June 12, 1997
LettersConsider Jewish Officers
It has been disheartening, as an active member of the Jewish community, to see how readily this community will accept statements about police without any reliable information. How many Jewish officers did this newspaper interview about ex-Police Chief Williams, morale in the department, life during the riots, prejudice (including anti-Semitism) and other hot issues that are in the paper everyday. We are experts in the field of crime and crime investigation, from burglaries to domestic violence, but we are not approached by our own community (with the exception of Na'amat USA which encouraged my participation in a seminar on domestic violence). Instead, "experts" who sit in universities are quoted and accepted because, in our community, education is often deemed more important than practical experience.
I understand that not everyone knows a Jewish police officer, but we are here. I don't hide the fact that I am Jewish at work. There are Jewish officers at every rank. Instead of ignoring us, use us to work with our community. You may find that your attitude toward the Los Angeles Police Department will be a lot more positive; I know that it will be a lot more knowledgeable.
Los Angeles Police Department
One look at the front cover of the May 30 issue of the Jewish Journal sent me to Alexandra Leichter's article on women in the Orthodox rabbinate. I understand from discussing the article with Alexandra that the Journal was, at one point, hesitant to publish it -- the reason being the expectation that the Journal's readership would not be interested in essentially Orthodox issues. So, I want to thank the editor for publishing the article. I hope more provocative (even if somewhat inflammatory) articles of this type will appear in the future. You have a larger Orthodox readership than you may realize.
In the midst of the swirling debate about the legitimacy of the various forms of Jewish observance, a discussion of Orthodox beliefs, traditional practices and the ongoing debates and developments within the Orthodox community would seem to be a natural element. After all, the Reform and Conservative movements developed as responses to and adaptations of Orthodoxy. I wonder how well most Reform and Conservative Jews (even the religiously committed) understand the departures from traditional interpretations of Jewish law that had to be accommodated to get to these other systems of Jewish observance.
Even beyond the "what qualifies as Judaism" debate, Alexandra's article is relevant to the community at large as a contribution to the discussion of women's roles in the synagogue, the home and the community. I don't think many people would argue that there are no women's issues left even in the most egalitarian segments of the Jewish community.
Finally, I noticed that Alexandra's article appeared in the same issue with Chaim Seidler-Feller's piece on Hillel as a uniquely pluralistic institution. Perhaps the Jewish Journal could occupy a similar role in the print-medium.
I was really disappointed by Robert Eshman's review of "Mama Cooks California Style,"("What's Cooking?", May 9).
I have friends who work to raise money for the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda. They spend endless hours trying to help this very worthy Jewish institution. When I heard that the Home was working on a cookbook that would not only set forth some of the best recipes of the residents of the Home before they were lost to us, but would also present Jewish-style recipes using more healthy ingredients that made them in sync with the California lifestyle, I could hardly wait to see it. It did not disappoint. I bought copies for myself and my two daughters so that our traditions could be passed to the next generation. After reading the book and testing some of the recipes, I will give the book as gifts to many of my friends.
I would think that the Journal would be one publication where the book would be reviewed carefully, and with a view to the book's intentions. I would hope that the food editor would do more than just skim the book -- and perhaps even test a few of the recipes before publishing the review, but it seems Eshman did neither.
He stated that "some of the recipes are flat-out unfortunate," and questioned whether it is really worth making "Corn Crepes with Southwestern Chicken Filling" if you have to use non-dairy creamer and taco mix. I made that recipe, Mr. Eshman, and it was delicious!
I happen to know Harriet Part personally. She has been my culinary inspiration for more than 35 years. When Harriet tells me something is good -- it is good. She is a professional Home Economist who has written food columns and taught cooking classes for years. She personally tested every receipe that appears in this book. This was a labor of love for her (only the Home benefits from the sale of this book) and at the very least deserves a fair review.
Recently, Robert Eshman reviewed a newly published cookbook by the Jewish Home for the Aging, "Mama Cooks California Style -- New Twists on Jewish Classics."
During the same week, the food editor of the Los Angeles Daily News thought the cookbook merited a front page color spread and another page of background and recipes. Melinda Lee of KABC reviewed the book Mother's Day morning, saying how wonderful she found it. Duttons, Barnes & Noble, B. Dalton, Brentano's, Walden's, Bloomingdale's and Gelsons are all going to stock "Mama".
So why do we care about Eshman's lukewarm review? It was not accurate and it was not professional. He left out the subtitle, "New Twists on Jewish Classics," which explains why this cookbook is unique. The recipe ingredients that he thought sounded terrible together were not together, and last but not least, he didn't even mention the "I Remember Mama" chapter that is the heart of the cookbook -- the recipes and anecdotes from the Jewish Home's residents, families and friends.
He also neglected to say that the proceeds from the sale of this cookbook go to enhance the lives of the residents at the JHA -- and what better way than the Jewish Journal to get this message across, or so we thought.
When we think about the support from mostly non-Jews, it's hard to understand where Eshman's head is, let alone his heart.
Food Editor, Home Economist
"Mama Cooks California Style -- New Twists on Jewish Classics"
Editor's note: Rob Eshman responds, "Ms. Part is mostly incorrect about my errors. I did mention the book is a fundraiser. Indeed, that was the main reason I felt it merited a review. The ingredients I questioned are indeed used in the same recipe (see page 104). And I did write that the book's strong point is its homestyle, authentic Jewish recipes. There are some fine, old recipes in the book -- Salmon with Egg-Lemon Sauce, Stuffed Veal Breast, Lee Lee's Russian Tea Cakes, "My Own Little Apple Cake," and Part's own chocolate cake. Anyone interested in these gems should buy the book.
"As Ms. Part must be aware, I and other Journal writers have written often about the excellent work of the Jewish Home for the Aging."
Where is the Future?
As a former member of a Conservative synagogue and the grandson of one of its esteemed clergy, it gives me a great deal of anguish to write this letter. With all the furor going on about the lack of religious pluralism in Israel, the Conservative movement has been fighting arm-in-arm with the Reform movement to gain religious recognition and rights there.
What is the Conservative position regarding Reform religious ceremonies ? Would they accept their conversions, marriages and divorces even though they are not up to Conservative standards? If so, then de facto, the Conservative movement really has no standards but the Reform ones. If not, wouldn't they be guilty of the same "transgression" they ascribe to Orthodoxy, namely not accepting other interpretations of Judaism ?
The claim has been made that the great majority of Diaspora Jews are Conservative or Reform. Outside the United States, this is clearly not the case since these movements there are small. Even within the U.S., I beg to differ. The majority of American Jews are not observant. The fact that many of them belong to a Conservative or Reform temple is less a matter of true identification with that particular movement than a "marriage of convenience." Few, if any religious demands are made on their congregants. Ask the great majority of even their regular worshippers what they believe in and/or practice, or are supposed to believe and do, and they would have no clear answers. To call them "Conservative Jews", or "Reform Jews" is stretching it.
The real judge of this contentious and vital issue will ultimately be history. If our present youth is any barometer, a recent article ("'Distant Friends' Reunion,"Apr. 25), will be most enlightening. In the article, committed Jewish teenagers were interviewed about their feelings towards Judaism and the Jewish people. A video was made of these interviews and is currently being shown in numerous Israeli high schools.
I need only quote: "'The kippah is basically the fundamental aspect of my life', says Jonathan Wohlgelerter, a student at the Orthodox Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles. 'It reminds me all the time who I am and what I am doing. It reminds me that God is above me and that I have to be careful what I am doing.'
'I don't wear a kippah and I don't wear tzitzit, says Ezra Meppin, a junior at Beverly Hills High School and a member of a Conservative temple. 'It's hard to keep kosher in social situations...Another thing that might be hard is finding a wife that is Jewish.'
'I don't care right now...I don't know about later on in life,' Becky Blitz, a Grant High School senior and an active member of Conservative temple Adat Ari El says about dating a non-Jew. 'Like marriage is your whole life and Judaism is an important part, but...I want to be in love with the person I marry.'
Where does the future of Judaism lie? I believe the answer is obvious.
Saying It All
We Jews should all learn from Dr. Robert C. Hamilton (who wrote about Lea Rabin in the May 2 issue), a non-Jew that bending backward does not mean breaking your back. God bless you Dr. Hamilton, you have said it all.
Abraham Kattan, Ph.D.
Information about how to register for Jewish tours of China was accidentally omitted from last week's travel feature. For prices and other travel information, readers should contact Dr. Wendy Abraham, c/o Jewish Historical Tours of China, P.O. Box 9480, Stanford, CA 94309; phone, (415) 968-1927; fax, (415) 725-8931; or e-mail: email@example.com.
The deadline for her fall tour is this week.
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