August 20, 2019

Letters to the editor: Jewish Hebdo, Dr. Maher Hathout and more

Je Suis Jewish Hebdo

As a longtime reader and subscriber, on occasion my East Coast, slightly politically involved family background will cause me to take a position regarding any number of articles (“Solidarity,” Jan 16). After all, that is one of our jobs as Jews — question everything, internally and externally.

In this case, I cannot find the slightest thing to debate in your cover story article.

I arrived in Koln from Los Angeles as this was all happening — I saw the shock on everyone as the horrible days of this story transpired.

I saw the reaction of 250 guests at a private conference.

We talked, they worried, and then, finally, on day three did a German who I have been close to for 10 years actually say what had been on his mind for 36 hours: “Are you not frightened as a Jew for what is going on in France?”  

My answer was that I was afraid, but not only for the Jews. I am afraid for humanity.

We must not bend our will to the terror of terrorism, cave to any who have hijacked Islam, or let free speech be the victim of those who see cowardly violence as the tool to silence all who will not accept their skewed interpretation of Islam as the righteous path. 

Jews have said “Never Again” for almost 70 years.

Now mankind must as one say ‘Never Again’ for 1,000 years.

Steven Gilbard, Agoura Hills

I have been a follower for so many years. I have never been prouder nor more pleased with the Journal than I am this week, with the issue of the Jewish Hebdo.

Susan Pearlman via email

I would like to share the profound emotion I felt after participating in the Los Angeles rally to pay respect to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack and the four victims of the Hyper Cacher market.

The speeches and the sentiment of unity were felt by all of us. It brought tears to many eyes, especially when the national anthems were sung, while we were all holding hands. I had seldom heard “La Marseillaise” sung with such passion!

There was grief and chagrin, resentment for the horror and injustice of it all, but also smiles for being together, sharing the same feelings. The addresses by Tom LaBonge, Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells (who happens to be of French origin), Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Rabbi Mark Diamond and, especially, the Israeli consuls’ speeches by Axel Cruau and David Siegel, together with the remarks by The New York Times’ cartoonist Patrick Chappatte, were poignant.  

My sign said it all: “I Am Charlie” on one side; “Je suis Juif” (even if grammatically incorrect!) on the other, and the two small American and French flags symbolized the close affinity of our peoples.

Danielle Avidan, Pacific Palisades

Selective Scripture

David Suissa’s right on the money (“Tough Love for Islam,” Jan. 16). There’s a lot of nasty stuff in the Quran. My current interpretation of the situation is that not all Muslims believe everything that’s in the Quran, just as moderate Christians ignore some of the more offensive stuff in the Bible. But there are some who take things too literally, and there are definitely passages in the Quran that exhort the “faithful” to kill “infidels.” Not an answer; just an observation.

Steve St. John via 

May His Memory Be a Blessing

Kudos to David Lehrer and the Jewish Journal for this moving and honest appreciation of Dr. Maher Hathout, who leaves as his legacy a progressive, civically engaged, pluralistic vision of American Islam (“Maher Hathout: ‘What We Say and Don’t Say,’ ” Jan. 9). Beyond many Jewish and interfaith encounters, I had the privilege to work with Hathout through a State Department-sponsored UC Santa Barbara summer institute that has brought hundreds of religion scholars — disproportionately from Muslim-majority countries — to learn about religious pluralism and public life in Southern California. This week, that global network of scholars, too, is mourning the loss of this insightful, pragmatic coalition builder who, year after year, challenged them — and especially the Muslims among them — to rethink their own religious and sociocultural assumptions, from Africa to the Middle East to Southeast Asia. The dynamism that Hathout brought to interreligious relations in Southern California and well beyond will be missed.

Shawn Landres, Santa Monica

A grave loss. My cheeriest memory of Dr. Maher Hathout is from an interfaith seminar at the Islamic Center decades back. Jews were ill-served, being represented by a radio windbag who opened with, “Y’know, 4,000 years ago, we Jews were just like you Muslims — we had multiple wives.” Dr. Hathout responded, “No comment while my wife is in the room.”

Anthony Saidy via email