November 19, 2019

Letters to the editor: JDAIM, Hillel 818, Proust and more

Awareness Appreciation

I deeply appreciate the fine work of Michelle Wolf (“Why Give a Damn About JDAIM,” Feb. 12). 

Chabad of Sherman Oaks is inclusive. They help me put on my tallis and tefillin. They have helped me learn more about Torah. They talk to me. They are interested in me. Chabad of Tarzana is inclusive, too.

I am glad that I learned about Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month (JDAIM).

Mark Girard via email

The Way You Love Me

This wonderful, heartwarming love story by David Suissa starring Danielle and Shlomo makes all our lives richer for daily proof of vows taken, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health (“A Love Story,” Feb. 12). Happy Valentine’s Day, Danielle and Shlomo, and God bless you both. 

Jerry Daniels, Marina Del Rey

Proust Prowess

I was fairly nonplussed by Jonathan Zasloff’s non-article about Marcel Proust (“Proust was (Almost) a Chasid,” Feb. 12). To me, Mr. Zasloff is guilty of a classic bait-and-switch maneuver and needs to have his literary license revoked. His article was all about the principles (as I understand them) of Chasidism, and not at all about the tormented Judaism that Proust, a half-Jew through his mother and a homosexual, expressed in many subtle and profound ways in his great masterpiece, “In Search of Lost Time.”

The French have a wonderful expression that doesn’t exist in English, déformation professionelle, which roughly translates as having a tendency to look at things from the point of view of one’s own profession rather than from a broader perspective. Mr. Zasloff’s Chasidic point of view is a textbook case of this.

Readers genuinely interested in Proust’s Judaism can track down a copy of Seth L. Wolitz’s definitive study, “The Proustian Community.”

Bob Bookman, Los Angeles

Hiding in Plain Sight?

In regard to the so-called low number of homeless people counted (Feb. 5), there’s a reason for such a low count: The homeless are not always on the streets. Many are tucked away during the day at a Starbucks or a library. Those living in cars try to do so in very nice areas. Many are sleeping by the airport at night or at a 24-hour dining place, or even sleeping on the steps of a local church or synagogue. And yes, some do attend religious services quite frequently without anyone knowing the dire situation that these people are in.

And most keep up their appearance by washing up in a public bathroom early in the morning and putting on decent clean clothes and putting makeup on their faces. They don’t appear to be the stereotypical homeless person who society expects to see. So the next time you make your daily trip to Starbucks (or any other place) and see the same person sitting in there every single day, they may just be homeless despite appearances, desperately trying to keep whatever dignity they have left.

Shiphrah Aubert via email

Former Director Speaks Up About Stepping Down

Regarding the Hillel 818 article of Feb. 12 (“After Top-down Transformation, Hillel 818 Shows Signs of Growth”), it should be noted that I was never contacted prior to publication, although I am named therein. This is irresponsible journalism. 

To be clear, I resigned in June 2014. It should also be noted that I have never met or spoken with Jay Sanderson. While he talks about me in the story, he would have no first-hand knowledge of me directly. It is wrong that assertions were made in the article but that there was no effort by the Journal to follow up with me to get a fuller picture.

Also, if I had been contacted, I would have explained how the core mission of Hillel, to serve the students, was never forgotten even after our merger in 2013. To suggest otherwise is an unfair assessment and negates the commitment of many individuals. There were new challenges, but in the short time we had, we were creating a new 818 presence with fundraising and programming under the 818 umbrella. 

As our primary funder, Federation had the power to make the changes it did, but its method lacked transparency. When all is said and done, I do wish only the best for Hillel 818.

Judith Alban, former Hillel, 818 executive director via email

Editor’s note: The Journal reported fully on the Hillel 818 controversy Jan. 30, 2015 (“Hillel 818 Starts Anew Following Federation-led Transformation”), interviewing people on all sides of the issue.


The article “American Jews Helped Create Prayer Space Equality at the Kotel” (Feb. 12) quotes Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel as saying the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel and abroad played a role in creating a mixed prayer space at the Kotel. Siegel actually said all three major denominations — Reform, Conservative and Orthodox — were involved in the process, both in Israel and in the Diaspora.