May 22, 1997
Let us ignore for a moment that the book reflects the author's juvenile preoccupation with sexuality as he analyzes the "juicy parts" of the holy Torah. More significantly, he ignores one of Rambam's Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith, "I believe with complete faith that the entire Torah now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses."
Instead the author accepts German biblical criticism by brazenly stating the Divine Torah was of "human authorship." This unkosher viewpoint is not only twisted religiosity but, as our Torah sages warn us, just one step above potential descent to atheism. This book deserves front-page billing in the "Pagan" rather than The Jewish Journal.
Martin S. Rosenberg
The Shame of Belzec
In reference to the story "Overgrown with Weeds and Invaded by Pop Music" (May 2), I too visited Belzec some eight years ago and Alan Elsner's story brought back my own memories of that visit.
Allow me to explain. The name Belzec has been etched in my memory since June 11, 1942. It was on that tragic day that I was destined to be sent to Belzec. I was not even 14 and, only through a "miracle," I escaped certain death in that place. However, on June 15, my parents and other members of my family were transported to Belzec, never to be heard from again.
Belzec, the Nazi extermination camp, with not one survivor, is located in one of the most desolate parts of Poland. Several acres of barren land, with a fence and sign that 600,000 Jews perished there, is all that testifies to the banality of evil and man's inhumanity.
When I scooped the barren soil, human bone particles remained in my own hand; were these remains of my own parents, my uncles and aunts or, perhaps, my 28 classmates who perished there? Who could tell?
Yes, Elsner is correct, the statue of the emaciated figure is the only present reminder (not even a Star of David) of this evil. This terrible place, where so many men, women, and children perished, needs to be remembered and, those of us who lost our families there, must do something about it.
Dr. Sam Goetz
Immediate Past Chair
The 1939 Club
Robert Eshman reviewed a newly published cookbook by the Jewish Home for the Aging, "Mama Cooks California Style--New Twists on Jewish Classics" ("Up Front," May 9).
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 on Mother's Day morning, saying how wonderful she found it. Dutton's, Barnes & Noble, B. Dalton, Brentano's, Walden's, Bloomingdale's and Gelson's are all going to stock "Mama."
So why do we care about Mr. 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 receipt 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, which is the heart of the cookbook -- the recipes and anecdotes from the Jewish Home's Resident's, families and friends.
Mr. Eshman 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 Mr. Eshman's head is, let alone his heart.
Food Editor, Home Economist
"Mama Cooks California Style--New Twists on Jewish Classics"
Forces of Bigotry
The recent statement by a segment of the Orthodox community concerning Reform and Conservative Jews has engendered ill feelings. For the first time in recent memory, we have feelings of suffering bigotry "from within." My first reaction was humorous. "The Orthodox don't want us, and the Southern Baptists do."
The Jewish people, our people, at many times in history, have witnessed and survived the forces of bigotry from the outside world. Now, certain members of the Orthodox community have decided that Conservative and Reform Jewish Temples are "outside of Judaism" and are not entitled to recognition in Israel or as legitimate members of the Jewish community. This is nothing less than verbal fratricide and ought to be condemned.
For a people who have lost more than 6 million, to even chance the loss of one Jew is unacceptable. Those of you who heard Leopold Page speak at Kol Tikvah were deeply moved by how thankful we all are that his life was saved by a "righteous Gentile," Oskar Schindler.
Should not all Jews, whether Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, gay, or straight, believers or not, protect and accept one another? Yes, we should. The few Orthodox rabbis have desecrated God's name and millions of Jews also.
Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs
It's enough already with this quarrelsome business of "Who's a Jew?" My mother would have declared it all narishkeit (nonsense.)
Raised in the orthodox tradition, in my teen years, I was drawn more to the "unity of the Jewish people for the highest purpose of humanity" through community service and found myself at home in all three forms of worship at the time (orthodox, conservative and reform). As an adult, I chose reform because of my regard for the congregation's rabbi(s), and social relationships in my home town, New Haven, and subsequently here in Los Angeles.
Regarding Rabbi Hecht's letter, "For the Love of God" (April 25), I "love God, love Torah and love my fellow Jew." Why does he find the way I pray offensive and the cause for the rift that threatens Jewish unity? Narishkeit.
Self-interest motivates all of us in what we believe and do. But self-interest is best served when there is mutual regard and respect for one another.
Peace comes to one when self is satisfied with self and extends a hand of friendship to all who care about humanity.
Enough already. We have differences over issues, over principles and meanings of words like "democracy... theocracy," but none will be resolved by conflict.
Hyman H. Haves
Rabbi Eli Hecht's letter ("For the Love of God," April 25) is an eloquent and reasonable exposition of Orthodoxy, but he errs in his understanding of history when he says that "Reform and Conservative movements have destroyed Jewish solidarity by creating their new trend in religious practice called "branches of religion."
Reform, and later, Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism arose in response to the abandonment of what we now call Orthodoxy by the majority of the Jewish community in Western Europe and America. They were created as religious alternatives for Jews who had already rejected the premises and, in many cases, the practices of Orthodoxy, and were designed to prevent alienation and assimilation.
Rabbi Hecht's statement that "the Orthodox have not changed their religion or their method of observance" (which I assume includes Chabad and other Chassidism) would certainly come as a surprise to the great Vilna Gaon, who was instrumental in promoting bans just short of excommunication against Chassidic institutions and practices in the late 18th century. For years, Mitnagdim (the Traditional Lithuanian teachers) have accused Chassidism of doing precisely that.
Rabbi Hecht is right in noting that Conservative and Reform rabbis understand Torah and God's expectations of them in ways that differ from those common to Orthodox Jews. That doesn't mean they have "ignored" the Torah and the laws. It means they don't accept Rabbi Hecht's theology, but have their own which differs in varying degrees from his.
Of course Jewish solidarity could be established if everyone would become Orthodox or Reform, for that matter. The concept of respectful pluralism is based on the assumption that this will not happen and that Jewish unity must transcend religious and political differences.
Rabbi Gilbert Kollin
Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center
About Georgia Mercer
I was appalled at a recent letter The Jewish Journal published by a reader who viciously attacked Georgia Mercer, a candidate to replace retiring Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude.
Mr. Ernie Frankel, who has probably never met Georgia Mercer, questions her education and, strangely enough, calls her an "insider" while saying she has no government experience.
I have known Georgia Mercer for years, and I have worked side by side with her. She is a woman who gets things done. She has been an active volunteer in our community, working to preserve choice for women and to protect our environment. She co-founded Women For:, one of the most forward-looking women's organizations in Los Angeles. She worked for Mayor Riordan as his Valley point-person, as well as his liaison to the Jewish community.
Georgia's opponent, however, was a City bureaucrat for 22 years. She claims almost sole credit for protecting the Santa Monica Mountains, but in truth, longtime Congressman Tony Beilenson, who is supporting Georgia, made that conservation a reality.
Georgia's opponent recently sent out a mailer, signed by several Jewish political activists, which intimates that she is Jewish. The truth is that she is not Jewish, and I am offended that she has chosen to hide behind some Jewish supporters and her brief position at the Skirball Center to make voters think that she is Jewish.
I am supporting Georgia because she knows how to bring people together to solve problems. The last thing we need in City Hall is another bureaucrat who will continue to do things the way they've always been done.
We are pleased to announce a momentous event dedicated to building U.S.-Israel cultural ties. The second Western States Conference on Israeli Culture will be held June 15-16, at the University of California, San Diego. The conference is sponsored by the State of Israel, represented by the Consulates-General of Israel in Los Angeles, Houston and San Francisco, in cooperation with the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity and the Judaic Studies Program at the University of California, San Diego.
For more information, contact the Department of Cultural Affairs at the Consulate General of israel in Los Angeles at (213) 852-5521.
Consul for Communications and Public Affairs
President, Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity
Thomas E. Levy
Chair, Judaic Studies Program, UCSD
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