September 21, 2019

Letters: Rabbi Dorff’s New Book, Misquoting Trump, Oscar Issue

Rabbi Dorff’s New Book
I agree with Rabbi Elliot Dorff about Conservative Judaism and its role in helping Jews (“The Challenge of the Mind,” Feb. 22). I also agree the Orthodox dogma should not be the only way to be recognized as being Jewish in Israel.

However, what concerns me the most is that Conservative Jews have moved much closer to Reform and Reconstruction practices. As younger and impressionable Jews move away from religious practice throughout the year, will there be enough Jews to carry Conservatism to 2050 and beyond?
Warren J. Potash, Moorpark

Take Time to Thank God
Kylie Ora Lobell makes a powerful point about how prayer forces us to slow down (“Prayer Forces a Person to Slow Down — and That’s Good,” Feb. 22). So many of us are workaholics and think about work when we get up, all day while we’re doing other things, and before we go to sleep. She proposes devoting 15 minutes every day to thank HaShem, learn valuable lessons from prayer and be grateful to be alive and free. People who live today are the most fortunate people who ever lived at any time in history. That’s something for which we should to be grateful and it’s worth thanking HaShem for a few minutes every day.

The principle of my yeshiva established a rule that at the beginning of the school year of our bar mitzvah, boys had to start putting on tefillin. I began to do it as part of the school routine of the yeshiva and have not missed a weekday since then. It takes only a little bit of time every weekday morning and it’s well worth it. I recommend Lobell enhance her daily prayer experienced by wrapping tefillin.

Lobell has done meditation and yoga to help her deal with life’s pressures. I recommend she join a weekly Torah study group, which can provide an enhanced Jewish spiritual experience.
Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills

Misquoting Trump
Rabbi Robin Podolsky repeats the allegation that President Donald Trump said there were “‘fine people on both sides’ of a clash between neo-Nazis and their opponents” (“Angry About Trump’s Speech,” Feb. 15.) This statement is completely false. As many commentators have noted, Trump never said or suggested that some neo-Nazis are “fine people.”

On Aug. 15, 2017, Trump spoke about a clash between neo-Nazis and Antifa that occurred at a protest over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and renaming a park in Charlottesville, Va. When a reporter asked about the neo-Nazis who were present at the protest, Trump said, “You have some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were fine people on both sides. … You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”

After asking if statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should be removed because they were slave owners, Trump said, “If you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people: neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. … But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest — and very legally protest, because … they had a permit.”

Concerning the neo-Nazis, Trump said, “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned, totally.”

Thus, Trump made it clear that the “fine people on both sides” were people peacefully exercising their right under the First Amendment to protest for and against taking down of the statue and renaming the park. He said neo-Nazis “should be condemned, totally.” He didn’t say, and has never that there are “fine people” among Nazis or neo-Nazis. Podolsky should identify where Trump has said there are “fine people” among neo-Nazis or issue a public apology.
Daniel J. Friedman, Rancho Palos Verdes 

Oscar Issue
Thank you for publishing “ ‘Spider-Verse’ Director Reveals Peter Parker Is Jewish” (Oscar issue, Feb. 22). The montage where Peter Parker steps on a glass at his wedding, following Jewish tradition, was an unexpected thrill in Rodney Rothman’s outstanding film.

Historically, Jews introduced many comic book superheroes, including Spider-Man (by Stan Lee). Most famously, Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and was emblematic in myriad respects of the 20th-century Jewish-American experience: His parents were from a far-away land. They floated him across space as a baby to save his life (recalling Moses being floated down the Nile to escape Pharaoh’s decree). He had a Hebrew name (Kal-El), but publicly used his Americanized name (Clark Kent) and disguised identity, mirroring Jewish-American cultural assimilation. His secret vestments (cape, etc.) represented Jewish religious vestments (tallis, etc.). What was implicit about Superman’s Jewish identity is now explicit about Parker.
Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco

It would seem that the major problem that Conservative Judaism needs to address was featured in the story about “BlacKkKlansman” (“The Screenwriters Who Made ‘BlacKkKlansman’ Jewish,” Feb. 22). The screenwriters, who met in Hebrew school and bar mitzvah’ed in temple, have graduated to a two-day-a-year “Jewish” life. If that’s typical, then your future is guarded …
Saul Newman, Los Angeles 

Israel Can Do Better
Toward the end of his column “The Trick of Anti-Semitism” (Feb. 22), Shmuel Rosner asks if there is anything the Jews can do against the current trend of anti-Semitism. The short answer is yes. Anti-Semitism rises and falls with real-world events, sometimes not of our doing. However, the current rise can certainly be associated with the policies of the current Israeli government.

In the name of security and expansion, the government continues to impose antagonistic settlements into Palestinian areas, impose civil restrictions (sometimes in order to maintain these settlements), and pass laws discriminating against non-Jewish citizens. It also maintains an occupation that may be inevitable at this time. Because of this, Israel has gone from being considered a hero nation to being criticized by many otherwise well-meaning people. It is from this group that the true anti-Semites find recruits.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, Democracy is not a suicide pact. At the end of the day, if the existence of Israel were threatened, liberties with democracy would be taken. However, this is not the end of the day. Israel is an economic and military powerhouse, unrivaled in its region. Israel can afford and should maintain the most benign occupation possible, provide exemplary fair treatment to its non-Jewish citizens and start the elimination of the poison pill that the noncontiguous settlements present. Yes, it can be done much better.
Michael Telerant, Los Angeles   

Complicated European History
Robert Geminder’s obituary said he was born in 1935 in Wroclaw, Poland, and then forced east to Stanislawow, still in Poland after the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939 (“Holocaust Survivor Robert Geminder, Feb. 22). The obituary said Geminder and his family returned to Warsaw in 1944.

I believe matters were more complicated. Wroclaw was the city of Breslau in the German province of Silesia. The Wehrmacht didn’t invade Wroclaw in 1939 because it was part of Germany. Stanislawow, to which the Geminder family fled, was in the part of Poland that was taken over by the Soviet Union as the result of the August 1939 Non-Aggression Pact signed by Nazi Germany and the U.S.S.R. At first, Jews who managed to find refuge in Soviet-occupied Poland were relatively safe. However, after the Germans invaded and occupied portions of the Soviet Union. including Stanislawow, Jews there faced all the dangers of the Holocaust.

The Geminder family returned to Warsaw in 1944. Warsaw was on the front line between the advancing Red Army and the Wehrmacht. There was the Warsaw Uprising and, after the defeat of the Polish Home Army, there was the destruction of Warsaw, all in 1944. I find it hard to believe that a Jewish family would have come to Warsaw in 1944 because the situation was hellish. 1945 is another matter, not smooth sailing, but in Warsaw the Germans were gone.

May Robert Geminder rest in peace and may his family find comfort.
Murray Aronson, West Hollywood