August 7, 1997
LettersThe Real Steven
Just as a prime example, since only three people know the absolutetruth of how the young Steven crashed the heavily-fortified gates atthe Universal lot (then called Revue Studios) in December of 1963,two of them being Steven and yours truly, and the third being my dearlate wife, Judy (sort of a summer surrogate mommy to the teen-agedSteven), I can tell you unequivocally that author McBride is guiltyof the same pure fictional nonsense printed in so many magazinearticles on the subject.
Steven, being the major mensch that he has always been wouldreadily attest to the true facts, no doubt with a chuckle growinginto hearty reminiscent laughter. Suffice it to say that the mundanetruth is always far less newsworthy than multi-colored fiction,particularly in an unauthorized biography.
Introduced to us as a nine-year old by my late cousin BernieAdler, who later married Steven's mom, Leah, of Milky Way fame,Steven lived in our home for a few months each teen-aged summer,scared the bejabbers out of my three impressionable kids, ruined abathroom with a vile film-developing solution, pulled diabolicalpranks on my friends, family and neighbors (many times with me in anunsuspecting supporting role), "stopped by" unannounced for anovernight and breakfast with 19 cast and crew members of hisaward-winning short "Amblin," and also scraped the entire side of mynew 1974 Pontiac which he commandeered for a shoot in the Mojave.
No, Steven wasn't acting out any childhood traumas as suggested sobroadly in McBride's book and countless magazine articles; he wasmerely constantly demonstrating a super-active imagination whilepreparing to challenge and change Hollywood forever. And through itall, Steven Spielberg still remains a mensch in every respect.
Stuart F. Tower
Demand Justice Now
Neil M. Sher's article on Switzerland's Nazi gold ("Switzerland'sHole Keeps Getting Deeper," July 25), was a first-rate article by apro with the proper credentials.
I read this as a timely, interesting story but it did not spellout the cry that this incident demands. We must convey to the worldthe passion, the closing of the ranks, the commitment, the "call toarms" among all of us, Jews and Christians alike, so that justice bedone now.
While nothing can ever balance the murder of six million Jews (andhow many millions of non-Jews), we demand the money which we can usefor many humanitarian purposes.
On a per-capita basis, the Swiss profited more than any othernation. They worked around the clock, seven days per week, supplyingwar material (at a price: gold) to the Germans.
How much did their greed prolong the war, with countless peoplekilled each additional minute? How much did this prolongation of thewar cost the allies who paid in blood and financial debt? How manysons, daughters, fathers and mothers were maimed, mortally orotherwise by this flagrant greed?
No amount of money will rectify the price paid by the allies inhuman suffering.
The allies demonstrated our humanity, values and dedication tojustice. Let the Swiss war profiteers take a page from ourhumanitarian template.
The very least the Swiss can do is to finally come clean, admittheir transgressions and make what can never be more than a minusculepayment for the error of their ways.
Let's not "stay tuned" for the next installment. Let us act bydemanding justice now.
During a recent trip to Russia, I was approached byrepresentatives of the Jewish community in Beltsy Moldava. They arenow in the process of trying to create a memorial to commemorate andhonor the members of the Beltsy community lost in the Holocaust. Theyhope that Los Angeles residents whose families come from that part ofthe world might participate in this memorial.
Interested parties can write to the Jewish Cultural Society, St 31August N63A, Beltsy Moldava.
Executive Vice President
Jewish Federation Council of Greater LosAngeles
The Future of Sinai
I read your articles regarding Sinai Temple and I must state howdisappointed I was to read what I felt were negative comments aboutthe members and board of directors ("The New Rabbi in Town," July25). I have been an active member of Sinai for 30 years and presentlya member of the board. However, this letter reflects my personalreactions and opinions to the articles.
We are a unique congregation made up of highly educatedprofessionals with diverse backgrounds and reflect the wide spectrumof religious observance prevalent in Conservative Judaism. RabbiTutnauer was not hired as a full-time rabbi, but was very helpful inproviding a spiritual prospective that we all felt was necessary. Thefact is that each rabbi was treated by our membership with respectfor his position and was extremely well compensated for theirservices.
Regarding the Persian population and participation at SinaiTemple, these members are wanted and well received. We have foundthey are devoted to Judaism, attend services on a regular basis, andsend their children to our outstanding religious and day schools. Ipersonally have recommended and elected many of these people to ourboard and enjoy working and praying with them. We do not arguePersian vs. Ashkenazi; our services reflect the standards of UnitedSynagogue.
As far as the statements regarding our loss of membership, almostevery synagogue has a similar problem. Ours is not nearly as severeas most. We consistently have had over 800 people attend servicesevery week. We have a large cadre of devoted members and we reallyconsider ourselves a family.
Our "fractious" board of directors has always been united inproviding the membership and community with excellent services andsupport. During this period of transition, a united board, under theoutstanding leadership of our immediate past president, JudithGalperson, unanimously and aggressively moved ahead to successfullyraise funds for our $25 million expansion project.
I feel your articles did not recognize the positive manor in whichthe Sinai Temple leadership has been managing. We want more members.We do not want to be a closed club. Our institution is open to allpeople looking for intellectual and spiritual growth for themselvesand their families.
I was very proud and pleased to see Rabbi David Wolpe's arrival atSinai Temple so prominently featured on the front page of the July 25edition. The articles were very flattering to Rabbi Wolpe and toSinai Temple for engaging the rabbi.
I was disappointed that so much space was given to Sinai Temple'srecent past and that there was no mention of the process the templeused to bring Rabbi Wolpe to our bimah. A 50 person search committeewas formed using the demographics of the temple's membership. Everyconstituency was represented.
Co-chairs Dr. David Aftergood and Roz Goldstine worked togetherwith the committee for almost a year to identify "who" Sinai Templewas and "where" we wished to go. Our concern was to find the rabbiwhose qualities were the best match for the needs of our membership.Facilitators were brought in to help keep the committee focused. Manycandidates were interviewed, first by telephone and then several werebrought to Los Angeles for four days of interviews, classes andservices. The entire congregation had the ability to meet eachcandidate.
When the committee met to finally choose who our next rabbi wouldbe, it was with confidence that they unanimously selected RabbiWolpe. The board of directors also approved Rabbi Wolpe's contractunanimously.
The process of Sinai Temple's search committee should be a rolemodel for any congregation in search of a spiritual leader. SinceRabbi Wolpe has come to Sinai, there is a new spirit in thesynagogue. Many of our members have found their way back into thesanctuary on Shabbat and many former members have rejoined. Ourmembership is inspired about their Judaism and our future is bright.
Judith A. Galperson
Immediate Past President
No Happy Camper
Through the years I have dealt with my annoyance at Marlene AdlerMarks' numerous articles about Camp Hess Kramer without the slightestmention of its sister camp, Gindling Hilltop Camp. However, herlatest column ("A Perfect Orange, July 25), contained one line whichupset me very deeply. This article did mention Hilltop, stating, "Forthose 1,100 campers who will attend either Hess Kramer or its sister,Gindling Hilltop this summer, Leadership walks on hallowed ground."This simply is not true.
Hess Kramer campers may wait patiently for the day when they candon their Leadership sweatshirts for the first time, but those whoremain loyal to Hilltop spend every summer thinking and talking abouthow close they are to being in Mitzvah. Mitzvah is a program similarto Leadership -- both are for campers going into the 10th grade --but at the same time, completely different.
I was fortunate enough to experience Mitzvah in 1996. One of themain purposes of Mitzvah is to get campers involved in theircommunity. We wrote letters to Congress; visited Dome City, ahomeless shelter; and studied how the Ten Commandments relate to oureveryday lives. I even found the adventurist in me, walking down thevery steep "fire trail" in the dark and hiking the 4 1/2 miles backto camp after spending the night at the beach. Mitzvah was the mostamazing three weeks of my life and never once did I wish I had choseLeadership.
In the future, please remember that while Kramer may be the largercamp, Hilltop has an incredible feeling of family, and Mitzvah isbecoming stronger every summer.
If Dan Joseph is going to write about science ("Rocket Mensch,"July 25), he should know something about it. In the first paragraph,he writes: "A man floats in a weightless cabin...the Earth eightmiles below him." In the next to last paragraph he refers to floating40,000 feet above the surface of the Earth.
At these altitudes, Dan Joseph is going to have to climb a longway towards the heavens if he is ever to escape gravity. He may bevery tired before he does!
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