May 19, 2005
The Wrong Time
In the middle of last Wednesday's Yom HaShoah commemoration at Pan Pacific Park, politics intruded in a place where they don't belong ("Rites Mark Shoah Camp Liberators," May 13). Mayor Jim Hahn had just finished, giving a respectful and scheduled speech to the audience of survivors, their families, students, and other guests. Then in an act of political one-upmanship, Anthony Villaraigosa was asked from the dais to make an unscheduled visit and add his remarks on behalf of the City Council. There were many other City Council members in attendance who were not afforded the same courtesy.
Villaraigosa's words were appropriate but the sense that political maneuvering had brought him to the stage both overshadowed his message and tainted the solemn and respectful sentiment of the day. As the child of a survivor, I attend this commemoration every year as a way to honor the lives of my family members that both perished and survived, to teach my children about their history and to have the incredible privilege to be among the survivors of this community.
The event organizers and Villaraigosa should be reminded that, for many of us, politics don't belong when it comes to honoring the dead.
Other Cities Count
First off let me explain that I live in South Gate, which is not part of the city of Los Angeles, yet I am also in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) as are residents of Huntington Park and Bell and other cities. I am against any move of the city of Los Angeles to try and control the school district ("Schoolyard Brawl," May 6). At one time we tried to form our own school district but were voted down. In all the newspaper articles and stories over the radio regarding the mayor of Los Angeles and the LAUSD, no mention is ever made of the other independent cities that are also a part of the district. If Los Angeles is to have members appointed to the board by the mayor of Los Angeles, as has been suggested, then so should the mayor of other cities who are also a part of the LAUSD.
I just finished reading the terrific article written by Seth Menachem ("Change of Heart," May 6). I have known his entire family since he was a small child. He told us about the article and how he was going to propose to his love when he was home for Passover. Those of us who are friends of the family are able to enjoy his enthusiasm and drive through his writings. He is a tribute to both of his parents, his two brothers and sister. It is so nice to see what a terrific young man he has become as well as a terrific actor. Thank you for publishing his article and letting others see his warmth, sensitivity and feelings. [His fiancée] is a sweet young woman and I see a long and happy life for the two of them.
Lawyer in Waiting
Thank your for the article by Idan Ivri, "Another Jewish Landmark Faces Demolition" published on May 13. The article highlights the important issues involved in the Hollenbeck Police Station project in Boyle Heights. I just have one correction. I am unfortunately not an attorney yet, I am awaiting bar results. I apologize and I should have been a little clearer. I am tying to help my neighbors as a neighbor, but I do not represent them in an attorney capacity. I do live one block away and I am involved as resident who is affected by the project. I do commend The Jewish Journal for bringing this important matter to the attention of the wider Los Angeles community. The article does an excellent job in illustrating the problems with the Hollenbeck project.
J. Miguel Flores
Project Chicken Soup is most grateful for the teens who come to volunteer their services as did Tayla Silver of Palo Verdes High ("Teens Team Up for J-Serve," May 6). They diligently cook, clean, deliver and perform with true tzedakah for people with HIV/AIDS. However, your article stated this is a Federation Program.
Please be assured it is not -- this project is run by volunteers and the only connection we have with The Federation is that we pay rent two Sundays a month to them for the use of the Hirsh Kosher Kitchen which is owned by The Federation. We also pay them for the services of a mashgiach who checks on the kashrut of the products we purchase to perform our work.
The Jewish Journal's coverage of our Muslim-Jewish seder is highly appreciated. However, I believe two critical aspects were missing from the article ("Abraham's 'Children' Connect at Seder," May 6).
While David Finnigan noted that we celebrated this ritual from a "customized haggadah incorporating interfaith candlelighting Jewish rituals as well as a Muslim perspective," this hardly notes its extraordinary unique aspect -- perhaps for the first time, the actual narration of the Exodus was told from verses in the Quran rather than from Torah.
Finally, while we had initially hoped to attract 100 participants, both Wilshire Boulevard Temple and the Islamic Center of Southern California ended up with waiting lists; the attendance that night was not "some 80 people," but rather 125.
Thank the Teachers
I applaud Julie Gruenbaum Fax's description of the Los Angeles Maalah program in her March 18 article. She portrayed student, teacher and parent excitement and success well ("Take a Trip to Israel," May 13). I wish, however, she would have spent more time covering my shul, Shomrei Torah Synagogue, and their exemplary Maalah program. I believe that it's unanimous: students, parents, teachers and administrators here love the experience and what they see and hear in their classrooms. This is further evidenced by the fact that nearly 50 percent of our preregistered students will experience the Maalah program this fall. With Yom HaMorah (Day of the Teacher) approaching, I would have been remiss not to see our teachers acknowledged for their efforts.
The decision to force the withdrawal of the valiant and courageous Jewish settlers out of the 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip, including four more in the northern West Bank area, must be a very difficult and painful one for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -- having been known as the "father of the settlements" ("Cease-Fire Appears on Verge of Collapse," May 13). These communities only came about because of his endeavors and encouragement. As the time is quickly approaching now for the implementation of the withdrawal, it appears as if the prime minister is making a complete 180-degree turnaround. After much assessment it now appears to me that deal is part of a considerable compromise or tradeoff that Sharon believes is necessary to preserve the integrity and defendability of most of Israel.
The other side of the equation is the completion of Maalei Adumim by the addition of the 3,500 living units thereby connecting it to Jerusalem. That addition in itself will not be an easy one to accomplish due to great outside pressure and even some resistance from internal Israeli opposition. Sharon, as a dedicated patriot of Israel having distinguished himself all of his life as a brilliant military leader, defense minister, housing minister, foreign minister and culminating as the current prime minister has very likely with the help of his advisers made the strategic calculations to make that tradeoff viable. Therefore, by virtue of Sharon's deep involvement in all facets of Israel's history, is he not deserving of the benefit of doubt? I am also certain that Sharon has ordered contingency plans in the event the Arab Palestinians violate their agreements to live in peace with Israel.
Only history will judge if the retreat of Jewish settlers was really successful and worthwhile. The danger here being that once the policy of a "slippery slope" begins, where will it stop? However the quick reversal of those "strategic gamble" possibilities has not escaped the prime minister, I believe.
It is probably evident that this writer has great empathy for the settler movement, having visited and met with numerous beautiful, Zionistic and courageous men and women on many occasions. These are the people I was privileged to share with that make up the many communities in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan Heights. This has been my honor and privilege in my so far 17 visits to Israel to experience as the highlight of my humble life.
Of course it is easy for concerned Jews living in the Diaspora, and especially residents of the Western part of the free world, to criticize the policies of the Israeli government. However I believe, that only the Jewish residents of the State of Israel have the right and obligation to consider and implement those choices to be made.
Spiritual Not Spirits
I find it curious that Daryl Miles takes so strong an issue with Harry Finkel's commentary (Letters, May 6). There is nothing wrong with a woman "venturing out of the kitchen." But is it really all that surprising that some would have a little trouble associating such a woman who then goes to a bar dressed and acting like a hoochie mama with being a spiritual leader? Yes, Karen Deitch is a human being and it is clear that she is wholly embraced by some in her congregation. But how clear can her spiritual guidance be if she's "counseling" people while holding a bottle of Budweiser in her hand?
Our Torah relates a story of two other individuals, Nadav and Avihu, who saw themselves as spiritual leaders, too, while clinging to "the bottle," as it were. And the message of their fate clearly shows the "disgrace" and chilul HaShem associated with their behavior.
When I think of a spiritual counselor, the image of French-tipped nails, tight jeans and a cold brewski in one hand is not what comes to mind. I dare to assume that most people who seriously claim to any sort of religious conviction would agree.
Faith and Hate
Your May 6 musing, "Jesus Who?" fails to list an important reading, Maurice Samuel's book, "The Great Hatred."
It's our rejection of Jesus as the "Christ" child that leads to the Roman Emperor Constantine to establish Jesus as the Roman's God and out of which we became known as "Christ Killers" and suffered the consequences.
Jesus and the cross became the image and heart of the Christian faith.