April 27, 2006
Mixed on March
The article in this week's Journal about Poland and the March of the Living was accurate, on target and, quite frankly, overdue ("March of the Living Dead?" April 21).
For quite some time now I have been troubled by the misguided attempts of some in the Jewish community to exploit our people's tragedy for the purpose of giving young Jews a renewed sense of identity. Theirs may be a noble aim but the means employed must be free of flaws. Having narrowly escaped the Holocaust myself, its specter is never far from my mind. But to mourn the past while neglecting the commitment to Jewish life here and now is a tragic mistake.
For the years that the March of the Living has been in existence it has had a clear agenda: Treat Poland as no more than a Jewish graveyard, see nothing more than Auschwitz and Majdanek, feel the dirt and grime of the past, shed a tear for the victims and then breathe the clean air of a free Jewish existence in Israel.
There are living Jews in Poland, Jews who are reasserting their identity and rediscovering their roots. But the organizers of the March, instead of seeking them out, have avoided them. Looking at the reawakened Jewish cultural and religious life of Jews in Poland simply does not fit their agenda. The argument I sometimes hear is that Poland has had such a dark history for Jews that no self-respecting Jew should want to live there. (Curiously, no similar argument is being heard from the same quarters about Jews living in Germany.)
Jews have lived in Poland for 900 years and the greatest centers of Jewish learning and scholarship were there; there, too, was the flowering of secular Jewish literature and culture. Young Jews by the score, indeed young non-Jewish Poles, are rediscovering this culture. They lived and thrive in a place that at last enables them to do so after decades of horror followed by repression under communism. Is that not deemed worthy of support, or at least of exploration, by the thousands who come on the March?
Jewish graves must command our reverence and our grief. But living Jews, no matter where they choose to dwell, demand to be noticed. Alas, we in America have such tunnel vision; we barely acknowledge the world Jewish community outside of North America or Israel. But I insist that we have no right to delegitimize the Jews of Poland; want it or not, they are our family, not one whit less than the Jews of Cleveland or of Tel Aviv.
As people intimately familiar with Jewish life in Central Europe, we read "March of the Living Dead" with great interest and appreciation. To be fair, the problems attributed to March of the Living do not characterize all U.S.-based trips; for example, Ramah/USY makes a concerted effort to connect American teenagers with their Polish and Czech counterparts. But, in general, despite the Herculaean efforts of Jews in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and elsewhere to rebuild and revitalize their communities, too many groups -- mostly American and Israeli -- continue to treat the region as one enormous graveyard, a gray wasteland empty except for roaming anti-Semites. However, this is not news to scholars such as Jackie Feldman and Oren Baruch Stier, who have been warning readers about this trend -- and its detrimental effect on American and Israeli teenagers -- for at least a decade. Also disturbing is the tendency of American and Israeli groups to take over synagogues and other worship spaces without regard for their current local Jewish inhabitants, as if they were invisible.
To those who would cite the poor state of repair of synagogues and other buildings as evidence of continuing neglect or even anti-Semitism, we would remind them that the massive German reparations payments to the Israeli government in the 1950s were made in lieu of reparations payments to the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, then under Soviet domination and presumably lost forever. If anyone should be responsible for rebuilding these beautiful structures and restoring these once-vibrant communities, it should be the Israeli government, which literally has profited from these communities' continuing decay. But that would defeat the purpose of the Poland = death/Israel = life equation so dear to the March's organizers.
Zuzana and Shawn Landres
As I prepare to lead this year's Los Angeles March of the Living contingent, I would like to point out that this truly is a March of the "Living." While Jane Ulman brings up important issues, she paints a picture of a program that emphasizes death and suffering. It is anything but -- 8,000 Jewish teens from more than 40 countries worldwide march into their history, live the present and lay the groundwork for their future lives as Jews in the vibrant Jewish worldwide Community.
I am writing to you on behalf of the silent majority ("The Silent Majority," April 21). We are the legal American citizens that have seen our neighborhoods become a second world country because of the illegal aliens that live amongst us. They are the graffiti markers, the people who are bankrupting our health care facilities and our schools, the ones who only speak in Spanish, listen to Spanish TV and radio, march to the Mexican flag, join Mecha and fantasize about an "Aztlan State." They are the people who are sending their money back to their own countries and building retirement houses there. Those gardeners that you so lovingly described are defying the law with their loud blowers, but they weren't willing to use rakes ... that was one of the first battles we lost on our way to being Mexifornia.
I'm tired of being labeled as a racist. I am a realist. I have lived in Mexico. My husband and I both speak Spanish. I know that Mexico will not allow me to live there, work there, buy property there without a Mexican partner. I remember the San Fernando Valley when it was American, not a Mexifornia with a Mechista for a mayor. Last Sunday I was at Pan Pacific Park to honor those who perished in the Holocaust, then my husband and I joined the teens who were marching for the Muslims in Darfur. I doubt very much if even one of your illegal aliens showed up to march for us.
Kudos to Rob Eshman for his candid and timely editorial urging Los Angeles Jews to stand with our city's hard-working immigrants. Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) has been a leading voice in the organized Jewish community, advocating for fair and comprehensive immigration reform.
We co-sponsored an April 10 candlelight vigil and procession as part of the National Day of Action for Immigrant Rights, a 10,000 person rally that raised awareness about the need for just reform. PJA and other Jewish community allies have also been urging our members to contact their senators to advocate for policy change. Jewish history and ethics demand that our community work to ensure a fair immigration policy.
Rob Eshman's editorial, just like the rest of the polemics being spouted by politicians and pundits, misses a basic point about illegal immigration -- we just don't have room in this country for everyone who wants to move here.
I am certain that illegal immigrants contribute to the economy and are no more likely to commit crimes than legal residents. The argument that illegal immigrants are a security threat is another red herring. The Sept. 11 hijackers did not sneak over the border from Mexico. They came here legally on commercial airliners.
The real problem is that the United States does not have the room to take in even a fraction of the decent, hardworking, poverty-stricken people in this world. In California, our air is polluted, our roads are jammed with traffic and housing prices are astronomically high. Letting everyone who wants to come here move to California will only erode the quality of life for everyone.
Those who are already here should be given a path to citizenship if they have been productive members of society for years. But, the solution is alleviating poverty in the countries these people are fleeing. If we could do that, we would be addressing the real problem.
Yasher koach on your piece "Silent Majority." As a postscript, Elie Wiesel once said when referring to Salvadoran Refugees in the mid-1980s, "No human being is illegal."
Rabbi John Rosove
I believe that I read seven ads for seven different Yom HaShoah events this week in The Journal. What kind of community are we?
Gabriel Saunders' article "Video Takes Bite Out of Kosher Slaughter" (April 21) was well-written and informative but it fails to point out that to the animals involved it really doesn't make a whole lot of difference how they are slaughtered. How would you feel, dear reader, if you were told that you were going to be slaughtered in accordance with kosher dietary laws instead of in the conventional way? Killing animals for food, whether by kosher or conventional means is cruel and unnecessary, since man is neither an omnivore or a carnivore and is better off without any foods of animal origin in his diet. There would be less pollution; 16 times as much food; the rain forest would be spared; the animals would be better off; and the incidence of coronary artery disease, colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer would be greatly reduced. Everyone benefits in this scenario except the diabolical and unscrupulous meat industry.
Charles B. Edelman
Judas No Joke
After your last few covers and your headline this time, "March of the Living Dead?" I thought you couldn't stoop any lower. But your little piece, "Top 10 Judas Gospel Shockers," was in such appalling taste that I had to write to you (April 21). It is not funny to make fun of what other people hold sacred, even if it does not fit with our beliefs. I can image how Jewish newspapers would write if a Christian newspaper made fun of our religion. This kind of humor is not funny and there is no excuse for your terribly bad taste in printing the item. I hope you learn some common sense soon.
When I picked up this week's Jewish Journal after Shabbat services, I was pleased to see a wonderful article about a woman who was hidden from the Nazis by an entire village in Southern France (A Hidden Child Tells Her Tale," April 21). What a heart-warming story about the benefits to mankind when we work together for good. Then I saw on page 31, an invitation to a celebration titled, "The Conspiracy of the Good" at Valley Beth Shalom. Another example of what can happen when people help each other, regardless of each individual's accident of birth into a religion.
However, I was shocked to see the piece by Jake Novak, "Top 10 Judas Gospel Shockers." This attempt at humor makes jokes out of some of the holiest elements of Christianity. My children also like to read The Jewish Journal. I didn't let them read this issue as I didn't want to have to explain what Viagra is to my 10-year-old daughter.
I am a Jew-by-Choice. The first 30 years of my life were spent as a practicing Roman Catholic. My parents remain very active in the church. In spite of the wonderful articles on Jews and Catholics working together, I cannot share this issue with them either.
If this is considered acceptable mainstream Jewish humor, I am ashamed to be a Jew.
Shari Goodman has it all wrong (Letters, April 14). Al Franken is not part of the "internal enemies" within America, she described in her recent letter to The Jewish Journal. Sadly enough, the members of that Fifth Column cohort can be found in the very echelons of power in our country, in the White House, Pentagon, and Congress and among the defenders of the Bush administration like Ann Coulter. These authentic enemies of freedom have used the Bloody Shirt of Sept. 11 to trample upon the Constitution, plunge our country into an unjust war in Iraq that has seen nearly 3,000 young Americans lose their lives for a rotten cause and now conspires to enter into a similar misguided adventure in Iran. Franken, in contrast, has had the courage to expose these miscreants and the danger they have brought to their country!
David L. Blatt
Contrary to "Filming on Babi Yar Genocide Underway" (April 14), the only official language in Ukraine is Ukrainian.
In "The Second American Jewish Revolution" (April 21), the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jews was founded in 1979, not 1985.