September 22, 2019

Letters to the Editor: Pirkei Avot, Europe and Donald Trump

Kudos on Cover

I just saw the Jewish Journal’s cover (“What’s in the Book?” Dec. 2). And love it. I have taught Pirkei Avot twice a week for the last 27 years and for all of my business and life.

Glad to see it make the cover.    

Howard Witkin via email

Not the Only ‘Outsiders’

Rabbi David Wolpe’s article (“The Lessons of Europe,” Dec. 2) makes good points that sophistication is no shield and that Jews were obviously outsiders. But were they really the only outsiders? What about Jehovah’s Witnesses and conscientious objectors who bravely refused to enter into a “prisoner’s dilemma” and kill on command?

David Schlosberg via email

Still Parsing the Election

The rules haven’t changed, no bar was lowered, American voters didn’t morph into creatures tolerating anything as Rob Eshman postulates (“After Trump?” Dec. 2). What happened was President Barack Obama, his administration and the unwillingness of liberals to recognize the discontent in our country. How else to explain the inability of Hillary Clinton to defeat a candidate defined, according to Eshman, by self-interest, lack of financial transparency, immorality, abuse of women, anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim sentiments, ignorance (by way of Ben Shapiro of Slate), lying and more, much more. Any of the numerous GOP candidates, including those who failed even to make the varsity in the national debate schedule, would have defeated Clinton in a landslide.

How many citizens held their noses and voted for Trump? This election was not about him; he was elected in spite of the person he is. This election was a referendum on the Democratic Party, its leaders and its policies. The Dems came up short.

Louis H. Nevell, Los Angeles

Upon awaking on Nov. 9, I turned on the TV and saw Secretary Clinton’s concession speech. My thoughts immediately shot forward to the 2020 presidential election, and I’ve been praying and hoping that a Democrat will win that one. 

Having said that, I do agree that the proverbial bar has been lowered and will stay that way. I’ve alternated between despondency and rage, though I’ve neither broken down and cried nor protested, nor do I intend to. I’m just trying not to let life wear me down too much, and here’s hoping that the night of Nov. 3, 2020 (Election Day), will be one of the happiest of my life. For that matter, all I care is that a Republican doesn’t win that election; an independent or even a Libertarian would suit me just fine. Somebody ought to use Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” for fertilizer, as it is just a big crock of crap (pardon my French). 

Full disclosure: I’m a 53-year-old Anglo straight male who barely graduated from high school, and I voted for Hillary, and would never, never vote for Trump. Thanks for a forum to vent.

Gary Kerns via email

Thanks for your “After Trump?” column. Hope it is widely read!

Eldon Turner via email

Dating 101 

When one is looking for a new relationship, there are alternatives to the strain and frustration of online dating or being fixed up with someone (“Analog Heart in a Digital World,” Dec. 2). 

First, think of activities or interests you have always enjoyed, married or not, or something you always wanted to do but never got around to. Pick activities done in a setting where you interact with others. If you love being out in nature, join hikes organized by the Sierra Club. If you love learning, take extension classes at UCLA. If politics or social policy is a concern, join an action group, attend meetings, go to demonstrations. If you like to discuss books, join a book club. If you want to be involved with the Jewish community, volunteer at the Jewish Federation or one of its many social service agencies. 

Meeting in a joint activity of mutual interest provides the time and space to get to know one another in a casual and neutral setting, without the pressure to immediately evaluate whether you want to see each other again — or not.

Stephanie Sabar, Los Angeles

The View of Soviet Jewish Immigrants

I took great offense at the comment by Robert English, who felt that Russian immigrants’ support of Trump’s immigration policy was rooted in their belief that other minority groups “don’t really belong here.” In 21 years since I have immigrated to Los Angeles from the former Soviet Union, I have never once heard such sentiment. This comment simply has no basis in truth. Soviet Jews are (or should be) aware that being “white people” in Soviet Russia did not spare them from the pogroms or decades of religious and political persecution. As Jews, they were and remain a minority. 

Perhaps instead of simplistic labels of “strong” or “weak,” it may be prudent to examine what a people who have recently escaped a socialist dictatorship aspire to build in their new home. 

Boris Arbit via email

Columnist’s Bias Is Showing

In her column (“Islam, Muslims and Learning to Adapt in Age of Trump,” Nov. 25), Danielle Berrin accused Ayaan Hirsi Ali of overblown rhetoric about Islam. When she eventually met Hirsi Ali, Berrin couldn’t help but wonder if Hirsi Ali agreed with Donald Trump. Berrin naturally associates people who have views different from hers to be supportive of Trump.

Hirsi Ali grew up in a Muslim household and was subjected to a lifestyle in compliance with the strictest dictates of Quran. She was forced into a marriage with a cousin and faced a life of being miserable, just like her mother. She managed to escape to the Netherlands. She would be perfectly justified in overblown rhetoric about Islam. Instead, she has softened her accusations.

In her Nov.18 column (“Reversal of Fortune”), Berrin displayed her own overblown rhetoric. She wrote, “I already know what Trumpism is — it is a threat to reverse social and moral progress and an endorsement of contempt for whole groups of people. There is no chance I’ll give that a chance.” Berrin should take a lesson from Hirsi Ali, temper her overblown rhetoric and make more of an effort to be credible instead of being part of the biased, liberal left media. Along the way, she might come to realize that the mission of the Jewish Journal should be to serve the Los Angeles-area Jewish community, not be a propaganda arm for the far left wing of the Democratic Party.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills

Statement about Steve Bannon’s appointment as White House Senior Advisor

To the Readers of the Jewish Journal:

In the summer of 1790, George Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport, R.I. (the second-oldest Jewish community in the new republic), to assure them, “the Government of the United States … gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance. …” As faculty members in the Jerome H. Louchheim School for Judaic Studies (Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion) and at the University of Southern California, we call upon President-elect Donald Trump to understand and honor the words of our first president and rescind the appointment of Steve Bannon as White House Senior Advisor. As executive chairman of Breitbart News, Bannon enabled that organization to become the voice of virulent anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, misogyny and misanthropy. His appointment is divisive and disruptive and follows the pattern of the worst in Breitbart’s strategy — to pit people against one another, to give voice to hate, and to provide outlets for the very bigotry and persecution Washington rejected. We call upon the president-elect to denounce the prejudice, disrespect and violence exhibited and unleashed by the words of Breitbart’s hateful rhetoric. The most recent conference of the alt-right movement in Washington, D.C., is confirmation of the present threat. To paraphrase another great former president, Harry S. Truman, the buck stops at the top.

As scholars of and/or influenced by Jewish experience in all its forms and eras, we deplore the political legitimization of a man who deals in fear, derision and bigotry. And we implore the president-elect to clarify that he has no tolerance for bigotry, anti-Semitism, and other types of hate speech, that he does not sanction this type of divisiveness, and that he does not share in its bigotry.

Your faculty,

Leah Hochman, HUC-JIR (Jewish Studies)
Hagit Arieli-Chai, HUC-JIR (Jewish Studies)
Sarah Bunin Benor, HUC-JIR (Jewish Studies)
Reuven Firestone, HUC-JIR (Jewish Studies)
Joshua Garroway, HUC-JIR (Jewish Studies)
Kristine Garroway, HUC-JIR (Jewish Studies)
Sharon Gillerman, HUC-JIR (Jewish Studies)
Joshua Holo, HUC-JIR (Jewish Studies)
David Kaufman, HUC-JIR (Jewish Studies)
Candice Levy, HUC-JIR (Jewish Studies)
Bruce Phillips, HUC-JIR (Jewish Studies)
Yaffa Weisman, HUC-JIR (Jewish Studies)
Selma Holo, USC (Fisher Museum of Art and International Museum Institute and Art History)
Vanessa Schwartz, USC (Art History, History and Film)
Ruth Weisberg, USC (Initiative for Israeli Arts and Humanities and Roski School of Fine Arts)
Ariela Gross, USC (Center for Law, History and Culture and Gould School of Law)
Lisa Bitel, USC (History and Religion)
Wolf Gruner, USC (Center for Advanced Genocide Research and History)
Paul Lerner, USC (Max Kade Institute for Austrian, German and Swiss Studies and History)
Steve Ross, USC (Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life and History)
Adlai Wertman, USC (Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, Marshall School of Business)
Abby Fifer-Mandell, USC (Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, Marshall School of Business)
Erin Graff Zivin, USC (Spanish and Portuguese and Comparative Literature)
David Albertson, USC (Religion)
Jessica Marglin, USC (Religion)
Lori Meeks, USC (Religion)
Diane Winston, USC (Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism and Religion)
Jack Halberstam, USC (American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies, Comparative Literature and English)
Nick Strimple, Thornton School of Music
Samuel Steinberg, USC (Spanish and Portuguese)