September 22, 2019

Letters to the editor: Ancient rituals, gender politics and more

Ancient Ceremonies

Why do we always try to find new rituals and borrow them from our neighbors, like “baptizing” the feet of a newborn girl (“Alternative Rituals for Girls’ Naming Ceremonies,” June 24)? Judaism has its own beautiful ancient ceremonies.

Since at least the 10th century (the time of Rashi), it was customary in Germany to host a festive event during which they would give a daughter a name, both Hebrew and secular, known as “Chol Kreisch.” With emigration of Western European Jewry to Poland, the custom was accepted there but did not last. But this ceremony has been preserved until now among German Jews and is being revived today in other Jewish communities (see Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz).

By the 1400s, this ceremony would always be on the fourth Shabbat after birth, at the Torah reading when the mother was well enough to come to the synagogue. All the children in the community would participate, as well as a minyan of adults who would study Torah. Appropriate verses from Jewish scriptures are recited by all. A Humash or siddur is placed in the crib. The focal point of the event is the lifting of the crib by the children and declaring the name(s) of the infant loudly, three times. “How shall the child be named? … So and so!” The children were then given sweets and fruits followed by a festive meal.

Rabbi Israel Hirsch via email

Trump and Weiner

Question: What do Donald Trump and Anthony Weiner have in common (“Trump and Weiner,” June 10)?

Answer: A major character flaw.

Question: How is the flaw manifested?

Answer: A demonstrated capability of being a bad role model for American children, adolescents and adults.

Consequence No. 1: Losing a mayoral election contest.

Consequence No. 2: Struggling to win a presidential election contest.

Marc Jacobson, Los Angeles

Gender Politics

Danielle Berrin thinks that Hillary Clinton’s nomination is cool because she’s a woman (“The Torah of Female Power,” June 10). Berrin is only promoting identity politics without assessing the merits of the candidate. Hillary did not break the glass ceiling. She got to where she was because she married the right man. There are women who rightfully deserve recognition for their achievements. Hillary is not one of them. But for the fact that Hillary Rodham married Bill Clinton, Mrs. Clinton would have been just another lawyer trying to dig her way out of career mishaps.

Berrin would have us believe that the major issues of this election are women’s reproductive rights and equal pay for equal work. It’s obvious that a woman who wants an abortion can get it legally. Also, the reason that women may not be earning the same as men is not because of any discrimination against them. It’s because of other factors, primarily career choice. Research in 2013 by Anthony Carnevale, a Georgetown University economist, shows that women overwhelmingly choose college majors that lead to lower-paying careers.

Berrin is not at all cool. She’s just engaging in identity politics to justify her political bias toward liberal left Democratic candidates.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills

Observations About Michael Bernardi

Naomi Pfefferman errs in her article about Michael Bernardi and his father, Herschel (“Stage Legacy Michael Bernardi Carries the ‘Fiddler’ Torch on Broadway,” June 3). The latter broke through the McCarthy-ite blacklist not in “Fiddler,” but — years before he took over the role of Tevya — in the musical “Bajour.”

As Herschel told me on a chance encounter in Manhattan in 1964, he had auditioned for the role of Tevya but was offered only the part of the butcher. As a longtime reader of Sholem Aleichem stories and monologues in English and Yiddish here in L.A., Herschel was incensed at what he saw as a slight. He then auditioned for “Bajour” — a musical about Roma (“gypsy”) life in New York and won the leading male role.

When I ran into him that day, he and his co-star, Chita Rivera, were about to visit a gypsy fortuneteller to gain authenticity in their starring roles. “Fiddler” opened on Broadway on Sept. 22, 1964; “Bajour” followed exactly two months later.

Hershl Hartman, Los Angeles


The edited version of a personal appreciation of philanthropist Jona Goldrich written by Samara Hutman, executive director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, included text not by the author (“Jona Goldrich, Philanthropist and Real Estate Developer, 88,” July 1). To read the original, visit Hutman’s blog, Conversations With Survivors, at

An article about the history of Temple Israel of Hollywood (“90 Years of Temple Israel of Hollywood’s Leading Men,” July 1) included incorrect dates for when Rabbi Max Nussbaum left Berlin and when he arrived at the synagogue. Nussbaum fled the Nazis in 1940 and joined the temple congregation in 1942.

A “Moving and Shaking” item (June 17) about the Israel Cancer Research Fund incorrectly identifies the title of Martin Finkelstein. He is the organization’s regional president.