May 25, 2006
David Klinghoffer is absolutely right ("Real Danger in Myth," May 19)! With one-third of Europeans believing that Sept. 11 was an Israeli conspiracy, Jews should protest vicious conspiracy theories, whether they apply to us or others. No one in history has been victimized by such theories more than us. Knowledge of this history, plus the great emphasis on lashon hara in our religion, should lead Jewish leaders to denounce this film in uncompromising terms, despite its feminist undertones.
Klinghoffer's comparison to "The Protocols of the Elder of Zion" is beyond absurd. "The Protocols" were and are reprinted around the world and peddled as a historic document and have been used to incite the murder of tens of thousands of Jews. [Dan] Brown barely speaks in public, let alone incite mass riots and bloodshed.
Klinghoffer notes that the spread of gullibility is good news for anti-Semites and that for "people committed to finding the truth through investigation and argumentation it's worrisome."
Hopefully it's two strikes and out for Klinghoffer's mendacious journalism and his wacky theories, and readers of The Jewish Journal will never again see his byline.
If, as David Klinghoffer asserts, the book has made some people think more about religion, isn't that a good thing? Maybe they'll be interested enough to ask questions of their clergy, or enroll in a class. Klinghoffer states that author Dan Brown is "maligning" the Catholic Church. Is that really Brown's intention? After all, he didn't publish a tract or a scholarly journal. He didn't nail the manuscript to the door of any church.
Let's not get stuck chasing ghosts while real dangers still threaten.
David Klinghoffer warns in your May 19 issue that "The Da Vinci Code," in book and now movie form, may reinforce the conspiratorial mindedness that also manifests itself in anti-Semitic hatred -- notably, in continuing belief in the notorious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" ("Real Danger in Myth," May 19).
In the 1960s, at the height of Christian and Jewish cooperation in the moral crusade for civil rights, sociologists Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark "were entirely unprepared to find the religious roots of anti-Semitism so widespread in modern society." Not much had changed by 2002 when a Gallup poll concluded that "the Christ-killer charge remains pervasive" on the basis of finding that 37 percent of American young adults still hold Jews responsible for Jesus' death.
An apologist for Gibson's gory, gratuitously anti-Jewish cinematic version of the Gospels, Klinghoffer may consider such recent polling data as ancient history. I profoundly disagree. The scapegoat of Jews as "Christ killers" remains the poisonous taproot of all later anti-Semitic conspiracy mongering including that in Iran and the rest of the Muslim world.
I confess I was a bit nervous when I saw the headline and photo on the recent visit of two leading Orthodox rabbis (gedolim) from Israel, Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman and the Gerrer Rebbe ("Spiritual Headliners," May 19). I was worried how people not from our "world" might perceive all the fuss over these two dressed-in-black elderly gentlemen.
My concern was put to rest once I read Amy Klein's lovely article. In a very positive way, she captured the excitement and inspiration that was experienced by so many who attended the event. For me, the most inspiring part of the event was to look out and see the sea of attendees from all different stripes of the Orthodox world -- from black hat to knitted kippa -- coming together to pay respect to two living embodiments of our Torah. It restored my faith in our community as a bastion of Torah lovers, and it was a true kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God).
Thanks for printing such a nice article about our community. Amy, you done good.
Rabbi Daniel Korobkin
Thanks a lot Rob Eshman! I know the intention of your editorial ("$61.8 Billion," May 19) was to promote greater philanthropy by the wealthy, but it really preached to the anti-Semitic choir. The primary reason for anti-Semitism is jealousy: so much money and power in the hands of so few.
Martin J. Weisman
You are right "on the money" (pardon the pun) in your analysis and the estimate that I tell (and sometimes shock) my prospects with, is the fact that, out of the total amount of the philanthropy of Jewish donors, more than 80 percent goes to non-Jewish causes. If I could change this dynamic to only 75 percent, then a huge amount of money would flow to these causes.
While I totally agree with your comments about our local Jewish community needs, there was one area that you failed to mention. What I looked for, and did not find in your article, is the fact that so little of Jewish philanthropy goes to Israel. Some might argue that Israel's economy is growing and that it does not need this money so desperately anymore. But knowing the Israeli situation as I do -- with, for example, over 20 percent of the budget for higher education having to be cut over past two to three years because of the need for greater defense and other spending, and the ever-increasing gap in earnings of the average Israeli, support for important Israeli causes should be included in a donor's priorities.
Philip S. Gomperts
What a breath of fresh air it was to read Wendy Mogel's article ("Mom: Resist Your Urge to Kill Your Teenager...," May 12) For those of us living on the Westside with teenage girls, where can we turn for support now? It is hard when you are "the only parent who says no." There are Mommy and Me groups at temples, but after that we are on our own. The problems and issues seem to get larger over the years as our daughters are living in an increasingly complex world and are exposed to more at earlier ages. Any suggestions?
I appreciated the piece Orit Arfa wrote, but I do not "defend the state" at all ("Blue 'Oranges,'" May 12). Certainly we must have Israel as a Jewish state, but I in no way defend what the government did, and continues to do to the precious Jews of Gush Katif. It is a great tragedy that cries out to be repaired, for the sake of all the Jewish people.
Unlike the writer of the "Miss Israel" letter (Letters, May 19), I thought the picture of the young woman on the cover of the May 5 issue was quite tasteful. She was dressed in a manner that was tasteful and completely acceptable in today's society.
Ruth E. Giller
I was somewhat taken aback by Barbara Sommer's letter in the May 19 issue of The Journal in which she stated how pleased she was with Steven Spielberg for bringing a piece of history to the screen. In her words "it needed to be documented on film." Perhaps she did not know that this was a fictionalized account of that event in which a little fact was mixed in with a lot of the screenwriter's inventions. This is not simply my opinion. In an article on the op-ed page of the Los Angeles Times, Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay, admitted it was fictionalized. It is also important to note that none of the agents who actually took part in the operation were consulted or used as sources of information. If people wish to be powerfully moved by fiction and Hollywood contrivances, fine with me. Just don't try to pass it off as fact.
In the May 19 "Seven Days in the Arts," photographer Eddie Friedman is not a high school teacher. His official title is dean of student affairs at Shalhevet High School. The photos mostly originated from a program under Shalhevet's auspices. n
"We came here to be a free people in our own land" -- so says the most famous Israeli novelist, Amos Oz ("Disengagement Dashes, Spurs Dreams," May 19)."To be a free people means," he so reasons "each person is entitled to choose which parts of Jewish tradition are important to him and which to leave behind." (My italics).
God of [Prophet] Amos!
Dear Amos! Disregarding the Torah, all Israelis must "leave our land and take your dead bones with you" as [Mahmoud] Darwish says.
1) You came? By what right? History? Peh! If so, Italy can claim half of the world.
2) Choosing parts of religion? Yeah, I have chosen to be faithful to my wife four hours a day, every day!
3) God's commandments are traditions?
4) Do we set the priorities for heaven?
5) Was Israel "an occupying, uprooting, exploiting, settling, expropriating, humiliating, discriminating country" in May 1948?
Why, in a city and country full of knowledgeable Jews able to write effectively on the meaning of "The Da Vinci Code" for Jews, would The Journal assign it to David Klinghoffer -- who, his Web site tells us, is a senior fellow at The Discovery Institute?
The Discovery Institute, as every schoolchild knows, is the very Vatican of anti-evolutionary "studies," the galactic headquarters for those "scholars" responsible for the promotion of the scientific, intellectual and social hoax known an "intelligent design." The institute is as committed to "discovery" as a convention of vegans is to devising new and interesting recipes for chili.
Klinghoffer's thesis in the piece -- that Dan Brown's novel and "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" are similar in their purported revelation of mystery, and in their inspirational effects on the credulous and the bigoted -- is mildly interesting. He should have restricted the article to that.
Instead, he goes on to write, presumably with a straight face, "Today, Americans and others will accept dubious beliefs simply because they tickle their fancy, or because those beliefs appeal to an increasingly influential anti-religious impulse.... Such a world stands in peril of succumbing to all manner of untruths, from the benign to the deadly. Like other intellectual and physical capacities, the ability to distinguish fact from fancy needs to be exercised to remain strong...For anti-Semites and other conspiracy theorists, the gullibility of Americans is welcome news. For people committed to finding the truth through investigation and argumentation, it's worrisome."
Never mind Klinghoffer's repetition of the one of the dumbbell right's favorite (and most luxuriantly self-pitying) talking points, namely the suggestion that the world is imperiled by "an increasingly influential anti-religious impulse." Klinghoffer can no doubt write at length about how badly "people of faith" have it in this country, and I'll be happy to read it -- provided I can distract myself from the daily flood of news concerning the violence, repression, terrorism, and corruption perpetrated by people whose beliefs display an increasingly influential pro-religious impulse.
Meanwhile, let's get straight something that should not require mentioning: The Discovery Institute is precisely the place where "people committed to finding the truth through investigation" are not welcome, not honored, not heeded, and not respected. It is, rather, a Holy of Holies for people whose "fancy" consists in negating Darwin and the tens of thousands of scientists who followed him, in favor of a medieval biblical literalness that any self-respecting 10-year-old would, and should, be proud to see through.
A senior fellow at such a place is not qualified to lecture anyone, least of all the readers of The Journal, about "the ability to distinguish fact from fancy." If Klinghoffer agrees with the principles of the Discovery Institute, he should not have been asked to write the article.
If he doesn't, what is he doing there? Now that's worrisome.
THE JEWISH JOURNAL welcomes letters from all readers. Letters should be no more than 200 words and must include a valid name, address and phone number. Letters sent via e-mail must not contain attachments. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used, but names will be withheld on request. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Mail: The Jewish Journal, Letters, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010; e-mail: email@example.com; or fax: (213) 368-1684