May 11, 2006
As members of the faculty at the University of Judaism (UJ), we are ashamed and disgusted by the performance of Al Franken and Ann Coulter in the Department of Continuing Education's Speaker Series ("Sectarian Violence," March 31). Some of us expressed our opposition when the event was announced. Over our objections, the event went forward.
The UJ claims to speak for Judaism, a tradition that warns of the destructive power of negative speech. We are dismayed that the UJ has been co-opted into the worst aspects of the political culture of violent verbal confrontation and ethnic slurs. The UJ, like American society more generally, has benefited from racial and ethnic diversity. We are disappointed that the UJ has enabled, and paid, a speaker who would voice the worst types of ethnic stereotypes and slurs.
We call on the administration, the Department of Continuing Education and the board to apologize to the Latino members of the University community, our students and co-workers. Furthermore, we call upon the Department of Continuing Education program and other appropriate members of the UJ to ensure that we do not select as future speakers those whose biases so clearly violate our principles regarding the treatment of fellow human beings. We hope that in the future, all of the UJ's public programs will reflect the core mission of the UJ, teaching its students to be informed by Jewish values and to be leaders who seek justice in democratic ways and are cognizant of the global community of which we are a part.
Professor Aryeh Cohen, Talmud
Accidental Empire Awry
Your feature piece, "Irrational Exuberance" where Gershom Goremberg's new book "Accidental Empire" is excerpted (together with Howard Kaplan's accompanying review), does a tremendous disservice to our understanding of the settler movement and the historical facts surrounding the developments in the Golan, West Bank, Gaza and Sinai ("The Unsettling Struggle," April 14). Having now read the book and Goremberg's wholesale indictment of the entire enterprise, what is a revealed is a work that is tainted by prejudice and obfuscation.
Nowhere in Goremberg's book is there even a hint of the very positive impact that Israeli settlement had on the lives of the Palestinians themselves. No mention of the fact that before the Israelis arrived there was no running water system for outlying villages, a primitive electrical grid, no commuter roads, one bank, one university, no industry and very few employment opportunities.
Goremberg also fails to illustrate the true historical significance of the West Bank to the Jewish people. To understand either Gush Emmunim, religious Zionists or even any secular politician such as Shimon Peres -- all of whom became enamored of a policy of settlement -- one must also understand the deep historical connection of the Jewish people to such places as Shechem (Nablus), Hebron, Jericho and Mount Ebal. Goremberg's failure to provide this narrative robs his explanation of the "accidental empire" of true historical context, transforming a dream which is thousands of years old into a mere land grab, driven by Jewish acquisitiveness and nationalistic imperialism.
While reading Amy Klein's column regarding the selection of Professor Arnold Eisen as JTS's new chancellor ("View of Eisen From L.A.: Thumbs Up," April 28), I was surprised that my name was misspelled and that the article misstated my title and employer.
I also was disappointed at the way comments from our conversation were used. In the article, she quotes me on the issue of gay and lesbian ordination in the Conservative movement. The quotation is accurate per se, but the context within our conversation was not. In fact, my actual preference, as I told her repeatedly, was to make no comment on this issue at all. I did not, as the article states, focus immediately on Eisen's position on gay ordination. After being pressed repeatedly by Ms. Klein on this topic, I stated my reason for not responding in the media, namely, that this issue, whatever its resolution, will divide Jews within the movement. I added that public comments from rabbis in the media while official deliberations continue may not help to heal our movement.
The social psychologist Kurt Lewin wrote that the only constant is change. Thus, the critical question is not whether we change, but how we might do so in a manner that is ultimately most inclusive, not only of those of diverse sexual orientations, but also of those with differing views, and those who represent different generations, regions and nationalities within our movement. I am even more convinced now that the media is an unhealthy forum for any part of a process that aims to increase sanctity, inclusiveness, and dignity.
Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Editor's note: The Journal regrets the errors regarding Rabbi Jeret's name and title.
I object to your decision to print Marsha Roseman's letter in the April 28 Jewish Journal, which you titled "Silent Majority." The issue of illegal immigration is hotly contested and not easily resolved; however, there is a vast difference between letters that express ideas or opinions and those that consist of little more than hate speech and indiscriminate racism directed toward every Latino. Roseman's vitriolic letter is of the latter category and has no place in a mainstream newspaper. You can do better.