September 17, 2019

Letters to the editor: Islamic extremism, contamination at Brandeis-Bardin and more

Hydra vs. Islam

As a friend and fan of Rabbi Reuven Firestone, I was disappointed by “Heads of the Hydra” (Nov. 20). He writes: “Let’s be clear. This terrible violence is not about Islam. That accusation is a canard. It’s an excuse, a pitiful substitute for careful analysis and consideration.”

He downplays Islamic textual support for violence by citing equivalently violent verses from the Bible — as though they’re on the same footing. They’re not. Long ago, Jewish legal authorities confined application of those verses to biblical times. Muslim legal scholars have yet to do the same with their holy books. 

He also excuses Islam by blaming terrorism on pathologies afflicting Muslim youth, including victimhood, alienation, corruption and hopelessness. But countless children worldwide suffer similarly — without the same terrifying results. To cite one example: Palestinian-Christian teens don’t aspire to kill Jews. Why? It’s about religion.

A religion is the totality of the expressions of people who speak and act in its name. In the Greek Hydra myth, Hercules’ cousin helps him kill the monster. We Jews stand ready to help our Muslim religious cousins kill their Hydra. Our first act is to help them see their monster for what it is.

Jon Drucker, Los Angeles

Contamination of Information, Continued

In Rob Eshman’s Nov. 13 column, “Brandeis-Bardin Needs to Be Transparent About Contamination,” he references a link to the letter that American Jewish University (AJU) sent to Brandeis/Alonim families, in which AJU asserts that Brandeis-Bardin is safe. In that letter, AJU referred to people who raised questions as “disgruntled ex-employees.”   

I am one of the former employees that phrase seems to reference. Questioning my love for Alonim is hurtful, considering I was born there, my sandek for my bris was Shlomo Bardin, my bar mitzvah was there, my wedding was there. I spent nearly every summer and winter break of my life there. The friends I made there are my friends today.

In 1995, Brandeis filed a lawsuit against Rocketdyne (now Boeing) for the release of hazardous materials “disposed of and released into the soil, air, and groundwater.” In 1997, just before the trial, Brandeis settled confidentially. It never made sense to me how the institute could have it both ways — that Brandeis filed a contamination lawsuit, yet the public, as well as Brandeis employees, were told the land was safe.

KNBC did not invent the issue of contamination at the Santa Susana site. As late as June 13, 2014, there was an article in the Los Angeles Times headlined “Santa Susana Toxic Cleanup Effort Is a Mess.” That was the focus of the NBC report: Boeing — Rocketdyne — Nuclear Cleanup. 

This is not a “for or against” Brandeis/Alonim issue. AJU needs to be fully transparent and release any test results. That’s the only way we will know if, as AJU said in its letter, Brandeis is safe.

We all want to see Brandeis/Alonim continue and thrive. 

David Dassa, Los Angeles

Modern, Meaningful

Julie Gruenbaum Fax, in her powerful opinion piece “A View From the Women’s Section” (Nov. 13), not only describes the practices embraced by large segments of the Orthodox communities throughout the world, it also answers the question: Who is Modern Orthodox? 

She poignantly conveys that her actions, as practiced by many other families, ultimately define Modern Orthodoxy. Proclamations by the Rabbinical Council of America are not conclusive. Those of us who are committed to halachah know who we are and those who understand our commitment define us as Orthodox. There is an admonition in the Talmud that rabbinic rulings should not impose decrees on the public that they know the public will not be able to abide. Where the exclusion of women from spiritual leadership is not tolerable among multitudes of those who define themselves as Orthodox, it is wise not to render such decrees.  

Esther Macner, Beverly Hills


A story about gap years in Israel, “Filling the Gap: The Case for a Post-High School Year in Israel” (Nov. 13), misspelled the name of student Mati Hurwitz and misidentified the school he is attending, Yeshivat Har Etzion. Also, the story suggested Masa Israel Journey will provide funding for thousands of students attending such programs this year, instead of throughout several years.

The article “Aviva Plans for an Inclusive Future” (Nov. 13) mischaracterized the boy in the photo caption as having been adopted with Aviva’s help, when, in fact, the couple’s pending adoption of another child is through Aviva.