August 28, 1997
Just to clarify Tom Tugend's "Strain in the Relationship" (Aug.22):
Hollywood's power brokers of Jewish ancestry met on Tisha B'Av atthe Hillcrest Country Club (over shrimp cocktails, perhaps?) todiscuss their "genuine quest for a 'new identity' in theirrelationship to Israel."
Are we all comforted to know that Israel's American support liesdisproportionately in the hands of such people so profoundly capableof deep introspection on this most somber day in the Jewish calendar?
Can we say that their need for self-deification will never bereconciled with the survival of Israel as a Jewish state?
As for Billy Crystal or any other celebrity of Jewish ancestry:Their interest or participation in anything Jewish is directlyproportional to the impact on their showbiz careers.
We non-Orthodox Jews should face up to this fact: We daily bemoanassimilation and the predicted disappearance of the Jewish peoplebecause of this. But we cannot argue the fact that wherever thenon-observant or semi-observant Jew dominates Jewish life,assimilation thrives and Jews flock to the Moonies and other cults.
We've done a lousy job of preserving Jewish identity. So, where dowe get the arrogance to force this miserable record upon a Jewishnation, from afar yet? Making donations to Israel should not give usthe right to force our way of life on the Jews who live there. Suchan attitude is hardly in keeping with the Jewish tradition oftzedakah. The recipients of our charity should not be beholdento us.
Our masochism truly shines bright when we consider how stupid itis for us, non-Orthodox Jews, to push the wrong buttons at thisextremely volatile time in our history. Our very survival is at stakebecause of the devotion towards our destruction, displayed by theArab enemy. We could at least have the common sense to put offinternal fighting until we have neutralized the danger from theoutside enemy.
By the way, has any one of us seen a published comment by even oneArab that attacks the Arabs in a manner that is equal to the flood ofanti-Israel articles by Jews? Talk about masochism!
I was shocked and saddened to read two reports from Israel("Caught In a Maelstrom," "Another Melee Erupts as Women Pray withMen at Western Wall," Aug. 15). How can we anguish over the seriousdisturbances in Israel between the Israelis and the Arabs when wehave such nasty and hateful disturbances within our own people? Howcan we rightfully accuse others when we seemingly have no controlover our own actions?
I am sick and tired of those who claim to be so devout that theycannot follow the basic tenets of the Torah; we are bidden to takeresponsibility for our own actions and not to blame others.
I have found that shame, blame and regret are not satisfactoryconditions with which to live life. Is this the way to love yourneighbor as yourself? Of course, if you do not love yourself, then itbecomes easier to lay the blame on another.
The shameful way that the women were treated when they attemptedto pray is disgusting behavior and I can find no reasonableexplanation for it. How can we justify the male attitude whichdemeans women in these ways? This is 1997, and I have not found anyjustification which says that women are to be given unequal rights.
If we can not live in peace with each other then how in the nameof G-d can we ever expect to live peacefully with any other people?Let us pray that we will be able to treat each other with respect andtrue understanding, not just tolerance. Then perhaps the rest of theworld may be better able to treat us that way, too.
South Bay Greetings
In case you have forgotten, we too live in the South Bay and havedone so for the past 23 years. We have been active in building aschool, mikvah, day care center, adult center and have an affiliationof 500 friends.
Surprisingly, your cover story "Wave of the Future,"(Aug. 22)forgot a main Jewish group. Hopefully, this is not a common practice.
Rabbi Eli Hecht
Chabad of South Bay
It was wonderful to see that the South Bay Jewish community is notforgotten. We certainly are alive and well. I believe people have toknow that there are Jews living in other neighborhoods other thanjust the Valley, the Farifax area and the Westside.
But, my disappointment came when I saw that the synagogue myfamily belongs to was relegated to less than one line. B'nai TikvahCongregation is also a member of the South Bay Council of theFederation. We are 51 years young and have the motto of "Not justanother shul!" Our credo is we are small enough to encourage personalrelationships but large enough to offer a variety of programs.
We joined the synagogue when our oldest child was ready for Sundayschool and have remained members for over 44 years. To our delight,our son and daughter-in-law have joined and nothing gives us morepleasure than sitting next to them and our grandchildren at services.
And now we are very excited about our new and dynamic spiritualleader, Rabbi Michael Beals. We were delighted as he conducted hisfirst Shabbat service last Friday night. The sanctuary was crowedwith adults and children who were anxious to welcome him and hislovely wife, Dr. Elissa Green-Beals, to Westchester and B'nai TikvahCongregation.
We believe that the Jewish Journal left our a very important partof South Bay Judaism when they choose to omit any significant mentionof B'nai Tikvah Congregation.
After reading your article "Wave of the Future," (Aug. 15) I wasstruck with the similarity of our own experience in starting a shulin Oxnard, a city that is considered bamidbar, "in thedesert," as regarding Jewish matters, by the Los Angeles Jewishcommunity.
Our synagogue, Congregation Am HaYam, "People of the sea," is theonly Conservative synagogue between Thousand Oaks and San LuisObispo. We had our first service last May, starting out in members'homes, and now in a rented hall. We hold Shabbat services on thefirst and third weekends of each month at the Oxnard Monday Clubwhere we will also be holding our first High Holy Day services. Weare affiliated with the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism andnow have a membership of almost 50 families. Everyone who attendsservices, besides remarking about how warm and friendly they are,says the same thing: "I didn't know there were this many Jews in thearea!"
There is no kosher butcher or baker in our area so that when wehave a Shabbat dinner we have to bring the food from the San FernandoValley.
Our services are warm and inspiring due to our rabbi/cantor, RabbiGerald Hanig, who was the cantor at Temple Ramat Zion in Northridgefor over 20 years. His intellect, devotion to Judaism and truly warmpersonality are our major asset. We also have none of the politicalinfighting and divisiveness or more established Jewish synagogues andother institutions. Due to the popularity of our area as a vacationresort, we also have a number of visitors to our synagogue. Indeed, alarge percentage of our members live in Los Angeles and have weekendhomes here.
So you see, you can find a synagogue in the most unlikely city.Even in the strawberry capital of the world, Oxnard, Calif.
Morton H. Resnick
Congregation Am HaYam
The Journal Critiqued
I would like to share some thoughts that have been brewing in mymind for some time now:
It might be unprofessional of me to question the value of theTorah interpretations which distinguished colleagues of mine arewriting. To my mind they add little understanding concerning theweekly parsha that is read in the synagogue. Some may think that thisan appropriate application of the midrash technique hallowedby our tradition but the Journal columns miss the mark. Usually about75 percent of the writing deals with a personal anecdote or a generalobservation on the peccadilloes of life and then a few verses fromthe weekly portion are dragged in give these ruminations some We havea right to know what the Torah portion is all about.
In my view the Journal is overloaded with material about thepolitical merry-go-round in Israel. The L.A. Times already gives ussufficient coverage of the scene there. What we need from a Jewishweekly are articles in depth, exploring the background of thecultural and religious events percolating over there.
I now notice stacks of copies of the Journal for freedistribution. Where did I get the notion that it is available only toFederation contributors? Besides, it upsets my aesthetic taste to seecopies of the Journal roll in the gutter along with the L.A. Weekly.
And finally your writers should have some sensitivity to thenuances of the Yiddish and Hebrew languages. I bite my tongue whenthe L.A. Times and non-Jewish writers commit these linguisticindiscretions. But Jews, certainly those whose aim is to make theirreaders more literate, should know that the plural of chasid ischasidim and the plural of mensch is menschen. Maybe your writersshould take some basic courses to appreciate the soul of Yiddishkeit.Let's not bowdlerize our heritage.
The Latest Crisis
Gary Rosenblatt citing Egon Mayer, recently wrote, "the organizedJewish community is obsessed with the sense of crisis that fuelsvirtually every Jewish cause ("'Vanishing' Jews Are Still Here,"Aug.8). It appears that our local Messianic synagogue has provided thelatest crisis ("Who Is Not a Jew?" Aug. 22). Marlene Adler Marksstates that Conejo Valley leaders have all mobilized around this newcause. No doubt they have pulled off a fund raising coup in theprocess. Apparently Messianic Jews are not the only Jews that lovepublicity.
Marks refers to a "besieged Jewish community." Messianic Jews, inthe U.S. and in Israel, have been the victims of death threats,arson, physical violence, and vandalism because of our beliefs. Who,I ask, is besieging whom?
There is good reason that the phrase, "Who is a Jew?" is alwaysleft unanswered in our age of Jewish diversity. Marks celebrates thenotion that Rabbinic Jews can at least rally around their fear ofMessianic Jews. But if fear and paranoia against a small andrelatively powerless Jewish group is the only thing that can uniteRabbinic Jews today, then they of all people, are to be most pitied.
In Marlene Adler Marks' column last week, Debbie Pine wasidentified as working with Cult Awareness Network. In fact, Pine isthe director of the Maynard Bernstein Resource Center on Cults. TheCult Awareness Network was purchased by the Church of Scientology.
The Journal regrets the error.
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