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Rabbi Eric Yoffie argues that Orthodox student resistance to Yale's mandatory dorm residence policy reflects a "ghetto Judaism" that constitutes a "betrayal of America" ("Ghetto Judaism in America," Aug. 7).
Rabbi Yoffie seems unaware that the United States has historically guaranteed religious freedom to a broad spectrum of faiths, from the insular to the universalistic. In this country, we even protect religions that are themselves intolerant, and Orthodox Judaism is no exception. Yale University's attempt to force a diverse student body to curtail its ritual expressions in order to conform to the traditions of Yale is at odds with our American tradition of religious tolerance. Rabbi Yoffie's depiction of one group -- the easily identifiable Orthodox students -- as "betrayers" merely exposes his ignorance of, or indifference to, this country's history and values.
Professor Peter L. Reich
Whittier Law School
Why was Yoffie so bothered by the students who dared complain about being coerced by Yale into giving up their own traditional laws of modesty in order to participate in a secular university?
Yoffie cannot tolerate Jews doing anything that does not obviously conform and instantly harmonize with modern, secular norms.
No wonder that Yoffie can so effusively celebrate American Jewry's "unprecedented success in the 20th century" amidst the unprecedented assimilation rate of American Jewry. If assimilation is Yoffie's objective, then his "very different vision" of Torah should do the trick. But, I would hardly call this "a far grander, far more ambitious" Torah!
Rabbi Yoffie's references to Orthodox Jews living in a "ghetto" isolated from the "real world" reeks of ignorance. The minority of religiously observant Jews who wish to remain "isolated" from the "outside world" do not attend Yale or any college for that matter. There are many frum Jews who are successful professionals, businesspeople and students who have maintained a Torah-observant lifestyle without compromising standards of halacha. These people perform their civic and professional responsibilities with distinction and have not forsaken G-d and His commandments.
In this context, "liberal Jews" do not have an exclusive franchise for determining the parameters for how a Jew should properly interact with the world at large. Furthermore, the Reform movement does not have an exclusive franchise on the appropriate expression by Jews of American values or traditions.
"Aliyah Anguish," Ruth Mason's excellent article on the challenges facing Ethiopian Jewry in Israel (Aug. 7), provokes disquiet among those committed to the principles on which Israel was founded. Without aggressive action, the specter of Ethiopians becoming Israel's second-class citizens is a frightening possibility.
In order to not sit idly by, a number of Jewish agencies have begun to develop some pilot interventions. In 1992, the local office of the Anti-Defamation League began bringing Ethiopian-Israeli teens to Los Angeles' urban schools to challenge the stereotypes that Los Angeles students had about Jews and Israel. This program, called Children of the Dream, has now been implemented by ADL regional offices across the nation.
Their role as ambassadors here in the United States for both their community and their adopted nation profoundly affects their self-images. The result: Each of them has matriculated into the Israel Defense Forces (often in leadership roles) and into universities.
More efforts of such kind are needed.
Marjorie B. Green
Educational Policy and Programs
We want to congratulate the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for the grants that have been given to Reform, Conservative and other organizations in Israel to advance the cause of pluralism ("Federation Funds Tolerance in Israel," Aug. 21). This is a wonderful beginning; one that we hope will continue for years to come.
For the second year in a row, we have just returned from a three-generational trip to Israel. It was our intention to help our children and especially our grandchildren understand our love of Israel, and more importantly, establish their own relationship with the Jewish state. As we traveled throughout the country and talked about past history and present accomplishments, we couldn't help but explain that all the organizations we support received little, if any, financial support from the Israeli government.
Sadly, we saw too few other families like ours in Israel. We are convinced that liberal Jews feel unwanted and are not anxious to invest either time or money traveling there. We can only repeat what so many of our Israeli friends said to us. "Don't let the ultra-Orthodox take over. Come here, send your children and your grandchildren and continue working for your organizations that promote pluralism."
Israel belongs to all Jews. It is only right that our money goes not only to Israel in general but also to institutions that reflect our beliefs. We need to continue visiting there and seeing that our children and grandchildren participate in those wonderful programs that our liberal organizations sponsor.
Once again, we say to the Federation, "Thank you and kol hakavod."
Peachy and Mark Levy
Adam Goldberg ("Soldier of Fortune," Aug. 7) may be a fine actor, but why The Jewish Journal decided to hold him up as a model of Jewish behavior is beyond me. He is a sixth-grade Jewish dropout who then refused to have a bar mitzvah. What an inspiration to our children!
As an adult, his only positive identification with Judaism seems to be that his last-minute decision not to Anglicize his family name. Surely, The Journal can do better than this in its selection of Jews to laud.
Rabbi Jeffrey A. Marx
I wish to thank you for publishing the article in your distinguished newspaper about Carl Lutz ("Swiss Hero," Aug. 7). Until recently his name had been largely forgotten.
I also appreciate the announcement of the photographic exhibit "Visas for Life: The Story of Charles "Carl" Lutz and the Rescue of 62,000 Jews," recently opened in the lobby of the Consulate General of Switzerland, 11766 Wilshire Blvd., suite 1400, Los Angeles. The display is open to the public weekdays between 9 a.m. and noon through mid-January 1999. Admission is free.
Deputy Consul General of Switzerland
The California Science Center will host the nationally-acclaimed traveling exhibition, "Remember the Children: Daniel's Story" from Sept. 25 - Jan. 24, 1999. This is an award-winning interactive exhibition designed for young people ages 8 and older, which chronicles the history and life-threatening events of one Jewish child and his family in Nazi Germany. The exhibition traces the story of Daniel, a 9-year old child whose story is based on experiences of real children during the historical events of the Holocaust from 1933 to 1945.
The California Science Center is currently accepting applications for individuals interested in volunteering as exhibition interpreters. Volunteers are asked to make a commitment of only four hours per week, however, flexible scheduling may be arranged. A specialized training program will be offered for volunteers.
Please contact the volunteer office by calling (213) 744-2124.
Manager, Volunteer Resources