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Jewish Journal

Letters

February 12, 1998 | 7:00 pm

Congratulations. Ilana Polyak's hit piece onMonica Lewinsky ("False Values and Prep School Blues," Feb. 6) outdidanything that might be expected in the gutter press. Any responsibleeditor who read "I never knew Monica Lewinsky" would have killed thearticle right there. What was the point in running it - to show thatanyone who is not an honor student, who does not go to the "right"schools, who does not serve the political purposes of the DemocraticParty is to be treated as garbage in your eyes?

Had this article appeared in, say, the Los AngelesTimes, I do not doubt that the Jewish Federation would be among theloudest voices demanding that the editors involved be relieved oftheir responsibilities. Those at the Jewish Journal should face thesame sanction.

Henry Fetter

Los Angeles

*

Since when has experiencing tenth grade adolescentangst been a criteria for being published in the Jewish Journal? Iwent to a local high school and had a truly miserable tenth grade.And, by coincidence, celebrities number amongst my high school'salumni - one of them was convicted of attempting to assassinate aU.S. president. Unfortunately, this person was not in my graduatingclass. But I suppose, by your standards, having trod on the sameearth as her, I can become an authority on motivations of the humanpsyche. Guess what! I've shopped the same shopping malls as MonicaLewinsky! Can I write your next Other Voices piece?

As it says in Psalm 34, which we say on Shabbatand on all holidays, "Guard your tongue from evil and your lips fromspeaking guile." I believe that the Psalmist would have included evenBel Air Prep amongst those to be protected by this verse. The bottomline is that "False Values and Prep School Blues" is neither Jewishnor journalism.

Fran Grossman

Los Angeles

The Good and the Bad

This is good word-bad word about Marlene AdlerMarks. First the good.

Her column of January 16, "False Alarms," has themost profoundly insightful and, I think, cogent observation about thecourse of Judaism in America, that I have seen in your paper.Considering that you have featured articles by people with impressivedistinctions, rabbis, professors and such, that would be quite anachievement.

I refer to this statement: "There is anotheralternative to shivering in our corner in a state of geneticmelancholy. We could, for example, begin to enjoy ourselves and ourtraditions, and teach the univeral principles of Judaism to a waitingworld: to be a light among nations, spreading the ideals oftolerance, justice, Sabbath and peace."

The importance of this statement is what itresponded to: recent statements by Alan Dershowitz decryingintermarriage and assimilation as a threat to Jewish existence andcomplaints by rabbis that Jews are not concered enough about whatkeeps them separate, for example,Rabbi Hammerman who is concernedthat now that Oreo cookies have become Kosher he feels a lack ofsomething that is forbidden, thus keeping him from absorption intothe "vanilla masses."

I have felt for a long time that the great lack incontemporary institutionalized Judaism is emphasis on ritual andtradition at the expense of spirituality and prinicple. Thus I am aReconstructionist. The quotation from Marlene's column, to me, pointsin the right direction.

"Shifting now to the bad word, in her most recentcolumn "The Daughter" (Jan. 30) about Monica Lewinsky Ms. Marks saysthat this event causes Jewish women to be "enraged, threatened,isolated and shamed." Hey, come on! Don't you think this is laid onpretty heavy? I talked to another Jewish woman I have knownintimately for 52 years. She felt none of the above. Likewise withothers in my informal poll. This I think we could call mediahype.

Herbert Lasky

Fairfield, CA

Regarding Marowitz

Charles Marowitz should step down from hispedestal and get real.

Elia Kazan does not need Mr. Marowitz to beat thedrum for him. Although much of his film work has not stood the testof time, Mr. Kazan has received more than his fair share ofrecognition for his theater and film achivements, with two Oscars,direction of five Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway plays, founder ofthe Actors Studio, Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement honors,glowing reviews throughout his career, and the esteem of hiscolleagues in the Directors Guild of America.

The other side of the ledger on Mr. Kazan is alsoclear. To save his own career, he became a willing tool of theMcCarthy witchhunt, and betrayed a number of innocents, destroyingtheir lives in the bargain. Kazan's cowardice and treachery remain onthe record, along with his illustrious career, as defining moments inhis life.

Fred Burnstein

Woodland Hills

*

Reading Charles Marowitz's reveiw of "Picasso atthe Lapin Agile" (Jan. 30) is somewhat like listening to a spitefuland jealous child tell you why he hates his more popular, funnyclassmate. Not only does his critique seriously miss the mark, it ispersonally insulting to Steve Martin. It is apparent that Marowitz istotally lacking any understanding of and appreciation for lightcomedy. He starts his diatribe by showing how unintelligent Martin isby missing the irony of his premise that the 20th century would beone of great promise while we know it is ending"ruinously." Marowitz doesn't get it; that irony is exactly Martin'spoint.

Calling Steve Martin a "jumped-up gag writer"while labeling William Saroyan "something of a genius" furtherillustrates how out of touch Marowitz is with humor in this, theruinous late 20th century. By comparing Martin's material to thatwhich was funny in the thirties and forties but is now very dated isa clue to how antiquated Marowitz's sense of humor is. And hisassumption that Martin was trying to make an earth-shatteringconnection between genius, art, science and postmodernism leads me tobelieve Marowitz might be exactly the target Steve Martin intended ashe lightheartedly and wickedly pokes his very funny finger atintellectual posturers and their pretensions. As a "jumped-up gagwriter" Steve Martin has amassed some pretty impressive credits. Whatare Charles Marowitz's?

This 'review' and too many others bring to mindWilliam Goldman's insights about critics in his outstanding book,"The Season." I have often taken comfort in his words in my work as aplaywright and former instructor in the University of Miami TheaterDepartment. Goldman said critics are "putrescent". A critic is, hewrote, "the stage-struck but untalented neurotic who eventuallydrifts into criticism as a means of clinging peripherally to thearts." Perhaps that is a somewhat harsh condemnation of Mr. Marowitz.I would prefer to say simply, "Lighten up!"

Naomi Z. Feldman

Los Angeles

Thanks, Naomi

I want to thank Naomi Pfefferman for once againreminding us that Jews are not immune to the ills that permeate oursociety. Her excellent article on domestic violence in the homes ofOrthodox Jews details both the problem and sources of help forOrthodox women.

In her article she mentioned a videotape put outby the Center for Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, "ToSave a Life: Ending Domestic Violence in Jewish Families." Inaddition to Rabbi Aaron Tendler who speaks from a traditional pointof view, two other local rabbis are featured: Elliot Dorf of theUniversity of Judaism and Sandy Ragin of Leo Baek Temple. Three womenshare their horror stories, and the rabbis respond from bothtraditional and contemporary sources.

This is an excellent training film both forprofessionals and lay audiences. It would make a good program for asynagogue, center, sisterhood or other community organization. The 35minute film is accompanied by a facilitator's manual and a studyguide. Contact the Center for more information at cpsdv@cpsdv.org,http://www.cpsdv.org, by phone at 206-634-1903, fax 206-634-0115, orby mail 936 N. 34th St., Ste. 200, Seattle, WA 98103.

Marcia Cohn Spiegel

Rolling Hills Estates

Discussing Israel

Among the most remarkable of Israel's manyaccomplishments in its first half-century is the vibrant democracy ithas created in the face of the most profound obstacles. Passionatepolitical debate and self-criticism are the national pastimes, and itwould never occur to any Israeli -- right, left, or center -- that itwas "inappropriate" to discuss openly and in the frankest of termsthe elemental social issues still confronting their society.

Why, then, do some self-appointed media watchdogsregard such public discussion among dedicated American supporters ofthe Jewish state as off-limits? (Jonathan Tobin, "Distinguishing Factfrom Fiction Isn't Getting Easier," Jan. 23). Why, in the context ofcelebrating its miraculous first half-century, is a closer look atthe complex issues confronting Israel in its next half-centuryreflexively branded "blaming Israel first?"

In canceling the lecture series it was planning toco-sponsor with the New Israel Fund, the Smithsonian was bullied by adisinformation campaign led by a group of far-right Jewishultranationalists. Rather than staying the course and presenting whatwas to be both a celebration of Israel's democratic triumphs and afair and intellectually rigorous examination of the unresolved issueswhich that democracy is wrestling with, the Smithsonian chose to foldat the first hint of controversy. Apparently fearing a repetition ofthe 1995 Enola Gay fiasco, it has unwittingly handed another victoryto those who wish to see the world sanitized and free ofambiguity.

Rooted in the patronizing and misguided beliefthat Israel is too insecure to sustain anything but unconditionaladulation, a tiny unrepresentative band of American zealots set outto suppress free discussion of issues vital to the future of Israelsociety. In the process, they malign in the most vitriolic terms allthose who see the world -- including Israel -- in threedimensions.

Whether or not one shares the New Israel Fund'sperspective on the socioeconomic and religious issues facing Israeltoday, believers in free speech and free inquiry can only be appalledby this debacle. Let us celebrate Israel's magnificent achievements.Let us honor her heroes. But let us not insult her integrity,honesty, and resilience by lending credence to the idea that honestdiscussion of difficult issues by her tested friends is "Israelbashing."

Norman S. Rosenberg

Executive Director

New Israel Fund

Los Angeles

Advice for Jewish Guys

I have read Adam Gilad's column ("A Jewish Guy")in recent weeeks with growing interest. Over the past fewinstallments, Gilad's asservations of Jewish identity, waxing mistilynostalgic about Jewish life and his cultural Jewish ties butdemonstrating little resolve to expand his Jewish horizons, has runga familiar theme. Gilad's account of his alienated/non-alienatedJewish self brings to mind dozens of confused acquaintances in theirlate thirties and early forties who feel fine about declaringthemselves culturally Jewish but have not time for nor interest ineither religion or in identifying with a Jewish community. Howinteresting then is their anxiety when they find themselvesconfronted with a son or daughter choosing to marry in a church orlearning of their child's disdain for even the focusing on asynagogue that didn't admit them during the High Holidays or on anasty experience with a yeshiva in Jerusalem. It often seems thatsuch people believe that Judaism owes them something, as if Judaismis little more than a line of credit that they can keep drawing down,without feeling any obligation to repay. This is a mistake, and avery costly one at that. To build a strong Jewish consciousness,anchored in the spirit and values of Judaism, one needs to plantroots in a community, where one's contribution is in directproportion to the benefits received.

So from one Jewishguy to another, here is my advice to AdamGilad: move out of Jewish-community-barren Topanga Canyon (asbeautiful as I agree it is) and find yourself a community where youand your family, about whom you are obviously concerned, can surroundyourself with other like-minded Jews; a place where you can practiceyour own brand of Jewish life but always in relation to a communitythat is nurturing and accepting. Commit yourself to continued studyabout your history and your religion so that even if you choose notto practice yourself, your knowledge will be imparted to yourchildren who will then have the opportunity to make the choice forthemselves. And more important than all of these don't confuse thepractice of Judaism with its practitioners. There are of courseplenty of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews who set poorexamples, but that fact should not tarnish your view of the essentialbeauty of Judaism itself and the valuable contribution it can make tostrengthening and ensuring the spiritual well-being of your ownfamily. Ultimately, when the present threats of assimilation andsecularism are existentially more menacing than ever before, thequestions every Jewishly-conscious parent needs to keep askingremains: Are my grandchildren going to be Jewish and do I evencare?

The answers will determine the paths ourdescendants choose to follow many centuries into the future.

Avi Davis

Westwood

Be a Mench

I read the columns by Ms. Anonymous and DavidScher ("Singles: The Debate," Jan. 30) with interest, and some pique,I might add.

My husband wanted to marry a blond shiksa goddessfor precisely the reason David Scher has rebuked the Jewish women hemet. The B.S.G. has none of the qualities of Ms. Anonymous -- a senseof her worth, most notably. David Scher seems to confuse a woman'sdesire to please him with what most women know is a lack ofself-esteem and subsequent low standards. What scares the DavidSchers of the world is a woman asking him to become more of a man,more of a mensch.

Jewish women come from a tradition that values awoman's abilities, not at the expense of the husband's, but inbalance with them. WASP culture asks women to concede theircapabilities, ambitions, and expectations to those of theirmate.

My husband did marry his Blond Shiksa Goddess. Andshe in turn became an enlightened Jewish woman who expects a menschfor a mate.

David, grow up, be a mensch, and marry a nice,Jewish woman.

Kristy Scher

(no relation)

Los Angeles

H.O.P.E. for the Mourning

In regard to the H.O.P.E. Unit Foundation articlein Up Front Jan. 16, 1998, the following information was notincluded:

The Family Loss group meets Tuesdays 7-8:30 p.m.at Valley Beth Shalom, the Moving On group meets Thursdays at VBS 7-9p.m.

The Cancer Support group for patients and familymembers meet Thursdays at Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center7-8:30 p.m. The Creative Visualization group for cancer patientsmeets Wednesdays 7-8:30 p.m.

The bereavement group for Widows/Widowers meetsThursdays from 7-9 p.m. at Valley Beth Shalom.

For more information call H.O.P.E. at (818)788-HOPE.

Marilyn Stolzman, Ph.D.

Executive Director

H.O.P.E. Unit Foundation,Inc.

Corrections

Last Week's article "Federation Matters: HonoringIsrael's Partners" was written by Federation President Herbert M.Gelfand.

In last week's Obituaries, Amanda and Lisa Rudolphwere incorrectly identified as the daughters of Deborah Rudolph. Theyare the daughters of Barbara Rudolph.


THE JEWISH JOURNAL welcomes letters from allreaders. Letters should be no more than 250 words and we reserve theright to edit for space. All letters must include a signature, validaddress and phone number. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used,but names will be withheld on request. Unsolicited manuscripts andother materials should include a self-addressed, stamped envelope inorder to be returned.Publisher, Stanley Hirsh

THE JEWISH JOURNAL welcomes letters from allreaders. Letters should be no more than 250 words and we reserve theright to edit for space. All letters must include a signature, validaddress and phone number. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used,but names will be withheld on request. Unsolicited manuscripts andother materials should include a self-addressed, stamped envelope inorder to be returned.Publisher, Stanley Hirsh

Editor-in chief,Gene Lichtenstein

Managing editor, Robert Eshman

Assistant editor, Stig Jantz

Calendar and copy editor, William Yelles

Senior writer, NaomiPfefferman

Staff writer, RuthStroud

Production coordinator and

online editor, SaraEve Roseman

Community editor,Michael Aushenker

Arts editor, DianeArieff Zaga

Senior Columnist, Marlene Adler Marks

National Correspondent, J. J. Goldberg

Contributing writers, James David Besser (Washington), Larry Derfner (Tel Aviv),Rabbi Ed Feinstein, Linda Feldman, Beverly Gray, Joel Kotkin, RabbiSteven Leder, Yehuda Lev, Deborah Berger-Reiss, Eric Silver(Jerusalem), Teresa Strasser

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