November 6, 1997
I was very moved reading Joel Kotkin ("Jewish Survival," Oct. 24).At last the words are out of the bag: we do need a strong Diaspora.
In my Zionist youth movement days, the talk was that the Jewishpeople needed to be normal. We were encouraged to become farmers andcraftspeople. There were intellectuals who rejoiced when they readthat Jewish criminals were arrested in Tel Aviv. At last we arenormal, they cried.
In pre-establishment Zionism this might have been all right. Butas we approach the year 2000, this is no longer acceptable. It is notenough for Israel to be a nation like every other nation.
Jews, wherever they are, must work toward the ultimate goal ofJudaism and that is to be a light unto the nations. If Jews do nottoil in this effort, then what is the point of Judaism surviving?
The only reason Jews have survived is that there has always been aremnant somewhere in the world who believed in the ultimate missionof Judaism. This remnant continued even when the major centers ofJudaism were destroyed.
We must think the unthinkable. The way Israel is going it iscertainly not a light unto the nations. It may not survive. Jews inLos Angeles must be ready to be the saving remnant if theunthinkable, God forbid, becomes a reality.
To be ready to accept this role, we must prepare. We muststrengthen Jewish education both for children and adults. We mustkeep more money here, so that Jewish communal organizations can moreeffectively do their jobs. We must rededicate ourselves to the studyof Torah and the doing of good deeds.
Bar Kochba may have won several battles and so we are able tocelebrate Chanukah. Ultimately, though, he lost the war and were itnot for a saving remnant somewhere, Judaism would not have survived.
Beyond the Classroom
As a member of the ninth grade class at Milken Community HighSchool, who attended the Shabbaton held at Brandeis Bardin Institute,I was insulted by Beverly Gray's opinion of us as expressed in hercolumn ("Beyond the Classroom and Themselves," Oct. 17).
Gray was only in attendance at our Shabbaton for merely a fewhours on Thursday evening and therefore was not in a position toaccurately judge the entire three day experience. Her columnpresented a distorted image of the students and their conduct duringthe Shabbaton.
Gray should have done some research, and checked her facts beforecriticizing the behavior of the entire ninth and 10th grade class.She failed to interview a single student for her article. Had shedone even the most minimal research she would have discovered thatthis was the first Shabbaton for at least one-third of the ninthgrade class. For several of the new students, this was their firstexposure to daily prayer, such as the Birchat Ha-mazon.Furthermore, some of the new students who she thoroughly criticizedcame home with an expanded concept of the meaning of prayer by theend of the Shabbaton.
Additionally, she presented a stereotypical view of all Milkenstudents as being sheltered in "their citadel high on Mulholland asfar removed from woes of commonfolk." Although near the end of herarticle she briefly mentions the play "Rations," which was presentedthat night concerning homelessness, and the student discussions whichfollowed, she failed to accurately portray the fact that tikkunolam (repair of the world) is one of the central themes of ourcurriculum at Milken.
In this regard, many of the students who went to the Shabbatonparticipated in the AIDS walk the very next day. Community service isa mandatory requirement for all students at Milken. While the minimumhours required for ninth grade is 15 hours, I personally have alreadyspent more than 65 hours working at the nursery school and at SOVA.Likewise, many of my friends performed more than the minimum hours ofcommunity service.
One of the projects that we as a class have participated in duringthe past two and a half years was: "Dirt Mulholland," a project wherewe spent days cleaning up cans and trash. Additionally, last yearwhen I was in eight grade, our main community service project wasSOVA, where we boxed and distributed food to the needy. Consequently,we have become aware, if we were not already, of the needs of theless fortunate.
I also was personally insulted by her characterization of theninth grade representative candidate speeches as "would-be humorous."
The Shabbaton is supposed to be filled with ruach, spirit,and fun, which it was. It is a place where new and enduringfriendships are born and spiritual connections are made.
Ninth Grade Class Representative
Milken Community High School
Over the last two weeks, the Jewish Journal has carried articlesand letters about a resurgent Jewish conservative movement thatdecries "fervently secularist Jewish groups" such as theAnti-Defamation League.
According to the Judy Gruen article of Oct. 17 ("One People:Religious Christians and Jews?") and Carl Pearlston's letter ("RightThinking?" Oct. 24), one would believe that the ADL and other"alphabet" agencies (American Jewish Committee, American JewishCongress Jewish Community Relations Committee) are in a time warpclinging to outdated liberal nostrums, and puffing up issues ofanti-Semitism while foolishly refusing to recognize Christianfundamentalists as "Israel's and Jews' staunchest supporters."
The Gruen piece doesn't quite do justice to the vitriol of TowardTradition founder Rabbi Daniel Lapin. When he really lets loose, hedecries ADL for being enmeshed in the thrall "of all the demands ofradical homosexuals" of having our "paramount loyalty not to Judaismbut to secular liberalism," and of a preoccupation "with what many ofthem actually believe to be in the Constitution, namely separation ofchurch and state..."
The attacks of Lapin and his friends on ADL are invariably markedby extensive demonization. Such mischaracterizations of ADL and ourpositions can only be termed demagogic.
What Lapin and his cohorts fail to comprehend, and what has beenat the heart of the ADL for 84 years, is that the demonization ofopponents (a trademark of the good rabbi) leads to a decline intolerance and pluralism. Unfortunately, for too many on the religiousright, tolerance and pluralism have been invested with sinistermeanings amid the complexities of modern life; rather than properlyregarded as the cornerstones of a society striving for equality, theyare considered the passwords of a coterie devoted to the destructionof traditional values. In America, tolerance and pluralism aretraditional values, however imperfectly realized, and they areprecisely the values that bolster religion
Lapin and friends are preoccupied, if not obsessed, with those whoare not their ideological soul-mates. They are absolutist truebelievers who purport to speak for God end vilify those who do notsurrender to their single purpose.
It appears to me that very few conservative activists grew upduring the overt anti-Jewish environment in California during thelate 1930s to the early 1950s. I did, and the following incident isindelibly inscribed in my memory:
As a 9-year-old public school student in 1940 Ukiah, having beentransported from my Boyle Heights home, I was pelted with rocks eachThursday by other children because I did not remain at the publicschool after regular classes for the one hour of Christian education.I was, of course, the only Jewish student. After three months, myparents sent me back to the home of my grandparents in Boyle Heightsbecause I was too young to understand that I had done nothing wrong.
Although I may not agree with all of the actions of the ACLU orthe ADL, I appreciate their efforts to avoid such incidents. I am afirm believer in separation of state and religion. The TenCommandments shouldn't be in classrooms or courtrooms; religiousbeliefs belong only in the home or place of worship. Public schoolsand any government site are inappropriate locations for "bringingback a God-based morality into American life and politics." ("OnePeople: Religious Christians and Jews?" Oct. 17.)
With Jews against Jews in Israel, and now apparently here in theUnited States, are we setting ourselves up for an "objective" despotto define who is a Jew?
Thrown Out of Shul
On Yom Kippur, I stepped outside during the afternoon services towarm up for a moment in the sun. I was sitting down, when a woman andher two daughters, about four or five years old, came walking out.The lady next to me, who knew her, asked if they were leaving. "We'vebeen thrown out,"she calmly answered.
Apparently, one of her kids had made some noise and it disturbed aman trying to pray. He snapped at her and told her this wasn't anursery school. The woman gave her kids some crayons and paper todraw with. An usher came over to help. He told her that the kidscouldn't draw in the synagogue during Shabbat. She hadn't broughtanything else to entertain them with, so the family opted to leave.The woman's mother is a member, and she had invited them to come forservices. The mother had told her daughter to bring something toentertain the kids with. She had brought crayons for her two girls.
Maybe one could say that the mother should have been more clear,as to what specifically to bring, knowing her daughter was notobservant, nor familiar with Jewish laws. Maybe she should have toldher daughter about family services offered for families with youngchildren. Maybe one could say that the daughter, going to aconservative shul, should have known better. Maybe the man whohad been fasting and praying all day could have been kinder andgentler with the woman. All this isn't really important.
The point is that she left, and one could tell she felt ashamed,embarrassed, unwanted and unwelcome. The daughters, though young,also knew that they were in the wrong place and were leaving.
I don't have an answer as to what the right thing to do would havebeen, or even if it could or should have been handled anydifferently. But what I do know is that we missed the mark onbringing a Jew back to Judaism. If she never returns to the synagogueor never teaches her daughters what it means to be Jewish, then wehave lost another Jewish family and their next generation toassimilation. We must accept people at whatever level of observancethey're at and encourage them to take the smallest steps to bringJudaism into their lives and homes rather than condemn them for nothaving taken enough steps. With every small step a person takes,whether lighting candles, or attending a synagogue, it's one lesstradition lost, and hopefully one less Jew lost.
Dr. Jennifer Sellars, D.C.
It has been a long time since I "went to temple," but thanks to EdBrennglass, for a decade, I have been able to feel totally connectedto our community. His selfless role in making the Jewish Journal workis the epitome of mitzvah. Condolences.
Joan H. Leonard
THE JEWISH JOURNAL welcomes letters from all readers. Lettersshould be no more than 250 words and we reserve the right to edit forspace. All letters must include a signature, valid address and phonenumber. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used, but names will bewithheld on request. Unsolicited manuscripts and other materialsshould include a self-addressed, stamped envelope in order to bereturned. If you are responding to something you read on the webpage, please indicate so in your letter.
THE JEWISH JOURNAL (ISSN 0888-0468) USPS 468530 is publishedweekly, every Thursday for $23.50 (out of state add $12.50) by LosAngeles Jewish Publications Inc., a community nonprofit corporation,3660 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 204, Los Angeles, California 90010.Address all mail to: Jewish Journal, 3660 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite204, Los Angeles, California 90010. Phone 213-738-7778, Fax213-386-9501. E-mail at Los Angeles Freenet, email@example.com
© 1997 Los Angeles Jewish Publications Inc.
All rights reserved.
SEND YOUR OWN LETTER TO THE JEWISH JOURNAL ATab871@lafn.org
All letters must include full name, a validaddress and phone number. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used,but names will be withheld on request. Please indicate that you aresending your letter in response to the web page.