September 3, 1998
Rob Eshman caught the mood of frustration and concern that was evident at Jerry Bubis' home at a recent meeting of our local Peace Now leadership. This concern is born of the destructive strategies and tactics of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. With the change in election laws it is likely that Netanyahu will be in power for another three years. He has been called Israel's Teflon prime minister because so little of the accusations of sleaze, misjudgment and actions just this side of criminal sticks to him.
What Mr. Eshman insufficiently reflected was the resolve that existed in that room and indeed exists among our leadership locally, nationally and in Israel.
He downplayed the great importance of so significant a figure as Debra DeLee taking on the national Executive Directorship. (As Mr. Eshman noted, in her last post she was in charge of the Democratic National Convention.)
His reference to Yiftach Levy's comment on fund raising was incomplete. It was explained that 1) we had not had a director in place in Los Angeles for over six months and 2) that on the national level a dinner normally held in November was held in January of this year. Incidentally, that dinner held in New York, raised record dollars for Peace Now's activities here and in Israel. Last year we raised over 25 percent more than in 1995. Our fund raising in Southern California, without a regional director for over half a year, matched the national pace.
We can report that since the meeting Mr. Eshman attended, we have personally contacted 10 supporters of Peace Now, received six gifts at increased levels from last year's, four more at last year's heroic levels, and promises of even more from two others.
Our base grows even as we realize that the days of Roxbury Park are over. Those were dark days. All of us on the platform that day were escorted out of harm's way because of the excesses of the political right. That is not our way. We continue to engage in education and action when it is deemed helpful and appropriate.
Next month we will be welcoming Middle East peace and security experts Professors Mark Heller and Khalil Shikaki for analysis and discussion, along with our new director, Debra DeLee.
Professor Steven Spiegel's Peace Index indicated that Peace Now and its efforts have never been needed in the past as much as they are today. We now realize unfortunately that peace is being delayed by Mr. Netanyahu. It is still to be won by the efforts that we will continue to carry on here and support in Israel. Only when that end has been reached will we cease our labors.
Professor Gerald Bubis
Los Angeles Chapter, Americans for Peace Now
Both Rob Eshman's article on
the Peace Movement in L.A. ("L.A.'s Shrinking Peace Movement," April 25) and the interview with Stanley Shein-baum are correct -- there is great frustration and concern that the peace process is at such a critical state and in danger of totally dissolving.
The dogmatic rigidity and incredibly poor judgment of many of Prime Minister Netanyahu's decisions, combined with the apparent inability or unwillingness of Chairman Arafat to live up to his agree-ments has produced a paralysis that is both disheartening and frightening.
But the Peace Now organization in L.A., on the U.S. national scene, and in Israel continues to pursue the goal of peace with commitment and a passion born of the knowledge that there is no alternative to this goal but increasing tension, leading to more killings and the death of hope.
With news from the Mideast filled with charges and threats, and seemingly no willingness on either side to constructively negotiate, it is a very discouraging time for all who care about Israel and its future. But we have no option -- we must continue the struggle to overcome the hate, anger and fear that fills the air.
There is no secure Israel without peace.
Richard S. Gunther
Immediate Past Co-President
Americans for Peace Now
No More Labels
It is no wonder why today's Judaism is weakened, fragmented, and tormented with the eternal search of who is a Jew.
Inner division starts with the group labels that Jews anoint themselves with -- Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and worst of all "Sephardim" and "Ashkenazim." This type of inner division was propagated by the various conquerors and oppressors of the Jews throughout history. As we can see today, we have placated, served and obliged those historical enemies very well.
The concept of Diaspora, after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Roman Empire, in the year 69 C.E., greatly contributed to our inner divisions. This can be seen in suggested readings such as "The Dead Sea Scrolls in English" by Giza Vermes; "The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered" by Dr. Robert Eisenman and Dr. Michael Wise; the works of the Jewish general, Yoseph Ben Matatyahoo, better known as Josephus Flavius; and, Plini. Read and understand why we, the "people of the book," should have learned from our error-ridden history.
If we are to survive, we must stand as one. The traditional approach of Jews continuing to treat the bitter and sometimes sweet fruits, instead of treating the roots, must come to an immediate and grinding halt.
A starting point for this unity: To understand that the weakening divisive concept of "Sephardim" and "Ashkenazim" is historically wrong. In reality, there are no such groups as "Ashkenazim" or "Sephardim," for Jews are all descendants of the same stock who were expelled from Spain in 1492.
So, if you will, we are all "Sephardim." But, to be egalitarian, let us dump both those pseudo names. Mr. Nessim, your letter ("Sephardic Model, April 18) is one small step, nonetheless significant, in the right direction for the Jewish people. In order to overcome our own entrenched biases, like your name "Nessim" suggests, our people will need several miracles.
I will conclude in quoting your own words, Mr. Nessim: "I realize that the cost of my approach is the sacrifice of some ideological purity, but does that have to be the important value?"
Food for much thought.
For The Love of God
Reading the message to the Jewish community signed by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Rabbinical Council of America, "We call upon all responsible leaders to speak in the spirit of ahavat Yisrael, love of all Jews, so that despite the issues on which we differ, we remain united," makes me wonder.
Whatever happened to ahavat Hashem, the love of G&'173;d, or ahavat HaTorah, the love of Torah? How can we lose sight of the fact that the leaders of the Reform and Conservative rabbinate have ignored G&'173;d's Torah and laws?
Jewish people are fine -- for them, I have ahavat Yisrael. It's the Reform and Conservative rabbinate with which I have problems.
In an open letter to the Jewish community, signed by Herbert M. Gelfand, president of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, we are told the following: "I urge you to ask yourselves what each of you can do individually, and in concert with the Jewish Federation, to help hold our large and diverse community together."
Upon Gelfand's request, I have asked myself that question, and the following is my reply:
The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada is not a marginal group. It is an extremely important group that has, in the past (and still does), represented Daas Torah, the laws of our holy Torah. Every Orthodox rabbi knows that.
The Jewish Federation Council has committed a grave sin in equating Daas Torah -- Torah law -- with "we must not permit terrorist or fringe elements to guide our communal agenda." The Federation owes us an apology.
Remember, the Orthodox have not changed their religion or method of observance. It has been the Reform and Conservative that have caused the controversy by questioning the Torah's authority. The practice of Torah and mitzvahs has been consistent within the Orthodoxy for thousands of years. It is only in the past 150 years that the Reform and Conservative movements have destroyed Jewish solidarity by creating their new trend in religious practice called "branches of religion."
Last but not least, it has been the Federation that keeps on writing and threatening the observant Orthodox with issues in Israel, causing the American Jews to be involved in conflicts that they ordinarily would not be involved with.
If anything, it is time for the leaders to be more observant. By doing so, we will be blessed with true peace, shalom, meaning completeness.
The Baal Shem Tov said: "There are three loves: love of G&'173;d, love of Torah and love of your fellow Jew. You must have all three in order to be a good Jew."
By doing so, we will hold our large and diverse Jewish community together.
Rabbi Eli Hecht
Rabbinical Alliance of America.
Kipot, Tallis donations
While traveling recently in East Africa, I had the good fortune to visit the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation synagogue. This is the only functioning synagogue in East Africa.
Founded in 1903, it presently has a membership of around 200 families. Unfortunately, the congregation is without a rabbi at the present time, but still holds regular services (following the "modern" Orthodox practice). Attendance at services is relatively low, since many Kenyans have to work on Saturdays. The synagogue needs more kipot and tallitot.
If you are interested in donating, contact: Nairobi Hebrew Congregation, P.O. Box 40990, Nairobi, Kenya
AIPAC Doing Fine
Once again, your bias against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has distorted your report on the AIPAC conference in Washington ("AIPAC's Growing Concern," April 11). We cannot believe that your reporter attended the same conference we did.
When Prime Minister Netanyahu first appeared, there was a thunderous standing ovation that lasted several minutes. During his speech, his comments were vigorously applauded time and time again with standing ovations. And upon his conclusion there was another rousing standing ovation that lasted and lasted and would not stop.
Almost everyone with whom we spoke lauded his observations, stood firmly with his overall position, cheered his firm stand against further concessions without equal reciprocity from the Palestinian Authority.
Your reporter should talk with the wide spectrum of those who attended, not only those whose position he already knows. You do a disservice to our Jewish community when you twist a story to make it fit your "story line."
Milly and Irv Justman
I am the author of the article, "Guess Who's Coming for Passover" (Jewish Journal, April 18). Unfortunately, in one of my all too typical mind-slips, I must have indicated that I am a member of Temple Beth Am, which is stated at the end of the article. Although I used to be a member there, I am currently a member of Temple Emanuel.
Marcy J.K. Tiffany
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