August 20, 2019

Letters to the Editor: Rabbi’s History Lesson, Privilege, College Students and Thanksgiving Haggadah

Rabbi’s History Lesson Misses the Mark

Rabbi Donniel Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem comes to a living room in Bel Air to make sure we know how to judge the Israelis in their fight for … survival? (“Hartman Examines How the Six-Day War Forever Changed Jews and Judaism,” Nov. 3.)

No, not so! He is helping us judge an Israel which arrogantly and accidentally won yet another war with a people who seem not to tire of the attempt to make the area “Judenrein,” helping finish Hitler’s work.

According to Hartman, Israel’s sin was in winning the ’67 war and inheriting a bunch of people no one else seems to want, in an area which no one seemed to have wanted.

The 800,000 Jews kicked out of their Arab countries were absorbed into Israel. The 800,000 Arabs who fled the area have not been able to do the same, unfortunately, and Hartman blithely blames the Jews and hangs their well-being on Israel — somehow forgetting he is now talking about hanging the welfare on the almost 5 million enemy combatants they have become. Yes, we have been forced to occupy an unwanted people, even if naysayers think we are somehow occupying our land.

Rightly so, he contends that Israel could be “an inspiration” to the world. How? By giving up the power to defend against the enemy, saying that power, to be able to defend one’s self, “undermines one’s civility.”

I have worked in the wards of many mental institutions, and there have been many conversations that made little sense in the rational world. Hartman’s convoluted logic stands up there with the best.

To Hartman, in his own words, Israel’s survival, in the face of the Arab onslaughts, has been a major contributor to worldwide anti-Semitism.

So good for you, Rabbi Hartman, and to your hosts, Debbie and Naty Saidoff — and to the Journal for giving any and every crazy idea a forum to spread narrishkayt. Those of us who are genuinely inspired by what Israel has accomplished in the face of such huge adversity will try to hope that people like you will never make sense to those “shomrei Yisrael,” the brave guardians of Israel and the Jewish people.

Steve Klein via email

‘Privilege’ and What It Means at UCLA

Gabriella Kamran learned how to spell “privilege” at UCLA; would that she had learned what it means to be a Jew at my alma mater (“Are Jewish College Students Privileged?” Nov. 17). She approvingly quotes current UCLA student leader Rafael Sands and his reasons for not attending this year’s AIPAC conference, to wit: “Inviting Donald Trump and Mike Pence to speak at AIPAC represented American Jewish complicity in the administration’s ban on Muslim immigration, animosity toward undocumented people and hostility to reproductive choice.” Sands condemns American Jews with one broad swipe and at the same time rejects the idea of listening to a speaker with views different than his own. One wonders if he was on the UCLA student council when it voted to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement aimed at Israel.

Louis H. Nevell, Los Angeles, UCLA ’56

Being a baby boomer, I’m puzzled at the millennial obsession with ethnic or racial privilege, since we’re all products of our past. The civil rights movement has succeeded remarkably in leveling the playing field, but we’ll never be totally equal. People with two caring parents generally do better than those without, as do those who bathe regularly. Of course, as a group, whites are privileged, but many individual whites are not, and increasing numbers of Blacks and other ethnicities are.

Jews descend from a people who led the world in eliminating superstition, idol worship and human sacrifice. Our ancestors were the first to assert that all humans are meant to be free, and realized that this required morality, which they fostered in the Ten Commandments. Thus, our Israelite ancestors were the first to possess a conscience, and passed on this cherished gift by instituting Torah education.

Because they were attacked by one empire after another, and had to live among often hostile gentiles, only the most daring and resourceful survived. So is it any wonder many of us reflect these qualities today? Should we be ashamed of this? Of course not.

Young Jews should support others, but not at the price of abandoning Israel, which is the covenant basis for the belief system that makes us who we are.  They must insist that Israel has every right to exist; her rebirth is indeed a miracle. The reason there isn’t peace is because Palestinian leadership rejected statehood and peace in 1937, 1947, 2000 and 2008, and it is they who must change.

Young Jews must decry condemnation of Zionism and reclaim its glory. If Students for Justice in Palestine, Black Lives Matter, liberal professors and other “progressives” reject this, Jews must reject them. Jews will never gain respect by abandoning Israel or betraying our heritage. We command respect when we take pride in who we are and stand tall knowing where we come from. If that’s “privilege,” so be it.

Rueben Gordon via email

College Students Are Too Coddled

It was refreshing to read Karen Lehrman Bloch’s column (“The Privilege of Gratitude,” Nov. 24) about the victimization culture toward which U.S. society has been evolving. A notable example is so-called “safe spaces” on college campuses. U.S. college students rank among the most mollycoddled and fortunate people on Earth, yet now they need safe spaces to hide in? The billions of less fortunate people who must deal with real-life problems don’t have such spaces and neither will college students once they enter the real world.

Ben Zuckerman, Los Angeles

What’s the Matter With Our Public Discourse?

Reading Philippe Assouline’s analysis (“My Rant Against Conformity,” Nov. 24), I wonder what Teddy Roosevelt might think of our public discourse: “Radical Republicans posturing as conservatives and sniveling Democrats cowering behind political correctness!”

Denouncing those expressing opposing opinions are the new fascists in our land and anti-social media inflames their half-wit intolerance. As Yeats wrote: “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

David Taylor Johannesen, Boston


‘A Thanksgiving Meal Haggadah’

We are Catholic with many roots and family that are Jewish. This is beautiful!! Thank you! It is indeed good to give thanks to the Lord!

Mariely Madero de Gessler

Thanks so much for this! I love Thanksgiving but I’ve always wondered how it fits into Jewish life. I might just print this for reading at our Thanksgiving gathering this year!”

Josie Mintz

Fabulous commentary. I shall read at our Thanksgiving table.

Norman Wexler

Perfect for this Thanksgiving Day ’17: Thank you and be blessed.

Paul Magnuson

Things I didn’t know. Thank you.

Leslie Hunt