November 19, 2018

Letters to the editor: Charedi draft, Israeli-Palestinian peace, Rav Jonathan Sacks and Germany

Thoughts From a ZOA Elite 

Rob Eshman contends that a peace agreement with the Palestinians would bring huge benefits for Israel. Unfortunately, his argument does not stack up (“The Bright Side,” March 7).

Mr. Eshman says that a peace will protect Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, yet Israel has already given away 42 percent of Judea/Samaria and all of Gaza to Palestinian control. Thus, 98 percent of Palestinian Arabs are already living under Palestinian rule and there is thus no demographic issue.

Mr. Eshman says a peace agreement will put pressure on Iran. Yet, when Israel embraced the Palestine Liberation Organization at Oslo, made huge concessions of territory and security, Iran paid no price for strongly opposing Oslo. Why assume Iran will take any notice of an Israeli/Palestinian peace –– even if one was currently possible –– so far as its nuclear weapons program is concerned?

Mr. Eshman says that a peace agreement will weaken Hamas. How? Once Israeli forces are no longer there to essentially protect Mahmoud Abbas’ regime, it might well fall to an internal Hamas coup, as Gaza did in 2007. In fact, Israel’s Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, said only weeks ago that this outcome is likely. How would this better secure Israel?

Morton A. Klein, national president, Zionist Organization of America

Knowledge Is Power?

I definitely agree with David Suissa (“Charedim Should Start With ‘Thank You,’ ” March 7) on his opinion that Charedim should be grateful to those secular Jews that put their lives on the line every single day when enlisted in the army. We, as a nation, have the opportunity to create a kiddush HaShem every single day, especially when we are together as a group. We need to show the world that we are united and strong. These Charedim created just the opposite. It might seem unjust that Torah-learning Jews are excused from fighting in the army. But, their opinion is right that someone has to learn Torah to protect our country spiritually, but this strategy will only be great if it is used in cooperation with the secular Jews that fight for our country. They went about it in the wrong way. Instead of thanking the secular Jews for endangering their lives, they disrespected their fellow brothers. Torah-learning Jews can be exempt from fighting in the army but must be appreciative of the hard work and dedication of the Israelis in the army, because they, too, provide the country with protection. 

Osnat Barazani, Encino

I read the article by David Suissa, and I agree with him on every point. I believe that it is crucial for the people who do not go to the army, the Charedim, to really appreciate the soldiers who risk their lives for Israel every day. Although it is important to have the Charedim praying for our nation to succeed in war, it is also essential to have soldiers fighting for our nation. The soldiers and the Charedim who pray for our nation should be working together rather than feeling superior to one another.  I feel that the Charedim need to be reminded that other men are fighting for their country while they are learning Torah in a safe place. As the Jewish people, together as a whole, we need to understand the benefits of working together and uniting as a nation.

Ronel Zollelhyan, Encino

While I agree that it is important that these Israeli and religious men thank the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for protecting them, they also have every right to hold up different signs and say what they feel they should say. 

In our Jewish religion, we have something called bitachon and hishtadlut. This means having belief that things will work out, but that we must also make an effort to reach that goal. The soldiers in the IDF are putting faith in HaShem that He will protect all of the Jews, but they are making the effort to go and fight. Charedim are believing that learning Torah will help protect us, which is 100 percent true, unlike what was written in the article. If no Jew learned Torah, the world would stop, and the IDF wouldn’t even have anyone to fight for, because there wouldn’t be anyone here. So, the Charedim are making the effort in spending every day making sure that we are staying alive, and through that, the IDF is able to live and fight off our enemies. This is otherwise known as “keeping the Torah.”

Shaily Yashar via e-mail

I agree with David Suissa’a opinion that the Charedi community shouldn’t get special exemptions from the army service to learn Torah simply because Torah is more important than saving one’s country. I do agree that “when you have half a million religious Jews demonstrating against vital civil obligation that it is a chillul HaShem.” Rather than making a kiddush Hashem, which they claim they are doing by learning Torah, they are actually doing the opposite; they are splitting up the Jewish community. There is a larger picture at hand, and that is maintaining the safety of the Jewish state. Furthermore, the Jewish people, as a collective, should work together in protecting their homeland no matter what sect of Judaism they come from. 

Estee Kessler, Beverly Hills

Obama’s Mounting Pressure

I agree with Shmuel Rosner’s opinion that Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama’s peace process will not be in Israel’s favor if it does not provide the necessary results (“Obama Prods Netanyahu,” March 7). If the peace process does not go as planned, Israel faces a “passible isolation.” Of course, as Rosner states correctly, Obama (and America) has a large impact on the rest of the world. If America isolates Israel and stops efforts to make peace, it is “an open invitation to the rest of the world to isolate Israel.” As seen in past historical events, America has a say in the world. In addition, I appreciated the fact that Rosner acknowledges the president’s full pressure on the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to accept his ideas for peace. However I disagree that the two reasons for Obama’s recent eagerness to be seen as a partner to Kerry is restricted to: “No. 1, Kerry wants the world to know that he has the backing of Obama; and No. 2, Obama wants some of the credit for Kerry’s paper.” I think that the president would have the liked the idea of coming up with Kerry’s peace plan, which is why he has suddenly become eager to follow up with it.

Michelle Naim via e-mail

Second Chances

Yet another well-written and thoughtful article, “Getting to Know Germany … Up Close,” (Feb. 28) by Daniel Schwartz. It was a pleasure to read this article as it brought back memories. Some three decades ago, I was asked to be the Best Man in a German wedding. I’ll never forget how welcomed I felt; nor will I forget how virtually everyone I met acknowledged the horrible history — and insisted upon accompanying me to various memorial sites. We had deep discussions. I learned a great deal during that journey. Upon my return home, I was distressed to discover that some of my friends and acquaintances expressed anger over my friendship with German friends. I tried to explain to them that in my view, it simply did not make sense to harbor resentment and anger towards people who had not yet even been born at the time those atrocities were committed. Furthermore, not every German participated in those atrocities. And now, 30 years later, I can read this article and know that we are continuing to make progress, reaching out to one another in humanity and friendship.

Gary Eisenberg, Los Angeles

Great, insightful and honest article. Try to place it into The New York Times.

Christof Schumann via

It’s the Little Things

Just wanted to let you know I look forward to reading Hebrew Word of the Week. It gives me knowledge, cultural understanding and spiritual insight! (Well, not all three every time.)  Please let professor Yonah Sabar know it is appreciated, too.

 Lawrence Feinberg via e-mail

Berenbaum Review

Michael Berenbaum raises some interesting issues in his review of Daniel Gordis’ biography of Menachem Begin (“Begin Biography Moving, Not Convincing,” March 14). But Berenbaum gets lost at a couple of points. For example, Gordis writes that Begin’s tenure as prime minister occasioned for Israel a reconciliation with her heritage, her Jewish soul. In Gordis’ view, this constituted one of Begin’s major achievements. Berenbaum apparently takes issue with this assessment and does so by reference to former Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s fondness for Jewish jokes. Is that it? Gordis is discussing Begin and the Jewish soul and to challenge Gordis’ contention, Berenbaum can point to nothing more substantial or persuasive in support of his argument than Eshkol’s well-known fondness for Jewish jokes. Berenbaum may dispute Gordis’ point but he has hardly refuted it.

Chip Bronson, Stephanie London, Beverly Hills

Orthodox Majority a Statistic Possibility

In Jared Sichel’s excellent article on Rav Jonathan Sacks (“4 Days, 7 Venues, 11 Events,” Feb. 28) in citing his demographic projections, the author appeared to doubt the numbers. It’s understandable. According to common wisdom, the Orthodox seem such a small percentage of the general Jewish population today. How could they possibly rapidly take ascendance? 

When polls ask people if they are “Jewish,” the answer is often “yes” for messianics, Buddhists, Hare Krishnas and others who were born as Jews and also clearly declare that their faith is not Judaism. It actually amounts to about a third of respondents. The Pew study reported only 4.2 million Americans claim that Judaism is their faith. Most Jews think of a Jew as someone who practices any form of Judaism. Demographers do not.

Additionally, the data in the case of Jews by faith varies wildly by age. The cohort of practitioners of liberal or secular Judaism is aging rapidly. Check out any temple when there’s no bar/bat mitzvah or special “family” service. At the same time, the Orthodox Jews are having almost all the babies and, at great expense, giving them intensive and extensive Jewish education and commitment. 

Among Jewish teens who both read and understand prayers in Hebrew, the Orthodox have long been the majority. 

That, not the edifices, represents the reality of the future of Jewish L.A.

Gary Dalin via e-mail



The calendar item “An Evening With Jerry Lewis,” in the issue of March 14, incorrectly indicated that Lewis is currently a guest lecturer at USC. He is not, although he has served as a film professor there.