Letters to the Editor: Psychic, Seidler-Feller, Flight of the Intellectuals


An Even Younger Youngest

Congratulations to Rachel Lester for getting elected to her neighborhood council (“Jewish Student Youngest Ever Elected to Neighborhood Council,” April 23). I do want to note, however, that at 15 she is not the youngest person ever elected to a neighborhood council. Our son, Micah Rodman, was 14 when elected to the Olympic Park Neighborhood Council (OPNC) in August 2007. During his tenure he’s learned quite a bit about politics and the needs of his community; a great experience we hope Rachel shares as well.

Brenda Rodman
Los Angeles


Psychic ‘Healing’ Questioned

I remain utterly nauseated at the practice of psychic Rebecca Rosen (“The Jewish Medium is the Message,” April 23) of charging $500 an hour for one of her “readings.” The quotes are not because I doubt her abilities but their ultimate value, beyond the shock awareness of hearing them. They do nothing but foster dependence on and complete obeisance to the psychic. As Rosen herself notes at the end of the article, she herself fears disempowering her clients and steering them away from concentrating on developing their own intuition and inner guidance.

Her practice is clearly elitist. What ever happened to the spiritual tradition of the spiritual leader as humble servant of those he/she serves? What ever happened to spiritual practice as fundamentally divorced from material gain — since the objectives are, presumably, wholly different? Rosen’s feeble, self-centered and arrogant defense compares her work with that of medical doctors and therapists — men and women who are doing real, actual, critical, healing work on the body and truly saving lives. Rosen is not saving any lives. And she is propagating a practice that, by the very nature of its cost, assures her of a) the rich/celebrity class, who can easily afford it, and b) those just under [that class] who force themselves to take a big bite financially to gain Rosen’s “insights.”

Of course, the poor, the average worker, gains none of these benefits. Let me ask Rosen, does she ever — as many medical doctors do — donate any of her time to the poor or working class here or of any country?
Does she ever work for free? I doubt it, because as she selfishly points out in the article, “You’re paying for my time and energy, which are extremely limited. There is only one me and thousands coming to see me.”

Poor Rebecca Rosen, forced by all these desperate, adoring souls and rich celebrities to charge $500 [per hour] for her gifts. Personally, from a spiritual point of view, I find her behavior, and the behavior of others like her — from all religious traditions — abominable. As Rosen claws for more profits the average working-class person putters on, as they always have, unaware of what’s available on the other side of the castle walls, where the king and his consorts freely (well, perhaps not) avail themselves of the likes of Rosen’s talent.

Like all of us, Rosen has much, much work to do. On herself.

Brian Estwick
Los Angeles


More Korobkin, Please!

Please publish more of Rabbi Daniel Korobkin’s book reviews. He is able, in a few words, to seize the essence of the books he discusses. His comments on “Yehuda Halevi” (“Halevi: The Poet and the Man,” April 16), especially, whet the reader’s appetite.

Anita Wincelberg
Beverly Hills


Grater Can Speak for Self,
Not Community

We are current and former congregants of Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater who feel compelled to disagree with his recent comments on Israel (“Jews Must Stay on Visionary Obama’s Side,” jewishjournal.com, April 19).
Rabbi Grater claims to speak for the Jewish community (“The Jewish community knows that President Obama is this kind of leader …”). The rabbi is entitled to his views on American politics, but he is not entitled to speak for American Jewry at a time of fraught U.S.-Israel relations, brought on by the White House’s ineffective Middle East diplomacy.

When the White House pushed Israel over a zoning issue in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, the Arab side felt compelled to be no less demanding than the White House. The president’s position was unpopular with many Americans. Almost immediately, three quarters of our elected representatives, including 76 senators and more than three-quarters of the House, both Republicans and Democrats, signed bipartisan letters in response, demanding that the president reaffirm the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

In support of his political position, Rabbi Grater quotes an ancient text, the Pirkei Avot: “While we are not called upon to finish the job, we are certainly called upon to never cease from trying.” Unfortunately, the nature of “the job” is left undefined. If the task is to ensure the survival of the only Jewish state in the world and the 6 million who live there, then Jews and other supporters of Israel may demand that President Obama not just say that he is a friend of Israel, but act like one.

Edward Vaisbort, Pasadena
Anita Brenner, La Canada Flintridge
Carolyn Kunin, Pasadena
Ahuva Einstein, Pasadena
Josef Ulloa, Covina


Seidler-Feller Not Worthy of Pedestal

Your lengthy and highly positive article on Chaim Seidler-Feller (“To Nudge and to Support,” April 30) stimulated memories of my experience of him.

The first was at a program he sponsored for Dennis Ross speaking about the Middle East peace. Seidler-Feller was very concerned about Muslims and spoke about raising money to plant trees in Judea and Sumeria.
I must say I wondered why a rabbi was concerned with people who have billionaire supporters needing Jewish money when there are many Jews in need. My second experience was at an Alan Dershowitz speaking engagement at UCLA. A visibly agitated Seidler-Feller was not happy with what Dershowitz expressed. When I later learned of his “altercation” with a woman at the event, I was shocked that someone who had expressed humanitarian concerns at my first exposure could physically attack anyone, [much] less a woman.

What I find just as shocking is that The Jewish Journal puts Seidler-Feller on a pedestal as an example of righteousness to admire. I must ask, if a rabbi outside of the progressive community would physically assault a woman, would that rabbi ever be the subject of such a Jewish Journal article expressing his righteousness?

Lou Averbach
Santa Monica


Intellectuals Have Flown Away From Jewish Journal

Never before has The Jewish Journal spoken more truthfully than with the cover “The Flight of the Intellectuals” (April 30). Upon opening the cover, there was a full-page ad from J Street slamming Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. J Street’s delusions about [achieving] peace [in the Middle East] by giving up Jerusalem exemplify how unintellectual they really are. Then an article about Chaim Seidler-Feller, who after having attacked a “female journalist” for using her First Amendment rights, is portrayed as a hero while inhibiting the groups he deems as “right wing” from the UCLA campus. This is not my idea of a mensch.

I have long lost any faith, no pun intended, in The Jewish Journal as a paper that represents the diverse Jewish community in Los Angeles, even with the addition of an occasional Dennis Prager op-ed or an article by Martin Sherman or David Suissa. There is a flight of intellectuals, and The Jewish Journal is an example of that.

Richard Levine
via e-mail


Dignity for All?

How can Dennis Prager not understand that those of us who engage in political activism believe we are promoting the dignity of all peoples (“A Jewish Value That Has Influenced My Radio Show,” April 23)?

Also, how does he make sense of the corrosive language and behavior of his brethren at Fox News who share his politics but apparently not the dignity of each individual — in particular the one who holds the office of president of the United States?

Libby R. Wein
Los Angeles

I would like to commend Dennis Prager for standing up for the Jewish value of not humiliating an opponent, whether or not readers concur with his self-assessment that he practices what he preaches. Prager is describing one tenet of nonviolent communication, a methodology that can be learned more formally if one studies Marshall Rosenberg’s work “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.” I am indebted, incidentally, to a Muslim friend not only for introducing me to this text, but also for leading an interfaith workshop on this.

Gene Rothman
Culver City

Libby R. Wein
Los Angeles


Walking on J Street

In the J Street full-page ad last week (April 30) J Street hopes that it will result in a civil discussion in our community. I must confess that reading this tirade against Israel has stretched the bonds of my civility to the breaking point. How true the adage “fear most those Jews amongst us.” I find terror in the fact that J Street has enough rich American benefactors to enable them to spread worldwide their venom against Israel. Open your eyes, J Street. It is Israel’s survival that is at stake. Palestinians have a right to their position. All good people want a resolution. In the give and take, never forget that Palestine’s survival is not at risk. Use your influence to urge the Palestinians to sit at the negotiating table. Stop feeding the flames of their obstinacy. If you truly desire a civil discussion, it should be between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

Hershey Gold
Los Angeles


Yossi Sarid taking Elie Wiesel to task (paid ad: “An Open Letter to Elie Wiesel on Jerusalem,” April 30) on issues of national memory and historical rights in Israel should be dismissed as laughable if it was not continuing the damaging and destructive path his new benefactor, J Street, has embarked on since its inception. Before 1967, only the Muslims could worship unimpeded and they continue today to try and negate any religious claim by others to holy sites anywhere in Israel. Forget about Jewish access to holy sites, just look at what’s happened in Bethlehem where a thriving Christian community has been displaced by an autocratic and intolerable Muslim population.

It’s sad that Sarid has no spiritual connection to the land and therefore treats it like any other piece of property, to be bargained for or traded for lies and deceptions with so-called partners who have proven time and again to be untrustworthy and filled with malicious intent. The holy war is perpetrated by the Palestinians, not the Israelis, and the blinders he wears concealing this fact make him an unreliable and dangerous figure. We need Obama to “save us from ourselves”? A statement like this shows his chutzpah and ego have no bounds. The Jewish spirit needs more people like Wiesel and not like Sarid so that Jewish inalienable rights are at least as important as any other, a fact Sarid and J Street have not quite grasped in their rush to help our neighbors, bent on our destruction.

Allan Kandel
Los Angeles


‘Empowered Judaism’

I appreciated Ben Sales’ review of my book “Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us About Building Vibrant Jewish Communities.” However, I must set the record straight about two mischaracterizations in the review:

1.  Sales writes that “the thesis” of the book is: “Lose your synagogue, lose your rabbi, go to a church basement, and start singing prayers in Hebrew …” This is quite overstated. I am not in favor of anyone leaving their synagogue or “losing” their rabbi. I state explicitly in the book (page 75) that “I have tremendous respect for the community built in healthy synagogues. At their best, they model (often much better than independent minyanim) what it means to care for people who are vulnerable, to educate and engage children, and to provide services for the elderly.” While I believe synagogues can do more to unlock the power of prayer, I do not advocate leaving synagogues for minyanim. Most Jews coming to minyanim never started out in a synagogue to begin with. As for rabbis, I believe now more than ever Jews need rabbis as teachers, if not as stand-ins for their own Jewish identity.

2. Sales claims I write that independent minyanim can “save American Judaism.” In fact, I write (page 15) that Hadar, one of the flagship minyanim, “is not going to ‘fix’ American Judaism.” I believe empowered Jews have the potential to alter the path of American Jewish life, but I do not believe in the rhetoric of “saving.”

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer
executive director, Mechon Hadar


Consoling Poland

Following the airplane crash on April 10 that killed the Polish president and 94 others, it was so meaningful that four rabbis, representing the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, paid a condolence call to the Polish Consulate in Los Angeles. As I read Julie Gruenbaum Fax’s Community News item “Rabbis Pay Condolence Call to Poles” (April 23), I was proud to be a Jew! These four rabbis really represented the entire Jewish community. I thank them for their act and The Jewish Journal for informing us.

George Epstein
Los Angeles


Bombing Auschwitz Rail Lines

With shock and shame I read the letter sent to you by Myron Kayton regarding the Allies’ refusal to bomb the Auschwitz rail lines (“Bombing Auschwitz Rail Lines Was Not a Viable Option,” April 23).
Kayton states: “Tugend repeats the canard that arises every few years, that the United States and Britain should have bombed the rail lines at Auschwitz. In the 1940s, bombing accuracy from an altitude of 25,000 feet would have placed half the bombs outside a three-mile radius of the intended target. Bombs aimed at rail lines would have killed hundreds in the barracks during each raid and made life even more miserable for the survivors.”

It is a fact that in 1944 the head of the War Refugee Board created by President Roosevelt, John Pehle, asked the U.S. War Department to bomb the Auschwitz Rail Lines. It was obvious that Allied bombing of train tracks elsewhere in Europe was interfering with German transport and negatively affecting their war effort.
John McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War, argued that the Germans would quickly repair the damage, making the operation a waste. A week later, when asked again, his argument was that Auschwitz was too far for the Allied planes to reach, making it a dangerous operation. This, even though at that time, Allied planes controlled the skies and the German air force was no longer a challenge. Eight days later, 452 B-17 bombers flew to bomb Nazi positions and came within 10 miles of Auschwitz.

In their book “To Save a World,” the authors quote a Jewish inmate survivor as saying: “We kept praying the Allies would bomb Auschwitz. We knew some of us might be killed. But we were all slated to be killed by the Nazis anyway, and if the gas chambers had been knocked out of commission, further murders would have been avoided.” It just plain stands to reason.

The pain and agony felt by the Jews in Europe, in addition to the torture and suffering they were undergoing by the Nazis, was greatly amplified by the feeling of being abandoned by the United States and the Allies.

This is a great country and it has been wonderful to the Jews and we must have and show much appreciation for it. In its greatness, it allows us to be vocal about its mistakes. Many say it was anti-Semitism, but at the very least, we must admit that not bombing the Auschwitz train tracks was a mistake. A very big and tragic mistake.

Dr. Rachel Freedland
Los Angeles


Buying Obedience

Let me see if I understand this correctly. According to Rob Eshman’s column (”Wandering the Biltmore,” April 30), he points out that “$500 billion – billion—is sitting in private Jewish foundations in America, and only 5 percent is being used.”

The Obama administration gives Israel $3 billion a year with strings attached, veiled threats and admonitions, and Israel is expected to bow down and be obedient. What’s wrong with this picture?

Fortuna Spiwak
Tarzana


Health Care Chaos

I must respond to Stuart Weiss’ Letter to the Editor response to my letter regarding single-payer health care in California (SB 810). Not only am I familiar with the “sovereign State [sic] of Massachusetts,” I was a practicing physician there in the 1990s and know the system well. I welcome the opportunity to spread the gospel of single-payer. The Massachusetts health care reform plan of 2006 is a very complex multiple-payer system that is failing due to lack of both cost controls and primary care physicians to administer the program. The average wait for new patient examinations is nine months. Why is this a problem especially in Boston, the mecca of our health care system? With reimbursements similar to Medicaid rates, which are well below decreasing Medicare rates, the primary care physician cannot survive economically.

Ironically, Obamacare is the Massachusetts model for health care reform. It will not stop the economic disaster we face where two-thirds of bankruptcies are medically based and 2/3 of these are families who have health insurance. Single-payer—be it in California or nationally—will rescue the billions of dollars hidden and squandered by the health care industry and give it back to the public. Single-payer will mandate our governments to control the outrageous prices we all pay in the health care marketplace—premiums, medicines, medical supplies and equipment—and return dignity and respect to a profession ravaged by powers beyond its control. The average medical school debt is $200,000 and only 30 percent of primary care residencies are filled with American medical school graduates. When the public becomes aware that one-third of the world profits of the Swiss pharmaceutical industry come from the United States, it will understand that we all need protection. We already see the excess profits of the health insurers (WellPoint, with a 51 percent increase just announced and planning premium hikes).

Yes, Stuart Weiss, I have made a long and dedicated study of health care reform and know the difference between single-payer and the Massachusetts plan/Obamacare. In the spirit of Maimonides, I will continue to do what is best for my patients.

Jerome P. Helman, M.D.
Venice


Correction:

In Rob Eshman’s column, “Wandering the Biltmore,” he stated that $500 billion is sitting in private Jewish foundations. That is incorrect. $500 billion is the amount controlled by all foundations in America.

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The Jewish Medium Is the Message


Rebecca Rosen didn’t realize she could contact the dead until 13 years ago, after she learned her father had attempted suicide.  She grew up in a tightly knit Conservative Jewish family in Omaha, Neb., where her mother is executive director of the Jewish Federation and Rebecca attended religious school and had her bat mitzvah.

But soon after the day she learned about her father’s suicide attempt, Rosen, then a sophomore at the University of Florida, also learned he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her parents’
30-year marriage was crumbling under the stress. Rosen, too, began spiraling into depression. “I found a destructive habit to numb my pain,” said the self-described psychic medium, who will appear at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills on April 27. “I’d sleepwalk into the kitchen and stuff my mouth full. I would wake up in the dark, not knowing how long I’d been there or how much I’d eaten.”

Over some eight months, Rosen gained 40 pounds and spent her daytime hours in a sleep-deprived daze, starving herself to make up for the nighttime calories. When anti-depressants failed to curb her pain, she prayed for someone —  anyone — to help her.

The next day, while writing in her journal, she felt an intense tugging on her hand, and she began to write messages from a spirit who identified herself as her deceased grandmother, Babe, an observant Jew who had suffered from postpartum depression, undergone an ineffective form of shock therapy and eventually committed suicide.

“She said that she was my spirit guide and that she was here to help me learn what she had failed to learn in life,” Rosen said. “By helping me out of my own depression, Babe could neutralize the negative karma she had from taking her own life — a psychic ‘win-win.’ ”

Story continues after the jump.

Rosen — who recounts her journey in her new self-help book, “Spirited: Connect to the Guides All Around You” — acknowledges that all this sounds “woo-woo” and that she initially thought the automatic writing meant she was “going crazy.” But after two years of her grandmother’s help, she was free from depression and had met her husband-to-be, Brian Rosen. After they moved to Detroit, she felt ready to acknowledge her psychic gift and started to do readings for $25 each at the back of a coffee shop.

In 2001, she impressed the arts editor of the Detroit Jewish News, resulting in a 2001 cover story. “I received hundreds of telephone calls, which started my business,” she said.

Now 33, based in Denver and a wife and mother of two young boys, Rosen is among an elite group of celebrity mediums who have earned a share of national attention, including John Edward, best-known for his TV series “Crossing Over”; Allison DuBois, the real psychic behind CBS’ hit TV show “Medium”; and James Van Praagh, who inspired CBS’ long-running “The Ghost Whisperer” and who also wrote the introduction to “Spirited.” She has been featured on ABC’s “Nightline” and has read for thousands of clients, including stars such as Vanna White and Jennifer Aniston (no, Rosen won’t reveal whether
spirits predicted Brangelina). She has a three-year waiting list for her private readings, at $500 per hour; group readings cost around $60 a ticket and draw up to 900 participants.

Critics believe psychics get their information in part by reading a client’s body language and from other forms of nonverbal communication. Rosen notes that she does 80 percent of her readings over the telephone, and a number of Rosen’s clients have offered written testimony that she is uncannily accurate, praising her ability to contact loved ones who offer messages and advice. Rosen begins each reading with a silent prayer for protection, which in her case involves the first line of the Shema. “I don’t see dead people,” she explained. “Spirits don’t have bodies or voices, so it’s their energy impressing my mind and body with thoughts and feelings.”

Gail Zimmerman, the Detroit Jewish News arts editor, visited Rosen with one of her reporters in early 2001 in anticipation of a possible story on the psychic. Zimmerman wanted the writer to have the first reading, but Rosen instead turned to her. “She said someone named Richard was desperate to convey a message for my sister,” the editor recalled. Zimmerman’s brother-in-law, in fact, had died of a brain tumor several months earlier. “[Rebecca] said he wanted me to tell my sister that his pain was gone — and she pointed to her head.”

Richard’s widow, Karen Tessler, followed up with sessions with Rosen, which helped her process her grief.  She had been married to Richard for only 14 months; they had been high school friends who had met again at their 30th high school reunion and married in 1999. Four days after their wedding, Richard displayed symptoms and was soon diagnosed with cancer. “If it wasn’t for Rebecca, I don’t know if I could have gotten through this,” Tessler said. “I received precise messages during our readings that could only have come from Richard. I felt comforted because I knew that even though he was gone, he
was still with me and that there could be life on the other side.”

There is a strong afterlife tradition in traditional Judaism, but mediumship is another matter. “Talking to the dead is considered off limits, a form of shamanism,” said Rabbi Pinchas Giller, a kabbalah scholar and professor of Jewish thought at American Jewish University. For example, Leviticus 20:27 states, “If among the men or women there will be a medium or an oracle, they shall surely be put to death.” 

An exception is made for an exclusive few in Chasidic or Mizrahi traditions — men who are so holy that they have “one foot in this world and one in the next,” Giller said. “So they sometimes come across souls in the context of other activities, but they don’t go out of their way to commune with the dead. You don’t go to a tzadik [scholar or miracle worker] to ask if he can contact your departed mother.”
Rosen — straightforward and chicly attired — said she doesn’t seek out spirits; they come to her in the context of healing others, which she regards as a form of tikkun olam. Rosen’s brother, Baruch HaLevi, a rabbi at the Conservative congregation Shirat Hayam, outside Boston, is one of her staunchest supporters: “The Talmud as well as all the midrashic and mystical literature is full of examples of Jews who are crossing over and coming back,” he said.

Is it right for Rosen to charge grieving clients $500 per session?

“Is it ethical to charge if you’re a doctor or a therapist? This is no different … you’re paying for my time and energy, which are extremely limited. There is only one of me and thousands of people coming to see me,” she said.

Rosen added that she discourages clients from visiting more than once or twice a year. “I don’t want to disempower people to think they need something outside of themselves to find the truth,” she said.

“That was the inspiration for my book — that we all have our inner knowledge and intuition to rely on.”


“An Evening With Rebecca Rosen,” Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Writers Guild Theater. 135 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills. $25-$79. (303) 366-2288. Jewish Journal readers can obtain discounted tickets to An Evening with Rebecca Rosen for $29.50 (regularly priced at $59.00). Click on the orange “begin order” box on the event page: brownpapertickets.com/event/100208.

Enter jewishjournal.com (all lower case) in the discount code box and click “show additional prices.”  A second “general” assignment will show itself at a ticket price of $29.50 and will be available until noon on Tuesday, April 27th. Tickets are $80 at the door and will not be discounted. There will be no refunds for this event.

Geller is for real; Pico-Roberston’s no ‘hood; Honorable menschen


Power of Geller

David Ian Salter’s letter regarding Uri Geller infuriated me and compelled me to write my first-ever letter to an editor (Letters, Dec. 29). For Salter to make a blanket statement saying that “Geller has been conclusively debunked as a charlatan” and that “Geller is not psychic” is factually untrue and irresponsible. Slater’s source is mainly James Randi, a man who made a career and plenty of money out of attempting to debunk people.

I have been a close, personal friend of Geller for the past 13 years. We met in 1993, when my husband and I distributed a film based on his life.

When I first met Geller, I didn’t know much about him. I mainly remembered my father in the 1970s getting excited to see a young Israeli making headlines around the world.

Fascinated by his apparent capabilities and charm, I spent some time doing research on him. I read what scientists had to say about him, studied the experiments done on him at the Stanford Research Institute and, of course, read books debunking him to see how they said that he does his tricks.

Randi’s main assertion is that Geller swaps spoons by sleight of hand tricks. If that is so, how did he effortlessly bend my grandmother’s very heavy silver spoon by gently rubbing it in front of my eyes? The Hebrew writing engraved on it made it impossible for him to switch spoons.

And how does a spoon that he gently caresses continue to bend once placed on the table or in your hands, with Geller out of the room? How does he telepathically duplicate a drawing that you have drawn, and almost every time, his drawing is the exact same size to the millimeter as your drawing? Or, better yet — he has done reverse telepathy on me and members of my family, where he draws something first and then projects it into your mind, and you then draw the exact same picture.

He is a fascinating person, and I am among those who are willing to open my mind to the distinct possibility that he is for real. I also witnessed the big hand on the grandfather clock in my entry hall bend forward inside the glass, with Geller across the room, concentrating on bending it. It was nothing short of amazing.

Your description of Geller as “controversial” was the exact, correct description. While some people believe that he is a magician, others, such as myself and many of the people who know him well, believe that he, in fact, has powers that defy the laws of physics.

The fact that he is controversial has kept Geller in the press for over 40 years (incidentally, he is currently starring in the biggest reality television show that Israel has ever seen).

When an autistic savant can perform a piano concerto after only hearing it once, we accept that it is real and not a trick, since the savant does not have the mental capabilities to trick us. But their powers are unbelievably amazing.It is my opinion that some of us human beings actually possess unusual abilities, and people should open their minds to that possibility.

Shauna Shapiro Jackson
Calabasas

Eric Roth

Your recent article on Eric Roth states incorrectly that his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a senior in high school (“A Tale of a Young Man’s Venture Into the CIA,” Dec. 22). Actually, they arrived in the San Fernando Valley when Eric was still in elementary school.

He was active at both Valley Cities Jewish Community Center and Camp JCA, and perhaps this involvement played a role in the development of the Jewish values and sense of heritage that he alludes to as being influential in his life.

Mike Schlesinger
Kibbutz Maagan Michael
Israel

Honorable Menschen

[Rob Eshman] set the stage, arranged the props and introduced the real and potential cast. Then, while gracefully complimenting a gentleman who did the right thing, gently drove another arrow into the heart of racism (“Mensches,” Dec. 29).

I’ll happily take the top 10 mensches over any list of the richest, most influential or most powerful. Give yourself at least honorable mention!

David Michels
Encino

Angry Neighbor

A short time ago, David Suissa wrote that he recently moved to the Pico-Robertson area (“Chasids in the Hood (or Not),” Dec. 22). As a newcomer, what gives him the right to rename the area, “The Hood?” Is it supposed to be cute?

As a 45-year resident of this area, I protest! The word “hood” is associated with gangsters – and the dictionary confirms this. What’s wrong with the word “neighborhood?”

Bracha Malkin
Los Angeles

Ford and Wallenberg

The death of President Gerald Ford leaves a void at the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, because he was the first and only U.S. president to join the educational nonprofit organization as an honorary member.

Ford was unique among the dozens of heads of state and Nobel Prize laureates who support the Wallenberg Foundation. Like Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat that saved tens of thousand of lives during the Holocaust, Ford was born early in the 20th century. Both men graduated from the same institution, the University of Michigan, and possibly knew each other personally.

Ford has, however, something Wallenberg does not — closure, respect, the final chapter of his life has been written. Wallenberg is still missing, after being taken by the Soviets in 1945.

Wallenberg, an honorary U.S. citizen who saved more lives than anyone else in human history, deserves the respect, honor and closure that Ford received.

Let’s bring Raoul home.

Baruch Tenembaum
International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
New York, N.Y.

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‘Pretty’ Prime Minister?


Ehud Olmert reportedly came up with the title for the Hollywood hit “Pretty Woman.” Israel´s prime minister-elect was a Knesset lawmaker when he helped his friend, film producer Arnon Milchan, choose golden oldie “Pretty Woman” as the title song for the 1990 romantic comedy, Yediot Aharonot reported Thursday. The daily did not cite sources but its reporter, Yair Lapid, is a former Milchan protégé. According to Yediot, one of the filmmakers at first balked at the proposed title, calling it “too cutesy.”

Lindsay Lohan a Kabbalist?

Teen queen Lindsay Lohan said she is “looking into” kabbalah. The actress and singer, who has been plagued by both familial problems and relentless paparazzi, told reporters she needed a coping mechanism.

“All of us need something. You have to grab on to whatever gets you through,” she said.

Lohan, 19, also hopes studying Jewish mysticism will help viewers take her more seriously, according to teenhollywood.com: “I want people to know me for the work I’m doing, not for this party girl image,” she said.

The actress joins a growing list of stars, including Madonna, Britney Spears and Demi Moore, interested in Jewish mysticism.

(There’s no word yet if there’s a kabbalistic explanation for the human-like, even spiritual, behavior of “Herbie,” Lohan’s automotive co-star in last year’s film “Herbie Fully Loaded.”)

Psychic Pursues Graceland

An Israeli-born psychic is trying to buy a Memphis house once owned by Elvis Presley. Uri Geller said over the weekend that he was among bidders for the four-bedroom home being auctioned on eBay. Geller, who lives in London, said he wants to operate the property as a Graceland-style museum devoted to Presley, but with an emphasis on the late singer’s interests in the paranormal. Bidding has reportedly passed $300,000. Geller is perhaps best known for his purported trick of bending spoons with his mind. In the Presley auction, it’s probably OK for Geller to psych out the competition, as long as he doesn’t bend the rules.

Faith Ball Now Available to Jews

The Washington Nationals baseball team corrected course after inadvertently excluding observant Jews from a promotion intended to attract the religious. The club’s Faith Day discounts on baseball games, available to religious institutions, had been for a selected set of Saturday games, but even the night games began before sundown. Team officials addressed the problem immediately after a journalist’s inquiry, the Washington Jewish Week reported. The team added six Sunday games to the discounted offerings. — JTA and Staff Reports

A Christian Jerusalem Post

The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s English-language daily, is aiming to increase its circulation tenfold by tapping into the pro-Israel sentiments of American Christians, particularly evangelicals, Pentecostals and other fundamentalist groups.

The Post, founded in 1932 by American journalist Gershon Agron as the Palestine Post, has begun publication of a monthly Christian edition.

Post president Moshe Bar-Zvi noted that the Christian edition would serve “as a bridge between the Jewish nation and Jewish people on one hand and the world’s Christians on the other.”

The new venture, which debuted four months ago, will be “tailored to Christian readers, who care passionately about the well-being of Israel and the Jewish people,” Bar-Zvi added.

Veteran Canadian Israeli newsman and science writer Gershom Gale has been appointed editor. He said that the venture was off to a “miraculous” start, with 20,000 paid subscribers so far and strong advertising.

That figure is almost equal to the domestic circulation of the English-language daily. Weekly international editions, in English and French, account for about another 80,000 copies sold mainly in Europe and North America, according to The Post.

The Post’s influence in Israel and abroad has always belied its small circulation, with foreign diplomats and journalists making up much of its readership.

The Christian edition could mean a substantial boost to the financially troubled paper, which was hard hit by the recent indictment of its previous owner, Canadian press baron Conrad Black, on criminal fraud charges.

Gale said that the edition, published in cooperation with the International Fellowship of Christian and Jews and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, would not engage in “missionary activity … in either direction.”

However, he said, “As the Torah told us would happen, there is a great thirst in the land … not for water, but for the word of God, and the gentile world is beginning to ‘look to Zion’ to put its spiritual beliefs in context and to realize that he who blesses Israel is blessed, and he who curses Israel is cursed. So what happens ‘here’ is very much connected to what happens ‘there.'” — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

 

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