

Divine Protection

Rabbi Haim Ovadia tells of his father’s perilous flight from Iraq and how he was saved from being arrested through an unusual coincidence (“Divine Protection,” Jan. 14). The rabbi implicitly agrees with his father who attributed his rescue to Divine protection.

Interestingly, my father had a somewhat similar experience when he was fleeing the new Soviet Russia in 1920. He was arrested and placed into a jail room with 20 other young men. After a while, the soldiers started taking the young men out, one by one, forcing them to face a firing squad and killing them.

Like Ovadia’s father, mine was also saved through an unusual coincidence (a dramatic story, which I have told elsewhere). But I find it difficult to look upon it as Divine protection, because what of the 20 other young men who were slaughtered?

Lou Charloff


Nothing But the Truth


Let’s go live to my blind date at a West Hollywood Restaurant. The merlot is great, the gnocchi is inspired and the waiter taught me to say fork in Italian. The guy? Not for me. Marc is a rare blond Jew, but there was no click between us, no fireworks, no cell phone call from the bathroom stall to tell my girls I’d met my husband. Not that I’ve ever made that call or am looking for a husband. I don’t even know how to spell husband. Or say it in Italian.

Having already located my nearest emergency exit, I had one high heel out the door when Marc blurts out, “So what’d ya think? How’d I do? Where do I stand?”

I laugh. Then realize he’s serious.

“Are you into me?”

Could he ask more questions?

“Are we going out again?”

Guess he can.

This is a “clean up on aisle four” disaster. After a typical dating mismatch, I dial the next day, say thanks, then let things fade. I don’t do direct feedback, customer comment cards or post-date wrap-ups. I’m not comfortable with it, especially when I’m sitting less than a foot away. Yet, inquiring Marc wants to know. He’s desperate for a touchy-feely date-end review. I blame daytime television.

I’ve never been cross-examined by a date before; I don’t know how to respond. Should I be honest or polite? Go for truth or tact? Marc’s not topping my to-do list, but can I say that? Bad dates have feelings, too. I could lie, say I’m ga ga, and suggest we visit the Little Chuppah of Elvis. I could play coy, suggest he call, then give him the Ma Bell brush off. I could tell the truth, and send him home with Rice-A-Roni and a parting gift. Or I could take the Fifth. Yeah right, like I can remain silent.

So, tonight’s dating dilemma features heavyweight champion “honesty — best policy” vs. mother’s favorite “if you don’t have something nice to say….”

What does the Torah teach us about lying to a date? Nothing — who dated back then? But the Talmud does discuss telling little white social lies. Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai argued over how to describe an ugly bride. Should all brides — shayna punim or not — be danced before in the same way? Shammai said no — be honest, say the chick’s not hot, and be happy brides wear veils. Hillel said lie — she has a beautiful personality, you’re not in court and better everyone should get along. I say, why marry an ugly bride?

“Just tell me the truth. I don’t want to waste my time.”

Marc’s sentiments sound vaguely familiar. He sounds like, well, um, a girl. Women constantly complain that men can’t be honest about how they feel, where things are going, or why things are ending. Take Scott, who I dated for two months last fall. On New Year’s Day, he hit me with the ol’ “I’m going back to my ex-girlfriend” resolution. What could I do? Who was I to stand in the way of their true love?

True love my shankbone. A week later, Scott contacted my sorority sister through JDate. Not realizing she knew me, he said he liked her profile, liked her picture and would like to meet. Was he going to bring his ex-girlfriend on their date? Did his big plan to woo her back involve meeting other women on the Internet? There was no ex-girlfriend reunion; Scott just didn’t have the matzah balls to say he didn’t like me. His lack of respect hurt just as much as the breakup. All I wanted was a little honesty.

Guess Marc just wants the same. Gray is the new black, early is the new late and honesty is the new game. Daters don’t want Splenda-coated statements and false hopes. We want the truth, no artificial colors or feelings. We want to know where we stand, even if we stand alone.

Which is why I ripped the rejection Band-Aid off quickly. I told Marc he was a good guy, but not the right guy and suggested he tell his story walking. I also suggested he back off on the post-date interrogations. If the date had gone well, we’d be kissing by now. Then I bid him adios, shalom and, as our waiter taught me, ciao!

Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at


Inadequate Response


The holiday season in New York wasn’t magical. It was surreal.

Fifth Avenue was thick with crowds of shoppers and gawkers. There was a line to get into Trump Tower, no tables available for tea at the Palm Court inside the Plaza Hotel and a long wait in 27-degree weather to catch a carriage ride through Central Park past Wollman Ice Rink. Skaters covered every square inch of the jewel-like rink — another Trump enterprise, it turns out — gliding and twirling and colliding against a backdrop of illuminated skyscrapers as snow fell in soft white flakes.

It should have been magical — if not for the headlines on all the newsstands about those tens of thousands of people drowned, dead or dying on the other side of the world.

How do you make sense of it? I mean, how do you make sense of it? I’ve been trying the old fashioned ways — reading, speaking with people smarter and wiser than myself, reflecting — and nothing bubbles up except, “Oh my God.”

The newspaper editorials I read took a familiar tack. They dove into the muck of the tsunami and pulled out an issue: the lack of a global warning system, the inadequate civil defense resources in underdeveloped nations, the need for greater research into weather phenomena.

Editorialists clearly felt themselves on dry ground pontificating on solutions and pointing fingers at things that could and should be fixed. It’s just unseemly to throw up your hands and scream, “Why?!”

I suppose that for most people, the adequate reaction was no reaction. Why is this surprising? On our way to a Broadway show we stepped around abject street people, men and women whose pain and doom appeared right before our own eyes. There were dozens of them on a given block of Manhattan, refugees of some less tangible storm. If we avoided helping the people in front of our faces, why should the fate of those thousands of miles farther away touch us more?

Many people took the Costco approach. Post-Christmas, the retailer was packed — returns, restocking the larder, stepping down off a consumption binge — but as people went about their getting they plunked thousands of dollars into a Plexiglas pyramid set up to collect for the victims. The Internet made possible the same reaction in homes around the world, as online donations to tsunami relief funds spiked. You go about your business, shopping, Web-surfing, then stop for a moment to do what you can for people bereft half a world away. What else can you do?

One reason there is no adequate emotional response is that the sensation is relatively new. For thousands of years, we humans developed whatever abilities of empathy we have by reacting to what happened in our neighborhoods and families. If a tree fell outside the shtetl, no one heard it, no one read about it and no one saw images on that evening’s news. Technology has brought the whole parade of human tragedy into our home, and we are not up to the task of coping with it.

The late Marlene Marks, former Journal managing editor, used to love that moment in the movie “The Paper,” when the wire brings news that a train wreck overseas has killed hundreds. “How many New Yorkers?” the managing editor, played by Glenn Close, barks. When the answer is none, she brushes off the tragedy.

For Marlene, the least appealing aspect of Jewish journalism came when anyone’s initial response to mass tragedy was, “How many of us died?” Our natural concern for those closest to us should lead to empathy, not callousness. Empathy and action, in the end, are the Jewish responses to this disaster.

Sure, it borders on the trite and pat, but how can any eulogy over 150,000 graves offer much more? Words don’t just pale, they run and hide.

“This isn’t about where was God or when bad things happen to good people,” one rabbi told me. “This is way beyond that.”

Classic Jewish thought seems to offer three ways of looking at God’s role in such disasters. According to one, God acted to punish the iniquities of a nation. One Orthodox Web site actually took pains to point out that in Asia, such was not the case, and no one should think so.

Big Idea No. 2 is that God has set these natural forces in motion and left humans with the free will to respond as they see fit, with compassion or apathy, with ingenuity or insensitivity.

The last idea is the one that strikes me as the most ingenious, because it is no answer. In the Talmud, Moses confronts God as to why Rabbi Akiba, the greatest and most devoted scholar, should die a cruel and prolonged death. God’s answer is, in so many words, “Such is my decree.” In other words, go figure. It is what it is. God knows. Because.

That leaves us with the plainest response, trite and obvious as it may be: Give what is needed. Do what you can. Pray if you want to. It wasn’t your turn to die; but it is your turn to help.


Letters to the Editor


MTV Generation

How sad! Fearing that the MTV generation of Jews might not support Jewish causes, The Federation introduced a group of 14 young Jewish girls and boys to the fundamental Jewish concepts of tikkun olam and tzedakah (“Charities Seek Ties to MTV Generation,” Dec. 24).

In the same article, we’re told not to worry, because the recent rise in attendance at Jewish day schools will surely bode well for the coffers of charitable organizations.

Rob Eshman’s editorial also informs us that philanthropists Peter and Janine Lowy are reportedly focusing The Federation on the growing problem of day school education (“See Change,” Dec. 24).

In 2003, the two largest recipients of gifts from the Jewish Community Foundation were groups who encouraged sending teachers of Latino students to Israel for sensitivity training ($50,000) and another who advanced the cause of Russian immigrants learning about civic life in Los Angeles ($45,000). Meanwhile, many more organizations who met the foundation’s exacting criteria received little or no funding at all for their programs to advance Jewish education.

Are the donated dollars, or lack of them, finally bringing sense to a community’s priorities?

Yitzchak Sapochkinsky
via E-mail

Knee-Jerk Cartoon

Before readers beam approvingly over Steve Greenberg’s knee-jerk cartoon dealing with creationism and evolution (Dec. 24), allow me to recommend a recent, groundbreaking scholarly work: “From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany,” by Richard Weikart. .

Weikart carefully documents how Darwinism provided the rationale for “stronger,” “superior” and “more highly evolved people” attempting to crush “weaker,” “inferior” and “less highly evolved people.” This is markedly different from a doctrine that teaches that we are all created in the Divine Image and are all the descendants of Adam and Eve.

We have been taught to hate William Jennings Bryan, largely because of his attack on Darwinism at the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tenn. Bryan was a pacifist who knew, only too well, of the social consequences of Darwinism.

If we are to survive the 21st century, we must gain a new appreciation for the moral insights of our sacred texts and have the courage and integrity to challenge the knee-jerk, simplistic paradigms of the “beautiful people.”

Rabbi Louis J. Feldman
Van Nuys

Living Proof

Claire Berlinsky’s article was a breath of fresh air (“Marseille Programs Curb Anti-Semitism,” Dec. 17). It is heartwarming to see the Muslim leaders of Marseille stand up for peace and condemn violence and anti-Semitism .

Marseille’s example is a living proof that, indeed, there are peace-loving Muslims who have learned to tolerate others. They are fed up with meaningless hatred, killings and terror under the name of religion. It is my sincere hope that the deeds of these moderates get more coverage in the media, and that the rest of the moderate Muslim world will wake up from their long sleep and spur more deeds of loving-kindness and peace-making.

Solie Nosrat

Interfaith Activity

I teach an adult ESL class in Inglewood, and as I always do in the month of December, I bring in one my Chanukiahs and describe for the class the celebration of Chanukah. Some of my students who have been with me for several years are familiar with the holiday (as they are when I have shared information regarding Pesach), while those who are brand new know nothing about Chanukah.

The Social Action Committee at my Temple (Leo Baeck) has a “Mitzvah of the Month” and for December, it was to bring an unwrapped toy for children at the Westside Childrens Center. Along with my discussion of Chanukah for the class, I casually mentioned that if anyone wanted to participate in this activity, their toy would be most appreciated. Imagine my joy and delight when over half the class contributed a toy and several brought a bag full.

It just goes to show that the mitzvah of giving and receiving can always be an interfaith activity.

Norm Gee
Los Angeles


Rob Eshman’s tell-it-like-it-is article on the official opening of the hunting (a Jew) season (“Garbage Mouth,” Dec. 17) reminds us once again of the conflagration that can ensue when the volatile components of an evangelical anti-Semitism are mixed with the inflammatory and fallacious diatribes of the conservative and Christian wing of the Republican Party.

The chief disciples of this “apostolic” platform, which conveniently numbers exactly 12 ( i.e. William Donohue, Mel Gibson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Bill O’Reilly, Gary Bauer, Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, Ralph Reed, Sean Hannity, James Dobson and Rush Limbaugh) are inadvertently given a seal of imprimatur and a patina of credibility by their political (but not religious) association with Dennis Prager, the consummate fighter for all flat world causes that fly the conservative banner.

Prager, while obviously abhorring (and doing his best to negate and extirpate) the pervasive and persistent strain of anti- Semitism that seems to have a permanent seat in the conservative platform that he so constantly shills for, carelessly conflates the two loves of his life (i.e. America and Judaism) to the detriment of the former and the rhetorical demise of the latter. And thus is born the Dennis Prager phenomenon!

Marc Rogers
Thousand Oaks

Success Story

Thank you for highlighting the important need of the Jewish community to reach out to a new generation of donors and volunteers (“Charities Seek Ties to MTV Generation,” Dec. 24).

During my tenure as the executive director of Bet Tzedek (a consitutent agency of The Jewish Federation), we began working on this crictical issue more than 10 years ago. Recognizing that it would be the next generation of Jewish philanthropists and volunteers who would determine the ability of our organization to continue to combat the tragedies of poverty in the 21st century, we began a concerted effort to gradually bring young people to our cause.

Bet Tzedek’s “The Justice Ball” has been an unparalleled success. Under the lay leadership of the then-twenty-something Randall Kaplan, this event began modestly but magically by attracting close to 1,000 young people to a night of dancing and music at the House of Blues – all in support of Bet Tzedek’s mission of providing free legal representation to the elderly, indigent and disabled of our community.

Over the years, this event has become wildly successful in many ways. Between 2,000 and 3,000 people attend each year. Most are young Jewish professionals, between 25 and 35 years old.

A planning committee of 25 or 30 young people helps Bet Tzedek organize the event, secure great musical groups to play the evening (the B-52’s, Macy Gray, Billy Idol, Sugar Ray to name just a few), sell tickets, solicit corporate sponsors and spread the word about the incredible work of Bet Tzedek.

Now during Mitch Kamin’s tenure, the results of “The Justice Ball” have been exactly what we envisioned 10 years ago – a high profile fund-raising event, a rapidly growing group of 30-somethings who contribute to Bet Tzedek, become board members, become volunteers, are introduced to Jewish communal service and find philanthropic homes in the Jewish community.

The reasons for this success are simple – Randy created the right atmosphere to attract his peers, the organization committed itself to this effort and the people who got involved saw both the personal and professional importance of involvement. Most of all, they were overwhelmed by the impact, passion and mission of Bet Tzedek – a Jewish-based philosophy that reaches out, helps the poor, combats poverty and saves lives with astonishing effect and efficiency.

This critical part of the Jewish community’s efforts to seek ties to the MTV generation is exactly the kind of growing success that deserves attention and support.

David Lash
Via E-mail

Questions Raised

Your article, “Lonely Jews in Public Schools,” raises many questions (“When Xmas Enters the Classroom,” Dec. 17). In New York City, I was one of only five Jews in my elementary school, one of whom was the principal.

Three of us participated in a graduation play. I wasn’t given special attention as a Jew, was absent for the Jewish holidays but otherwise participated in the pleasures children share in the holidays, with Christmas obviously a religious one. Incidentally, many schools in New York with large Jewish populations were closed for Jewish holidays, without much concern for the Christian minorities.

I wonder how this matter is handled in democratic Israel? Are all schools secular? Do Muslim girls wear head scarves? Is there a celebration of Christmas and Ramadan? Or do they have separate schools for each religious denomination? What schools do the Druse attend?

In secular schools, each school must make its own arrangements, recognizing minorities but also catering to the majority. Otherwise all minorities can have their own schools, and they do.

Jerome Greenblatt.
via E-mail


Letters to the Editor

Reality History

With trepidation, I logged on to the Yad Vashem victims database (“Becoming a Nephew,” Nov. 26) and typed in my grandparents’ names.

In my heart, I knew that their names and the names of my aunts and first cousins would be there. However, when my family name and the list of my immediate relatives came up in black and white before my eyes, I felt shock and great sadness.

History became reality for my children’s children, and for me in my 40s. I, too, became a grandchild and niece and cousin to those I never knew.

But more shocking to me was that my 80-year-old father, the survivor who submitted the data in 1991, became a son, a role that I never saw him play – a role that was taken away from him as a young boy.

Janine Lowy
Beverly Hills

Dirty Words

I wish to express my congratulations to Robert Reich for his insightful and intellectual article on the condition of this country (“Gods, Gays and Guns: The U.S. Fault Line,” Nov. 12). In the last two elections, two words have been pushed into the category of dirty words by right-wingers: “liberal” and “taxes.” The word “intellectual” is also on the threshold of entering that category.

When I read about some conservatives saying that there should be no or very low income taxes, because people should be able to keep what they earn, it makes me angry. Anyone who actually earns millions and, in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars a year does so within an environment that enables them to do that; they should therefore be responsible for more substantially supporting that system. What this president has done to the finances of this country is truly criminal.

Why the citizens of this land let him get away with it is because he uses the word “taxes” as if it was a dirty word. I am somewhat discouraged about ever getting the people in the red states to open their eyes and see what is actually happening.

Nat Kramer
Marina del Rey

Approval of Seal

I, a former Soviet Jewish refugee, am adding my voice to Dennis Prager’s. What the ACLU is doing is despicable but hardly surprising to me (“History Behind the Cross,” June 18). Years ago, the organization hounded a Ukrainian teenager throughout the United States, trying to capture him and turn him over to the Soviets. He refused to return to the Marxist-Leninist paradise.

I grew up in Los Angeles County with Hispanics, Asians, Anglos, Christians and other denizens of our diverse region. We respected each other’s beliefs.

The ACLU does not; it is trying to change history, much as the Soviet rulers did throughout their bloody and idiotic reign. I see no problem with the cross on our county’s seal. I see a problem with cowards who bow down to secular fascists and leftist lawyers.

Kudos to Dennis and all those who fight to keep the cross on our county’s seal.

Paul Stonehill

Thank you for H. David Nahai’s insightful opinion piece (“A Question of Morality,” Nov. 19). Like Nahai, I deplore the rhetoric of the Republicans in their admittedly successful appeal to morality, a specious diversion from the issues of jobs, health care, the environment, the trillion-dollar deficit – issues that represent abject Republican failures – when, in fact, the reptilian nature of their campaign strategies are the furthest thing from moral.

I smell an ugly comeuppance in the offing.

Barry Smolin
Los Angeles

I think there are many, many thoughtful moderate Democrats who are reflecting on the electoral failure of the Democratic Party. However, there was a great deal of passion in Nahai’s article. Bush won and we will watch the level of poverty grow, the number of low-paying jobs rise, the lack of medical care for one-third of the nation persist, and our precious freedoms eroded.

I am surprised that Republicans have not reflected deeply on the Patriot Act and the many articles about how prisoners after Sept. 11 have lost their freedoms. Please be assured that all of us will not be enjoying prosperity and President Bush has done little to help resolve the Israel problem, as well.

How can Republicans be pro-family when funding for housing and health care for single parents and poor families was reduced? Also, the Democrats are the ones with the commitment for social justice (civil rights) and a belief in the moral value of taking care of the poor and the widow.

I pray we will not lose our freedoms as we attempt to liberate Iraq.

Marcia Albert
Los Angeles

Book of Job

My friends tell me that the Book of Job is one of the oldest books in the Hebrew canon, and it must be treated as a sort of allegory (“Safire Says Book of Job Political,” Nov. 19). Even if Job was a very wise man, he could not see his own destiny or future, nor could he grasp the idea that humanity is still not perfect. We are still in the same position right now.

Steve Roisman
Los Angeles

Cuba Travel

More than two years ago, my husband and I traveled to Cuba with a group advertised in The Journal, Sephardic Friends (“Letters,” Nov. 26).

As a group, we brought medicine for the Jewish community; baseballs for orphans; met with Jewish leaders in Havana and in Cienfuegos, a small Jewish community; spent time with elderly Jews; and visited the Jewish cemetery in Havana. Other groups have brought wheelchairs, as well. We even unexpectedly found a cousin.

Our connections to the Jewish community in Cuba have continued. We correspond and, when possible, send medical supplies to the island’s Jews.

While in Cuba, we ate in paladors, private home-based restaurants, as much as we could. The majority income from the paladors stays with the owners and not the state.

Yes, we enjoyed the scenery, the music and the art. We came away with a more educated view of life in Cuba and incredibly aware of the poverty these people endure.

There are hospitals but little medication, literate people but few books. Our dollars and gifts made life a little easier for a few people. Isn’t that what we should all be about? Viva Cuban travel.

Sandra Helman

I certainly hope that The Jewish Journal continues to publish ads promoting Jewish solidarity tours to Cuba, contrary to the demands of Kathleen Sahl in her letter (Nov. 26), if for no other reason than to promote the wholesome American value of a free and unintimidated press.

I have led five tours to Cuba to express friendship with the Jewish community, four through the 92nd Street Y in New York, and one through Judeo Global Travel, with whom I expect to lead a sixth trip in April. While I would contest a number of Sahl’s statements and misstatements, I would remind her and all Journal readers that Jews have supported our coreligionists in every country of the world for a couple of thousand years, whether or not we personally favor the particular regimes under which they live. Regimes change; the timeless values of our community deserve ongoing attention and sometimes aid.

Jews made significant visits to the USSR and other Eastern bloc countries all through the Cold War period, as well as to South Africa, Franco’s Spain, to Muslim countries and any number of other places where Jews had problems, in order to help mitigate their situation.

If Sahl could experience for herself the magnificent and dedicated efforts the Jews of Cuba are making toward preserving and expanding their community under admittedly most trying circumstances, she well might change her opinion about the rightness of visiting Cuba.

Is she aware – is any Journal reader aware – that Cuba is now the country where the Jewish community is growing by conversion at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world? Is she aware that despite public pronouncements of support for Arab causes, there are several Israeli investors with factories and other interests in Cuba? Is she aware that the Republican-dominated Congress has repeatedly voted to end the travel ban to Cuba, only to be overridden by presidential veto?

The world is never quite so black and white as extremist ideologues paint it. Please continue to exercise your right to publish any ad you see fit.

Eric A. Gordon
The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring

Gay Marriage

James Besser (“Gay Marriage: A Real Threat?” Nov. 26) not too subtly tars all opponents of gay marriage with the bigotry label in his article purporting to show that Christian pastors consider other threats to marriage, especially divorce, as more pressing and imminent a danger.

While he acknowledges that “gay marriage is an appropriate topic for serious debate,” he then goes on to savage those who call for such a debate and who are opposed to such a fundamental redefinition of marriage. He accuses them of a cynical use of religion; blatantly manipulating the values agenda; cynically exploiting the marriage issue; displaying and giving legitimacy to bigotry; being opposed to equal rights for gays and lesbians; targeting gays and lesbians with hatred, fear and fury; and generally undercutting the basic civil liberties protections that Jews and other minorities depend on. So much for allowing a serious debate or for crediting opposing views with any degree of civility or respect.

The only intolerant bigotry I see in this regard is that expressed by Besser and friends toward those who do not share their obvious enthusiasm for same-sex marriage, and who insist on labeling any opposition as bigotry.

Carl Pearlston

Letters to the Editor

For and Against

What kinda mishegoss is that – “in place of the Torah Portion (“Behold, You Are Fair,” Nov. 19)? Who died and left you guys in charge of God’s work?

I realize that you’re the editor of this here newspaper, and I realize that machers like Ed Feinstein, ‘scuse me – rabbi machers like Ed Feinstein – and you can really push we poor readers around, but believe me Buster, you and the good rebbe have screwed up my Shabbat to a fair-thee-well.

It was my practice in my home on Shabbat to look up the Torah Portion in The Journal, conduct a brief service, read that portion in the Scriptures and then read the visiting rabbi’s thoughts on what I had read. I would then have had the very best of all liturgies, in my opinion.

Now the “Holy See” cancels the Torah Portion –the Torah Portion, mind you – and in its place adopts a book club.

While I must admit it is a worthy undertaking, why didn’t you place the new column, My Jewish Library, in your www [Web site] archives and leave the Torah Portion where it has been for years and where it damned well should be in my humble opinion.

A plague on all your houses.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monroe Karl Deutsch
Thousand Oaks

Thank you for expanding your commitment to literature

With some volume, the best books can naturally rise to the top, and I might finally find what I’m looking for – our Graham Greene.

Dave Moskowitz

Museum Funds

I noted with interest the article on the pressing need for more funding to meet the growing needs of day schools in our community (“The $45 Million Question,” Nov. 19). There is no doubt this is an important priority and hopefully the goals can be met.

However, I did find disconcerting the previous week’s article about plans for a new $5 million Holocaust museum in Los Angeles (“Millions More for Shoah Museum,” Nov. 12), unrelated to the Museum of Tolerance, which hosts hundreds of school groups each year. The article noted that the founders feel the new museum will be necessary to educate the younger generation.

Wouldn’t the funds be better directed to the day schools, where the students receive an education in living Judaism, as well as our history, rather than a Holocaust museum that students might visit at most once a year? In a community with limited resources, we must choose our priorities carefully.

Lawrence Weinman
Los Angeles

I read with much sadness the article “Millions More for Shoah Museum.” I learned from this article about the Bel Air fundraiser, which is planning to raise and spend $5 million to build a Holocaust museum in the Fairfax District .

Surely, I am very sensitive to the millions who perished, my flesh and blood among them. But I also believe that we have already erected so many monuments to the past that I think the millions to be spent for yet another memorial could better be spent to assure the future of our faith and to invest these millions in building Jewish people.

How many day school scholarships could be provided to Jewish families with the millions of dollars that will be spent on bricks and mortar? Would it not be more advantageous for the survival of Judaism if we made it possible for thousands of our children to attend day schools who are now prevented from attending because of high tuition costs?

Rabbi Harry A. Roth
Los Angeles


Demographic projections based on assumptions of the type that pediatrician Dr. Robert C. Hamilton engaged in, where the Democrats joined the ever-dying Jewish people, should be carefully examined (Letters, Nov. ,19).

First Hamilton assumes that a high birthrate among Orthodox Jews assures greater number of Orthodox Jewish adults. Most Jewish demographic studies show what the 1997 L.A. Jewish Population Study did, that four out of five Jewish adults raised in Orthodox Jewish households are not currently Orthodox.

Hamilton would do well to observe the growing phenomenon in Jerusalem of runaway and thrown-out preteen and teen children of Orthodox households, where apparently not every child is a wanted child.

The second assumption about the use of abortion by liberal Jews is also faulty. The low birthrate among non-Orthodox Jews is directly attributable to later age of marriage and high levels of contraceptive use by unmarried Jews. If Hamilton were a fertility specialist, he would no doubt meet in his practice mostly non-Orthodox Jews who are willing to pay large sums to have a child or another child that they very much want.

Having a family before establishing a career is often associated with lower income and poverty for Orthodox Jews and non-Jews alike. If a lower income level is indicative of whether one tends to vote Democrat, then one could argue that Orthodox Jews will be supplying the Democratic Party with voters well into the future.

Pini Herman


Phillips & Herman Demographic Research
Los Angeles


If one wants to understand the electoral failure of the Democratic Party, one need go no further than the contrasting attitudes displayed by H. David Nahai (“A Question of Morality,” Nov. 19), a supporter of Sen. John Kerry, and Sam Kermanian (Letters, Nov. 12), who served as co-vice chair of the Bush Cheney ’04 California campaign.

Both are activists in the Iranian American Jewish community. But while Kermanian calls for the Jewish community to set aside partisanship and return to working “shoulder to shoulder, with the utmost in respect and security,” Nahai opts for continuing to promote divisiveness.

Nahai dismisses fully 23 percent of the American electorate (a number far exceeding the total Jewish population of the United States, much less the number of Jewish voters for Kerry) as the “religious far right.” He accuses “Bush emissaries” of “shamelessly denigrating” Kerry’s support for Israel, when even liberal stalwarts, such as Martin Peretz, publisher of The New Republic, expressed grave concern for the impact on Israel of Kerry’s foreign policy positions.

As a lifelong Democrat who voted to re-elect the president, I can personally testify that the hysterical and dismissive discourse of partisans such as Mr. Nahai will continue to drive Democrats out of the party.

Ralph B. Kostant
Valley Village

Still Going

We were dismayed to read Steven Windmueller’s comments about the closing of the Jewish Community Center in Los Feliz in Gaby Wenig’s article (“Wilshire Boulevard Gambles on Future,” Nov. 12). Reports of the death of the Los Feliz (now Silverlake Independent) Jewish Community Center (SIJCC)are premature. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

The SIJCC has more than 90 kids enrolled in early childhood programs; we have two Parent & Me classes; our Shabbat celebration includes a five-piece band and is timed for parent participation; we have an exercise program; we have a book club; we have enrichment classes like ballet, yoga for children and karate; we have major Jewish holiday celebrations; and special events and fundraising like our winter fair, silent auction and more.

We invite everyone at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple to visit our center and help support the SIJCC.

Jenny Isaacson
SIJCC Parent/Board Member
Los Angeles

Chaverim Program

Thank you for your article (“Support Still Lags for Special Needs,” Nov. 12). I want to make sure your readers also know that for almost three decades, support for Jewish adults over the age of 18 with special needs has been provided by Chaverim.

Special needs children spend more of their lives being adults than children, and through the Jewish Family Service Chaverim program, they can enjoy Jewish activities, including Shabbat dinners, Passover seders, adult b’nai mitzvah and an annual Brandeis-Bardin Shabbaton.

Services to Chaverim members and their families are enhanced by collaboration with other parts of the Jewish community through an annual HUC-JIR [Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion] rabbinic intern and by the smooth integration into Chaverim of graduates of the Valley Beth Shalom Shaare Tikvah religious school

Amy Gross
Chaverim Director
West Hills

Cuba Travel Ad

I’m disappointed that The Jewish Journal is accepting advertising promoting travel to Cuba. Visit Cuba and experience the remnants of the Jewish community there. Stay in a luxury hotel; enjoy the wonderful beach, etc. (Nov. 5).

The Cuban people are not allowed to stay in these hotels or visit the beach, of course. Not for their pleasure. Some, of course, work at the hotels and beach concessions or as prostitutes, selling themselves for as much as a dollar. If they complain, they get to visit jail.

Most of the Cuban Jewish community is in exile, having fled Castro’s murderous regime. The Journal should adhere to Jewish values. A visit to Cuba benefits only Fidel Castro who I am sure is currently mourning the loss of his good friend, Yasser Arafat.

The Journal should be better than this.

Kathleen Sahl
San Pedro


I am not sure where the statement, “Gay marriage doesn’t matter if you are dead. Islamists kill gays. Bush doesn’t,” is coming from or why it is emphasized (Letters, Nov. 12).

Should I be glad Bush is president (albeit under shady circumstances), because he is not actually killing gays but is only conspiring to get our Constitution amended to discriminate against gay taxpayers and citizens?

Bush is in lockstep with Christian fundamentalists, such as [Jerry] Falwell and [Pat] Robertson who are every bit as intolerant and fanatical as any fundamentalists, regardless of their religion. The continuous gay-bashing by the media preachers and by many Republican members of our government has nothing to do with values (other than the value of money) but everything to do with money, control and power.

Perhaps it is time for citizens who actually understand what values are to tell the religious right to stop using their religion to do deliberate harm to a class of their fellow citizens. Or perhaps that would be too much to ask.

Patricia Bates

Your Letters

Tisha B’Av Today

I am disdainful of anyone who misappropriates the Torah to bolster his radical political views (“Tisha B’Av Today,” July 23). I have been horrified when religious zealots used Judaism as a rationale for committing violence against others. But religious zealotry is not just reserved for the radical right. I found Aryeh Cohen’s Torah Portion article just as repugnant, in which he stated that he will fast on Tisha B’Av not because of past atrocities committed against Jews, but because of all the atrocities that Jews today are committing against the less fortunate, particularly the Palestinians.

Not only was his invoking the book of Isaiah to call politicians in Jerusalem a “den of murderers” the epitome of chutzpah — it was also the antithesis of what Tisha B’Av is all about. Cohen is right that we don’t greet each other on Tisha B’Av — but not because we are dissolving the bonds of community. We do so precisely because our fellow Jew is so beloved to us, and on Tisha B’Av we afflict ourselves by deprivation of those things we hold dearest.

Cohen would do well to remember that the real reason given for the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple is sin’at chinam — senseless hatred against our fellow Jew. It’s easy to pronounce guilt on the people of Israel from our cushy vantage point in Los Angeles, secure from the suicide bombers. But it’s even more unforgivable to use our common faith as the basis for doing so.

Cohen is right to fast this Tisha B’Av — in all probability we’ll be mourning again next year because of such self-righteous condemnations of one’s fellow Jew.

Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin , Kehillat Yavneh Los Angeles

Fence Offensive

Steve North is correct when he argues that the separation barrier stops terrorists and saves lives, as demonstrated by the relative lack of suicide bombers and other terrorism in the past nine months (“Fence Offensive,” July 23). And he is probably correct to discount the International Court of Justice advisory ruling that the separation barrier is illegal. Israel has a right and duty to defend its citizens, and it appears that the separation barrier accomplishes that objective.

But North errs in not acknowledging and discussing the Israel Supreme Court’s opinion that the separation barrier route is illegal because it needlessly creates hardship for Palestinians. The present route takes a significant fraction of Palestinian land, and that land effectively divides the West Bank forming isolated Palestinian regions. The route appears to be designed to negate the possibility of a future Palestinian state.

That seems a strange goal for the Israeli government because a viable Palestinian state is essential to assure that Israel remains a Jewish nation. If there is no Palestinian state, there is no two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem, which means there will be a single nation between the Jordan and the sea. And in a few years that nation will be majority Palestinian.

Jeff Warner, La Habra Heights

A Blessing

Thank you, Rabbi Hecht, for “A Blessing for the Father” (June 18). It was a blessing for all who read it.

Jill Comras, Canyon Lake

The Seal’s Cross

Judy Gruen’s column, “Our Cross to Bear?” (June 18) tries to draw a comparison between a cross on the Los Angeles County seal, which she characterizes as “tiny” and which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) objects to, and one displayed by the Ku Klux Klan in front of the Ohio State Capitol Building, which she calls “enormous” and which the ACLU defended. Gruen sees this as inconsistent, being anti-cross in one case and pro-cross in another.

She’s missing the point. It’s not a matter of what’s being said, it’s a matter of who’s saying it. The county seal is the official symbol of the government, which is forbidden by the First Amendment from choosing sides when it comes to religion. The KKK cross was put on display by private citizens, who were exercising their rights, guaranteed by that same First Amendment, to freely exercise their religion and petition their government. Government. Citizens. Got it?

Richard S. Russell, Parliamentarian, Atheist Alliance International Madison, Wis.

Oy Vey

I know I am in galus when the front page of the local Jewish paper (July 23) has pictures and story on meshugasim of Internet and Jewish OY VEY T-shirts … instead of a cover of Kotel, Jerusalem or something related to Tisha B’Av coming on Monday night. Boy do I miss home in Israel.

Harvey Tannenbaum, Efrat, Israel


In “Ode to a Great ‘Uncle'” (July 23) the program will be shown on HBO: Aug. 5 at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 8 at 11 a.m.; Aug. 13 at 11:30 a.m.; Aug. 17 at 2:30 p.m. and Aug. 21 at 8 a.m.

Your Letters


Students do it. Girl Scouts do it. Why don’t congregants do it? Carpool, that is (“Gridlock,” July 9).

Why wait for perhaps decades for better public transportation? Each synagogue (church, mosque) could establish and distribute a carpool roster by area.

Besides alleviating traffic and parking problems, it would create or enhance friendships between neighbors who might not even know each other and make worshipping a much more enjoyable and meaningful experience. Try it, it works.

Lee Soskin, Studio City

Ask a rabbi, and he or she may cite traffic or distance as the reason for less or greater temple participation.

Ask, as was done by the last Los Angeles Jewish Population Survey, the potential congregants, of whom 71 percent attended synagogue at least once a year, what were all their reasons for joining or not joining a synagogue? A quite a different picture emerges.

The most important reason for joining or not was: 1 — quality of the rabbi (80 percent reported as an important or most important reason), followed by, 2 — importance of children’s schooling, 3 — friendliness of congregation, 4 — cost, 5 — the respondent’s personal religious observance, 6 — the quality of cantor or liturgy, and finally, the least cited important reason was, 7 — distance from home, which only 56 percent, of which 25 percent said was very important and 31 percent said was important to their joining a synagogue.

While this data is 7 years old, I don’t feel things have changed that much as to seriously alter the general picture.

While I’m also an advocate of light rail and other forms of public transportation and convenience, I don’t agree that presence or lack of it has a lot to do with the major causes of Jewish affiliation in Los Angeles.

Pini Herman, Phillips & Herman Demographic

All Welcomed

A member of this community has brought to my attention the article, “Jew Jokes Not a Joke,” that was published July 2. In the last column, it describes the problem Jewish players had because of a conflict between practice and Passover.

They were designated as basketball players. This did not happen in the basketball program at Newbury Park. Samuel Goldstein was not on the basketball team nor has the walk-on coach, John Marsden, ever coached in the basketball program.

I think this was just an error, because Passover would not conflict with basketball practice, as the season is over earlier in the year. I believe baseball to be the sport in question.

However, I would not like to have any member of our community believe the coaches, parents and players in the Newbury Park High School basketball program would tolerate the situation your publication described. Rather, we welcome all student-athletes and hope each boy’s experience is an affirming one.

What happened to Samuel Goldstein is deplorable, and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms. I only wish to clarify what has been widely disseminated in your publication.

Steve Johnson, Head Basketball Coach AP/IB History Teacher Newbury Park High School

Bill Handel

I am disappointed that you chose to profile Bill Handel in The Journal (“Can’t ‘Handel’ the Heat? Turn Off the Radio,” July 9). Although he supports a worthy organization like Bet Tzedek, I feel his radio manner is often cruel to others.

He seems to feel that because he is “an equal-opportunity offender,” he can say anything, regardless of whom he hurts. I have listened to him on and off for several years, and I am appalled at his level of insensitivity.

Elaine Franklin, Burbank

Sudan Suffering

The horror and suffering in the Sudan (“A Dollar a Day,” July 9), which has been going on for some years, has been all but suppressed by the media until the United Nations, ironically, recently forced its hand.

For the liberal elite and the news media that speaks for it, Arabs and Muslims have become so politically correct that Arab outrages, even against once-sacrosanct blacks, had to be kept from the American people. There is little room left in international news except for the constant bashing of Israel.

Dr. Bruce J. Schneider, Irvine

Jewish Writing

While it’s true that Jewish American writers are writing in English — as French Jews write in French and Hispanic Jews in Spanish — you don’t have to write in a “Jewish language” to be a Jewish writer, any more than you have to be Ashkenazi to be concerned with the challenges of Diaspora.

Just look at the recently deceased Arab Jewish writer of Iraq, Samir Naqqash. He spent the greatest part of his life writing about his exile from Baghdad and wrote exclusively in Arabic — yet another “Jewish” language. Naqqash, who died July 6 in Petah Tikva, Israel, wrote about the struggle of Arab Jews to adapt themselves to life in Israel; he wrote of relations among Muslims, Jews and Christians in Iraq, and his work has been widely published in the Arab world — an exceptional fate for a Jewish writer.

Jewish writers must be, in my view, universal humanists first and foremost, as were several of Naqqash’s influences: Sartre, Faulkner and Naguib Mahfouz among them.

Jordan Elgrably, Director Levantine Cultural Center

Marriage Evolving

With regard to Sandy Frank’s article on same-sex marriages (“Same-Sex Marriage Poses Key Questions,” July 9), is he kidding? Although I find fault in all of his arguments, let me address two.

One, that we shouldn’t tamper with marriage because “every society … has had the institution of marriage.” Marriage has been ever evolving. It was only in the last century that it was accepted that people married for love. For centuries, marriages were arranged to better a man, i.e., dowries, and keep a woman from poverty, since she couldn’t own property or work.

A short 100 years ago, Catholics and Protestants couldn’t marry. A shorter 30 years ago, blacks and whites couldn’t either. And let’s not even touch polygamy. Thank God marriage is ever changing.

His other argument about raising children is equally inane…. “Marriage channels male energy into things like raising children and supporting families and away from things like crime.”

A man participating in the day-to-day caring for his child is a modern concept. This argument makes the case for heterosexual males to get married early and become dads fast.

It’s never taken a marriage license to make a baby. In the meantime, quite a few of the couples I saw getting married on television had their children beside them.

By denying loving couples their desire to marry, what are we telling these children? Are we telling them that their families aren’t good enough?

It’s time for us as a society to understand that families come in all shapes and sizes, and that no amount of legislation will change evolution.

Michelle Grant, Santa Monica

Your Letters

Same-Sex Marriage

The opinion piece by Sandy Frank on same-sex marriage raises some interesting questions. Frank claims that heterosexual marriage is important because it is prevalent in every society, ancient or modern (“Same-Sex Marriage Poses Key Questions,” July 9). That argument would qualify theft, as well (possibly as a method of redistributing wealth).

Frank also posits that marriage has “evolved” as a beneficial method of providing for the rearing of children. If evolution is in play, is it not possible that same-sex marriage is the logical evolutionary response to the problem of overpopulation? The world could use a lot of “barren” marriages.

Ultimately, his views of same-sex marriage are homophobic and demeaning. Who is to say that the relationship between two men or two women is not as meaningful to them and as beneficial to the overall emotional health of society as that between a man and a woman?

Societies do evolve. America is an ongoing example thereof, a work in progress and not a fait accompli.

Louis H. Nevell, Los Angeles

Not a Joke

I was saddened to read about the coach who decided to include racist Jewish jokes into his training sessions. However, I was proud of the young man who stood up to this, and is trying to get a civil case to stop this type of harassment (“Jew Jokes Not a Joke,” July 2). However, with my understanding of the First Amendment, why is the calling of “death to Jews” and “let’s finish Hitler’s job” covered by free speech on the college campus? Does one have to put these types of threats into joke form in order to get a civil suit to stop this? When does hate speech cross the line to harassment and constitute a perceived threat? After someone gets hurt? Just wondering.

Allyson Rowen Taylor, Valley Glen

Gridlock Update

My quote in the article about gridlock was taken out of context, and was definitely outdated information by the time you published the article (“Gridlock,” July 9).

I was interviewed in March about the task force Adat Shalom had established to improve access to our ECC facility. We established the task force because the administration wanted to do its share to better the access into our facility. Your article failed to mention that we were at that point very close to solving our problems.

In April, with the support of the temple’s administration, we implemented several procedures that created an extremely convenient parking and access situation for the parents. As of July, we have had quick and easy access for three months.

It is unfortunate that in order to prove some point about the congestion in Los Angeles, accurate and timely information was not provided to your readers.

Our world would be a better place if everyone followed Adat Shalom’s example and focused more on finding solutions, rather than endlessly discussing the problems.

Keren Aminia, Los Angeles

Woznica a Gift

The L.A. Jewish community has been given a gift. It seems, however, that the good fortune of both Rabbi David Woznica and Stephen S. Wise Temple was neglected in Marc Ballon’s brief, which chose instead to focus on the perceived mistakes of The Jewish Federation (“Woznica to Take Post at Stephen S. Wise,” July 2).

The Federation had the foresight to bring Woznica to Los Angeles. He has touched countless people, opened doors when he engaged in powerful dialogues with Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Harold Kushner. With humility and deep insight, Woznica placed Torah in the hearts of entertainment moguls, high-powered attorneys and up-and-coming young leaders. An engaging teacher and powerful speaker, he filled large rooms with people who wanted to study with him. He indeed lit up our community, as Todd Morgan, was quoted.

Woznica’s new position, with the strength and power of Stephen S. Wise, promises to be a great gift to our entire community. For that, I thank The Jewish Federation for luring him from the 92nd Street Y, where he had an unprecedented following. If I may be so bold, on behalf of the Jewish community, we wish Woznica and Stephen S. Wise great success in continuing to light up our Jewish world.

Margy Feldman, Vice President Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters Los Angeles

Green as Role Model

Carin Davis’ description of Dodger hitter Shawn Green as batting 1.000 as a role model for Jewish kids is widely “off base” (“Home Run,” July 2). Sometimes it seems that professional athletes who are personable, happily married, excited about their children and without a history of spousal or drug abuse are a rare commodity. But that doesn’t exactly qualify them as batting 1.000 as Jewish role models. Unless, of course, we aspire to create of our children nonpracticing, uninformed, uninvolved and intermarried Jews.

Edith Ellenhorn, Beverly Hills

Carin Davis

I’m not sure what lead me to Carin Davis’ column (“Fate With a Frummie,” July 9). But, regardless, I had to write and let you know that I loved her writing, its spunk and wit. I never thought I’d get pulled into a singles column.

Gary Kosman, CEO & Echoing Green Fellow America Learns

Memo to Strasser

I must admit “67 between one and two” vs. “67th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue” is new to me, though people call the CBS building at 51 West 52nd Street “51w52.” But you’re not a true New Yorker till you call “Avenue of the Americas” Sixth Avenue.

Alana Rice, Studio City

Your Letters

Gay Marriage

Dennis Prager is fond of presenting his audiences with either/or riddles to solve (“Gay Marriage,” May 14). Here is one for him: Which is more harmful to society, homosexual marriage or heterosexual adultery?

In my 25 years as a practicing clinical psychologist, focusing on marital and sex therapy, the answer is clear. The insidious effects of adultery on both family and society are manifold. Long-term, faithful relationships, both gay and straight, have a profound uplifting, moral and spiritually beneficial effect on society.

People cannot choose their sexual orientation. (Prager’s assertion to the contrary, in his mythical 7-year-old asking, “Well maybe I’ll marry Jenny, or maybe I’ll marry Johnny,” is both scientifically and empirically inaccurate.) But they can choose the values through which that orientation will be expressed.

Monogamy, sanctified by the marriage of one human being to another, is the best hope for society. As Prager himself has often correctly stated, in human relationships, values are more important than biology. So, too, here. When it comes to marriage, human values, not biology in the form of gender and/or sexual orientation, are paramount. It is time for Prager to bring his views in line with his views.

Rabbi Ronald Levine, Van Nuys

Workers’ Comp

Jill Stewart’s article, “Out of Context” (May 14), was appropriately titled, since she speaks of the need for workers’ compensation reform from a point of view that is ill-informed and out of touch with the realities of the system. The only parties high-fiving each other in the end zone over this so-called reform bill are the insurance carriers, which have seen record profits in the last year. The stock of Zenith Insurance Co., which writes compensation coverage only in California, has soared from $23 a share a year ago to $46 recently after the enactment of Senate Bill 899.

Workers’ compensation is not bad public policy, as Stewart would have readers believe. The policies assuring injured workers “full compensation” in an “unencumbered” system are rights guaranteed by Article XIV of the California Constitution. The recent so-called “reform” is nothing but an insurance company wish list fully satisfied.

That the governor would sign such a measure without extracting a single concession from the carriers and without a single guarantee that the massive savings will be passed on to California businesses in lower premiums gives new meaning to the word shonda.

Robert B. Zeidner, Los Angeles

Jill Stewart responds:

Studies show no insurers profit from workers’ comp here, where only 20 percent of the market is covered by private carriers anymore and a quasi-governmental state fund is forced to insure most employers.

Two-dozen insurers fled, because even the insane rates they charged didn’t cover dizzying medical and legal costs created by trial lawyers and colluding doctors. Zenith held on by writing other types of policies than workers’ comp.

If SB 899 proves it can help insurers make a fair profit, they will return, clamoring for business, as they do elsewhere. Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi flew to New York a few weeks ago and begged the insurers to return. None have.

Kerry’s Israel Record

The May 21 issue of The Jewish Journal carried an opinion piece by Rick Richman titled, “Kerry’s Flip-Flops on Israel Stir Concern.” Rick is a good friend of mine. He is a thoughtful, bright, articulate, well-informed, gentle man (and gentleman). In his efforts to advocate the re-election of George W. Bush, however, Rick’s column reflected some skewed reasoning.

Here are the facts. Throughout his 19 years in the Senate, John Kerry’s pro-Israel voting record has been second to none. Kerry has consistently supported the foreign aid critical to Israel and fought the attempt by Bush the elder in the early 1990s to slash the loan guarantees program that would have restricted aid to Israel.

Kerry endorses Israel’s need to maintain military superiority and supports Israel’s action to defend the safety and security of its citizens, including its recent actions taken against leaders of Hamas and other terrorist groups. Kerry has expressed unequivocal support for Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw from Gaza. Beyond defense and security, Kerry has expressed his intent to work to bolster the economy of Israel, so key to Israel’s future strength.

The major red flag raised against Kerry is the flip-flop charge. In fact, that charge is a red herring that his opponents have dredged up for lack of substantive arguments. In fact, I admire political leaders who have the wisdom and humility to admit that they may have at times been wrong. If only we had more leaders who were willing to admit that they may have made mistakes.

Abner D. Goldstine, Beverly Hills


A sentence in “Holocaust Museum to Reopen Doors” (May 28) asking whether communal funds should be spent in support of the museum was posed as a rhetorical question by the writer. It should not have been attributed to Dr. Samuel Goetz.

Your Letters

Arab AmericanProtest

I wanted to add one more dimension to your report about theMarch 27 rally against Israel’s elimination of Sheikh Yassin, held in front ofthe Israeli Consulate (“Arab Americans Stage Protest at Israeli Consulate,”April 2).

I was there as part of a quickly organized counter-rally.Even though the rally was held on Shabbat, there were Orthodox Jews who joinedthe group after attending services. There were Christians who felt so stronglythat they drove in from Orange County. And there were secular Jews. It was anhonor for us to have human rights activist Ted Hayes at our side. About 25 ofus stood together in the hot sun, on Shabbat, because we felt it was vital todeliver the countermessage. Our signs read: “Hamas, stop killing children,” “Yassinwas Israel’s bin Laden” and “Stop Justifying Suicide Bombing.” Just like theirmessage, our message also got out. Those who organized the rally supporting Yassinfound that they could not dominate the streets or the media.

I remain convinced that it is essential to continuecountering the disinformation and moral confusion that marks the anti-Israelpositions.

Roz Rothstein, Executive Director StandWithUs

In the article about the Arab protest, I was the onereferred to as a “Jewish Activist with Israeli flag.” I was holding the flagwith Ted Hayes and had an Israeli flag in my other hand. Ted is black, I am anAmerican of Mexican descent and on the other side of Ted was Paul Nissian, anAmerican of Japanese descent. Israel has supporters from all ethnic groups andwe will continue to fight and present a vocal and visible presence in the faceof those who would threaten Israel and our Jewish community.

David Hernandez, Valley Village

Education Bill

The erosion of our Constitution could not be more blatantthan the concept of educational vouchers for religious groups (no matter whattheir bent) and HR 3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act of2003, which would amend Title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to enhanceinternational education programs (“Big Brother Lurks in Higher Education Bill,”March 26).

Our country has had difficulty, throughout its history, withissues of religion and its encroachment into government policy and the lives ofour citizens. The adding of the Bill of Rights provisions to our constitutionwas formed with the intent of protecting the minority from the majority whetherthat minority is a group or an individual citizen. There are possibly no otheractions that could negate this protection than the erosion of the separationbetween church and state. Our Constitution is in reality “Big Brother watching”in the most positive sense. That Big Brother is something we all want to hangaround and watch over us.

Bruce F. Whizin, Sherman Oaks


Referring to “Behind Kitchen Door No. 1” (March 26), writtenby Beverly Levitt, when will you people understand that the expression “the Ukraine”is offensive? The correct name of the country is Ukraine. When will you educateyour editors and staff members to be accurate?

Orest Steciw, Via e-mail

Jewish Engineers

Your article titled “USC Honors Cell Phone Pioneer” (March26), regarding USC’s School of Engineering being named for Italian Jew Andrew Viterbi,reminds me that there are now four major engineering schools at Californiauniversities named for Jews: the Andrew and Erna School of Engineering at USC;the Irwin Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego; the Henry SamueliSchool of Engineering at UC Irvine; and the Henry Samueli School of Engineeringat UCLA.

Martin A. Brower, Corona del Mar

Arnold to Israel

The Jewish Journal’s recent coverage and editorial commentsabout Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s planned May trip to Israel portrayed acertain undefined discontent among some in the Los Angeles Jewish community(“Fine-Tuning,” March 26). Frankly the reporting here (Sacramento and thecapitol area) is quite different. The perception is positive as it should beregardless of the trip’s origin or unrelated secondary issues. In fairness, asa part of your own editorial comments, Mel Levine was quoted as conveying asomewhat similar sentiment.

Israel’s rightful position during these parlous times couldbe strengthened. This would be a welcome change, particularly given the slew of Hollywood types that have flocked there to pontificate with Israel’sdetractors. As long as the governor does not weigh in with Israel’s “moralequivalent” crowd, this visit should be praised and supported by our community,as it will be by our non-Jewish friends.

Steven Fishbein, Sacramento

Anti-Semitism and theWeb

Joe Eskanazi, in his article “Googling Anti-Semitism” (March19), discusses the unfortunate fact that is top of the list when asearch is done on the word “Jew.” He speculates that this is not the case in Europewhere Holocaust denial is illegal. I can report from the United Kingdom that JewWatchcomes top of the list here, and the search is only different when results fromjust the UK are looked at.

Nick Landau, London, England

Math Problem

It’s a shame that in her zeal to pin the state’s budgetproblems on the Democrats, Jill Stewart attacks the community colleges and thedisabled community in her opinion piece “Math Problem” (March 19). As a mathinstructor at community colleges and the father of a disabled child, let mehelp Stewart do the math. The purpose of the community college system is toprovide education to all Californians. For many, especially from culturallydiverse communities, it is the entry point toward transferring to a four-yearinstitution. For others, the colleges provide workforce education leading to careersin nursing, office technology, etc., or retraining for those who have beenlaid-off during the economic “recovery.” Yet fees have jumped from $11 per unitto $18 per unit during the last year — a 64 percent increase. Gov.Schwarzenegger’s budget has proposed that these fees be raised to $26 per unit,another 44 percent increase or a total increase of 136 percent in two years.Rather than subsidizing students as Stewart suggests, it seems we are trying tobalance California’s budget on their backs.

Stewart also takes a cheap shot at the disabled communityfor advocating for their rights to be productive members of our society. Thedisabled community is already at a disadvantage in pursuing their dreams. Iinvite you to meet my daughter who requires a power wheelchair for mobility.Witness the occupational and physical therapy that she endures as part of hereveryday life. Most importantly, witness her positive outlook on life. Ratherthan balancing the budget on their backs, I suggest we applaud these vibrantmembers of our society and help them achieve their goals, just as we do withthe able-bodied community. If you really want to do the math Ms. Stewart,please advocate that those who have benefited from large tax breaks pay theirfair share rather than trying to further marginalize these two dynamiccommunities.

David H. Senensieb, Calabasas


In “Conal’s the Poster Boy for ‘Art Attack'” (Feb. 27), Carol Wells is withthe Center for the Study of Political Graphics.

Your Letters

My Culture War

Just a quick note to say thank you for standing up for both free speech and Howard Stern in your column (“My Culture War,” March 12).

My mother-in-law said to tell you that she is 78 years old, is also a Stern fan and appreciates the stand you took on this issue and the candor and honesty you displayed in your column.

Elliot Sturman, Westlake Village

Nowhere in his editorial in his support for Howard Stern does Rob Eshman, your editor, mention the place for standards of civility in today’s society. Not surprisingly, leftists’ feel-good, anything-goes mantras have no place for standards which they view as rigid and restrictive.

We can hear the question before it’s posed. “Who determines standards?” Society determines and imposes standards; thus, they become our mores and norms. They define who we are and who we shall become.

I urge the Jewish community to reject the debasing of our society under the guise of free speech, and shame on Rob Eshman for his lack of moral clarity.

Shari Seaman Goodman, Calabasas

Remarkable Film

One historical aspect still missing is the testimony of the Holocaust perpetrators, said Ben Kingsley, who played Schindler’s Jewish assistant, Itzhak Stern, in the film (“Celebrating 10 Years of ‘Schindler’s List,'” March 12).

“I still hope to see the time when some of the murderers will speak to the camera,” said Kingsley — Sir Ben to you.

Perhaps Sir Ben Kingsley has not seen Claude Lanzmann’s remarkable 9 1/2-hour documentary, “Shoah” (1985), released eight years before “Schindler’s List.”

In it, Claude Lanzmann manages to track down and interview on camera several high-ranking officials and perpetrators. 2005 will be the 20th anniversary of this remarkable film. Perhaps The Jewish Journal should also devote some time to revisit this impressive historical accomplishment.

Abrey Myers, Granada Hills

Priorities Mixed Up

To talk about closing the Valley Cities JCC means to me that, as Jews, we have our priorities mixed up (“Valley Cities JCC Slated to Shut Down,” March 12). I thought that one of our greatest responsibilities was to prepare the next generation to carry on our faith. After all, if not for the past generation’s efforts, we wouldn’t bother to read The Jewish Journal, because we wouldn’t care about Judaism.

As a parent with two children in the JCC after-school program, I see Judaism in action every day. I see a community that embraces each other: young and old, Americans and immigrants, people who are well-off and people who are struggling.

It’s a personal and caring island in our increasingly impersonal society, and it’s a community that you don’t have to move to a particular neighborhood or have a particular job to be part of.

There are other after-school programs I could send my kids to, but my children wouldn’t be singing Jewish songs, making special crafts for Jewish holidays or being part of a true Jewish community. For our future as Jews, we should not be tearing down Jewish community centers but building them up.

Leila Lavizadeh, Lake Balboa

Point Not Mentioned

In her commentary “Evangelicals Are Not Our ‘Natural Allies'” (March 19), Arlene Stein, a Jewish lesbian writer, is trying to portray Christian evangelicals as biased, out of step with American Jews and Israelis and not our “natural allies.” Reading her article, one may conclude that her disenchantment with the Christian right is due to her being a Jew who refused to accept their invitation to visit their churches, rather than being an outspoken lesbian who disagrees with their stand regarding gay marriage.

She claims that in contrast to Christian conservatives’ point of view, many Jewish religious groups support gay marriage. However, Ms. Stein failed to mention that many Jewish groups oppose such marriage the same way the Christian conservatives do, and that both groups use the Torah law as their reason.

There is no question that the agenda of the Christian right is one of a double-edged sword. Yet, we as Jews survived for thousands of years due to our ability to deal with such issues with compassion and tolerance toward other cultures and religions, rather than antagonize them unnecessarily, especially for personal gain.

Danny Bental, Tarzana

Unfair Statement

In light of his March 2 election victories, some say the governor can withstand the emotions that will crescendo this summer, as they have in recent years, with large numbers of wheelchair-bound recipients of state monies zipping through halls to stare down uncomfortable legislators in tense hearings. (“Math Problem,” March 19).

This is an unfair statement directed at the many disabled people who do not rely on the government for handouts. Many disabled people are fully employed and have no desire whatsoever to take public assistance.

J.T. Walsh, via e-mail

Your Letters

Robbie Conal

It is a sad commentary that The Jewish Journal chooses to designate Robbie Conal’s propaganda “message art” (“Conal’s the Poster Boy for ‘Art Attack,'” Feb. 27). I don’t need The Journal to tell me how to vote in the upcoming elections but Conal’s left-wing message is abundantly clear, and Tom Teicholz lauds him for serving as our social conscience in the post-Sept. 11 era.

Teicholz briefly mentions Conal’s affiliation with the L.A. Weekly and its agenda, depicting only his most famous posters of the Dalai Lama, [Martin Luther] King and Ghandi. Conspicuously absent from the article and extremely relevant to the Jewish community was a scathing piece he did on Ariel Sharon titled, “Schmeckle in a Pickle” (in Hebrew-style letters), where Sharon is depicted as a bloodthirsty war criminal.

Conal’s art is not politics; it is defamation, which I see has become chic for the radical left and its sympathizers.

Nir Dayanoff, Los Angeles

‘The Passion’

I think J. Shawn Landres’ piece on how to get along with everyone in general, and Christians in particular: “‘Passion’ Response Dos and Don’ts” (Feb. 13) was not really needed. My rationale is this: Most Christian folks that I know regard Jews as fellow travelers along the road we are jointly on and see God as the same deity. My family has been friends with and has loved all of our Jewish neighbors for many years. I think it is kind of funny that Jews need an instruction book to deal with Christians. Most Christians that I know love and respect Jews.

David L. Wilson, via e-mail

The best actor Oscar should have gone to Mel Gibson. For acting as if “The Passion of the Christ” is not anti-Semitic when it shows Jews as stereotypes of greedy, bloodthirsty, vengeful and sadistic murderers; for acting as if the film is historically accurate while reducing Roman culpability so that he wouldn’t offend the Vatican (since he wanted their support even though he rejects their teachings on this very issue); for acting as if his refusal to renounce the Holocaust denials of his father were a question of loyalty, rather than an accurate reflection of his own distorted view of history; for all this and for convincing many in the media and the public, even in the Jewish community that a film filled with hate and violence is really a film of love and compassion, he deserves more than best actor. He deserves the lifetime achievement award.

Ellen Freyer, Los Angeles

Gaza Withdrawal

I take issue with Morton Klein’s assertion that an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would both reward and encourage terrorism (“Gaza Withdrawal Rewards Terrorism,” Feb. 27). For one thing, recent history of Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory has shown the exact opposite. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon, terrorist attacks on Israel decreased by 91 percent. Similarly, terrorist attacks virtually ceased when Israel withdrew from Egyptian territory in the Sinai.

In addition, the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza will decrease the pool of desperate Palestinians who have all but given up on hope and life and who are as a result easily recruited to engage in suicide attacks. With the injection of aid, the improvement of the economy and the resurgence of hope in Gaza following an Israeli withdrawal, these same Palestinians will choose life instead of death.

Finally, a withdrawal from Gaza would be in line with international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention, of which Israel is a signatory, explicitly prohibits the acquisition of territory by force, even for defensive purposes. Such a withdrawal should only be the first step to a withdrawal from the rest of the occupied territories. This would secure the lasting peace that both Israelis and Palestinians much deserve.

William S. van der Veen, American Task Force on Palestine Washington, D.C.

Tikkun Alone

I agree with Gene Lichtenstein’s characterization of the recent Tikkun conference as being both heartening and disappointing — but that’s where our agreement ends (“Tikkun Alone,” Feb. 27). The conference was disappointing because Tikkun (Michael Lerner) stubbornly refuses to learn any lessons: from the abject failure of Oslo; from Arafat’s total rejection of unprecedented Israeli concessions at Camp David and Taba; from three and a half years of Palestinian murder of 1,000 of our men, women and children. What was heartening, however, was reading that Lerner’s fringe, extreme-left-wing politics and policies are appealing to only a dwindling few.

Jeff Kandel, Los Angeles

Jewish Candidates

Tom Tugend’s article on Jewish candidates in the March 2 primary election was guilty of one serious omission (serious to me, anyway) — me! (“Jewish Candidates Fill County Ballot,” Feb. 27).

I am unopposed for the Republican nomination in the 42nd Assembly District. In November, I’ll be facing incumbent Paul Koretz.

Paul Morgan Fredrix , West Hollywood

Ed. Note: We regret the omission. Good luck in November.

Your Letters


I’m a member of Beth Chayim Chadashim. I want to say how heartening it is to read your words, and the words of Rabbi David Ellenson last week (“‘Til Death Do Us Part,” Feb. 13 and “Countering the Family Values Monopoly,” Feb. 6). You do so much to take the conversation out of the place of fear where it was put by the right wing, and put the focus back where it belongs — on the simple fact that we just want to live our lives, like everyone else.

Melanie Henderson, Los Angeles

While it was gratifying to see recent coverage in The Journal in support of gay/lesbian-themed TV shows (“Producer Channels Life Into ‘L Word,'” Feb. 6) and same-sex marriage (“‘Til Death Do Us Part,” Feb. 13), it was disheartening to see a bigoted reference in Amy Klein’s feature “Jerusalem for a Song” (Feb 6). In an otherwise laudatory account of David D’Or’s career and his selection this year to represent Israel in the 49th Eurovision international song competition, Klein wrote: “Since it began competing in 1973, Israel has won the contest three times, most infamously with transsexual Dana International in 1998.” Merriam-Webster defines the word “infamous” as “having a reputation of the worst kind, disgraceful.”

On the contrary, at the time, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Dana International’s win: “I congratulated her and all those who took part in the effort. This appears to me to be deserving of congratulations. It’s definitely an honorable achievement.”

In short, Dana International’s success enjoyed the support of the vast majority of Israel’s leaders and public, right, left and center.

I might also add that Israel, in terms of attitudes toward and treatment of sexual minorities, has long been, and continues to be, more supportive and accommodating, both socially and legally, than either the United States or its Jewish communal institutions (The Jewish Journal included). Although the word “controversial” might have been more accurate of the press coverage at the time, I’m hoping Klein’s unfortunate word choice was a careless slip, rather than a deliberate decision. Still, an apology would be appreciated.

Scott Portnoff, Los Angeles

I found Rob Eshman’s editorial, “‘Til Death Do Us Part,” disturbing from a number of perspectives. For one, he quotes the late Rabbi Alexander Schindler, a leader of the Reform movement, as saying that “We cannot deny the demand for gay and lesbian visibility.” Schindler talks about visibility and Eshman uses that to support his argument in favor of state-sanctioned gay and lesbian marriages. Marriage was not what Schindler was speaking about. However, the most specious argument Eshman presents is that, “Logic and evidence indicates that legalizing gay marriage would strengthen, not weaken, families.” I wonder where Eshman uncovered evidence about gay marriages longevity since these unions do not exist in our country, and I question his logic. I have been a therapist for more than 20 years and would have never thought that gender identity is a guarantee for stronger family bonds. The gay and lesbian clients, colleagues and friends I have are faced with the same issues as everyone else. What kind of world of make believe is Eshman living in when he can use these arguments to try to convince me that legalized gay unions is a necessary development?

Avi Engel, Los Angeles

Regarding legalization of same-sex marriage: Laws are not meant to impose certain religious tenets on the population (“Countering the Family Values Monopoly,” Feb. 6 and “‘Til Death Do Us Part,” Feb. 13). They say the Bible refutes homosexuality. The Bible also says certain meats are to be avoided, women are not to talk in the church, we are not to work on the Sabbath (which was Saturday, not Sunday), we should all speak in tongues to prove our salvation and when women have their menstrual period they are unclean — among other things that nobody argues about.

No, when we talk same-sex marriage, we are talking about allowing discrimination or not allowing discrimination into our laws. If we allow discrimination against one group of people, then discrimination against other people is allowable.

Renee Durante, Sunnyvale

Hier vs. Gibson

As a Christian, I was mortified by Rabbi Marvin Hier’s attack against Mel Gibson for comparing the Holocaust with other slaughters. (“Hier: Gibson Is Insensitive,” Feb. 6)

Gibson’s statement that the Holocaust was one of many horrors of this century is true and does not diminish the importance of the Holocaust. Hier would do better to question the propaganda springing up by so-called Muslim mainstream groups about tolerance while holding Jews in contempt, rather than attack Christians, who believe in respect for Jews.

Caroline Miranda, North Hollywood

A Friendly Drink?

One wonders what Paul Berman was drinking when he wrote “A Friendly Drink in a Time of War” (Feb. 6). First, he accuses the left of a double standard in regard to the Arab world tolerating tyranny there but nowhere else. Next, he calls us anti-Semitic for allegedly singling out Israel for criticism. Most deluded, he proclaims the Iraq War an anti-fascist war.

The left has consistently decried not only Iraq’s, but all other despotic regimes in the region — most of which continue to enjoy near-unqualified U.S. support. It also decries unprovoked war against a sovereign nation. Israel is held to a higher standard precisely because it is the closest thing to a democracy; the left expects more of Israel, just as it expects more of the United States. And while it may be an anti-fascist war for Berman, does he seriously believe it was this for those who launched it? Democracy will only be tolerated in Iraq if it meets our geopolitical needs. This can be deduced not merely from our track record, but from our expanding alliances with the oil-rich and strategically significant former Soviet republics, most of which are at least as tyrannical as was Hussein’s Iraq.

Vincent Brook, Los Angeles

Another Israel

Gary Wexler is right (“Visit To Another Israel,” Feb. 6). We should stop kidding ourselves that Israel can exist without Judaism and that Judaism can exist without the Orthodox. Instead of seeing the Orthodox presence in Jerusalem as a negative, Wexler should thank God that the Orthodox are going to stick around for the long struggle — not because of a sentimental attachment to ancient history — but because we are commanded to do so today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that.

Elaine Leichter , Los Angeles

Lets get to what’s bugging [Gary] Wexler. (1) Jerusalem has been “overrun” by religious Jews “squeezing out a creative, secular population”; (2) Israel is building a “wall through the country… unnerving everyone”; and (3) Israel needs to present “creative” ideas in order to solve the Palestinian issues.

As to the first assertion, it is both bigoted and false. The majority of Jerusalem’s Jewish population for thousands of years has been Orthodox, not secular, and nowhere have I seen asserted, except by Wexler, that secular Jews are being squeezed out of the city. On the contrary, one sees in Jerusalem a growing trend (and somewhat disturbingly so) toward Westernization.

As to the second assertion, official U.S. sources, and even the usually biased press refer to the separation created by Israel as a fence or barrier. Only the spokesmen for the Arab world — and Wexler — refer to it as a wall, a real attempt to depict Israel as an apartheid state. Sharon has stated throughout the time since the United States presented the “road map,” that were the Palestinians to rid themselves of the terrorist groups, Israel would make substantial territorial concessions and recognize a Palestinian state. No movement has been made by the Palestinian Authority.

Finally, how can anyone accuse Israel of not being creative in its search for peace? The failed Oslo accord and the failed Camp David proposals are not testimony to a failure on the part of Israel to be creative, but rather a failure on the part of the Palestinians to abandon [Yasser] Arafat’s goal of eliminating Israel and its Jews.

Richard S. Weiner, Los Angeles

Hong Kong Jews

I hope you know that Jonathan Kesselman’s article, “Jews in Hong Kong?” (Jan. 9), is extremely offensive to people of Chinese and Asian descent.

Is it common practice for The Jewish Journal to publish cheap racist stereotypes and try to pass them off as articles?

Radford Tam, Via e-mail

Alon Carmel and JDate

I read your cover story on (“Desperately Seeking Souls,” Feb. 13) and wanted to send this letter. I live in New Jersey and joined JDate a few months ago because I wanted to meet a Jewish woman.

There are profiles of women pictured wearing crucifixes and openly stating they are not Jewish. When others and I have complained we were told, “There is nothing we can do about it.”

A Jewish dating service is supposed to be for Jews only and by allowing a large number of non-Jews to join, the owners of JDate are doing the opposite of what they supposedly desire. It’s time they state on their site what the “J” in JDate stands for and when they find a profile of a man or woman that says they are not Jewish to remove the profile.

Mark Jeffery Koch, via e-mail

The article about Alon Carmel’s meteoric rise from growing up in “Mosad Ahava,” an orphanage in Israel, to becoming the successful cofounder of JDate was both heartfelt and inspirational. Alon has never forgotten the love and support that was given to him as a young child growing up in AHAVA. As an adult, he approached the Bnai Zion Foundation in Los Angeles and asked our organization to adopt AHAVA as one of our projects. AHAVA now represents one of our five ongoing projects in Israel including the Bnai Zion Hospital in Haifa, the Quittman Center for the developmentally challenged, the Library of Peace and the David Yellin College of Education. We are proud to have Alon Carmel as an active member of our Bnai Zion Board of Directors.

George W. Schaeffer, National Foundation Chairman Bnai Zion

Irving Moskowitz

I was shocked and appalled to read a hate and trashy letter in your Feb. 6 issue, assassinating the character of Dr. Irving Moskowitz (“Irving Moskowitz”). Moskowitz is a great American benefactor and a great Jewish patriot for many years. How could The Jewish Journal print such a hateful piece of trash without checking into the truth of this matter? Who is the author of that piece of garbage and what is his agenda? With people like that so-called rabbi, the Jewish people do not need other enemies.

Bernard Nichols , Los Angeles

Your Letters

The Kosher Queen

One month before the revolution, my family and I fled Iran and headed for London (“An Unkosher Affair,” Jan. 23). Early on, I was invited to a Hadassah meeting at the home of Rabbi Emmanuel Jacobowitz, where Mrs. Jacobowitz welcomed me with open arms. One of the many interesting stories that she told was about their meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.

It began when the rabbi was invited to speak before Parliament. He spoke about medical ethics and morality. The queen made a special point of telling him how inspired she was by his ability to speak about the issues so honestly. Soon, a dinner invitation was extended to the rabbi and his wife. Rabbi Jacobowitz thanked the queen but declined. The queen was very surprised and asked why. The rabbi explained that they only eat kosher food. The queen replied, “Tomorrow I will have our kitchen koshered to your standards.” The night of the dinner arrived and the rabbi and his wife went to Buckingham Palace for a kosher meal. It was a wonderful event. It makes me wonder if the queen of England can go to the trouble of koshering her palace as a sign of recognition and honor, why shouldn’t we in Los Angeles expect the same from our own Jewish institutions?

Lilly Gohar Bolour, Los Angeles

Family Values

Well, thank you, thank you, thank you (“Countering the Family Values Monopoly,” Feb. 6).

Our congregation, as well as others in the ELCA-Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has been asked to study the issues of homosexuality vis-a-vis the issues of ordination and the blessings of same-sex unions.

Most of the folks who are involved with the study in our congregation have family members who are gay and/or lesbian.

This article will serve us Lutherans as a reminder from our learned Jewish brothers and sisters that scripture is indeed alive and flowing throughout our lives and history.

David Niederloh, Portland, Ore.

Benny Morris

Only Arafat’s war of terror drove Benny Morris to acknowledge the truth about the conflict in which the Jews have been seeking to coexist but the Arab refused to accept any Jewish State (“Q&A With Benny Morris,” Jan. 30). And herein lies, as well, the emblematic importance of Morris’ case. For his is the dilemma of the Israeli left, who are shocked by the intifada in recognition of the country’s true situation, but not yet prepared to embrace the justice of the Israeli’s cause. To this dangerous condition of moral paralysis, the lies and distortions of the new historians have made significant contribution over the years and none more significant than that made by Morris. They created a moral comfort zone for the Arab terror to murder Jews.

Amit Peles, Corona

Gary Wexler

I don’t know what is sadder — the anti-Semitic slurs of Gary Wexler (“Visit To Another Israel,” Feb. 6), hordes of Charedim chasing enlightened liberal secularists out of Jerusalem; or the fact that the editors of a “communitywide” liberal Jewish paper find no problem publishing these remarks.

Bunia Newman, Los Angeles

A Friendly Drink

Paul Berman’s fictitious “A Friendly Drink in A Time of War” (Feb. 6) is very well done. It highlights the great chasm that according to Berman separates classical Marxists from the present day left, the latter so morally confused, as to see George W. as a fascist threat, not Saddam Hussein!

I would venture to say that nothing has really changed: The classic Communists in America were making excuses while Stalin was busy butchering millions. The Soviet Union virtually invented and then nurtured Arab terrorism beginning with Yasser Arafat. In gratitude for his support from Jewish Communists, Stalin graciously lined them up and shot them.

Berman’s article should say to Jews on the left that it is time to smell the coffee, and it sure smells stronger than Starbucks’!

Richard Friedman, Venice

Political Loyalties

I can’t understand why Jews, in general, have such an affinity and irrational loyalty to the Democratic Party. When I speak with most “liberals” (that are reasonable and haven’t fallen off the deep end) I find that we agree on at least 80 percent of the issues yet we vote exactly the opposite. They consistently vote against their own beliefs. It is so refreshing to have a strong president that is ethically and morally in line with Jewish values rather than the trickle down immorality and corruption of the last administration. I’m afraid that if a Democrat gets elected he will pull our troops out too soon. We must finish the job or our troops will have died in vain. Today’s Democratic party has been hijacked by the left and is not the party it was.

Dr. Sabi Israel, West Hills


The candle-lighting time for Feb. 6 was incorrect. The time should have been 5:10 p.m., not 5:17 p.m. We regret the error.

The Jan. 30 For The Kids incorrectly stated that 15th of Shevat is Rosh Chodesh. The correct answer is Tu B’Shevat. Also, Rosh Chodesh happened the week prior.

Your Letters

Kosher Consumers

I was dismayed to see inaccuracies in Gaby Wenig’s article, “Kosher Consumers for a New Age” (Jan.23). She reports that USDA laws permit canned or packaged vegetarian or dairy products to contain up to .2 percent of unlisted animal byproducts, which could also include insect pieces and rat hair.

This is a repetition of a misleading old fallacy (usually 2 percent). Firstly, it is the FDA that regulates prepared food ingredients, not the USDA, and in a simple perusal of the FDA rules and regulations, one would discover that all ingredients must be listed in order of volume. Below 2 percent, the order is not required, but must still be listed, down to trace (nonedible) ingredients that are less than a few parts per million, and sometimes even those must be listed.

And, as far as I know, unhygienic additions such as rat hairs and insect parts (it’s only whole bugs that are forbidden by the Torah), revolting as it sounds, do not present a kashrut problem, and are often found in such Kashrut Agency supervised products as cereals and breads.

Martin Brody, Westwood

Zvi Mazel

Regarding the action taken by Zvi Mazel, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden (“Home Repair,” Jan. 23), Mazel is a career diplomat in the service of the State of Israel. He is very experienced. He knew that the sorriest example he could offer would be to remain silent and to do nothing. He is a shining example to decent people everywhere.

Yossie Kram, Los Angeles

Kabbalah Centre

I am compelled to write you for the first time, unfortunately in outrage. The blasphemous cover of the last Jewish Journal included the holy symbol of the sfirot combined with pictures of Madonna and Britney Spears representing each sfirah (Jan. 30). I understand these pop stars study a light form of kabbalah, but at what expense will you go to prove a point?

The article that followed was nothing short of gossip, or in Jewish terms loshen hara, from a person who had ulterior motives by putting down an organization he knows nothing about. If this person wants to make an informed opinion as to what the Kabbalah Centre teaches then he needs to attend the full course and then he will be more qualified to give an opinion.

I have not mentioned many of the other forms of gossip found in this article and it is not my intent to say that the Kabbalah Centre is a perfect organization.

I attended and took classes their for six years and with all its faults it is because of these classes that I began my path back to Judaism and today I am shomer Shabbos and observe all of the Jewish holidays. For most people the center is the first stop on their journey back to Judaism; and as for the non-Jews, most of the teachings taught at the center are less kabbalah and more basic principles that involve concepts like sharing to draw the light of Hashem.

Jay Davies, Santa Monica

Benny Morris

It is hard to believe that Benny Morris, an enlightened Israeli historian, would condone the expulsion of innocent populations as a way to peace (“Q&A With Benny Morris,” Jan. 30). But there it is! He puts himself in the company with the likes of King Ferdinand and Isabella, Maria Teresa, Hitler, Stalin, Hamas and any number of medieval and modern despots.

His argument is especially strange, since he writes a whole book on how the expulsion of Arabs created — not eliminated — the obstacle to peace between the Arabs and the Jews. Even his analysis of how the creation of Israel could not have been possible were it not for expulsion, is false. In 1948, we grabbed much more territory than mandated by the U.N Partition Plan. The plan addressed the demographic issue.

Now that the truth is out about Haganah atrocities, how can we claim that, unlike the Arab suicide bombers, we never spilled innocent blood of civilians? Is Arafat to restrain himself from “making omelets” when Morris claims that it is perfectly all right to “break eggs” in the process?

Rabbi Hillel, the premier guiding spirit of Judaism — do unto others as you would to yourself — must be turning over in his grave.

Shame on us.

Irwin Grossman, Los Angeles

Security Barrier

The nerve of this Luis Lainer to write, “Just like Groucho Marx … Sharon is declaring his intention to leave and stay at the same time” (“Hello I Must Be Going,” Jan. 23).

We believe that the State of Israel has been forced to build this fence or barrier to try to protect the lives of the people of the democratic State of Israel.

Mr. & Mrs. Herbert Braaf, Woodland Hills

Vegetarian Diet

Thank you for printing Richard H. Schwartz’s article, “Mad People Disease” (Jan. 16). I appreciated his urging Jews to be a “light unto nations” by promoting compassion for all living creatures. I am struggling with cancer and agree with Rachel Carson, who wrote “Silent Spring” in the 1960s, that cancer is an inevitable result of poor agricultural decisions, pesticides, and as Schwartz points out, “the many ways that the widespread production and consumption of meat and animal products threatens humanity.”

I believe the widespread epidemic of breast cancer, just to name one cancer, is today’s “wake-up call” (referring to Schwartz’s reference to a modern-day Joseph interpreting dreams Pharaoh dreams) that would help imperiled people like me and others, including animals who suffer on this human-ravaged planet.

Joy Oakes, Santa Monica

Adam Gilad

Adam Gilad’s column is a thinly disguised personal ad (“The First Step,” Jan. 23). He tells us he is recently divorced, but is into long-term relationships, he has a new car, he is interested in the arts, he enjoys planning dates, goes to expensive restaurants and he will not even consider sex unless it might lead to marriage! My guess is that Adam’s mother reads The Jewish Journal.

Anonymous, Brentwood

‘The Passion’

Regarding Mel Gibson’s interpretation of the Gospel stories called “The Passion,” these Passion plays have been going on for a long time and have little or nothing to do with history or fact, and a lot to do with faith and belief (“Will Jesus Film Poison Christian-Jewish Ties?” and “No Local Plans to Quench ‘Passion,'” Jan. 30).

Unfortunately, Gibson’s slavish loyalty to the views of the early Christian fathers will not do anything constructive to increase the great tendency in our 21st century society to bridge the gaps or barriers to religious and social pluralism and genuine tolerance so necessary for our democracy and peace of mind.

Steve Roisman, Los Angeles

Living Wage

Marc Ballon’s article “Low Wages Force Workers to Struggle” (Jan. 2) bravely and insightfully addressed a serious issue for the Jewish community. It’s always easier to look at the injustices suffered by workers outside of one’s own community than inside.

AFSCME Local 800, which represents 450 agency workers, is dedicated to fair, livable wages for employees of the Jewish community. For example, in last year’s negotiations we secured an agreement with Jewish Family Service (JFS) to raise the minimum hourly wage rate to $9 per hour. This resulted in approximately 20 employees getting raises beyond the 2 percent cost-of-living raise we negotiated for everyone.

In addition, for several years JFS management had routinely asked the union to agree to waive the city of Los Angeles’ “living-wage” ordinance. Last year, reflecting a change in policy, the union refused to do so, resulting, I believe, in three other workers getting additional increases.

Despite these modest successes, major struggles remain for the union. Employees in many classifications continue to earn less than their counterparts in non-Jewish agencies. In the last negotiations, we tried to get management to join us and jointly survey wages in the nonprofit community, but they would not. We will try again more forcefully in negotiations this spring. We also hope to bring other workers into the union, those who work at the many nonunion Jewish agencies and temples, so that we can speak with one voice for all and help bring justice and a living wage to all.

Jon Lepie, Labor Consultant to AFSCME, Local 800 Washington, D.C.

Irving Moskowitz

Whether the Irving Moskowitz organization should be granted a gaming license to fund extremist groups in Israel ought to be contextualized in the framework of the larger war against terror in which the United States and Israel are allies (“Gaming Hearing Takes Israel Spin,” Dec. 26). When, for instance, the Moskowitz people sponsor a Web site game, “Judenrat,” which invites participants to assassinate Israeli government leaders, that is the kind of hate speech that the California Gaming Commission needs to evaluate in determining the applicant’s moral fitness to be granted a gaming license. But, beyond the issues of political racketeering in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem that have been raised, The Jewish Journal article did not address the documented instances of political violence sponsored by the Moskowitz organization.

In this post-Sept. 11 world in which the forces of freedom are fighting an organized barbarism menacing the biblical values of both Israel and America, even the issuance of a gambling permit is at stake in the equation of homeland security. Just as the Shin Bet and other Israeli security authorities have had to contend with Moskowitz’s interference with their struggle against violence and terror in the Jewish state, so the California authorities are fulfilling a crucial role in the war against terror by regulating funds that may be used to make Israel’s struggle more difficult. As Californians and voters, we should expect from our public officials nothing less.

Rabbi Jeffrey N. Ronald. Lands of the Covenant, Ltd.


In “Home Repair” (Jan. 23), an incorrect Web siteaddress was given for the charity Susan’s House. The correct address for Susan’sHouse is .