October 1, 1998
It is very concerning that The Jewish Journal has been reluctant to recognize why there is an uproar about the play "Mendel and Moses" ("The Play's Not the Thing," Aug. 1).
A number of months ago, I received a call from a Jewish cast member in the production who told me she had left the show as she believed there were strong Christian overtones written into the play and felt there was missionary activity being thrust upon her. She also called Jews for Judaism, and Rabbi Kravitz, its executive director, made this information known to the Journal, and other Jewish organizations.
The problem is not whether this play has Christian overtones or not. The objection is that this play has been presented to the Jewish community as one with authentic Jewish themes, when in fact, the playwright, Jeremiah Ginsberg, is a well-known, self-proclaimed, Hebrew-Christian missionary. According to his own biography, Ginsberg has been "in full time international ministry, sharing his dynamic testimony, hosting a popular Messianic (Christian) radio show in the New York City area, and teaching on prophecy, Israel and end-time events." The advertising of "Rabboni," another Ginsberg play, shows a "humorous Jewish narrator, Mendel Moskowitz, transported back in time to Biblical days where he meets Yeshua (Jesus) and the disciples, as well as the farcical Beelzebub and the demons." Isn't Mendel Moskowitz the same name in "Mendel and Moses" as well?
It is completely antithetical to the Torah, Talmud and other sacred Jewish texts that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah; it is not merely an opinion. This play is written by a Christian, and although it may be worthy of seeing, it should be advertised accordingly. The Journal has not shared this vital piece of information with its readers, and has in fact, been glib about its importance.
Deception is the true issue that rests with this. It is an illusion that this is a Jewish work which should be supported by Jewish people. Jewish-Christians are Christians. Perhaps the sooner we recognize who we are not, the sooner we can come to terms with who we are.
I believe a major Jewish newspaper like The Jewish Journal has an obligation to educate its readership, and in many instances you have been on the mark, but in this instance, you have missed the target.
Debbie Pine, Director
Maynard Bernstein Resource Center on Cults
Editor's Note: There is a fundamental disagreement between Debbie Pine and me, but first the facts.
When "Mendel & Moses" opened in Los Angeles I sent Teresa Strasser, who writes for us, to review the play. She knew nothing about the author's religious views, nor did I. It's a terrible play, she reported back. Could she say that about a Jewish work? Absolutely, I replied. Her review, which appeared in this paper took writer, play and cast to task: Bad jokes, labored lines, idiotic plot was her verdict.
Nevertheless, the producers of the play decided to advertise in The Jewish Journal. We printed their ad. It was only then that Rabbi Kravitz and, now Debbie Pine, criticized The Jewish Journal for publishing an ad about a play (which has nothing to do with Jews for Jesus) because the playwright's beliefs off stage were so objectionable.
Those seem to me the facts. Now the differing view(s). I believe:
1.) You judge a play on its merits, not on opinions of the playwright that are outside the drama. We would have chosen not to advertise the play if it had been a didactic effort to champion Jews for Jesus. This is not the case.
2.) We review plays and books written by Christians and praise those we think are worthy of our readers' attention. We do the same with Jewish works (though almost by definition we give more attention to Jewish authors and Jewish themes), but under no condition do we feel obliged to praise, support or champion literature just because its author is Jewish, or dismiss the play because its author is Christian.
I have a question for Debbie Pine: Have you seen the play? It is not clear from your letter what it is you find objectionable within the play. -- Gene Lichtenstein
The Swiss Role
At a time when the Swiss find themselves in an uncompromising international spotlight and have their collective actions during and after World War II subjected to microscopic investigation, it shocks and saddens me to see that Neal M. Sher continues to feel the necessity to criticize Switzerland's efforts in a very unfair and unbalanced way ("Switzerland's Hole Keeps Getting Deeper," July 25). At a time when we welcome the advice of our friends and are willing to listen to well-informed critics, finger pointing and invective serve no purpose. While we are trying to heal the wounds left by past actions or inactions, Sher apparently feels the need to cut in even deeper, with unmistakable glee, I might add.
By giving voice to malicious and false allegations , i.e., that Swiss bankers trafficked in gold and valuables ripped from the mouths and bodies of Jews on their way to destruction, which had months ago been found without factual basis, he is insulting an entire nation.
It is of importance that our mandate now must be to work together to find constructive answers to difficult questions and not loose allegations that makes it difficult to open the doors to collective healing.
Three objectives are now of paramount importance to Switzerland: Shedding a full light upon history (in a constructive spirit of transparency and cooperation), achieving full restitution of all dormant assets which may still be held in Switzerland, and showing solidarity with survivors of the worst tragedy mankind has ever endured. Justice and nothing but justice should be carried out. But this in no way implies that Switzerland should accept unjustified criticism or blatant media prejudice such as that apparent in Sher's article.
I urge the reader to contact me, whenever they are in need of updated information about this subject.
Deputy Consul General of Switzerland
We were disappointed in the tone of Billy Crystal and other entertainers in the article "Strains in the Relationship"(Aug. 22). It seems that being Jewish at this time does not help their careers.
It is time that prominent Jews think about using their prominence to help the Jewish people. Their "Jewishness" has already served them and their careers. It is time to pay back!
Annette and Ted Kanner
Positive Help for MAZON
Regarding the recently published article "Orthodox Union Pulls Out of MAZON's Campaign" (Aug. 22): While the facts of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency article are essentially correct, the emphasis should have been positive, not negative.
For the first time, the Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist movements, together with MAZON, have joined together in a combined High Holy Days appeal seeking money for MAZON and non-perishable food for hundreds of local feeding programs nationwide. This is indeed something to celebrate.
"The Corners of Our Fields" is not a "MAZON appeal." It is a cooperative effort between the three movements, in partnership with MAZON, the benefits of which will accrue to poor and hungry people and to the Jewish community.
While it is true that the Orthodox Union has decided to go more slowly and not participate in this year's appeal, the decision is understandable: Working in partnership with MAZON is not familiar to the Orthodox movement, as it is to the other three, so the OU in a sense has a longer road to travel. They are studying the issue seriously and we hope they will join us in future years.
As the New Year approaches, it is gratifying to know that in this instance our cup is not even half empty -- on the contrary, it is almost full.
Senior Executive Director
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
Still a Lot of Life
It is with fond memories, I remember my years of preparation to be a bar mitzvah at Temple Beth Zion ("A Lot of Life Left,"Aug. 8). Memories so strong and compelling that when my oldest son, Marc, was preparing to become a bar mitzvah, he spent a summer in Los Angeles studying with Rabbi Tenenbaum. When Marc mastered his studies, my family gathered at Temple Beth Zion for the bar mitzvah celebration.
Many of those helping us in this celebration were friends and congregates associated with Temple Beth Zion since its founding; our extended family.
My mother-in-law, Raye Cowan, for many years, was the temple's executive secretary and although in failing health, I know Raye would want me to wish all of her friends at Temple Beth Zion, good health and long life.
Thank you for the opportunity to recall this caring house of worship and the wonderful people who continue to give it life.
As to no ones' grandparents living in Manhattan Beach, I definitely take exception ("Wave of the Future," Aug. 15).
My parents moved to the beach community in about 1928. The Center Pharmacy, on Center Street was our family business and a favorite landmark of the community. We attended Manhattan Grammar School and Redondo High.
Our father was a volunteer fireman, honorary policeman, Lion's Club member, American Legion and was even close friends with the Catholic priests, who had a monthly poker game.
Our mother made sure that her two daughters had a Jewish life by taking us on the "Red Streetcar" to Sunday school in Long Beach.
There are now six great-great grandchildren who know their roots at the "beach."
Jackie Rosen Berman
Recently, our friend Councilman John Ferraro has been accused of being anti-Jewish. There is not a speck of truth to this accusation. We have known John Ferraro for almost 40 years and neither John, or his dear wife Margaret, have an anti-Jewish bone in their body.
The late Rabbi Judah Isacsohn, the dean of Yeshiva Toras Emes, called John Ferraro a "righteous gentile." Rabbi Pinchos Gruman, a disciple of the late Moshe Feinstein and Rav Aron Kotler lists Councilman Ferraro as a close friend.
John Ferraro is a distinguished public servant who has helped Jewish causes for many years. We wish him many more years of health so that he can continue to serve all Los Angelenos.
Chairman of the Board
Congregation Bais Yehuda
Congregation Bais Naftoli
Praying, Not Studying
As regards the photo that appears on pages 2 and 7 of your August 29 issue:
The accompanying caption on page 2 is quite wrong. The Brown University student is not studying -- he is davening (praying). Kissing the tzitzes of his tallis while bedecked with tefillin and reading a small book in front of a clock marked 6:45 (presumably a.m.) are all sure giveaways!
Following publication of our report on a meeting between four community leaders and the Israeli consul-general at the Hillcrest Country Club ("Strains in the Relationship,"Aug. 22), we published a letter in the following issue by reader Howard Winter criticizing the participants for meeting on Tisha B'Av.
The facts are otherwise. While the Jewish Journal reported that the meeting took place on the same day as the Tisha B'Av altercation between Conservative worshippers and Israeli police at the Western Wall, this incident took place on the eve of Tisha B'Av on Monday, Aug. 11.
The Hillcrest meeting was indeed on the same Monday, but at noon, thus many hours before the start of Tisha B'Av. Due to the 10 hour time difference between Jerusalem and Los Angeles, however, it is quite likely that by the time of the Hillcrest meeting, the participants were already aware of the Western Wall incident.
Marsha Rothpan's position as community program coordinator with the Jewish Federation-South Bay Council was full-time, not part-time as stated in the cover story ("Wave of the Future," Aug. 13).