State Dept. warns ‘E-1’ construction would damage two-state prospects


Building in the E-1 area between eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim would be “especially damaging” to efforts to reach a two-state solution, the State Department said.

“The United States opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations, and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations,” Mark Toner, the State Department deputy spokesman, said in a statement. “This includes building in the E-1 area, as this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution.”

The statement Monday came after Israel leaked plans to build in the area, in apparent retaliation for the Palestinians' success last week in winning non-member state status at the United Nations General Assembly.

The first State Department reaction on Friday, by Toner's boss, Victoria Nuland, expressed concern over E-1 while also noting U.S. opposition to enhanced U.N. status for Palestine.

“We’re going to be evenhanded in our concern about any actions that are provocative, any actions that make it harder to get these two parties back to the table,” Nuland said.

Toner's statement on Monday was focused only on the proposed E-1 building, suggesting that the Obama administration would be aggressive in opposing E-1 development.

“We have made clear to the Israeli government that such action is contrary to U.S. policy,” Toner said. “The United States and the international community expect all parties to play a constructive role in efforts to achieve peace. We urge the parties to cease unilateral actions and take concrete steps to return to direct negotiations so all the issues can be discussed and the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security can be realized.”

Israeli governments have long planned such building, which would link the bedroom community of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem, but successive U.S. administrations have opposed it, saying that developing the corridor would cut off Palestinian populations centers from each other in a future Palestinian state.

E-1 was a flashpoint of tensions between the administration of President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Sukkot on the streets — finding community amid temporary shelter


When he woke up from a six-month coma, Al Sabo (photo) found his life unraveled. His wife had attempted suicide, and his three children were in foster care. He had lost his job as the managing editor of a trade publication. He couldn’t walk.

After several months of rehabilitation, Sabo ended up on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. He was almost 60 years old, white, and had spent his life avoiding places like Skid Row.

On his first night without shelter, he lay on the cold concrete in the dark, terrified of what a group of young, predominantly black drug addicts might do to him if he fell asleep. As it turned out, what they did was help him survive.

“They watched over me. It was totally amazing,” he said. “They went out and hustled up food for me. They took care of me. It gave me a whole different perspective of who people here really are, and a new understanding of the problems they’re facing.”

Sabo slept on the street for two months. He learned how to create a makeshift shelter with cardboard and tarp. He learned that, in the most precarious of situations, people with very little are willing to give a lot.

Every night on Skid Row, 5,000 people pile onto shelter cots or erect their flimsy huts in the concrete desert of the city. Another 9,000 go to bed in the area’s residency hotels, hoping to still have a roof over their heads the next day. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, year-round they share their sukkot with each other and remind us that we have failed to do the same for them.

When Sabo’s disability check came, he was able to afford a room at the Frontier Hotel. The Frontier is less than one block away from where I live, in a loft on Main Street. But Sabo and I are separated by much more than the physical space between us.

I am part of the new downtown, a much-touted “revitalization” of L.A.’s urban core. When I tell people in other parts of the city where I live, they say things like, “I hear they’re really cleaning up the area.”

Sabo is part of the old downtown. He’s poor, disabled and doesn’t have anywhere else to go. When others talk about “cleaning up the area,” they are talking about getting rid of people like him.

ALTTEXTIn the last few years, gentrification has swept downtown Los Angeles. Developers set their sights on the area’s residency hotels, and city officials, eager to preside over the rejuvenation of a long-neglected city center, failed to protect those who for decades have called these hotels home. Countless residents have already been displaced. Thousands more, like Sabo, are trying to hang on.

Just three months after Sabo moved into the Frontier — a slum property by city standards — the building’s owner began converting the hotel’s 450 rooms into market-rate apartments.

Sabo, like most of his neighbors, had been paying $400 a month for a 150-square-foot room at the Frontier. He said he had problems with roaches and rats and didn’t have any heat in the winter. It was no bargain, but it was the cheapest rent in town.

Now the owner was ridding the hotel of tenants like Sabo, one floor at a time.

“They were not only converting the top floors into lofts, they built a separate entrance on Main Street because they didn’t want these people associating with the residents that were already there,” Sabo said. “They certainly didn’t want people that had been there for years to mix with the young yuppies that were coming into the lofts and paying a lot more money.”

The newer, wealthier residents entered the building through a grand, recently refurbished lobby with its own set of elevators. The old residents, most of them black and many disabled, entered from another side of the building, through a bleak, concrete chamber.

The Frontier was a microcosm of what was happening downtown. Block after city block featured advertisements for the new urban life. Old buildings were festooned with images of young white couples in modern interiors, a reminder to longtime residents that the new downtown would not include them.

These low-income residents felt they had been doubly neglected by the city: Before gentrification turned these blighted properties into valuable real estate, they said, the city departments in charge of enforcing fire codes and habitability laws turned a blind eye. When the evictions began, they said city officials failed to enforce state and local rent- control laws that would keep them from joining the ranks of the homeless.

Housing rights advocates and community members used to fight the city and downtown landlords to improve slum conditions. Now they were fighting just to keep people inside.

The Bristol Hotel, just a few blocks away from the Frontier and a stone’s throw from City Hall, was emptied in three days. Many of the tenants said they were evicted at gunpoint.

The Alexandria Hotel was purchased, with substantial help from the city, by a developer who evicted 100 tenants in the first year. Activists said some mentally disabled residents were simply locked out, and remaining tenants, many of them elderly, were stranded on top floors for days without working elevators or running water. The city officials who subsidized the renovation ignored countless pleas from tenants complaining of rampant abuses.

Mideast Solution: A Confederation


The Palestinians and the Israelis seem to agree on one thing: that the other is at fault. Each side wants recognition by the other that they are innocent victims, that the other side
is wrong. Each side demands that the other relinquish crucial aspects of its identity.

In such a situation, the best solution is to concentrate on a pragmatic approach that will benefit both peoples, yet not impinge on the sovereignty of either the Jewish state or its Palestinian counterpart. Such an approach may lay the groundwork for peace, by focusing on joint decision making on non-politically charged issues.

For some time now, the Israel-Palestinian Confederation (IPC) has pursued this option. It believes that one possible solution involves electing a confederation government comprised of Israelis (both Jewish and Arab) and Palestinians.
How exactly would such a confederation work? Approximately 10 million people live in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza: 6 million are Jews, and 4 million are Arabs. Dividing the entire region into 300 districts apportioned by population should result in a legislature divided approximately 60/40 in favor of the Israelis. However, if the relative birth rates of Palestinians to Israelis maintain its current ratio, in the not too distant future, Palestinians will outnumber Israelis.

The legislature will tackle issues that the Israeli and Palestinian governments, for internal political reasons, find difficult to address. The legislature will also deal with the day-to-day quality of life issues where cooperation is required including, but certainly not limited to, locating public facilities such as water lines, highways, schools and hospitals.

To encourage consensus and to prevent the majority from riding roughshod over the minority, confederation legislation requires a supermajority of 60 percent of the 300 delegates and at least 25 percent of the minority on any given vote. The Israeli and Palestinian governments will be given a veto power. To illustrate this point: in a 300-seat legislature, 180 votes are necessary to pass anything. However, if the balance between Israelis and Palestinians is 180 Israelis and 120 Palestinians, if Israeli sponsored legislation is enacted, it would require that of the 180 votes at least 30 came from Palestinians.

This supermajority voting requirement coupled with protections for the minority as well a veto power for the Israeli and Palestinian governments will foster cooperation, since any legislation promoting the national aspirations of one side at the expense of the other will easily be blocked. As a consequence, the representatives will concentrate on initiatives that improve their constituents’ lives.

The IPC believes that confederation legislation reached by consensus will discourage the governments from exercising their vetoes. If legislation has wide popular support among the two peoples, it may be untenable for the one government to veto the legislation without undermining its own legitimacy.

In this sense, a confederation will serve as a bridge between the Palestinian and Israeli governments
Because neither the Israeli government nor the Palestinian Authority is likely to willingly relinquish its monopoly on governance, initially, the Israeli-Palestinian Confederation will have to hold a private election. This also will establish the independence of the body showing that it is not a tool of either the Israelis or the Palestinians.

Direct representation elections for Gaza, Israel and the West Bank is nothing new. Israel has been a functioning parliamentary democracy throughout its existence, and the recent Palestinian elections have been recognized as honest, open and free.

The 300 representatives will not be targets for an extreme or violent group, because members of those groups are motivated by antagonism against their own or the other’s government. These elements believe they can derail the peace process by forcing their respective governments to act aggressively toward the other. A confederation legislature comprised of representatives who do not represent the entire nation will not be considered a threat and any attack on it will not lead to the desired reaction of causing the Israeli or Palestinian governments to lash out.

While there is now no mechanism for the Palestinians and Israelis to solve daily and long term issues for the benefit of both sides, and there are no rules to resolve conflicts when they erupt, the confederation, once effective in demonstrating that Israelis and Palestinians can govern together, will become the de facto authority to establish rules to settle issues, solve problems, and enhance working and living relations between and among the peoples of the region.

At a UCLA symposium held Feb. 26, 2006, Alan Dershowitz surprised many guests with a general approval of a, “Loose confederation, based on the kind that now exists in parts of Europe with economic and other forms of cooperation involving natural resources and water.”

Dershowitz stated that “The Confederation idea is worthy of consideration as long as it does not mean a one state solution.”

He went on to say, “any kind of a Confederation would require that Israel retains its sovereignty, its ability to defend itself, its ability to reflect Jewish culture and history.”

Former President Bill Clinton in a personal letter to this writer was very encouraging of the Confederation idea, perhaps reflecting on his own experience with Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat,
The European Union is a multinational union of independent states. It is an intergovernmental union of 25 states, each maintaining its own government and identity. Ever since its establishment in 1992 the EU conduct an election every five years for the Common European Parliament. The EU manages to maintain a separate common government for all of the 25 states but yet each one of them has its own separate government.

Switzerland has two chambers in the Legislative Branch. The National Council representing the people and the Council of States representing the cantons.

The Swiss National Council has 200 seats with each canton contributing representatives in proportion to its size. The Council of States has two members for each canton and one member for half canton. The Swiss system is meant to create a balance where the small cantons will be protected from the large.

Indeed, the United States and Canada have a similar formula which combines a federal government overlapping with separate state governments. Each of the 50 states has its own constitution and legislative body. However, each state sends two senators and a proportionate number of congressmen depending on its population size to a common federal government.
The idea of a confederation is widely accepted around the world. It is designed to achieve a mechanism of cooperation while preserving the identity and special needs of its states.

Clash of Ideas Should Be Addressed


The age of terror, it seems, has sprouted an era of dialogue. A host of conferences designed to bring together East and West are cropping up everywhere.

Never before, perhaps, have so many talked so optimistically about so serious a problem. But behind all the words is one unspoken disagreement that may imperil any chance for progress.

My direct encounter with this optimism took place at a high-profile get-together, the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, in mid-April. Organized by the Qatar government and the Brookings Institution, the conference was packed with more than 150 scholars and leaders from all sides who diligently discussed both the needs and the means for achieving democracy, reforms and renaissance in the Muslim world. Strikingly, there was hardly a Muslim speaker who did not tie the implementation of such reforms to progress toward settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

From the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, to Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahla to Rami Khouri, editor of The Daily Star in Lebanon, almost every speaker ended his or her speech with a reminder that American credibility hinges critically on progress toward resolving the Palestinian problem.

This critical connection also livened up discussions at the World Economic Forum in Jordan in mid-May. According to The Economist, Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, “barked: Palestine!” every time Liz Cheney, an assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department, mentioned the vision of an “Arab democratic spring.”

“There will be no spring or autumn or winter or summer without solving the problem,” he thundered.

But the distinctive and refreshing feature of the Doha conference was the civility with which this issue was discussed. The word “occupation” was hardly mentioned, and the usual accusatory terms “brutal,” “colonial,” “racist,” “apartheid,” etc., were pleasantly absent from the main discourse; all claims and grievances were neatly encapsulated into a modest call for “progress toward a solution.”

This stood in sharp contrast to another East-West conference earlier in April in Putrajaya, Malaysia, in which the Malaysian prime minister reportedly stated that Israel should cease to be “an exclusively Jewish racist state,” and where the overwhelming majority of participants, representing 34 countries, demanded that Israel be dismantled.

Enticed by the aura of civility in Doha, and as a representative of an organization committed to East-West dialogue, I was curious to find out what speakers had in mind when they pressed for “progress on the Palestine issue” — progress toward what?

Deep in my heart, I had hoped that the elite delegates in Doha would be more accommodating than those in Putrajaya, and that, safe in the protection of private discussions, I would find progressive Muslims who are genuinely behind the so called “two-state solution” and the “road map” leading to it. If this were not the case, I thought, then we are in big trouble again — Muslims might be nourishing a utopian dream that the West cannot accept, and sooner or later, the whole dialogue process, and all the good will and reforms that depend on it, would blow up in the same conflagration that consumed the Oslo process.

I was not the only American concerned with such gloomy scenarios. Richard Holbrook, America’s former ambassador to the United Nations, urged the Arab world to contribute its fair share toward meaningful movement of the peace process. He reminded the audience that by now, two and a half generations of Arabs have been brought up on textbooks that do not show Israel on any map, and that such continued denial, on a grass-roots level, is a major hindrance to any peaceful settlement.

I had a friendly conversation on this issue with one of Dahlan’s aides, who confessed that “we, Palestinians, do not believe in a two-state solution, for we do not agree to the notion of ‘Jewish state.’ Judaism is a religion,” he added “and religions should not have states.”

When I pointed out that Israeli society is 70 percent secular, bonded by history, not religion, and that by “Jewish state,” Israelis mean “national Jewish state,” he replied: “Still, the area of Palestine is too small for two states.”

This I found somewhat disappointing, given the official Palestinian Authority endorsement of the road map plan.

“Road map to what?” I thought, “to a Middle East without Israel?” Arafat’s death has presumably put an end to such fantasies.

I discussed my disappointment with an Egyptian scholar renowned as “a champion of liberalism.” His answer was even more blunt:

“The Jews should build themselves a Vatican, a spiritual center somewhere near Jerusalem. But there is no place for a Jewish state in Palestine, not even a national Jewish state. The Jews were driven out of Palestine 2,000 years ago, and that should be final, similar to the expulsion of the Moors from Spain 500 years ago.”

These views brought to mind my friends in the Israeli peace camp who place all their hopes on the two-state dream, and for whom the terms “one-state solution” and “Jewish Vatican” are synonymous to genocidal death threats. My puzzled thoughts also went to all the Europeans and Americans who believe to have found an inkling of flexibility on Israel’s legitimacy in the progressive Muslim camp.

But if my experience in Doha was merely a glimpse at how Muslim elites conceptualize the Middle East “solution,” it was soon topped by a May visit to the University of California at Irvine, where the Muslim Student Union organized a meeting titled, “A World Without Israel” — cut and dry.

And if that was not enough, there came a colorful radio confession by the editor of the Egyptian newspaper, Al-Arabi (May 29, 2005), Abd Al-Halim Qandil:

“Those who signed the Camp David agreement … can simply piss on it and drink their own urine, because the Egyptian people will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli entity.”

Putting aside troubling reports about Arab textbooks, television programs and mosque sermons, Qandil’s bold statement drove home a very sobering realization: In 2005, I still cannot name a single Muslim leader (or journalist or intellectual) who has publicly acknowledged the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a dispute between two legitimate national movements.

One side dreams of a world without Israel; the other sees Israel as a major player in the democratization and economic development of the region — will this clash of expectations burst into another round of bloodshed?”

But, looking ahead at the plentiful attempts to build bridges to the Muslim world, one wonders whether this outpouring of energy and good will should not first be channeled toward hammering out basic common goals, followed by educational programs and media campaigns that promote them, rather than glossing over a fundamental disagreement of such importance. Failure to address uncomfortable differences has a terrible way of extracting higher costs later on.

Judea Pearl is president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, an organization that promotes cross-cultural understanding, named after his son, a Wall Street Journal reporter brutally murdered in Pakistan in 2002.

 

Project Re’ut Melds Optimism, Realism


For many observers the "road map," which envisions creating a Palestinian state adjacent to Israel, looks increasingly like a dead end. As does the Geneva accord. With Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists blowing up innocent Israelis in bloody attacks and Israel building a security fence around itself that slices through Palestinian lands, rarely has peace seemed so elusive.

For Gidi Grinstein, though, the current deadlock should be but a detour on the way to a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians. The 33-year-old director of Project Re’ut, a new Tel Aviv-based think tank that envisions creating a comprehensive approach for Israel to move toward a beneficial two-state solution, said he is cautiously optimistic, although a realist.

"The purpose of Project Re’ut is to prepare a toolkit of national security and foreign policy strategies for the government of Israel to go for the vision of a Jewish and democratic state across a range of possible scenarios," said Grinstein, a former secretary of the negotiating team for the Barak government who is in town trying to drum up support for his fledgling think tank.

Grinstein said he understands the difficulties and uncertainties of hammering out an agreement with the Palestinian Authority. The graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University also is aware of the toll repeated suicide bombings have had on the Israeli psyche.

Where others might see darkness, Grinstein sees light, if only a ray. To move Israel from here to there, his Project Re’ut hopes to assemble 100 of Israel’s leading thinkers to grapple with several major issues. Among the topics Re’ut will address: how best to establish a Palestinian state; how to resolve the question of right of return; how to foster stronger Israeli-Palestinian economic relations and trade; how to resolve disputes over water and infrastructure; and what to do about Jerusalem and access to holy sites.

Launched in April by the Economic Cooperation Foundation in Israel, Re’ut has already attracted some of Israel’s biggest foreign policy and national security players. Maj. Gen. Amnon Lipkin Shahak, former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff; David Kimchi and Avi Gil, former director generals of the Israeli Foreign Office; Gen. Ze’ev Livneh, former IDF defense attaché to the United States and Canada; and Avi Ben-Bassat, David Brodet and Ezra Sadan, all former director generals of the Ministry of Finance, are among Re’ut participants.

Re’ut joins a growing list of think tanks dedicated to finding a solution to Israel’s growing security problems. Although well-meaning, it is unclear to what degree, if any, those groups influence policy. Grinstein, who made his first fundraising swing through Southern California in mid-September, said he hopes to achieve much through his efforts.

Grinstein admits that much needs to happen before there can be peace with the Palestinians.

"The Palestinians have to get their act together and establish a unitary structure of command over all armed forces and control over all use of force. Without this, there may be agreements but no peace," he said.

And, contrary to the wishes of many Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, peace might mean dealing with Yasser Arafat, provided agreements can be monitored and enforced.

"Yasser Arafat is definitely relevant, the only real Palestinian leader," he said.

Grinstein thinks the lessons of the past can help Israel navigate a smoother future in its quest for peace. However, Grinstein warns that Palestinians must change their attitudes in order for peace to prevail.

"The Palestinian leadership hasn’t established transparent and accountable government structures in the fields of security and economics," he said. "This has led to a failing governmental performance and an inability and unwillingness to enforce law and order and prevent terrorism. That, in turn, has led to worsening conditions of living for Palestinians.

Israel has had its share of problems as well, including political instability. Since 1993, the country has had five prime ministers. The rapid expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza hasn’t helped either.

Against this dispiriting backdrop, some Jews are supporting the construction of a security fence around Israel proper and some of the disputed areas. Such a security barrier, they argue, will keep terrorists out and Israelis safe. However, Grinstein said peace cannot be imposed. A security fence fails to grapple with such important issues as internationally recognized borders and the status of Jerusalem.

Still, Grinstein said Israelis are a resilient people. Although trust in the Palestinians has plummeted, many citizens of the Jewish State are hungry for peace and have finally recognized the need for a two-state solution, no matter how painful.

"I believe Israel has a legacy of eventually seizing the moment and making things happen. I am seeing many signs that such a historic moment is getting closer," he said.

Grinstein will be speaking at University Synagogue’s Synaplex Shabbat on Jan. 9. To find out more information about Project Re’ut, please write to gidi@ecf.org.il.

Say Hello Before They Say Goodbye


Jews for Jesus, Jews attending churches, low synagogue membership, astronomical rates of intermarriage — as complex as these issues are, there is at least one remarkably simple and inexpensive solution to encouraging Jewish participation. It’s called a warm greeting.

A friendly smile, a warm greeting, an invitation to lunch. If you think that is silly and simplistic, think again. As part of their course work, I require my students to interview two Jews. Because many of them — all non-Jews, primarily from the South Bay — lead very narrow lives, they do not know how to find Jews and turn to familiar institutions, one of which is church. Lo and behold — as the most recent National Jewish Population Survey has finally shown — they find Jews there.

Over the years, of the 40 or so of these interviewees, about three-quarters said they were drawn to the church because of the support of their non-Jewish spouse and the friendliness of the Christian congregation. They felt welcomed.

Compare that with my experiences and those of friends. I cannot begin to enumerate all the Shabbat morning (and Friday night) services I have attended where not one single person greeted me. The list includes at least 16 of the major synagogues in Los Angeles County — of all streams. Nor is it just Los Angeles. I received the same reception in the largest Conservative synagogues in Manhattan, Queens, San Diego, Vancouver, Miami, Cleveland and Toronto, as well as the largest synagogues (Orthodox) in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Istanbul. And in Israel, in Hebrew-speaking congregations — forget it. One is invisible until one attends regularly for six months.

Nor is it just synagogue life. Over the past three years I attended two lectures at the Yiddish Culture Club. In each, I was one of two or three people under 65 years of age. Would it not seem natural that they would greet me warmly? Think again.

Not a word. (The lectures, in Yiddish, were first-rate, so I would go again.)

In the spirit of ecumenicism, I had the same experience at St. Stephen’s Serbian Orthodox Church last month. There were only about 25 people who attended the Vespers (evening) service and not a single one came up to greet me.

Not all synagogues (or churches) are so aloof. I have been approached and invited out at Beth Jacob, Aish HaTorah and some, but not all, Chabad synagogues. At the Movable Minyan, members are required to speak to guests. When I bring students to a Shabbat service, I bring them to Mishkon Tephilo, in part because the people tend to be friendly, a trait not lost on the students. All the students who report on their experiences have a positive predisposition and they invariably mention — indeed emphasize — the friendliness of the congregants.

It’s almost too simple. Among both Jews and Christians, which movements are growing the fastest? Those that engage in outreach and that offer the strongest sense of community — those that are the most welcoming. Indeed, one of the charges against cults is that they are too friendly. Few synagogues have to worry about that charge.

A few years ago, synagogue leaders created a commission, Synagogue 2000, to devise new guidelines that would make stagnant synagogues more alive. Among the suggestions was making synagogues more friendly. But when, in July 2001, I went to services on a Shabbat morning to the synagogue of a Synagogue 2000 leader, there were 23 people, not a single one of whom greeted me. Maybe that’s why there were only 23 people.

It is not as though we need to seek out the secrets of evangelical Christian churches.

Hospitality goes back to the first Jew, Abraham, who even in extreme discomfort, welcomed the wayfarers to his home. One of the common themes throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, especially for the patriarchs and matriarchs, is that of hospitality. The Hebrew, hachnasat orchim, literally means “causing guests to enter [one’s home].”

Nor did this virtue escape the sages. We say a special blessing for guests on Sukkot. We start the seder with an invitation to all who are hungry to join us at the table, an Aramaic expression taken directly from Rabbi Huna who, according to legend, went outside and publicly invited all the needy (koll ditzrich yatay v’lechol) to join him at every meal (Taanit 20b). Rabbi Yochanan avers that hospitality is equal to prayer; Rabbi Dimi disagrees, stating that hospitality is greater (Shabbat 127a-b). In a passage included in the morning service of traditional prayer books, the rabbis included hospitality as one of the major mitzvot.

Will a smile, friendly greeting and an invitation to lunch solve all synagogue problems? Hardly. But it’s a better start than what we are doing now. If you don’t believe me, then I can recommend lots of churches where Jewish-born men and women now belong. Ask them.


Alan Fisher is a political science professor at California State University Dominguez Hills.

Your Letters


JCC Closures

We don’t shut down something important; we find a solution (“Centers in Crisis,” Dec. 7). It is evident that some of those in power really believe that the Jewish Community Center (JCC) is a waste of precious resources and has outlived its usefulness.

I thought these people worked for us. Where are the machers? Where is the shame?

And where are all of those who learned to swim at JCC, who went to camp there, who played in the senior’s orchestra, who swam with Lenny Krayzelberg, who got a dose of the Maccabi Games? Where are you hiding?

Jerrold A. Fine, Chairman Westside Jewish Community Center Building Committee

Shame on us. How can we close most of the centers in the Los Angeles area and deprive our people of one of the basic foundations of our community? To think that we Jews in Los Angeles are doing this to ourselves is nothing short of madness. We know better, we deserve better and, hopefully, we will not let this come to pass. For once, let not our divisiveness lead us to self-destruction; rather, let us coalesce and put our brilliant minds together to save one of the richest foundations that we have in the Los Angeles area for the entire Jewish community.

Herman Gillman, Director emeritus Jewish Federation Council Southern Region

Chaim Weizmann, Director emeritus Valley Cities JCC

\

The inevitable closure of several Jewish Community Centers comes as no surprise to those of us involved as volunteers. This process has been on a downward spiral for at least the past five years, maybe 10. These difficulties transcend Nina Lieberman-Giladi’s stewardship. Unfortunately, she inherited most of these problems.

What seems to have happened is a combination of factors that together seem to have waylaid the centers in Los Angeles: lack of vision and innovation when it comes to new programs; adherence to an antiquated model that doesn’t fit current community desires; and centralization without any follow-up plan for replacing the local volunteer base, or infuse local support with their broader vision for JCCGLA.

The dissolution of local boards was particularly destructive in the emasculation of whatever volunteer base local centers had.

Bill Kabaker, Sherman Oaks

I worked for the Jewish Community Centers for a decade, running the children’s programs at the Westside JCC, climbing their professional ladder and adoring every moment. I spent another decade raising funds for their programs as the vice president of ways and means because of how deeply I was affected by all aspects of the work that they do.

Thousands of children who come through center programs are from unaffiliated Jewish families. They experience their Judaism through the activities, songs and celebrations within a Jewish community that they would not be a part of otherwise.

I recall seeing a woman buying her Passover food at one of the kosher markets on Pico recently. She recognized me, and began to tell me how much the centers influenced her current life. She came from a single-parent, secular family and now lives a “Conservadox” Jewish lifestyle. She cried as she told me how grateful she was.

The angels of Los Angeles should come forward and rescue the treasure that we have so taken for granted.

Roz Rothstein, Los Angeles

Corrections

In “Federation Lay-Offs Total 30,” Dec. 7, A.J. Adelman is the lay chair of the ACCESS division and not an employee of The Jewish Federation.

In “Centers in Crisis,” Dec. 7, a quote about the JCC board and a decrease in allocations attributed to John Fishel should have been attributed to Nina Lieberman-Giladi.

In “Latkes With a Muscleman,” Dec. 7, Pacific Jewish Center’s Senior Rabbi Daniel Lapin was misidentified.

+