September 16, 2019

Letters to the editor: Mensches, Prager, optimism and Islamaphobia

Out with Outrage 

Just wanted to say thanks for the “defense” and boost of optimism in Rob Eshman’s recent column (“In Defense of Optimism,” Jan. 1), and for all the work he does through the Jewish Journal — for readers, for the Jewish community, and this year, for my family, by posting my piece for Father’s Day. I appreciate your work! Happy New Year. 

Lauri Mattenson, UCLA

Could We Do Better?

I am a 70-year-old woman and a member of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center. Years ago, I listened to Dennis Prager at PJTC when he was just beginning to sell his books.  I have read some of his books and listened to him at various locations over the years, as well as on the radio. Now I am feeling that he should not be a contributor to Jewish Journal. I do not object to his article about transgender people because it is controversial, or because I do not agree with it, but because in his article he embarrassed and disrespected Rabbi Becky Silverstein. There is no question that embarrassing someone in public is a grievous sin, and though Prager was given the opportunity to answer all the letters generated by his original article, this matter was not dealt with by Prager. Not only did he disrespect and embarrass our rabbi, but also any transgender individual and our synagogue, too, by extension. He should not be given a place from which to do this, and it is your responsibility to the Jewish community to take care of this. There are many younger Orthodox men who could do better than Dennis Prager.

Carol Grant via email

I love reading Dennis Prager’s wise and common-sense column. I have for years. His views, unfortunately, are lacking in today’s politically correct environment. I will continue reading him for years to come.

Laurence Gelman via email

New Year, New Lessons

Danielle Berrin’s discussion of the searing new Hungarian film “Son of Saul” in the first issue of the Jewish Journal for 2016 is an important column to read, even for those who cannot bear to watch such a film (“Seeking a Rabbi at Auschwitz”). Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, it is never too late to learn new lessons from the Holocaust.

Berrin mentioned the documentary “Shoah” in her column, possibly the most vital film and documentary ever put together, by Claude Lanzmann. (I would be remiss if I did not also mention “The Sorrow and the Pity” by Marcel Ophuls (1969) and “Kapo” by Gillo Pontecorvo (1960).)

My family and I were privileged to hear Walter Bodlander, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor, speak for an hour at the Museum of Tolerance on Dec. 30 to a packed auditorium. The hushed, respectful silence of the diverse crowd gives great optimism for lessons still being learned into the future. Walter’s life, from growing up as a German Jew in Breslau to serving in the U.S. Army coming ashore at Normandy and seeing Dachau liberated, covers so many of the pages of history that we never want to forget. And, lo and behold, he was profiled in the Journal on May 21, 2015!

Ben Nethercot, Topanga

When Rationalizing Isn’t Reasonable

Whatever is driving the rage, groups like ISIS and Boko Haram stick to radical Islam because it gives them moral grounds to do inexplicable, violent acts (“You Are an Islamaphobe,” Jan. 1). They are not inventing these acts out of thin air, these acts are sanctioned by the Quran and Hadis. Of course, many Muslims distance themselves from these groups, but do not condemn them strong enough. The resulting picture in the media is that Islam is a violent movement. Until such time, when enough Muslims around the world develop the guts and speak up against this interpretation and seek reform, the violent picture remains — and rightly so. Living in the past and trying to rationalize this behavior, as the author is doing, is not going to help.

Solie Nosrat via

Mensches, Here and Abroad

I recently returned to Los Angeles from Israel and read the article about Michael Ullman (“The Mensch List,” Jan. 1). There are several similarities between Ullman and Joseph Gitler, founder and chairman of Leket Israel, as they are both attorneys and help provide food for those in need. (According to both our tour educator and Nechama Namal, Leket’s field administrator, 25-30 percent of Israel’s population lives at or below the poverty level). 

Last week, when I was in Israel, I volunteered (picked clementines) for Leket and had a great experience. It was rewarding to know I was giving back to Israelis in need. (There is no cost to volunteer.) 

Leket Israel can use more volunteers and I am hoping you can spread the word. 

Marilyn Stern, Los Angeles