June 11, 1998
It appears that The Jewish Journal, in its haste to publish an article about "doings" at the University of Judaism, was prepared to forgo a great deal of accuracy. Most of the information reported in "UJ Layoffs" (May 2) was incorrect, including the actual number of layoffs (fewer than three), the amount of the deficit, the size of our staff, Dr. Wexler's supposed absence from Los Angeles (he actually spoke to The Journal's editor-at-large) and the assumptions made about our rabbinical school endowment. Furthermore, none of the individuals quoted in the article were in a position to know about University finances or decision- making processes.
Unfortunately, The Journal was ready to sacrifice the privacy of three talented professionals by publishing their names. Ironically, it is still quite possible that all, or some of, the three will be with us next year.
After-the-fact corrections mean little once misstatements are published, and the harm done to institutions and to individuals is not easily repaired.
Chairman of the Board
Robert Eshman responds:
Any inaccuracies in the story are my responsibility, and I apologize for them. However, it is important to note the following facts:
1) The layoffs at the University of Judaism provoked anxiety and dismay among many in the UJ community, and I believed that The Journal had no choice but to write about them in a timely manner. Because of the long Passover holiday, I had limited time to report the story.
2) Among the many people I interviewed in preparation for the story were a dean, a person closely affiliated with the University, a Hillel director, a university regent and the UJ's PR director. I relied on these sources for the facts and figures I used.
3) I must point out that the PR director refused to confirm or deny the facts and figures, or even provide proper spelling of the names of people involved. She also had no knowledge of any layoffs.
4) I made numerous, increasingly frantic and, ultimately, futile attempts to reach President Wexler or Vice President for Administration Mark Bookman. Each time I called, I left word that we intended to run the story, that we were on a 2 p.m. deadline, and that I very much wanted their point of view.
5) I wrote that President Wexler "was not in town at the time of the layoffs" (during the long weekend). Obviously, I knew he was in town by Wednesday -- I tried all morning and afternoon to reach him.
6) What I consider the most egregious charge -- that I "sacrificed the privacy" of individuals -- confounds me. The people whose stories I reported spoke with me at length and on-the-record. Being laid off for them was a source of some anger and some dismay, but hardly a source of shame or embarrassment, as President Wexler and Chairman Maas seem to imply.
7) If I misreported the number of layoffs, it was because I conflated those laid off with people who were informed late in the academic year their contracts for various UJ posts would not be renewed. I know this number is higher than "fewer than three."
8) Again, there is no excuse for the facts I did get wrong. However, I also understand that President Wexler and Chairman Maas do not dispute the major revelations of my story: that a round of surprising layoffs did occur, that neither Wexler nor Rabbi Gordis did the actual laying off, that the layoffs came about as a result of long-talked-about financial problems, and that the UJ had to do what it must to stay viable.
Thank you for the excellent article by Michael Berenbaum ("Jackie & Campy," April 18). I have one little problem with the remembrance cited from Duke Snider, regarding Jackie Robinson's participation in two sports, baseball and track, on the same day, between games of a doubleheader, at Pasadena City College.
Those of us who attended UCLA with Jackie (1939-1941), remember the incident, a single affair, as occurring in the Spring of 1940 or '41. There was a track meet at Spaulding Field, on the campus, and a baseball game at Sawtelle, across the street from the west side of the campus. Jackie did leave the baseball field for a short time to run across Veteran Avenue in time to participate in the long jump, his specialty at that time. As I remember the story, he didn't have time to change to his track clothes, but won the event anyway wearing his baseball uniform.
Perhaps some of your other readers will remember the story as I do. Thanks again for a timely article about a real American mensch.
Robert E. Green
Mercer vs. Miscikowski
Marlene Adler Marks wrote a provocative column ("The Jewish Vote," April 11), with some wise insights into the elements at play in the Riordan-Hayden campaign. However, she misses the mark by a stupefying margin on the Miscikowski-Mercer campaign when she writes that they are "...two women so similar in political views and credentials that some voters could not tell them apart."
Cindy Miscikowski -- with an impeccable record in zoning, planning, public safety, environmental concerns and administration -- ran an immaculately decent capaign, dealing with matters of concern to the entire 11th District. Georgia Mercer, with an appalling disregard for the truth, and a willingness to deal in innuendo and outright lies, ran an attack-dog campaign, ignoring the issues because she has neither the academic training nor the on-the-job experience to deal with those issues.
Where are Mercer's credentials in government? She claims to be " an outsider," but the fact is, she's been an insider for a long time. She was an insider during the Bradley administration. She's been an insider in the Riordan administration. She stood with the insiders in support of allowing councilmembers to raise their slush fund from $10,000 to $75,000 apiece while Miscikowski stood against that, as the voters did. Mercer served briefly as Mayor Riordan's representative in the San Fernando Valley. During that time, she cannot point to one initiative taken, one action that resulted in positive change, one problem solved to make the Valley a better place to live.
On the other hand, it was Miscikowski who put together the city-state-federal homeowners group that built the post office in Tarzana. It was Miscikowski who fought for the Quimby funds to purchase park land in the Santa Monica Mountains. It was Miscikowski who went to Sacramento to press for, and get, the Big Wild Park for Los Angeles. It was Miscikowski who directed the fight to close the one-hour motels on Ventura and Van Nuys boulevards. It was Miscikowski who, as the councilman's representative, acted to stop the developers from building what would have become a traffic nightmare on Havenhurst and Ventura in the Valley, etc., etc.
I enjoy and respect Ms. Marks' work. I read her column religiously. However, sometimes she makes mistakes. And saying that Mercer and Miscikowski are "similar in political views and credentials" is one doozy of a mistake.
In Love With Israel
I recently returned from a month-long mission of chizuk (strength) and solidarity to Israel. For the first week, I joined up with a group of about 30 people from the New York area, Canada and Texas. I was the only one from the West Coast. We visited many of the West Bank settlements, in a very intensive program, meeting with, and having serious discussions with, residents and leaders, including members of the Knesset. We visited Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Efrat, Shiloh, Bet El, Gush Katif, and then, on to other places such as Jerusalem.
After about a week, most of the group left Israel for their return flight home. I remained in Israel, on my own for another three weeks. For me, that period was even more intensive and inspiring than the first week. My center of operations was Bet El, from where I travelled to many parts of Israel. I came to feel the pulse of the country.
People really wanted to share their strength and courage at this time in Israel's history. Upon reflection, I believe I received much more in return. I tried to live as close as I could to the average Israeli resident for those weeks. I used the public transporation system everywhere and found it splendid in service, and I have a new respect for its bus drivers. I walked a great deal too, as I feel that is a very good way to see the country and its people.
I felt greatly elevated -- emotionally, spiritually and physically. I visited Ashkelon, Tel Aviv, Rishon LeZion, Haifa, kibbutzim and other places. I felt at home... better than home. My only regret was that I had to leave.
If I was asked if I would go to Israel now, since the latest incident in Israel [the March 21 suicide bomb attack at a Tel Aviv cafe], I would not hesitate for a moment. We Jews, who have been blessed with an independent Israel, should give serious thought to making aliyah. Israel is our home... our real home.
The Skirball Cultural Center and Wheels for Humanity will be collecting wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, baby car seats, commodes and strollers Sat., May 17, at the Skirball Cultural Center. Recycled wheelchairs will be refurbished and distributed in 11 poor nations. Hours for drop off are 9 a.m.-noon. (818) 766-8000.