July 18, 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

Letters to the Editor: Sukkot Invitation, People With Special Needs and Ford Versus Kavanaugh

Sukkot Invitation
Concerning who I’d invite to Sukkot: hands down my maternal grandparents (“Ushpizin: Who Would You Invite Into Your Sukkah?” Sept. 21). My grandfather died when I was 7, so I never knew him well; I want that remedied. My grandmother died when I was 21, so I knew her much better, and in addition to seeing and talking with her, I want her homemade chopped liver again.
Stephen Meyers, Woodland Hills

Editorial Cartoon
The liberal bias of most alternative and mainstream publications, including the Journal, extends to editorial cartoons.

For example, the Sept. 21 cartoon by Steve Greenberg depicts a dutiful Gov. Jerry Brown at his desk, decked with an inbox filled with “Climate Change Action” and an outbox, occupied by a scowling President Donald Trump.

The outbox should have been stamped “Immigration and Population” — the engines that drive every economic, environmental and social problem in a sanctuary state that is predicted to have 65 million people by the year 2050.
Les Hammer, via email

People With Special Needs
Michelle K. Wolf wrote about a 72-year-old man named Steven who needed help from Jewish Family Service (“People With Special Needs Also Need Trusts,” Sept. 14). She stated that Supplemental Security Income rules prohibit single beneficiaries from having more than $2,000 in assets. That is true. As a 72-year-old, he would be collecting Social Security, either from his work record or his parents’ record. And he would be covered by Medicare. Medi-Cal would be paying the premiums. And if you collect Social Security, there is no limit to assets with Medi-Cal. Social Security pays more than Medi-Cal. Yes, it is impossible to live on the small amount of money disability insurance pays. The Jewish Los Angeles Trust is most necessary.
Barbara Polisky, Westlake Village

Why Jews Succeed
Writer Henry Ong speculates on why Jews are successful out of proportion to our numbers (“Finance Lessons for the Whole World,” Sept. 21). He concludes that Jews have had to prove their worth despite millennia of persecution.  I think he omits another reason, perhaps two.

Christians have historically valued celibacy and have therefore selected smart, young men for the priesthood, taking them out of the gene pool. By contrast, Jews have valued scholars of the Torah who became preferential marriage partners in villages and cities throughout Jewish Europe.

In ancient times, everyone valued tall, fierce warriors with long arms for hand-to-hand combat. Even the Hebrews did so, as told in the David-and-Goliath story. A disciplined army carrying swords and shields (e.g., Roman legions) would defeat an army armed with projectiles (Agincourt being an exception). After Jews lost title to their lands, they no longer selected big warriors. Modern Israel, as do most technological countries, fights  wars with smart men and women.

Another reason Ong did not cite is that Judaism emphasizes action to improve the world while most other religions have elaborate doctrines to be learned by adherents.
Myron Kayton, via email

Israel Benefits From Republican Leaders
David Suissa is supposed to be a conservative voice for the Journal, yet his holiday message was dripping with anti-Donald Trump hatred, spreading the “resistance” message of prominent left-wing rabbis and adding his own “march on Washington” comments (“Speaking Truth to Power — Ours,” Sept. 21). As the old year wraps up, we are grateful for a pro-Israel president, who opened the American Embassy in Jerusalem; a president who is giving Iranians sanctions instead of planeloads of cash; a president who has an Orthodox-Jewish daughter and Jewish grandchildren; a Republican-majority Congress that blesses Israel and funds Israeli military; and an administration that defunds the PLO so it can’t use our money to pay terrorists’ families. My heart breaks that Suissa and his ilk can’t see the blessings that are right in front of his eyes for this country and for Israel.
Marsha Roseman, Van Nuys

Love the new Jewish Journal, developed under the wise and creative guidance of Editor-in-Chief David Suissa. As a now-devoted subscriber, I always look forward to reading Suissa’s engaging “Editor’s Notes,” which are so elegantly written and so filled with warmth, compassion, understanding and welcome truths. Thank you for this exceptional publication.
Susan Ehrlich, via email

Regarding “SJP to Host Anti-Zionist Event at UCLA” (Sept. 14), when the speakers preach Jew-hatred and Holocaust-denial as expected, college administrators probably won’t interfere, since criticism of Islam is forbidden on the left, while demonization of Israel is common.
Rueben Gordon, via email  

Stabbing Death of Ari Fuld
The Palestinian AARP is not like our AARP (“Remembering the ‘Lion of Zion,’” Sept. 21). It’s an abbreviation for Arab Assassins Retirement Plan.

Under this plan, if you murder a Jew, any Jew, and you are killed in the process, your family members are compensated for the rest of their lives for having done the world the favor of giving birth to a child who rid the planet of an undesirable person.

If the murderer doesn’t die in the attack but is imprisoned for life, then a lifetime monthly pension is paid. The killer’s family gets the money anyway because it can’t be spent in prison. The latest beneficiary of this ghoulish system will be the suspected killer of Ari Fuld (z”l).

It doesn’t stop there. Thanks to the generosity of many governments, including ours, this blood money costs the Arab Palestinians nothing because it comes from donations by others.

The educational system that feeds hate to Arab-Palestinian youth, and of course parental support, gives wings to this system. And thanks to the gullibility of millions, and an unhealthy dose of anti-Semitic sentiment around the world, the funding of the Palestinian “AARP” seems destined to continue unless Donald Trump stays in the White House. How awkward.
Desmond Tuck, via email

Ford Versus Kavanaugh
In the ongoing battle of professor Christine Blasey Ford versus Judge Brett Kavanaugh, one seems to be faced with the challenging decision on which “conspiracy” to believe.
To liberals/Democrats on the left, the saga of Kavanaugh is “obviously“ a conspiracy by old, Republican, white men to fail to protect women from sexual predators and thoroughly investigate such charges.

To conservatives/Republicans on the right, this is an obvious “ploy” by anti-Donald Trump operatives, and the “usual suspects” (leftist/activist citizens and lawyers) to drag up some obscure “accusation” of 30-plus years ago, and try desperately to give it some authenticity; hence, railroading or at least delaying installing a new judge until after the midterm elections.
Pick your poison?
Rick Solomon, Lake Balboa

Don’t be shy. Send your letters to letters@jewishjournal.com

Letters to the Editor: Natalie Portman, Teen Mental Health, and Millennials and the Holocaust

Natalie Portman’s Israel Decision

Is Natalie Portman wrong about not visiting Israel to pick up the Genesis Prize? Right? Justified? Anti-Israel? Playing into the hands of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group? Influential people are lining up on both sides. But strategically, it’s the wrong conversation. There is a bigger, more critical and worrisome story beneath the surface of the Portman controversy that supporters of Israel and believers in Zionism have to wrap their heads around.

Powerful people like her, the people they influence and too many of the next generation are distancing themselves from the current Israeli establishment. We can vociferously argue the drawbacks and merits of everyone’s beliefs, but the fact is we are in danger of losing these people. And we cannot lose them. The ramifications are too great.

If Israel were a product and we were the marketers who saw a growing trend among important segments of the market, that consumers no longer were buying as they once did, we would be doing everything we could to understand why and what needed to be done to shore up our marketplace.

Instead, we just argue, write, voice outrage, support and offer many opinions. All the while, as the marketplace continues to hemorrhage.

Is our job as Israel-lovers to just to keep talking, writing and having conversation? Or is it to understand our marketplace and take action?

Gary Wexler via email

Portman’s refusal to accept her Genesis Prize in Israel makes me very sad. I used to adore her, and now I can’t watch her. Leftist conflict with Israel isn’t new, but do liberals really think they can just turn their backs on Israel and remain Jews, and that their children and grandchildren will still be Jewish? When the Babylonian exiles returned to Jerusalem, those who stayed behind, the first Diaspora, showed great deference and support in rebuilding the Jewish state despite serious controversy. And ever since, Diaspora Jews have cherished the Holy Land.

The miracle of Jewish survival has occurred in part because we don’t just believe in God, we have a deal with God, a covenant, based on our allegiance to the Promised Land. This connection has inspired Jewish hopes and pride, and kept our people together for 4,000 years. Now, as Jews by the thousands make aliyah to escape persecution, and Iran threatens Israel with a three-front war, “progressives” here and in Europe relentlessly slander Israel.

Rueben Gordon via email

Teen Mental Health Help in L.A.

Regarding your story “Making Teen Mental Health a Priority,” (April 27) help for teens with mental health issues is in our own backyard.

Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services (DHMSH) transforms lives by providing quality mental health care and substance abuse treatment from 11 sites and in nearly 100 schools. The agency helps almost 100,000 adults and children throughout Southern California each year. Its suicide prevention center — the first in the nation to provide 24/7 crisis counseling — receives more than 80,000 calls on its crisis line annually and provides support groups for people who have lost loved ones to suicide or have attempted it.

My late mother-in-law, Beatrice Stern, closest of friends with Didi Hirsch and a former DHMSH board member, took a leading role in sparking positive conversations about mental illness by establishing the DHMSH Erasing the Stigma Leadership Awards. What began as a small fundraising luncheon has grown into a large dinner, which last week honored musician Rick Springfield, actor Oliver Platt, pro football player Joe Barksdale and the Born This Way Foundation for their work toward erasing the stigma of mental illness.

Marilyn Stern, Westwood

Liberal Democrats, by Definition

I come from a long line liberal Jewish Democrats. When I married my husband, (who is Jewish), I married out of the “faith” because he is a Republican. I read to him Karen Lehrman Bloch’s column “I Am a Liberal. Are You?” (April 20) to verify his stance on each point she highlighted. He agreed with every line. Turns out Republicans can be liberals, too.

Jan Burns via email

Emotional Links to Israel

Thank you, David Suissa, for reminding me of why I swell with pride when hearing of Israel’s great accomplishments, and why my heart aches when I hear of Israel’s sorrows (“A ‘Better’ Word for Israel,” April 20). Having been born and raised in the United States, and having lived my entire life here, I needed that reminder of why. What an eloquent column that shines the light on two big words: fair and unfair.

Pamela Galanti, Chatsworth

Cartoonist Is Off Base

In light of President Donald Trump’s success at staring down nuclear missiles from North Korea, producing amazingly low unemployment numbers (especially among the poor and most vulnerable), the growth of the stock market and Gross National Product, decimating ISIS, moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, raising workers’ pay and bonuses through tax cuts, and confirming federal judges, the “Trump Derangement Syndrome” cartoon by Steve Greenberg in your April 27 issue was particularly disgusting.

Warren Scheinin via email

The Amazing Metuka Benjamin

Metuka Benjamin could have achieved super success as a leader in politics, business or any leadership role she could have chosen (“Milken Schools President Is Moving On,” April 27). Consumed by her intense love of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, in particular, she applied her skills, talents and magnetic personality to the building of Jewish schools and the relationship with the State of Israel, not just in words and emotions, but with action. She envisioned and built one of the largest Jewish schools in the U.S., complete with a “living bridge” to Israel as a laboratory of Jewish and Zionist identity for Los Angeles students.
For people serious about the relationship between Israel and our 18- to 26-year-olds, Benjamin is just beginning, again. You may want to follow her next move. Stay tuned.

Howard Gelberd via email

Millennials and the Holocaust

The recent Claims Conference study that revealed millennials’ lack of knowledge about the Holocaust is, as Stephen Smith pointed out, due to “an uneven educational environment” (“Mandate to End Holocaust Ignorance,” April 20). The question is: What to do about it? While eight states have Holocaust Study “mandates” that vary in nature — and approximately half of the states have Holocaust teaching “recommendations” — should all states, via federal legislation, particularly, require Holocaust instruction?

One facet of the foregoing is the all-too-often failure to provide financing for Holocaust curriculum implementation. Without dollars for teacher in-servicing, materials and associated educational costs, just how “even” can Holocaust instruction become?

California is a perfect example of an unfunded, via taxes (1986 forward), but funded, via contributions (post 2002, for several years) mandate. Fortunately, for millions of California students, organizations such as Stephen Smith’s USC Shoah Foundation provide rich, ongoing, accessible Holocaust study resources. Still, a national “mandate” without means (i.e., teacher training and related funding costs) should make us cautious about what we wish for.

Bill Younglove, Lakewood

The Middle East Powder Keg

Iran having a base of military operations in Syria must never be allowed (“Collision Course,” April 27). This not only puts Israel at risk, but world peace, as well.

Add Russia’s involvement in the area and you have a recipe for a catastrophe.

George Vreeland Hill via email

Letters to the Editor: Poland Holocaust Law, Gaza Border, and Israelis in the Diaspora

Poland Holocaust Law

The letter to the editor about Poland’s recently passed Holocaust law could not have been written by a grown-up (Letters to the Editor, April 13).

It had to have been written by a child who was raised on lies and wrong information.

Claiming that the Polish underground was the largest anti-Nazi underground army in Europe is laughable.

There are still a few of us around, so you can’t make up history to suit you.

You need to be honest and speak the truth or don’t speak at all.

Ella Mandel, Polish Holocaust survivor, Los Angeles

Gaza Border Unrest

Kudos to David Suissa for exposing the hypocrisy of the Gaza “protests” (“When Truth Comes Marching In,” April 13). His most powerful point was quoting Ben-Dror Yemini’s observation that the Palestinian marchers chanted “Khaybar Khaybar ya yahud.”  This war cry relates not to the current State of Israel but to the seventh-century ethnic cleansing of the two Jewish tribes in Medina by Mohammad’s army. Those slaughtered Jews were not living in current-day Israel but in ancient Saudi Arabia — thus exposing the virulent anti-Jewish hatred from Islam’s earliest history. This same “Khaybar” chant was sung eight years ago in the Turkish flotilla as it approached Gaza.

Hamas made a fatal miscalculation more than a decade ago. Despite being offshoots of the Sunni/Wahabi, Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida and ISIS axis, Hamas switched allegiance to Shiite Iran, prompting Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Gulf states to abandon them. Recently Israel, with the assistance of its former enemy Egypt, destroyed much of Hamas’ tunnel infrastructure, leading inevitably to the violent protests we are witnessing today.

Richard Friedman, Culver City

Israelis in the Diaspora

This is another in a long line of letters disputing wild, unsourced journalistic estimates of Israelis living in the Diaspora, which Danielle Berrin has repeated as “more than 1 million” (“Wandering Israelis,” April 13).

The most trusted demographic estimate done by Pew Research in 2010 was 230,000 Jewish emigrants from Israel living in other countries, with the most, 110,000 in the U.S. This aligns with my 1982 published estimates for Israeli emigrants in the U.S. and about my estimate of 25,000 living in and around Los Angeles.

Fun fact: Using Berrin’s source data from the Israel Bureau of Central Statistics about 2.2 million flying abroad in a six-month period, and the U.S. nonimmigrant Israeli entry estimates for roughly the same period, fewer than 1 in 10 Israeli tourist flyers eventually landed in the U.S. As we are all learning, visiting or immigrating to the U.S. is a pain.

While the Los Angeles Israeli community has become much more organized, now raising tens of millions of dollars yearly through the Israeli-American Council (IAC), in the 36 years since a realistic estimate of numbers has been published, I have not found any evidence that the number of Israelis has changed substantially from being about 1/20th of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

Pini Herman, Beverly Grove

Israeli Salad Gets Thumbs Up

Loved the article about Israeli salad by Yamit Behar Wood (“Why I Will Eat an Israeli Salad on Yom HaAtzmaut,” April 13).

I love serving it at every Jewish affair. It just speaks to me and tells me to celebrate and be grateful to be able to celebrate and be grateful to be alive.

Phyllis Steinberg via email

What a delightful, wonderful essay. You took your readers right along on part of the wonderful ride your life has been (so far), and we enjoyed both cultures as you described them and their impact on your growing years.

Miriam Fishman via email

New, Improved Journal

First, allow me to add my praise to those of other readers who commend the Journal for avoiding the need to turn pages to continue reading your columns. It is a great convenience — and much appreciated. As we age (I am 91), our fingers become less dexterous and it is harder to turn the pages to continue reading a particular article.
More important, your articles are of much greater interest to me and, I am sure, other readers. This includes articles of a broad range of interests, such as (in the April 13  issue):

1) “Adam Milstein: Promoter of Israeliness.” I wept as I read it. He is a brilliant and great leader.

2) “Israeli Taekwondo Program Has Local Source.” As a result, I am going to ask the director of the JFS Freda Mohr Multipurpose Senior Center to provide our community with a special event to meet and talk to Lois and Richard Gunther, in honor of whom the new JFS three-story building will be named.

3) “How to Tie Shoelaces Into a Star of David.” I followed the steps on paper, and will now try it for real.

George Epstein via email

Memories of the Holocaust

Writer Thane Rosenbaum appears to hedge on the ultimate reason for remembering the Holocaust (“What’s Left to Say?” April 6). Is the continuing scourge of anti-Semitism or the “moral mystery” of the Holocaust the principal cause of its refusal to stop haunting our minds and hearts? A bit of both? If anti-Semitism disappeared forever, instead of just moving from dormancy to flare-up, the Holocaust would weigh even more heavily on the memory and conscience of mankind.

The Shoah was a catastrophe for the Jewish people, a cataclysm from which recovery is gradual at best. There are only 2 million more Jews in the world than existed in 1939, and this is despite the miraculous growth of Israel and the impressive birth rate of Orthodox Jewry in the United States.

The life force is with us, but the Holocaust is in our genes.

And as for the non-Jewish world, the eradication of anti-Semitism and the marginalization of the Jews would make the Holocaust such an embarrassment to the modern world’s sense of its humanity that all of its accomplishments in science, technology and medical cures would seem incidental to a fundamental flaw in its moral compass.

Peter Brier, Altadena

An essential part of what should be commemorated on Yom HaShoah is the extraordinary courage and dignity shown by Jews living in hopeless conditions in terrifying times. “Zog Nit Keinmol” (Song of the Partisans) should be part of any commemorative program, along with a few words about poet Hirsh Glick.

While imprisoned in the Vilna Ghetto, Glick was inspired to write these strong, deeply moving lyrics when he heard about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Glick escaped the Vilna ghetto when it was liquidated in October 1943, but was recaptured and sent to a concentration camp in Estonia, from which he escaped in 1944. He was 22 years old and was never heard from again.

Here are the words of the young poet’s masterpiece (unknown translator):

Never say that there is only death for you,
Though leaden skies may be concealing days of

Because the hour we have hungered for is near,
Beneath our tread the earth shall tremble: we
are here!

From lands so green with palms to lands all
white with snow.

We shall be coming with our anguish and our
And where a spurt of our blood fell on the earth,
There our courage and our spirit have rebirth!

The early morning sun will brighten our day,
And yesterday with our foe will fade away,
But if the sun delays and in the east remains,
This song as motto generations must remain.

This song was written with our blood and not
with lead,
It’s not a little tune that birds sing overhead,
This song a people sang amid collapsing walls,
With pistols in hand they heeded to the call.

So never say that there is only death for you,
Though leaden skies may be concealing days of
Because the hour we have hungered for is near,
Beneath our tread the earth shall tremble: we
are here!

Julia Lutch via email

Letters to the Editor: Holocaust, Media Bias and Progressives Being Good Parents

Why the Holocaust Still Resonates

I would try to briefly reflect on Thane Rosenbaum’s question: “Is there anything left to say about the Holocaust?” (“What’s Left to Say?” April 6). David Irving and his ilk would show up with technical drawings of concentration camps to argue that the crematoriums were not really used for what all the survivors say they were used for. Or, one of the effects of the fading memories and political manipulations is the emerging concept that the Holocaust was a terrible thing, but it was not just about Jews; these revisionist “historians” would say that gypsies, homosexuals and communists also were unfortunate victims, and numerous soldiers and civilians died as a result of the war. At least Hungary, which certainly has its share of revisionists, is not confused about the word. The equivalent, Hungarian word for “Holocaust” is “vészkorszak” (the age of danger,) and it is used only in the Jewish persecution’s context and does not cover any other death, including the fallen soldiers of the Hungarian 2nd Army or other, non-Jewish civilians.

What we must repeat is that not long ago, 6 million people’s genocide took place on racial/religious grounds. It could happen again if we are not on guard.

Peter Hantos, Los Angeles

It is with concern that I read your article on the Holocaust. More and more young people regard the Holocaust as distant as Hannibal and the Alps. There’s plenty left to say, i.e., Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was so large that it required traffic lights! The camps were nearly as numerous as post offices.  Camp personnel, including guards and administration, were kept drugged on crystal meth. Back then it was known as Pervitin. This was done so they could perform their tasks without giving it thought and in dealing with the large numbers of inmates.

Daniel Kirwan via email

Poland’s Holocaust Law

Regarding your article “The Polish Jewish Story” (March 23), may I bring up a couple of rarely mentioned facts: During their occupation of Europe, only in Poland did the Germans punish those who helped Jews by death, and the punishment included the helper’s closest family (in other countries the penalties varied from dismissal from work to jail time).

On the other hand, the Polish underground, the largest anti-Nazi underground army in Europe, punished by death those Poles who snitched on their Jewish neighbors.

Also, with all due respect to the author of the article, the new Polish law, although imperfect and perhaps in need of correction, does not criminalize “any mention of Poles” being complicit in the Nazi crimes. Rather, it prohibits accusing “the Polish nation or the Polish state” as a whole, of being complicit in the Nazi German crimes.

Jozef Malocha, Chrzanow, Poland

Media Bias Against Israel 

“(((Semitism)))” author Jonathan Weisman commendably assails surging right-wing anti-Semitism, including social-media trolls and Nazis marching through Charlottesville, Va. (“A Call to Action in the Age of Trump,” March 16). However, anti-Semitism takes many forms, including media bias against Israel, which Weisman seems to ignore. His own newspaper, The New York Times, is a leading offender.

Consider the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. On May 14, 1948, Israel legally declared its independence, consistent with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181. The next day, five Arab armies invaded the Jewish state, determined to annihilate it.

The New York Times never reports these facts. Instead, it describes the conflict as “the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation” (March 8) or “the 1948 war that broke out over Israel’s creation” (March 31). The Times’ Orwellian descriptions whitewash the Arab states’ genocidal intent continues to this day, obscuring the fact that Israel was attacked and implicitly blame Israel.

Rewriting history to vilify Israel is also anti-Semitism.

Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco

Hold on: Progressives Are Good Parents, Too

Here you go again, Karen Lehrman Bloch. In your constant search for negative comments about anything that contradicts conservative dogma, you find the other side guilty of supporting terrorism and raising kids who are insensitive bullies (“Progressive Bullies,” April 6).

As a lifelong progressive, I abhor terrorists and so do all of my progressive friends. I don’t propose that we or Israel give terrorists a pass because they had a rough childhood. Despite blame and fault, Israel is in the dominant position and must treat the general Palestinian population with as much dignity and respect that security allows, and punish terrorists as they deserve.

Regarding child rearing, our two daughters were raised in a progressive home and have become progressive adults who care about their fellow human beings in both their personal and professional lives. They are also raising children to follow our humanistic ideals.

If the proof is in the pudding, we don’t need to look further then at our conservative administration. Bullying, dishonesty, lying and lack of concern are its hallmarks.

Michael Telerant, Los Angeles

Response to Letter Writers 

In his April 6 letter, Martin J. Weisman blames President Donald Trump for the rise in global anti-Semitism (“Trump and Anti-Semitism,” April 6). Respectfully, far-right Trump support explains the emergence of “old-school” American Jew-hatred, but the explosion of Israel-bashing and anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party and on American campuses is the fault of former President Barack Obama, with his anti-Israel bias and promotion of Muslim groups in government and academia.

Moreover, Trump has nothing to do with the rebirth of European anti-Semitism, which is mainly caused by the immigration of millions of Muslims, and the rise of right-wing parties protesting them. In fact, some of those parties, like France’s National Front and the Dutch Freedom Party, are wooing Jewish support to fight Muslim misogyny, homophobia, anti-Semitism and even Christian-bashing.

Irrational Trump-hatred closes the minds of otherwise intelligent, inquisitive folks. Jewish Democrats who refuse to face this provide cover for the anti-Semites, Louis Farrakhan supporters and Israel-bashers in their party.

Rueben Gordon via email

Marc Yablonka besmirches the name of David Harris in his letter to the editor (“He Doesn’t Miss the ’60s,” April 6) when he falsely calls him a “draft evader … who persuaded others to go to federal prisons for five years for burning their draft cards,” and wrongly claims Harris “chewed up and spit out those of us who were naive enough to ride along so [he] could further [his] own egotistical adventures. … [He] didn’t give a hoot about the rest of us.”

Factually wrong on every count. Harris was the very model of patriotic objection to a governmental policy.

First, he advised his draft board in writing that he would not cooperate with any of its requirements. Second, he publicized his non-cooperation in his advocacy against the war, ensuring that he would become the focus of federal enforcement. Only then did he publicly and repeatedly urge other young men to do the same.

I should know. Harris — a former Stanford student body president — was in prison when I arrived there to begin my freshman year in September 1969.

I turned 18 that November. Federal law required I register with my draft board. I went to Palo Alto Resistance headquarters, which Harris helped establish, for counseling. The draft counselor’s kindness and respect for my struggles and questions as to what to do, even though he was to begin his own prison term for resistance the very next day, moved me to my core. It still does.

These brave men and the equally brave women who supported them will soon get their due when the documentary “Boys Who Said No!: Draft Resistance and the Vietnam War” is released.

David I. Schulman, Los Angeles


“Why Is This Sport Different?” April 6:

I love it. Baseball is timeless. There is no clock to run out. What a great metaphor for redemption.

Cyndi Buckey

“Between the Shoah and Mimouna,” April 6:

The beauty and light and optimism of Mimouna is tempered, as a sword blade is tempered in the blacksmiths forge and under his hammer, by the awful evil that was the Shoah. It is built into the very fabric of our divinely created world that the forces of destruction and savagery will never have a final conquest. … Not as long as the Chosen People can find the will to resist.

Ernest Sewell

Thank you for writing of the concerns I share about current events.

Marilyn Danko

Beautiful words.

Tamara Anzivino

Letters to the Editor: Trump and Anti-Semitism, UCLA Professor and Gaza Border Clash

Trump and Anti-Semitism

The Anti-Defamation League reports that global anti-Semitism is increasing. I believe that President Donald Trump is the cause. I believe Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” indicates that Sheldon Adelson paid Trump a huge sum of money to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It was just another payoff to Trump’s financial contributors. They pay Trump for government jobs and influence to increase their wealth, regardless of how it harms the public. In my opinion, global anti-Semitism will be mitigated only when Israel unilaterally creates a Palestinian state.

Martin J. Weisman, Westlake Village

A Seat at Yamit’s Table

I love Yamit Behar Wood’s recipes and the stories about her family in Bulgaria.

Her fish (“The Sephardic Answer to Gefilte Fish,” Feb. 9) is very similar to the Friday night one my grandmother used to make, but we hardly knew about salmon in Morocco! She made it with white fish, “alosa” or seabream, a very delicate Mediterranean fish that goes particularly well with that sauce (sorry I don’t know the English name for “alosa,” which sadly has a lot of bones but is so tasty).

As for her leek and beef patties (“Passover Meal Prep: Leek and Beef Patties,” March 16), steaming would allow the vegetable to keep its taste better, rather than the boiling method.

Keep up the good work and happy Passover!

Danielle Abitbol via email

UCLA Professor Ousted

After punishment by a formal agreement with the UCLA administration, professor Gabriel Piterberg resumed his legitimate tenured position only to be hounded off the campus by a mob and a cowardly administration (“ULCA Ousts Professor Over Harrasment Claims,” March 23). I would think the Journal would be against mobs.

Wayne Johnson, Santa Monica

The Councilman and the Rothschilds

Bravo to Democrat Trayon White for his apology in blaming a recent snowstorm on the Jews (“D.C. Councilman Apologizes for Blaming Snowstorm on Jews,” March 23).

But who voted for this man who blamed the Rothschilds for creating “natural disasters”? We need to be discerning who we elect. While intellect does not necessarily make one a good person, it sure helps in making a good leader.

Judith N. Cohen, Valley Village

He Doesn’t Miss the ’60s

Having come of age in the ’60s and been a willing participant in the protests of the anti-war movement while at a university, I realize as a senior citizen today that the era should not be thought of as “romantic” in the least.

In her column “Why I Miss the ’60s” (March 30), Dahlia Scheindlin refers to the era as one of solidarity. That was hardly the case. The reality was it was a terribly divisive time in our nation’s history. I marvel at the fact that a “movement” comprising of the likes of pacifists like David Dellinger, loonies like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, those sworn to violence like the Black Panthers, and draft evader David Harris, who persuaded others to go to federal prisons for five years for burning their draft cards, could be termed a movement at all.

Rather, the leaders of said “movement” merely chewed up and spit out those of us who were naive enough to ride along so they could further their own egotistical adventures. In the end, they didn’t give a hoot about the rest of us. Better to have gone to Vietnam.

Marc Yablonka via email

Friendship Circle

Kudos to the high school student who wrote “Ethan and Me” (March 16). Her fresh perspective on volunteering for Friendship Circle was delightful and engaging. May other high school students read her column and may it resonate with them to do the same and contact Friendship Circle. This is coming from an adult who has cerebral palsy. Boy, I wish they had Friendship Circle during my youth. The impact must be tremendous for both recipients and givers.

May this fine organization go from strength to strength.

Susan Cohn, Redding

The Back Story of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

In her column “Our Better Angels” (March 30), Danielle Berrin blames both sides equally in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which ignores facts and history. This may make her feel open-minded and fair, but it’s not true and hurts Israel.

Both sides don’t teach their children to commit murder and pay successful terrorists; only the Palestinians do. When the world offered partition plans in 1937 and ’47, the Israelis accepted both; the Arabs rejected both. Israel has made a number of good-faith offers; the Palestinians have rejected them all. Finally, Israel made peace with Jordan and Egypt, painfully uprooting Sinai settlements, while the Palestinians have made peace with no one, not even one another.

Israel isn’t perfect, but failure to make peace is clearly more the Palestinians’ fault.

Rueben Gordon, Encino 

The Value of Genetic Testing

In a story about Dr. Beth Karlan and her most recent efforts focused on hereditary cancer in the Ashkenazi-Jewish community, she emphasized that knowledge is power (“Genetic Testing Could Be Life-Saving for Ashkenazi Jews,” March 23). The BRCA Founder OutReach (BFOR) study shows us that knowledge can save lives and be a helpful tool in preventing BRCA-related cancers in our families and communities.

This is an exciting step forward that empowers us to own our health. Karlan reminded us of the importance of exploring our medical family history and participating in groundbreaking medical research, not only as individuals but also for our communities. It is through the awareness and education of building a family tree and interviewing older generations that we can obtain information to make important life decisions.

This is a cause that GeneTestNow has been focused on for years; as such, we fully support Karlan’s efforts. Determining your carrier status can prevent cancer and save lives. We endorse screening for recessive conditions in individuals of all ethnic backgrounds. Recessive conditions generally do not affect the health of an individual but give information about risk for disease in his or her children.

In that spirit, we also endorse testing for BRCA mutations as this information before marriage, pre-conception, or at any point in life can provide the gift of information and options to create a healthy family, for both parents and children.

Sharon Glaser, Jerry Factor Co-founders, GeneTestNow.com

Driving in Rainy Los Angeles

The Donald Trump-esque temper tantrum of a column by Ilana Angel was an unsightly blemish on an otherwise wonderful issue of the Journal (“Rainy Los Angeles,” March 30).
To equate yourself with a New York City cab driver implies that you are a rude and aggressive driver. To say you are “fearless and able to handle all kinds of weather” is another clue that contrary to what the writer believes, she is most likely not a good, courteous driver, either.

Most drivers in Los Angeles are not natives, anyway. Most of us come from different states and countries. Yes, many drivers here are bad, but we deal with it and soldier on. If that is too much for you, please do us a favor and move back to Canada.

Chris Reiff, Ventura

Gaza Border Clash

The U.N.’s uproar about Israeli forces killing at least 16 Gazan Arabs trying to violently force their way into Israel is disingenuous. Ten terrorists were identified so far among the dead. When combatants hide among civilians, it’s worse than using human shields; it amounts to using bait for the international news media to heap wrath on the Jews.

Action Group for Palestinians of Syria reports that 23 Palestinians were killed in that country’s civil war during March 2018 alone. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the body count for Arab Palestinians is 3,685. Nobody complains to the U.N. about these killings or the massacre by Syrian government forces and their allies, such as Hezbollah and Iran, of hundreds of thousands of Arabs.

It seems that the only time people care about dead Arabs is when they are killed while trying to murder Jews or overrun the Jewish state. Author Ayn Rand once said, “In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.” She was right.

Desmond Tuck via email


‘Parkland Students Share Their Stories,’ March 30:

Stop confusing regulation and removal … they are two different things. Also, be aware that no security officer has ever prevented a shooting at a school when a kid is driven to lash out against one or more peers. Also, instead of pouring money into arming staff at schools, return all the funding that has been slashed for preventive programs including counseling and psych services, community outreach, parenting supports, etc. Those reduce the number of shootings.

Michelle Skigen

‘A Haggadah for Every Taste,’ March 30:

As a non-Jew, I just learned something quite new. I was aware of the Passover storytelling of the haggadah but always thought it was standard and unaltered or unalterable as in holy writ. I had no idea of the room available for telling the same story in differing ways. Very interesting!

Keith Harrison

‘Why I Miss the ’60s,’ March 30:

The real and present danger in school is from bullying. According to the CDC, 4,400 students commit suicide each year due to bullying.

Leonard Holtz

March for Our Lives could perhaps better be looked at as a watershed moment, a catalytic event preceding the many changes we need, promoted by our future leaders.

Terry Godfrey

‘In a Secular Passover, Jews Are Nothing Special,’ March 30:

Jews are here to accomplish big things and little everyday things to improve the world. I’m dismayed that you don’t know this.

Bob Manosky

Passover is about faith. No faith — no meaning.

Joseph Crews

Ben Shapiro’s opinion on how secular Jews should mark Passover is worth as much as mine on how religious Jews should do it. Nothing.

Eugene Kalinsky

‘The Seder of Repairing Ourselves,” March 30:

Very akin to “Be the change you wish to see …” This is so very important because this feeds the collective consciousness of the world.

Barbara Jordan Wampler

Letters to the Editor: Israel and Refugees, Anti-Semitism and Taylor Force Act

Israel Should Open Judaism to Refugees

I applaud Jonathan Zasloff for his clever arguments in favor of expanding the Israeli population by offering Jewish conversion to refugees and others seeking to immigrate to Israel (“Israel Should Open Judaism to Refugees,” March 23). I often wonder why we seem to be the only religion that makes conversion so difficult and unwelcoming. Why are we afraid of having more Jews in the world? We say we are proud of our religion and heritage. Then why don’t we try harder to share it with others? It makes no sense to me.

Zasloff’s persuasive reasoning does indeed make a lot of sense — both practically by increasing our numbers, and spiritually by spreading the word and meaning of Torah and our rabbinic sages throughout the world.

John F. Beckmann, Sherman Oaks

Author Seems Naïve About Anti-Semitism

I do not know what rock “(((Semitism)))” author Jonathan Weisman lives under, but anti-Semitism is alive and doing well in the United States (“A Call to Action in Age of Trump,” March 16).

There is nothing “new about the prominence of an anti-Semitic subculture in America.” Thanks to the 45th president, it has shown its ugly face even to most naïve Jews.

As for the signs pointing to it, Weisman has not even scratched the surface. He needs to look at the Sanders/Clinton/ Obama shenanigans to understand the reasons for the rise of Trumpism, as he coined it.

Rebecca Gottesfeld via email

Book critic Jonathan Kirsch makes no secret of sharing the views expressed by Jonathan Weisman in his book “(((Semitism)))” regarding the alleged increase of anti-Semitism during Donald Trump’s presidency. Unfortunately, Kirsch neglected to address glaring omissions in Weisman’s theory.

Although anti-Semitism is alive and well among the far right, in his modern-day “J’accuse” book, Weisman fails to acknowledge the entrenched anti-Semitism exhibited by the powerful left in the United States and Europe today. Unlike the fringe alt-right, the progressive left enjoys political power as well as a chokehold on our universities, from Jewish self-loather extraordinaire George Soros and his well-funded Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, to college campus leftist extremist anti-Israel professors brainwashing college students at almost every university across the country.

Richard Friedman, Culver City

The Importance of Studying Jewish History

I thoroughly read Mark Miller’s story about Jewish history (“Why Study Our History?” March 2) and I immediately wondered, “Why have I not thought about this?” I agree that one usually will not have motive to indulge in the studies of our humble beginnings. This topic really has a special place in my heart because I enjoy vacationing in Israel; seeing non-Jewish tourists there shows me the interest others have in our past. This makes me feel accepted by others. I really hope others get this great chance.

Jonathan Hazani via email

Jordan’s King Would Do Well to Follow Father

I agree with Dima Abumaria’s story “Jordan’s King Torn Between His Government, His People and Israel,” March 16. Abdullah has a problem (reacting to the killing of accused Palestinian knife-wielder Mohammed Al-Jawawdeh).

What was not made clear in the story is that appeasement of an angry populace has never proved the best course of action.

Reversal of the security measures on the Temple Mount bought nothing.

Getting out of Gaza bought nothing (other than relieving pressure on Israel from getting out of the West Bank).

Jordan’s king is turning back the clock on the wise courses his father and grandfather took when dealing with Palestinian assassins. He is sure to regret it. It doesn’t take a genius to foresee the problem ahead. Israel can survive it. I doubt that King Abdullah can.

Steve Klein via email

The Dark Side of ‘7 Days in Entebbe’

Eli Fink implied that Zionist and anti-Zionist views of the film “7 Days in Entebbe” are equally valid, by presenting both uncritically (“The Emotional Mission of ‘7 Days in Entebbe,’ ” March 23).

The truth is that the film is anti-Israeli propaganda:

The filmmakers portrayed one of the hijackers as conflicted about the action, honorable and merciful. Where did they get that?

They injected apology for the terrorism, as in service of a good cause. It was actually in service of a campaign of genocide against Jews.

Louis Richter, Reseda

Unity Behind Taylor Force

Over the past few weeks, the Journal published several stories and columns describing the political polarization of Americans, and in particular, the polarization among Jews regarding issues pertaining to Israel. One might think that the Taylor Force Act might be one that would receive bipartisan support.

The Taylor Force Act had strong bipartisan support, prompting Senate leadership a few weeks ago to hotline the bill, which would set it up to pass by unanimous consent, a parliamentary procedure that expedites passage of noncontroversial legislation. If no senator objects to the move, the measure is passed without the need for a floor vote. But the Taylor Force Act was blocked after Democratic senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dianne Feinstein of California rejected the hotline, killing the unanimous consent process and forcing the bill to undergo the Senate’s lengthy cloture process.

On March 23, the Taylor F`orce Act passed as part of the omnibus spending bill. The spending bill has something in it that just about everyone wants and something in it that just about everyone opposes. Perhaps one of the few things that has brought Americans and American Jews together is support for the Taylor Force Act. There is a great need to stop funding Palestinian terrorism using U.S. taxpayer dollars. It’s unfortunate that the act would probably have never been passed except for the death of a great American, Taylor Force, who was killed at the age of 28 by Palestinian terrorists.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills

New-Look Journal

I want to congratulate you on a great redesign and introduction to a much more diverse paper that has views from all facets of the community.

The cover story on the possible meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump by Larry Greenfield (“What Will It Take?” March 16) is excellent, well laid out  and  makes it easy to understand the current situation.

Amy Raff, Los Angeles

Letters to the Editor: Nikki Haley, Seeds of Hate and Trump Derangement Syndrome

Nikki Haley Speaks for Many

How refreshing is it to finally have someone like Nikki Haley speak the truth about the anti-Semitic policies of the United Nations (“Haley Rips U.N. at AIPAC for ‘Bullying’ of Israel,” March 6). The United Nations truly acted as a “bully” toward Israel while former President Barack Obama’s administration did nothing but pass more anti-Israel resolutions. Haley’s voice for Israel and demands for changes in the U.N. are finally being heard. What we need is more people like Haley who are not afraid to speak the truth and recognize the U.N. for what it is.

Alexander Kahan via email

I enjoyed reading the brief on Haley’s appearance at AIPAC. Although I did not attend the most recent AIPAC in Washington, D.C., I did enjoy reading some of the speeches, especially Haley’s. As we all know, Israel has been the punching bag in the U.N. for many years and, regardless of which country is being bullied, the idea of fairness in order to bring unity among the nations should be top priority for the U.N., no matter which country it is.

Ariel Hakim, Los Angeles

The Seeds of Hate

As much as I am in favor of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, I don’t believe that getting them together will help (“Seeking Peace From the Ground Up,” March 2). Yes, you were allowed to feel hate when the 13-year-old boy was brutally murdered. That is what everyone’s initial reaction should be. I don’t see how you can forget that feeling and move on. I agree that you can’t solve the conflict, but I don’t agree that you can prevent racism. As nice as that sounds, I don’t believe that is realistic.

David Raviv via email

I have mixed emotions about the Roots summer camp. It is true that anger is a horrible sin, however, it is best to keep people who commit acts of terror as far away as possible. It has been proven that we cannot appease the Arabs, and I think it is time that we stopped trying. Shaul Judelman is correct in that we should not let adults’ conflict cloud our children’s minds, but this is a different situation. The best thing we can do now is to stand our ground and keep far away from hateful people.

Yosef Khorramian, Los Angeles

I really agree with the points reporter Deborah Danan makes in this story when she talks about making peace with the Palestinians instead of getting angry and causing conflicts, because if we just fight and argue with them, peace will not be achieved. I also agree with creating the Roots program because I think that having young Israelis and Palestinians work together at a young age will bring more respect to both sides.

Borna Haghighat, Rancho Palos Verdes

I applaud the effort by Shaul Judelman. I think it is great that he is attempting to end racism between Palestinians and Jews. However, one must look at the bigger picture. Ultimately, I do not believe that his effort will make much of a difference. The Palestinians raise their children from Day One to hate Jews. This summer camp does not really change that. However, his actions are still having a positive effect on the people around him.

Aryeh Hirt, Los Angeles

Security Tactics to Protect Our Students

Israeli security expert Oded Raz is correct in stating many tactics can make our schools safer (“Israeli Security Expert Talks About Tactics to Protect Our Schools,” Feb. 23).

When asked, “How can America make high school campuses safer?” Raz mentioned four things: concept, procedures, technology and manpower. I agree with every idea.

Also, when asked, “What is the most critical skill for security guards?” Raz said that searching for suspicious people around the school is the most critical skill. If everything is clear, you can let the students and teachers go inside. I also agree with this.

Moshe Gamaty via email

When Ashkenazi Met Sephardic

I agree with David Suissa that we live in a time when Israel is divided by Sephardim and Ashkenazim (“Living in Ashkefardic Times,” March 9). We put this boundary in between us that divides us. I agree with him that we need to combine our cultures. It was very nice that his shul did it. The shul decided to combine the two sides and make it one community. We live in a society today where everyone classifies themselves as Sephardic and Ashkenazi, not a Jew, and that needs to change.

Saul Barnes, Beverly Hills

Trump Derangement Syndrome

Unlike the magnanimous David Suissa, I have little patience for Donald Trump derangement (“Why We Can’t Talk About Trump,” March 16). Former President Barack Obama, cool and stylish, began his term by praising the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, ignoring their vicious Jew-hatred, then refused to visit Israel while there, and snubbed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife throughout his term. By normalizing and promoting Israel-bashing Muslim groups, he facilitated the growth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and turned the Democratic Party against Israel. He sabotaged Israel in the U.N., but worst of all, he surrendered control of Syria to Vladimir Putin and sent tens of billions of dollars to Iran, which now threatens Israel’s existence.

Trump, by contrast, condemned Palestinian leaders for paying Arabs to kill Jews, condemned U.N. Relief and Works Agency for abetting Hamas terrorism, and cut off U.S. funds for both. He then overruled the State Department to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Even though Indian-American Gov. Nikki Haley didn’t support Trump’s campaign, he still appointed her to the U.N., where she shamed the world’s tyrants and Jew-haters for ganging up on Israel, and decreed that Israel’s enemies no longer receive U.S. aid.  Simply put, Donald Trump, though outrageous and crude, is the best friend Israel’s had since Harry Truman.

Rueben Gordon via email

I believe that President Donald Trump is only the symptom of Trump Derangement Syndrome — he is not the disease.

I admit I am increasingly deranged as I witness the escalating erosion of decency, the normalization and acceptance of deception, the brazen, unchallenged corruption and disregard for law and ethics.

Trump’s tactics are textbook projection. He disowns his venality and blames others for his sins. We are his goats of Azazel, commanded to carry his sins out of sight.

I am baffled that anyone who claims to be an Israelite (one who wrestles) can be assuaged by his antics. He represents Amalek, the anti-Jew who mocks our commandments. Amalek represents our dark, destructive impulses, literally our inner “dweller in the vale,” our Yetzer Hara.  Amalek has many descendants and Trump and his co-conspirators are the most recent, and in my experience, the most frightening eruptions of our individual and national shadows that I have known in my lifetime.

Harriet Rossetto, Los Angeles

The Dating World

Illana Angel’s column should be congratulated for her dating approach as a divorced woman, which is to lead (her son) by example and date only Jewish men (“The Foibles of Dating Nice Jewish Men,” March 2). We know from the Pew report that 90 percent of the children of intermarried couples look at the intermarrying example set by their Jewish parent and do the same thing, resulting in the total assimilation of those Jews. I hope she finds a Jewish husband soon. Even better, I hope her son follows his mother’s example and some day finds a nice Jewish woman to marry.

Jason Kay via email

Letters to the Editor: Sephardic Judaism, Gun Violence and Tribalism

Ashkefardic Column

I loved David Suissa’s March 9 piece “Living in Ashkefardic Times” (as I do everything he writes). I have always felt that we are all Jews with a common foundation, and that we can only stand to benefit from enjoying what we experience and learn from one another’s traditions.

David, I still remember singing “Dror Yikra” with you at your Shabbat dinner, your surprise that I, of Ashkenazi origin, knew the Sephardic melody, and my response that the beauty of the words and melody spoke for themselves irrespective of the origin.

Michael Rosove via email

Sephardic Sharing

It was with great pleasure that I read Kelly Hartog’s cover story last week on the heightened interest in the Sephardic tradition (“The Many Facets of the Sephardic Spirit,” March 9). Its flexibility, optimism and inclusiveness of the entire Jewish community are most heartening. Moreover, I found it interesting that its origins in Muslim countries may create the understanding necessary for greater potential in peacemaking initiatives by Israel with its neighbors.

I wanted to alert the public to the fact that Academy for Jewish Religion California (AJRCA) also offers an accredited master’s degree in Sephardic studies and held a sold-out Sephardic/Persian event just last week that included music, food and a prominent panel. The Sephardic community tradition holds great promise in addressing our current fragmented Jewish community. Congratulations to the great job the Sephardic Educational Center is doing to make its great tradition available to the public.

Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, President, AJRCA via email

Talking Gun Violence

Given our gun culture, the number of firearms and the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), it may be impossible to completely eliminate mass shootings, which are occurring with increasing frequency. But there is a rational solution to preventing a good deal of the mayhem.

The common thread between all mass shooters is their acquisition of an inordinate amount of firearms and ammunition before committing a rampage. Creating a national registry of guns and ammo could provide an automatic warning when an individual is amassing a suspicious number of weapons and shells. Authorities could then further investigate whether that person poses a public threat.

The NRA is strongly opposed to gun registration, but its excuse that it is a slippery slope leading to the confiscation of all weapons is ridiculous. Registering cars has not led to eliminating automobiles. Moreover, registering guns and ammunition does not contradict even the most far-fetched interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Ted Carmely via email

Driving to the 90th Oscars brought home the reality of the Hollywood left’s absolute hypocrisy.

There were checkpoints for passes, bomb detectors, maneuverability. There were street barriers along a designated route. There were fences on the sidewalks, blimps in the air. There were SWAT armored vehicles, police cruisers and motorcycles. I have never seen so many armed officers!

Where were the gun-grabbers?

Where was security at the Parkland High School? The Pulse nightclub? Sandy Hook? Columbine?

Taking firearms from citizens to protect themselves from government overreach, corruption and abject failure … what a concept!

Ever gone through security at LAX? The IRS? A courthouse? The mayor’s office?

Let’s do away with “gun-free” zones, where good people are sitting ducks for aberrant individuals and terrorists.

Enriqué Gascon, Westside Village

Columnist Gets It Just Right

Karen Lehrman Bloch beautifully states where we are in 2018 (“Can We Please Start Over?” March 9).

Simply, she says we are all different, and when people try to make their point(s) by bullying, there can be no dialogue. Just screaming at each other.

Agree to disagree and everything can be discussed. Then, Bloch’s vision of respect for each other’s opinions can become the new norm. Our society requires this approach for effective communication.

Warren J. Potash, Moorpark

David Light’s View

I’d never heard of David Light before reading the “Just Asking” interview with him in the March 9 issue, but I applaud his courage. His statement that his rabbi wife’s group IKAR “was founded during the Bush [43] years, so we were forged in the fires of resistance” was especially stirring.

Chaim Sisman, Los Angeles

Harrell’s Humanity

Thank you for the story about about Lynn Harrell (“Cellist Lynn Harrell’s Meta Moment,” March 9). In an era of almost dystopian combativeness, it was uplifting to read about a fellow traveler whose hands and heart are much bigger than most, sharing his gifts generously with the world.  He is a mensch and it makes me proud to have him within our community. Well done and l’chaim.

Eric Biren, Santa Monica

Reacting to the Rabbis

Reform Rabbi Sarah Bassin confronts Orthodox Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg over the issue of unequal representation of women in Orthodoxy (“Back and Forth,” March 9). She writes, “I literally do not count — in a minyan, as a witness or a rabbi.” Rabbi Schwarzberg responds that “gender and halachah is our community’s foremost issue.”

As a non-Orthodox convert of more than 50 years, who belongs to an Orthodox synagogue and attends daily minyan there, I would reply to Rabbi Schwarzberg’s fear by stating that, indeed, I feel those standards should be changed, which is part of the reason I go to Orthodox services daily. I personally know what it feels like to not count in an existential way that surpasses what Rabbi Bassin has experienced. While she may justifiably complain the she literally does not count as part of the minyan, the plight of the non-Orthodox converts trumps that invisibility by leaps and bounds; we not only don’t count for a minyan, we also don’t even count as being Jewish in Orthodox eyes, and should we happen to also be women converts, we get the double humiliation of not having our children and future generations count as being Jewish in their view.

The commandment that is listed more times in the Torah than any other is to remember and welcome the stranger and treat them with compassion, because we Jews were strangers in Egypt. =We Jews by Choice have transformed our lives for love of God, Torah and Am Israel. We deserve better treatment.

Peter Robinson, Woodland Hills

Trapped in Our Tribes

I love your sense of humor and your honesty, David Suissa! (“Trapped Inside of Our Tribes,” March 2). I read your column several times and really enjoyed it. It is such a truthful reflection of the American political reality.

That is what great journalism is all about: To show those trapped inside their powerful tribes what they look like in reality from outside. Similarly to what Suissa says, I can only pray that more of those in power read it.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles

Liking the New-Look Journal

Ending the stories on the same page (instead of having to search in the back pages for the last two paragraphs) is much appreciated in the Jewish Journal.

I wish you and the Journal a better future and am confident that you seem to have the energy and good sense to achieve that.  However it would be nice if you added some new blood, and let me suggest three Jewish writers I admire: Melanie Phillips, a very strong International woman’s voice; Joel Kotkin, a liberal Jew who is writing amazing pieces about California; and Daniel Greenfield, a religious Jew who writes amazing pieces about everything.

Shura Reininger via email

Letters to the Editor: Gun Violence Debate, Phil Rosenthal and More

Gun Violence Debate

The underlying argument of gun law reform: Public safety will be achieved through legislature (“When Will It End?” Feb. 23). In light of the Florida school shooting, this argument is shaping the modern U.S. political and sociocultural landscape. However, the dialogue on gun control has diverted the public from the underlying cause of shootings: pathology.

In Europe, multiple acts of terror have taken place through the use of cars. By driving through crowds of people, terrorist attacks have killed people in masses. Even in the absence of legal gun purchases, assuming black market sales are somehow nonexistent, pathological individuals can find means to fulfill their destructive motivations.

While empathizing with the victims of this tragedy, this conversation lacks this simple empirical observation: Pathology is a problem of being; it is not a problem of legislature.

Mahmut Alp Yuksel, Los Angeles

Former President Barack Obama and the left are partly responsible for the Parkland, Fla., shooting. Obama’s Promise Program lowered Parkland’s juvenile arrest numbers from 3,000 to 600. Then it lowered the number of children disciplined and expelled; it reduced the treatment of problem children; it lowered the number of children arrested. So when the killer attacked, the police did nothing because they were part of the Promise Program.

Robin Rosenblatt, Sebastopol

What a great column by Danielle Berrin (“In America, Life Should Come Before Total Liberty,” Feb.  23)! Thank you so much for bringing up the essence of the prophetic words of Isaiah Berlin. Having lived for 33 years in a society that believed in the absolute ideal of socialism, I experienced firsthand the truthfulness of his words: Everything is justified by the goal of attaining an ideal society. I would add only this: The more noble the ideal is, the more paranoid and fanatic the society becomes. Total liberty is possible only if a single person lives on an isolated island. If two or more people are to live together as a family, society, etc., then total liberty must be replaced by other values that put life at the center of everything.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angles

It seems to me that Ben Shapiro is a tad defensive about his hardline interpretation of the Second Amendment (“The Parkland Dilemma,” March 2). He harshly criticizes the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) for becoming strong advocates for gun safety. How dare they criticize Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for his support of lax gun safety measures? In the very next sentence, he comes to the defense of NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, arguing that she cares “deeply about their (students’) safety.”

These MSD students experienced a horrific massacre. If some of them spoke in hyperbole, it is understandable. What is Loesch’s excuse for her screed at CPAC? She accused those of us who support strong gun safety laws of being ill-informed, ignorant of the Constitution and anti-American. Yet, Shapiro does not chastise her for these comments.

Andrew C. Sigal, Valley Village

In his opposition to gun regulations, Ben Shapiro says he refuses to give up his guns to “browbeating gun control advocates.” We’re not asking him to give up his guns if he feels that they truly give him a sense of security. What we are asking is for improved background checks, introduction of “smart” guns to reduce the likelihood of accidental shootings, and restrictions on assault weapons. If people like Shapiro would listen and consider such reasonable proposals, then we wouldn’t have to shout at one another.

John Beckmann, Sherman Oaks

The “tribalism” David Suissa describes arises from a failure to develop “team skills” (Trapped Inside of Our Tribes,” March 2).

The deepening political divisions and increase in violence, such as the murder of schoolchildren in Florida, have cultural and interpersonal roots. As our culture has become increasingly technological, individuals have become focused on their smartphones and video games at a young age rather than being encouraged to develop relationships with others. Developing and maintaining relationships with others is a skill that is becoming increasingly difficult for some growing children and increasingly difficult for many adults. Violence and primitive tribalism are the consequence of deep personal isolation.

William E. Baumzweiger, Studio City

Phil Rosenthal’s Modesty

Phil Rosenthal significantly understated the level of his and Monica’s generous philanthropy to Jewish and Israel-based causes (“Phil Rosenthal’s 3 Desires,” March 2).

Just a sampling: They supported the production of the award-winning 2008 documentary about the life and death of Hannah Senesh; Monica received the JNF’s Tree of Life Award; and the couple made a significant gift to underwrite the Department of Religious Services, in memory of Phil’s uncle, Rev. A. Asher Hirsch, at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Paul Jeser via email

There is at least a third trait that “Italians and Jews share”: We talk with our hands. Hence the Yiddish joke: “How do you keep a Jew from talking? Tie his hands behind his back.”

Warren Scheinin, Redondo Beach

The Truth of Deir Yassin

The deceitful and perverse Deir Yassin “massacre” fraud was a deliberate, manipulative propaganda effort by Palestinian leadership (“The Truth of Deir Yassin,” March 2).

Perhaps anticipating the sacrosanct status of the Palestinian narrative, Jonathan Swift wrote that “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.” This would explain why professor Eliezer Tauber is still looking for an American publisher among those affiliated with the apparently now moribund “marketplace of ideas.”

Julia Lutch via emaill

What Protests Mean

Thank you, David Suissa, for writing “Obama and #IranianWomenToo,” Feb. 16).

Most of us are not brave enough to do what these women (and men) did, openly protesting an evil power —a real one, not from a movie or a novel.

I know this because I used to live in the evil empire, and I knew what an open protest would lead to. We did listen to Voice of America and Free Europe and knew of protests going on in front of the Soviet embassy, United Nations, etc. These people fought for our rights to leave, and for “refusniks” it meant a lot.

In light of this, the pretentious marches, resist movements, demands to remove old statues, and other political demonstrations seem meaningless compared with real issues of liberty (including women’s rights) that some societies face. It is very easy to participate in some march, feel good about it, then go home, knowing that there will be no consequences.

Andy Grinberg via email

A Rabbi’s Spiritual Journey

Thank you, Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, for poetically sharing your experience integrating yogic and Buddhist meditation practices with Judaism (“My Sabbatical Journey: Feeling the Drumbeat of Life,” March 2). In addition to spotlighting the enormous need for tikkun olam, meditation helps me to discern how best to use my God-given gifts to serve our world. None of us is expected to do it all, but each one of us is expected, even commanded, to do what we can. Whatever comes easily and naturally to us is exactly how to help, so go ahead, pick the low hanging fruit! What comes easily for you is difficult for others. Paralyzing guilt has no function in Jewish life.

Cathy Okrent via email

Listen and Learn

I strongly recommend to your readers a recent edition of “Two Nice Jewish Boys,” a Journal-associated podcast. It features Einat Wilf, a former Labor Party MK, who grew up supporting the two-state solution, but has since changed her mind.

It wasn’t just the failure of the Oslo Accords, the atrocities of the Second Intifada, ceaseless terrorism and repeated Palestinian rejection of good-faith offers that prompted her to “get real,” but her conversations with Palestinians themselves. She now believes, sadly, the Palestinian mindset makes a peaceful solution impossible.

Rueben Gordon, Encino

Inclusion at Sundance

Very glad to read about the Shabbat Tent at Sundance (“Sharing Some Light,” Feb. 2). I attended Sundance for 10 years — from 1998 to 2007— first as a programmer for another festival, and then as a filmmaker with a short that played Sundance in 2004. The only year I ever managed to participate in anything remotely Jewish was the year that “Trembling Before God” was an official documentary selection at the festival (in 2001). Very glad to hear that now there’s so much more, and that it is so welcoming and accessible.

Paul Gutrecht via email

The Power of Poetry

Thank you, Hannah Arin, for providing the lovely poetic parameters for wishing upon a star.

Charles Berdiansky, Culver City

New-Look Journal

Your new design format for stories is more conducive to reading all the material than the old design of presenting a starting story and continuing it on the back pages. Thank you for the change.

Ruth Merritt via email

Letters to the Editor: Poland Holocaust Bill, Gun Violence, #MeToo and Hamilton’s Jewish Identity

Poland’s Controversial Holocaust Bill

Poland’s new law rewriting its World War II history about not having any involvement in creating concentration camps in their country is a lie. Three million Polish Jews died in their Polish camps, and Polish people were involved in helping the Germans. They pointed out Jewish homes, where the Germans took whatever they wanted, and they helped with building and running the concentration camps. And when 40 Jewish survivors came back in Kielce to claim their homes and businesses after the war, the Polish people killed them. This was going on in most cities in Poland if you dared to come home after being liberated.

This is an unfair law to pass in a country that was deeply involved in killing so many Jews. I know because I was there. I am a witness and I am a survivor.

Ella Mandel via email

No Solutions to Preventing Gun Violence

I find little reason to think that the CIA, FBI, state and local police, psychologists and psychiatrists, family, friends, neighbors or schoolmates will ever be able to identify all among us who may, someday, perpetrate a mass shooting, and it’s clear that we’ll never have the resources to track and monitor even those who are deemed suspicious.

The semi-automatic rifles debate and failed regulations won’t change until our politicians climb out of the pocket of the National Rifle Association, and there’s scant likelihood of this happening anytime soon.

The 300 million-plus guns in which we’re awash won’t be collected and will continue to be easy to obtain, and the gun manufacturers aren’t planning to go out of business.

Hunters, marksmen, hobbyists and those who own guns for self-protection shouldn’t have to fear that the government wants them.

The only solution I see for those who want to protect their loved ones and others is to move to another country, preferably one that isn’t rife with terrorists.

Hal Rothberg via email

A Dangerous Escalation Among Nations

One is cordially reminded of that ol’ shibboleth: “The more things change, the more they stay the same (“Down Payment,” Feb. 16).

It’s all very complicated, but is that still not true?

Walter Uhrman, Encino

Seeing the Light of Southern California

As a native Angeleno from Boyle Heights, it was an absolute joy to read Karen Lehrman Bloch’s piece “Seduced by the Light of Los Angeles” (Feb. 16). Especially when all one needs to do to encounter the opposite sentiment is to visit or live some 500 miles to the north of us in San Francisco, as I did to attend college in the late ’60s and early ’70s. In “The City,” as many San Franciscans like to call it, you dare not mention you are from L.A. for fear of having them look down their collective noses at you, after which you’ll invariably be the recipient of some snide remark about our great city.

Thank you, Ms. Lehrman Bloch.

Marc Yablonka via email

Can Truth Survive?

Thanks so much, Shmuel Rosner, for the excellent analysis of the Rand Corp. study about truth decay and the great conclusion at the end of your article (“Truth Decay,” Feb. 9). I would like to just add a couple of things: From my observation, I think more and more people look for the truth in the wrong place — outside of themselves — and so become addicted to collecting more and more information. And second: It doesn’t matter how much information or knowledge or richness one has. What truly matters is what he or she does with them. But both my remarks only reinforce your great conclusion “that we no longer know what’s true and what’s not.”

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles

For the people who endure blood libels, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and college campus apartheid walls, do we really need the Journal to explore the “modern” decay of truth?

While I agree with Shmuel Rosner about “leaving [President Donald] Trump [and his hyperbole] aside,” why trace the beginning of the end of the era of truth to 2014 when former Vice President Al Gore provides such a better example? In 2007, British High Court Judge Michael Burton ruled that Gore’s global warming film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” while “broadly accurate,” contained nine significant errors in “the context of alarmism and exaggeration.” Burton found that the film was a partisan political view and that its “apocalyptic vision” was not an impartial analysis of climate change. Happily, we have your Journal as a beacon of truth.

Warren Scheinin, Redondo Beach

American Presidents and Jewish Values

Gil Troy, in his story about presidents (“Why Jews Love Presidents [Most of the Time],” Feb. 16) reflects the message and mindset of the mainstream fake news, liberal left media in trying to provide some confirmation to support the bias of Jewish Democrats toward the Democratic Party, notwithstanding the fact that only 27 percent of Democrats support Israel and 79 percent of Republicans support Israel. He refers to Republican support for Israel as giving it a toxic embrace. If that weren’t enough, he then bashed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for alienating American Jewry.

He tries to give some emotional support to Democratic Jews who dislike President Donald Trump by consoling them as not being one-issue voters. The underlying premise of his story is that Jews can be patriotic Americans and hate Trump. He is oblivious to the fact that Trump is the best president for Israel and American Jews with the possible exception of Harry Truman, who recognized Israel 12 minutes after the formation of the state.

The events of this past week have proven that Gil Troy and the mainstream media are acting in conspiracy with the liberal left, mostly Jew-hating Democratic establishment.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills

Obama and #IranianWomenToo

Kudos to David Suissa for his column “Obama and #IranianWomenToo” (Feb. 16). I continue to be unable to wrap my Jewish, pro-Israel mind around the fact that liberal American Jewish Democrats don’t get it that Barack Obama, through the Iranian deal and more, was Israel and American Jewry’s worst nightmare in decades. The only fault that I found in Suissa’s column was the omission of two words: John Kerry.

Marc Yablonka via email

A Conversion With Eyes Wide Open

In last week’s letters to the editor, Peter Robinson wrote that he knowingly chose to convert to non-Orthodox Judaism, and now rails at the unfairness that his heterodoxic theology and practice of Judaism is denied legitimacy by the Orthodox branch he consciously avoided. Ironically, he appeals to a rabbi whose branch of Judaism is likewise not recognized by Orthodoxy. You can’t join one club and expect reciprocity from a club with much stricter membership requirements.

Zev Newman, Los Angeles

The Problems of a Missile Defense

Regarding Larry Greenfield’s column, “Blessings of Missile Defense” (Feb. 16):

1.  Even if the systems deployed by Israel are of limited utility, Greenfield expands his argument to include missile defense against intercontinental missiles (ICBMs), which is actually destabilizing rather than protective. If an adversary believes that an anti-missile system deployed against it is operational and effective, that adversary will indeed be more rather than less likely to use its ICBMs first in a crisis, fearing that it will be attacked and then left defenseless to retaliate.

2.  Greenfield is correct that “decades of startling scientific and technological advancements” have resulted in deployment of anti-missile systems in the U.S. (Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, for one), but he fails to note that even in “rigged” tests, when the timing and location of dummy attacking missiles is made known and no decoys are used, U.S. anti-missile tests have failed at least 50 percent of the time. The system is simply a boondoggle for defense contractors. “Missile defense doesn’t promise perfection” is a gross and dangerous understatement.

Steve Daniels via email

Hamilton’s Jewish Identity Debated

After reading your story on Hamilton several times, I brought it to share with the Freda Mohr Senior Center Current Events Discussion Group (“Was Alexander Hamilton Jewish?” Feb. 16). Being Jewish, I was pleased that Hamilton, one of our country’s honored founders, seemed to have been Jewish.

However, one of our members had extensively researched this matter. He agrees that the information that was presented about Hamilton is correct as far as it goes, but much has not been included that would likely lead to a different conclusion.

His mother, named Rachel Faucette, probably was not Jewish. She had been married off to a wealthy Jewish man, whom she left after several years. A few years later, she gave birth to Alexander Hamilton, whose father was James Hamilton — apparently not Jewish. Furthermore, the school he attended may have not been “a Jewish school.” It had a teacher who taught a class with some aspects of Judaism, including the Ten Commandments in Hebrew.

In the final analysis, the panelists at the Feb. 7 event might have looked at some circumstantial information with a biased, prejudged viewpoint.

George Epstein via email    

Letters to the Editor: Fake News, #MeToo, Table for Five, Larry Greenfield and Ruth Ziegler

Truth, ‘Fake News’ and American Politics

Regarding the Journal’s cover story “Can Truth Survive?” (Feb. 9): Reporter Shmuel Rosner probably doesn’t believe it can. His story is devoted mostly to a critique of a Rand Corp. study called “Truth Decay.” I confess I have not read the study and therefore am unable to comment on it.

Rosner recounts many of President Donald Trump’s falsehoods, the intentional conflation of opinion with fact, the tedium of cable news and even the cost of the decay of truth. It wasn’t until the end of his story that he disclosed his opinion: that truth decay “stems not just from the evil doers but also from the do-gooders who drown us in so much information that we no longer know what’s true and what’s not.”

Is he kidding? Because if he is serious, he believes that we do not have the ability to understand, to judge, to evaluate, to choose, to be capable of rational thought, or simply that we are just too lazy and don’t care. For our collective sake, I hope he is dead wrong.

Louis Lipofsky via email

Shmuel Rosner laments the decay of truth and writes, “Trump is a result of this trend as much as its instigator.” But Rosner doesn’t state the obvious: Republicans voted this compulsive liar into office and Republicans have long had an enormous problem with truth.

Why do so many Republicans believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim, that he was born in Kenya, that global warming is a hoax, that there is widespread voter fraud, that the Russia investigation is a hoax? Because too many of them self-censor and listen only to conservative media like Fox News and conservative talk radio, so they are easily duped.

And why do they self-censor? Because they have bought into the argument that the mainstream media are biased. Yes, the mainstream media have a liberal bias. But it doesn’t invent outright lies like the ones listed above.

Trump doesn’t care about the truth because he knows his supporters don’t care about the truth. That’s why he calls everything “fake news” and gets away with it.

Michael Asher via email

Hysteria, Obscurity and the #MeToo Movement

Having just read Danielle Berrin’s column on male hysteria (“Male Hysteria,” Feb. 9), I’m now even more convinced of the female hysteria of the #MeToo movement, a movement that will quickly be hoisted by its own petard.

She claims that a few of these powerful and predatory men have actually been charged with a crime. I haven’t heard of any of these powerful men being charged with a crime, notwithstanding the fact that being charged with a crime is not the same as being found guilty of a crime.

Berrin complained that far too many female artists live and continue to live in obscurity. This might be true, but there are undoubtedly far too many talented male artists who also continue to live in obscurity.

Giuseppe Mirelli, Los Angeles

Table for Five Is Weekly Food for Thought

In your “Table for Five” section for Parashat Mishpatim (Feb. 9), Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, of Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice, argues for “the ethical imperative to protect and secure the needs of the stranger,” and “make the marginalized — rather than the elite  — our priority.”

I am a Conservative convert to Judaism, having embraced Judaism more than 50 years ago. I am a dues-paying member at an Orthodox synagogue near my home, where I go daily to minyan. I am also a member of four other non-Orthodox synagogues, where I regularly go and lead services in Hebrew, and am a cantor at one during the High Holy Days. While I can fully participate in those other synagogues, I am not permitted to get an aliyah to the Torah or be counted for a minyan at the Orthodox one. If I were to go to Israel, I could not be married there or be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Non-Orthodox convert women also know that their children will not be counted as Jews in parts of the Jewish world. Yet Jews born of a Jewish mother are considered fully Jewish even if they repudiate their Judaism, castigate it and couldn’t care less about being counted for a minyan or getting an aliyah.

Our people were made to feel like invisible outsiders when we were slaves in Egypt. Why should those of us who turned our lives around to incorporate Judaism into it now be made to feel like we are invisible outsiders in some Jewish circles? I call on Rabbi Yanklowitz and his fellow Orthodox of conscience and morality to work to change what I feel is an unjust standard, so that those of us who have transformed our lives to embrace the Jewish people and God’s Torah are not made to feel like marginalized strangers within the Jewish world.

Peter Robinson, Woodland Hills

I was delighted at Rabbi Mordecai Finley’s teaching on the Torah portion in your Tu B’Shevat issue (“Table for Five: B’Shalach,” Jan. 26). He admonished the Israelis for their sarcasm. Indeed, rightfully so; such humor can be a sign of contempt.

Irony or sarcasm is indeed biting. Hurt people hurt people. The conclusion of Rabbi Finley’s commentary made the greatest impression: Because you have been done wrong does not give you license to do someone else wrong.

Thanks to your wonderful newspaper and your knowledgeable contributors and staff.

Daniel Kirwan via email

Remembering Ruth Ziegler, a True Community Supporter

We join the Jewish community in mourning the loss of Ruth Ziegler, a dear friend, supporter and member of Jews for Judaism’s board of governors (“Philanthropist Ruth Ziegler, 98,” Feb. 9).

For two decades, Ziegler supported our innovative educational services. After being honored at our 2005 gala, she funded a major endowment to ensure that Jews for Judaism’s life-saving counseling services would be available in perpetuity.

When I asked Ziegler what motivated her to make such a generous gift, she responded, “At the gala, I heard a mother share her pain after losing her daughter to another religion, and how you rescued her. I want to make sure no one else experiences that pain.”

Ziegler believed in saving a Jewish life and saving the world. Jews for Judaism is honored to play a role in perpetuating her legacy.

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, founder and executive director of Jews for Judaism, International

Polish Law Demonstrates Dangers of Altering History

When any government, including Poland, attempts to whitewash its history, it usually ends up with paint stains on its hands (editorial cartoon, Feb. 9). Although we can’t compare the two, Americans should not be so quick to condemn others for their behavior without first checking our history. This month it will be 76 years since Franklin D. Roosevelt issued his executive order to intern Japanese-Americans after the U.S. entered World War II. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court avoided answering whether these people’s constitutional rights were violated.

Barry Bereskin via email

Write, Larry Greenfield, Keep on Writing

I love reading Larry Greenfield’s work. If I was not married happily, I would want to marry his brain! Keep his writing coming!

Allyson Rowen Taylor, Valley Glen

Letter to the Editor Overlooks Certain Facts

In last week’s letter from Reuben Gordon, he completely misunderstood the media coverage regarding President Donald Trump’s comment that there were good people on both sides of the Charlottesville, Va., march. Gordon states that it was in regard to the Confederate monument debate and that there were good people in support of keeping Confederate statues. The people he is referring to were Neo-Nazis; there are no good people on that side and I guess Gordon did not hear or did not want to hear their continual shouts of “Jews will not replace us.”

Edward A. Sussman, Fountain Valley

Reuben Gordon’s letter supporting President Donald Trump just because Trump supports Israel is a sad example of tunnel vision. Trump is an aggressive, ignoramus racist who is in the process of inflicting severe harm on Americans (Jews included), … so to excuse his arrogant, narcissistic self because of his support of Israel is foolish and perhaps even dangerous.

Rick Edelstein via email

He Asked and He Received a Small Change in Journal

When I ran into my friend David Suissa a couple of months ago while strolling down Pico Boulevard, I congratulated him on his new position at the Jewish Journal and the upgraded look of the paper. I then told him that Rhina, my elderly parents’ non-Jewish caregiver, noticed that the time Shabbat ends was no longer listed. As their caregiver, she needs to know when Shabbat concludes, and she wants to consult the Jewish Journal for that information. Suissa promised to correct it. Sure enough, in the next week’s edition, the time of Havdalah was once again listed! So thank you, David, for magnificently upgrading the paper, and on behalf of Jews and non-Jews who care when Shabbat ends, thanks for the weekly notice! Keep on publishing a great newspaper. Kol ha-kavod!

Mark Goldenberg, Beverly Hills


The Feb. 9 edition of Moving and Shaking misreported the venue for the L.A. Jewish Home’s Celebration of Life: Reflections 2018 gala. The event took place at the Beverly Wilshire hotel.

In a Feb. 2 Calendar item, visiting scholar Andrew Porwancher was misidentified.

Letters to the Editor: Trump, Marriage, Partisan Divide on Israel and Women’s March

Trump and the Cycle of Violence in Israel

In the Jan. 19 cover story, “The Trump Gap,” Shmuel Rosner asserts that a “Trump-friendly” Israel “becomes an outlier” in the view of Israel and the Europeans — as evidenced in the U.N. actions of late. Is Rosner not aware that Israel’s existence has been as an outlier in the U.N. and Europe since long before the Oslo Accord? Or the U.N. Security Council’s continuous focus on destroying Israel? All of this predates the latest U.S. election by far.

Worse, in “Jerusalem, What Comes Next?” (Jan. 19), Joel Braunold argues that asserting Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem has surrendered the United States’ ability to broker peace, and that building grass-roots peace movements is the answer. What deluded bubble must one occupy to think that building communities “of collective humanity” will magically create an atmosphere of peace while our purported peace partners teach their children to become martyrs for the “holy” cause of killing Jewish women and children, and Arab supporters of peace are executed as collaborators?

David Zuckerman, Phoenix

Alternative Secrets to a Happy Marriage

Rabbi Benjamin Blech’s story was great, but I have my own three secrets to a happy and long-lasting relationship/marriage (“Three Secrets to a Long and Happy Marriage,” Jan. 19).

They are: 1) Always hold hands when walking; 2) Sit next to each other in a restaurant, not across; 3) Never watch TV after a date or after an evening out.

Robert Geminder, Palos Verdes

Nature and God

I read with interest “Why I Don’t Worship Trees” by David Suissa (Jan. 26).

He says that there is a difference between loving nature and worshipping God. This is interesting to me because, according to Spinoza, God and Nature are one and the same.

So, it depends on which philosopher you are reading, as to what is “true and correct” — or rather, “an adequate idea” in the words of Spinoza. I love and worship Nature, which to me is synonymous with God.

Debora Gillman, Los Angeles

I have great respect for, though not agreement with, David Suissa’s argument that Jewish tradition calls for transcending Nature and aiming for a higher place. It was such an argument that propelled the Amsterdam Jewish community to excommunicate Spinoza, who saw divinity in all of Nature, thereby incurring the anathema of being a “polytheist.”

The relevancy in our world today is that such a separation must now become anathema in order to preserve the only place in the universe we have to live. We must see nature and divinity as indivisible or risk continuing on the path that in an accelerating manner threatens to leave us as the “masters of nothing.”

Sheldon H. Kardener via email

Republicans, Too, Must Widen Their Views

Ben Shapiro, in his column “Partisan Divide Over Israel” (Jan. 26), only exacerbates that divide by insisting that only the Democratic Party has to “re-evaluate its moral worldview in the Middle East.” In fact, there are many Democrats, myself included, who strive to enhance the long-term security and prosperity of Israel by desperately working (sometimes it’s more like “hoping”) to leave the door open for a workable two-state solution. Additionally, we struggle to encourage Israel’s democratic institutions and pluralism, to reverse the increasing rejection felt by liberal Jews. Conservatives talk a good game when it comes to supporting Israel, but in reality their strategies have done more harm than good — none more so than President George W. Bush’s removal of Saddam Hussein’s counterbalance to Iranian expansion followed by his encouragement of an independent entity and “free” elections in Gaza, which led to the ascendancy of Hamas and the ensuing conflicts. It’s time for the Republicans to take off their blinders and widen their views of what will and won’t work in the Middle East.

John F. Beckmann, Sherman Oaks

The Women’s March

Thanks to Karen Lehrman Bloch for her brave piece “Why I Didn’t March” (Jan. 26). I hope her writing will open the eyes of many women who do not recognize the manipulative, anti-Zionist agenda behind the progressive movement. We can fight for human rights without allowing ourselves to become robotic pawns in a crowd led by the likes of the hateful Linda Sarsour. Let’s march for acceptance of thought and speech and let’s celebrate individual choice.

Alice Greenfield via email

I think mostly everyone can agree that our country is extremely polarized on issues concerning Israel, immigration, education, taxes, trade policies, health care, the environment, women’s rights and abortion. Very often, it’s only one issue that is paramount to the individual and it is so powerful that they will overlook positions on all the other important issues facing us. That’s why the Women’s March is so important. To assert that women were following the leaders of this march and were told what to think is absurd and demeaning. I never heard of Linda Sarsour before reading Karen Lehrman Bloch’s column and learned that she is anti-Israel and an anti-Semite. I marched with the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in Los Angeles who are concerned about a multiplicity of issues and, like me, have no knowledge of Linda Sarsour’s political views.

Frima Telerant, Westwood

Parties Split Over Support of Israel

Danielle Berrin, who appears to be left-leaning, and Ben Shapiro, who is right-leaning, seem to agree on something: There is a lot of partisan division in politics in the United States and in Israel which affects support for Israel. According to recent Pew research data, 79 percent of Republicans say they sympathize with Israel and just 27 percent of Democrats say they identify with Israel. That should not be surprising given the fact that at the 2012 Democratic National Convention there was booing when the platform was amended to identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Now the No. 2 person in the DNC, Keith Ellison, is an avowed Israel-hating Jew hater.

Marshall Lerner via email

Tablets Belong in Our Schools

It was sad to read the uninformed opinion of Abigail Shrier on getting iPads out of our schools (“Smash the Tablets: Get iPads Out of Our Schools,” Jan 19). Hardly any student goes to college without a laptop or iPad these days. Not too long ago, the Yale School of Medicine gave each of its students an Apple iPad 2 for use in the classroom and their clinical responsibilities.

Litigators create their deposition outlines on iPads, and during depositions they typically have a separate iPad that’s linked to the court reporter. The use of this technology simply makes sense unless Shrier also thinks that attorneys’ brains are being compromised because of these technology tools.

The correlations she cites are just that — correlations — unproven statistical comparisons that may turn out to be false. The explicit intention of using iPads in the schools was to reach a rainbow of learners, which it accomplished, with or without the agreement of Shrier.

Joel Greenman, Woodland Hills


The founder of Netiya was misidentified in a Jan. 26 story (“A Tu B’Shevat Question”). Rabbi Noah Farkas founded Netiya, a Los Angeles-based food justice organization; Devorah Brous was hired as its founding executive director in 2011.

The former name of de Toledo High School was misreported in the Jan. 26 edition (“De Toledo Goes Green”). It formerly was called New Community Jewish High School.

Letters to the Editor: Racism, Trump, Jerusalem and Suissa

Label a Person Racist When It’s Deserved

We must agree to disagree about the premise of Shmuel Rosner’s questions (“The Rush to Racism,” Jan. 19). There are more than two criteria to label someone a racist.

President Donald Trump has a history of denying leases to African-Americans 40-plus years ago. He accepted, after denying he knew former KKK member David Duke, Duke’s endorsement during the campaign. His words have emboldened haters like no president before. His policy to deny people who are not white entry to United States and most recently his “shithole” comment all point to the same conclusion.

If you act/feel like a racist, you quack like a hater/racist and you call neo-Nazis “good people,” you are a racist.

Warren J. Potash, Moorpark

Trump’s Comment About ‘Developing’ Countries

I (and I suspect many other Journal readers) take umbrage at Karen Lehrman Bloch’s assertion that we are all shitholers (“We are All Shitholers,” Jan. 19).

That and similar terms aren’t ones I use. I was born in the United States. Yes, my grandparents came from Russia and Poland, as did the ancestors of many people.

And I disagree strongly with her assertion that the leftist media get hysterical over everything President Donald Trump says and does.

I’m not sure which media outlets she is referring to as leftist — does she mean legitimate news outfits like The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC? Reporting on presidential outrages in word or deed is not hysterical, it’s legitimate reporting.

At least Bloch appears to understand that Trump’s bigotry is un-American. She should also point out that it violates biblical injunctions, too.

Daniel Fink, Beverly Hills

In the past few decades, I have traveled to nearly 50 countries, mostly as a negotiator on deals to sell American products in places such as China, South America and Europe but also (more recently) as a tourist.

Most of these trips were to “developing” countries that President Trump called “shitholes.”

Yes, I have been to some rough places in the world: I went to Syria to help a Texas mom whose 12-year-old daughter was kidnapped by an ex-husband and was being held near Damascus. I discovered an international criminal group in Europe on a case I was working on (that had bilked U.S. investors out of $1.5 million) and had to go “undercover” for a while.

But the only place out of 50 countries I have been to, where my life was really in jeopardy, was in the United States — in East Texas — when I was kidnapped by a white guy. Not Nigeria. Not South Africa. Not Asia. True story. All of these events are documented in my book “Better Times Ahead April Fool.”

So don’t call nations “shitholes,” Mr. Trump, because I found great people in the worst of places, and some terrible people in the “best” of places.

Michael Fjetland, via email

Zioness Organization’s Time Is Now

Thank you for your wonderful story about the Zioness organization (“Zioness Movement Joins Women’s March,” Jan. 19). This is an organization whose time is long overdue. There is a strong need on the left for this type of organization. We Jews on the left have been slammed with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate speech and actions. Occasionally, it comes from other Jews and Jewish organizations.

I’m writing because of an Israel-bashing Muslim woman who spoke at the Women’s March. This marred an otherwise inspirational event, and was so unnecessary. I would say that almost all people at the march had multi-ethnic and multiracial sentiments.

This Israel bashing is nothing new. It seems always to be lurking in the mass movements on the left. My first exposure to it was in the women’s movement in the 1970s. Then it was in the LGBT movement. Then it was in the anti-Iraq War movement. Now, here it is at the Women’s March. I will always be a progressive because I put people’s lives first. There’s nowhere else for me to go.

Let’s hope the Zionesses become powerful and strong!

Sue Roth via email

Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

Last month, President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem the capital of Israel, yet I did not see any positive comment that I know of from rabbis with the exception of Rabbi Kalman Topp of Beth Jacob, who asked the members to send letters or email to thank Trump. Even though Jerusalem belonged to Israel for 2,000 years, Trump was the first president who promised and delivered. Thank you, Mr. Trump.

Benny Halfon via email

Suissa’s Hits and Misses

Thank you, David Suissa, for an outstanding column (“Abbas Fails His People —  Again,” Jan. 19)!

Mahmoud Abbas and his friends appear to be the “fundamental obstacle” to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He retains power by focusing on the presumed “victimhood” and the misery under which his people live, claiming Israel is the oppressor. Abbas’ argument: Israel is to blame for all the hardships Palestinians are suffering.

Prediction: Just as is happening in Iran, one day the Palestinian people will wake up and realize the truth, and get leaders who truly want to help their people to enjoy a better life. Then they will welcome Israel as a partner rather than the enemy.

Meanwhile, Abbas enjoys his share of the billions of dollars donated from around the world — just as Yasser Arafat did before him. Furthermore, he uses much of those funds to reward and encourage terrorism. And the U.N. condones it all, blaming Israel for the plight of the Palestinians. In this regard, let’s wish for lots of luck for U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and President Donald Trump.

George Epstein via email

The publisher and editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal is on a trip to the land of Oz! Suissa is dreamy and nostalgic for the smells of the land that decreed Jews’ station in this land to be dhimmi: to face humiliation from birth to death (“A Hunger for Memory,” Jan. 12).

Perhaps if Suissa wasn’t daydreaming about the good old days in a country that held its Jews in humiliation and bondage, he might have remembered to speak up for the Jew Robert Levinson, who is believed to be rotting in the mullahs’ gulag. But then, how could Suissa be expected to remember Levinson when he’s dreaming about the good old days living the dhimmi. All the space in this not-for-profit Jewish weekly showing concern for the protesters in Iran and not a bloody word for the Levinson. Perhaps Levinson is in a cozy gulag in his Muslim cell.

Jerry Daniels, Marina del Rey

Why Israelis Like Trump More Than Americans Do

Shmuel Rosner clearly explained why Israeli Jews like President Donald Trump more than American Jews do (“The Trump Gap,” Jan. 19). I would like to add one more element to his explanation: What is good for America is good for Israel. The Israeli euphoria should be dampened by the fact that his erratic attempts of diplomacy have alienated him from our (and Israel’s) natural allies and greatly diminished American leadership in the Middle East. Thus, despite his rhetoric, he has lost America’s ability to act as an honest broker in future peace negotiations and give political cover in international relations.

At home, his attack on American institutions already is causing greater division and rivalry among our population. If not reversed, this can cause a weakening that will reflect in our ability to influence world affairs, and particularly support for Israel.

Michael Telerant, Los Angeles

Letters to the Editor: Islam, Mensch List, Trump and Immigration

A Meaning Lost in Translation

In his Jan. 12 column “A Hunger for Memory,” David Suissa quotes Aomar Boum’s book “Memories of Absence” as translating the word dhimmi as “people of the book.”

The term dhimmi always has been translated inaccurately as meaning “people of the book” or “protected people,” who are exempt from Islamic law. However, the term is not native to Arabic and its usage is descriptive rather than factual translation. It is borrowed from Hebrew, related to the biblical Hebrew word d’mama, which means silent or still (as in the kol d’mama daka, the “still, small voice” that the prophet Elijah hears in 1 Kings 19:12 and as in numerous Psalms such as in Psalm 62:2 (al dhomi lach, “don’t hold Yourself silent”).

The Quran does not mention dhimmi and it is stated only in the Hadith in various agreements between the Prophet and Jewish tribes in Medina. It has always struck me as a derogatory and humiliating term referring to Jews in the Muslim world as a “silent second-class,” who were expected to stand when a Muslim walked by, not allowed to ride horses or own a piece of land. In most Arab countries, Jews were allowed to live only in limited closed quarters called hara. In contrast, Hebrew has the term ger, referring to non-Jews who live among the Jews and accept and observe the seven Noahide laws. The term, as used in the Torah and discussed lavishly by Maimonides, never implies discrimination or humiliation against the ger but rather full acceptance and total respect.

Ed Elhaderi, Los Angeles

Journal’s Hits and Misses

My compliments on Larry Greenfield’s reflections on the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (“King’s Dream,” Jan. 12”). He promotes King’s vision of racial friendship, and points out the growing voices of black separatism and leftist violence. The Journal is to be commended for thoughtful diversity of views. “Antifa” is not our friend.

Norman Epstein, San Francisco

Just wanted to tell you I like your new format and human interest stories. Very good — sharing how people are helping people. But I miss some of your columns that offer intellectual and challenging thought — like Dennis Prager.

Karen Rae, Sherman Oaks

The 11 vignettes in the “Mensch List” cover story (Jan. 5) were heartwarming. But one omission troubled me. Our species is devastating the biosphere, including countless wild species. Reportedly 98 percent of U.S. charitable contributions are to organizations whose concern is our species whereas only 2 percent are to organizations whose principal concern is the environment or wild species. The Journal’s list follows in the same spirit. The efforts of all 11 honorees are human-focused. Was there no one in the “overwhelming influx of inspiring nominees” who works to protect nature and who is deserving of recognition?

Ben Zuckerman, Los Angeles

Susannah Heschel’s essay was a “blast from the past,” bringing to the fore the incredible insights, acumen and razor-sharp mind that characterized her father’s work (“What Would My Father Say?” Jan 12). Most importantly, Heschel emphasized her father’s unrelenting search for the truth and the homeostasis that was universally acknowledged between his fiery words and his concomitant nonviolent actions of resistance.

Contrast that with the dissembling screed that Ben Shapiro penned about the reported scatological remarks made by President Donald Trump in his self-deified role of a (“who shall live and who shall die”) present-day Nero. To offset this treasure trove of conservative tried but not true journalistic legerdemain, Shapiro sprinkles in a few seemingly apolitical political crumbs about Trump being a charismatic boor with a volatile yellow streak running down the center of his back.

Defending that which is best about Judaism (defining a religious person as maladjusted; attuned to the agony of others and never satisfied but always questioning) is the gist of Heschel’s gift to the Journal reader, while Shapiro’s gift is the benighted defense of that which is indefensible.

Marc Rogers, North Hollywood

President Trump has been in office for a year, so let’s look at the facts. Third-quarter economy grew 3.2 percent. Unemployment at a 17-year low. Stock market sizzling. Stopped foreign college graduates from coming here and taking our jobs. Illegal immigrants are leaving. Foreign countries are opening plants here. American companies are coming back. Retail sales for December were up over the previous year. All this despite two major hurricanes and major wildfires in California. If you bashers are going to bitch in good times, what are you going to do in bad times?

Joseph B.D. Saraceno, Gardena

Ben Shapiro hit the nail on the head. When the entire Michael Wolff affair is said and done, it won’t be Donald Trump who emerges worse off. It will be the fake news mainstream media who subscribe to Wolff’s journalistic style, namely, if you like what you read, take it as truth. That’s the essence of confirmation bias that the mainstream media are foisting on the public.

The mainstream, liberal, left media blew their integrity in the desire for a cheap hit by defending Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury.” They relied heavily on the falsehoods of Wolff’s book while ignoring some of the major achievements of Trump, such as tax relief for the middle class, defeating ISIS, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announcing the moving of the American Embassy to Jerusalem.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills

Trump’s Comment About Certain Nations

I am the daughter of an immigrant. As we are confronted with the most recent profane and derogatory comments by President Donald Trump concerning groups who have sought and wish to seek refuge in the United States, we must remember Jews who were turned away from entry into this country only to be returned to a country where they were murdered.

Some Jewish groups have ignored previous vulgar and bigoted comments made by Trump. How can they remain silent now? Every Jewish organization that claims to promote freedom and tolerance should denounce his words.

Cynthia Hasday, Los Angeles


‘Sacred Protectors,’ Jan. 12:

I have spent time in Morocco and this is mostly true. Of course, like anywhere on Earth, there will be some Moroccans who will not behave so gallantly. One of the most beautiful, oldest Jewish cemeteries is in Marrakesh. … Rabbis request being buried there. It is like little else you’ve ever seen; simply breathtaking and moving. The old Jewish quarter is pretty amazing too.

La Pickwell

Respect is due to these Moroccan, Muslim protectors of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues. A good story of humanity gone unnoticed.

Herman Meltzer

We need to hear more stories like this. I’m sure that they are out there.

Ginny Baldwin

Thank you, Aomar Boum. Shalom. Aleikum-as-Salaam. Peace be upon you.

Eb Hoene

‘A Hunger for Memory,’ Jan. 12:

Beautiful and touching story.

Ruth Solomon Wolitzer

Nice to hear a positive story about living in a Muslim land.

Beth Anderson

Letters to the Editor: Mensch List, Jerusalem, Settler for Peace, Nonviolent Protests, and Lorde

Author Was Indeed a Mensch

While your annual “Mensch List” issue (cover story, Jan. 5) highlighted people who embody the Jewish community’s future, we would like to honor someone who touched a future she knew she wouldn’t live to see.

Last year, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal died. Days before succumbing to ovarian cancer at age 51, she received acclaim for her New York Times essay “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” It was a beautiful and touching love letter to her about-to-be-widowed husband, Jason, creatively penned as a dating profile for him so that “another love story begins.”

She touched many more lives as a children’s book author — an underappreciated art for which she had a special talent. Her book “Uni the Unicorn,” an imaginative story about a unicorn who believes that little girls are real, is one of our 5-year-old daughter’s favorite bedtime books, alongside “Goodnight Moon,” “Chicken Soup With Rice,” “Sylvie,” “If Kisses Were Colors” and “A Giraffe and a Half.” Rosenthal’s books “Spoon” and “Little Pea” are adorable, too. She was an exceptionally gifted writer and storyteller, and through her books, she will continue to touch the future.

Shoshana and Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco

Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

Here is a proposal I’ve not yet seen. I’m sure someone will tell me why.

Israel swaps the West Bank for the Gaza Strip, minus a narrow passage to the sea. Each state shares Jerusalem as its capital. What becomes of the settlements and the property of Gaza is a problem with many solutions, none beyond the capacity of negotiation. Each party will object, no doubt, but the status quo benefits neither. The proposal gives the Palestinians more territory than they are likely to obtain any other way and freedom at last. Israel expands its territory, less in quantity than by annexing the West Bank, but more in quality. Currently Israel has one friend. With its occupation over, it can devote its energies to being a good neighbor and a positive participant in the United Nations.

Start talking. There is nothing to lose.

Robert Ragaini, Santa Monica and New York

Moses and Nonviolent Protest

While enjoying all of the discussions of this weekly parsha, Rabbi Denise L. Eger’s comments resonated with my own longstanding understanding of the developmental story of the life of Moses and especially of his significant emotional conflict: his unbridled rage! (“Table for Five,” Jan. 5). It ultimately kept him out of the Promised Land. Lost was the first opportunity for the exposition of the power of a nonviolent protest.

True leadership calls for thoughtful reflection and not impulsive, incendiary behaviors. We are living in a time when national leadership demonstrates provocative words and threatens dangerous actions. These, too, are demonstrations not of strength but of disqualifying Mosaic immaturity. The Talmud offers a guide to keep in mind when selecting leaders: “Who is mighty? One who conquers one’s passions, as it is said: One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one who rules over one’s spirit is better than one who conquers a city.” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

Sheldon H. Kardener via email

A Settler for Peace

Caroline Schuhl Schattner’s efforts to bring Palestinians and Israelis together are indeed courageous and inspiring (“Settler Opens Her Home to Peace,” Jan. 5) but the Journal’s story portrayed her as a lone actor while, in fact, she represents Roots-Shorashim-Judur — the joint Israeli-Palestinian grass-roots initiative for peaceful coexistence and transformation based in Gush Etzion.

Readers who are inspired by Schattner’s work should visit friendsofroots.net to see how the work of this small, dedicated group, mostly volunteers, is slowly changing life on the ground in the West Bank.

Dave Paller via email


‘Settler Opens Her Home to Peace,’ Jan. 5:

Does (Caroline Schuhl Schattner) know she is living in a land that a Palestinian family was kicked out of, their home demolished and a new home built for people like her? In other words, she is living in a stolen land. It will be much appreciated if she gives her home back to a Palestinian family and does this from France.

Hassan Basma

The problem is that so many (especially Jews) still believe that this attitude is uncommon among Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. It isn’t. The vast majority live, work, play, desire peace from and coexist with their Arab neighbors every day.

Yad Yamin

The real peace is possible only when Palestinians really want it. If they deny terrorism, stop hatred, put down their arms, Israel will be the first to stretch her hand to them. Palestinians will have everything: education, prosperity, economy, jobs, you name it. But the problem is they don’t want peace.

Alex Lapidus

This is a wonderful article and I hope she will be truly blessed in her quest. It’s just so disheartening that this well-intended article has to be met with so many negative comments. It surely is the root of the problem. God bless her.

Nechama Shana Kulszan

‘Pixar and the Zohar,’ Jan. 5:

Loved this movie (“Coco”) and so did my husband and 7-year-old (boy/girl) twins.My granddaughter totally got it. She said, “This is a movie of family love.”

Grace Borenstein

“Coco” is a beautiful movie. Día de los Muertos is a beautiful tradition. Mexican, Mexican indigenous, Spanish and Jewish teachings (part of the Talmud and part of the Zohar) speak about communicating with the departed and their continued presence or visits among us (especially on ritual occasions at certain ceremonies). People who look at the world through only one cultural lens tend to view everything that way, even though it may be in fact about another people. Since at an energy/spirit level, all dynamics/laws are basically the same, this is not wrong, only confusing for those who see only a switching or scrambling of categories.

Yma Marton

‘Meet the Fosters,’ Jan. 5:

This reminded me of our foster parenting days — filled with joy and sadness, love and pain. So often when asked how we could return them to their parents, our response was that they are like library books; love them, treat them as if they are your own, but always remember they really do belong to someone else.

Judith Apfelbaum

‘“For We Are Glorious,” ’ Jan. 5:

Karen Lehrman Bloch is an emerging and important voice in expounding on the values of classic liberalism while exposing conflicted progressive ideologies and faux liberals.

Sasha Juno

‘Where’s #MeToo for Persian Victims,’ Jan. 5:

You’d think Western feminist groups would be standing up and speaking out for the brave Iranian women who are rejecting masculine imposed limitations, but for some reason, they are not. I can’t imagine why.

Alex Bensky

‘Oh, Lorde,’ Jan. 5:

There are three possible responses to the weak-minded people who succumb to BDS pressure: denial, derision or engagement.
Denial is obviously the wrong choice.

Engaging these artists on its face appears the most responsible and high-minded. However, when the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand tried to do that by inviting Lorde to meet and discuss, he was roundly condemned for pressuring and bullying the poor girl.

So, in this anti-intellectual age of tweets and sloganeering, derision turns out to be the better response. Disgusting but true.

Yoni Shiran 

Israel doesn’t need Lorde and would do well to withdraw any future invitations to perform there.

Gary Coren

No, her young fans are not socially conscious because they did not ask her to boycott Russia. It’s time for Jews to stop being polite and nice when people call you baby killers.

George Naftali Muenz


In the Jan. 5 edition of Movers and Shakers, the Shalom Institute in Malibu was mistakenly referred to as the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles’ Shalom Institute in Malibu. The programs are unaffiliated.

Alana Yakovlev’s name was misspelled in an article about her pro bono work (“Law Isn’t Just a Profession — It’s a Calling,” Jan. 5).

Letters to the Editor: Survivor Story, Taxes, Jerusalem and Linda Sarsour

Inspired to Share Her Own Survivor Story

I was quite moved by Jane Ulman’s story on Mina Wilner (“Mina Wilner: Saved by a ‘Remarkable Woman,’ ” Nov. 3).  I was first attracted to the photo — it looked vaguely familiar, a bit of my own face. I was born in Warsaw and lived in Poland for 18 years. I am a bit younger. I was actually born in the Warsaw ghetto.

After my mother perished there, my father was trying to think how to save me. At about 15 months old, I was tiny, severely undernourished. He wrapped me in an old blanket and packing paper and threw me over the ghetto wall.  Yes, he did have some contacts on the outside and there were a number of people who promised to deliver me to Brwinow, not too far from Warsaw, where the Ursuline nuns were running an orphanage — but not for Jewish children, as far as I know. For a very long time, my father didn’t know if people did come to pick me up, get me on several trains, though the distance was small. My guardian angel must have been close on that night. I did survive (and my father took part in the Warsaw Insurrection with other surviving Ghetto Fighters.) The Ursuline nuns have a tree in Vad Yashem now.

Anne P. Warman via email

Don’t Forget What Paying Taxes Gets You

Even assuming that everyone receives some temporary benefit from the GOP tax bill, we see little attention given to the reason we pay taxes in the first place. The pursuit of happiness our Founding Fathers promised us means that we have access to health care, education, public safety and the myriad benefits of living in a democracy. Despite President Donald Trump’s claim that we are the most highly taxed nation, in fact we rank 33rd out of 35 developed nations in the percentage of taxes we pay.

Americans need to connect the amount of taxes we pay to the public services we have learned to expect.

Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, “Taxes are the price of civilization.” The Republican bill will further eliminate funding for the institutions and programs that provide what Americans most treasure. I’ll continue to hate paying my taxes but I want to continue to enjoy what they support.

Barbara H. Bergen, Los Angeles

‘Judaism and Jedi-ism’

In his column (“Judaism and Jedi-ism,” Dec. 22), Eli Fink equates the burning of the Jedi temple with the burning of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. However, Yoda, in saying the books [of Jedi wisdom] were unimportant, was more like the Christians who eliminated the need to follow all the Jewish laws. Rey is more like Yohanan ben Zakkai, who started a school in Yavneh. He saved the books.

After all, we are the people of the book.

Carol Levine via email


I absolutely agree with your take. Judaism is moving to a decentralized model. What that will look like, who knows? But I suspect Mussar and personal ethics may be part of the answer. Thanks for writing.

Greg Marcus

I loved this! I’ve seen the movie [“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”] five times and found so many incredible themes.

Christy Marshall

‘A Diaspora Is Born in Nebraska,’ Dec. 22:

I am happy that [the Yazidis] are safe and sound, and sad that in order to achieve this, they had to leave the land of their birth. Welcome!

Rosalie Paul

‘Why a Jewish Hospital Has a Christmas Concert,’ Dec. 22:

“I have a little problem with a Jewish hospital, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, serving its patients and employees with a Christmas concert, but this story’s writer, Rabbi Jason Weiner, speaking as a rabbi, is just wrong about what Judaism asks of us.

Saying, “Honoring other faith traditions is an integral part of what it means to be a Jewish hospital” is ridiculous. Allowing them the right to worship as they please is one thing, but “honoring”? His statement is a brilliant political move, but that is what it is: politics. Celebrating (or should I say, “honoring”) others’ religions is specifically forbidden repeatedly by the Torah.

Gideon Jones

Music brings joy to one’s heart and I see nothing wrong with that. Perhaps if we shared more music with our fellow man, it would be a better world.

Joan Feldmann

Great story! Rabbi Weiner, whom I have had the pleasure to meet, has both warmth and an unassuming manner (humility), which comes across when you speak with him. Both the hospital and the community are lucky to have him. This article reflects that.

Tzvi Binn

‘My Reform Colleagues Were Wrong on Jerusalem,’ Dec. 22:

I can’t help but wonder what the response would have been if former President Barack Obama had declared the embassy will be moved to Jerusalem.

Dotty Weisberg

Actually, and with all due respect, I believe the original response of the North American Reform organizations to President Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem was the correct response to make. In the absence of any final status peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, openly supporting Trump’s politically and manipulatively motivated statement (which he made primarily to appease and shore up his support among many right-wing, Christian evangelical supporters) would have been the wrong approach for these Reform organizations to take.

Craig Mankin

‘Jerusalem Move Blows Up Mideast Myths,’ Dec. 22:

Why do we always seem to forget the 1956 Suez campaign? Is it because part of the reason was that the British and French were trying to restore colonial control of the Suez Canal? Israel, on the other hand, was threatened and attacked by the same kind of fedayeen raids that were part of the cause for the 1967 war as well as conventional Egyptian forces on her borders.

John Fishel

This mantra is useless. Rational people don’t buy this nonsense. For a peaceful future, there is one solution: a shared capital, east for Palestine, west for Israel.

Wahid Awad

‘On Goddesses, Doormats and Linda Sarsour,’ Dec. 22:

It’s kind of amazing how ideologically polarized we’ve become. When people are questioning an incident that calls out some of the horrible management practices — covering up sexual assault in the workplace — of one of the most vocal anti-Semites in America today, in a Jewish magazine nonetheless, and people don’t believe it because it was first reported by a conservative news site, we really have lost our common consensus on the basis of reality and politics has trumped Judaism.

Pamela Fleischmann

Letters to the Editor: Jerusalem, Hanukkah, Gun Control and ‘Wonder’


Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

This article attributes wisdom to a president who does not deserve it. Donald Trump’s statements are not about what is good for Israel, or what is good for the peace process, or even what is good for the U.S. In some way, these statements serve only one purpose — Trump. It’s a shame so many Jews miss this critical point. And while we may clamor for the recognition of an empire, in the end, it doesn’t really matter.

Brian Lichtman

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. We Israelis never doubted it. Even if someone argues that it was meant to be an international city, we know that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that can keep it as free and international while it’s also its capital.

Ora Cooper

The truth needs to be repeated that President Donald Trump’s speech contained much wisdom. He acknowledged the reality of Israel’s capital city being Jerusalem while stating that the final borders would be left up to negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That the Palestinians’ response was to declare multiple “days of rage” and their refusal of further meetings with U.S. representatives speaks volumes about their true desire for peace.

Bill Bender

How Jerusalem Decision May Impact Jews

David Suissa’s column “Can Jerusalem Be Good for All Religions?” (Dec. 15) was great! However, I believe this event creates an urgent need to ask a second (and more important) question: Can Judaism be good for most Jews? Obviously, to answer this question we must first define “Judaism” — so that most Jews (and especially, most young Jews and old rabbis) actually can agree about Judaism in 2018.

Aaron H. Shovers, Long Beach 

David Suissa’s Editor’s Note about Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel is outstanding. I was so impressed that I took it with me today to read to my daughter while she drove me to the Veterans Affairs/West Los Angeles Medical Center. He is an excellent writer and a brilliant man. And I have noticed a distinct improvement in the type and quality of the articles now being published for our community.

Keep up the good work.

George Epstein via email

Fond Memories of Hanukkah on the Go

The Hanukkah story by Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, “Stronger Together” (Dec. 8), is a heartwarming reminder that Jewish life and many of our holiday customs are both joyful and portable.

And they’re even better when we manage to share them with others, wherever and whenever possible.

I’ll add three of our Hanukkah travel tales: First, at California’s Yosemite National Park lodge when my children were young, the desk clerk allowed me to post my hand-drawn sign with an eight-branched menorah plus candles along with an open invitation for hotel guests to join us in our room to light and sing Hanukkah brachot/prayers together.

Among several couples and families who arrived, one couple turned out to be formerly unknown distant family relatives with roots in Western Europe, visiting from the American Midwest.

On another occasion, we managed to light Hanukkah candles at Los Angeles International Airport (not likely permitted today) while en route to Argentina to visit my wife’s family.

Another memorable time I lit a hanukkiah while traveling was while en route to Israel on a stopover at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport on an American Professors for Peace in the Middle East faculty group study mission (an important U.S. and Canada faculty Israel support group founded in 1967). The two-hour layover before boarding our El Al flight was enough to allow the minimum half-hour needed for the candles to burn, per Jewish custom and law.

With permission from nearby boarding gate staff, I set up a menorah and three candles on the counter to light them, readily visible in the area. Others approached and while singing the prayers, together we recalled the living yet ancient “ages-old victory and miracle” (nes gadol hayah sham) while awaiting our flight to depart.

Again, as airport travelers en route to Israel, we joined in prayerful melodies and lights in a public reminder and joyful Hanukkah celebration of the Maccabees’ victory and our enemies’ defeat with God’s help — to restore the Temple in Jerusalem and enabling us to honor Jewish values and practices, thanks to this wonderful and supportive country, the United States, in which we have the privilege to live!

Allan Levine via email 

Gun Laws and Gun Violence in the U.S.

I read Danielle Berrin’s column about the need for gun control in this country (“The Great Gun Debate,” Dec. 15). First of all, homicides have gone way down from a high of nearly 20,000 over 10 years ago to around 12,000 to 14,000 thousand now. Of course, mass murders have increased, though.

The city of Chicago had very weak gun control laws years ago and had about 250 homicides a year. Now, with among with the strictest gun control laws in this country, the city has recorded more than 600 homicides this  year.

Gun control has never been effective in reducing homicides in this country and never will. Homicides may go up or down regardless of stricter gun control laws.

Lynda Wadkins, North Hollywood

Did Columnist See the Same Movie as Letter Writer?

How in the world could one possibly see the movie “Wonder” as “one big smack in the face at President Donald Trump and his politics of hate”? (“ ‘Wonder’: A Call to Our Better Angels,” Dec. 1.)

You not only printed a piece contending that protecting America is hatred personified, you made sure the whole point of Karen Lehrman Bloch’s column was mainly about that.

You’ve bought (and are now selling) the craziness of MSNBC journalist Rachel Maddow, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, comedian Kathy Griffin and the rest of the people who claim that all of the Trump supporters are a “basket of deplorables.”

Hasn’t that gotten a little old by now?

Steve Klein, Encino

Letter About Rohingya Was Misinterpreted

I am saddened by Usman Madha’s letter (“Muslim Wants to Dispel Distortions About Rohingya,” Dec. 15) misinterpreting the facts contained in my original letter regarding the Buddhist-Muslim strife in Myannmar (“Plight of the Rohingya Has Many Facets,” Dec. 8). I was clear in expressing sympathy for the innocent Rohingya at the outset of my letter, which focused primarily on the years of jihadist wars that have left indelible scars on the people of the Indian subcontinent.

This reality sheds light on the reactive behavior of Myanmar’s Buddhists to the Muslim Rohingya today. Madha admits he is well aware of the Jihadist problem in Islam when he proclaims he is a “practicing pluralist, non-jihadist Muslim.” Moreover, my letter did not focus on Jewish-Muslim relations but rather on Islamic-Buddhist relations, which lie at the heart of the Myanmar dispute.

I am a fan of moderate Muslim thinkers such as Zuhdi Jasser, who has called for a reform of Islam’s jihadist roots in a post-9/11 world. The recent rapprochement of Saudi Arabia and the moderate Arab countries with Israel, as well as the tone of Madha’s welcoming letter, give me hope for a better future.

Richard Friedman, Culver City

Letters to the Editor: Kotel Clash, Sprituality, Anti-Semitism and Rohingya


‘The Dazzling Idea of Hanukkah’ (Dec. 8)

If parents want children to believe in the Jewish religion, it must be made fun. The games, treats and gifts are all part of the holiday. They see Santa everywhere and fun and gifts for all the Christian children, so if they don’t get a celebration, they will end up leaving the religion.

Dani Lester

Happy Hanukkah to all. Light up the darkness and rejoice.

Lauri Garber

‘Stronger Together’ (Dec. 8)

I am not Jewish but I wish so strongly that I had been in that hotel lobby that night celebrating Hanukkah. I am moved by the sense of community shared. Thank you for making this story available to me. It lifts my spirit.

Anne Kelly

‘The Light We Create’ (Dec. 8)

I loved this piece. It costs us nothing to be kind. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

Deidre Duke

Kindness as an everyday reminder of holy light. Beautiful essay, Karen Lehrman Bloch. Your best yet for the Journal.

Harold Henkel

Clash at Kotel Was Misrepresented

I was disappointed to read Jay Geller’s account of the Nov. 16 protest at the Kotel, which we attended together as governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (“Are the Kotel Clashes Worth It?” Dec. 1).

Geller mischaracterized the event by alleging students were subjected to “physical violence” and that the protesters “risked bodily harm.” Yes, it was physical, and there was pushing, shoving, grabbing and an attempted theft (of a Torah scroll), but no one was hurt, no punches were thrown, and not once did I feel in any serious danger.

That’s in part because police arrived to protect us after a confrontation with ultra-Orthodox civilians. Thus the conflict was not, as alleged, between “our group and the police.” Geller is confusing the “police” with security guards employed by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

I do not recall the guards confronting students. Physical contact was limited to individuals holding Torah scrolls, and those were Reform movement leaders in Israel and the United States. (This is confirmed by video I recorded during this event.) While the planning of the protest may have been “unbeknownst to [Geller],” the rest of the board was advised  in advance and that morning of the risks, and that it was entirely optional.

Matthew Louchheim via email

When Faced With Anti-Semitism, Take Action

Kylie Ora Lobell wrote a hair-raising description of an Uber ride with an anti-Semitic driver (“That Time My Uber Driver Was Anti-Semitic,” Dec. 8). She and her husband didn’t object to his hate-filled diatribe or reveal that they were Jewish. Lobell concluded: “Some part of me wishes I were fearless, that I would have spoken up from that backseat.” But she said she was “shocked” and scared that the driver would harm them.

My first encounter with anti-Semitism was shocking, too: I was one of only three Jewish children in an elementary school on the outskirts of Seattle in the ’50s. One afternoon as I was walking home with my best friend, Bonnie, she suddenly shoved me down to the ground and yelled, “My grandmother said you killed Christ!” When later I told my father, he explained the whole, “It was the Romans, not the Jews who killed Christ” thing, and said if anyone ever said something anti-Semitic around me, I should point out that I was Jewish and a good person, and that people shouldn’t say hateful and false things about Jews — or anyone.

If I had been in that Uber with Lobell, I would have said just that from the back seat — softly, not with any anger in my voice. Then I would have opened my Uber app and given that driver a “no-stars” rating, and checked the “the driver was unprofessional” box and explained why.

Sharon Boorstin via email

Reporter Too Quick to Judge Spiritual Seekers

Danielle Berrin’s column (“Spiritual, Not Religious,” Dec. 1) is rife with judgment — judgment about people and judgment about practice.

More than 20 years ago, I had the great good fortune to meet Rabbi Jonathan Omer-man, and to study with him. Of British descent, Rabbi Omer-man was brought to Los Angeles by Hillel to work with Jews who had joined cults — which was a serious issue at the time.

A brilliant scholar, mystic, teacher and pastoral guide, Rabbi Omer-man gained a following of hundreds of Jews. Many had been in cults, or practiced Hinduism or Buddhism or, like me, were drawn to his particular spiritual teaching. Bottom line: He illuminated Jewish theology, text and practice to help so many rediscover and enhance their Judaism and Jewish practice.

One of the core principles that I observed in his leadership was his nonjudgment. He gave everyone the space to explore and evolve as Jews, and as human beings searching for God.

Unfortunately, judgment is woven into our psyches, pretty much from birth. Judgment is born of fear, with the singular purpose of creating separation. The last thing we Jews need right now is more separation.

Evelyn Baran via email

Portrait of the Holy Land

I am a 15-year-old freshman at YULA Boys High School. I totally agree with “Israel Loved the Sinai That Is Now a Killing Field” (Dec. 1) because this is the same way I feel. When tourists visit the Holy Land, they don’t want to see a killing field. The author writes: “For some time, and especially now, the view from the Israeli side has been somber and painful.”  This hurts me to know that all the Jews — especially the people who live in Israel — have to live in a time surrounded by such darkness.

Adam Kirschenbaum via email

Why a Couple Made Aliyah

It’s been four months since Lida and I made aliyah to Jerusalem from Los Angeles. People ask either, “How is your aliyah going?” or “Why did you move to Israel?” I now have a new answer.

While riding the crowded No. 78 Jerusalem bus this morning, a partially sighted woman with a white and red cane exited the bus. She waited to cross the street. The bus driver asked a 12-year-old boy to help her. The boy got off the bus and helped the woman to cross the street. The bus driver waited for the boy to return to the bus.

Hanukkah sameach.

Pesach Nisenbaum and Lida Baker, Jerusalem

Muslim Wants to Dispel Distortions About Rohingya

I have been and am a regular and faithful reader of the Jewish Journal for more than a decade.

In the Dec. 8 issue, a Richard Friedman from Culver City wrote a letter commenting on Stephen D. Smith’s story, and then goes on talking about how Muslims have killed “80 million non-Muslims” in the past millennium, etc. (“Plight of the Rohingya Has Many Facets.”) He then lumps Nazis and Muslims in the same breath and, to top it off, he then cites a scholar named Andrew Bostom from Brown University as a history scholar and his subsequent writing as the historical truth.

I, Usman Madha, a native of Burma/Myanmar, present resident of 40-plus years in Culver City, a practicing non-Jihadist, pluralistic Muslim, would like to extend Mr. Friedman an open invitation to share (my treat) a kosher-halal meal where we can discuss and dispel the wrong information he has about the Rohingya situation (historical and present) in my old country, in particular, and Muslims, in general.

Furthermore, Mr. Friedman also can read “Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms: A Reform Rabbi’s Reflections on the Profound Connectedness Between Islam and Judaism” by Rabbi Allen Maller. He can order it from Amazon and MoreBooks. If he would like, I will gladly purchase this book for Mr. Friedman as a Hanukkah gift.


Usman Madha, Culver City

Letters to the Editor: U.N. 1947 vote, Roy Moore, PLO and ‘Wonder’

The Miracle of the UN’s 1947 Decision

While I enjoyed David Suissa’s editorial, I would correct one error: The date Nov. 29th is important enough to Israelis that streets are named after that date (“Homeless for 1,900 Years … and Then a U.N. Vote,” Dec. 1).

Louis Richter, Reseda

Where Does Truth Lie in Moore Controversy?

I see Ben Shapiro’s point in equating the sexual harassment allegations against Sen. Al Franken and Judge Roy Moore (“Roy and Al,” Nov. 24).

However, Al Franken was photographed with his victim on that USO Tour — caught in the act, clearly a crime. He has acknowledged that interaction and apologized. Other accusers have come forward, citing a propensity for his behavior.

Roy Moore, who is running in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat, has vehemently denied any veracity to allegations by several accusers, 40 years after they supposedly occurred. His attorney requested to have the only tangible “evidence” — an autographed yearbook — belonging to accuser Beverly Young Nelson, be submitted for independent, forensic examination. The accuser’s attorney, Gloria Allred, has refused.

We have seen this mischief many times before.

Last year’s presidential campaign saw even The New York Times gather several women who had worked with Donald Trump. The slanted point of view of The New York Times was that Trump was a sexual harasser and unqualified for public office. The women, to their credit, immediately said that their comments were misconstrued and manipulated.

The current brouhaha with Moore was propagated by The Washington Post, another “leftist bastion.” After several statewide election campaigns in Alabama, why have these allegations of sexual impropriety against Moore not surfaced before? Why now, when Moore is leading in the race?

Allegations in the mainstream media grab attention, but where is truth?

Enriqué Gascon, Los Angeles

A Hanukkah Poem

Rock of ages
Mount Sinai’s thunders,
Angels whisper
Masada’s secrets of old.

Of freedom almost lost
In the City of Gold,
A Temple defiled
And Maccabees had restored.

The miracle of oil
A spark in our soul,
Liberty for all creeds
Letters on dreidels spins.

Holocaust’s nightmares
Never again shall repeat,
The promise of a rainbow
The waters that split.

The gathering of exiles
To their promised land,
Where mountains rejoiced
And bright stars tallied twelve once again.

Danny BenTal, Tarzana

How to Change the Mood in America

Another great editor’s note: “Make America Grateful Again” (Nov. 24). While reading it, I felt the uneasiness of David Suissa to “balance polarities.” And he is quite honest in describing the mood of this country. His first sentence is quite correct: “America is in a lousy mood.” I was myself in a worse than lousy mood for the past three years, so I can relate to that. And I know how difficult it is to get out of the “mess.”

I have always considered good journalists to be like the consciousness of the society and to be among its teachers. Yes, good teaching begins with asking questions. And the better teaching begins with asking the right or more important questions. For example: How can one change the mood for the better of a society of 300 million people?

I was born and lived most of my life in a socialist country. If most of my countrymen were grateful for and had faith in our leaders at that time, my country would have not changed toward democracy.

So, I am very grateful to live in a democratic society now.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles

Plight of the Rohingya Has Many Facets

Stephen D. Smith effectively shines the light on the plight of the innocent Rohingya living in Myanmar. However, he omits historical context which harshly judges the Buddhist government and fails to address its  legitimate  fears (“It’s Time to Speak Up for the Rohingya,” Dec. 1).

In the past millennium, approximately 80 million non-Muslims were killed by Muslim jihadists. Smith quotes the Polish Jew Raphael Lemkin and the 1933 Madrid conference, which tried to legislate against barbarity.

Ironically, Smith mentions the book “The Yellow Spot: The Destruction of the European Jews.” Smith seems unaware that Nazis borrowed the yellow Jewish badge from the Muslim practice adopted in the eighth century called the Pact of Umar, which relegated Jews and Christians to subservient class status beneath Muslims. Hitler heartily approved of the Muslim approach toward Jews.

Perhaps the words of history scholar Andrew Bostom best explain the current religious conflict in Myanmar: “The origins of the Bengali Muslim Jihad in Western Myanmar in the late 19th century through the World War II era, illustrates that it is rooted in Islam’s same tireless institution of expansionist Jihad which eliminated Buddhist civilization in Northern India.”

Richard Friedman, Culver City

PLO Hasn’t Changed Its Spots

The 1993 Oslo Accord recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole representative of the Arabs of Palestine. This terrorist group was supposed to change its spots, but it has not.

In return for ignoring other Arab leaders and factions, it was invited to set up headquarters in Ramallah and to begin a peace process with Israel. It pledged to prepare the population for life alongside Israel and to end violence and enticement to violence. It also pledged not to attack Israel in international forums.

Well, it lied from Day One. It has rejected every peace offer from Israel, even those offered by Barack Obama’a administration. It is apparent the PLO/Fatah has manipulated everyone. It’s time for them to leave the stage. With support of major Arab League players and the United States, the Palestinians can find new leadership. If not, they will remain the world’s major welfare recipients and others will determine their fate.

Brian J. Goldenfeld, Woodland Hills

Jews, Christians Share Love of Israel

As the holiday season nears, I’m reminded how grateful I am that tens of millions of American Christians strongly support the State of Israel. It’s a miracle that so many Christians have reversed nearly two millennia of anti-Semitism and joined Jews in our pride and love for Israel.

Because Christian loyalty guarantees continued American support, vital for Israel’s survival, they have become our true brothers and sisters under God, and I welcome them with love and joy.

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

Rueben Gordon, Calabasas


“‘Wonder’: A Call to Our Better Angels” (Dec. 1)

This is an excellent film. I find it sad and disgraceful that people use this film as the latest way to attack President Donald Trump. Why can’t we just enjoy a good film without someone dragging this nonsense into it?

Jay Lehman

“So many lessons to learn in this beautiful film. Well done.”

Marilyn Sommer

Letters to the Editor: Rabbi’s History Lesson, Privilege, College Students and Thanksgiving Haggadah

Rabbi’s History Lesson Misses the Mark

Rabbi Donniel Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem comes to a living room in Bel Air to make sure we know how to judge the Israelis in their fight for … survival? (“Hartman Examines How the Six-Day War Forever Changed Jews and Judaism,” Nov. 3.)

No, not so! He is helping us judge an Israel which arrogantly and accidentally won yet another war with a people who seem not to tire of the attempt to make the area “Judenrein,” helping finish Hitler’s work.

According to Hartman, Israel’s sin was in winning the ’67 war and inheriting a bunch of people no one else seems to want, in an area which no one seemed to have wanted.

The 800,000 Jews kicked out of their Arab countries were absorbed into Israel. The 800,000 Arabs who fled the area have not been able to do the same, unfortunately, and Hartman blithely blames the Jews and hangs their well-being on Israel — somehow forgetting he is now talking about hanging the welfare on the almost 5 million enemy combatants they have become. Yes, we have been forced to occupy an unwanted people, even if naysayers think we are somehow occupying our land.

Rightly so, he contends that Israel could be “an inspiration” to the world. How? By giving up the power to defend against the enemy, saying that power, to be able to defend one’s self, “undermines one’s civility.”

I have worked in the wards of many mental institutions, and there have been many conversations that made little sense in the rational world. Hartman’s convoluted logic stands up there with the best.

To Hartman, in his own words, Israel’s survival, in the face of the Arab onslaughts, has been a major contributor to worldwide anti-Semitism.

So good for you, Rabbi Hartman, and to your hosts, Debbie and Naty Saidoff — and to the Journal for giving any and every crazy idea a forum to spread narrishkayt. Those of us who are genuinely inspired by what Israel has accomplished in the face of such huge adversity will try to hope that people like you will never make sense to those “shomrei Yisrael,” the brave guardians of Israel and the Jewish people.

Steve Klein via email

‘Privilege’ and What It Means at UCLA

Gabriella Kamran learned how to spell “privilege” at UCLA; would that she had learned what it means to be a Jew at my alma mater (“Are Jewish College Students Privileged?” Nov. 17). She approvingly quotes current UCLA student leader Rafael Sands and his reasons for not attending this year’s AIPAC conference, to wit: “Inviting Donald Trump and Mike Pence to speak at AIPAC represented American Jewish complicity in the administration’s ban on Muslim immigration, animosity toward undocumented people and hostility to reproductive choice.” Sands condemns American Jews with one broad swipe and at the same time rejects the idea of listening to a speaker with views different than his own. One wonders if he was on the UCLA student council when it voted to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement aimed at Israel.

Louis H. Nevell, Los Angeles, UCLA ’56

Being a baby boomer, I’m puzzled at the millennial obsession with ethnic or racial privilege, since we’re all products of our past. The civil rights movement has succeeded remarkably in leveling the playing field, but we’ll never be totally equal. People with two caring parents generally do better than those without, as do those who bathe regularly. Of course, as a group, whites are privileged, but many individual whites are not, and increasing numbers of Blacks and other ethnicities are.

Jews descend from a people who led the world in eliminating superstition, idol worship and human sacrifice. Our ancestors were the first to assert that all humans are meant to be free, and realized that this required morality, which they fostered in the Ten Commandments. Thus, our Israelite ancestors were the first to possess a conscience, and passed on this cherished gift by instituting Torah education.

Because they were attacked by one empire after another, and had to live among often hostile gentiles, only the most daring and resourceful survived. So is it any wonder many of us reflect these qualities today? Should we be ashamed of this? Of course not.

Young Jews should support others, but not at the price of abandoning Israel, which is the covenant basis for the belief system that makes us who we are.  They must insist that Israel has every right to exist; her rebirth is indeed a miracle. The reason there isn’t peace is because Palestinian leadership rejected statehood and peace in 1937, 1947, 2000 and 2008, and it is they who must change.

Young Jews must decry condemnation of Zionism and reclaim its glory. If Students for Justice in Palestine, Black Lives Matter, liberal professors and other “progressives” reject this, Jews must reject them. Jews will never gain respect by abandoning Israel or betraying our heritage. We command respect when we take pride in who we are and stand tall knowing where we come from. If that’s “privilege,” so be it.

Rueben Gordon via email

College Students Are Too Coddled

It was refreshing to read Karen Lehrman Bloch’s column (“The Privilege of Gratitude,” Nov. 24) about the victimization culture toward which U.S. society has been evolving. A notable example is so-called “safe spaces” on college campuses. U.S. college students rank among the most mollycoddled and fortunate people on Earth, yet now they need safe spaces to hide in? The billions of less fortunate people who must deal with real-life problems don’t have such spaces and neither will college students once they enter the real world.

Ben Zuckerman, Los Angeles

What’s the Matter With Our Public Discourse?

Reading Philippe Assouline’s analysis (“My Rant Against Conformity,” Nov. 24), I wonder what Teddy Roosevelt might think of our public discourse: “Radical Republicans posturing as conservatives and sniveling Democrats cowering behind political correctness!”

Denouncing those expressing opposing opinions are the new fascists in our land and anti-social media inflames their half-wit intolerance. As Yeats wrote: “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

David Taylor Johannesen, Boston


‘A Thanksgiving Meal Haggadah’

We are Catholic with many roots and family that are Jewish. This is beautiful!! Thank you! It is indeed good to give thanks to the Lord!

Mariely Madero de Gessler

Thanks so much for this! I love Thanksgiving but I’ve always wondered how it fits into Jewish life. I might just print this for reading at our Thanksgiving gathering this year!”

Josie Mintz

Fabulous commentary. I shall read at our Thanksgiving table.

Norman Wexler

Perfect for this Thanksgiving Day ’17: Thank you and be blessed.

Paul Magnuson

Things I didn’t know. Thank you.

Leslie Hunt

Letters to the Editor: Demographics, Israeli Supreme Court, Salvador Litvak and Marcus Freed

Demographic Study Would Aid Stories on L.A. Jews

As a former Angeleno and current doctoral candidate studying the American Jewish community, I read with disappointment the framing for the story “Building Boom: Is Jewish L.A. Defying National Demographic Trends?” (Nov. 17). I celebrate that a number of schools and synagogues, including my family’s, are growing, but the article does not tell the full story — the fact of the matter is, it can’t, as no one knows the full story of L.A. Jewry. It has been two decades since the last demographic study, the only way to systematically understand what is happening within the Jewish community of greater Los Angeles. A lot has changed since 1997 — for starters, I’m no longer in fifth grade at the VBS Day School.

In the absence of recent data, it may seem all well and good to focus on national Jewish trends as identified by the Pew Survey in 2013, but I’m sure every Angeleno will agree: L.A. is not like the rest of the country. In the absence of up-to-date estimates of the population, geographic distribution, migration habits, ritual practice, organizational involvement and more, communal institutions are left reacting to perceived trends, rather than planning ahead for growth, stabilization or even decline. Would it not be to the community’s benefit to know the relative proportion of 20-something Jews on the Westside who are Orthodox; young families in the Valley interested in Jewish summer camp; or senior citizens in Santa Monica who need social support? It’s only with a local demographic study that questions like these can be answered, so the truly important one can be asked: How can local Jewish organizations help community members lead meaningful Jewish lives?

Matt Brookner, Brandeis University, Somerville, MA (formerly from Tarzana)

Debating the Israeli Supreme Court

I enjoyed the dueling stories by Shmuel Rosner and Caroline Glick on the Israeli Supreme Court. While posed as a debate, the two authors agree that the court suffers from ideological activism and has outsized power in the absence of a written constitution.

But what both miss is the underlying reason for the court’s current misalignment with Israeli society: the judicial nomination process. Whereas in the United States, the executive branch nominates a candidate and the legislature confirms — ensuring democratic input — in Israel, an independent “judicial selections committee” is responsible for nomination and confirmation. The nine-member committee operates in secret, and while composed of members from all three branches, a majority is unelected and therefore unaccountable to the Israeli public. In fact, the largest bloc on the committee is the Supreme Court justices themselves, allowing the court to essentially self-select its composition, refining its ideological uniformity with each successive iteration.

While we in the U.S. view checks and balances among the branches as a vital democratic feature, Israel has chosen a “hermetic seal” between the branches to ensure a judiciary independent of politics. While a noble sentiment, it essentially cuts off the court from its contemporary society, rendering it less and less relevant — and more and more controversial — to the citizenry. Indeed, in order to be saved, the system must be changed.

Jordan Reimer, Los Angeles

Israel and Ancient Claims to Its Land

Professor Judea Pearl conceded too much to the neo-Philistines, who suddenly discovered in 1967 that they, not we, are “Palestinian” (“The Balfour Declaration at 100 and How It Redefined Indigenous People,” Nov. 10.)

First the disclaimer: I hold that those Arabs who stayed in Israel in 1948 earned their Israeli citizenship. They and their descendants richly deserve it.

That said, they are not “equally indigenous.” We have been present in the land of Israel since before recorded history, millennia ago. That is why the Arabs were calling it the “Abode of the Jew” when they first invaded it in 632 C.E. True, most of us were exiled for many centuries, but there was always some Jewish presence. The Arab population, too, dwindled as they destroyed the very soil until it would no longer support them. Most current Arab settlers descended from infiltrators attracted by the new prosperity created by the Zionists.

Louis Richter, Reseda

Torah Portion About Sarah and the Handmaid

Well, that parsha was fun (“Vayera,” Nov. 3).

To David Sacks and Rabbi Ephraim Pelcovits: A Jewish child would say “Enough with the tests. I get too many of them in school.”

To Rabbi Ilana Berenbaum Grinblat: Older son, upon viewing his brother when the latter was brought home from the hospital, with the source explained as “Mommy’s belly:” “Put it back.” So sometimes there’s no “anymore” about it.

To Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky: The concentric circle model also applies to how one reveals himself to others. There is a core revealed to no one. The innermost circle can be, but need not be, one or more family members. It can be one or more friends. And so forth.

Finally, to Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh: My late father-in-law’s approach to life was very simple: “Whatever I have is the best.” No matter the example, “mine is the best.” Thus, he didn’t worry about competition, and the women you speak of might do well to consider something similar. I might add that it took a while for him to apply his philosophy to his two sons-in-law.

Steve Meyers via email

From Facebook …

Salvador Litvak Column

There is clearly a distinction between young people who make immature decisions whose ramifications are beyond their scope of experience and serial pedophiles/sexual deviants (“I Shot a Sex Offender,” Nov. 17). The stigma of being convicted of a sexual offense seems to have no pyramid of seriousness, and often the term becomes dissolved into an ambiguous term that simply translates to “sicko” or “pervert.” There are literally ex-prostitutes who are registered sex offenders for prostitution too close to a school or playground (even when no children are present). Studies have shown that the wide-stroke brush of “sex offender” for minor offenses is detrimental to the public at large, places tremendous strain on law enforcement, and has not proven to reduce recidivism. Hearing the words “sex offender” places a stereotypical image in the listener’s mind of a sex predator, when the vast majority of those who commit sexual offenses are not registered offenders. I think the videographer’s open-mindedness is in good faith, and that there is much to learn from his efforts.

Brandon Moore

This is why there needs to be clearly defined parameters as to who is and who isn’t a pedophile. Those who engage in pedophilia are highly recidivist in nature. Extensive studies have shown they cannot be weaned out of it. So, this article would suggest that while he might have engaged in what is considered a sexual offense, it wasn’t pedophilia. The idea that G-d forgives the truly penitent, so we should as well … runs against what we believe — that G-d only forgives, once those we’ve transgressed against, forgive.

Batsheva Gladstone

Back and Forth Column

I actually agree with both of them (“Reform. Orthodox. Let’s Talk.” Reform Rabbi Sarah Bassin and Orthodox Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg, Nov. 10) — but the Orthodox rabbi was correct when he said “Many would applaud others’ activism and philanthropic work while claiming that our resources must be allocated to the sustainability and future of our own community.” In our own synagogue, we have seen the numbers of millennials dwindling and are not seeing the growth necessary to exist in the near future.

Sherri Chapman

Help for Marcus Freed

Thank you Jewish Journal for covering this story and helping to support Marcus J. Freed! (“A Community Rallies to Help Beloved Teacher,” Nov. 17.)

Audrey Jacobs

Letters to the Editor: Harvey Weinstein, IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel, Pickles

Harvey Weinstein: Disgrace to Judaism

I picked up a recent copy of the Journal, which I always look forward to reading. However, when I saw the photo of Harvey Weinstein on the cover, I was stunned. His picture, if in the Journal at all, should be small and on the last page of the paper, declaring that he shamed himself, his family, and that he is a disgrace to everything Jewish. The cover of the Journal should have someone we respect and emulate, who lives an exemplary life and makes this world a better place. I am sure you can choose more wisely the next time you prepare the paper.

Marion Lienhard, Thousand Oaks

A New Look, New Direction for the Journal

Congratulations on the new format, type, layout and the change in focus.

The new parsha commentaries show the variety of possibilities in interpretation.

The political differences are best shown when focused side by side on a single topic. The expansion of writers gives voice to many other topics of interest.

Mazel tov!

Enriqué Gascon, Los Angeles

When I lived in Baltimore I told people I read their Jewish News and they responded by saying, “Honey, no one reads it, we just look through it.”

One cannot say that about our Jewish Journal.  Its content is rich, diverse, readable and good enough to be savored.  All of that in addition to learning new things, human interest stories, and opinions that do not require you to want to tear your hair out.  OK maybe a little hair-tearing.

Don’t you just love change?

Sherri W. Morr via email

The Journal’s profound new tone and writers continue to amaze. In “A Deeper Feminism (Oct. 27),” Karen Lehrman Bloch’s assertion that freedom requires “thoughtfulness, a need to recognize reality and human nature” is a breath of fresh air. Although Bloch considers herself politically neutral, the media are so predominantly leftist that she seems to speak for the right. Her observation that “Women are equal to men but … different,” and “We should take pleasure in the differences,” is a mature, common-sense response to the growing, misguided progressive dogma that there’s no difference between the sexes or that it’s all cultural indoctrination. She’s a real delight!

I’ve even started reading Marty Kaplan’s column again. For a while, he was just trashing President Donald Trump every week, but his fascinating Oct. 27 rumination, “When Bad People Happen to Good Art,” explores the age-old enigma of profound art created by immoral, self-indulgent people. I wonder if it struck Kaplan that all the abusive artists he cited are likely Trump-haters, and that every Weinstein associate and political crony is a Democrat. Is the contempt some leftists have for Christianity and traditional Judaism eroding their consciences? I’m not suggesting Republicans aren’t sinners, but unlike secularists they don’t just rationalize bad behavior away. I’d love to hear Kaplan’s thoughts on this.

Rueben Gordon via email

What a great editor’s note: “Can Jewish Journalism Aim to Please?” (Oct. 27)! Note, that reveals a great journalist’s mind! Mr. Suissa, you have found that “sweet spot” already. By asking questions, you provoke thought, and by remaining true to yourself, you avoid triggering anger. The three insights you write about are excellent ways to reach out to as many readers as possible.

I am not a Jew, but I really enjoy the Journal, now more than before, finding those insights applied on all the pages. In my opinion, it is impossible to please each and every reader, but it is fully possible and necessary for journalists to be true to themselves when reporting the facts. Then let the readers be the judge! That’s how we, the readers, will be challenged to open our minds to new ideas and to “look beyond our own customs and traditions.”

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles

Put the Brakes on Those GPS Satellites

Your interview with Barry Barish (“Barry Barish on His Nobel Prize — and Why He Never Wrote That Novel,” Oct. 27) contains an egregious error. He is quoted as saying that the GPS satellites travel at 1/4th of the speed of light. They actually travel at 14,000 kilometers per hour (kph) relative to Earth, which is 0.001 percent of the speed of light. The relativistic offset of the space-borne clocks is 38 microseconds/day relative to a stationary clock on Earth, which would cause an Earth-bound user to make a 14-centimeter position error.

As a mere PhD in engineering I hesitate to correct a Nobel Prize winner. I suspect the interviewer misunderstood him.

Myron Kayton via email

Israel’s Destruction of Hamas Tunnel

I would like to thank Aaron Bandler for the story he wrote on the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) destroying a tunnel built by Hamas (“IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel,” Oct. 30). I 100 percent agree with what Bandler wrote about what the IDF did. Not only did I agree with it but I also completely [endorse what] the IDF is doing. In this story, I discovered that the IDF destroyed a tunnel made by Hamas. The tunnel spanned from Khan Younis in Gaza toward Kibbutz Kissufim in Israel. The reason I agree with this is because Israel warned that Hamas digs over six miles of tunnel a month toward Israel and that members of Hamas can travel through the entirety of the Gaza Strip underground through their network of tunnels. So if Israel lets this continue to happen, then many will probably die.

Nathan Tabibi via email

Israel and the Politics of Pickles

In the column “We, the Pickles,” Shmuel Rosner discusses many things. For the most part, I agree with his statements, although he wrote that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin meant that we all no longer care about the country or the people, but rather maintaining the government. But isn’t that what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing? No matter what Netanyahu does, the critics grumble. He does well and he gets no credit, but as soon as something bad happens, he is to blame. As I see it, if Netanyahu is just thinking about the government, he is doing the right thing to please the critics and the country.

Avner Shamtoub via email

The Cause and Cure for Terrorism

When terrorists attack, they tell us very clearly why they are killing (“8 Dead, 12 Injured in Manhattan Attack,” Nov. 3). They yell, “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest) — a jihadi battle cry. Yet we ignore it. We wring our hands and lament. We send teddy bears to the victims. That will not stop the next attack.

What will stop Islamic terror is simple but not easy. Imams, Muslims — all who practice Islam — must begin citing the many specific passages of the Quran, the Hadiths of Muhammad and sharia law that tell their flock that jihad, killing infidels and Jews are holy acts, and then denounce these passages as wrong, despite their appearance in holy texts. Unless and until this happens, we will continue to have more deaths. This is not bias. This is common sense.

Not all who practice Islam will commit jihad but some are doing so. We see their bloody work on an almost weekly basis.

Islamic and all religious leaders should stand together and denounce these passages.

Some examples: A command in the Quran: “Fight against those to whom the Scriptures were given [i.e. Jews and Christians] … until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.”

Ginette Weiner, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Letters to the Editor: David Suissa, Politics from the Bimah, Iran nuclear deal and Monty Hall

Journal Under New Leadership

I’ve been a reader of the Jewish Journal since the days I started work at the Shoah Foundation about 15 years ago. I really appreciate this local paper with a Jewish take on life. I want to wish the staff well with the recent change of leadership and I look forward to continuing to support your work. I also wanted to mention the column by Dani Klein Modisett. I really enjoy her humorous take on life.

Sonya Sharp via email

I just read the first issue of the Journal since the leadership has changed. Kudos!

It is a surprising and wonderful difference. The Journal is more engaging, friendly and respectful of the diversity of its readers. There isn’t any of the prior judgmental, negative and hostile tone.

“Beginnings are important,” as reflected by the editorial that opens the issue. It is welcoming and demonstrates an intellectual openness and curiosity. This approach also has clearly determined the choice of writers in the issue and probably resulted in their adopting a similar tone. I hope you can keep it up!

Charles Portney, Santa Monica

David Suissa: Congratulations on your maiden voyage. You’ve gathered an excellent and what promises to be an eclectic group of personalities to fill your pages.

I look forward to your successes at the helm of a great Jewish paper.

Gordon Gelfond via email

How refreshing and enjoyable it was to read the Jewish Journal in the first edition under the leadership of David Suissa as editor-in-chief. Conspicuous by its absence is the biased, liberal-left diatribe that was so prevalent in previous editions.

I enjoyed reading Karen Lehman Block’s column (“Toward a Radical Middle,”  Oct. 6). She pointed out how so many of the regressive left have displayed their dislike for Israel and, in fact, began to spread lies about Israel.

I enjoyed the cartoon; it was devoid of the liberal, left bias that was so apparent in the cartoons by Steve Greenberg.

I commend David Suissa for his editorship and hope it directs the Journal to focus primarily on a publication that services the Los Angeles-area Jewish community rather than a politically biased publication that repeats the talking points of the fake news liberal left mainstream media.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills

Politics From the Bimah on Kol Nidre

In his story “Heckler Interrupts Kol Nidre Sermon” (Oct. 6), Eitan Arom recounts Rabbi John Rosove’s scathing remarks in his sermon attacking President Donald Trump. These political calumnies are unsuitable in a place of worship, especially on the most holy day of the year.

It is interesting that in all my years davening in Orthodox shuls, I have never heard political diatribes against an American president, either of the right or left persuasion — not once! Is there a reason why leftist rabbis vent in this most crude way and Orthodox rabbis do not? Is it because many left-leaning rabbis and their congregants think less of the Torah than they do of their leftist/fascist principles? As Norman Podhoretz writes in his book “Why Are Jews Liberals?” “Liberalism has become the religion of American Jews.”

But why dump on Trump? In his less than nine months as president, after eliminating many of former President Barack Obama’s odious regulations, the stock market has soared, reaching unprecedented highs; the GDP has grown by more than 3 percent in his first quarter as president — not achieved in all eight years under Obama, who averaged only 1.4 percent — and the job market is thriving with meaningful jobs and increasing wages. 

Does the left not think that this is significant? Of course they do, but only if it occurs under a Democratic president.

C.P. Lefkowitz, Rancho Palos Verdes

This story illuminates perfectly why I hate politics from the bimah. For me, going to shul/synagogue, especially during the Chagim, is about heart-opening, not mind-bending. I need to connect with the Holy One. I need to learn how to practice compassion and forgiveness.

If I had been the rabbi on that pulpit, I would have stopped mid-sentence when the so-called heckler stood up, and offered a teaching on the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. I would have reminded the kahal that Yom Kippur is the Great Shabbat and a day of introspection and forgiveness, not the time for resentment, anger and self-serving applause.   

Evelyn Baran, Los Angeles

The sanctuary at Temple Israel of Hollywood has photographs from the civil rights movement of Rabbi Max Nussbaum with Martin Luther King. As long as there is injustice, rabbis must speak out against it.

Michael Schwartz via Facebook

I wouldn’t have walked out but I would have been irritated. I agree with Rabbi David Wolpe: There are moments when they must speak about politics but those times are limited. I don’t want to hear about Trump at synagogue services. I rarely want to hear about him at all.

Dena Nechama Smith via Facebook

Applause at a religious service? Gevalt! It’s inappropriate and disruptive at bar/bat mitzvah services, and it would be even more so at Yom Kippur. And it’s shul. It’s the holiest day of the year; the D’Var Torah should be a D’var Torah and one which nourishes the soul, stimulates the mind, and calms the heart. Keep the secular speeches for a different venue, not a religious service.

Lisa Shepard via Facebook

Iran Nuclear Deal Up for Review

Larry Greenfield’s argument to decertify the Iran nuclear deal (“It Was a Fraud From the Start,” Oct. 6) fails completely as it is no different than the reason many Donald Trump supporters give for their continuing support of the president: “Hillary Clinton was a liar and a thief.”  

Greenfield alleges Trump should decertify the deal because: 

• Barack Obama wasn’t a qualified negotiator.

• Obama failed to enforce his red line in Syria. 

• Tehran residents have chanted, “Death to Israel.”  

• The nuclear deal rewarded a terrorist state.  

• Trump has decried it as one of the worst deals ever. 

Those points may be true, but they are irrelevant. The election is over and the agreement was signed. Neither can be changed. 

Greenfield makes one more point in his argument to decertify the nuclear agreement with Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Netanyahu has said Iran has become more dangerous since the agreement was signed.” The statement may be true, but the statement by itself doesn’t argue why decertifying the agreement would reduce the danger to Israel.

Michael Ernstoff via email

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Larry Greenfield’s op-ed. I commend him on writing such a powerful and persuasive piece about the Iran nuclear deal. It was extremely well written and well thought out.

Greenfield’s eloquent writing style and his research on the impact of the Iran nuclear deal was very impressive. I would like to see more stories written by him in the Journal.

Karen Reissman via email

A Doctor’s Response to Death

As a physician, I saw death almost daily, but I did not know what it really was until I faced it 30 years ago (“As I Lay Dying” Oct. 6). Having just returned from Israel the night before, I restarted my running routine at 6 the next morning; I was suddenly trapped by two Rottweilers, who had broken out of their compound less than a block from my home. Each took turns ripping into me until I could no longer stand, and saw death face-to-face. Then a neighbor suddenly appeared and threw a rake and broom into my hands to fend the dogs off until the police arrived.

I have lived in the moment ever since and see every second as precious. I sympathize with the tragedy Kay Wilson experienced. I know two elderly neighbors, who always walked a little later in the morning, were saved from the jaws of fate that day. Life is too precious to waste. We have to look out for our neighbors and be the good Samaritans to anybody in need.

Jerome P. Helman, Venice

Remembering Monty Hall

Baruch dayan emet. May his memory be a blessing for the whole Los Angeles Jewish community (“Monty Hall, Philanthropist and Host of ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ 96,” Oct. 6).

Helene Sicherman via Facebook

Fond memories of Hall joining Rabbi Pressman doing the annual Israel Bond drive “Let’s Make a Deal”-style at Temple Beth Am. I will choose to remember him that way.

Clinton Thomas Bailey via Facebook

Letters to the Editor: Money & religion, comparing Trump with Obama

How Trump Is Judged, Compared With Obama

Rob Eshman’s last column was 100 percent on the mark (“The Double Standard,” July 28). Thank you for pointing out little-remembered but very important facts about the Barack Obama administration to Donald Trump supporters within and outside of the Jewish community.

Every ray of truth shines like a beacon in this dark night of Trump.

Myra Newman, via email

Money, Religion and the Alternatives

Enjoy your provocative columns!

Regarding Rob Eshman’s “Religion and Money” (Aug. 4): Why not set up some sort of program for the donation of previously used bar mitzvah suits for those parents and sons unable to afford a new form-fitted, expensive designer suit. This would truly be a blessing.

Joe Goldstein, via email

Many synagogues do allow people with financial difficulties to get reduced-price or free High Holy Days tickets, but it is difficult to get those tickets. Jewish families have been known to have to jump through multiple hoops, which include speaking with temple employees, showing tax returns, writing essays and more in order to get those discounted or free tickets to services that every Jew is entitled to.

“Progressive cost models” are attempts to maintain a balance between the financial needs of the temple and the cost of tickets and/or membership. But here again, these are models that do have heavily “suggested” donation amounts.

Many of us have been unaffiliated for years, and this has been a sticking point. We are bothered and offended that synagogues demand fees, rather than having faith that those of us who can give will support our communities.

The Chai Center in Los Angeles, and Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village operate without dues, membership or ticket fees. After 30 years, Chai Center is still open and inviting to everyone. Temple Ner Simcha switched to the no-dues/cost model last year. The Journal published a nice article about the motivations for the switch last year. 

As a donor and board member of Ner Simcha, I can vouch that there are significant financial challenges to creating and maintaining this model. I also can vouch for the positive feelings I have knowing that my support helps Jewish families.

I encourage every temple to examine this model.

Mark Mushkin, Westlake Village

A ‘Bold’ Choice to Become Orthodox

Columnist Gina Nahai’s shock over bumping into a childhood schoolmate, one she referred to as having been “least likely to become domesticated” but now bewigged, long-skirted and with several children in tow at the kosher supermarket, is utterly patronizing (“I’ve Seen This Woman Before,” Aug. 4).

Nahai assumes that the “boldness” she once knew in her former friend had been replaced by a “tamer, more rewarding connection to motherhood and religion.” As one who also traded some degree of social defiance for a similar path of Orthodoxy, I can tell you that choosing to become Orthodox, which went against the paths of all my friends and family, was the most daring and bold decision I ever could have made.

Judy Gruen, Los Angeles

Times Have Changed Since the Days of Leviticus

Dennis Prager is absolutely right that Muslim immigrants are causing Europe to go into a death spiral (“Wisdom vs. Compassion,” July 21). The Journal reader who invoked the line in Leviticus, “When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong,” conveniently forgets that in that time, the strangers did not assault, rape and kill their hosts.

Stephen Meyers, via email

Letters to the editor: Talking Trump, Shapiro, and worthy award winners

Talking Trump

I don’t often read Marty Kaplan’s column, but this week I did, and how glad I am to have done so (“Roget’s Trumpasaurus,” July 7). Regardless of one’s political views, it is a beautifully envisioned, constructed and written piece. Thank you, Marty, for writing it and thank you, Jewish Journal, for printing it.

Immanuel “Manny” Spira
Los Angeles

Marty Kaplan is a blessed thinker and writer. His column on Roget’s and our vocabulary was terrific. Just what I needed as I sat here wondering when Congress would impeach the man before someone took him out permanently.

Government under Donald Trump is like watching democracy die. The CNN wrestling video was the last straw from this indecent, inelegant, crude, revolting hack.  If only the GOP had the backbone to admit he is their mistake and get him out of the White House.

Rev. Emmalou Kirchmeier
Bradenton, Fla.

Shmuel Rosner uses some of the text from President Donald Trump’s speech in Poland to conclude “How Trump’s Sentiments Are Israel’s Sentiments” (July 14). I think this is a mistake. It’s a mistake to believe that Trump has any sentiments or deeply held beliefs regarding Israel, or any other group, or nation, or principle (aside from what is good for Trump’s ego is good).

Sometimes, as has now been noted on several occasions, Trump comes across as “presidential” when reading from a teleprompter, words written by someone else. Actors come across as presidential on the stage.
Sadly, the closest we can come to what is going on in the dark mind of the president is to read his tweets. And even these sentiments change frequently. To read into a prepared text read by Trump any depth of feeling or conviction is a mistake.

Coleman Colla
via email

I would like to know why Donald Trump has a favorable rating only in Russia and Israel. I’ve seen polls where Barack Obama and John Kerry rated less than 10 percent in Israel. We American Jews will always be totally supportive of Israel but, with such divergent conclusions, it really makes it harder and harder.

I’ll point to only one issue out of hundreds. When Trump gave the go-ahead for Saudi Arabia to get more than $100 billion in military aid, do people think that somehow that is good for Israel?

Mark Haskin
Marina del Rey

Based on Ben Shapiro’s assertion, as “fact,” that “Trump is the most moderate Republican president since Richard Nixon” (“How the Dems Can Lose 2018,” July 14) and that Republicans have moved to the political center while Democrats have slid to the far left, I say, for one, Nixon presided over the creation of the EPA, which Trump is tragically dismantling. Ronald Reagan, who fought for gun control laws and who granted amnesty to illegal immigrants, would be considered a liberal by today’s GOP, ever since an extremist, uncompromising group of congressmen and women known as the Tea Party gained control of the House of Representatives in 2010. Not even after 9/11 did George W. Bush react so extremely against Muslims as Trump has demonstrated.

Likewise, Shapiro’s take on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who currently polls as the most popular politician in the U.S., is stereotypically reduced to the archaic notion of “socialism,” as applied to the USSR during the Cold War, which has no relation to the “democratic socialism” Sanders espouses. If anything, Sanders champions policies supportive of the working and middle class that got Franklin D. Roosevelt elected president four times, and others, such as nonprofit health care, which is the norm worldwide. 

Frederick Abrams
Los Angeles

The Lessons of Hiroshima

I share Rob Eshman’s reluctant doubt that “Never Again” is dependable. As the generation that experienced the horror passes, so, too, does the horror itself. We wanted to slam the door on it forever but slamming the door isn’t always the same as slamming it shut. Actually, our holocausts aren’t remarkably original long-term (I’m Armenian).
When I look clear-eyed toward the Jews’ current refuge in Israel, I admit to the same doubt as toward future holocausts as Eshman.

David Morgan
Los Angeles

Separation of Church, State

While the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Orthodox Union (OU) share common ground on many issues, we believe the OU’s position on government funding of religious institutions is shortsighted, and not in the long-term best interest of the Jewish community (“Jewish Groups Differ Over Ruling About Public Funds for Religious Institutions,” July 14). Jewish history is pretty clear on this point: With the king’s purse comes the king — and all his meddling and regulations.

For more than a century, the ADL has steadfastly promoted the idea that the separation principle has been a key to religious freedom for Jews and other religious minorities in America. It protects religion from government oversight and interference, and keeps the government from favoring or promoting certain religious faiths or doctrines. When the government provides funding to religious institutions in any capacity, it has the effect of promoting religion. 

The Trinity Lutheran decision raises more questions than answers on the scope of government funding now available to religious institutions. We are concerned it will be read as leaving the door wide open to such funding. Requiring taxpayers to fund religious institutions is not wise policy.

Amanda Susskind
Pacific Southwest Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League

What to Do About the Wall

I support Shmuel Rosner’s call that we American Jews demand that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu honor the original January 2016 decision to give Conservative and Reform congregations official recognition at the Kotel (“Fight or Flee? American Jews Face Post-Kotel Dilemma,” June 30). Orthodox Judaism does not speak for me. But Judaism does. I believe in a broad construction of Jewish law and culture. For me, Judaism is a great religion because it was the first religion to center on ethics, not on ritual practices that could ensure a good harvest, etc. If Reform and Conservative Judaism have no official status in Israel, then America soon will be recognized as the true home of world Jewry.

Barbara Judson

The July 7 edition of the Jewish Journal contains a remarkable story by David Benkof (“Diaspora Jews Cannot Expect Veto Power Over Jewish State”). Besides the incredibly arrogant tone, it is intellectually dishonest. To call the “Kotel architecture” issue a kerfuffle is demeaning. As is ignoring the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government reneged on an agreed-upon compromise. Finally, while Benkof has a legitimate point in stating that Diaspora Jews cannot expect veto power over the Jewish state, then I assume that he also agrees that Israel has no legitimate case against the United States when it takes positions in the United Nations General Assembly with which Israel vehemently disagrees.

Tom Fleishman
Valley Glen

Kudos to Berrin

Lately, I’ve been thinking what a fine journalist Danielle Berrin has become, and when I read “When the Dream of Israel Clashes With Reality”  (July 7), I realized each story is better than the last. Several pages later, I learned she has been named journalist of the year by the Los Angeles Press Club. So very well deserved.

Marilyn Russell
Los Angeles

After surviving the Holocaust in Poland, I was sure that for the rest of my life, all Jews, including women, are equal. Berrin’s story, so well done, points out that I am wrong.  Women, of all places in the “free” country in Israel, are not equal to men. How can that be? The country that rose on the ashes of 6 million because of great bigotry and inequality. Wake up, Israeli leaders: All of us, we love Israel, and we want to continue to love it!

Bob Geminder
Rancho Palos Verdes

Letters, 6/30-7/6

Uplifting Stories

I just read Ed Elhaderi’s story and can’t thank you enough (“My Quest for Fulfillment: How I Left My Roots in Libya to Find a New Life in Judaism,” June 23). I’m 88 years old and am still learning. I’m the daughter of Jewish immigrants and so happy when others find love in Judaism. 

Shirley Goldenberg

via email

I just finished reading your article about Rafi Sivron (“The Unseen Hero,” June 2). I think it’s great that he is getting the attention he deserves. 

Thank you for a great article!

Ryan Stanley

via email

Bringing Civility Back to Political Debate

David Suissa suggests that political debate should occur on weeknights rather than Shabbat (“Rabbis Should Aim Higher Than Politics,” June 23). However, if politics is “ugly and divisive,” as he suggests, no debate is likely to be fruitful. I think the objective instead should be to make politics something other than “ugly and divisive.”

Politics has been defined as the process of deciding who gets what, when and how. Of special importance in our democratic political system is the relative openness of the system, which enhances opportunities to have a say; the idea that the strongly placed and advantaged do not always prevail in the competition; and that ordinary people can and do have an impact upon the result. I feel that rabbis can legitimately dwell in their sermons on the usefulness of the process of politics without arguing for a particular result.

They also can contrast conflicting points of view and ask their congregants to decide for themselves. This is a good way to establish that issues are not “black and white.” (I have taught that way at Cal State Long Beach.)

I have heard Rabbi Jacob Schachter, a leading decisor of the Orthodox Union, argue that every political issue has a solution in Jewish law. If so, this would be the most ambitious way to deal with the problem. It certainly leaves the “ugliness” behind.

Barry H. Steiner

Emeritus Professor of Political Science

Cal State Long Beach

I like what David Suissa said. Our souls should be touched and elevated — that’s one of the reasons I go to temple on Shabbat: to shut the chaos of the week gone by and have my soul soak up the words that I’m hearing from the pulpit. Just maybe they will guide me to go higher than I did last week.

Susan Cohn

Redding, Calif.

Whose Land Is Israel Occupying?

The left thinks it owns the language. It does not! In his short op-ed (“50 Years Later: The Fighting Continues,” June 23), Adam Wergeles, no fewer than five times refers to “the occupation” of the West Bank — viz., Judea and Samaria — part of the ancient territory of Israel. 

Whom does Wergeles and his leftist cohorts think this land is occupied from? Which country? If he answers, “The Palestinians,” let him tell me what country this is. There is no Palestinian state or country, there never has been. It is a made-up name, just like the West Bank. 

If anything, one can say that this territory was taken back from Jordan after the 1967 Six-Day War, when Jordan lost it as a result of Israel’s victory over the aligned Arab countries that were about to attack and sought to destroy Israel. But Jordan never had any claim to the West Bank. 

Jordan held the land as a result of the armistice agreement between the combatants — the so-called Green Line — after the ’48 Arab-Israeli War of Independence. 

In a war, especially when not the aggressor, a country does not return land that was taken back from its enemy. Except in relatively few cases, as in the return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt after Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel, conquered territory is incorporated within the confines of the victorious country. 

The Southwestern states of the United States have a sizable Mexican population. Does this mean that they can claim this territory as occupied? 

Saying “occupied” doesn’t make it so.

C.P. Lefkowitz

Rancho Palos Verdes


The Sunday show time for “I’m Not a Comedian … I’m Lenny Bruce” at Theatre 68 was incorrect in the June 23 edition of the Journal. It can be seen 3 p.m. Sundays.

An item in the June 23 edition of Moving and Shaking mistated the official name of the American Society for Yad Vashem gala. The name of the event was Salute to Hollywood.

In Marty Kaplan’s column in the June 23 edition (“Hunk Hawks Hideous Health Bill”), references to Medicare should have been Medicaid.

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Letters to the editor, 6/22 edition

Politics on the Pulpit

I applaud Rabbi David Wolpe’s call for rabbis to focus their public teaching on texts and Jewish traditions — on Jacob and Rachel, not Pence and Pelosi, as he put it (“Why I Keep Politics Off the Pulpit,” June 9). Too often rabbis focus their sermons exclusively on contemporary politics — whether American or Israeli — and squander their weekly opportunity to teach Jewish texts to a semi-captive audience that does not regularly study our traditions. However, Wolpe’s argument that rabbis should avoid politics almost entirely — whether on or off the pulpit — contains at least two fundamental flaws.

First, there is no neutrality in politics any more than there is neutrality in Sabbath observance. Sabbath comes, and one observes it or not in whatever way they choose. So-called political neutrality is itself a form of political expression. It is support for those in power, or for those destined to be victorious without the voice of the rabbis. 

Second, there is no single Judaism today. Judaism is divided among competing denominations with different core values. Insisting that neither support for Trump nor opposition to him necessarily opposes the Torah is itself setting the Jewish values of one’s community in a specific way. Wolpe’s brilliant caricature of the Jewish claims of the right and left does not prove that a rabbi must avoid these positions. Rather, each rabbi and community must decide if the Torah in fact does support one position. 

Joshua Shanes
College of Charleston

In the current fraught environment, almost any effort to discuss political issues through a Torah perspective will result in half of the congregation concluding that the rabbi has debased, disgraced or even outright falsified the Torah in order to promote her political opinion. Even if or when the rabbi is positive that he is right about the Torah and the issue at hand, all he will be achieving is preaching to the choir (useless), and alienating the non-choir (useless or worse). Best thing is to preach about the importance of having deep, open-minded dialogue with people we disagree with. 

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky
B’nai David-Judea

We have a standing policy at Pico Shul to keep politics out of shul. Our community of mostly millennial Jews is diverse politically, ethnically and religiously. But that does not stop us from raising money to help the homeless, feed the hungry or pray for the sick. It does not prevent us from advocating and praying for the welfare of Jews and others in need around the world. If we take the sacred day of Shabbat and turn it into a platform for politics and potential divisiveness, we actually may be desecrating rather than elevating our synagogues — built to be houses of worship and connecting with the Divine.

Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Pico Shul

As the rabbi whose picture online accompanied Rabbi David Wolpe’s op-ed on politics and the rabbinate, I feel compelled to offer a clarification and a question. In the photo, I was being arrested along with 17 other rabbis across denominations in an act of civil disobedience to protest President Donald Trump’s proposed ban on refugees and immigration from (then) seven Muslim-majority countries. The action, sponsored by T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call to Human Rights, took place under the aegis of that organization and not our respective congregations or other organizations we serve.  We were, therefore, keeping our “politics” separate from our “pulpits.”

Nevertheless, the photo raises a principled objection to Rabbi Wolpe’s argument, namely, that a rabbi should be someone who marshals Jewish tradition to clarify the severity of the injustices we tolerate day to day, and then acts with others to do something about it. For many rabbis of all sensibilities, this understanding of the rabbinic role is one of the great legacies of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Rabbi Wolpe’s own record of work is profound, and he would make an important contribution were he to express himself forthrightly on the issues that so profoundly affect our collective well-being as a society.

Rabbi Justin David
via jewishjournal.com

A Father’s Calling

Amazing journey by Dan Freedman (“Dad Steps Into Unexpected Role After Tragedy Strikes,” June 16). Incredible words hit home on a lot of levels. Thanks for putting it out there.  Life, to a large extent, is how you handle life’s curveballs. I can say you’ve handled it with grace and determination. Congrats on a Life’s Journey, Part 1, well done! Dads rock !

Bo Greene
via jewishjournal.com

Courage in the Face of Terror

My deepest respect and appreciation for everyone in this story (“Synagogues Carry On in Face of Bomb Threats,” June 16) who refused to give in to such cowardly acts, including Rabbi Steven Z. Leder, Rabbi Morley T. Feinstein, Michelle at the Beverly Hills Marriott, the Ansell family and — perhaps, most of all — Zachary Ansell, for demonstrating how ready he was and is to become a man. Terror cannot win so long as we remain resolute. 

Scott Klein
via jewishjournal.com

Letters to the editor, week of June 12

Kudos to the Journal

Thank you for important information covering many topics. As an African-American female Jew, I’m feeling pressure from all sides. I’m glad you’re out there.

The article about Michael Twitty: Thank you (“A Taste of Black History and a Side of Jewish Culture,” March 31).

Laura D. Joyner
Los Angeles

… or Not

Lately, I hate to take your paper in hand because it is more political than Jewish.

I find the same vitriolic remarks as Sen. Chuck Schumer’s, audacious and calumnious, insulting our president.

You also are insulting your other readers who value and respect Donald Trump.

The only Jew at heart in your newspaper is David Suissa. He lived in another country as a Jew, and he understands the plight of Judaism better than anybody else.

Tame your horses, get a feeling for your readers.

Elvira Schwartz
Los Angeles

Foundation Forging Change With Grants

I want to commend the Journal for the important public service provided through its coverage of the inaugural Los Angeles edition of Slingshot, A Resource Guide to Jewish Innovation (“New L.A. Guide Spotlights Top Jewish Nonprofits,” June 9). Since its inception, Slingshot has become the Michelin Guide of Jewish social innovation, serving an instrumental role in calling attention to and recognition for initiatives that are reimagining and reanimating our communities. It is an invaluable resource for, among other purposes, engaging volunteers and highlighting funding opportunities for prospective donors.

As Slingshot Executive Director Stefanie Rhodes rightly notes, Los Angeles is at the epicenter of Jewish social entrepreneurship. Consequently, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (The Foundation) is duly proud to be a sponsor of the new Los Angeles edition. It makes me prouder still that 15 of the 26 organizations featured on the local list — and no fewer than five in the Slingshot national edition — were recipients of significant seed funding from The Foundation in the form of our annual Cutting Edge Grants. This support has enabled the launch of many of the listed organizations as well as the creation of catalytic new initiatives within established institutions. Since 2006, we have awarded more than $15 million to more than 80 innovative local programs that engage and forge inclusive pathways into local Jewish life.

These social entrepreneurs and their organizations’ lay leaders are igniting the flame beneath the local Jewish future. It’s a fire that burns brightly and will serve as a beacon for us all.

Marvin I. Schotland
President and Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles

Prager Should Know Better

Once upon a time, before Dennis Prager blamed all things negative on liberals, he would tell his radio audiences that he deplores generalization.

I’m a liberal and Prager doesn’t know me. Moreover, to the best of my knowledge, he doesn’t know any of my family or friends. And I doubt he knows “all” liberals he condemns. Because some of us don’t agree with every observation he expounds upon doesn’t make all of us responsible for destruction of Western civilization.

Prager should stay true to who he says he is. All liberals, all Jews, all ‘whatevers’ are always on the wrong side of an issue. Generalizing, and its next step down, stereotyping, is the stuff of ignorance. Isn’t a recognized great thinker like Prager beyond that?

Joe Siegman
Los Angeles

History Brought to Life

As Bob Hope would sing, “Thanks for the Memory.”

I loved the Journal using the cover story of the old Heritage Southwest Jewish Press from June ’67 with its own story (“Los Angeles Rallied Around Israel in ’67,” June 2). It was a joy to read Tom Tugend recalling his Jewish journalistic roots on 2130 S. Vermont Ave. (Heritage’s editorial office), not far from the old Jewish Federation building.

I hope to see Tugend’s byline in the Journal for many years. He is living Jewish history in his own incredible life.

Reuven Davidson

First-Person Stories

The recent addition of a mini personal story at the last page of every Jewish Journal is a real winner. I never miss it — truly great stories that trump (excuse the pun) so much of what passes for worthwhile news these days.

I am impressed … really.

Arnold Ross
via email

Letters to the editor, May 26 edition

Photo from Pexels

Interpreting Biblical Concubinage vs. Rape

Danielle Berrin misunderstands me. Biblical concubinage can be termed rape only from later ethical perspectives (“Rape of the Handmaid,” May 12). Although exegetes inevitably interpret from their own historical and value standpoints, their task is not to discredit or reject the texts they interpret. Biblical narratives depict slavery and patriarchy, because these systems were omnipresent throughout the ancient world. The people who transmitted the narratives could not imagine alternative systems.

But Judaism does not consist only of the Bible. Judaism is a tradition. A tradition is a conversation among many participants over many generations, about the right and the good. Neither slavery nor gender oppression is an inherent Jewish value.  Judaism is committed to justice. Participants in our conversation try to determine what is right and good by interpreting sacred texts and on the basis of s’vara, contextually situated rational argument, according to Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits. As I explained to Berrin, Jews do not read the Bible like fundamentalists. Our texts are sacred because they are inexhaustible. We return to them, bringing ourselves, our contexts, our experiences, and we bring away new insights and new obligations. For Jews, there is no single “correct” interpretation. I make this claim, not because I am Reform, but because Judaism’s sacred texts, including writings long after the Bible, rest on this assumption.

The meaning of justice evolves through socio-historical contexts, reflected in the texts of Talmud, midrash, codes and Jewish philosophy. As we understand justice differently, our obligations change. Hence, Rabbi Chayyim David Regensberg (Mishmeret Chayyim), ruled that it would not be halachically permissible today to reinstitute slavery. Analogously, I’d say, now that we have names and analyses for the system of gender oppression, it too becomes impermissible. Moreover, now that Jewish women are among the participants in the Jewish conversation, their input too, affects the determination of justice and the evolution of Jewish thought. 

I will not be an accomplice to trashing Judaism’s sacred texts to enshrine an ahistorical “correct meaning.” Gender justice can be achieved while honoring the complexity and the multi-vocality of Judaism.

Rabbi Rachel Adler

David Ellenson Professor of Modern Jewish Thought, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Berrin responds: I am deeply disheartened that Rabbi Adler misunderstood my column. Not only did I quote her accurately, I specifically acknowledged her view that a multiplicity of interpretations is inherent to our tradition. I would never “trash” Judaism’s texts. Some, I wrestle with. The vast majority I treasure.

Jewish Law and Standards on Gay Relationships

Terrific article about gay and lesbian Orthodox youth (“Can Gay and Lesbian Teens Find a Home in Orthodoxy?” May 19). 

One point requires clarification: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) in its 2006 teshuvah voted to prohibit only anal sex, not all forms of same-gender sexual expression. It is important to realize that the authors felt they needed to do this to produce a more welcoming attitude toward gays and lesbians in the movement. Still, I don’t think most people look to CJLS for what forms of sexuality happen in their relationships.

Rabbi David Novak
Manchester Center, Vt.

The Politics of Health Care

In “#IamAPreexistingCondition” (May 12), Michelle K. Wolf laments that Jimmy Kimmel’s emotional story about his infant son’s medical treatment did not dissuade even three GOP representatives from voting for the American Health Care Act (AHCA). I hear her asking: How can they turn their backs on sick babies!? It’s easy to suggest heartlessness, but let’s take a closer look.

Health insurance works only when the healthy overpay for their care. Their overpayment heals the sick who can’t afford their treatment. Unfortunately, millions of healthy people prefer saving money and letting ill patients or taxpayers cover expensive medical treatment. (Should we ask how this group turns their backs on sick babies?)

Democrats and Republicans know this but use different approaches to get healthy people to buy insurance. In the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Democrats provide for hefty subsidies and the individual mandate to encourage and force healthy people into the system. 

The GOP approach charges more when people develop ongoing medical conditions while uninsured. Only uninsured folks can be charged a “pre-existing” rate. Jimmy Kimmel’s son isn’t one of them. He was insured at birth and will likely stay insured and pay regular rates his entire lifetime.

History shows that Democratic and Republican approaches are flawed. Despite billions spent on subsidies and the weight of legal force, many healthy people stayed out under the Democratic ACA, and the system is contracting. And from experience, we know that despite the specter of financial ruin faced by those who choose to be uninsured under the Republican AHCA, many healthy people won’t join health insurance.   

I believe one’s stance isn’t a matter of one side helping sick children and another possessed of sickening indifference. These positions reflect different philosophies about getting people to make personal sacrifices for the good of society.

Jeff Feuer
Beverly Hills