Letters to the Editor: American Jews, GOP Bibi and Greenberg’s cartoon


Together We Stand?

Rob Eshman’s article got it right, but perhaps it is a message that should also be sent to our fellow Americans who are not Jewish (“American Jews and the Israeli Election,” March 27). Sadly, though many of us might have agreed with several points in his speech to the U.S. Congress, Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrogance and disdain for the office of the presidency of the U.S. served to blur the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism by some in the media and among many non-Jewish Americans who disliked Israel’s policies in the first place. It has taken [us, as] Jews, years in this country to shed the yoke of “disloyal other,” and now I feel, perhaps for the first time since the mid-20th century, it is necessary to remind ourselves and our fellow non-Jewish citizens, as Eshman said … “[Jews in the U.S.] are living very different lives [from Jews in Israel] and have developed two distinct families of a very small family.” Regrettably, through millennia of Jewish history, we have learned it doesn’t take much to awaken the dormant seeds of anti-Semitism. We American Jews will continue to fight for, and never forsake the need nor existence of, a Jewish homeland. But, toward that end, it is important to recognize our need to maintain the support of America’s citizens.

Stu Bernstein, Santa Monica

Though Eshman may feel alienated from his Jewish roots, his Jewish culture, his Jewish-Israeli relatives and his Jewishness, that is not necessarily the case for all of us American Jews. The notion that “the greatest myth American Jews have been telling ourselves is that Israeli Jews are just like us” is exactly contrary to the reality of the situation. The greatest “myth” is that we are not one people. The squabbling between us is not between us and the other, it is the squabbling between brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers.  

We are of highly mixed racial, geographic and national backgrounds, but the cultural, moral and philosophical stamp of Jewishness is indelible and just as legible to an Israeli as to another member of our shul. 

Just because Israelis talk too loudly on their cell phones, enjoy the kind of confrontation not considered genteel in America and ask intrusive questions of near-strangers, does not mean they are not us. As much as he may not want to identify with people like that, he is them. And they will accept him when push comes to shove … assuming there is still a refuge for us in the Middle East.

Matthew Ehrenberg, Chatsworth

You Will Respect My Authority

Israelis have a right to their own choices and owe no one else an explanation for how they vote (“Israelis Are Not That Weird,” March 27). Most Americans think the same way and most Israelis respect our right of choice as well. The problem is that an activist minority in each nation constantly meddles in the other nation’s business, and this more than all else is the source of our present conflicts. No one can possibly detest [Benjamin Netanyahu] more than I do, but I totally respect the right of Israelis to choose their own leaders. So do most other American Jews, and so, most likely, do Israelis respect our right to our own choices. This article makes no sense unless we are telling each other what to do, and if we are, this must stop at once.

John Thomas via jewishjournal.com

Blame Game

Raphael Sonenshein’s portrayal of Benjamin Netanyahu as “the most revered Republican leader since Ronald Reagan” is simply cartoonish (“The New Republican Hero,” March 27). I do not know how many conservative colleagues Professor Sonenshein has at the Pat Brown Institute, but I enjoy working with many, mostly non-Jewish. They see Bibi as this age’s Winston Churchill, not for his conservatism, but for his moral clarity.

Jay Braun, Los Angeles

Neither Netanyahu nor the Republican Party is at fault for the present poor relations between the Obama administration and the Israeli government. The rift is the result of the fact that Obama has shifted American policy away from Israel for the sake of cutting a bad deal with Iran. Netanyahu also understands the major flaws in Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East, as do the Republicans. The main reason that Obama and large parts of the Democratic Party are so hostile is that Netanyahu also had the guts to articulate the problems, especially in the negotiations with Iran.

Christopher Arend via jewishjournal.com

Friendly Fire

I find it sad and frustrating that a Jewish publication would print cartoons almost every week with vitriol toward the democratically elected prime minister of Israel, voted for by the majority of Jews in Israel and for very good reasons (“Greenberg’s View,” March 27). Steve Greenberg can hardly hide his hatred of a man who simply wants to defend his country against those who wish to destroy it. Those left of center simply hate Benjamin Netanyahu, which also means they must actually hate the good Jewish citizens of Israel who keep electing him back to office.

Melissa Cohen via email

Daughter finds the write words from dad


My father rarely wrote anything down. Take birthday cards, for example: While my mother would embellish the printed message with sweet, loving passages and hand-drawn hearts, my father’s heavy script only appeared at the bottom, where he signed his name. It seemed strange for a man who told me, when I began writing fiction in grade school, that he once wanted to be an author.

As I got older, I realized his reticence stemmed from something deeper — it was hard for him to express emotions, either verbally or on the page. He rarely spent quality time with me, and never seemed interested in my personal life. Sure, he would praise a high test score at the dinner table or, on rare occasions, help me with a math problem or science project, but conversation never flowed naturally between us. Our brief exchanges usually petered out when he turned back to the TV or the newspaper, detached. 

I grew envious of my friends’ relationships with their fathers. They had dads who remembered the names of their friends, who shared inside jokes, who lent a patient ear during times of teen angst. I couldn’t imagine confiding in my father about a crush or any kind of school drama. He only seemed to care whether I kept enough gas in the car. There was a moat between us, and eventually, neither of us remembered how to cross it. 

Just before I left for college, we seemed to find common ground. He was perpetually immersed with books about geopolitics, and I was hungry to expand my worldview. He began to treat me as an intellectual partner, if not an emotional one. We talked stocks, commodities markets, global finances. I felt privileged that he was finally lavishing me with attention. 

One day, in a moment of boldness, I suggested, “Why don’t you write me a book?” It would give him a chance to become the author he wanted to be, and it would also fulfill a selfish desire of mine: I craved more communication from him; I was starved for his words. But he never picked up a pen. 

When Alzheimer’s disease began to set in six years ago, my father’s writing, ironically, was our first clue. My mother and I began to find notes around their house — email addresses taped to the computer screen, phone numbers scrawled on the desk and on filing cabinets. Once, we found a short paragraph he had written, describing the nature of his Army service in the 1950s. Its only purpose that we could fathom was to preserve the memory. I held onto it — even a few sentences in his choppy hand were better than nothing. 

The years of distance between us have taken their toll. Now that my father stays in a nursing home, I don’t visit him as often as I could. There is even less to say than before, when he still remembered what I do, where I live, my husband and cats — when he could easily recall my name. 

But a few months ago, my father’s second cousin in Israel called with a bombshell: My dad had written him letters over the years. Lots of them.

Letters? When he could barely sign a greeting card? 

Not only that, but my father’s relative had dutifully preserved them. He scanned a few so I could see them, and I caught my breath as the images popped up on my computer screen. 

October 2000: Rachel has one more year in high school, so we are starting to look for a university she could attend. She is mostly interested in art, literature and creative writing.

March 2002: Rachel will be starting her university education in late August. She will be 200 miles away and we will miss her.

I felt gobsmacked. So there was life on the other side of the moat, after all. And caring. And pride. Had I missed something?

As my father’s illness progresses, the channels between us are opening in other surprising ways: He’s starting to say all of the things he never could when he was well. When he sees me walk into the room now, his knitted brow relaxes and the corners of his mouth turn upward. On walks, he asks to hold my hand. He kisses my fingers and tells me, “You’re beautiful.” 

When I was sitting next to him on the couch recently, he suddenly turned to me, clutched my hand and announced, “My darling girl.” I was stunned. Had I been his darling girl this whole time? Why didn’t he say so?

Yet maybe, in his own way, he did. I printed the letters and showed his heartfelt sentiments to my mother. 

“Shocking, right?” I asked her.

“Not shocking,” she countered. “You don’t remember everything.”

“What don’t I remember?”

“How much he cared for you.”

So maybe there’s another side to the narrative. Maybe I, too, am guilty of forgetting — of focusing only on my resentment and the ways I felt cheated over the years, of holding fast to my grudge. Thinking back, maybe I closed my ears to my dad and ignored the quiet hum of how he felt. Just because he didn’t say kind words out loud doesn’t mean they weren’t there. 

After seeing his thoughts written down — uttered, it turns out, to someone else — I’m starting to re-evaluate his constant inquiries about the gas in my car, about whether I lock my doors at night. That might have been the closest he could come to saying, “You’re important to me.”

I can’t ask my father for closure now; there’s no point in replaying memories he can no longer recall. Maybe memory only has so much value, anyway. Maybe there is healing in letting go. 

Diary of an IDF Father


These are the e-mails of Marvin Hankin, father of two IDF soldiers, Aviel and Gilad, currently stationed in Gaza. Aviel, age 27, is a medical officer for his unit; in August, he will finish the first year of his five-year commitment. Gilad, 22, was drafted into the tank corps at age 19; he will complete his three-year commitment in November. Marvin lives in Jerusalem with his wife Irit.

July 25, 2014

The war here has been going on now for just over 2 1/2 weeks.  Hamas fires 100 to 120 rockets every day into Israel.  Over 2,000 rockets have been fired into Israel since this present war started.

When rockets are fired against the targets in Israel, air raid sirens sound out in the target area.  Towns close to Gaza have 15 seconds to run to the nearest air raid shelter. Here in Jerusalem, we have 90 seconds to run down the stairs to shelter in the basement of our building.  Another plus for living on the first floor. Even inside the shelter, we can hear the overhead explosion as the “Iron Dome” anti-missile system intercepts the incoming rocket.  We are instructed to remain inside the shelter for 10 minutes as debris from the overhead explosion fall to the ground, and these can also cause damage and injury.  Actually, it has been quiet here in Jerusalem as we haven't had a rocket here now for the past week.

Aviel and Gilad are both in the army now and are either inside Gaza or on the border of Gaza waiting to go in. They have been there for the past three weeks.  Both are in the tank corps, but in different battalions. Aviel is a medical officer. He is the only doctor for his whole battalion, and as his tank goes into Gaza, he goes in, riding in the back of a tank, treats the wounded soldiers, and sends them back out of Gaza to hospitals for further treatment. Aviel will be in the army for a total of five years. Gilad is in the army for a total of three years, and he now is close to the end of his service — he finishes at the end of November.  He is the gunner inside a tank. His unit is also inside Gaza, but he is just outside the border of Gaza.

We usually hear about once a day from the boys. But Aviel's cell phone battery has just run out, and he has no facilities to recharge.  Out last message from him was yesterday.

The two boys are at an area that must be about the most dangerous a person can imagine. Of course, this keeps Irit and me awake at night.  For the last two weeks now.

There is talk of a cease fire.  On a national level, we feel there should not be a cease fire until the Israeli army has completely destroyed hamas' ability to fire rockets and has completely destroyed all the tunnels.  On a personal level, for us, a cease fire can't come too soon. We haven't seen the boys in almost a month, and we want them home for dinner with us.  The sooner the better.

UPDATE

Gilad just called us.  A soldier in his unit was killed just a short while ago.  He was quite upset. It was also just notified on the TV.

July 28

Aviel has been inside Gaza ever since the ground offensive started. His battery for his cell phone ran out and we haven't heard from him since this past Friday.

We hear each day from Gilad as he is able to keep his phone charged up on the field generator.  He has been on the border of Gaza since this campaign began, but hasn't actually entered Gaza.

Israel has been generally successful in intercepting the hamas rockets using the “Iron Dome” anti-missile system.  Now for a couple of days, hamas has introduced the use of mortars.  These are a low tech short range weapon and the anti-missile system is useless against it. 

A few hours ago, a mortar was fired over the border and landed very near Gilad.  He was not injured, but four of his friends were killed before his eyes and two others were seriously injured. His unit has been moved a few kilometers further back out of the range of the mortars.  Gilad phoned us.  He is quite upset, very disturbed and very distraught.  He feels he needs to talk right now to a psychologist. Of course, we have an expert psychologist in the family but she is too far away to help. 

How nice if the army would let Gilad come home for a few days.  Would he likely go back to the war after a few days at home?  Knowing his character, the answer would be a loud yes.

July 29

We spoke to Gilad today. He spent a rather restless night, with thoughts of the bloody events from yesterday in his head all night.

He explained to us just what happened.  He was sitting at the encampment with a circle of friends.  He got up to walk over to a box to take out something just when a mortar struck at just the place he had been sitting a minute before.  Four of his friends died and two were seriously injured.  He was unhurt.  But very upset at the sight before his eyes. 

The commander of the unit had a long talk with the soldiers last night and again this morning to reassure them.  An army officer is to visit them later during the day.  She is a social worker and psychologist — I didn't get clear her position.  He did sound a lot better than last night.  Of course, last night just after the event, he was understandably upset.

UPDATE

After not hearing from him since Friday, Aviel finally called this afternoon.  He still does not have any battery on his cell phone, but he was able to use a friend's phone to call us. He is well and was in good spirits.  For most of the last three weeks, he has spent most of his time in the back of a tank. That's how he travels to the battlefield in Gaza.  And it is where he sleeps.  Because it is a safe place, and he is ready to go if he is needed urgently.  The back space in the tank seems to be tiny, but he says that if he is tired enough, he is able to sleep.

Gilad seems to be a lot better.  He is still in mourning for his friends. But when we spoke, he seemed to be in good spirits. A lot better than at this time yesterday.

We hope we will continue to get daily contact with the two of them.

July 31

We spoke this morning with both Gilad and Aviel.  Aviel for only a few seconds as he is always on the move.  But he had a short break and they took them to a facility where they had a shower, and he said he feels like a mensch.  A real treat. Gilad had a little more time to talk with us.  He is better, but we could tell from his voice that he still suffers mentally from his recent tragic experience. They have three army officers who speak to them all the time. I guess we have to expect it to take a while for him.

This is Thursday noon.  If there is not some unexpected drastic development in the next 24 hours, it looks like we will have another erev shabbat dinner tomorrow without our two soldiers.  That makes our dinner table seem way too under populated. We like a nice family crowd for our Friday night dinners.

August 4

Gilad is home!!!   What a nice surprise!!!

There was a memorial service for one of his friends who were killed a week ago.  The memorial service was at his hometown of Safed, and a number of soldiers from Gilad's unit went by an army bus.  When the service was over, they allowed Gilad to come home for a day.  Maybe two??

I just picked him up at Jerusalem's central bus station and brought him home.  We haven't seen him in over a month now.  He looks fine now. How really good to see him.  With a beard.  A bit thinner now.  He hasn't had much of an appetite since the incident a week ago. Maybe some of his favorite home cooking will help him over that.

Now it's Aviel's turn to come home.  Cross your fingers everyone.

Poem: Alphabets


I have always believed in the alchemy of letters 
                                  but never in their permanence.
       
Just look how the aleph was stripped of its
rightly earned place to begin the Torah
                                  how the bet is sheltered —
but only on three sides
             so its wind tunnel thrusts the reader forward.
       
                             In Russian the silent letters gather in the cheek like
             magic pebbles waiting to drop from the tongue. And the chutzpah

of English, its misleading spelling. Tell me, how can anyone
                                      ever learn it?

I have returned to America, but my dreams are a kite whose tail is strung with
                    alphabets of all these languages and when I awaken

to the Morse Code of birds in the oak tree I do not know
how to translate this into prayer.


Carol V. Davis is the author of “Between Storms” (Truman State University Press, 2012). She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry for “Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg,” 2007.

Letters to the Editor: Mark Rosenblum, Homeless Sukkah, Vista Del Mar


More on the Crusader

Rob Eshman’s praise of Mark Rosenblum’s decades-long battle for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle is well deserved (“The Crusader,” Aug. 23). I’ve worked with Mark for years, share his passion, if not his energy in working for the two-state solution and fearing for Israel in the years ahead if the two-state solution fails. Charting current birth rates, Jews could be a minority in an Israel with a Palestinian majority. And then what happens? Following Mark’s vision, we must keep trying because failure leads to a very bleak, troubled tomorrow.

Richard Gunther
Los Angeles

While some may find Mark Rosenblum’s steadfastness and refusal to quit Peace Now’s liberal agenda [admirable], others would characterize it as a refusal to give up a pipe dream with no basis in reality.

No matter how much Peace Now wants to join with the Palestinians and carve out a beautiful and peaceful Middle East, the simple fact is the Palestinians don’t have any interest in this kind of partnership with us — not even Peace Now’s beloved PA [Palestinian Authority], which celebrates the murderers of our children as conquering heroes and won’t allow for a single Jew to live in its state if it were ever so fortunate to gain one. 

Rob Eshman finishes his fawning of Rosenblum by stating that the Palestinians “will have to find a formula to accept Israel as a Jewish state.” If they have so much trouble with this basic idea, and they do, what hope could there possibly be for a real peace except in the minds of dreamers and those with delusions who refuse to admit they were wrong from the get-go?

Allan Kandel
Los Angeles

In the Time of Elul

Lovely, David Suissa (“Love in the Time of Elul,” Aug. 23). I believe your answer is a) Forgiveness and b) Community! In Micah we find the prayer “Mi El Kamocha.” Micah does not see God as a Creator, nor a King, but a Forgiver.

Afshine Emrani
via jewishjournal.com

A  Sign of the Times

I agree with the letter writer who pointed out that buying the homeless person’s sign will deprive them of their communication device until they can manage to find the materials to make another one (Letters, Aug. 23; “HomelessSukkah.com,” Aug. 16). In the meantime, they may have lost their opportunity to get other donations. I have an alternate suggestion.

Don’t take their sign, just give them the donation. But, if possible, ask to take their photograph with their sign. Then print the photos large, and write their first name on it (so that they are not merely anonymous) and put them inside your sukkah on the walls as ushpizin guests. At night in the Sukkah, you can tell the story of where you met them, and their name, and their story if you know it.

Miriam Lippel Blum
Tucson, Ariz.

What’s Special at Vista Del Mar

Thank you so much to the Jewish Journal for sharing Vista Del Mar’s Jewish programming for families with children with special needs with the community (“Welcoming Special-Needs Families at Vista Del Mar,” Aug. 23). I wanted to clarify that our Nes Gadol (Great Miracle) b’nai mitzvah and confirmation classes and our amazing new Sundays at Vista Judaica serve children of all abilities. Many of our students with autism and other special needs are highly verbal, while others are challenged in the area of spoken communication. Whatever the case, we cherish our students and strive to create avenues for them to share their gifts with the community and shine. Founded on the principles of Elaine Hall’s the Miracle Project, all of our students are joyfully celebrated and embraced by the Vista Del Mar community. 

Rabbi Jackie Redner
Rabbi in Residence, Vista Del Mar

 
Cuba’s Painful History

The heartfelt article by Isabel Kaplan is the story of hundreds of a younger generation of Cubans anxious to discover the origins of their identities (“Cuba: Land of My Bubbe,” July 26). Cuba was the home of their families, divided, destroyed and uprooted half a century ago. For somebody, like me, who left Havana so many decades ago, I deeply understand the need we all have to go back, some to learn where they come from, some to walk on the pages of our history. But it is not so easy. At least for me, and for many of my generation.

What was once a dream was turned into a nightmare; what was a republic was transformed into a totalitarian state; where religions flourished, the land was made an atheist state. To say that “even Fidel Castro has a soft spot for the Jews” is very naive. The man is a chameleon and will do and say anything in order to achieve his purposes.

Castro does not have a soft spot for Jews, or Catholics, or intellectuals, or gays. Castro, who destroyed a very prosperous nation (with all the imperfections that that implies), will do anything to stay in power. And now, at his very old age, because he needs outside help, all of the sudden he has become like a gentle grandfather. Don’t buy it.

Raul De Cardenas
Los Angeles, CA

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


If You Have Nothing to Hide …

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

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

Brian Freed, Netanya, Israel via jewishjournal.com


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

Karen Joseph Gilman via jewishjournal.com


Issues at the Western Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ilbert Phillips via jewishjournal.com


Respect Millepied, Portman as Individuals

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

Jessica Dunn via jewishjournal.com


The Value of Chabad

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

John A. Ostlund via jewishjournal.com


Support for Nazarian Center Benefits Everyone

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

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

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

Jane Sobo via jewishjournal.com


Kudos to New Graduates

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

Gail Rollman, Development Director, Friendship Circle of Los Angeles

Letters to the Editor: Prager on murder, Spiritual care, Christmas Mitzvah, Seeking former students


Prager on Murder

It is quite something to read Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion dean Joshua Holo’s caricature Dennis Prager as reckless, heedless, gratuitously hostile and a provocateur “painting in broad strokes of facile caricature” (Letters, Dec. 21), when that is precisely what he, not Prager, does.

Dennis Prager’s piece “Why Is Murder Wrong?” (Dec. 14) makes two extremely significant points. The first: God is inseparable from morality. If God does not exist, there is no such thing as an objective, or ultimate, source of morality, period. Prager’s assertion is philosophically sound. Without God, all we have left morally is personal opinion, even when it comes to murder.

Prager’s second point: The indispensable association of morality with God — the greatest single contribution of the Torah and the Jews — is rarely mentioned by non-Orthodox rabbis, let alone taught in non-Orthodox seminaries.

I am a Conservative rabbi who has attended annual rabbinic conferences for more than 22 years, along with having served on the board of several rabbinic organizations, and, of course, attending countless synagogue services here and abroad. My many years of experience in the rabbinate have taught me that Prager’s critique is unquestionably right: God as the source of ultimate morality is seldom, if ever, mentioned.

Impugning Dennis Prager doesn’t change this fact.

Rabbi Michael Gotlieb
via e-mail

 

It is sadly ironic that Dennis Prager’s column on knowing versus believing murder is wrong should appear on the same weekend as the horrific mass murder at an elementary school in Connecticut.

I would assert that more than 99 percent of Americans know/believe those murders in Connecticut were wrong, and that they don’t really much care about whether anyone can make a “provable” argument that those murders were wrong.

Rather than waste time trying to use an unprovable argument about God to convince the less than 1 percent that know/believe murder is right that they are provably wrong, perhaps it would be a better use of time to debate why 50 percent of the country thinks assault weapons should be legal, while 50 percent of the country thinks there is no compelling reason why anybody should be allowed to own an assault weapon.

Michael Asher
Valley Village

 

Importance of Spiritual Care

Your article “Soothing the Spirit” (Dec. 14) introduced an important aspect of healing not known to many. I commend the Jewish Journal for the in-depth coverage of spiritual care in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center as well as the value and importance of hospital chaplaincy services for people of all denominations.

Providence Tarzana Medical Center offers the same spiritual-care services to all of its patients, including those from the Jewish community. It also takes an interfaith approach to spiritual care. The team of professionally trained chaplains and spiritual advisors includes two rabbis, priests, sisters and others. The hospital took a lead as the first Catholic medical center to place a kosher mezuzah on the doorway of each of the patients’ rooms.

Every Friday, the spiritual-care staff delivers candles and kosher challah to its Jewish patients. During Rosh Hashanah, the blowing of the shofar is heard in Jewish patients’ rooms.

As a chaplain/rabbi serving at Providence Tarzana Medical Center, I am honored and proud to be a member of the spiritual-care team to serve our diverse community.

Rabbi Avi Navah
Providence Tarzana Medical Center
Spiritual Care Department

 

Missed Christmas Mitzvah

I applaud all the Christmas Day mitzvot that are done by many synagogues and Jewish organizations. I just want to add one more that seems to be under your radar (“Volunteering on Christmas,” Dec. 21). For two decades, Beth Shir Shalom has taken over for Meals on Wheels of Santa Monica (MOW) on Christmas. Meals on Wheels being closed on Christmas was brought to my attention by Doris and Norty Smirlock, long-time members and MOW volunteers, who told me that Beth Shir Shalom needed to respond. So, every year on Christmas Day, we take over all the routes of Meal on Wheels and deliver homemade Christmas meals to all of their clients — 110 meals this year. The Beth Shir Shalom community is proud to be able to help give the dedicated workers and volunteers of Meals on Wheels a merry Christmas while making sure their clients have one, too.

Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels
Beth Shir Shalom

 

Seeking Former Conversion Students

Over the past 25 years, Adaire Klein has taught hundreds of conversion students in the Pico-Robertson area. As Klein and her husband, Manny, prepare to move to Israel, B’nai David-Judea Congregation is searching for former students to participate in a written tribute. If you are a former student, please contact B’nai David-Judea Executive Director Amram Hassan at (310) 276-9269 or e-mail adaireklein@bnaidavid.com.

Maryam Maleki
via e-mail

Letters to the Editor: Berman will be missed, Fight for life, Seeking survivors


Howard Berman Will Be Missed

Last week’s election was incredibly emotional for me. With the support of my community, a kid from Pacoima won a seat in the United States House of Representatives. But I, like many others, was also very saddened to see Congress lose one of its greatest unsung heroes, and my friend and mentor (“Sherman v. Berman: Counting the Wins, Losses,” Nov. 9). Howard Berman has been the epitome of a statesman over the course of his 30-year career. He has been a dedicated public servant for the San Fernando Valley, California, our country and the world. He helped ensure that the San Fernando Valley received the federal help it needed after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake rocked our community. In good times and bad, he brought resources to our neighborhoods to meet the growing needs of our communities. He has also been an advocate for business, helping to protect crucial job creators in our state, like the entertainment and high-tech industries. And he has been an indispensable voice on foreign affairs, helping to guide our country in the right direction when it comes to international relations and policy as well as protecting our strong bond with our oldest ally in the Middle East, Israel. To say he will be missed is a huge understatement. I would not be surprised though if someone with his exceptional skill set ends up working in some other capacity in this administration. I know that I, for one, will humbly ask for his guidance whenever possible.

Thank you Howard Berman, for your unparalleled commitment, your amazing dedication and your exemplary leadership.

Congressman-elect Tony Cardenas


Forget Vacation, Fight for Life

Dr. Albert Fuchs forgets several key principles in cancer or in any terminal disease — they are faith, hope, prayer and, most importantly, the inner strength of the individual (“Telling the Truth,” Nov. 2). My wife was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer in July 2009. If my family had followed the thinking and approach of Fuchs, our seven children would be without their most amazing mother. 

It is imperative that families pursue all avenues for life extension. My wife has undergone more than 120 rounds of chemotherapy; we are now four years later, we have seen our son finish his Army service and our daughter marry, and my wife plays with her granddaughter every day. Every member of the family has watched their mother fight and survive, through her inner strength, the force of communal prayer, hope for a cure and faith in our God. Fuchs’ suggestion that we end life with a vacation is very sad indeed; we end life only when God decides. In the meantime, each of us is responsible to go to the ends of the earth to help our loved ones fight another day.

David Rubin
Los Angeles


Support Moderate Muslim Women

It is refreshing to see a moderate Muslim in the Middle East advocating both women’s rights and peace between Israel and the Palestinians (“Palestinian Provokes Hamas,” Oct. 26). We should support Asma al-Ghoul as she is the type of person who will serve to improve our communications with the Palestinians. I applaud her courage as a woman in Gaza who stands up for women’s rights and nonviolent peace with the Israelis despite dangerous repercussions from Hamas. While she is not completely pro-Israel, we must continue to support moderate people like her if we are to hope for peace in the Middle East.

Eliana Kahan
Los Angeles 


Seeking Holocaust Train Survivors

On April 7, 1945, a train was released with 2,500 Jewish prisoners from the German concentration camp Bergen-Belsen, including some 700 children.

The train was liberated on April 13, 1945, by American soldiers from the 30th Infantry Division of the Ninth U.S. Army near the city of Magdeburg, Germany, at the town Farsleben. Most of the survivors were from Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Greece and elsewhere.

Two American soldiers were among the liberators of this train and now live in Florida. One of them was a tank commander and the other an infantry liaison officer who helped lead the survivors to safety and provided them with food and medical care.

Today we know of about 220 survivors who were children then, who are scattered throughout the world and who have been contacting their liberators to tell them thank you.

If you are one of these train survivors, please contact Frank Towers at towersfw@windstream.net or Varda Weisskopf at hila_64@inter.net.il.

Varda Weisskopf
Israel


Correction

A column about “Mating in Captivity” author Esther Perel reported that she attended Oxford University (“The Erotic Life,” Nov. 9). Perel holds degrees from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Lesley College in Cambridge, Mass.

Letters to the Editor: Prager’s Politics, Bassoonist Has Storied Career


Prager’s Politics

Dennis Prager has again conveniently and simplistically divided his world into good and bad, conservative Republicans being good, liberal Democrats being bad (“A Jew Tours for Romney,” Nov. 2). He then uses this formulation to claim that the conservative Republicans more ardently favor Jews and Israel, than do the liberal Democrats.

What he refrains from stating is that liberal Democrats (Obama) are enemies of Israel and are anti-Semitic, but his implication is clear: His perverted vision of the world is that “virtually all the world’s anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hatred comes from the left, while virtually all of the greatest supporters of the Jews and Israel are conservatives.”

He is right about one thing: Prager’s warped view of the world will not “matter to most American Jews,” and neither will his attempt to indict liberal Jewish Democrats on the grounds that, in his opinion, they do not support Israel as ardently as one Academy Award winner and his beloved conservative Evangelists (whose social agenda is abhorrent to democratic principles).

Louis A. Lipofsky
Beverly Hills

 

Dennis Prager responds:

Mr. Lipofsky lies about what I wrote. I never implied, let alone wrote, anything about “conservative Republicans being good, liberal Democrats being bad.” In virtually every one of my columns and my broadcasts I emphasize that there are good and bad people in both parties and among both conservatives and liberals.

Mr. Lipofsky lies about my implying that “liberal Democrats (Obama) are enemies of Israel and are anti-Semitic.”

What I did write is an incontrovertible fact: “Virtually all the world’s anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hatred comes from the left, while virtually all of the greatest supporters of the Jews and Israel are conservatives.”

If Mr. Lipofsky takes that to mean that I am saying that all those on the left are anti-Jewish or anti-Israel, he does not reason clearly: The fact that anti-Israel hatred emanates from the left does not mean that all those on the left hate Israel. 

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a liberal, has repeatedly asserted this truth about the left and its anti-Israel animus.

For the record, the Gallup poll in March asked American voters, “Are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?” Seventy-eight percent of Republicans chose Israel, 53 percent chose Israel.

Mr. Lipofsky is right, however, about America’s Evangelical Christians being beloved by this Jew. I wonder if there is any instance in modern history of a group of people so decent and so supportive of another group — in this case, Jews — so many of whose members, like Mr. Lipofsky, return that support with ingratitude and even calumny (Evangelicals are “abhorrent to democratic principles”).

 

For those who do not understand Dennis Prager, perhaps this will help. My son, a young lawyer who worked for a prominent Jewish law firm whose partners predominantly supported the Democratic Party, was once asked by the senior partner for whom would my son vote. My son said that he would vote Republican. The partner was astonished and exclaimed, “How could you vote for the Republicans when they oppose all Jewish values such as support for the poor, gay-lesbian rights, affirmative action for African-Americans and Chicanos, abortion rights and equal pay for women?” My son replied that he would vote Republican because they supported Israel. The senior partner sneered, “The only reason Republicans support Israel is because of the influence of the Christian Evangelicals who dominate the Republican Party, and the only reason the Christian Evangelicals support Israel is because they believe that the establishment of the State of Israel is a necessary precondition for the second coming of Christ.” My son replied, “That’s fine. For now I’ll vote Republican, but when and if Christ comes back to earth, I will vote Democratic.” 

Leib Orlanski
Beverly Hills


Bassoonist Has Storied Career 

The article “Israel Philharmonic’s Storied History” (Oct. 26), in describing the participation in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) of Maurice Surovich, son of co-founder Jacob Surowicz, reported that he “filled in occasionally.” In fact, Gabriel Vole’s uncle Maurice, after a successful career with major British orchestras, joined the IPO as bassoonist in 1960, and continued actively as such until his retirement a few years ago. At 95, he resides with his wife, Fay, in Savyon.

Celia Raven
Los Angeles


Correction

The My Single Peeps column profile of Jered F. (Nov. 2) quoted him as saying “my parents cut me off” financially. In fact, Jered said in an e-mail following publication, “My father was in no position to help due to divorce fallout. He and my stepmother have always stood by me, and he is an incredible friend, parent and invaluable ally to me to this day.”

Letters to the Editor: Cantor’s Kavanah, Homeland, Kol Nidre LIVE


Cantor’s Kavanah Remains Cool

We are grateful for the lovely profile on our immensely talented chazzan, Hillel Tigay (“The Rock Cantor,” Sept. 21). But we want to set the record straight on one matter. Here’s what went down mere moments before Kol Nidre at IKAR four years ago: With deep kavanah and intense focus combined with anticipation, excitement and a bit of absent-mindedness, our beloved chazzan took a final deep breath before beginning Kol Nidre and knelt down behind the podium to take a swig of … wait, is that Diet Pepsi? Our rabbis, perched on either side of him, stared in shock — one (lovingly) kicked him in the shin and whisper-shouted, “What are you doing?” Hillel, somewhat startled, cleared his throat, discarded the bottle and began a transcendent Kol Nidre, illuminated by the awareness that even with the best of intentions, we are all avaryanim — people who sometimes fall short. In the years that followed, this near miss was spun into urban legend (the cantor drinking soda at Kol Nidre) and became great Purim shpiel fodder, but was unfortunately incorrectly reported in the Jewish Journal as fact. We regret to inform anyone who was inspired by reports of this act of rebellion: We’re cool, but we’re not unhinged. One of the reasons Hillel is so adored at IKAR and around the Jewish world is because his hipster, tweed-cloaked, rocker persona is intimately bound up in a deeply reverent Jew who has worked his whole adult life to honor the Jewish tradition and bring it to life with love. 

Rabbis Sharon Brous and Scott Perlo, Melissa Balaban, Jaclyn Beck, Dev Brous, Ross Levinson
IKAR

Editor’s note: The Journal stands by its story as reported.


Another MOT Missed Out

Your Sept. 28 issue contained a list of some Jewish nominees who did not go home with an Emmy (“ ‘Homeland’ Sweeps Emmys,” Sept. 28). I was not included. My nomination was for guest actor in a drama series for “Breaking Bad.”
I don’t know that you can find a more authentic Jewish name than Margolis. In the same category, Ben Feldman of “Mad Men” also lost out. I suspect that he might be a Member of the Tribe.

Mark Margolis
via e-mail


Shul-Hopping Spreads Tolerance

Kudos to David Suissa on his article “Sticking to Our Labels” (Oct. 5). I was raised on an Ashkenazi Modern Orthodox kibbutz practicing one dimension of Judaism: ours. Hence, the “more religious Jews” were considered obsessive compulsive, the less religious were below grade-level and the non-Ashkenazi Orthodox were simply on the other side of the tracks.

After teaching Hebrew and bar mitzvah as well as reading the Torah for over 30 years in various types of synagogues in Los Angeles, from Sephardi to ultra-Orthodox to Conservative to Reform, I learned to appreciate each and every community. The transformation wasn’t easy. It took me many years to let other customs, traditions and rituals enter and become part and parcel of my comfort zone.  

I believe that “shul-hopping” would usher a great deal of good and love into the Jewish community around the world. Familiarity eradicates animosity and may even usher in acceptance. We are a small nation facing constant threats of annihilation from the outside and need no infighting from the inside.

When we pray, we ask God that “He who makes peace in His heaven may he make peace for us and for all Israel, Amen.” It’s time for a new nusach (formula): “He who makes peace in His heaven may he make peace for us and for all Israel and teach us to do only good and accept each other for what we are.”

Danny Bental
Tarzana


Kol Nidre Streamed Straight to St. John’s

What a surprise when I found myself checked in to St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica on Kol Nidre. Uneaten challah and iPad in hand, my son and I searched for a service on the Internet. Then as “manna from heaven” not only did he find a service, but immediately I recognized Rabbi Naomi Levy [streaming live on jewishjournal.com]. Her enthusiasm filled up the screen, and I knew I was on the way to recovery.

What a dichotomy of healing — St. John’s hospital and Rabbi Naomi Levy, and they both worked.

Janet Wortman
Marina del Rey


Intermarriage and Tradition

Ruth was the only comfort and staff for Naomi’s old age, and her great-grandson was King David (“Rabbi Reverses Interfaith Marriage Policy,” Sept. 28). The Reform movement’s last resolution on interfaith marriage from 1973 says that “interfaith marriage is contrary to Jewish tradition.” Who knows what other heroic leader of our people may result from one of these intermarriages?

Louis Richter
via e-mail

Letters to the Editor: Kol Nidre Live, Obama, Mitt


Kol Nidre Online Nourishes Spirit of Those Far Away

I’m originally from Los Angeles but have been living in Tel Aviv for the past three years.

My mom is an avid reader of the Jewish Journal and sent me the link to your online Kol Nidre service. Since I got back home really tired after a grueling day of waiting tables, I ended up napping through the evening services (I’ll be honest, I wasn’t planning on attending services either; I’m quite secular).  After biking around the empty streets of Tel Aviv and meeting with friends, I was able to tune in and hear the Kol Nidre on YouTube via your recorded service, feeling both curious and warmly invited while sitting at home, watching via my laptop. I love the live musical ensemble and I was able to feel a much stronger connection to your modern take on Judaism in comparison to other Jewish movements that to me feel obsolete.

Thank you for sharing your community with me and the rest of the world.

Erez Jacob Ofer
Tel Aviv

My husband and I found your Webcast and have been in absolute heaven watching your beautiful, beautiful service. Thank you for sharing it with us. I grew up in Los Angeles and miss the Judaism of the West Coast.  I have been on the East Coast for 14 years and have felt so far away from my Judaism.

On our honeymoon, my husband and I felt a new Judaism that he had never felt before (being Episcopalian) and I had not felt since my youth or maybe ever. We returned to Boston to set up a life together having returned with a desire to build a Jewish home. We were in search of something warm and accessible and have not been successful in finding a shul here that made us feel at home.  Then this evening with your service wafting through the speakers in our home, our Judaism made sense. Thank you for helping us feel at home in our home with our Judaism at long last.

Alice Jacobs Nesselrodt
Boston

I’m watching you live from my house. I couldn’t get access to any synagogue here in Nairobi and had no idea how to go about Yom Kippur, but thank God I got you on Google. I’m now attending the first Yom Kippur in my life via the Internet. Thank you. You have no idea what this means to me.

George Hinga
Nairobi, Kenya


He Wants to Hear More From Wiesenthal Center

Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center aptly berates President Barack Obama for focusing on Holocaust denial in his message to the U.N. General Assembly while overlooking “the indifference of the world toward the continued demonization of Judaism … by extremist Muslims [and] the mainstream Palestinian leaders” (“Mr. President: The Problem Is Not Holocaust Denial,” Sept. 28). 

Proving his point, Rabbi Hier quotes allegations by Palestinian leaders that deny the existence of the Temple and Jewish claims to the Temple Mount. He closes his piece with a rather profound statement to the effect that President Obama should have shown his concern not only about the Nazi Holocaust but, even more important, escalating worldwide anti-Semitism and the threat of annihilation of Jews by the Iranian mullahs.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is dedicated to confronting anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, should seek the next logical step toward fulfilling its mission by addressing the basic cause of anti-Semitism as proclaimed and practiced not only by Muslim and Palestinian leaders, but also now being promoted to a growing extent in our own schools and universities. On that the Simon Wiesenthal Center remains silent.

George Epstein
Los Angeles


Prioritizing Problems: Mitt’s vs America’s

It bothers me that Shmuel Rosner is making so much of Mitt Romney and his “Palestinian problem” (“Mitt’s Palestinian Problem,” Sept. 28). I don’t think it matters much what Romney’s Palestinian problem is or that he has a problem.
Israel is important to me as a Jew. But I am an American Jew, and America’s problems are more important to me.

Recounting a commentator’s observation, Rosner writes that Romney’s words reflect the views of Sheldon Adelson. Yes, definitely. The $100 million donation does not come without strings. Adelson wants the United States to go to war with Iran to help Israel. However, the United States is in no position to go to war. We have been at war for 11 years.

Anita Meyer
Tarzana

CORRECTION
An article about a proposed elementary charter school (“Once Dreaming of a Hebrew Charter School, Now Only Mandarin Is Offered,” Sept. 27) incorrectly stated that in the process of obtaining approval for an existing charter high school, the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences (AEALAS) cut ties with the Hebrew Charter School Center (HCSC). In fact, it was HCSC that cut ties with AEALAS.

High Holy Days: Father and son


On these High Holy Days, there will be empty seats in our synagogues. This is a letter found on one of those seats …

Dear Dad,

This year, I’m not coming to shul for the holidays. I know this will hurt you, and you’ll be angry, but perhaps you’ll hear me out.

I have always loved the synagogue. I like the rabbis and the cantors, and the sanctuary is familiar to me, but I just can’t go back. Something is missing; the service feels passive and almost perfunctory. I don’t feel like I belong anymore. When I was young, I appreciated seeing my friends from school, but when I left home for college I met new people who seemed to care about praying. There was singing and dancing, Dad. And then I came back to be with you and Mom, and found nothing in the services that moved me. 

I’m of a generation that expects excellence. I search all over town for the most authentic Indian food, the most authentic clothing, and strive for the most authentic experiences. I think the same should apply to my Judaism as well. I want to experience the presence of God as I pray. I don’t feel the presence of God in your synagogue. You and your generation created a glorious cultural, humanistic, ethical Judaism. But you left God out. I want God back in my life. And I believe somehow that God wants me back. 

I feel that I’ve spiritually outgrown the pageantry of services at the shul. The truth is, I care more about substance than loyalty. Please understand, Dad, this isn’t petulant adolescent rebellion. I’m searching for something … a treasure you told me many times is waiting for me in the Jewish tradition. 

You taught me that the 613th mitzvah commands every Jew to write a sefer Torah. Even if our ancestors bequeathed Torah to us, every Jew has to write his or her own. So Dad, I’m taking you seriously. I’m beginning my own Torah, in my own voice. A few of us are gathering in someone’s apartment for our own services. We won’t wear suits and ties. It won’t be polished and professional. But it will be ours. Please understand I’m doing this because I love you and what you taught me. I will always be,

Your son.

An e-mail sent immediately after the holiday:

Dear Son,

One of the joys of my life is to gather our family together on these holidays. As the years go on, I become more aware of how precious these moments are. Time is an unyielding centrifugal force. As you move into your own life, I miss you, and I cherish the moments we can be together. I look around the synagogue and see the empty seats of old friends who are gone now, and I feel the need to gather us all in together. 

There was a time when I, too, checked out of shul. The issue then wasn’t spiritual, it was political. The country was burning up. We were fighting a war that was deeply misguided. We watched the rise of black power, of feminism and environmentalism; we experienced a sexual revolution. We declared ourselves a counterculture and challenged every authority. We sought liberation. To all this, the synagogue had little to say. The cantor grew a mustache and sang Simon & Garfunkel melodies. But there was nothing in Judaism to answer our yearning. So we left.

Years later, I realized that my generation asked all the right questions. But we didn’t have the resources to find the answers. For a very simple reason — we were only talking to ourselves. Like you, we believed we were the first to challenge what is, in the name of what ought to be. Like you, we believed that our parents were hopelessly lost and only we possessed the courage to find truth. I don’t mean to belittle your search. It’s just now I can see this process at work. To find God, Abraham left his father’s house. Just what I did to my father … and now you to me.

About the time you were born, I realized that I needed wisdom older and deeper than my own. So I returned to the synagogue, and I began to find answers. You’re right — the synagogue does not speak in my voice. That’s what I love about it … the opportunity to listen. There is wisdom here. There are resources for living life. I don’t go to shul to express myself. I go to listen. So don’t build your community entirely of people who look like you, think like you, live like you. Don’t just talk to yourselves. Find the humility to hear wisdom. Open the Torah and listen deeply. 

My generation didn’t banish God. After the Holocaust, it was impossible to talk about God. Jews have always felt the presence of God in history — that’s what the Bible is all about. But after the Holocaust, how could one even entertain such an idea? So we did something else. We stopped talking about God, and we acted in God’s image. We did what God needed done in the world. God creates, so we created schools and synagogues, the State of Israel. God redeems, so we rescued Jews from the Soviet Union and Ethiopia. God demands justice, so we fought for civil rights for black people and for gay people, equality for women, dignity for working people and support for the poor. God didn’t speak in the Holocaust, so we were God’s response. God was in our hands.

It saddens me that you do not feel that this place is your home, and that you don’t sense God in the synagogue. I look at the thriving life of this community, and I do feel God is close. Remember that Judaism is an embodied spirituality. There is no Judaism without Jews. And there are no Jews without community. And there is no community without institutions. So be very careful before you dismiss or deride or destroy institutions. They were not easy to create. They are not easy to sustain. If your prayer group grows into something, you’ll surely find this out. 

I wish you a year of blessings, 

Your father.

E-mail response posted at 2:30 a.m. that night:

Dear Dad,

Thank you for the seriousness of your response. 

I am not ungrateful for the institutions your generation built. But you went well beyond protecting these institutions. You got so involved in them you forgot their higher purpose. For me, sitting in a folding chair in a basement praying with real feeling is better than sitting quietly in a cold cathedral. 

In reality, much of your Judaism is about defense. Like the fighters of Masada pitted against an intractable foe, your generation’s sense of purpose is derived from some ever-present, impending crisis — anti-Semitism, Jewish survival, the survival of Israel. 

Deep down, it’s all motivated by fear. And a commitment rooted in fear is bound to bear bad fruit. Out of fear, you pushed away those who intermarried. Out of fear, you pushed away those who questioned Israel. And out of fear, you pushed away Jews who don’t agree with you. Fear is no basis for a Jewish life. Ultimately, that fear will dominate your inner life and choke it to death. Dad, I want a Jewish life based on love, spirit and joy, and not fear. 

You battled anti-Semitism so I would never know that hatred. I’m grateful to feel so much at home in America. And I know there are still people who hate us. But while you were so engaged in fighting those who hate us, we assimilated so much hate of our own. Just listen to the way Jews talk about immigrants, or Muslims. Listen to the way we talk about each other. The hate that crept into our communal vocabulary is more vicious and more destructive today than the hate we face from anti-Semites!

You battled for Jewish survival. You identified intermarriage as a communal catastrophe. I get that. We’re a small people, and getting smaller. But I also know lots of good Jews who fell in love with partners who weren’t Jewish. It wasn’t a gesture of rejection — they still want to be Jewish. They’re all are looking for a way into our community, some as converts, others as seekers. If we keep talking about intermarriage as a catastrophe, they will always be intruders — unwelcome and rejected. Is that what you want? Perhaps we’d get farther with an open door and a word of welcome, no?

When it comes to Israel … Dad, you and I are really going to disagree. You taught me the importance of Israel, how it’s our refuge and homeland. So I chose to go to Israel when I was in college. The Israel I found wasn’t what I had expected to find. When we talk about Israel here in America, it’s always in the high-pitched tone of crisis. There is always an imminent threat, a looming disaster. It’s always about the conflict, the desperate struggle for Israel’s survival. That’s a part of life in Israel, but it isn’t everything. What I loved in Israel had nothing to do with crisis and conflict and struggle. That’s not how I engage Israel … because Dad, that’s not how Israelis engage Israel. What I loved was the life of Israel: Jews creating new Jewish art and music. It was about the Jewish life that thrives there despite the conflict. 

You taught me to be a critical thinker — except when it comes to Israel. I feel constrained never to criticize or object to what Israel does, and if I ever questioned Israeli policy I would be immediately labeled a communal traitor. 

Your generation is concerned with Israel’s existence. My generation is concerned with Israel’s character. Grandpa called himself a Labor Zionist. You call yourself an American Zionist. I’m a Critical Zionist. I love Israel. And I will demand that it live up to my Jewish values … the ones you taught me. I love Israel enough that when it falls short of our values, I’m going to speak out. I’ll support Israel, Dad, by supporting those in Israel who work for an Israel I can be proud of. 

I just hope the fear within you doesn’t keep you from remembering that I am and always will be,

Your son. 

E-mail posted the day before Yom Kippur: 

Dear Son,

The journalist Yossi Klein Halevi says that there are two kinds of Jews — Pesach Jews and Purim Jews. Pesach Jews hear the biblical commandment, “Remember you were a slave in Egypt.” Because we were slaves, we bear a special sensitivity to the rights of human beings. Purim Jews embrace a different biblical commandment: Remember Amalek. Remember there is evil in the world, and remember that you were the object of that evil. The Pesach Jew is the bearer of Jewish conscience and lives by the rule: don’t be brutal. The Purim Jew is the bearer of Jewish resilience and lives by the rule: don’t be naïve. 

You, my son, are a wonderful Pesach Jew. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud that you are so adept at finding our flaws and failures. I’m proud of your Jewish conscience. 

I, on the other hand, am a Purim Jew. Perhaps it comes with being a father. The Jewish People is my family. And like any father, I have a keen instinctual sense for the dangers that affect my family. 

When you demand a more ethical Jewish community, I’m proud of you. You’re certainly right that hate has infected us, especially in the ways we speak to one another. But at the same time, I don’t see that our fight against anti-Semitism is over, nor do I see that our continuing vigilance is wasted. I wish you were right, but we’re not done yet with anti-Semitism.

We are not as far apart on Israel as you think. I appreciate your stance as a “Critical Zionist.” You have a right to criticize. It’s the question of the tone you choose when you criticize. When we criticize someone we love, we use a special tone. We don’t want to hurt the other. We want to inspire the other to grow. You want to protest the policies and practices of Israel, that’s fine. But do it with humility, care and love. 

You’re not worried about Israel’s existence. I am. Israel, thank God, is strong, but far from invulnerable. Iran is building a nuclear weapon, and once again the destiny of the Jewish people rests in the hands of others. In the meantime, the world is convincing itself that the creation of Israel was a mistake. Israel is currently engaged in an ideological war for its own legitimacy. That legitimacy has to be earned. I think you and I would agree on this: Israel’s policies are politically sustainable only if they are morally defensible. So I offer you this deal: When you perceive that Israeli policies violate our values, speak up. Your critical voice is welcome. But when Israel acts with reasonable morality and the world unjustly accuses it, you become Israel’s character witness. When double standards and ridiculously biased judgments are cast upon Israel, you must stand up and say: This is not an evil nation. This is a nation striving toward a moral ideal. Do we have a deal? 

You’re right about the destructive effects of fear. The problem is, there are real enemies out there, there is real evil in the world. And we have to fight it. I promise you that I will not let fear separate us. We need to learn from one another, you and me, your generation and mine. We are a people strong enough to accommodate a vigorous debate. We are a people wise enough to learn from one another. I know that your group is meeting on Yom Kippur. Come be with us for Neilah. When the gates close, I don’t want them to close us off from one another. Bring your friends, too, we have plenty of lox. 

Dad.

Text message sent immediately:

Is there really room for us? 

Text message sent in reply:

There is always room for you.

Text message sent in reply:

Then, deal. We’ll be there. Shanah Tovah, Dad. I love you.

Text message sent in reply:

I love you, too. 


This is an edited version of a sermon delivered during the High Holy Days two years ago by Rabbis Ed Feinstein and Noah Zvi Farkas at Valley Beth Shalom (vbs.org), a Conservative synagogue in Encino.

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


More on Milk

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

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

Rabbi Israel Hirsch
Valley Village

A Lesson in Languages

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

Ed Elhaderi
Los Angeles

Kindergartens of Hate

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

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Synagogue Breakfast

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

Why does the canine event take precedence?

Andrew Friedman
President
Congregation Bais Naftoli

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

Philanthropic Teens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Argument for Two States

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

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

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

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

Michael Goldblatt
Chair, Zionist Organization of America


Prager Column So Close to Commendable … Yet So Far

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

Guy Handelman
via e-mail


Dennis Prager responds:

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

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

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

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

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


Behind Every Winning Decathlon Team Is a Great Coach

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

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

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

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

Bill Kabaker
Volunteer Interview Chair
LAUSD Academic Decathlon


Longtime ADL Member Sounds His Clarion Call

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

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

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

Harvey B. Schechter
Beverly Hills

Letters to the Editor: Gilad Shalit, United Nations, Gelson’s Ad


Gilad Shalit

Steven M. Goldberg’s article “The Shame in Surrendering to Evil” (Oct. 21) exhibits the consummate hypocrisy of the World Zionist Organization. I believe that their credo has always been to give 100 percent support for the actions of any Israeli government. They have reversed themselves even though the Israeli populace, intelligence and defense forces, and the Cabinet, were heavily in favor of the deal to release Gilad Shalit.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village


Golda Meir famously said that there will be no peace in the Middle East until the Arabs love their children more than they hate the Jews. In exchange for Gilad Shalit, perhaps the best that we can hope to accomplish is that, by example, the Arabs learn that the value of all of our children is limitless.

Richard David
Culver City


The release of Sgt. Gilad Shalit can be viewed by most anyone, Jew and non-Jew, as the return of a hero, of a survivor, and as the embodiment of what’s truly great about a 21st-century democracy like Israel.

Although we can’t predict with accuracy what Shalit will do with the remainder of his life, we can be fairly positive he will be an asset to Jews and his country, and will go on to accomplish things anyone who sides with honor, humanity and decency would be proud of.

Individuals like Shalit have always been what makes Israel, if not the envy of the rest of the world, then the source of a high level of respect and admiration. He is an individual most any nation would love to have as a citizen. Most any nation except for the Palestinians.

I couldn’t help but notice the difference between what we Jews regard as a hero and the 1,000 criminals traded for Shalit that they hold up to be “heroes.”

Most of the 1,000 Palestinians released in exchange for one Jewish soldier are what we in the West almost universally label as the scum-of-the-earth types who bomb cafes, murder defenseless civilians and warp the minds of the young with twisted, deviated versions of their religion.

There shouldn’t be a shred of doubt that most of these 1,000 Palestinians released by Israel will not go on to cure AIDS, find a vaccine for malaria, design a space station, invent a computer chip or bring the world any positive innovations.

As some said on arriving fresh from Israeli prisons, unremorseful for their crimes — they will continue to attempt to kill Jews until all the land is free of them.

Could there be a greater example of the differences between the peoples than this prisoner trade?

Peter Shulman
Playa del Rey


Pathway to Peace

Two letters (Difference of Opinion?  Time for a Paradigm Change? Oct. 21) cry out for comment. Referring to your previous editorial, “You and the UN,” Richard Gunther states “that negotiation and compromise is the only path to peace.” Those who agree with Gunther are dead wrong. The only viable path to peace is for Arabs and Muslims to stop brainwashing their children that the land where Israel exists, “All of that land is Arab land!” A tough problem is solved only by getting at the root cause.

And, addressing the prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit, William Langfan (and others) bemoan the lopsided release of prisoners: over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for one Jewish soldier. To avoid such lopsided prisoner exchanges in the future, the emotional hurt to those whose loved ones were murdered, the danger inherent in putting murderers back onto the streets, and encouragement of future anti-Israeli terrorist missions, Israel would be wise to embrace the death sentence for those who kill other people. Speedy trial, sentence and prompt execution would solve the problem. (It would also save Israel the expense of taking care of these prisoners.)

George Epstein
via e-mail


Bravo to Rob Eshman for encouraging a commonsense reaction to the Palestinian U.N. statehood effort (“You and the UN,” Oct. 14). The Palestinian initiative really is not much more than recognizing U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, which were adopted after the Six-Day War. Final status of border and security provisions must be negotiated by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but the United States, the Quartet and the United Nations can take the initiative and use this as an opportunity to revive negotiations. It is also an opportunity for both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to call each other’s bluff and accept such an initiative.

David Perel
Los Angeles


Food for Thought

A preview of your Purim cover? Page 36 of the Oct. 21 issue positions Rob Eshman’s informative “Good Meats” description of “highest standards of humane slaughter and kashrut supervision” alongside Gelson’s “Great Traditions … Remember, this simcha is only once-in-a-lifetime” advertisement, ironically highlighting their attractive meat-and-cheese sky-rise on a kaiser roll. Maybe next time Gelson’s could just cut the cheese?!

Peter Reynolds
via e-mail

Letters to the Editor: Prager, Settlements, Chevy Volt


Yeshivas vs. Universities: Another View

As a liberal professor who studies the yeshiva world, I agree with Dennis Prager that there are interesting parallels (“Ultra-Orthodox Yeshivas and Secular Universities,” Dec. 3). But how can he say that social science professors study “increasingly irrelevant matters” and are “cut off from the real world”? I invite Prager to attend the Association for Jewish Studies annual conference, which includes talks like “Encountering Hostility to Jews: Research Ethics and Interim Findings From Conversations With the Westboro Baptist Church,” “The Purposes and Practices of Teaching Rabbinic Literature” and “Unintentional Hybridities: Christian Elements in Jewish Interfaith Families.” Are these exceptions to the disengaged scholarship Prager writes about? What about the scholars Prager quotes in his article? I’d write more, but I have to get back to my research, writing, teaching and administrative duties.

Sarah Bunin Benor
Hebrew Union College –
Jewish Institute of Religion
Los Angeles

Dennis Prager levels a very serious charge against the university system saying that its primary goal is to produce a secular leftist but offers not one iota of fact or argument to support his claim (“Ultra-Orthodox Yeshivas and Secular Universities,” Dec. 3).

He also attacks “secular left professors” as living off of public funds, but if he’s talking about private schools such as the Ivy League schools where presumably many “left” professors are employed, their salaries overwhelmingly come from tuition fees and private donations, not tax money.  Indeed, these “left” professors probably contribute more in taxes to the system than does the average taxpayer.

Dennis is troubled by the insularity of these professors and singles them out for criticism. Is he as troubled by the insularity of conservative “think tanks” and organizations such as The Heritage Foundation, National Rife Association and the plethora of conservative talk-radio outlets? Maybe the problem Mr. Prager has with professors on the left has more to do with their politics than anything else. In that case, he should make that argument instead of hiding behind red herrings. Perhaps Mr. Prager should consider enrolling at his local university and taking a class in writing for argument.

Elliot Semmelman
Huntington Beach


Settlements: The Real Issue

Settlements are not the issue (“Settlements Are the Issue,” Dec. 3). The issue is the impatience, even a touch of animosity between the two prominent scholars of our community. Let them and us relax and clarify what is meant by “settlement,” “occupied territory,” “Fourth Geneva Convention,” “international community” and, finally and most importantly, “Jewish state.”

Dov Malkin
Los Angeles

I hope my son will be taking none of professor David Myers’ history courses at UCLA. The professor commences his article misconstruing the talmudic idiom: “Tafasta Meruba, Lo Tafasta” [“If one grasps for too much, ones ends up empty-handed”] (see e.g. Sukkah 5a.). Our sages use this precept to teach that one should use the strongest source to support the rule of law. They did not intend misapplication of this idiom to express political views, as the professor does in arguing that the settlements place Israel’s very existence in jeopardy. His argument debases the sanctity of our oral law and tradition. However, even for one who engages in such sophistry, the far more logical conclusion is that the Palestinian Authority’s demand for everything has led to its empty-handedness relative to statehood. Indeed, the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to recognize Israel’s legitimacy remains the primary obstacle to peace. Further contrary to the professor’s suggestion, demographically, neither existence nor expansion of Israeli settlements will alter the birthrate of Arabs relative to Jews; but Israel’s miraculous existence has never been about size. Historically, settlement of the land has been Israel’s salvation. It will not be her undoing.

Mark Herskovitz
Los Angeles


The Obama Administration

Both Marty Kaplan and Raphael Sonenshein lament the failure of the Obama administration to bring about the changes to correct the evils imposed on us by the G.W. Bush presidency: unnecessary wars contributing to our huge deficit; favoring the wealthy and allowing them to obtain huge profits by sending our jobs overseas, thereby shrinking our middle class; and encouraging the bigotry of the religious right (”My Declaration of Independents” and “A Democrat’s Lament, and a Glimmer of Hope,” Dec. 10). Obama’s victory two years ago was probably brought about by the massive voting of the 18-25 age group. It is my understanding that only 11 percent of those eligible young people chose to vote this time. I believe it is because their hopes for change were destroyed by congressmen and senators who, in my opinion, hate the idea of having a black president. California bucked the national trend because the majority of Californians are more tolerant and do not believe that wealth alone is credential enough to rule our state.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village


High-Voltage Response to Volt Test Drive

Rob Eshman needs to do his homework (“The Home Front,” Dec. 10). A road test by edmunds.com pegs Chevrolet Volt’s range at about 300 miles, and in extended range mode it only averages 31.4 miles per gallon.  That’s a huge scale-back from Eshman’s 235 mpg. If 9.2 seconds for the zero to 60 feels like “it takes off like a beast” and [has the] “handling of a muscle car,” in my humble opinion, Mr. Eshman is prone to irresponsible editorial exaggeration, especially where he writes [electric vehicles] “… are — finally — Detroit’s way of telling the Saudis to shove it.” Now there’s a line that’s going to embrace peace with the Saudis, shut down the Taliban’s opium profits and stop Sunni terrorist groups.

The Volt costs way north of $41,000. Add in tax and license and it’s nearly $47,000 cash out of pocket if you buy, and first you’ve got to put the money where your mouth is before you get the $7,500 federal tax credit. If you initially lease and then purchase it for the residual value after three years, you’re going to pay even more. And that doesn’t include interest if you finance. Do the math: To own the “beast” means during these bare economic times of hardship, with 15 percent unemployment, GM’s target customer will have to earn at least an additional $80,000 before tax over five years, not including a reserve for the expired battery pack. Let’s see, the odds are that I will get hit by lightning twice before I win the Lotto, so do I moonlight to buy a ridiculously expensive oh-I-look-green-cool Volt, or send my kid(s) to college? Oops, I nearly forgot, the damn thing still uses gas.

Mark Shapiro
Los Angeles

Rob Eshman responds:
The 235 mpg I referenced was the calculation for the length of my drive, as I pointed out in my story and in our Volt driving video at jewishjournal.com. Under average driving conditions, Motor Trend rated the Volt at 127 mpg — not chopped liver. GM and the EPA are still working out what “average” means in a vehicle like the Volt.

My report on the acceleration and handling (“takes off like a beast”) was subjective — your impressions may differ. Remember, I was comparing the Volt to a Prius, which takes off like a toaster oven.

I never said the Volt was cheap; in fact, I was discouraged by its lack of interior space. It’s not perfect, but the Volt is, as Motor Trend points out, a major leap forward in producing a hybrid/electric car for the American market.


Correction
An article on the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) at UC Irvine (“Palestinian Speaker at UCI Event Creates Rift Among Local Jews,” Dec. 10) incorrectly stated that OTI has ties to the Free Gaza movement and the Boycott Divest and Sanctions campaign. The group that has been linked to those efforts is another group mentioned in the article, the International Solidarity Movement.

In the Dec. 10 Torah Portion column, the photo was of Rabbi Dov Fischer instead of Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin.

LETTERS: Torah Battle, Mormon Official, Ethics


Ethics Certificate

I heartily agree with David Suissa and his reservations about the new certificate indicating that Jewish businesses uphold labor laws (“Laboring for Ethics,” March 6). If the Rubashkin scandal [Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse] is what prompted the certification idea, it is hardly the most noxious scandal in the Jewish community.

Why are we not issuing certificates to money managers to avoid other Madoff-style swindles? Why do we not certify that rabbis in our community aren’t molesting children and avert scandals like the one that hit the National Conference of Synagogue Youth? Why single out the Jewish shopkeeper?

California has an exorbitant minimum wage, and aggressive labor regulation. If the rabbis involved in the certification movement believe that shops along Pico Boulevard are in violation of these regulations, they should report the store owner to the authorities, not engage in feckless, feel-good activism.

Janet Fuchs
Beverly Hills

Battle Over Torahs

Your article, “Public Court Battle Erupts Over Possession of Torahs” (March 13) is a horrible display of the decision making skills of your management and editing team.

I am a student of Rabbi Samuel Ohana. He is doing my wedding; his wife is catering it. I learn with him, and he has welcomed me into his home.

He has dedicated his life to serving the community and is a man of great moral and ethical standing. The slant on your reporting was not just slight, it was disgustingly obvious.

You offered a venue for lashon ha-ra (bad gossip) to be spoken about this man, and that makes you just as guilty as the person who is speaking it.

I do not care if the L.A. Times feels that this story is worth publishing, but how can we be a light unto nations when we will stoop down and publish the same filth and slander?

I do not know the details of the case, and as far as I can tell, it is just a dispute of ownership. What you and the lady involved have done is of greater notice and deserving of as much criticism. I hope that the community can see the misrepresentation that you have made.

Michael Sachs
Pasadena

Surviving Bernie

Yes Mr. Eshman, Bernard Madoff is a criminal and an evil man who hopefully will spend the rest of his life in prison (“Surviving Bernie,” March 13). Where, however, is the outcry against the people of the American-Israel Cultural Foundation in Israel responsible for investing its entire endowment, $14 million, with Madoff Securities that is now all gone?

Leon M. Salter
Los Angeles

Different Religion

I was not at all disappointed to see professor David Myers attacked for his notorious right-wing views (“20th Century Zionist Asks: ‘Has Jacob Become Esau?’” March 6). For the record, however, we should note that Esau, as referred to by Myers and by Rawidowicz, was Christianity, not Islam. After all, Rawidowicz was writing in the first post-Holocaust years.

Michael Berenbaum
via e-mail

Money for the Arts

In this economic recession, I feel that Cheryl and Haim Saban should be embarrassed to donate $5 million so that their name will be on a theater marquee. (“Sabans Donate $5 Million to Theater,” March 13).

This money could be better spent: scholarships for children to receive Jewish educations, Jewish aged under the poverty line and housing for Jewish disabled. The list goes on.

Laurie Saida
via e-mail

Editor’s note: As our story made clear, the theater houses the Temple of the Arts synagogue, which Cheryl Saban credited with playing an important role in their lives.

ZOA Mormon Official

How wonderful to be able to read news about the L.A. Jewish community while I sit at my computer in Israel! (“Zionist Organization’s New Mormon Director: Q&A With Mark Paredes,” March 6).

The appointment of Mark Paredes to the directorship of the Zionist Organization of America office in Los Angeles is great news. I met him when he worked at the Israeli Consulate and saw this bright and inspiring man in action.

Chana Givon
Jerusalem

Building Bridges

On behalf of the American Muslim community, I applaud the efforts of Rabbi [Reuven] Firestone and The Jewish Journal in building bridges of understanding between the American Muslim and Jewish communities. (“An Appreciation of Islam: Q&A With Rabbi Reuven Firestone,” March 13)

Both Judaism and Islam have much in common — moral values emphasizing family ties and tending to the less fortunate, speaking up for justice and human rights and being good citizens of society.

While we may hold different legitimate political views, even within our own communities, let us continue to strengthen bonds between American Muslims and Jews, shun voices of extremism and together be a force of positive change in the broader society.

Munira Syeda
Communications Coordinator
Council on American-Islamic Relations,
Greater Los Angeles Area

Thank You Rabbi [Reuven] Firestone for your book presenting Islam to Jews and non-Muslims in a fair and more accurate manner.

Thanks to The Jewish Journal for being involved in this.

As a Muslim I always thought that there are much more things in common than differences between Jews and Muslims. I hope this will be realized by more people.

Majed Ibrahim
via e-mail

Bigots

Marty Kaplan’s “Stem Cell Slippery Slope Fallacy” (March 13) tells us that the world is full of bigots. Live and let live has been abandoned in favor of our way or the highway, leading to hatred and violence: the religious fundamentalism of ultra-Orthodox Jews disdaining all other denominations, Islamists stoning to death a 13-year-old rape victim charged with adultery and lots of Christians wishing to disenfranchise our gay population.

Then we have the haters of anyone not like them, including white supremacists, anti-Semites and animal rights advocates who feel that the lives of laboratory-bred rats are more important than the lives of human beings.

Now we know of evil greedy people who worship money and think nothing of stealing from the needy. What a world.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village

Purim Spoof, Jacob and Esau, Chasidic Movements, Wagner Cover, Origins of Alphabet


Itzhak Perlman Concert

The concert was held in a social hall with 1,000 people crammed in, and Perlman refused to use a microphone when he spoke (“Perlman Plays Sinai Temple,” Feb. 27). Thirteen members of my family were in that social hall seated all over, starting from the 10th row from the stage. None of us could see, and none of us could hear.

Sinai temple has a beautiful sanctuary, with an excellent sound system. To hold a concert of this caliber in a social hall because Perlman wanted it to be intimate was ridiculous. If Perlman wanted it intimate, he should have given his concert in someone’s living room.

Someone should remind him that his fans and supporters deserve some consideration when they pay good money to see and hear him and cannot.

Nancy Kattler
Via e-mail


UCLA and Israel

Where is the Community Relations Committee of The Federation, and what are they doing to address the increasingly hostile and suffocating intellectual climate at UCLA toward Israel and, by proxy, Jews? (“Dust Over Campus Life: UCLA at a Crossroad,” Feb. 20). Where are the ADL and other major Jewish organizations, and what are they doing?

While I as a taxpayer and citizen can write letters, make phone calls and boycott institutions as an individual, a more organized community response may be more productive in ensuring Jewish students and professors their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

Academic freedom and scholarly balance are not just meaningless words but rights endowed and guaranteed to us by our state and federal governments.

Fred Hearn
Los Angeles


Age of Lieberman

Surprise! Rob Eshman seems somewhat surprised and largely disappointed that Avigdor Lieberman and his philosophy is on the assent in Israel (“In the Age of Lieberman,” Feb. 27).

I understand why he’s disappointed, but I am a little perplexed as to why he’s so surprised. He points out that Lieberman’s 15 seats never should have happened, because only Russians should be attracted to Yisrael Beiteinu, as if political factions in Israel are such as they divide off into the their countries of origin, rejecting the Zionist philosophy that in the Jewish homeland all are brothers.

Isn’t it possible that Lieberman has Israel’s interests in mind, not the Russian community’s? And, it is this interest that resonated so strongly with the Israeli voter.

Israel is not Lebanon or some Third World backward nation, where tribal groups stand against each other, rather than standing for their own national interests. But, with a growing Lieberman constituency, Eshman apparently cannot distinguish the difference.

One must look at why Lieberman reflects the beliefs of so many Israelis. If Eshman wants to be disappointed, that is his prerogative, but please direct that disappointment to the right entity. It is once again, as always, Arab intransigence to accept the Jewish state and try in earnest to live in peace with the Jewish people.

Like Lieberman, enough Israelis voted to give him 15 seats because they are sick and tired of being terrorized and want change. Eshman, a sap who refuses to give up on the idea of Jewish-Arab unity in Israel, begins and ends his article about a wonderfully integrated children’s choir in Jaffa, where a diverse community of Jewish, Muslim and Christian children come together in song and tolerance to counter all the hatred from one side and the fear from the other.

Of the 2,000 families, how many Arab children actually take part in this community center? Ten? Twenty? Usually these kinds of programs attract only a handful of Palestinians but a much larger representation of Israelis. But, for what it’s worth, they do good work.

The bubble can burst further. When the participants reach the age of understanding the politics around them, they begin to take on the characteristics of their parents. Jews join the army to protect their families, and Palestinians throw rocks and express solidarity with Hamas, Fatah and suicide bombers in the struggle against the Jews.

This is a good time for a little sidebar. In the 1980s, I was involved in several international discussions at Givat Haviva in Israel, one of these international community centers like in Eshman’s article, where Jews and Arabs come together and discuss the things that bind them and the things that drive them apart.

I attended two of these discussions. Both times, there were almost 200 Jews participating and only five Arabs from nearby towns. The difference in numbers is significant.

But there is more. The second time I went was with a different group of 200 Jews, but the same five Arab participants took part in the discussion. Because of my natural suspicious nature, I inquired why they were the only ones who would come and both the Arab participants and the directors of the center could not give me a satisfactory answer.

Left to my own devices, I concluded that no other Israeli Palestinians wanted to participate because they wanted to remain as far removed from Israeli society as they could get. Not a good sign.

Lieberman has some different ideas about how to solve our problems with the Palestinians. And, Israelis responded to his ideas with a resounding yes during this recent election. Eshman must know that these people who voted for him were the same people who gave the Labor Party the mandate in 1992 for Oslo and Ehud Barak the mandate in the late ‘90s to finish the process off.

It didn’t work. And it didn’t work for one overwhelming reason. The Arabs don’t want to make peace with the Jews.

We want peace with them, but they do not want it with us. And, Barak, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert and all the rest can continue to bang their heads against the wall as much as they want, but peace is not possible, at least not without some drastic changes in the Palestinian community.

What is clear is that after 61 years, Israel is still surrounded by enemies. A majority of Palestinians, almost 70 percent of their electorate, elected Hamas to rule them in 2006.

Israelis are sick and tired of the rocket attacks, the suicide bombers the hatred, the vilification and the death and destruction that has been wreaked on them for far too long.

Maybe it’s time to take a different approach. Apparently a clear majority of Israelis believe this to be so. They spoke with a clear voice in the last election by not only awarding Yisrael Beiteinu 15 seats but giving right-leaning parties 65 total seats in the Knesset.

I don’t think such a large block has been awarded to any political slant since the days of Ben Gurion. The left and the extreme left in Israel have largely been sidelined, at least for the time being.

Eshman and the many American Jews who think like him are going to have to understand that with a world getting more and more dangerous every day, with no end in sight, a change in policy is in order.

Iran is speeding toward the day when it will be able to dictate terms to the State of Israel. Do you really want to speculate on what those terms might be? Or, do we want to make sure that Iran never gets to that point.

The present policies of the Kadima and Labor parties have shown to be ineffective in controlling the dangers to Israel. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Lieberman’s call for a loyalty oath for Israel’s Arabs and his idea of exchanging Arab land in the Galil for Jewish land in West Bank should be explored. Maybe it won’t work out, but let’s give the right a chance and see what happens.

Larry Hart
West Hills


Madoff Purim Spoof

There is a thin line between satire and being inappropriate (Cover, March 6). This time you crossed the line. People have killed themselves, people are suffering, agencies and foundations are closing.

Too raw — too soon.

Paul Jeser
via e-mail

I was not happy when I saw your Purim cover with Bernard Madoff and the octomom. I am willing to laugh at many things, but not this time. Madoff has become the poster boy of the new Fagin. He has brought the old canards of anti-Semitism back to Page 1 and also has hurt many, many Jews and Jewish organizations, deeply.

I know many people who were unfortunate enough to have been duped by him, and they are not laughing either. As far as the octomom, she has shown complete disregard for the system, God and decency and has brought 14 innocent victims into the world that we as a community will have to support.

I think this cover was in very poor taste.

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Valley Glen


Jacob and Esau

With all due respect to Simon Rawidowicz and his alter ego David Myers, I believe that all those interested in a viable peace in the Middle East must rethink his well-meaning but flawed notion that in Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, Jacob has become Esau (“20th Century Zionist Asks: ‘Has Jacob Become Esau?’” March 6).

I certainly agree, as the analogy implies, that Israel has relinquished the high road in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and taken on the mantle of the morally challenged aggressor. But by demonizing the biblical figure associated with the founding of the Arab nations, Rawidowicz takes with one hand what he grants with the other.

What is required for a full partnership is a rejection of the good-evil binary altogether and a reclaiming of the fundamental human twinship between the Jewish and Arab peoples.

Vincent Brook
Los Angeles


Origins of the Alphabet

In his March 6 letter to the editor titled, “Hollywood and the Jews,” Neil Flowers states that the Greeks invented the alphabet. Not so. The alphabet was invented by a Semitic people — probably the Phoenicians but possibly the Jews.

As proof, look at the first three letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha, beta, gamma. These words have no meaning in the Greek language. They represent vocal sounds only.

Now look at the first three letters of the Hebrew alphabet: alef, bet, gimel. Here the words represent sounds also, but more importantly, the words mean ox, house, camel, respectively. This shows that the Greek alphabet is derived from the Semitic alphabet, just as the English word “alphabet” is seen to be derived from Greek.

Robert E. Margolies
Beverly Hills


Wagner Cover

The cover with the picture of anti-Semitic composer Richard Wagner and the caption, “Get Over It” (Feb 20), was the most insensitive cover The Journal has ever done. It was calculated to stir up controversy. Controversy is often OK.

However, it was also done in the full knowledge that it could cause intense emotional pain to some Holocaust survivors who saw the cover. That is anti-Semitism and unforgivable.

I threw the cover away before I took the paper in my home, and I have only secondhand knowledge of the Holocaust. Ironically, the article, “Why Wagner’s Music Deserves a Second Chance,” by E. Randol Schoenberg, did not use the deliberately offensive term, “get over it.”

You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Bob Kirk
Los Angeles


Chasidic Movements

In his Torah portion, “OCDism,” (Feb. 27), Rabbi Haim Ovadia claims that instead of serving God with joy and treating other human beings with respect and dignity, some Orthodox movements have turned religion into a set of rigid laws that “narrow our steps to keep us in a state of suspended animation.” I found this article to be very refreshing.

However, in suggesting that it’s time we trade OCDism for Chasidism and infuse our religious life with joy, happiness and calmness, he neglected to clarify to which Chasidic movement he was referring, as some Chasidic movements also have turned religion into a set of rigid laws, neglecting to treat each other with respect and/or dignity.

Danny Bental
Tarzana

 

Small Mac attack, Wright flap, too much tolerance


The Professor Anti-Semites Love

I was shocked to learn that an article I had published in 1972 is being cited by anti-Semites to support their twisted ideas (“The Professor Anti-Semites Love,” May 9).

I wonder how many people have actually read my article. Essentially, I analyzed aptitude test data from a nationwide study of 12th-graders.

The main finding was that gender, not ethnic identification, accounted for the most of the differences in scores: boys doing better in general knowledge, math and spatial relations; girls in English and memory. On the average, Asian students (boys and girls combined) did much better than the other groups in math (although the Jewish kids were close) and English; the Jewish youngsters surpassed the others in general knowledge; the majority whites in spatial relations. However, when ethnic groups were divided by sex, differences related to ethnicity were way overshadowed by the differences between males and females.

Just because racists cite my study does not mean they are doing it correctly or honestly. It is a complex area deserving of understanding. The original tests, whose scores I analyzed, were administered way back in 1960. Let us hope that we have made progress since then helping our children learn according to their needs.

Margaret E. Backman
New York

Professor [Kevin] MacDonald’s racist rantings and xenophobia would best be addressed by a concerned coalition of Jewish, Latino, African American, Asian and other minorities in academia. Giving him a cover story in The Jewish Journal does nothing except provide a wider platform for his ridiculous ramblings.

This editorial decision makes about as much sense as The Journal’s recent publication of a thick “green” issue, thereby destroying even more trees than usual in order to decry the destruction of our environment.

Paula Van Gelder
Los Angeles

On college campuses today there is zero tolerance for anything that can be even remotely construed as derogatory toward blacks, gays, Latinos, gay Latinos or any other group you can think of — except Jews. Jews are fair game.

When it comes to slamming Jews, all of a sudden everyone is concerned about “academic freedom.” If MacDonald had published similar “academic” findings about anyone else but Jews, he would no longer be drawing a paycheck from California taxpayers.

Frederick Singer
via e-mail

Ziman and Lee

Our views regarding the fallout from the Ziman-Lee kerfuffle (“We Don’t Need More Gabfests on Diversity,” May 2) were only confirmed by the absurd comments attributed to Rabbi Marc Schneier in The Journal (“Ziman, Lee Hold Hands, Pledge Friendship,” May 9).

His version of black-Jewish history is flat out wrong: “Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t have called on the leader of the SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] to join me because there were no communications between African Americans and Jews.”

We aren’t sure what kind of communication devices he was using at the time, but a simple telephone would have made contact with African American leaders possible 15 years ago, 20 years ago and beyond.

As leaders of the black and Jewish communities in Los Angeles over the past 30 years, we were there at countless meetings with lots of “communication.” There were black-Jewish coalitions that involved us, The Jewish Federation, the American Jewish Committee, the SCLC, the Urban League and many others. Contacts occurred often and were substantive.

His observations aren’t any more accurate for other cities around the country, where similar coalitional efforts were undertaken, including New York.

The good rabbi ought to get his history right, especially before he starts to offer advice on a very difficult issue.

David A. Lehrer
President
Joe R. Hicks
Vice President
Community Advocates Inc.

Too Much Tolerance?

David Suissa misses the point completely (“Museum of Too Much Tolerance?” May 9).

What better way to commemorate the memory of 6 million than to celebrate the reemergence, continuity and vitality of Jewish life celebrated by weddings and bar mitzvahs. Shame on those who refuse to revel in the celebration of life.

Anybody who has been to the Museum of Tolerance recognizes that it not only commemorates the dead but celebrates the triumph of the human spirit. Should the museum succeed and celebrations be held within, the 6 million will be dancing along.

Max Gottlieb
Los Angeles

GOP Ad

The latest ad run by the Republican Jewish Coalition, featuring one of their converts, shows how flimsy the GOP knows its ideas are (Advertisement, May 9).
Why else would the nice lady spend a few sentences merely hinting at tricky issues that good people can disagree about and the rest whining about liberal self-righteousness and playing the abused underdog like one of her talk-radio heroes?

In my political life, I’ve found that everyone who cares deeply about the issues is pretty self-righteous about it. The liberals just happen to be right, in addition. You know people don’t have a leg to stand on when they make such clumsy, pandering appeals to readers of a serious publication.

David Meadow
Los Angeles

Golden Boy

Brad Greenberg’s eulogy of Art Aragon neglected the fact that since Aragon was raised in Boyle Heights, he was obviously no stranger to Jewish customs and undoubtedly had “noshed on a pastrami” at Canter Bros. on Brooklyn Avenue on occasion, and I’m surprised he wasn’t buried at Home of Peace Cemetery (“‘Golden Boy’ Keeps Faith,” May 2).

Eddie Cress
Sylmar

The Wright Flap

Kudos to Raphael J. Sonenshein for his comments on “

Shoah, McCain, Ziman vs. Lee, Obama, Pope


Tinseltown and Shoah

I was disappointed to see in the review of “Imaginary Witness” the old stereotype of Jewish moguls as cackling Shylocks counting their money from the German market, while their co-religionists were being murdered by Hitler (“How Tinseltown Shaped the Worldview of the Holocaust,” April 4).

The myth about the moguls can be traced to a story Joseph Mankiewicz made up about L.B. Mayer and “Three Comrades,” an anti-Nazi film Mankiewicz produced for MGM that was shorn of references to Nazism after strident lobbying by the Breen Office, the studios’ own censor. Stung when the screenwriter, F. Scott Fitzgerald bad-mouthed him around town for the usual reasons writers bad-mouth producers, Mankiewicz invented the tale that Mayer was in the habit of personally screening films for the German consul to cleanse them of anti-Nazi sentiments and Jewish names, so as not to lose a pfennig of those precious German revenues.

As I recall, “Imaginary Witness” is a bit more nuanced in its treatment of the subject than many standard references on Jews in American cinema, but such is the power of Mankiewicz’s bizarre tale that the makers of the documentary didn’t bother to look more deeply into the story of Hollywood’s attempts to get on the screen the story about what was happening to Jews in Europe, which was known in both Hollywood and Washington by 1942.

That’s a shame, because it’s a fascinating story, which has the additional virtue — unlike so many “personal reminiscences” about the film business — of being true.

Bill Krohn
L.A. Correspondent
Cahiers du Cinema

John McCain

I confess to being distressed by The Jewish Journal cover photo of John McCain, suspecting that Rob Eshman’s article would encourage readers to support the senator (“20 Questions With John McCain,” April 4).

I apologize for jumping to conclusions and admit to being pleasantly surprised by Eshman’s final paragraph: “So for the Jews, or at least for those of us who think that war, and the region … is still issue No. 1, the ball is in Obama’s and Clinton’s court.”

Yes, Sen. McCain is an affable, media-accessible and sometime straight talker. However, he has a greater than 80 percent voting record approval rating by the conservative wing of his party and, courting right-wing evangelicals, has flip-flopped on some of his best, former bipartisan positions: campaign fundraising reform and observance of U.S. military law and the Geneva Conventions regarding torture of war prisoners.


Yes, he was a prisoner of war for six years during the Vietnam War. Despite, or perhaps because of that and his family’s military background, Greenberg’s cartoon speaks volumes: McCain is shown embracing a U.S. Iraq War soldier with the face of George W. Bush; the caption: “John McCain already has a running mate.”

Rachel Galperin
Encino

I am writing in response to your article in which you stated that the Rev. John Hagee staunchly opposed Israel giving up territory or compromising the status of Jerusalem in support of any peace agreement.

When it comes to the issue of land for peace, it is true that Hagee and many other Christian Zionists have grown skeptical of territorial concessions after watching the results of Israel’s withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza. However, Christians United for Israel’s (CUFI) fundamental philosophy from day one has been that Israelis, and Israelis alone, have the right to make the existential decisions about land and peace.

To the extent that CUFI has taken concrete action in connection with the peace process, it has at all times been limited to asking the White House not to pressure Israel into making territorial concessions that she herself does not wish to make. CUFI and Hagee simply do not, and would not, seek to tell the Israelis what to do.

Peggy Ann Torney
New York, N.Y.

Heschel West Day School

This was a very well written story by Jane Ulman on a difficult subject (“Heschel West School Gets OK, Future Still Clouded,” Feb. 29).

The Heschel West Day school site has not been exhaustively tested. The Heschel property is within around 0.6 of a mile from the unlined border of the Class I Calabasas Landfill. This site does indeed need to be tested to protect the health of any future schoolchildren.

Save Open Space (SOS) is concerned about the public health and safety of the children going to a school so near the unlined section of this former Class I landfill. In addition, the school will “reduce the functionality of the wildlife corridor” per the National Park Service.

SOS would support Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in helping get L.A. County and state wildlife corridor park bond money to pay Heschel fair market value for this site. Then that money can go toward a new school in a safer site.

SOS has some possible alternative sites to add. Excellent alternatives include two Conejo Valley Thousand Oaks elementary schools that will be closed because of declining enrollment. Another alternative is the Four Square Church property in Agoura Hills that has hosted a Jewish camp in the past.

Mary E. Wiesbrock
Chair SOS
California Clinical Laboratory Scientist

Song of David

This Shabbat a friend of mine mentioned that he thought of me, as he had just read an article in The Jewish Journal stating that Oded Turgeman was “the first Orthodox Jew ever to enroll” at the American Film Institute here in Los Angeles (“David’s the Singer, He’s the Rapper,” April 4).

Apparently, the author of the article, Matthue Roth, didn’t do his research. You see, I graduated AFI back in 2004. I have the diploma to prove it, and the student loans. In fact, a large part of my admissions essay when I first applied to AFI back in 2002 centered on the fact that I was and am an Orthodox Jew trying to make it in the film world.

I may not have produced a controversial movie, but I was the first student to introduce Orthodox Judaism to the school while successfully completing the producing program. To quote Roth, there are a number of us who “struggle to be good Jew(s) and good artist(s).” And we are not unknown at AFI.

Should Israel care what we think? Should we care what Israel thinks?


Should Israel Care?

The four pieces addressing the cover story have missed one aspect of the debate (“Why Should Israel Care What We Think About Jerusalem?” Jan. 25). The government of Israel, in making decisions on the fate of Jerusalem, is not operating in a vacuum. It is subject to enormous pressures by the international community that is acting in its own interest.

Almost every Arab country attended the Annapolis conference last November to influence and voice their interest in the ultimate outcome of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and on the issue of Jerusalem. Thus, decisions on the fate of Jerusalem are influenced by a large group of players whose considerations are not always aligned with Israel’s.

Under these one-sided interests and multiple other considerations, the decision the government of Israel would make becomes a compromise of the pushes and pulls, rather than what is best for Israel. The Jewish voice can serve as the counterbalance that the Israeli government needs.

The Jewish people of all countries should take an active position in voicing their interest on Jerusalem. International Jewish voices are not less important than international Arab and Muslim voices, or the EU, or the U.N, or Russia or the even the United States. This may balance the adverse pressures on Israel and may allow the government of Israel to make compromises and right decisions that reflect all views.

Nahum Gat
Manhattan Beach

The controversy about who should decide Jerusalem’s fate reminds me about medieval Christian theologians who debated how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. No matter what concessions Israel makes, its enemies will want more, because they do not want a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Mahmoud Abbas refuses to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state. Saudi Arabia said it might make peace but only with an Arab Palestinian country in which Jews are allowed to live. This attitude is among the more moderate opinions in the Islamic world.

Let’s take our heads out of the sand and acknowledge that Jerusalem is a sideshow. The Palestinians are more devoted to their struggle than they are to achieving a homeland. Let’s get used to it.

Larry Shapiro
Rancho Mirage

As a citizen of America and Israel, I agree with Alan Dershowitz and Michael Berenbaum, Diaspora Jews should have a voice but not a vote when it comes to deciding the future of Jerusalem or anything else in Israel for that matter. If Jerusalem is as holy and important to some Diaspora Jews as they claim, then why aren’t they willing to live there and make the same sacrifices that Israelis do?
Come on. Fight for what you believe in. Make aliyah. Pay astronomical taxes.

Earn ridiculously low wages. Send your children to the Israeli army to defend your homeland. Maybe then, Israelis will take what you have to say seriously.

Kathy Hallgren
Via e-mail

The Orthodox Union has never claimed that Diaspora Jewry should posses a veto over Israeli policy. But we do believe, as most Israelis and American Jews believe, that Jerusalem’s fate is exceptional.

Every Jew has a stake in the future of our capital and, therefore, a right to be heard when there is talk of its fate. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has supported this notion himself, saying that he welcomes the input of Diaspora Jewry as the Israelis move forward with peace negotiations.

It is under this rubric that the Orthodox Union has taken the position that Jerusalem, as the eternal center of Jewish spiritual life, should not be divided.

Nathan J. Diament
Director
Institute for Public Affairs,
Orthodox Union

Butt Out

I read Rob Eshman’s editorial about Sabeel and Naim Ateek, and to say I am shocked, as he waxed poetic about this organization, would be an understatement (“Butt Out,” Jan. 25).

First of all, I have been to hear Naim Ateek and listened to the speeches about the IDF using special gas to make Palestinians run slowly, so that the IDF sharpshooters can kill them with more ease.

If you consider the ISM, the PSM and Fatah peace partners, then I would prefer that Eshman butt out and let CAMERA and the local Jewish advocates do their due diligence. I welcome CAMERA with open arms.

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Valley Glen

Unfortunately, The Jewish Journal’s good intentions are misdirected. While the Sabeel Center says it accepts a two-state solution, they actually endorse “One state for two nations and three religions.”

Moreover, Sabeel has been a driving force behind the campaign by Mainline Protestant churches to divest from Israel — openly expressed by Sabeel’s director, the Rev. Naim Ateek in commentaries in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and elsewhere.

The Sabeel Center claims to advocate non-violence, but fails to condemn suicide bombings in any meaningful way. A July 2002 article by Ateek, shifts accountability for suicide bombings from the terrorists who perpetrate violence, and places blame squarely on Israel. Moreover, he never calls for an end to such attacks.

But what is most troubling about the Sabeel Center or Palestinian Liberation Theology is how it casts the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in theological terms.
As stated recently in the Jerusalem Post, “…Ateek has figuratively blamed Israel for trying to kill the infant Jesus, crucifying Jesus the prophet and blocking the resurrection of Christ the Savior.”

Hatred of Jews (directed against Israel) and masked as theology is not new and is not the language of a peacemaker. There certainly are Palestinian moderates to engage in dialogue; sadly, they do not include Rev. Ateek and the Sabeel Center.

Seth Brysk
Executive Director
American Jewish Committee

We are Jews who live and work in the Pasadena area. While we share Rob Eshman’s concerns about Jews who “ride in from out of town to try to save us from the bad guys,” we are grateful for CAMERA’s efforts to educate us on the Rev. Naim Ateek. We live in the area, and we have seen the brochure (

CAMERA, Sabeel and The Jewish Journal


Rob Eshman’s peculiar attack on CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (“Butt Out,” Jan. 25, 2008), for alerting some of its Los Angeles area members and friends to the pernicious activity of an anti-Israel group called the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center and its spokesman, Naim Ateek, is wrong and distorted on many levels.

First is the absurd suggestion that CAMERA has no jurisdictional standing to comment on the Feb. 15 Sabeel conference at a Pasadena church. Eshman rightly identifies CAMERA as headquartered in Boston, but fails to mention it is a national organization of 60,000 members with offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. An active L.A. Advisory Board and more than 8,000 area members, as well as professional staff in Los Angeles, also belie the notion that a national group cannot comment on local events.

For more than a decade, CAMERA has been involved in Southern California, sponsoring briefings, conferences and lectures and monitoring and interacting with the Los Angeles Times.

Literally, as Eshman was writing his strange attack, CAMERA was running ads in local newspapers in the area deploring the incidence of bias in the Los Angeles Times, citing a 19-month study of L.A. Times Op-Eds, prepared by a CAMERA analyst and highlighting a recent anti-Semitic cartoon in that publication. The CAMERA ads challenging the L.A. Times’ bias appeared in the LA Weekly, Hollywood Reporter, L.A. Business Journal, Orange County Register, USA Today, Beverly Hills Courier — and The Jewish Journal itself!

Beyond this, CAMERA has on its staff a Christian-media analyst, Dexter Van Zile, whose focus is church commentary related to the Middle East and who has done extensive research and writing on Sabeel, has attended five Sabeel conferences and has spoken personally with Naim Ateek. A key finding of Van Zile’s invaluable work on the topic has been that Sabeel’s many appearances in mainline American churches have helped poison attitudes toward Israel in some of those denominations.

In communication with numerous Jewish organizations, CAMERA has worked on the difficult challenges presented by events such as the Sabeel conference in Pasadena.

Finally, on this point of CAMERA’s right to raise such matters, it’s notable that while Eshman devotes an entire column to demanding CAMERA “butt out” of Los Angeles, he evidently has no objection to the gathering in Pasadena of Bethelem-based Sabeel and Naim Ateek, along with speakers from various nations and places, to assault Israel.

Why is that?

One answer may be head-in-the-sand avoidance of the realities, and anger at those who suggest there’s a need to speak out and confront Israel’s detractors. Indeed, Eshman argues that Ateek’s chilling statements are just talk. In a contradictory leap of illogic he notes on the one hand that Ateek purveys classic “Christ-killer,” anti-Semitic imagery, but on the other that Ateek is a man with whom one can discuss and debate issues. He quips that Ateek’s anti-Semitic imagery “sure beats Hamas” and that he’ll take it “over a suicide bomber any day.”

This is remarkable thinking. Need it be said that spreading anti-Semitic messages in American churches is perilous in itself and must be opposed? Need it also be noted that there are dangers short of suicide bombings? Or that defaming Jews can lead to violence against them — as it has so often?

But Eshman claims CAMERA has chosen “the wrong enemy” and that exposing the statements of Sabeel and Naim Ateek risks “unraveling longstanding local relationships.”

He quotes the Rev. Ed Bacon of All Saints Church saying CAMERA “is trying to paint All Saints as an anti-Semitic organization that is against the State of Israel.” He insists: “What we are trying to do is teach people to be sophisticated about how they talk about these issues,” and adds he is “not sympathetic with Sabeel to the exclusion of the right of the state of Israel to exist.”

The Rev. Bacon may have good intentions (CAMERA has not suggested his church is anti-Semitic). But to believe that bringing Sabeel and a roster of anti-Israel speakers to excoriate the Jewish state will benefit an audience and make them “sophisticated” in discussing Middle East issues is truly troubling.

That conference lineup includes Illan Pappe, an Israeli academic and member of Israel’s tiny Communist party who has spearheaded boycott efforts against Israel in the UK and who admits to having no interest in facts. Reviewing Pappe’s book, “A History of Modern Palestine,” historian Benny Morris wrote that much of it was “complete fabrication” and that in Pappe’s world “The Palestinians are forever victims, the Zionists are forever ‘brutal colonizers.'”

Another speaker, Don Wagner, has also defamed Israel in his efforts to convince Christians in the United States to divest. In his book, “Dying in the Land of Promise,” he compared “the 100-year process of Zionist occupation in Palestine” to a “killer-vine” strangling a rose bush in his back yard.

Speaker Anna Baltzer authored an article titled “Israel’s Nazi Atrocities: The Dawud Story” concerning the alleged death of a child at a checkpoint. She likens Israel to apartheid South Africa.

And so it goes. Speaker after speaker.

The All Saints-Sabeel program will not be an opportunity to help fair-minded people gain greater understanding; it will be a one-sided assault that promotes prejudice and enmity. Why Eshman thinks Jews in Los Angeles and Pasadena should not be aware of such an event and what it may portend is inexplicable, and entirely irresponsible, for the editor of a Jewish newspaper.


Rob Eshman responds:

Though you wouldn’t know it from the harshness of Andrea Levin’s tone, she
and I actually disagree on only one issue — tactics.

As I said quite clearly in my editorial, the Sabeel Center is not a friend
of Israel. In fact, I used the word, “enemy.” If Andrea doesn’t think that
word is strong enough, I apologize.

My point is not that the group or its leader, Naim Ateek, isn’t so bad; it’s
that CAMERA’s prescription of how the Jewish community of LA should respond
to Ateek’s apperance at a local church is wrong.

Rabbi Cooper; Enough with the Spinka; Tuskeegee Airmen


Bloods, Crips and Rabbis
In profiling Rabbi Abe Cooper, I’m glad you mentioned his work in combating hate in cyberspace (“The Bloods, The Crips and The Rabbi,” Jan. 18). What is particularly noteworthy is how he has resisted the temptation to push for government censorship and instead has heeded the teaching of Justice Louis Brandeis (who not incidentally was the first Jew on the U.S. Supreme Court), who wrote that those “who won our revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty.”

By supporting conferences and online technology to combat bigotry and anti-Semitism on the Internet, Cooper has adhered to Brandeis’s proscription that “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

Stephen F. Rohde
Vice President
Progressive Jewish Alliance

Your headline on the front page of your Jan. 18 edition states, “What’s This Guy Have to Do With the Crips?” Next to the headline is a dignified picture of Rabbi Abe Cooper. My question is why does a fine paper like The Jewish Journal find it necessary to downgrade the English language by using the slang word “guy” instead of using the word man? The television media standards continue to sink.

Please don’t let the print media fall into the same abyss.

Leon M. Salter
Los Angeles

Dirty Laundry
One of the worst things that a Jewish person can do is to bring shame to the Jewish People (“Following the Spinka Money Trail,” Jan. 11). Shame on you Jewish Journal. Your cover story and photograph did exactly that. I’m not saying that the story shouldn’t have been covered. It could have been done in a less embarrassing way, and it certainly didn’t need to be on the front page and in our faces. It’s nothing to boast about or to be proud of.

In the future, I hope that you and The Jewish Journal will focus on the good things in our Jewish community and not bring us any unnecessary shame and embarrassment.

Judith Rubin
Los Angeles

Young Menschen
I must add to Rob Eshman and Marjorie Pressman’s comments about our pride in Benji Davis and David Landau (“Brave + Mensch = ?” Dec. 28). Both Benji and David are former regional officers of Far West Region United Synagogue Youth.

Benji was the religion/education vice president from 2004-2005 and David was the Israel affairs vice president from 2005-2006. Following their graduations from high school, both young men spent their freshman year in Israel on the Nativ College Leadership Program, sponsored by the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism. I could not be prouder of these two remarkable young men. Kol Hakavod to their families and the “village” that helped raise them.

Merrill Alpert
Director, Youth Activities
Far West Region United Synagogue Youth

Pilots Over Auschwitz
The “Black Pilots Over Auschwitz” opinion piece by Rafael Medoff … appears to strive for some relevancy but the message is diluted by its emphasis on the race of the fighter pilots (Jan. 18). What is unknown is if any of the pilots engaged in the mission of Aug. 20, 1944, to bomb the factories near Auschwitz were even remotely aware of the daily atrocities occurring at Auschwitz. History tells us that the chances are they were not. And if not, what does the race of the bomber or Mustang pilots have to do with the subject of the piece? If the all-white pilots of the Flying Fortresses could testify just as compellingly as the all-black pilots of the Mustangs to the technical viability of a bombing mission on Auschwitz — which they obviously could — what is the point of the piece?

Is it merely a “feel-good” to demonstrate that Jews and Blacks could have intersected at points in history to make life better for the both of us? Or is it something else?

By the by, it appears that Mr. Medoff has deconstructed, either intentionally or inadvertently, a most cherished historical “fact” ascribed to the Tuskeegee Airmen: that they never lost a plane they were tasked with protecting. Either they did, which makes a portion of the piece false; or they didn’t, which makes their vaunted reputation a lie.

Franklin S. Adler
Beverly Hills

Program for Grandparents
Although I totally agree with organizing support groups for grandparents with intermarried children, and, in fact, have conducted similar programs for years, I take issue with the subtle derision aimed at “Hebrew school teachers” (“Program Helps Grandparents Nurture Interfaith Grandkids,” Jan. 18). Would that every Jewish grandparent might have the devotion to educating our children that our teachers display each time they walk into the classroom.

Judy Aronson
Faculty member
Academy for Jewish Religion/California

Yiddish Dancers
As one of the co-chairs of the XIII Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival, I would like to express, on behalf of our organizing committee, our extreme disappointment with the Jan. 11, 2008 article by Jane Ulman titled “Lithuanian Festival Excludes Yiddish Dancers.” The heading of the article strongly conveys the impression that we went out of our way to deliberately exclude Yiddish dancers from participating in our festival. This could not be more erroneous.

The Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival is an international celebration of Lithuanian Folk dance held every four years, whose sole purpose is the mission of preserving and nurturing the art of folk dancing together with its music, authentic costumes and traditions. Many groups have members of non-Lithuanian descent, and this is not a criterion for participation. The festival welcomes any group, or individual, that is willing to learn the dances as part of a synchronized routine. This is the only criterion for participating.

We urge you to avoid politicizing the XIII Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival and accept it as a cultural event that embraces all participants who come to celebrate Lithuanian dance.

Not so awful being green, honorable menschen


Greening Hypocrisy

Just read your article in the green edition of The Jewish Journal and bravo (“End Hypocrisy Now,” Jan. 4). Thank goodness someone finally said something. I am a filmmaker and environmental educator living in the Fairfax district, and I can’t tell you how shocking I find the indifference to the problems at hand from the Orthodox community as a whole. It absolutely astounds me. I have taught the course I created to a number of schools in Los Angeles and until just recently have had no interest from religious day schools. Thankfully, I will be teaching at YULA next week and Shalhevet in February, but I’m amazed by the wall I have faced. As you put so well in your piece, it seems that of all people Orthodox Jews should embrace the concept for their sake, for Israel’s sake, and for the sake of the planet that Hashem created for them. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks and keep up the good work.

Dave Chameides
www.sustainabledave.org

What a great editorial. Thank you!

You are right — the one thing Jews agree on is the need for America to achieve energy independence. And not just Jews think so!

Thank you also for the example you set in driving a bio-diesel car and for the cleverness to show its ease in a video.

I just hope you’re not in the hospital right now … ha, ha!

Brave — Kudos!

Jennifer Kutner
StandWithUs Publicist

Congratulations Mr. Eshman, another article on the need for a Green Revolution, energy independence and global warming. While you’re patting yourself on the back at the next dinner party, consider just a few ways that innovation has been treated in the United States in the last 30 years, mostly by those on the left side of the aisle.

Consider the following: Nuclear power provides a huge chunk of energy in France and just a small percentage of that in the U.S. The nuclear power industry has been stymied by those who alarmed the population of “pending disaster” if these power plants proliferated across the country. As a result, no new nuclear plant has been built in many years. I don’t think that France “glows in the dark” from it’s use of nuclear energy.

You might have used your editorial power to better effect if you would ask your readers to truly support sources of power, other than oil, with constructive action to help companies through the tangled web of regulations, which have prevented the above ideas from becoming reality. It’s truly sad that a great number of our country’s “intellegentsia” have wasted so much time and money doing the exact opposite.

Bill Bender
Granada Hills

Go Neutral

As the lead staff person in the Los Angeles Jewish National Fund (JNF) office, I was elated to open our mail and find your Green Issue (Jan. 4). I flipped instantly to Jane Ulman’s cover story, “What Would Noah Do?” as I was an attendee at the meeting with the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. JNF, as many realize, has been a leader in environmental preservation, so our attendance at such an event was a natural fit. I was happy to see you mentioned our organization’s online calculator to help families and individuals see their carbon footprint.

My face and excitement fell, however, when I turned the page and read the paragraph about our new green initiative, GoNeutral. Ulman states, “Jewish National Fund kicked off its Go Neutral campaign for individuals or organizations that want to reduce their carbon footprint by planting trees.” This is, in fact, only a piece of GoNeutral. We, of course, still very much believe in the importance of planting trees in Israel, and certainly this is a component of our initiative. However, GoNeutral also includes pieces of education for youth ages K-university level on how to reduce their effect on the environment (not just through tree planting, of course), as well as the opportunity for people to contribute to the numerous environmental projects JNF is involved in abroad. These include the halting of desertification, boosting water supplies through reservoirs and water reclamation, and helping farmers produce agriculture more efficiently.

JNF has, for some time, been committed to keeping our environment healthy, and we are anxious to work with synagogues, schools, and individuals to continue to make a positive impact on our planet.

Lindsey D. Brengle
Campaign Executive
Jewish National Fund

More Greening

In an effort to be “greener,” we purchased a Honda Civic GX, a natural gas powered car, early last year (Green Issue, Jan. 4). The car has been driven about 20,000 miles. In some analyses, the car (because it does not have a battery in need of disposal at the end of its service life) is considered even “greener” than a Prius. I would like to see more of this type of car and fewer large SUVs in my synagogue parking lot.

Bill Friedman
Studio City

All issues should be green! It is about time that The Journal has dedicated space to this important Jewish issue and value, which just happens to also be one of national and global importance.

I would encourage The Journal to include a Green column in each issue, just as you include a short drash on the weekly parasha.

David Aaronson
Los Angeles

Deserving Menschen

Love your item about “Mensches” (or is it menschen?) (“Mensches,” Dec. 28).

Delighted to see what you wrote about Benji Davis and David Landau. Can you add a P.S.? They grew up at Beth Am and attended Pressman Academy. Forgive my chauvinism.

Marjorie Pressman
Via E-mail

I am a member of the Valley chapter of the Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club that meets at Temple Adat Ari El at 7:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month. It seems to me that when The Jewish Journal uses a Yiddish noun with an English spelling, The Journal would make an effort to do so correctly. Although many English nouns are pluralized by the addition of an “s” at the end of the noun, very few Yiddish nouns do so. In addition, as in the noun “sheep,” there are Yiddish nouns that are spelled and pronounced the same way whether singular or plural.

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

Mah-Jongg


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

Correction
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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Annapolis, Chanukah, Jerusalem, Not So Weird


Annapolis and Jerusalem

Last month, Rob Eshman wrote, “Many of us are willing to let half of Jerusalem go so that the idea of Jerusalem can be saved” (“Annapolis and Chanukah,” Nov. 30). I’d like to respond with two points:

First, if, God forbid, East Jerusalem were handed over to the Palestinians, it wouldn’t be “ideas” they’d be firing onto the homes and institutions of West Jerusalem.

Second, no portion of Israel, especially Jerusalem, is the sole possession of the prime minister, to be traded for even a legitimate promise of peace. The state may be sovereign, but the land upon which the Israeli government presides is unique and distinct from any other parcel of land on earth.

Jerusalem belongs to all Jews, everywhere: those of us who pray every day for its safety, teenagers visiting for the first time through Taglit-birthright israel, grandparents who buy Israel Bonds for their grandchildren, Israel Defense Forces soldiers who fought to protect and reunify the city and their families and friends who grieved when they paid the ultimate price.

Although we’ve been scattered around the world for the past 2,000 years, our hearts were always in Jerusalem. Seeing the city divided now would break our hearts.

Daniel Iltis
Los Angeles

I want to thank Rob Eshman for his insightful and honest piece about Annapolis. I am heartened that the parties met and that the Arab world seems ready to move in the direction of making peace with Israel. The hard work is yet to come.

And it is so true that the story of Chanukah, the spiritual side, which the rabbis highlighted through the haftarah of Zecharia, can inform us in how we go forward in this new round of talks. We must all be truthful, hopeful and courageous of spirit in our desire for peace.

Jerusalem can be shared, as it is already, and the holy sites will be open to all people.

The naysayers are out in force, but I am choosing to stand with those who believe in hope and a future of peace. The realities will be hard to swallow, but with a healthy dose of spirituality, a belief that tomorrow can be different from today, we can be the generation that makes peace a reality. Not by might but by spirit.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater
Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center,
Brit Tzedek V’Shalom National Secretary

‘New Kind of Mikveh’

There are many beautifully designed mikvehs throughout California (“New Kind of Mikveh Washes Off Ritual’s Negative Image,” Dec. 7). This new trend started some 30 years ago with the Long Beach Mikveh. Its establishment was prompted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Since then, mikvehs have taken on a new approach to design and sensitivity to femininity. For instance, the recently constructed mikveh in Agoura is a prime example of this trend.

In our community of Yorba Linda, the Orange County mikveh is slated to open in just a few weeks. The mikveh was constructed with great attention to detail. It is a haven of holiness and purity. Many in the community will benefit from it.

For more on mikvehs around the community, visit www.mikvah.org.

Rabbi David Eliezrie
North County Chabad Center

‘Wandering Minyan’

I must confess that it was with special delight and pleasure I read David Suissa’s Pearl Harbor Day column titled, “Wandering Minyan” (Dec. 7).

There are three reasons I was thrilled by your explication. First, the dynamic writing style offered a cerebral joy associated with pleasure of experiencing fine craftsmanship. Secondly and more importantly I shared an experience with Young Israel of Santa Monica, and your words were true and familiar. What reverberated deeply was your prophetic call to act as a true guardian and trustee of community assets, to act benevolently and righteously, to act as a brother to a brother.

My encounter with this little congregation was similar to yours. My wife and I sauntered into the Levin Center and encountered an eclectic group, unified in their respect and warmth toward guests and each other.

I wish I could share your optimism that with a new voice in The Federation, there can be exhibited a breath of kindness to engage Young Israel.

I ask all like-minded folk, especially Young Israel congregants, to make a small amendment to their annual gifts to The Federation. Make their checks payable to Young Israel of Santa Monica Rent Trust (Negotiable when Young Israel resumes residency at the Levin Center).

If enough dollars are earmarked for Young Israel of Santa Monica, The Federation will yield to economy, if not brotherhood.

David [Suissa] keep up the good work in keeping our community leaders accountable and humane.

David Stauber
Santa Monica

Kabbalah

If Phillip Berg, founder of the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles, is “trying to keep young Jews from cults,” then why is he discouraging them from taking pride in their Judaism (“Not So Weird,” Dec. 7)?

In his review of Jody Myers’ book and his own visit to the centre, Rob Eshman states that the Kabbalah Centre denies that it is Jewish (except when doing so would benefit its coffers). He also explains how centre regulars abhor the idea of converting to Judaism or even using the term Jewish.

If the centre and its adherents are so ashamed of being Jewish or being associated with something Jewish, then why did they steal the name of an ancient Jewish practice? Is it any wonder that the centre rubs many Jews the wrong way?

Real Jews take pride in their Judaism. They don’t try to appeal to the masses or blend in with non-Jews, and they certainly don’t try to coddle spoiled movie stars and pop singers like Madonna, who are made sick by the very idea of being Jewish.

OneVoice, one heart, one mind


OneVoice

Arthur Cohn’s recent guest opinion on OneVoice and Mideast peace is hopelessly rooted in the thinking of past generations (“OneVoice Speaks Mistakenly on Achieving Peace,” Nov. 16).

The idea that Palestinians intentionally kill innocent Israelis, but Israelis only accidentally kill innocent Palestinians, and, therefore, there is no “moral equivalence,” sadly misses the point. Both sides are killing.

The Palestinians, whose family members are killed by Israelis, take no comfort in the fact that Israel has done all it can to avoid killing innocent people. There is no point at the beginning of negotiations to try to cast one side as less morally equivalent than the other.

OneVoice is right. Let both sides stop violence and incitement, and let both sides sit down to find common ground to peace.

Lawrence Kopeikin
Via e-mail

Survivor Mitzvah Project

I read the article on the activities of the Survivor Mitzvah Project online with a sense of pride and frustration (“Touched by Angels,” Nov. 23). I have been aware of the activities of the project for the past year.

The source of pride is obvious. The frustration probably comes with the sense of feeling that with just a little more effort from those of us whose input to helping is financial, we can make a difference.

We cannot unring the bell of the slaughter and degradation of our fellow Jews, but we can help the survivors live out their lives with less pain than has been inflicted upon them to date.

This letter is one more man’s plea to the already committed community that reads The Journal to do just something more right now. Every cause is worthwhile, but these survivors are more than just a cause, and the fact is we can do more.

People and institutions in the Jewish community should pause for a moment in this week of Chanukah and light a candle for the survivors left behind. Yes, it is money that will bring them warmth, food and medicine. Please give it a thought.

Richard Nathan
Englewood, Colo.

Thank you for publishing the article about the good work being done by the Survivor Mitzvah Project. These volunteers have been able to reach out to the forgotten Jews of Eastern Europe who have endured decades of pogroms, terrible wars, the Holocaust and tragic repression. Now they live alone in their last years in abject poverty, in remote shtetls virtually abandoned by the Jewish world.

The angels of this project seem to have managed to establish a network that has become a lifeline. With the small amounts of money, they deliver large amounts of hope to our virtual parents and grandparents, who are the only ones keeping alive in situ the memory of a destroyed Jewish civilization.

I second Grant Arthur Gochin’s letter (Letters, Nov. 30) urging that each of us contribute even small amounts to enable the project to continue its commendable work.

Miriam Koral
Via e-mail

Chanukah and Adult Faith

Danya Ruttenberg’s article is historically inaccurate and itself kind of childish (“Chanukah and Adult Faith,” Nov. 30).

First, Judah never presided over an independent nation. He was killed four years after the rededication of the Temple in one of the many battles to save a Jewish community under attack from the Syrian Greeks. Two other brothers also died in battles to protect Jewish populations from such attacks, which would cause certain death and destruction.

It was brother Shimon, who became Cohen gadol (the big kahuna) and nasi (prince) and achieved independence from foreign control by adroit diplomatic and military maneuvers. This occurred over 21 years after the rededication of the Temple, whose access was limited even after the rededication until Shimon finally defeated the Syrian garrison at the citadel — literally across the street from the Temple.

Second, the need to express some kind of soul-searching for some alleged ancient wrongdoing by our guys, in order to appreciate the meaning of the holiday for today, is itself immaturity personified, when the soul searcher is really searching for a path to current political correctness and acceptance by those who have no sense as to what it took to become a Jewish nation then and what it takes now, for that matter. Or was the writer just writing stuff so that she appears deep?

James Auspitz
Auspitz Law Corp

Nonprofit Raffles

A clarification to Julie Gruenbaum Fax’s Nov. 23 article, “Can Nonprofits Rake It in With Raffles?”

Should someone, in fact, win a home in a megaraffle, the value of the house would be taxed as regular income at a rate of 35 percent for federal taxes, as she reports. However, for the house, just as for a cash prize, the charity conducting the raffle would have an obligation to ensure that 25 percent of the value of the prize is withheld at the time the prize is won.

Satisfying the withholding requirement is much more difficult when the prize is property, such as a house, rather than cash, and the withholding requirement is one of the reasons that most grand prize winners opt for cash, rather than the house.

Ellen Aprill
John E. Anderson Professor of Tax Law
Loyola Law School

Missing MIlestone

It seems that The Jewish Journal has overlooked one of the most important dates in Jewish history. Nov. 29 marked the 60th anniversary of the U.N. partition vote on Palestine, turning the British mandate into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.

A milestone of 60 years of existence, no matter how embattled or hated, should not be ignored. It is a tribute to the stiff-necked nature of our history that we are still there and are proud of that existence. Too bad, it seems, that The Jewish Journal is not part of that recognition.

Larry Hart
Via e-mail

Two Thumbs Up

I just wanted to tell you what a great service your paper provides for Southern California Jewry (“Annapolis and Chanukah,” Nov. 30). Last week’s edition included your pitch for the worthy laptop program, opposing views about the wisdom of and prospects for the Annapolis conference, Zane Buzby’s Mega Mitzvah project and Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky’s insightful comments on the weekly Torah Portion.

Cake is taken; happiness is not a warm gun; go veg, young man!


Teaching About Israel

Frankly, I’ve read other articles in The Journal that I haven’t agreed with before, but this one, written by Daniel Sokatch, takes the cake (“We Must Teach About Israel — Warts and All,” Sept. 14). It’s nothing but a pure leftist propaganda piece disguised as a thoughtful solution to the disaffection that so many American Jewish youths have toward Israel.

In reality, the author had no real solution other than to attack and make claims about the Israelis living in Judea-Samaria (Yesha) which, for the most part, are entirely unfounded. Further, he attacks the State of Israel unjustifiably for the conditions in which the 2 1/2 million Arabs, also in Judea-Samaria, live.

Arnold Millan

La Crescenta

I am not sure Daniel Sokatch is aware of the pervasive contradictions in the article he wrote. Let me help clarify the many “complications” he alludes to.

When he says that “Israel has for almost 40 years engaged in an occupation of the West Bank,” it shows he hasn’t got a clue of the historical and legal realities of the region. Otherwise, he would have realized that: a) by calling Judea and Samaria the “West Bank,” he already engages in a semantic distortion of reality; b) that Israel could not possibly “occupy” a territory that has been legally attributed to the Jewish people by the international community 85 years ago and which did not belong to any sovereign power before or since.

Sokatch may call his alliance “progressive,” but I shiver at the thought of an organization harboring his confused sense of reality trying to spread its sheer ignorance of the facts to young American Jews.

Salomon Benzimra

Toronto, Canada

Be Happy

Amy Klein’s fascinating article about happiness elides one great truth about happiness: It is not actually the principle end of life (“Can Happiness Be Taught,” Sept. 14). Rousseau observed that “even in our keenest pleasures, there is scarcely a single moment of which the heart could truthfully say: Would that this moment could last forever!” He was making clear that we want more than pleasure, more indeed than happiness.

Philosopher Robert Nozick proposed an experiment years ago, the “experience machine.” It would give a virtual experience of everything the person wanted, so that it would all seem real and be perfect.

Most people would reject such a life. Why? Because although we all want to be happy, happiness is not all we want. We want something deeper, richer, harder than happiness alone.

This is hardly a new observation. It is ancient and survives through Greek tragedy and modern literature. As the years have passed, Aldous Huxley’s novel, “Brave New World,” has grown in relevance. Remember the words of “The Savage” in his book, rejecting the SOMA drug that made everyone happy: “I don’t want comfort. I want God. I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

The Torah teaches us to “serve God with joy” but to get there, we will have to make our way through disappointment, sorrow and struggle. In the Midrash, Rabbi Johanan reminds us that the eye has a dark part and a light part, but one can only see through the dark part. Darkness grants insight and vision. Seek happiness alone, and you will never find joy, which is deeper; for the road to joy is not always through the level ground of happiness.

Rabbi David Wolpe

Sinai Temple

Food Stamps

H. Eric Schockman surely means well by telling us that eating for $3 a day is a “near impossibility” (“Food Stamp Diet Underscores Need to Aid Poor,” Sept. 14). Actually, it’s really easy to do. All it requires is eating a plant-based diet, shopping in the right places and bypassing prepared foods.

Doubt the appeal of a plant-based diet? I have been cooking delicious, well-balanced, infinitely varied meals for my wife and myself for years with common, inexpensive ingredients. We’re healthy and well-nourished and neither of us has ever fainted from protein deficiency.

If he only knew what to buy, where to shop and how to cook, skills which are easily learned by even a non-Ph.D., Schockman would have more energy and enthusiasm and wouldn’t have to dread his next Food Stamp Challenge meal. He may find it ironic that some of the most nutritious foods in his local market cost the least.

If I took him shopping, I’d point out the aisles with whole grains, nuts and legumes and would show him how easy they are to prepare. We’d add a few well-chosen spices, some leafy greens and an assortment of other vegetables and fruits to round out the week.

Then, I’d show him where I regularly buy avocados for 50 cents each, red peppers for $1 a pound and a wide variety of exotic greens for $1 a bunch. His cooking would no longer be a joke among family and friends, and some of that $21 expenditure for a week’s food could be used to feed them, too.

Ed Camhi

Los Angeles

‘Selma’s Sermon’

I want to thank David Suissa for a beautiful story on my life and challenges as a cancer survivor (“Selma’s Sermon,” Sept. 14). I also want to make clear that my cancer was successfully treated. I am healthy and well and happy that my work with Vital Options International allows me to help others.

I also wish to thank The Jewish Journal for supporting Vital Options’ goals and mission to facilitate a global cancer dialogue.

Selma R. Schimmel

Founder and CEO

Vital Options International

‘My Holocaust’

How ironic that book reviewer Michael Feuer, whose main objection to Tova Reich’s “My Holocaust” is her use of mean-spirited satire, chooses to illustrate his point with his own brand of mean-spiritedness (“Shoah Satire Crosses Line Into Nasty Territory,” Sept. 7).

Apparently, he found it necessary to demonstrate an example of bad tourist behavior in Israel by recalling an incident from his childhood, when he witnessed a busload of loudmouth, obnoxious tourists unloading for a trip up Masada. Without any evidence, he determines that they are “probably from Hadassah” and henceforth ridicules them relentlessly by name as though his assigning that identity makes it true.

Jefferson was Jewish?


Jewish Jefferson

I’m a fan of Lloyd Garver’s always humorous and insightful column on cbsnews.com and was pleased to see his opinion piece in The Jewish Journal (“Oy! Jefferson, Jewish? Who Knew?” March 16).

I, too, was raised in a family where we kept a mental roster of well-known Jews.

I carried on the tradition with my own children. My best guess is that this practice will not continue as my children raise my grandchildren. And I think that is as it should be. Garver is right to point out that the willingness of many Jews — quite possibly most Jews — to oppose Joe Lieberman’s position on the Iraq war is a sign of progress. What will be “good for the Jews” will be to collectively arrive at a time when that factor no longer enters our minds.

Elias Davis
Malibu

Lloyd Garver’s column “Oy! Thomas Jefferson, Jewish? Who Knew?” was not only funny, but so true. I, too, thought how sad my parents aren’t around to learn that Jefferson is one of us. Having enjoyed Garver’s columns at cbsnews.com in recent years, I’m now kvelling just knowing he’s one of us.

David Pollock
Beverly Hills

Smug Alternative

Bravo to Rob Eshman’s efforts to get more members of the L.A. Jewish community to consider driving a car powered by something other than gasoline (“Smug Alert,” March 9). Yet another option not mentioned by Eshman: the Honda Civic GX, which runs on compressed natural gas. I might not be able to buy a jug of vegetable oil at Costco and pour it into my tank, as a biodiesel-owning co-worker does, but I can fill up my tank at home at a fraction of what gasoline would cost.

Jo Pitesky
Studio City

Nathan Shapell

I am grateful that The Journal quickly included the shocking news of the passing of Nathan Shapell, one of the giants of our world Jewish community (Obituaries March 16). I would respectfully add certain aspects that bear disclosure. In six tortured years from 1939 to 1945 he endured the worst: the Shoah.

In six incredible years from 1945 to 1951 he performed a near miracle for thousands of survivors, displaced persons wandering aimlessly around Europe by creating, with the help of the American Military Government, a city of refuge and rehabilitation in Munchberg, Germany. He was its president, the creator of model Kibbutzim that trained those who would make aliyah to the Holy Land, the creator of a Free Loan to help people establish themselves and builder of new homes to house the homeless.

He came to Los Angeles in the early 1950s, joined Temple Beth Am and, in six years, began a three-year term as our president. He joined me in the cause of creating the first major memorial to the 6 Million — after the community at large was reluctant to build one. It is a great stone replication of the Kotel with the names of the major death camps inscribed on it. It was completed in 1966, has been seen by hundreds of thousands since that day and was rededicated in 1991 by Shapell’s children and grandchildren. A memorial candle has been burning at its side, replenished once a week, ever since. The charred Torah he brought with him from the Shoah rests in its Ark; he held that Torah in his arms at Yizkor four times each year. He has said Kaddish for the 18 members of his family murdered by the Nazis — and the millions more — every single day of his life.

Beth Am is proud to claim him as our own, to urge everyone to read his incredible eyewitness account of those tragic days, “Witness to the Truth,” and to mourn his passing with heavy hearts.

Rabbi Jacob Pressman
Temple Beth Am

Breaking the Silence

I am closely related to one of the boys who started “Breaking the Silence” and it has been hard for me to get him to realize that he is doing damage (“The Freedom to Shut Up,” March 2). I am going to send him your article.

By the way, my take on why he was involved is that he was wounded in his psyche, actually psychologically injured, by serving in Hebron and he is doing this to heal himself — not altogether consciously.

Name Withheld
Via e-mail

Poverty in Israel

Dina Kraft exposes the seamy underside of Israel’s “socialist paradise” in her recent cover article, “Homeless in the Holy Land” (March 9). With government data showing 25 percent of Israelis living in poverty, it’s high time the media step forward to report this under-covered — and vitally important — story.

As a funder of critical social services throughout Israel, we hear stories every day of parents struggling to feed their children; seniors forgoing daily meals so they can afford their heart medications; recent olim (immigrants) confronting a daily existence more bleak than in the war-torn and poverty-stricken countries they have left behind. All of this in a country that, as Kraft notes, has twice the number of millionaires per capita as the world average.

Something is wrong with this picture. Which is why we’re proud to be part of addressing the problem, by joining forces with a group of inspiring Israeli advocates to launch Leket, the country’s first national food bank. Meeting the needs of hungry Israelis in a comprehensive and strategic fashion will go a long way toward easing the daily pressures felt by so many on the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

H. Eric Schockman
President
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

Young Wishmakers

Temple Emanuel is proud of our bat mitzvah, Danielle David, and her decision to make a difference in the life of a child through the Make-a-Wish Foundation (How One Bat Mitzvah Girl Made A Wish Come True,” March 16). Like Danielle, all b’nai mitzvah at Temple Emanuel are challenged to find a mitzvah project that involves both direct service through volunteering, as well as the giving of tzedakah to an organization that they find meaningful. The mitzvah project is monitored by their mentors, adults with whom they explore what it means to become bar or bat mitzvah; through the study of Torah, the exploration of what prayer means to them; and an engagement in tikkun olam.

Shutting Jewish mouths; A civil tone of voice


A Civil Tone

Last week’s Letters section offered a fascinating window on the views and feelings of our community (Letters, Feb. 23). Most of the letters were thoughtful, informative and passionate. Two stepped over the line.

One nasty note was directed at Rob Eshman personally, condemning him for once belonging to Peace Now, calling him a traitor and a pogrom, while besmirching all Jews who disagree with the writer as people who would “sell their soul for a fake peace.” I’m afraid someone’s been listening to too much talk radio.

And speaking of talk radio, the other letter lumps together Messrs. Prager, Medved (and David Klinghoffer for good measure) as “notorious Jewish hypocrites,” while managing to disparage all evangelical Christians as people who “do not respect Judaism.” Sad.

Be they on the left or the right, some folks don’t seem to realize that it’s indeed possible to debate with facts, rather than fanaticism. Mr. Rohde’s letter proved it beautifully, with his clearly laid out rebuttal showing that our Founding Fathers did respect other faiths beyond the Judeo-Christian realm.So why tolerate the name calling?

While I congratulate you for having the guts and openness to publish even the most vitriolic letters, perhaps there’s a better way.

The Journal already imposes some restrictions on writers, requesting that letters be of a certain length and contain a valid name and address. May I make a suggestion? How about also requiring a civil tone?

Want to get nasty and call names? Go someplace else.

It would be a small thing, true, but maybe it’s a first step toward elevating the debate to at least a minimum level of respect.

Abe Rosenberg
via e-mail

Jewish Mouths

I thoroughly approve of your approach and point in this editorial (“Shutting Jewish Mouths,” Feb. 16). Two Jews, three opinions has always characterized our tribe and always will. Even with the fear injected into the conditions of dissent from the Israel lobby line, still we rise. I hope we always will.I especially appreciate your point of the destruction of all but the most reactionary views of history and current events when the left is walled off and vilified.

Stuart M. Chandler
Mar Vista

Rob Eshman speaks proudly of having sought Jewish support for a Palestinian state 20 years ago, when it was a minority position in the American Jewish community, saying, “The moral of the story: Today’s dissenters [like Tony Judt and Tony Kushner] might just be on to something.”

Doesn’t Eshman understand the danger of creating a Palestinian state today, which would have Hamas and Fatah running the show, whose charters call for Israel’s destruction and use of terrorism, and who would continue to promote hatred and murder of Israelis in its media, mosques, textbooks and youth camps and refuse to arrest and jail terrorists?

We agree with the former head of the IDF, Gen. Moshe Yaalon, who has repeatedly stated that “a Palestinian state should not be created. It will only increase the likelihood of war.”

Morton A. Klein
National President
Zionist Organization of America
New York

Absurd Assertion

I coordinated the recent Los Angeles Combatants for Peace (CFP) events (“Divided We Fall,” Feb. 9).

StandWithUs’ (SWU) assertion that CFP presentations are “one-sided” is false, and its categorization of CFP events as “anti-Israel” is cynical and absurd.

CFP is a joint Israeli and Palestinian peace group, and all CFP events in the UnNited States feature representatives from both peoples. CFP is comprised of former Palestinian militants and Israeli combat soldiers who have realized the futility of the violence they have perpetrated on each other, and now believe that there is no viable military solution to the conflict and that both sides are wrong to persist in armed hostilities against the other.

If SWU applies the “anti-Israel” label to any gathering that fails to promote the integrity of greater Israel, CFP events are properly categorized as such. Otherwise, SWU’s labeling of CFP events as “anti-Israel” evidences a profound measure of political solipsism.

Further, I would be interested in learning what “unsubstantiated charges” and “misinformation” SWU claims CFP is disseminating. As a matter of policy and design, and out of a desire to discourage debate over ancillary matters, CFP makes no charges and takes no positions other than those expressed in its threefold mission.

Joel S. Farkas
Santa Monica

Azerbaijan Democratization

I was pleased to read one more article about Azerbaijan which stresses the tolerance of its population toward different religions and nations (“Borat, Meet Elin,” Feb. 23).

However, I see a threat: Because of authoritarianism and pressure on political opposition, more and more people have started turning their faces toward radicalism. An ordinary citizen believes now that it is impossible to change the government in a democratic way.

According to OSCE reports, all elections since 1993 have been falsified by the former local KGB and Communist Party boss Heydar Aliyev and by his son, Ilham, after the father’s death in 2003. Some experts have started warning about the danger of revolution in Azerbaijan. Yet, will it be “colored revolution” as in neighboring Ukraine and Georgia to democratize the country or Iranian-like path?

I do believe that only by urging authorities to cease the pressure on democratic opposition will we succeed in preventing Azerbaijan from falling into radicalism and finally starting democratization.

Elgun Taghiyev
Program Assistant
National Democratic Institute
Baku, Azerbaijan

‘Curly Top’ Arkin

To see Alan Arkin bald is so shocking to my system, considering here is a guy who, in a gentile high school environment, had the most glamorous and envious beautiful curly head of hair of any of us seven or eight gifted Jews who were literally his friends (“Alan Arkin: Not Just Another Kid From Brooklyn,” Feb. 16).

When it came to having that suave, utterly curly head of hair, Alan had no equal.

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