July 3, 1997
I want the community to know that these racist signs do not at all represent my school or me. I am humiliated that some stranger or strangers would have the nerve to come onto my school, a place of learning, and deface it with such signs of hatred.
This brings me to my next feeling: I am incensed. I cannot begin to describe how mad it makes me that there still are racist groups out there who object to kids learning about the past so it doesn't repeat itself. Lastly, I am offended and scared. Being a Jew, I am appalled there are people in my own city of Ventura wanting me out of their way, and even killed. I am not different from any other person you see walking along the street, other than I do not believe Jesus Christ was God's son. The signs were painted over very shortly after the incident happened, but the message lingers.
In my history class, along with the regular curriculum, we have been studying and talking about the tolerance and intolerance in our world today. We have also found its origins in the past. This act of hatred has not changed our views on these matters, but made them stronger. We have more evidence that hate groups still exist in today's world. People should know that the faculty and students of my school will not let racist groups take over our society. We will paint over their graffiti, write letters shunning racist groups, and take legal action to stop prejudice in our world!
A few days ago one of my fellow students asked a good, and brain-racking question: "Can we be tolerant of intolerance?" I will leave this for you to decide, since it is a question that you can only answer for yourself.
More on "Bible Code"
I read Yehuda Lev's column of June 20 ("Hocus Pocus") with great amusement. Lev pans a book he hasn't read, and then decries without irony, an Aish HaTorah rabbi who putatively suggested without source that "5,000 years ago there were 10,000 Chinese and 10,000 Jews..."
For those who, unlike Lev, feel the need to know something before dismissing it, sources for all claims made in any of our seminars are available for the asking through this office. The work of the Hebrew University mathematicians demonstrating codes in the Torah is also available on the Discovery website (www.discoveryseminar.org.)
Dismissing in ignorance is called prejudice. Printing prejudice is called a disservice to the community.
Rabbi Nachum Braverman
Aish HaTorah, Los Angeles
Yehuda Lev responds: "Rabbi Braverman is suffering from a faulty memory or is dissembling since he was aware at the time of the incident to which I was referring. My point was that an "educational" institution capable of such behavior as I described, has to be questioned when it foists computer-generated Torah analyses on a Jewish community looking for opportunities for serious Jewish learning."
Yehuda Lev's opinion on the recent book "The Bible Code" is unscientific and filled with irrelevancies ("Hocus-Pocus," June 20). An example of the latter is his quote from the Conservative rabbi, David Wolpe, that God wouldn't wait until we had Pentium-chip computers to provide us with this evidence of faith. Wolpe's opinion is worthless, since neither he, nor I, nor anyone else, knows the mind of God. The same is true for the opinion of David Marcus, who I would bet is as unqualified as Wolpe to talk about valid statistical methods.
I first heard about the Torah codes in 1986 from a qualified mathematician. I was quite skeptical, knowing little about Hebrew or statistics. I am less skeptical now, but the point is that this is a scientific proposition subject to verification or disproof like any other scientific proposal. It doesn't require blind faith, or interpretation of archaeological data, or tea leaves or ouija boards. If Christian groups have their own version of the codes, let them present it for rigorous examination by qualified experts as three Israeli experts did for the Torah codes in the August 1994 edition of the professional publication Statistical Science. (I might add that I wrote to Lev when he mentioned the Christian codes many months ago and received no reply.)
The amused contempt in which Lev obviously holds Orthodoxy in general, and Aish HaTorah specifically, proves his own prejudice but doesn't shed any light on whether or not the codes are valid.
To put the final nail, I hope, in the coffin of Michael Drosnin's "The Bible Code" ("Hocus-Pocus," June 20), it should be noted that Muslims successfully use the same computer sequencing techniques to prove the divine origin of the Koran. Has anyone tried it on Shakespeare, or the Code of Federal Regulations?
I am grateful to Ari Noonan for his sensitive article on "The Spiritual Course" which Harry Jakobs, Ph.D., and I are offering to the community ("Taking a Spiritual Course," June 27). The first workshop has taken place and all the participants confirmed that we had, indeed, delivered on our promises.
There are, however, two corrections I would like to make to Noonan's piece. I erroneously gave him an old brochure, in which the location for the course was incorrectly identified as Stephen S. Wise Temple. The courses are actually offered at the Hyatt Hotel on Sunset. I apologize to the rabbis, board, staff and members of Stephen S. Wise Temple for any upset this unintended error caused.
The primary motivation for the development of the course was to reach and touch disaffected members of the Los Angeles Jewish community. I am concerned about the increasing popularity of non-Jewish mystic teachings and groups, and about the disproportionate number of Jewish spiritual searchers who have become part of those groups. I am also concerned about the popularity of teachers of kabbalah, whose authenticity has been questioned by rabbinic authorities and community agencies.
However, "The Spiritual Course" has not been designed to disparage others. Its purpose is entirely positive. We believe that graduates who feel spiritually transformed and psychologically unburdened as a result of our programs will persuade friends and colleagues of the power of legitimate Jewish mystic teachings.
Rabbi Abner Weiss, Ph.D.
The Center for Spiritual Empowerment
No Shame in Conversion
Congratulations to the Jewish Journal for its focus on the experiences of converts to Judaism ("Seeking Shelter?" June 6). It is high time that born Jews learn that our tradition sees no difference between a born Jew and a convert. We must welcome them fully into our communities with love and understanding.
It seems evident however that many Jews do not see converts as equals. These Jews seem to believe that there is something important about being able to say that they are born Jews, as though there is something unique about Jewish blood.
It is not only individual Jews who are propagating this attitude. The Reform movement seems to agree. How else can we explain the famous patrilineal descent decision? If a Jewish male marries a non-Jew and truly wishes to raise his children as Jews, he can always convert his children. But these Jewish males do not want to have to convert their children. They want them to be considered "born Jews", as though there is something superior about being a born Jew. According to Jewish law, only if the mother is Jewish can the child be considered born Jewish.
This definition of matrilineal descent has been accepted by world Jewry for centuries. The American Reform movement's rejection of this definition in favor of their own, supports these Jewish males backward beliefs in a superior Jewish bloodline.
There is no shame in conversion. It is time that the Reform movement reconsiders its divisive position on patrilineal descent.
Now that the truth about Switzerland's neutrality has come to light, why don't we as Jews pay them back in kind by refusing to travel to their alpine land of cuckoo clocks, chocolates, watches and Nazi gold. This we can do and should do. And we should express our appreciation to Edgar Bronfman for bringing this out for the world to see.
We neglected to mention that Isabel Kershner's article "The New Gaza," which appeared in the June 6 issue, was reprinted from The Jerusalem Report. The story should have been proceeded by the following: Copyright 1997, The Jerusalem Report. All rights reserved.