July 16, 1998
The 45,000 Jews documented by the landmark Jewish population survey as residing in the South Bay must have been mightily mystified upon receiving their July 3 edition of The Jewish Journal with the map of Jewish Los Angeles on the cover ("Coming to Our Census").
It seems that the geography of the community underwent some monumental dislocations that we were not aware of. The South Bay has suddenly shifted far east of the coastal area and is apparently hovering somewhere inland north of Long Beach. And those of us who have been operating under the assumption that Palos Verdes is the official name of that large southern-most peninsula that spawned a Jewish community now into its third generation have apparently been sadly misguided. To the chagrin of the thousands of Palos Verdes Jews who thought that the view from their back porch was the Pacific Ocean, their community has migrated dramatically to the north and seems to have been plunked in an unidentifiable urban tundra somewhere to the east of Manhattan Beach.
A call for accuracy in the journalistic definition of this region seems a modest request. The South Bay embraces a largely coastal swath from Westchester south through San Pedro, inclusive of El Segundo, Torrance, Lomita, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and the beach cities of Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo. This is an area rich in natural and institutional resources, attracting Jews of all persuasions and contributing to the vitality for which the South Bay is celebrated.
Shira L. Most
Jewish Federation, South Bay Council
Maybe "[t]he 1997 Jewish Population Survey tells all," but your front page map doesn't. During the 31 years that I have lived in Pacific Palisades, there has been a vital and ever growing Jewish presence in the community. But as far as The Journal is concerned, we don't exist. What a blow!
Kupfer is Qualified
I am quite certain that Rabbi Boruch Kupfer did not mean to tar Rabbi Emanual Rackman with the wide brush of "...unlicensed and unqualified practitioners of the law," the last line of Kupfer's letter on the agunah ("The Annuller," June 12).
The now 88-year-old Rackman, whom many consider the dean and elder statesman of centrist Orthodoxy, certainly needs no defense of his credentials as an authority in Jewish legal matters.
But just for the record, Rackman, current chancellor and past president of Bar-Ilan University in Israel, has authored three major books as well as scores of scholarly articles in all the recognized publications on halacha and its interpretation.
A renowned authority on the history of Jewish philosophy and law, Rackman has taught political philosophy and jurisprudence at Yeshiva University where he served as provost. Longtime rabbi of New York's esteemed Orthodox Fifth Avenue Synagogue, he is a past president of both the New York Board of Rabbis and the Rabbinical Council of America. He holds a Ph.D in political science and a law degree from Columbia University and smicha from Yeshiva University.
Rackman created, founded and served as first president of the Rabbinical Court of America, the beit din of the Rabbinical Council of America that is now fighting against him on the agunah issue.
Does this sound like an "unqualified and unlicensed practitioner" of Jewish law?
West Coast Friends of Bar-Ilan University
Entitled to Benefits
In 1997, the German courts decreed that the Jews who had worked in the Lodz Ghetto and had survived the war were entitled to social security. While we lived in Hamburg, Germany, the Germans arrested, incarcerated, and murdered my father -- and, shortly thereafter, in October, 1941 -- my mother, sister, and I were deported to the Lodz Ghetto. My mother died of starvation there, and my sister was one of 20,000 children to have been rounded up, deported, and never heard from again.
On the liquidation of the ghetto, I became a slave laborer, or prisoner, in various camps; namely, Auschwitz, Neuengamme, and Bergen-Belsen. I am the only one in my family to have survived the war.
I worked in the ghetto under threat of death by starvation or deportation in several offices as a clerk, and in a factory that made leather holsters for the Germans. At that time I was between 16 and 19 years of age. Thus, 36 months of my life were spent under agonizing duress.
With the above background in my mind, I applied for "social security" in 1997 and went to Germany in 1998 to pursue the matter further. When the Germans processed my application, I learned to my dismay that I would receive DM 170 or $80 a month, including the time I had worked as home-seamstress in Hamburg.
Why so low, I wondered. Upon inquiry, I was told that I had been "just a clerk" and, as such, I had held a low position. Had I been the director of a factory, I would have received more money. Startled by this criterion, and that this was the "best" the German government could offer after more than 50 years had elapsed, I could not help but ask: "Do the former Wehrmacht and SS get social security too?"
"Of course not," replied the official. "They get a high pension as civil servants."
Needless to say, and, as a matter of principle, I am appealing a ruling that makes me less entitled to social security than my former oppressors, and I urge those few of us who survived -- wherever we may be -- to protest the appalling cynicism of this inequity. We may not succeed, but we ought to be heard.