LettersPublic vs. Day Schools
It was with dismay and embarrassment that I read
your cover story “Beyond Their Means” (July 18). As a
committed Jew, I am appalled at the attitude of the
people quoted in the article who seem to think that their
children have the “right” to a Jewish day school
education. It astounds me that these people would sell
their wedding rings, borrow from relatives, and mortgage
their futures in order to seclude their children in the
enclaves of privilege which day schools have become.
As the parent of three young children, I am strongly
committed to their Jewish education, but in no way do I
think that they are “entitled” to — or in need of — a
private school in order to create morality or Jewish
identity. To the contrary, I believe that the isolation of
Jewish youth in day schools only serves to remove them
from the opportunities for learning which this
multicultural city provides through its much maligned,
but often excellent, public schools. Morality and identity
cannot be taught in a vacuum. In order to learn who they
are and what is right, children must exist in a broader
world; to know, live among, and appreciate those whose
religions, homes and bank accounts bear no resemblance
to their own.
It may be more difficult today to carve out the time
for religious education outside of the day school arena,
but this is where we teach our children life lessons about
meaningful choices. Perhaps soccer needs to be bumped
further down the list of priorities, or a birthday party
must be missed in order to get a religious education on
the weekends. If “Hebrew” school is not meeting the
needs of the community, then perhaps more emphasis
must be put on religious school and less on simply
learning Hebrew for the bar mitzvah event. And finally,
there is the home, which bears the ultimate responsibility
for children’s morality and identity.
The Jews of this community must re-evaluate what
they’re doing with this whole day school frenzy, and
whether the results will ultimately create better, more
moral citizens, or simply more isolated ones.
Playa del Rey
Robert Eshman used some heart-wrenching anecdotes
in his story on the high cost of Jewish day schools
(“Beyond Their Means?” July 18). The Anti-Defamation
League is devoted to the cause of religious freedom and
to the continuity of the Jewish people. Jewish day school
education, Jewish camps, and an Israel experience have
all proved to be important in bolstering Jewish identity
The premise that “the decline of public schooling,
beginning in the 1970s” was the precursor of the day
school movement, however, is one with which we would
take exception. Not only have the public schools played
an historically dramatic role in the success of Jews in the
United States, but many Jewish parents today are finding
the public schools hospitable and intellectually
challenging places for their children.
We have no argument with Jewish parents choosing to
send their children to Jewish day schools, nor with
Eshman’s description of a proposed special endowment
fund to subsidize tuition costs. We are profoundly
concerned, however, with the other solution: vouchers.
The constitutionally mandated separation of church
and state is a core American value vital to protecting
religious freedom. Vouchers threaten the wall of
separation because they provide public funds for private
instruction. While some Jewish parents would
undoubtedly appreciate a $1,000 to $2,000 tuition credit,
tax dollars would also go to schools that teach Aryan
Nations doctrine, Palestinian-Arab schools where
students ready themselves for a jihad against
Israel, or schools that preach Nation of Islam leader Louis
Farrakhan’s vision of a society free of whites, gays,
Catholics and Jews.
Western States Assistant Counsel
Marjorie B. Green
Director of Schools and Education
Anti-Defamation League, Pacific Southwest Region
Agree to Disagree
It would be easy to start a response to Baruch C.
Cohen’s commentary (“The Failed Experiment,” July 18),
by saying, “Written like a lawyer.” But that would not be
fair to others of his profession. What Cohen has
attempted to do, only points out the fallacies in the
reasoning of his arguments, which mimic the reasoning of
the Agudas HaRabbonim. When I went to college, I
learned about syllogisms: an argument with two premises
and a conclusion. I also learned that, “I ate a green apple.
I got a stomach ache. Therefore, all green apples give
stomach aches,” is a faulty syllogism.
When Cohen and his little group of Orthodox
clergymen establish their own premises to justify the
desired conclusion that Reform, Conservative and other
branches of Judaism are not truly Judaism, they have set
up their own faulty syllogism, and they dishonor the
service and memory of a long parade of great Jews who
have done honor to the Torah.
If, when I enter a Reform or Conservative synagogue
to worship or study Torah, I am not practicing Judaism,
what is it? Certainly not Islam, or Buddhism or anything
else but Judaism. It is a singularly arrogant stance for
Cohen and his kindred spirits to assume that they speak
for anyone but themselves in establishing what is, or is
This is an issue that will not be solved. Why don’t we
just agree to disagree, and put space in the Journal to
Milton I. Bremer
Baruch Cohen’s comparison of the effects of the Reform
and Conservative clergy to that of the European Holocaust
is outrageous. If that was your intent in running his
article, “The Failed Experiment,” then congratulations on
desecrating the memory of those who suffered at Nazi
hands and humanizing the Third Reich. With an attitude
like that, it is no wonder that similar atrocities continue
today in Bosnia, Rwanda and Cambodia.
In the meantime, is everyone who needs to be fed,
fed? Is everyone who needs to be comforted, comforted?
Why is the Jewish Journal so involved with this petty
little squabble over who has the largest market share of
“genuine” Jews, when God has already assured us that we
will be around forever? Instead, how about spending
more time on how we can fulfill the requirement we read
every day “to act justly, to love kindness and to walk
humbly with your God”? You don’t have to be a member
of any organization to do Jewish things like these.
And as for those who whine about not being able to be
members of a synagogue, our shul, B’nai Tikvah in
Westchester, is open every Shabbat morning, free of
charge, to anyone who cares to come in to pray and
I would like to suggest that individuals viewing the
list of dormant Swiss Bank account names, recently
published in the Los Angeles Times, consider viewing all
possible spellings of a last name, when both spelling and
pronunciation of the name could be questionable.
As a self-described genealogist, I have located close to
1,000 family members. Based on my 15-plus years of
research, last names from Poland and Russia do not
always follow the English spelling guidelines.
The spelling and pronunciation of last names varies
throughout the world, because of the many differences in
alphabets. There are certain sounds that are absent from
German and English, but are present in Russian. There are
sounds in Russian, that are not present in Polish, and
sounds in Romanian, that are not present in Russian,
German or English.
A name spelled as Zucker in English, was not
pronounced or spelled as such in Poland. It was probably
Czuker, Zuker, Tsuker, Zukher, Tsukker, Zukhar, Tsyker,
Readers must understand that a “G” sound in the
Ukraine is pronounced as an “H” in English. Because
Cyrillic writing looks nothing like English or German
lettering, a name pronounced Halpert, could be listed as
Halpert based on the sound of the name, or Galpert based
on the closest translation of the written Cyrillic name.
A last name with a “J” is pronounced as “Y,” when it
appears after vowels. Therefore, when translated to
German or English, the spelling may have changed to a
Some useful resources to help one interested in finding
the various spelling of their last names, are:
1. “A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian
Empire,” by Alexander Beider (760 pages),
2. Daitch Mokotoff Soundex System,
3. Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles,
4. Family History Library-Church of Latter Day
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