March 23, 2006
The funniest part of your recent Purim issue was the article on Rabbi Aron Tendler's departure from Shaarey Zedek Congregation ("Tendler Resigns Under Cloud," March 10). In lieu of any substance, it was filled with rumors and speculation -- a hilarious send-up of real journalism!
Razing the JCC
Thank you so much for Tom Tugend's insightful bit of muckraking on the Soto-Michigan JCC demolition ("Federal Government Razes Eastside JCC," March 17). Bravo!
Unfortunately, we are still left with many unanswered questions:
1 -- Where are the assets of the nonprofit. If the land was sold for $1.5 million, who benefited from the sale? A nonprofit's assets must be reinvested into another community nonprofit. They cannot go to a private entity.
2 -- How do we address the lack of coordination between elected officials? [Rep. Lucille] Roybal-Allard's [(D-Los Angeles)] office, the mayor's office, [City Councilman Jose] Huizar's office?
3 -- Why did the Social Security Administration building need to move in the first place? What will replace the current Social Security building?
4 -- Can the important role this site played in the history of the Chicano movement, in multicultural politics and in the history of the Jewish community be commemorated within the new structure? They owe the community at least something like that.
5 -- Why isn't there yet a citywide survey of historic structures? This has never been done for lack of funds, and critical links to the past are being lost each week because of this.
6 -- Where's the mayor's office in all of this?
7 -- Who is going to finally be accountable for this debacle?
My earliest childhood memories include visits to the Soto-Michigan Center, where for several years I attended Camp Manayim, the day camp that JCA operated there. My older brother was in Boy Scout Troop 171 that met at the center, and Strauss AZA also held its meetings there. The building contained far more history than anyone realizes. One more example of the historical Jewish presence has now been erased.
Brooklyn Avenue as a symbol of the Jewish community is now named for a Mexican American labor organizer who never lived on Brooklyn Avenue.
Everyone seems to have been caught flat-footed by the bureaucratic move to tear down the old center. So much incompetence at so many levels of government officialdom should be awarded a medal for stupidity and shortsightedness.
One wonders which remembrance of the Jewish past in Los Angeles will be the next to go.
My Orthodox background and my 20-plus year commitment to Conservative Judaism make me realize how shallow Rob Eshman's column really is ("Carnival Time," March 17).
Our problems in Conservative Judaism have nothing to do with needing more dunk tanks. Rather we need to figure out how to engage congregants in Jewish observance and ritual.
The number of families who keep kosher declines yearly, as does the degree of Shabbat observance. Synagogue-going in general is also in great decline.
Soccer has replaced shul on Shabbos morning for many families. The movement needs to figure out how to instill in Conservative Jews the passion and desire to become more observant.
My children played sports, took music lessons, etc. Yet we went to shul every Shabbos. My son has returned to his Orthodox roots, and my daughter is an observant Conservative Jew who reads Torah and participates actively in synagogue life.
Maybe the choices parents make have something to do with it. Maybe the loosening of some observances in the entire movement are at fault. Maybe both.... But the absence of more rabbis in the dunk tank is not at the heart of the matter.
In your article, "An Ugly Day in the Neighborhood" (March 3), my quotes and misquotes did not truly express my sentiments. I ran for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council hoping to get beyond the polarization characterizing relations between the local homeowners group and the Orthodox community, following the battle over Etz Chaim.
However, the election itself was bitterly and nastily contested, and I was one of only four Orthodox representatives elected. Still, after being contacted by an activist outside the Orthodox community seeking rapprochement, I remained guardedly optimistic.
Three meetings, six months into the process, my hopes have been dashed. The council did not meaningfully address or even discuss any issue other than a new set of by-laws that are clearly aimed at disenfranchising the Orthodox community.
The Orthodox have been labeled as "other" and are being effectively marginalized. This is true regardless of where one stood or whether one was involved with the Etz Chaim issue.
Ideally, the Neighborhood Council would follow its mandate of reaching out to the greater community and fostering tolerance and collegiality. Unfortunately, this council, elected by a mere 2 1/2 percent of the population, has no apparent interest in these ideals and is just another forum for heavy-handed political machinations and ongoing divisiveness.
Bush's Jewish Moment
It's always interesting to get a glimpse of the inner workings of a left-leaning political scientist's mind, especially when they try to analyze the reasons why many Jews are now Republicans. The amazing thing is that these political scientists almost always get it wrong.
In his essay on what he calls "The End of Bush's 'Jewish Moment'" (March 17), Raphael J. Sonenshein makes his whimsical use of the word "moment" to imply that those of us who are Republicans did so for a short period of time and are now re-evaluating our positions and are or will be soon returning to our womb in the Democratic fold.
The interesting thing is that many of us were Republicans long before Bush took office, even before the Reagan years, and we did so for a myriad of reasons, with clarity of purpose being one of the most important.
Finally, many of us have been impressed with the president's actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sonenshein incorrectly calls them unilateral (ignoring the participation of Britain and others), but perhaps if another Democratic president would have taken similar action, the world would have been a much better place.
Just think if Roosevelt would have taken the same unilateral action (along with Britain and others) against Hitler before the Holocaust, but I forget. Roosevelt probably listened to political advisers like Sonenshein -- progressive intellectuals.
Enough Europe Bashing
I am not sure as to whom I should write about my amazement as I visit Los Angeles during my spring break from Washington University and look at your paper.
The Jewish Journal, when I lived here, seemed to have more substance, but I feel that I am now reading a cheap, sensationalistic paper:
1 -- I see an end of February cover with an African man (wow!) who could be Jewish, says the headline ("Is This Man a Jew," Feb. 24). Imagine people of Los Angeles, an African Jew. Is that racism or what raising its big head? That outrageous story made it to be your cover.
2 -- In "Just Joking Around" by Ed Rampell (March 17), another rant under the guise of humor: "I have so many reasons to dislike the French.... We bail this country out every 30 years.... The last war France won was led by a 12-year-old girl," the words of Keith Barany.
3 -- This kind of stand is echoed by Judea Pearl, with all my sympathy for his murdered son, who slips similarly down another dangerous generalization -- now extended to all Europeans: "....What every child in Europe knew all along -- who causes the troubles of the world and who can be bashed with impunity" ("For Ilan, a Eulogy," March 17).
As a Jew, a U.S. citizen, a Frenchman and a European, I feel ashamed to read such statements being given prominence in your pages. I hope you will raise the level of your discourse soon.
Just read Amy Klein's singles column and it tickles me how on the one hand, she dogs her well-intentioned suitor for his mid-'90s-era garb, and yet, hilariously, in the very same article, she repeatedly summons like a mantra (what else?) that well-worn, way-played out, mid-90s "Seinfeld" cliché "....Not that there's anything wrong with that." ("I Want You to Want Me," March 10).
With rationale like that, there's no need to read past the column headline to figure out why she's so miserably and utterly unattached. Please re-title the Singles Column "Unintentional Humor."
Name Withheld by Request
Your cover photo and the caption that accompanied it on Volume 21 (Feb. 24) are chilling. Do American Jews plan to keep Israel white?
What if the photo was of an Eastern European Jew with caption: "Is this man an American and should American money be used to bring him home?"
Are we promoting a Jewish "Aryan nation?" When will it stop? Re-read "Animal Farm" by George Orwell.
Dr. Margaret England
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