We pledge allegiance to your shorts

Camp Pranks

There is something inherently cruel in laughter at the expense of other people (“We Salute Your Shorts,” July 13).

It’s one thing to satirize, mock or lampoon where it’s appropriate. However, pranks at summer camp often are hurtful and scary for children.

It’s disturbing to read that well-known rabbis and cantors have no regret for their actions. Do they encourage children to do the same?

I detect a profound lack of maturity, compassion and consideration when adults approve or tolerate such behavior.

We belong to a people charged with the task of uplifting the human spirit.

Pranks at summer camp, which harm the dignity or emotional health of others, are antithetical to our purpose.

J. Sand
Los Angeles

Grocery Chains

Susan Freudenheim’s editorial brought back memories (“Berries, Pizza and a Smile,” July 13).

During the 2003 grocery store strike, the behavior of management was so egregious that it alienated conservatives who wanted to hear their side of the story. They simply locked themselves up and refused to dialogue with the community. In contrast, the workers expressed themselves with tremendous passion, clarity and integrity.

Apparently, the “big three” grocery store chains, similar to other businesses, are trying to rid themselves of career employees who have families to care for and mortgages to pay. They wish to create a cheap, docile workforce of students and youngsters who are simply “passing through” on their way to other things. This should be a source of concern to all of us.

The big three grocery store chains are moribund already. They are not welcome in blue-collar neighborhoods, where they have been supplanted by ethnic markets and mom-and-pop stores offering better service and much better prices.

If the big three grocery store chains die, it won’t be because they were killed it will be because they committed suicide.

Rabbi Louis J. Feldman
Van Nuys

Sonenshein Wrong

Raphael J. Sonenshein gets it all wrong in his article, “Neocons Setting Dangerous Course to Iran,” (July 13).

He derides a laundry list of Jewish thinkers who do not embrace a pacifistic, defeatist view of America’s place on the world stage. He dismisses as lightweight thinkers Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Eliot Abrams, Douglas Feith and Scooter Libby — and as a toss in, “evil incarnate” Sen. Joesph Lieberman, the whipping boy of every leftist Democrat.

But let’s be real. The idea to change the politic of the Middle East was well placed — however, a flawed execution of early success, wasted a brilliant vision by those just mentioned.

Let’s get one thing straight. The far left is no friend to Israel or to Jews in general. We are not talking about the socialist Democrats of the World War II era or those that stood with the civil rights movement in the ’60s or opposed the Vietnam War. We are talking about the pro-Third World whatever bunch who hate Israel because it is Western oriented and prosperous.

They prefer Jews who are victims, not those with tanks and a modern air force. The human rights violations and sheer mass murder by countries such as China, North Korea, Iran, Syria and Cuba, just to mention a few, fail to stir up a fraction of the scorn and indignation directed at Israel. What I wonder makes them different?

Now, as to the outlandish notion of taking on Iran, what is the problem? If the idea of a nuclear Iran, which has sworn to wipe Israel off the face of the planet, is not troublesome to you, then Sonenshein’s averment that the threat from Islam is, to use his words, “exaggerated,” is both noteworthy and justified.

If, however, you believe that Islam in general and Iran specifically pose a threat to both the United States and Israel, then what grand plan does Sonenshein offer as an alternative? The answer is none.

Richard Binder

Inside Job

It saddens me to think that Jewish singles would think it takes someone else to complete them (“Marry First, Date Later,” July 6).

Would it not be better to look for a soulmate when one feels they are whole and complete within themselves?

Would they then not have more to offer a relationship, and then they could also seek someone who is also whole? I don’t believe anyone else can really complete you. That’s an inside job.

Judith O. Kollmon
Sherman Oaks

No New Arab State

Morton Klein’s rejection of Gidi Grinstein’s approach to Fatah and the Palestinians is unfortunately a continuation of the lack of open-mindedness and innovative ideas that characterizes many mainstream pro-Israel American organizations like his Zionist Organization of America (Letters, July 6).

Klein and the leaders of these organizations are partly responsible for the lack of open debate in our community. Unlike in Israel, where an overwhelming majority support a Palestinian state and frank discussion about the status of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights is encouraged, Jewish organizations have branded those who discuss these options as outside the mainstream.

It is time for a new approach from our community leaders and organizations, an approach that mirrors the openness in Israeli society to these complex issues.

Rabbi Mitchel Malkus
Via e-mail

Open Discussion

Observers are right to note that Hamas’ conquest of the Gaza Strip calls into question the idea of giving the Palestinian Arabs another state (i.e. in addition to Jordan, which comprised the majority of Palestine) (“Political Shake-Up Spurs Ideas on Two-State Solution,” July 13).

Great Exploitations

“I went into therapy because I needed to resolve a horrible conflict,” Martin Lewis reveals in his delightfully cheeky one-man show, “Great Exploitations! An Audience With Martin Lewis.” “I happen to be obviously British, but also Jewish.”

Lewis, who believes he’s “the only British-Jewish humorist in the 323 area code,” has provided satiric political commentary for MSNBC and “Politically Incorrect.” He has been playfully slapped by Sharon Stone while covering the Oscars for ABC and E! and has produced records and movies with Monty Python, plus TV specials on the Beatles and Princess Di. He has created and hosted nine film festivals for the American Cinematique, the latest of which, “Mods and Rockers: Groovy Movies from the Shag-a-delic Sixties!” opens next week and features his one-man show. In his monologue, Lewis reveals that during the ’60s and beyond, he “never even took a puff of a joint. Emes.”

Rather, he rebelled against the Jews in bowler hats who tried to “pass” as upper-crust Anglo-Saxons at his childhood synagogue. From the age of 5, he stubbornly refused to drink tea. He later cut up his mother’s cookbooks and flashed pictures of food at shul on Yom Kippur.

His parents warned him “Don’t stand out, don’t show off; people will know you’re Jewish.” Lewis didn’t listen. When his snooty Latin teacher proved anti-Semitic, he arranged for the man’s obit to run in The Times of London. The teenager was promtply expelled from his exclusive prep school; more innocuous childish pranks set off a series of Kafkaesque events that landed him in a psychiatric clinic for a short period. By the age of 19, however, Lewis had grown up and had secured a writing job with the famed former Beatles publicist, Derek Taylor.

The naughty commercial Lewis created for “The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball,” a 1982 film starring Monty Python, was censored from practically every TV station in America, he gleefully reports. In the spot, Python’s Graham Chapman says he is from the “Oral Majority” and calls for the film to be banned before “It turns us into a nation of perverts.” Chapman then stands up and reveals he is wearing black fishnet stockings and a pink tutu. “I was very insistant on it being pink,” Lewis says. &’009;

After the spot aired on “Saturday Night Live,” Lewis decided to move to America, where he finally felt at home as a Jew. “I felt,” he confides, “as if I had arrived in the shtetl.”

The “Don’t show off” Jewish mandate kept the Brit off camera and offstage for another decade, however. The repressed performer emerged with the help of psychotherapy, and Lewis tentatively ventured into humorous TV work, offering junk food to skeletal supermodels, for example, or querying Anthony Banderas about whether he felt sexy. Lewis became the “Di Guy” for CNBC, E! and other stations, thanks to his unique qualifications. “I had a British accent,” he quips.

In his one-man show, Lewis reveals that “Half of me is a stunningly incompetent Sherlock Holmes, consistently failing to solve the mysteries of life, career and romance. The other half is a gloriously bitchy Dr. Watson, gleefully chronicling all my failures. It’s very economic. I’m my own Boswell.”

“Great Exploitations!” shows June 26 and July 3, 9 p.m., at the Steven Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian Theatre. Tickets are $10. For information, call (323) 654-4244 or check out Lewis’ website at www.martinlewis.com.