July 18, 2019

The Idea of a ‘Radical Middle’ and Hanukkah’s Link to 3 Religions,

The Idea of a ‘Radical Middle’
I really enjoyed Karen Lehrman Bloch’s story about the radical middle (“Hope for a Radical Middle, Dec. 7).  I have long been a fan of “no labels” and am grateful for politicians who work to solve problems rather than vilify the opposing tribe. Jonathan Haidt’s book “The Righteous Mind” was an eye-opener for me.  It helped me to step back and think about politics and policy in a much more constructive fashion.

As Bloch mentions in her story, bipartisan work rarely gets much media attention. It doesn’t sell to say, “We’re actually getting along and making progress toward solving problems.” I’m glad the Journal is shining a light on this.

I want to let you know about another bipartisan project that is gaining traction. I point to the bipartisan climate solutions caucus that was founded in 2016 and grew to 90 members (half Republicans, half Democrats).  A few members of the caucus teamed up recently and on Nov. 27, they introduced the first bipartisan climate legislation in a decade. There are threads of Jewish leadership throughout this entire effort, with three Jewish members of the caucus: Democratic co-founder, Ted Deutch (D-Florida); Lee Zeldin (R-New York); and Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach).

I agree with No Labels founder Nancy Jacobson’s assessment that “Americans are hungry for unity.” I believe Americans also are hungry for more stories like Bloch’s, reminding us of what we stand for: a unified vision that can best be implemented by bringing together good minds from all political perspectives.
Judy Berlfein, Encinitas, Calif.

I think it’s a great idea, but social media and political consultants have so poisoned the well that it’s virtually impossible for people, much less politicians, to argue without resorting to labels.

And let’s face it, ideological labels do mean something. Democrats and Republicans have drastically different views of public policy, especially today, and, frankly often view facts differently. It’s fine to say that people in Congress should focus on what’s good for Americans, not what’s good for their side. But, in general, Democrats and Republicans think that what’s best for Americans is what their party wants.

And this is especially true today as the parties have diverged so much. There are fewer areas where some agreement can be reached. But I agree, calling someone “racist” or “sexist” or, on the other side, “socialist” doesn’t achieve much. The problem is that people usually assume that if your label is different, you are automatically wrong or brainwashed or stupid or bigoted, etc.
Marc Schneider, via Facebook

In her story “Hope for a Radical Middle,” Bloch proposes that we put away our radical partisanship and get together in the middle for the sake of the greater good. I am all for it.

The problem is that her middle is substantially to the right of the center. As an example, she states “… while centrists might find President Donald Trump unappealing on a personal level, they have been finding the push toward illiberalism on the left — restrictions on free speech, lack of due process, a biased press — even less appealing.”

Let’s be real. People in the center find much more unappealing about Trump than on a personal level. To mention a few, there are “alternative facts” dishonesty, disregard for science, giving tax breaks to the rich — the list goes on and on. On the other hand, she accuses the left of illiberalism, restrictions on free speech, being against due process and in favor of a biased press. Last I looked, it was the Democrats who fight these things. Has she watched Fox News lately?

I hope that we can produce a “radical middle” based on facts, scholarship and humanity. I, for one, am eager to join.
Michael Telerant, Los Angeles

Hanukkah’s Link to 3 Religions
Thank you, Ben Shapiro for a lucid view of Hanukkah “Hanukkah’s Gift: Unwavering Light,” Nov. 30). But going further in the idea that Hanukkah shouldn’t be seen as a competing holiday with Christmas, I propose that Hanukkah should be seen as an encompassing holiday for all Abrahamic religions.

Here is my point:  As Shapiro says, Hanukkah was a war against Hellenism led in an intifada style by the Maccabees to defend the notion of one God against polytheism. If Judah Maccabee had lost, the Jewish world would have been Hellenized completely, meaning no more temple, no more Cohanim, no more Adonai, no more Judaism starting in 160 B.C.  Furthermore, if Judaism had ceased to exist as such after that time, there would not have been any Jesus nor, for that matter, any Muhammad, who proclaimed himself the Last Prophet coming after a line of prophets that included Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

So if the victory of monotheism at Hanukkah is so primordial to all three religions, why not try to make it a festival for all Abrahamic religions and celebrate together what we have in common?
Alain Cohen, Los Angeles

What Sustained the Jewish People
Nowadays, referring to something that happened a month and a half ago sounds like old news. Still, I’d like to go back to the comments made by New York Times Editor Bari Weiss on Bill Maher’s HBO show.

There, as mentioned in David Suissa’s column (“On Bari Weiss, Franklin Foer and the Values That Sustain our People,” Nov. 5), Weiss confidently stated: “ … the values that have sustained the Jewish people — and frankly, this country — forever: Welcoming the stranger; dignity for all human beings; equality under the law; respect for dissent; love of truth.” Actually, this is the motto of the new Jewish millennial generation, and other progressive groups.

No doubt that all the attributes of the social justice movement — and that’s what these attributes are — enumerated by Weiss, are part of the Jewish conscience. And to a lesser or greater extent, they belong in any civilized society. But as much as Jews have been striving to practice them in the lands of the Diaspora, they have been met with hostility and belligerence. They were not welcomed, dignity was denied to them, they were unequal under the law, their dissent was met with disdain, and hateful lies were spread about their traditions and beliefs.

Still, Jews never have abandoned the principles of justice. But they have survived in the hostile world and managed to remain Jewish by beholding the Torah, believing in their story and history and in the dream of returning to their ancestral land and beloved Jerusalem.

In the last moments of their lives, in the hands of murderous Nazis, many of them exclaimed “Sh’ma Israel,” not “Welcome the stranger.” The social justice’s tenets have roots in the system of Jewish beliefs and teachings, not vice versa. And Jews have been sustained by the latter, not former.
Vladimir Kaplan, San Mateo

In a profile on Frankfurt, Germany Mayor Uwe Becker (“Mayor of Frankfurt Leads German Pro-Israel Activism,” Dec. 7), the German word for “House Church” was misspelled. It is Paulskirche.

In the biography of Reyna Marder Gentin’s column (“How I Became a Novelist,” Dec. 7), her debut novel, “Unreasonable Doubts,” was released in November, not December.

Rabbi David Saiger’s byline was left off a column he co-wrote with Nick Holton (“Hanukkah and the Science of Hope,” Dec. 7). Saiger is the Upper School rabbi at Milken Community Schools.

Your turn. Don’t be shy, send your letters to letters@jewishjournal.com Letters should be no more than 200 words and must include a valid name and city. The Journal reserves the right to edit all letters.