September 17, 2019

Letters to the editor: The evil you know, racial disparities and more

The Evil You Know …

I support the views of Rep. Adam Schiff and Rob Eshman that the present deal may be better than no deal (“What If There’s No Deal?” Aug. 7). America, in 1945, taught the world a bitter lesson in atomic warfare, explained in two words: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then, at least five other countries developed the atomic bomb. Some of them were hostile and antagonistic to each other. Yet, none dared to use it to settle international disputes. Iran is slowly learning that dollars may be better for its people than bombs.

Ken Lautman, Los Angeles  

Rob Eshman said it magnificently and fairly with clarity and courage. He left me in tears. Thank you, Rob.

Gail Heim via email

Racial Disparities: Deliberate or Ignorant?

The Jewish Journal deserves plaudits for its culturally sensitive reporting, but there were two pieces in the Aug. 7 issue that made my “race-dar” spike:

1) Steve Greenberg’s cartoon about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement: I am no supporter of BDS, but Greenberg’s decision to portray the “face” of the movement as brown is a racist distortion. BDS was created by Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, representing a people generally considered Caucasian and not measurably “browner” than the average Israeli. Since the movement’s founding, people of widely diverse backgrounds — including many Jews in and outside of Israel — have joined its ranks. Many readers will doubtless recall a recent tense family gathering in which the pros and cons of BDS were argued. I certainly do.

2) Joe Hicks’ account of the Watts Riots (“Fifty Years After ‘Burn, Baby! Burn!’ ”) excoriates the more than 30,000 rioters as “nihilists” and willful dupes of pro-violence black activists, while downplaying the role of virulently racist police practices (which he wonders were perhaps just “insensitive”). Incredibly, he wonders how a riot could possibly happen immediately after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. If he had read the other excellent Journal article on the subject by Raphael Sonenshein (“Watts: The Day the Mirror Cracked,”), he might have recalled how Californians had, the previous November, voted in Proposition 14, permitting racial discrimination in housing.

He would have us believe that legislation and affirmative action have ended racism. In fact, racially discriminatory practices are still employed on a nationwide scale in many forms. You have to get through nearly the whole article before finding Hicks’ weak disclaimer that he doesn’t think “black Americans don’t have social or cultural problems in 2015.” But he lays the blame squarely at the door of black “radicals” and their credulous liberal dupes. Note also his dismissal of voter ID laws as “not disenfranchisement,” when numerous proponents of such laws have explicitly stated their discriminatory intent. 

It is plausible to deny the disparity between these two (or more) Americas are discriminatory in intent. However, if you accidentally run over someone, they’re still dead. To look the other way because it was an accident, to fail to recognize the deep emotional pain this disparity causes, is to divide the world into “us” and “them.” It is today’s socially acceptable form of soft racism. 

Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen, Sherman Oaks

Thank you, Theo

Thank you so much for the heartfelt article about this Jewish and American icon (“Crossing Borders: A Tribute to Theo Bikel,” July 31). I was introduced to Theo by the great and talented Cantor Mike Stein and took part in a bunch of song circles with Theo. A man that gave so much to our society will leave a lasting mark on the American and Jewish people. I was honored to have been in the same room with such a giant and hear his music in such an intimate space. The Jewish people have lost one of its greatest.

Jeff Gold via email

California’s Conservation Conversation

Great piece by Glenn Yago on what California can learn from Israel in dealing with our drought (“High-Tech New Water: Next Steps for Sustainable Water Solutions in California,” Aug. 7). Now all we need are leaders who have the guts to implement 21st-century solutions. Example: Our Southland lawns look like 1950s “Father Knows Best” America. Let’s move on already.

Aviyah Farkas, Los Angeles


An article about the work of Elana Sztokman (“Let’s Talk About Sex,” Aug. 7) incorrectly stated that Sztokman moved to Modi’in in 1993; she moved to Jerusalem in 1993 and later settled in Modi’in with her family. It also stated that both she and her husband are nondenominational Jews; Sztokman has identified as “non-Orthodox” for two years, while her husband identifies as Orthodox. Sztokman’s next telecourse, “Hunger,” is one of many she will offer in the fall, not the only one. The article also suggested Sztokman only “designed curricula” for Orthodox women; she has worked with Orthodox women in many capacities.