September 23, 2019

Letters to the Editor: Second Amendment, Poland, David Myers and Iran nuclear deal

Second Amendment’s Varied Interpretation

In their side-by-side pieces on gun policy (“Debating the Issues,” Oct. 13), Ben Shapiro and Karen Kaskey emphasize their differences. But beneath the surface, there is significant agreement. We need to focus on such areas of agreement to try to wring some of the crazy out of our politics.

Shapiro argues against “banning all guns,” while Kaskey condemns the idea that “the Second Amendment guarantees everyone the right own weapons — in any number, of any type, and at any time.” But these are fringe positions that the majority of Democrats and Republicans reject.

More important is that Shapiro allows that there are limitations on the Second Amendment. Kaskey admits that the Second Amendment does not restrict the right to defend yourself in your home or to go hunting. In short, both sides agree that gun ownership is legal, and that guns may be regulated. Recognizing that agreement, Congress and the states should disavow extremists and figure out what sort of regulatory compromise can be achieved.

Paul Kujawsky, Valley Village

Poland’s Role in Holocaust Misrepresented

In “Polish Citizenship for This Jewish Boy? Not So Fast” (Oct. 20), reporter Eitan Arom ruminates about identity, nationality and shared — or divided — history. Although becoming a Polish citizen may be emotionally difficult for Arom because of his family members’ experiences on Polish soil during World War II, his reflections are based on an incorrect foundation — that Poland was responsible for his family’s fate, that Poland is to blame, and that Poland needs absolution. Poland under Nazi occupation was where most of the Holocaust took place, but Poland — the state, its leaders or institutions — did not orchestrate or participate in the genocide.

Yes, there were Polish Christians, sometimes groups or even villages of them, who, deplorably, did kill Jews during and after the Holocaust, and contemporary Poland needs to confront this horrific reality. But the extermination of the Jewish people was not organized, planned, or meticulously executed by the Poles. It was Nazi Germany, not Poland, that carried out the Holocaust.

As a Polish Jew who lives and breathes the very questions that Arom’s story raises, I believe it is through dialogue, education and openness to present-day Polish people that we can try to move on and explore our shared, fascinating, and sometimes painful history.

Gosia Szymanska, Weiss Senior Associate, Polish-Jewish Affairs American Jewish Committee

Moved by Writer’s Brush With Death

Kay Wilson’s column (“We Are Dying of Overexposure to Death, Oct. 20”) is horrifically intriguing, in form and content. The piece is so well written about an event traumatically telling her (and us), “Death reminds us that we are here for a limited … amount of time during which we must act for the good of our … communities.” Wilson’s writing is of such high quality that I would like to read more by her, about that event and other interests of this gifted journalist.

Rick Edelstein via email

Stopping the Weinsteins of the World

Danielle Berrin makes a powerful point in her story about how Harvey Weinstein was able to get away with his alleged misbehavior for so long. It is a fitting irony that in an industry where everyone tries so hard to look good, so few had the guts to do good. It seems more unseemly that an industry associated with championing causes and giving to charity would abet systemic corruption and then play dumb.

Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple delivered a powerful sermon on the topic on Shabbat (Oct. 21). He said this problem is prevalent regardless of whether the perpetrator is liberal, conservative, centrist or nonpolitical. He pointed out that it cuts across the spectrum — Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Donald Trump. Wherever it appears, it should be addressed and not tolerated.

It is ironic that in California, a state known for labor laws that protect employees, there is very little legislation that addresses this form of labor abuse prevalent in the movie industry for decades. Perhaps the Hollywood elites who make a business of the fantasy of good triumphing over evil have been so powerful with the ruling party in California that they have prevented any such legislation. It’s time to do something to prevent its recurrence.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills

Myers Qualified to Lead Jewish Center

We in Los Angeles should be proud that one of our intellectual leaders, David Myers, has been chosen to lead the Center for Jewish History in New York.  That pride has been offset somewhat by the reaction of some leaders of the Center who fear Myers’ approach to the complex issues of Israel’s present, and his understanding of Israel’s past.

Judaism has been strengthened over the centuries by its independent thinkers, and through a tradition of commentary, disputation and self-criticism.

Can’t the modern Jewish mind find comfort in that richness of thought and experience, and shed the fears that intellectual exchange enlivens our community, not threatens it?

Myers is a lover of Israel, a profound thinker and a person who has demonstrated a willingness to take on a role that can only broaden our horizons and his.

William Cutter, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Kudos, and a Suggestion

I am heartened at the increased visibility given to Torah portions in the Jewish Journal. Dialogues among various rabbis on the parshiyot are a much more interesting format. I previously suggested that the “religious pages” expand to include discussions about the haftarah portion. There are so many rich religious topics that most L.A. Jews don’t even consider, it would seem providing this portal into an unknown aspect of Judaism would prove mutually beneficial.

Bill Kabaker via email

Iran Nuclear Deal Details

In the Letters to the Editor in the Oct. 13 edition, a reader wrote, “The election is over and the agreement was signed. Neither can be changed.” He’s right about the first and wrong about the second. An agreement signed by one president can be voided by another, unless Congress passes legislation forbidding it, which this one hasn’t and won’t. The Iran nuclear deal was never submitted to the Senate for ratification as a treaty, which indeed could not be subsequently changed unilaterally by a president.

Stephen J. Meyers via email

Politics in the Pulpit

We clearly have lost our Jewish historical roots when those protesting the taking of political positions in “temples,” “sanctuaries” and “houses of worship” neglected using the most common Jewish term “synagogue” or beit knesset in the one-sided point-of-view letters that ran in the Oct. 13 edition.

Why is the most important political and politicized forum of the State of Israel called the Knesset? It comes from the Jewish communal tradition in hearty political discussion in the “houses of gathering/congress,” the batei knesset. Praying and studying also were routinely going on in the synagogue, but ironing out communal political issues and decisions was always happening.

Even the term temple has its Latin root in templum, a place set aside, not only for officials who solicited the Roman gods for answers to political actions, but also an alternative meeting place for the Roman Senate, where men rather than gods argued politics.

So, a rabbi who avoids taking positions and actions can’t take “sanctuary” in a “house of worship” or even a temple because that’s what the non-Jews have, and even the non-Jews have a long historical tradition of engaging in politics in those places.

Pini Herman, Beverly Grove

What Is Tikkun Olam?

The normative Jewish approach to ethical action inside and outside of the Jewish community has been embodied in the commandment, “Veaseetah hayahor vehatov” (Do the straight and good) and the observation, “Eizehoo Chaham, Haroaeh et hanoalad” (Who is wise? The one who sees the consequences).

Rabbi Laura Geller’s memory of “straw buyers” of real estate being an example of tikkun olam was well meaning but failed the test of seeing the consequences (“What Is the Meaning of Tikkun Olam?” Oct. 20). The blockbusting of communities in the 1960s by well-meaning people fueled the flight to the suburbs in many American cities, drained the tax bases of municipalities, destroyed property values and left charred inner cities with crime and drugs after insurance fires. The South Bronx and Brownsville in Brooklyn are examples of the outcome of tikkun olam that Geller cites.

Unfortunately, the Reform movement has taken these two words from the Aleinu prayer: “b’emalchut shadai,” in the kingship of the Lord.

Tikkun olam is a call to spread monotheism and was never intended as a call to social action.

Isaac Gorbaty via email