December 15, 2018

Letters to the Editor: Reviving Judaism, Middle East and Diaspora

Reviving Judaism

For 30-plus years, the Conservative movement has not seriously addressed why younger Jews have left this branch and its philosophy.

As writer Steven Windmueller assesses the situation, one of his ways is to build from the bottom (“Reinventing Liberal Judaism,” May 11). I did this in the Philadelphia area 30 years ago, but the elders did not support it.

In less than nine months, we grew a 30-ish crowd from 10 to 60, including their families.

This is the only way to introduce Judaism to those who resist and to listen to the younger population so that the institution provides for their needs.

Baby boomers must give way to the needs of the millennials or Conservative Judaism will not be viable in the near future (10 years).

Warren J. Potash, Moorpark


Insight Into Torah Portion

I would like to thank the Journal for publishing Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ Table for Five commentary in the Journal’s May 11 issue. It provides deep insight into the parsha. However, the rabbi goes much further, enunciating simply and clearly God’s role and rights as the creator of the universe and in consequence, linking core principles of Judaism to these rights. It is, for me, an unforgettable “teaching moment,” beautiful in its simplicity, clarity and importance.

Hopefully, the Journal will provide more of Sacks’ commentaries and insights in the future. Table for Five is one avenue to accomplish this, but I am sure the Journal has others. We need them.

Edward Gomperts, Glendale


Complex Issues in the Mideast

I read the May 4 edition of the Jewish Journal with great interest. As a non-Jew, I was happy to read the Leon Wieseltier view that “the merit of a view owes nothing to the biography of the individual who holds it” (“Should American Jews Criticize Israel?”).

So here goes. I read in Rick Richman’s story (“The Second and Third Israeli Miracles”) that the Palestinian Arabs have rejected six offers of a state. My question is: How many of these offers would have stopped settlement in the West Bank and dismantled the settlements and removed the settlers?

And the other question: Suppose California were occupied by, say, Mexicans. How many Californians would have supported the “offer of a state” that would leave more than half a million Mexican settlers in hilltop strongholds and withheld a slew of powers over the economy, security and policing?

Christopher Ward via email

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed Iranian duplicity with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, he was preaching to the converted. This is much ado about nothing, since the P5+1 took Iranian mendacity into strict account when fashioning the inspection regime that is part of the Iran nuclear deal.

The nuclear agreement with Iran that slows its development of atomic weapons is a bad accord for many reasons. President Donald Trump is right to force the issue now. He does not need a primer on Iran and its penchant for lying. The president has decided it is better to scrap the agreement altogether and re-impose sanctions, or try to amend the agreement as our allies prefer.

Brian J. Goldenfeld, Woodland Hills

I would strongly encourage journalists to emulate the unflinchingly centrist style of Michael Berenbaum’s recent column (“Pity Mahmoud Abbas,” May 11). Most who criticize the Israeli government’s approach to the conflict with Palestinians tend to forget or ignore just how awful and intransigently anti-Semitic the leadership is on the other side. And most who decry the wrongs of Abbas or other Palestinian leaders tend to forget or ignore the suffering of the very people they lead.

If only we could stop being so one-sided in our rhetoric and attitudes, we might lessen the number of people so brainwashed by the “left” that they forsake the need to defend Israel from her truest enemies, or so brainwashed by the “right” that they forsake the need to prevent Israel from emulating said enemies.

Michael Feldman, Los Angeles

I am very confused. It feels like if I support Israel’s existence, then I am supposed to be pro-current administration (i.e., President Donald Trump), which I definitely am not! But if I support peace and freedom for everyone in the Middle East, I am supposed to do that by opposing the “occupation” of the West Bank and by supporting activities and groups that all lead to Hamas — a group defined as working to destroy the Jewish state.

All my left-wing friends support “anti-Zionism,” which translates to pro-Hamas, but they insist that they like Jews and will defend the rights of Jews. My right-wing friends (yes, I have some) support the idea of a Jewish homeland but they support many other things that I find odious.

Strange bedfellows, no? I want to find a place in the middle. I think maybe we should move the homeland to Antarctica but someone will surely accuse us of oppressing the penguins.

Lynne Bronstein, Van Nuys

Notwithstanding his fighting words in a recent mosque sermon that Tel Aviv and Haifa will be totally destroyed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami should sit down and shut up. Israel’s air force did serious damage to Iranian military installations in Syria last week in retaliation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard assault, seemingly launched against the advice of Russia and their Syrian hosts, when it fired 20 rockets at Israel.

Sadly, the murderous threats emanating from imams in mosques all over the world, that Israel/America/Jews must be destroyed, have a “blowback” effect in making Muslims who are innocent of such hatred look like extremists. One might hope that the moderates would be able to suppress those imams who preach hatred from their pulpits.

Maybe they’re too afraid, or worse, maybe they don’t want to. It’s difficult to know which, but also easy to feel compelled to defend against vile religious leaders who can’t seem to be shut down by those who wail about Islamophobia.

Desmond Tuck, San Mateo


Less Shouting, More Listening

I read on the Journal website “Pro-Palestinian Protesters Attempt to Shut Down Israeli Speakers and Fail” by Aaron Bandler, and I agree totally with the reporter. I believe that the Palestinians’ chanting was unacceptable. I think it was great of UC Irvine’s Students Supporting Israel to point out that they would show their perspective and not keep silent. Also, they said that they will continue to make the voices of the pro-Israeli students heard. That shows peace, not hate, which is what the world needs.

Eliyaou Eshaghian, Tarzana


Israelis in the Diaspora

This is another in a long line of letters disputing wild, unsourced journalistic estimates of Israelis living in the Diaspora, which Danielle Berrin has repeated as “more than 1 million” (“Wandering Israelis,”  April 13).

The most trusted demographic estimate done by Pew Research in 2010 was 230,000 Jewish emigrants from Israel living in other countries, with the most, 110,000 in the U.S. This aligns with my 1982 published estimates for Israeli emigrants in the U.S. and about my estimate of 25,000 living in and around Los Angeles.

Fun fact: Using Berrin’s source data from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics of about 2.2 million flying abroad in a six-month period, and the U.S. nonimmigrant Israeli entry estimates for roughly the same period, fewer than 1 in 10 Israeli tourist flyers eventually landed in the U.S. As we are all learning, visiting or immigrating to the U.S. is a pain.

While the Los Angeles Israeli community has become much more organized, now raising tens of millions of dollars yearly through the Israeli-American Council (IAC), in the 36 years since a realistic estimate of numbers has been published, I have not found any evidence that the number of Israelis has changed substantially from being about 1/20th of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

Pini Herman, Beverly Grove

(This letter originally appeared in the April 20 edition.)

Berrin responds: Pini Herman asserts that my column includes “wild, unsourced journalistic estimates” regarding the number of Israelis living in the Diaspora. This is untrue. While it is difficult to estimate the exact number of Israelis living in the Diaspora for a variety of reasons, the upward trend is clear. Estimates from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the prime minister’s office and a Pew Study suggest the number could be as low 300,000 and as high as 1 million. Just last week, Newsweek reported that from 2006 to 2016, more than 87,000 Israelis became U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, according to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This is up from 66,000 from the previous decade. For a long time now, rumors of a so-called Israeli “brain drain” have permeated public discourse. In 2011, Foreign Policy ran a story headlined “The Million Missing Israelis.” Last August, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency wondered, “Can Israel bring home its million U.S. expats?” Many of these articles examine the ways the Israeli government has tried to stanch the brain drain by enticing the best and brightest Israelis back home, sometimes through ad campaigns or initiatives like the 2011 I-CORE program, a $360 million initiative to lure Israeli scholars back to Israeli universities. According to Newsweek, “Results were so underwhelming that the program was ended after three years.”

None of these facts is wild or unsourced; we ought to pay attention to the trend suggested by even inexact statistics.


CORRECTIONS

A story about the death of Rabbi Aaron Panken (“Remembering Rabbi Aaron Panken,” May 11) mistakenly reported the date of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion New York ordination ceremony as May 7, two days after Panken’s death. The ceremony was held May 6, one day after his death.

An item in the May 11 edition of Movers & Shakers incorrectly identified Tanya Waldman as the co-director of Witness Theater: Voices of History. Her name is Talya Waldman. Also, a photo caption accompanying the May 1 Israel Bonds luncheon mistakenly identified Marlene Kreitenberg as Ruth Low.

A headline on a Q-and-A with Rabba Sara Hurwitz failed to include her honorific (“An Orthodox Woman in the Time of #Metoo,” May 11). The Journal regrets the oversight.