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.

McCain, Obama, cancer and cows


20 Questions With McCain

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

Lawrence Weinman
Los Angeles

Letter to Obama

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

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

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

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

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

Isaac Himmelman
Santa Monica

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

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

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

Linda Rohatiner
via e-mail

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

Suissa, say it isn’t so.

Rabbi Baruch Cohon
via e-mail

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

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

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

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

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

Roy M. Rosenbluth
Sherman Oaks


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


Cancer’s Worst Enemy

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

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

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

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

Sharon Asher
Los Angeles

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

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

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

Israeli entry ‘Mud’ wins at Sundance


‘Mud’ Wins at Sundance

Two Israeli films taking critical looks at the Jewish state’s society and institutions have won major prizes at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival at Park City, Utah.

“Sweet Mud,” or “Adama Meshugaat” in Hebrew, a top-grossing film in Israel, follows a 13-year-old boy coming of age in a 1970s kibbutz while coping with a mentally unstable mother. Director Dror Shaul was honored with the World Cinema Jury Prize for best drama film. It had been Israel’s entry for Oscar honors in the foreign-language film category but was not named among the five finalists.

“Hot House,” directed by Shimon Dotan, received a special jury prize in World Cinema Documentary competition at Sundance. The film depicts Israeli prisons as a breeding ground for future Palestinian leaders, as well as terrorists.

The Sundance awards illustrate both the festival’s growing role as a showcase for independent foreign films and Israel’s rising prestige in the world of cinema.

Last summer’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival, for instance, featured an Israel Day for the first time, with the screening of an unprecedented 15 Israeli films.Sundance gave one of its highest honors, the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary, to Jason Kohn, a young New York expatriate. In “Manda Bala” (“Send a Bullet”), his first feature-length work, Kohn explores the violence and corruption of Brazilian society.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Reich’s Pearls of Music

Disney Hall was packed for the West Coast premiere of “Daniel Variations” by composer Steven Reich.

As Reich, one of America’s greatest composers, watched from his perch in the control room, conductor Grant Gershon led the L.A. Master Chorale through the haunting, evocative work Reich wrote in honor of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Afterward, VIPs gathered in the Founders Room to honor Reich, who turned 70 this year. The composer, clad in black and wearing a signature baseball cap, spoke of the emotional pull the story of Daniel Pearl had for him.”I’m also a father,” he said.

Judea Pearl, speaking on behalf of his wife, Ruth, and daughter, Tamara, who were also in attendance, praised Reich’s “dark and exuberant” work, which was commissioned in part by the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

“I was totally impressed by how you expressed the darkness turning into hope,” he said.

Pearl, himself a musician, said he realized how Reich did this, by using violins to weave light, upbeat notes through the 20-minute work.

“I kept saying, ‘Danny, this is your humor,'” Pearl said.

— Staff Report

Pepperdine Connects Genocide and Religion

On July 6, 1941, Simon Wiesenthal was arrested with other Jews in the Ukraine and ordered to line up in rows to be shot by Nazi forces. The shooting lasted through the afternoon — but suddenly stopped when a church bell rang and the soldiers had to stop for prayers.

Wiesenthal’s life work as a Nazi hunter embodies issues such as these, at the crossroads between genocide and religion: justice, vengeance and forgiveness, justification and responsibility.

Now, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Pepperdine University School of Law will explore many of these issues in an upcoming conference, “Genocide and Religion: Victims, Perpetrators, Bystanders and Resisters,” on Feb. 11-13 at both the Wiesenthal Center and the Pepperdine campus in Malibu. The conference will explore all the components of genocides in the 20th and 21st centuries, beginning with Armenia and continuing today in Sudan. The conference will examine what role law should play in mediating this intersection between religion and genocide.

Speakers include Hebrew University professor Israel Charny, president of the International Association of Israel Scholars; Bruce Einhorn, U.S. immigration law judge, and Michael Bayzler, a Pepperdine Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law who was a fellow at Yad Vashem.

For more information, call (310) 506-7635.

— Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Teen Readers and Writers Talk Shop

Teens and young adults, and authors who aspire to write for them, are invited to attend Sinai Temple’s “Focus on Young Adult/Teen Literature” conference, Sunday, Feb. 4, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m., at Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd. The panel of young adult authors will include Sarah Littman, Debra Garfinkle, Dana Reinhardt and Simone Elkeles, and will be moderated by Linda Silver, editor of New Jewish Valuesfinder. An afternoon program will feature an interactive historical survey of Jewish literature for children. Participants can shop at a children’s book sale and marketplace, or they can try to improve their own marketing by meeting with an editor available for manuscript consultations ($40 fee).

For reservations and information, call (313) 474-1518 or e-mail lsilverman@sinaitemple.org.

— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

L.A. Times in turmoil: is it good for the Jews?


Thinking about the mess at the Los Angeles Times, I can’t help but raise the question we usually bring to matters great and small. How does it affect the Jews?

The paper is going through hard times. The owner, Tribune Co., unhappy with the paper’s substantial profits, ordered publisher Jeffery Johnson and editor Dean Baquet to make big cuts. When they refused, Johnson was forced out. Baquet is hanging on, trying to forestall the inevitable.

For this particular Jew, it’s a sad time. I worked there more than 30 years. I retired in 2001, and I still have friends at the paper. I talked a lot to two of them last week and shared their worries over their futures and those of their families. It’s also sad to read the paper, to see it shrink, to watch the editorial staff drop from 1,200 to 940 and, likely, eventually to Chicago’s goal of about 800.

Why is this bad for the Jews? It’s bad because as residents of the Southland, we have a long and great tradition of civic activism, going back to early in the 20th century and continuing today in homeowner groups, neighborhood councils, public school support organizations, political parties, sports leagues and all the other activities that permit this sprawling area to function.

Because of their intense activism, Jews have been among the paper’s most devoted readers and fiercest critics. A substantial part of the paper’s circulation base has long been in the broad Jewish belt extending from the Westside through the West Valley.

Granted, the base has dwindled. Each year, I see fewer copies of the Times in front yards in my Westside neighborhood early in the morning. Some of the losses come from exsubscribers who now get their news on line. Other former Times subscribers are single-issue Jews who abandoned the paper after parsing every story about Israel, looking for imagined bias or anti-Semitism.

But a large number of us remain. For us, and for everyone else, a strong Times is important because it is one of the few institutions that holds this vast region together.

When I went to work there in 1970, covering politics, I was overwhelmed by the geographic immensity of my beat. In those ancient days, before the Global Positioning System, I was given a thick book known as a Thomas Guide, and I used its maps to navigate through the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley, through Watts and Reseda, from Malibu to Boyle Heights.

Everywhere I went, the Times was a big deal. It connected these diverse regions, saw things in a regional way and championed regional solutions to the problems of the Southland, whether they were smog, education, health care or transportation.

As I began at the Times, less than a decade had passed since Otis Chandler had raised the paper from its long years as a right-wing rag to a publication of national renown. Jews, who had been brought up to read the old Daily News and to scorn the Times, had become loyal Times subscribers, depending on the paper for news of the state Capitol, their city halls, their freeways and their schools.

Public affairs was just part of the package, not as interesting to many readers as the sports pages and Jim Murray. And not as vital to many as the stories produced by the foreign staff, the Washington bureau and correspondents around the country. And not as important to many as news of movies, food, music, books, galleries and other aspects of the arts.

The secret of the Times’ success was the package, putting it all together. No matter what their interests, we knew our readers had something in common — they were readers, and they found something in the paper to interest them.

Now the management of the Tribune Co. is tearing up the package or at least diminishing it.
You can see it in the paper. The sports section grows thinner. I can get more and better sports news from the Web. The front section is squeezed for space, as is the California section.

This means that reporters who dig up good stories have to fight for a place in a paper that can barely find enough room for daily news. And as the staff shrinks, the remaining reporters are spending their time catching up with fast-moving events, rather than digging below the surface.

This is the way to lose readers. And as space and staff dwindles, the Times will no longer be able to exercise its function as the one regional voice of the Southland. Our problems are regional. What happens in a school in Carson has an impact on one in the Valley. The closing of an emergency ward in Inglewood will have a direct affect on emergency care on the Westside. If the paper can’t cover this — extensively as the news breaks, as well as with in-depth investigative reporting, both of which take substantial resources — we all lose.

This is why the dismantling of the once great Los Angeles Times is bad for the Jews and everyone else.

Bill Boyarsky’s column on Jews and civic life appears each month. Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Boyarsky worked as a political correspondent, a metro columnist for nine years and as city editor for three years. You can reach him at bw.boyarsky@verizon.net.

Ask Wendy


Family Friend’s New Beau Not Welcome at
Wedding

Dear Wendy,

Close family friends have recently separated after 20 years of marriage — the wife left her husband for someone else. She won’t go anywhere without him and is intent on making sure that her friends recognize them as a couple. My daughter is getting married and does not want to invite the new boyfriend, whom she has never met. Frankly, we are all a little concerned that the wedding will turn into an opportunity for our friend to show off her boyfriend rather than to celebrate the bride. Furthermore, we plan to invite her estranged husband. How do I tell my old friend that she is being invited solo?

Mother of the Bride

Dear Mother,

You don’t. It is your daughter’s wedding and it is her job to deliver the news. Moreover, it will be easier to swallow if it comes directly from the bride rather than the bride’s mother. I don’t imagine your friend will take the request well — and she may even decide to boycott the event. There is nothing like the passion of a new love affair to blur one’s better judgment. The easy (read: cowardly) way out would be to avoid the conversation altogether and to address the invitation to your friend alone. But don’t even think about it. If she is a dear friend she is entitled to hear the news firsthand, not to discover it on the outside of an envelope.

Is Graveside Video Kosher?

Dear Wendy,

I recently received a brochure from a Jewish funeral home offering a service I find appalling: a personalized video of the deceased that can be viewed at the funeral and on demand whenever you visit the gravesite. Surely this cannot be in keeping with Jewish law?

Definitely Disgusted

Dear Disgusted,

Consulting Jewish texts about the “legality” of videos for the dead is like asking the framers of the constitution if they made allowances for Internet dating.

Against Jewish law? No. Against any semblance of good taste, religious or secular? Absolutely. Tacky. Embarrassing even.

This is the kind of thing that makes the Dark Ages look good. And with good reason. Tempting though it may be to immortalize your loved one this way, a family picture album, sprinkled with bobka crumbs at the kitchen table, is probably a more tasteful way to go. No one needs a posthumous Emmy, after all.

Challenging a Scrooge

Dear Wendy,

My friend and I are hosting a benefit for children with disabilities. She invited her boss for whom she has worked for 12 years and who is a wealthy man. He donated the smallest amount specified on the R.S.V.P. card. Frankly, we are both shocked that his donation could be so meager. Is it fair of me to comment? Obviously my friend would not feel comfortable since he is her boss.

Flustered Friend

Dear Flustered,

Few people would be willing to make that call. I respect your chutzpah; you are obviously a good friend, and one committed to a good cause.

But you are way out of line. There are any number of explanations for this man’s donation: he is a generous donor to causes closer to his heart; he gets hit up for funds daily; he feels awkward having been solicited by an employee; he is a cheap bastard. There is no graceful way to address any of the above.

It is always easy to spend someone else’s money — particularly when that person is wealthy — or we think he is. But just because we think a wealthy person should be more generous, doesn’t mean that the individual does. Probably it’s wise to keep in mind how we might feel about someone else spending our money. If you want to raise more for a good cause, expand that invitation list. But leave the reply cards to your guests.

My Mother Is Archie Bunker

Dear Wendy,

My mother is extremely sensitive to remarks she considers to be anti-Semitic. But when we went out to dinner last week, she made a disparaging remark about the individual who served our dinner. She fails to see that she is as guilty of prejudice and bigotry as the next person.

Gloria

Dear Gloria,

Most people are blind not only to their own shortcomings, but to their own double standards as well. You can gently point it out if you are that kind of daughter and if she is the kind of mother who will not only hear your point, but will take it well. Otherwise, I am a believer that it is difficult to teach old dogs new tricks. Your mother has got away with this bias for some time; it’s unlikely you will change her now. You needn’t point out the error of her ways in the expectation she will change them. You do need to speak up to let your mother know that you are uncomfortable with her hurling slurs in your presence.


Send letters to Ask Wendy at wbadvice@aol.com or 954 Lexington Ave.
Suite 189, New York, N.Y., 10021.

Defining Family


A few months ago, in these pages, I described a brief visit to Los Angeles to attend the wedding of my daughter, Dafna, 42, and

her fiancé, Scott, 36 ("Father of the Bride," July 11). It was a first marriage for both and celebrated without benefit of clergy — Scott being Christian and Dafna, Jewish.

This drew some criticism from readers who felt that I was amiss in not discouraging my daughter from marrying a non-Jew. One, in fact, reminded me that some Jews sit shiva when such a marriage takes place and regard the offending child as dead. It seemed to me that is a bit strong. There was also a time when adulterers were stoned, but we seem to have progressed beyond that. (More to the point perhaps, how does one tell a 42-year-old daughter whom she should marry?)

Anyway, the stage has been set for even more protests since Dafna has now produced a son and you can add to the list of my sins of omission the fact that the young man did not have a brit milah, although he was circumcised by a doctor in the hospital. This was the subject of much discussion prior to his birth but the argument ended when Dafna pointed out that if we pressed the issue, Scott’s family might suggest a christening. Further installments in this true-life family drama may be expected at his bar mitzvah and marriage ages.

(One reader was especially incensed at my mentioning my second daughter, 23, who intends to marry a young man who is having a Conservative conversion to Judaism. This, she wrote, means that both of my daughters will have intermarried, the implication being that the Conservative movement is treif. I thought to myself that, even in Orthodoxy, the word treif has an elastic meaning; one rabbi’s heksher is another rabbi’s abomination — and don’t even ask about conflicting attitudes toward Zionism.)

This issue of how one deals with or even defines intermarriage is a major item on the Jewish agenda, so let me complicate matters even further. I have two sons. One is married to a certifiably Jewish woman (two Jewish parents, no conversions) who reads Torah in their Conservative synagogue. Their child attends a Jewish day school.

My second son is married to a woman whose father is Jewish and whose mother is non-Jewish. My son and daughter-in-law regard themselves and their two children as Jews and are raising the children accordingly.

In all this, who is in and who is out? I would suggest, over the objections of my "fan club" that the matter is one of self-definition, that in the end what is important is how one regards one’s affiliations and not what others claim are the laws as they define them. I know that this opens the communal doors to Jews for Jesus and their kind, but the rest of us are free to ignore their versions of Judaism and proceed on our way. Far too much Jewish energy and resources are wasted in dealing with these marginal elements and too few are invested in holding on to those who would remain with us given a bit of encouragement.

Numbers count. Our share of the national population has dropped from 2.5 percent to 2 percent in the past 30 years. These figures vary slightly depending on who is defined as being Jewish, but the trend is clear. So, too, are the increases being registered by other religious and ethnic minorities that give them added political and economic power, some of which is removed from us by virtue of our declining numbers.

But my critics have a point. Not only numbers, but quality, counts. We differ, to be sure, on the question of what constitutes quality Judaism. I am less concerned than they with ritual, but I accept their argument that without some sort of structure, some framework that includes generally accepted behaviors and beliefs, we are flirting with anarchy. I don’t know what the minimal standards should be but I cannot agree that ancestry should be the deciding factor. If it is, then we are best defined as a race and that, as any student of modern history will testify, means tragedy, not only for Jews but for anyone defined racially. Ask your friendly black American neighbor for verification.

You will note that I have refrained from mentioning the newcomer’s name. When my oldest son was born, in Jerusalem, I published notices in the newspapers with his name and the date of the brit milah. In a society virtually devoid of private telephones, that’s how friends and family learned about the event. Well, I caught hell from everyone for having made his name public before the eighth day. Apparently it had something to do with the dangers posed by the evil eye. Today he is a nuclear physicist engaged in cancer research, so it doesn’t seem to have harmed him. But if you think I am taking that chance again with a 7-day-old grandson, forget it. Far be it from me to defy the traditions hallowed by our elders.


Yehuda Lev is a former associate editor of The Jewish Journal.

New Releases Keep Shoah an Open Book


“The secret of redemption is remembrance,” as a sign announces in Israel’s Yad Vashem, an institution dedicated to remembering the Holocaust. Books, too, are in service of memory, inspiring readers to think again and anew — and to fight forgetfulness. As Yom HaShoah approaches, the call to memory resounds.

Despite the many thousands of books on the subject, there’s still much about the Holocaust that hasn’t previously been written about and published. This season, there are important new works by scholars analyzing newly available material, journalists uncovering little-known episodes, artists with new interpretations, survivors telling their own stories for the first time and more.

In “Resilience and Courage: Women, Men, and the Holocaust” (Yale, 2003) scholar Nechama Tec, who is herself a Holocaust survivor, tackles a topic that has been rarely discussed: the effects of gender on experience during the Holocaust. Through interviews conducted over a decade, she analyzes patterns of behavior in terms of women’s and men’s self-esteem and coping strategies.

“Even though the Germans were committed to sending all Jews to their deaths, for a variety of reasons women and men traveled toward that destination on distinct roads,” Tec writes. Recognizing that gender is a complex and sensitive issue, she looks at the issue from different vantage points and in various settings. She finds differences between how people reacted in the ghettos and concentration camps and those fighting in the forests, as well as social differences in each setting. She explains that those in the upper classes had “farther to fall” and seemed to have a harder time enduring constant humiliations.

Some anti-Jewish measures were gender specific. She shows how for many men, ruthless assaults led to the loss of their abilities to perform their roles as providers and protectors for their families, and also to their becoming demoralized and depressed. Many women, used to being in supportive roles, began to take on some of the traditional male roles with their families, as well as with people in the larger community.

The author of several award-winning books on the Holocaust and a professor at the University of Connecticut, Tec is a member of the Council of the U.S Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

“Holocaust: A History” by Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt (Norton, 2003) is a remarkable work, a detailed and scholarly one-volume history that’s highly accessible for general readers. The authors, who previously collaborated on the award-winning “Auschwitz,” place the Holocaust in the context of European history and are mindful of the stories of individuals. Included are 75 illustrations and 16 original maps.

Dwork is the author of “Children With a Star” and a professor of Holocaust history at Clark University, where she is founding director of their Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Van Pelt, who was born in Holland, is professor of cultural history at the University of Waterloo and author of “The Case for Auschwitz.”

In his eighth book on a Holocaust theme, Sir Martin Gilbert presents inspiring stories of Christian and Muslim people — farmers, priests, soldiers, diplomats and other extraordinary “ordinary” people — in every occupied country, who risked all to save Jews from deportation and death. “The Righteous: The Unsung History of the Holocaust” (Henry Holt), draws on 25 years of research. In these true stories, “righteous acts testified to the survival of humane values and to the courage of those who save human life rather than allow it to be destroyed…. Six million Jews were murdered, but tens of thousands were saved.”

The author, a historian and the official biographer of Winston Churchill, is the author of eight books on Holocaust themes. This is the first to focus on altruism. Gilbert quotes Abraham Foxman, who was saved as a child by his nanny in Vilna, “Even in hell, even in that hell called the Holocaust, there was goodness, there was kindness, and there was love and compassion.”

“The Hidden Life of Otto Frank” by Carol Ann Lee (Morrow, 2003) is a penetrating, robust biography of the man turned into a legend by the publication of his daughter’s diary. The author breaks new ground in naming the man, a member of the Dutch Nazi party, who betrayed the Franks and their friends in 1944. The book was published to much acclaim and controversy when it was released in the Netherlands last year, and since then, Lee has gotten new information, included in the American edition. The English-born author, who previously wrote a biography of Anne Frank, lives in Amsterdam.

Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins bring to light the story of the largest maritime loss of civilian life during World War II, when the Struma, a ship filled with Jewish refugees with hopes to get to Palestine, exploded on the Black Sea, near Istanbul. About 800 people were killed in this little-known 1942 episode, including more than 100 children. One man survived; he is one of the sources in the compelling, well-written narrative, “Death on the Black Sea: The Untold Story of the Struma and World War II’s Holocaust at Sea” (Ecco). The authors piece together the facts, and also recount recent attempts to locate the Struma at the bottom of the sea, a search initiated by the grandson of two victims. An appendix lists the names and ages of the victims. Frantz is the former Istanbul bureau chief for The New York Times, now investigations editor for the newspaper, and his wife, Collins, has covered Turkey for the Chicago Tribune.

In 1941, when 16-year old Lena Jedwab left her Bialystock home for summer camp in Russia, she expected to return in a few weeks. But that was not to be, and she was stranded, separated from her family, after Germany invaded the former Soviet Union. “Girl With Two Landscapes: The Wartime Diary of Lena Jedwab 1941-1945” (Holmes & Meier, 2002) is the diary she began keeping that summer in a children’s home, translated from the Yiddish by Solon Beinfeld, with an introduction by Jan T. Gross and a foreword by Irena Klepfisz. The book is a powerful document by a young woman of intelligence, enthusiasm and moral strength, with much to say about themes of home and exile, as well as daily life. The author, Lena Jedwab Rozenberg, now lives in Paris.

The title, “Here There Is No Why,” Rachel Chencinski Roth’s memoir (translated from the Polish, with a grant from Yad Vashem), is Dr. Joseph Mengele’s response to the author and millions of others. The book is the fulfillment of a promise the author made at Maidenek, when she told a young friend she would tell the world of the horrors they experienced. The daughter of a journalist, she writes of her teenage life in the Warsaw Ghetto, her participation in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and her transports, along with her aunt, to several concentration camps.

The themes of the Shoah are taken up artistically by Judith Weinshall Liberman, who has just published a collection of her work, “Holocaust Wall Hangings” (Schoen Books, 2002). The artist was born in then-Palestine in the ’30s, and aware — as much as a teenager might be — of the Holocaust as people close to her were losing loved ones. In 1947, she moved to the United States to pursue her education, earned four university degrees and chose to pursue her artwork after lecturing and writing about law. Since 1988, she has been creating art, mostly on fabric, with a Holocaust theme, and many of her works are exhibited in the United States and Israel. She uses color expressively, although in limited ways, and also employs embroidery and beading, and repeated imagery like boxcars and views of Anne Frank. Included are essays by art historians and curators and explanations of each color plate.

Newly available:
Back in print, after Imre Kertesz won the Nobel Prize for literature are two of his novels, “Fateless,” his first and perhaps best-known novel about a Hungarian Jewish boy’s experiences in concentration camps and after the war, and “Kaddish for a Child Not Born,” the story of a Holocaust survivor taking stock of his life in middle age, both translated by Christopher C. Wilson and Katharina M. Wilson (Hydra/Northwestern University Press).

Dear Rabbi


Remarriage After Divorce

Dear Rabbi,

When can a woman remarry after divorce?

Katherine

Dear Katherine,

Since marriage is itself a religious enactment (called
kiddushin in Hebrew), it requires a religious ceremony to terminate a Jewish
marriage. And since rabbis also act as agents of the state in performing
marriages, most rabbis require a civil divorce to be completed prior to
proceeding to deliver a get (the document of divorce).

So, once a woman has completed the civil divorce and has
received her get, she is free to remarry, provided that the man is himself
single (either having never been married, or himself having already finished a
civil divorce and given a get to his previous wife).

Should They Convert?

Dear Rabbi,

I was adopted at birth in 1970. In 1992, I located my birth
mother, though the family and historical information I have received has been
very little. I am under the impression that there may be Jewish roots in my
heritage. How can I confirm this? I have been studying Torah since last fall. I
am aware of the Noahide laws and how they pertain to me, a gentile. However, I
have been considering possible conversion. Am I more accountable before Hashem
to convert if it is confirmed that I do come from a Jewish background? My
mother’s surname is Glazer and I was told that part of the family is from Germany.
My husband is also in a similar predicament, as his mother was adopted and has
recently found that her families’ surnames were Kopp and Hart.

We want to be pleasing and find favor in the eyes of Hashem
and are stumbling over what the right thing would be to do. 

Kathleen

Dear Kathleen,

What an amazing journey of faith and devotion you and your
husband exemplify. And what an interesting example of the complexities of
modern life.

According to Jewish law, a person is Jewish if his or her
mother was Jewish or if he or she converts. If your mother (or her mother) were
Jewish, then technically so are you. In that case, you would not be converting,
you would be reaffirming your true identity, a homecoming.

Whether or not you and your husband establish that you came
from Jews, you are most welcome to find a program to learn about Judaism and to
explore the wonder of living a life of Torah and mitzvot. Find a local rabbi
who can teach you and guide you.

May you both continue to grow in God’s service, and may you
be a blessing.

To Read or Not to Read

Dear Rabbi,

We are a small congregation of four families in the hills of
West Virginia. We aren’t formally a member of any of the movements, but our
level of observance is between modern Orthodox and Conservative. We currently
hold services on Shabbat eve and would like to expand services to Shabbat
morning and afternoon. However, we do not have a sefer Torah and it will be
sometime before we can obtain one.

Would it be permissible to read from a Tikkun when we have a
minyan during Shabbat morning and afternoon services until we obtain a sefer
Torah, or should we forgo the Torah portion of the service until a scroll is obtained?

Brian

Dear Brian,

It is wonderful and commendable that you and your community
are keeping Judaism and Torah alive in such an unlikely circumstance. You are
an inspiration, and evidence that the continuation of Torah doesn’t require
much more than devoted Jews, dedication and willingness to work together. The
light of your blessings illumines us all.

Since you do not have a sefer Torah yet, you should not read
from a Tikkun as though you do. Having an aliyah and reciting the blessings
requires a kosher Torah scroll. Until you have such a scroll, you should pause
when you get to that point in the service, and you can conduct a Torah study
group, or have someone read the parsha without reciting the blessings before
and after.

May your congregation continue to grow, and the devotion you
show spread to the rest of us!

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson serves as the dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism, and is the author of “The Bedside Torah: Wisdom, Visions, & Dreams” (McGraw Hill, 2001).

Ask Wendy


When Is It Too Late?

Dear Wendy,

A close friend of my parents passed away six months ago and I never wrote a card or paid a shiva call. Is it too late to right this wrong, tactfully?

Belated Condolence Conundrum

Dear Belated,

Your dilemma is a familiar one. Most people — including myself — will do anything to put off paying a shiva call unless it is that of a very close friend or relative. It’s an awkward moment and it’s never clear what to say, where to sit, whom to speak with. Of course there is no right thing to say and there are no words that can offer comfort at a time of great loss. However, that does not excuse the failure even to try. If your parents’ friend had died two or three years ago I would have let you off the hook — as my sister did for me after I was still bemoaning my failure to write a friend 10 years after her husband had died. But within the first year, it is still acceptable to write a condolence note. If you don’t write, your parents’ friend will probably not notice, but you will never forgive yourself. Moreover, a heartfelt condolence note sent today might carry more weight than one that arrived with the storm of them six months ago. It’s a blessing to know you and your loss are still on someone’s mind — if only for reasons of guilt.

Hubby Needs a Hand

Dear Wendy,

My husband relies on me for everything, and when something doesn’t get done to his liking he blames me. He won’t make his own doctor appointments, but when I make them he says, “Why did you put me down for that time?” I don’t mind helping out every now and then, but he is not my child. How do I convey to my husband that I am not responsible for his affairs?

Worn-Out Wife

Dear Worn-Out,

You are already accustomed to taking the blame, so let me heap on some more. If you had balked the first, second or third times your husband asked you to make him a dentist appointment, you wouldn’t be in the mess you’re in now. Believe me, when he could no longer drink a cup of hot coffee or eat ice cream without experiencing acute pain, your husband would have called the dentist on his own. Ditto for making an appointment to have his car serviced or his television set repaired. And the list goes on. It is your behavior that has to change, and I would suggest going cold turkey. Stop treating your husband as if he is your child and he will be forced to stop behaving as such. But buckle up; the transition is going to be rocky. Parents and children have years to prepare for adulthood and the responsibilities that accompany it. Your husband is going to be jolted into adulthood overnight. And you may experience symptoms of empty-nest syndrome. If you do, go the time-honored route: Get a dog.

Jews in the Military

Dear Wendy,

I believe that national defense is particularly important now for the United States, and even more so for the Jewish population. Yet how many Jews do you hear about who enlist in the armed services? Our children should forego college (for a while, at least), join the military, share in our defense and not expect or allow others to do our dirty work. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if more Arab Americans than Jews served in the armed forces?

All-American Mom

Dear All-American,

True, I have yet to meet a Jewish mother who readily lists the military along with medicine and the law when describing her child’s projected career path. But religion is not the point. No parent brings a child into the world at ease with the idea that he or she will perish on a battlefield. Specifically mothers. And because I am a mother, even as it appears inevitable that our country is on the verge of war, I cannot root for any child to enlist in the military. Of course I understand that, not only does my reaction fail to address your question, it is highly unrealistic given our country’s current state of affairs. What I do know for certain — and I will tell you even though you did not ask and — is that if women were in positions to resolve wars and military conflicts, your query would be moot. Political, territorial, and religious conflicts would be resolved, at any cost, to prevent having to put the lives of our children at risk. I bank on this.

Ask Wendy


Accentuate the Negative

Dear Wendy,

My 7-year-old son has chosen as his best friends two of the rudest boys I have ever met. The words “please” and “thank you” have yet to cross their lips; each request begins with “give me” or “I want,” and that is only the beginning. Is it acceptable for me to discourage these friendships and steer my son toward better-behaved peers?

Mortified Mom

Dear Mortified,

Follow this strategy to its logical end and, 15 years down the road, you will be telling me that you alone are qualified to select an appropriate wife for your son. This tack will surely yield the same results it has in the past: your son will inevitably march down the aisle with the one girl you find most objectionable. Child rearing is a marathon. Pace yourself.

You can’t limit the amount of time your son spends with his friends, but you can insist that they come to your house to play. And, when in your home, these boys play by your rules; bad manners will not be tolerated. After they’ve gone, point out to your son the specific incidents you witnessed where his friend’s manners were lacking (being oh so careful to criticize the behavior and not the individual). Let your son know how appalled you would be were he ever to display similar behavior. Assuming he doesn’t act in such a manner, he will wind up feeling like a prince by comparison. Negative examples can be worth their weight in gold.

Shabbat Meal Reservations

Dear Wendy,

My husband and I are often invited to other people’s homes for Shabbat meals. After reading a recent letter in your column about guests who don’t reciprocate, I thought I could offer some insight. I like to spend Shabbat with my friends, but I don’t enjoy cooking and I am too busy to do so anyway. Furthermore, just the thought of preparing a meal for a lot of people makes me break out in a cold sweat. I’d order takeout, but it’s a lot of money and the food isn’t as good as homemade.

Frustrated on Fridays

Dear Frustrated,

The last time I heard so many competing justifications was when my friend ended a romantic relationship by explaining to her boyfriend — in the course of a single conversation — that she needed to take some time off, was seeing someone else, thought she may be gay and was engaged to her first boyfriend.

I’m not buying any of it. You should disclose upon your first lunch or dinner invitation that you have no intention of reciprocating. Your hosts can then rule out any paranoid thoughts they may have about why they were not invited in return, and decide whether to issue a second invitation. If anyone has the gall to question your bad manners, why not just say that the dog ate your cookbook and leave it at that?

A Marital Master Plan?

Dear Wendy,

I am unhappily married and have been for several years. My wife and I are loving parents to our three children, but seem unable to offer one another the same nurturing and respect. To make my marriage work, I realize I have to change and grow and I feel I am doing so. My wife, on the other hand, is exactly who she was at the start of our conflict and seems unable — or unwilling — to change. Even when I am most miserable, however, I never contemplate divorce since I believe that my circumstances are part of God’s plan to help me develop into a better person and a better Jew.

Bummed Beshert

Dear Bummed,

There are at least two schools of thought when it comes to God’s involvement in our daily lives: the micromanager — or omnipresent — theory and the hands-off view. Even if you do believe that God is intimately knowledgeable about the details of your daily life — and I for one am skeptical about this given the mass and complexity of the other tasks He is called upon to attend to — who is to say you are correctly reading His intentions? Interpreting God’s words and expectations has kept scholars busy for centuries; if you possess the gift of deciphering God’s wishes you really should have spoken up sooner.

Unless and until He appears to you in a dream and tells you expressly to stay in your bad marriage, I suggest you start behaving like the intelligent and rational human being God created. And one more thing: you have three children. There is a lot of room for interpretation when considering the pros and cons of divorce, but it is your job as their father to weigh the impact of your bad marriage on your children. You may choose to believe (read rationalize) that God has a plan for you, but are you sure He has the same plan for your children?

Land of a Thousand Titles


Jonathan Foer’s award-winning book, “Everything Is Illuminated,” is a fictionalized road trip to a Ukrainian shtetl, mirroring the young author’s own family history quest. Crime fiction writer Rochelle Krich, the Orthodox daughter of Holocaust survivors, is starting a new series with the release of “Blues in the Night.” Howard Blum, a former New York Times reporter, chronicles the clandestine World War II exploits of the British army’s Jewish Brigade Group in “The Brigade.”

This trio, along with five other visiting authors and several nationally known speakers, will share their stories and sign books in a series of O.C. events Nov. 7-24. Hundreds of autograph-hungry readers are expected at the fourth annual Jewish book festival, organized by Orange County’s Jewish Community Center.

Similar festivals are scheduled in 70 other communities in the month prior to Chanukah, which begins Nov. 29. The New York-based Jewish Book Council sponsors November’s declaration as “Jewish Book Month.” Together, the events will ring up nearly $3 million in direct and ancillary sales of books with Jewish content or written by Jewish authors, according to estimates by publishers, said Carolyn Starman Hessel, the council’s executive director. “There’s been a renaissance in Jewish literacy,” she said, reflected in the success of local festivals, the survival of niche Jewish publishers such as Vermont-based Jewish Lights and the growth of synagogue book clubs.

Yet outside the nation’s two largest Jewish population centers of New York and Los Angeles, book stores carry few selections on Jewish topics. Some festivals stock 4,000 titles, becoming a rare opportunity to see and touch the breadth of modern Jewish literature. Even the book-filled Judaica stores in Los Angeles — which will not officially hold a book festival this year — cater largely to the Orthodox community.

“The JCC brings in titles I can’t take in, like politics,” said Julie Ghodsi, who with her husband, Shahrokh, in 1990 started Costa Mesa’s Golden Dreidle, which can boast of the county’s largest Jewish book collection. Her stock is weighted towards cooking, children, travel, the Holocaust and introductory Judaism.

“I have limited space and people come to me for life-cycle books,” she said.

Even in retail-rich Orange County, the Jewish inventory is slim at a mainstream shop such as B. Dalton Bookseller in Laguna Hills’ mall. Of one aisle devoted to religion, the Jewish section takes three shelves, an anemic 100 individual titles.

At the JCC? A smorgasbord of over 1,000 titles will be offered in a conference room stripped of its tables and sofas and transformed into an all-Jewish book bazaar by event coordinator Donna Van Slyke and an army of 50 volunteers. Bookshelves temporarily emptied and heisted from every office at the Jewish campus will be refilled by genre. Merchandizing expertise is coming from the staff of Waldenbooks in Mission Viejo, which is serving as the JCC’s temporary book distributor.

Among the book groupings will be children’s, fiction, nonfiction, humor and cooking. New this year is a section devoted to contemporary Israeli authors, whose work is mostly in Hebrew. Two well-read, Israeli-born locals, Ivy Dashti and Yaffi Sevy, will describe the books at a Nov. 14 event provided by Steimatzky, an Israeli bookseller with franchise stores a Tarzana and Beverly Hills.

“It’s a wonderful environment to bring the community together,” said Hessel, who thinks that festival events often appeal to Jews who avoid synagogue. “‘I can’t go.’ ‘I won’t know what to do.’ You never hear that about a book fair.”

In fact, the festival includes some atypical events that are a reflection of the local Jewish community’s willingness to cross-collaborate. In addition to mostly evening appearances by authors, the line-up includes a single performance of “Shylock,” a one-man play by Mark Leiren-Young about art and political correctness; and a debate between ideological opposites, Michael Lerner and Dennis Prager. The latter events are sponsored by the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and the Community Scholar Program, respectively.

The independent book council plays a considerable behind-the-scenes role in raising awareness for Jewish authors. The group sponsors the National Jewish Book Awards, presented annually to the authors of the best works in 14 categories. And since 1999, the council has also eased the lives of local event organizers by gathering authors to an annual beauty-pageant conference where festival planners size up potential candidates. Van Slyke selected from 50 authors willing to travel west.

As a measure of Jewish book festival influence on an individual author’s sales, last year’s appearances prompted a fourth printing by publisher Simon & Schuster of Samuel G. Freedman’s “Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry,” Hessel said. Freedman, a Columbia University professor, trekked to nearly 30 cities.

“I can easily sell 300 copies if the author is speaking,” she said.

The festival is not a moneymaker for the JCC, which will receive about 10 percent of the proceeds, said David Ho, Waldenbook’s district manager. He expects sales of $20,000, or about 50 percent of the merchandise stocked.

Authors submit to a jampacked monthlong schedule touring the country. The various festivals split their expenses, a bookkeeping tangle administered by the council. This year, Blum gets the mileage prize, visiting 32 cities in four weeks, including stops in Orange County and an appearance at the San Gabriel-Pomona Valley Jewish book festival.

The JCC’s “store” will also take to the road to accommodate author appearances at the venues of sponsoring synagogues. Tickets to individual events vary and some are likely to be sold out.


Book Festival

Except where noted, author events take place at 7:30 p.m. at Orange County’s Jewish Community Center, 250 E. Baker St., Costa Mesa. Ticket prices to individual events vary.

Nov. 7 Jonathan Safron Foer, noon.

Nov. 7 Dennis Prager vs. Rabbi Michael

Lerner, debate, Newport Beach’s

Temple Bat Yahm

Nov. 10 Rabbi Harold Kushner, Tustin’s

Congregation B’nai Israel

Nov. 10 Sheila Kaufman, private home,

11 a.m.

Nov. 11 Robin Glasser, 9:30 a.m.

Nov. 12 Sharon Boorstin

Nov. 14 Israeli lit lovers: Ivy Dashti and

Yaffi Sevy

Nov. 16 Vivian Wayne

Nov. 18Mark Leiren-Young’s play, “Shylock”

Nov. 20 Rochelle Krich

Nov. 21 Howard Blum

Nov. 24 Leonard Nimoy

Daily News Cartoon Provokes Anger, Apology


An editorial cartoon that ran on the Editorials & Letters page of the Los Angeles Daily News on Dec. 21 outraged readers with an image that confused as much as it provoked.

Cartoonist Patrick O’Connor offended readers with his “View From The Valley” one-panel political cartoon. The wordless image depicted Israeli Defense Force soldiers, with Magen Davids on their helmets, beating up what appeared to be the Three Wise Men, or Palestinian men, or both, in the foreground, as the Nativity unfolds in the background. The juxtaposition of the Israeli military violently assaulting men in turbans with the birth of Jesus seemed perplexing to some.

The decision-makers at the Daily News responsible for running the cartoon were Editor David Butler and Managing Editor Ron Kaye.

“We’re apologetic,” Kaye told The Journal. “Obviously a lot of people are upset about it.”

The Daily News printed a rare public apologyfor running the cartoon in its pages. According to a source close to the paper, Butler pushed for the apology. Butler, against the objections of Kaye and Editorial Page Editor Mike Tetreault, had pushed to run the cartoon in the first place, said the source.

“Our intent was to highlight that the violence in the Middle East was spiraling out of control and post-Sept. 11 was dangerous to everybody, and we deeply regret that the cartoon obscures the message and we apologize to those we’ve offended,” said Kaye.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles sent a joint letter to the Daily News’ editors to convey the disappointment and outrage of the numerous calls their offices received. On the day that the cartoon ran, Aaron Levinson, director of the ADL’s Valley office, said the organization had received about a dozen complaints at his outlet and another dozen at the Los Angeles office.

“The message was unclear,” Levinson said, “but it clearly depicted Jewish soldiers beating up Arabs or the Wise Men without showing the other side of the story.”

Both Levinson and the Israeli Consulate’s Consul of Communications Meirav Eilon Shahar told The Journal that they could not recall past complaints regarding O’Connor’s cartoons or the Daily News in general.

“I can’t recall receiving complaints about their cartoons in the last three years that I’ve been at the ADL,” said Levinson.

By contrast, the ADL has received numerous calls regarding various Los Angeles Times political cartoons over the years.

But that does not excuse the irresponsibility of this particular panel, say the ADL and the Israeli Consulate.

“It could stroke the flames of intolerance,” Levinson said. “It could lead to finger-pointing. At a time after Sept. 11, when we’re trying to bring some healing to the community, this is counter-productive.”

“Usually, our policy is try to engage, not criticize, the media,” Shahar said. “This was a very offensive, one-sided and irresponsible. The media has a responsibility of reporting with accuracy, and to present both sides of issues in a factual and responsible way.”

Kaye would not let The Journal speak to O’Connor. Instead, he spoke on the staff cartoonist’s behalf.

“I’m conveying his sentiment that it was over-the-top and not in his heart and not in our hearts and we all regret running this cartoon,” Kaye said.

There were no plans at press time for any of the Jewish organizations to meet with the Daily News editors.

“At this point we are not, but we don’t rule that out,” said Tamar Galatzan, leader of the ADL’s Western State Association Council, who did note that the Woodland Hills-based paper immediately took responsibility, in light of reader reaction, and yanked the offensive cartoon from their Web site.

“The images overwhelmed the message,” Kaye said, “and was inappropriate to conveying what was essentially a plea for peace in the Middle East, which turned out to be offensive to many people.”

Grammar Police


My name is Teresa Strasser and I’ve made grammatical errors.

My story begins with a piece I wrote several months ago. Give me a second, I need to compose myself.

It’s hard to admit this, even to a group as supportive and nurturing as you. Let me just take a deep breath. Okay, here goes. I used the phrase "My mother and I" when I should have said, "My mother and me." I’ll be honest; I did this not once but twice in one column.

I can’t tell you what a shame spiral I’m in. Did I just end that sentence with a preposition? Will I ever learn?

Numerous readers have sent me notes, admonishing me, chiding me, circling those two errors with red pens before stuffing the offending articles in envelopes with nasty notes.

It’s not bad enough that I have to deal with the disappointment of my friends and family, my own searing sense of total inadequacy for making such obvious mistakes. Now, the Grammar Police are after me. We’ve all had our tangles with the Grammar Police, those rock-bottom moments when we’ve been busted, when we lose our great battle with the rules of the English language.

"Please review the rules of grammar. These errors are quite egregious," wrote one woman from Studio City, her anger manifest in her slashy handwriting.

It’s been far too long since I’ve consulted the Good Book. And by that I mean Strunk and White’s "The Elements of Style." I’ve gone renegade and now I’m paying the price. Shut-ins all over this town are taking time out from entering sweepstakes and filing coupons alpha-numerically to inform me of my shortcomings.

I know it’s for my own good. I understand that proper grammar only helps us to communicate our ideas more precisely, to preserve the integrity of our language.

Still, I must confess something to you here and now. I dislike the Grammar Police. I loathe their letters with the unbridled intensity of an angry poet on open mic night.

When you think about it, what is a grammar-corrector really saying? It all boils down to one simple insight: "I’m smarter than you!" I know we Jews are the People of the Book, but does that mean we have to keep throwing it at one another?

The Grammar Police deliver their little corrections with such glee. (My apologies for the qualifier, as Strunk and White call qualifiers such as "little" and "rather" the leeches that "infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words.")

Maybe I’m sliding in my grammar recovery if I say this, but I feel I must. Don’t these people ever make mistakes? Are they so perfect? Let he who has never dangled a participle throw the first stone!

I’d be remiss if at this point I didn’t point out the difference between the casual corrector and the hardcore grammarian who takes the time to write. Let’s face it, my fans aren’t out there circling and sending. I get the sneaking suspicion that those who find fault with my grammar really just can’t stand me. They’re picking on my subject/verb agreement when the real problem runs much deeper.

It’s like when your relationship is ending, and you can’t stand your mate, but all that comes out is your over-wrought reaction to his parking, the soap he picked out, his loud chewing. You’re nit-picking when what you should really do is break up.

When this most recent flood of letters came in, perhaps my anger was not so much at my own grammatical shortcomings, but at the subtext of the corrections. If you hate me, just feel free to lash out at me directly. I can take it. Okay, maybe not. Feeling the Grammar Police’s disapproval of me, not just of my pronouns, I phoned a friend to vent.

"The Grammar Police won’t leave me alone," I wailed. "They don’t read my column for content. They read my column just hoping for a mistake so they can circle it and send it to me. It’s like they’re laying in wait."

He paused and said just one thing.

"That’s ‘lying’ in wait."