Letters to the Editor: Young Jewish hipsters, struggling with God

Keeping the Community Young and Vibrant

We applaud The Jewish Journal and Julie Gruenbaum Fax for the wonderful cover story “Fueling the jFed Generation” (June 1). We commend The Jewish Federation and its leadership for their tireless efforts to engage young adults in Jewish life. The Federation’s new Young Adults of Los Angeles (YALA) initiative and its collaborations with dozens of young adult organizations are instrumental in ensuring the future vitality of our community. This undertaking is a direct result of the synergy between the Jewish Community Foundation’s Cutting Edge Grants Initiative and the Jewish Federation’s elevating young adults to a top priority.

Lorin M. Fife

Marvin Schotland
President and CEO

Jewish Community Foundation
Los Angeles

Holy Hipsters! The pursuit of the hip, rather than informed planning, is characteristic of our current local “organized” Jewish community.

Only a decade since L.A. Jewish Federation forced the closure and began the sell-off (for pennies on the dollar) of most of our Jewish community centers, Federation is announcing a multimillion-dollar initiative to rediscover the wheel and call them “hubs” or small-c centers.

Most of the communal real estate of Los Angeles’ JCCs is gone. New Jewish Community High School is the proud new bargain owner of the West Hills site of Milken JCC, the Help Group now occupies the former Valley Cities JCC, the North Valley JCC Granada Hills campus was sold to an Orthodox trade school, Bay Cities JCC was sold for $3.3 million and is now 44 units of affordable housing built by the Community Corp. of Santa Monica. The then “hip” Shalhevet High School occupying the corner of Fairfax and San Vicente, now over-housed and heavily mortgaged, was the failed suitor of the remaining, still thriving, Westside JCC.

Call them Jewish hubs, small-c centers or whatever you will. If the L.A. Federation had saved the JCCs and their skilled professionals with a proven century of successful Jewish communal service for a mere $2 million in 2001, it likely wouldn’t be planning to spend tens of millions of dollars now on trendy “social entrepreneurs” to fill the Jewish vacuum it created.

Pini Herman
Carthay Circle

Your “Holy Hipsters!” could have been a report issued from the fabled Chelm, where learned decisions did not stand the test of common sense.

All this money, you report, is being spent to attempt to capture a lost generation. To ensure a Jewish future? Why doesn’t even one writer look at the reality? 

Why not see what happens when you apply real-world statistics? I refer to the current fertility, education and other factors of known demographics: Today, the average fertility rate among Jewish American women is a shocking .9 children per Jewish mother. And post-pubescent Jewish education after bar or bat mitzvah for secular/liberal Jewish children is close to nonexistent, except for summer camp and the handful of confirmation students.

Unless fertility and Jewish education rates change significantly and immediately, it makes not the slightest difference if the community pours $100 million on the unaffiliated young Jews who then tikkun the world to pieces. What counts is whether anyone can influence them to average no fewer than three children per Jewish mother and that they will pay for all of them to have a liberal day school Jewish education through high school. The chances of that happening are virtually nil. 

Thus, all these wonderful programs and expenditures, as brilliant as any from Chelm, will have no effect at all on mitigating the future demise of the American secular/liberal Jewish community and all their institutions within two generations. Reality: It is only the Orthodox who, without much help from The Federation, are truly ensuring the Jewish future of Los Angeles with both their birth rates and expenditures on yeshiva education though high school or beyond.

Gary Dalin

Atheists Struggle With God, Too
I was pleased to read Dennis Prager’s article about struggling with God (“Israel Means ‘Struggle With God,’ ” June 1). Unlike him, though, I would say that atheists very much struggle with God. How much emotion is present to deny the One of which one is part? Everyone, the secular included, struggles every day with God.

My path most would designate as Hindu. For 50 years, I have practiced India’s yoga culture, associating closely with its scholars and saints to imbibe their wisdom and love. Although there is only one God, all have their unique relationship with Him. As the relationship (yoga) becomes more intimate, so do the arguments.

Sectarianism is ignorance. Those who enact blasphemy laws or laws forbidding conversion are themselves the greatest blasphemers and the most faithless. Feeling impotent in the free market of religious ideas, they hate God’s handiwork of variety and free will. A suicide bomber wants to kill God’s arrangement and make others submit to his own.

As Einstein commented, “Atheists are fanatics.” The uninterested are just uninteresting, not considering worlds beyond their own. A true rabbi is one who knows God speaks in many languages, passing constant tests of love, including acceptance that He may become more intimate with others in religions other than his own.

Roy Richard
Culver City