Eating Bambi, Zell again, Bergson, broken heart


Agriprocessors

I was relieved to learn that Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie of Chabad of Yorba Linda found that the working conditions and safety benefits at the Agriprocessors plant were “above par” (“Eating Bambi,” Aug. 8).

Has he done a comprehensive survey of meatpacking plants in the United States in order to come to this conclusion? Has he personally worked the line at a number of these plants, preferably during a speedup? Does he have firsthand knowledge of the working conditions at Agriprocessors before the raid?

Does he consider the preraid working conditions par or below par? Is it possible that we have an unacknowledged Upton Sinclair working a pulpit within our community?

Bill Friedman
Studio City

Sell It, Sam

As you point out in “Sell It, Sam” by Rob Eshman and “Troubling Times” by Gina Nahai (Aug. 1), the Los Angeles Times is not doing well. But its problems have been ongoing for a long time and were compounded when it cut out the local news coverage several years ago.

It goes back many years, when it was perceived guilty of biased reporting, perhaps even yellow journalism, and certainly a lack of objectivity and fairness, especially when the State of Israel was involved. Its headlines reflected personal bias.

Also, its use of statistical data was highly questionable perhaps skewed to reflect a personal value or viewpoint, rather than the facts. Its editorial page lost vitality and has become increasingly bland.

That’s my perception, and apparently, many other readers see it the same way.

The L.A. Times’ problems were there long before Sam Zell acquired it. His challenge: Can he remake it to better serve its customers, the people living in the Los Angeles area?

He does have a few good writers and other assets. That’s a start. A major city deserves a major newspaper.

George Epstein
via e-mail

Bankruptcy Protection

In response to the article about our temple (“Synagogue Files for Bankruptcy Protection,” Aug. 1), we are pleased to share with the community that our synagogue, Temple Beth Haverim of Agoura Hills, has much good news.

Our early childhood center has the largest enrollment in our five-year history for the 2008-2009 year. We have the largest membership enrollment at this point in the summer for the new year in our temple’s history. This past year, we had over 400 families enrolled in our synagogue.

Our Men’s Club has received recognition as a “quality club” from the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, and our chapter has also received the chaverim award for best overall programming from the Western Region of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs.

We offer free tuition kindergarten through second gradein our award-winning religious school under the direction of Nili Ziv. We offer three years’ membership for the price of two in our temple.

We invite all to join us at our next open house brunch on Sunday, Aug. 17, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. We invite all to join us for the High Holy Days at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

We are proud to be celebrating our 25th silver anniversary. We are working hard to turn our silver anniversary into a gold one.

We are a hard-working group of devoted families at Temple Beth Haverim. Thank you all for your support.

Rabbi Gershon Weissman
Temple Beth Haverim
Agoura Hills

Forgotten Hero

The Aug. 1 article in The Jewish Journal on the anti-Holocaust hero Peter Bergson is in the last act of our great tragedy (“‘Forgotten Hero’ Bergson Gets His Due Times Two“). The first act starred our greatest post-biblical hero who came closest to preventing the Holocaust.

In 1903, Theodor Herzl responded to the Kishinev pogrom by traveling to Russia to press the pogrom’s architect, Von Phleve, for relief. Herzl later reported to the Sixth Zionist Congress that he had received written permission from the czar to allow the Jews to emigrate.

Heartbreakingly, this followed the announcement by the British and Egyptian governments that Herzl’s El Arish project to explore the feasibility of a territorial concession in Palestine had failed. This played a major role in Herzl’s untimely death at age 44.

Isn’t it time that every Jewish child take at least one course in Herzl? If he isn’t the modern father of the Jewish People, who is? For without Herzl’s many contributions, the Holocaust would have excluded any chance of a Jewish state in Israel.

Charles S. Berdiansky
Los Angeles

Broken Political Heart

The majority of American Jews still vote incredibly it would seem Democratic, despite the numerous and chronic letdowns, disappointments and ineptitude of that party’s leadership in the last two decades or so.

I came across Marty Kaplan’s article (“On Having Your (Political) Heart Broken,” Aug. 1) in The Journal, and this sentence leaped out at me: “His [Obama’s] recent political shifts, while disconcerting, I have chalked up to a misguided effort to chase voters who will never be for him anyway.”

Doesn’t that statement give people cause to be puzzled if not scared?

Kaplan is letting us all know that he believes Obama’s waffling on immensely important issues should be glossed over as a simple effort to win the White House and tell voters what they want to hear.

Huh?

Remember again he is a Jew and an educated one at that, someone who should be thinking our next president shouldn’t be thought of as shifting positions just to win a contest, the highest position in the free world, at that.

Kaplan is disconcerted about policy shifts of the Democratic contender? Let’s go for a stronger word we all should be feeling scared as heck this novice will actually be the person dealing with Jewish enemies.

The last type of politician we should, as Jews, want is someone who shifts positions, waffles and goes whichever way he feels his audience will pressure him least.

Peter M. Shulman
Playa del Rey

Don’t underestimate the power of the Jewish newspaper


If I have to blame anyone for my fate, I suppose it would be the late Peter Boyarsky, who put out a Yiddish newspaper in Chicago.

Peter, my father’s uncle, was an
influential Chicago journalist in the early part of the last century. “Printers’ ink in his blood,” they used to say of newspaper people in the old days. I guess my dose of ink came from Uncle Peter, and here I am today, just like him, pounding out words for a Jewish newspaper.

I learned just how influential Peter Boyarsky was years ago, when my editor at the Los Angeles Times, Ed Guthman, suggested I stop in Chicago on my way to Washington and talk to Jake Arvey, a once-famous boss of the Chicago machine who was then in semiretirement. Guthman was always trying to broaden my political knowledge, and he figured I could learn something from the old boss.

Arvey, seated behind his desk, looked at me closely.

“Boyarsky,” he said. “Boyarsky,” he said again, pondering the name. “Are you related to a Yiddish newspaper editor named Boyarsky?”

I replied that he was my father’s uncle.

Arvey smiled. When he first ran for office, Arvey said, Boyarsky agreed to have his paper endorse him, assuring him of victory in the solidly Jewish district.

After that, Arvey and I got along just fine.

I thought of Peter Boyarsky when I returned from a vacation that included a visit to the ” target=”_blank”>Forward, still published today as an influential weekly on the Web and in print, with a Yiddish-language edition that, as the paper says, is experiencing “a modest revival, benefiting from the renewed interest in Yiddish on college campuses…. .”

Such a revival is happening in Los Angeles, too.

In Chicago, Peter Boyarsky edited the Idisher Kuryer, the Daily Jewish Courier, with editions in Yiddish and English. Like the better-known Forward and other Yiddish papers, it covered the common problems of Chicago’s immigrant Jews and familiarized them with the customs, rules, traditions and politics of their new city and country

When Arvey was rising to power in the 24th Ward in the heart of Jewish Chicago, it was logical that he would call upon the Idisher Kuryer and its editor for help. The paper was probably as important to Arvey as a good precinct captain in getting out the vote.

All that seems a bit old fashioned today. Sophisticated Los Angeles Jews don’t have to turn to a Jewish newspaper for political advice or for guidance through the pitfalls of American society. Assimilated Jews can find that information on their own.

But one of the basic tasks of Jewish community newspapers remains. It is the same task that faces Lansky at the National Yiddish Book Center —building and maintaining a sense of community and Jewish identity among a people now scattered and often secularized. Rachel Levin, program officer of Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation, put it this way in discussing the foundation’s grant to the Yiddish Book Center for digitizing Yiddish literature:

“Over 50 years after the war, a new generation is beginning to realize how cut off we are from our recent history, as we try to piece together fragments of what life was like in towns, shtetls and cities throughout Europe. Often these fragments seem to be only hints and shadows of what was, and therefore, we look to literature, albeit fiction, to find the color and life of the marketplace, the intense struggles between different ideological factions, the misery of factory life and the joy of communal celebrations.”

Newspapers aren’t literature, but that’s what my great uncle, Peter Boyarsky, did at the Idisher Kuryer, and that remains one of our tasks at The Jewish Journal today.

Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Bill 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. His column appears here monthly.