June 1, 2006
Quite frankly, in my opinion, John Fishel is responsible for the "JCC crisis" ("Views Differ on Role in Centers Crisis," May 26). But he is not alone in this case. All those who were then involved in establishing policy and direction for The Jewish Federation should be held accountable. With a salary of over $300,000 per year, we have a right to expect much more from him.
How does a major philanthropic organization give out millions of dollars -- in this case to the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles -- without any oversight!
As one who has been actively involved in relief efforts and legal and political advocacy on behalf of Ethiopian Jewry since 1988, I would like to say a few words about John Fishel ("A Private Man," May 26).
John has the rare gift of being one of the few high level Jewish officials who understands that the raison d'etre of The Federation system is substance and not process, that at the end of the day, we will be judged by our accomplishments, by the suffering alleviated, by the lives that have been saved.
Motivated by a deep sense of compassion, he articulated a clear and compelling case for Ethiopian Jewish refugees who could not speak for themselves and lacked a powerful advocate who could speak on their behalf. He spoke up with a clear moral voice whose authority could not be ignored.
May his tribe increase.
Joseph J. Feit
How fortunate we of the Jewish community of greater Los Angeles are to have such an intelligent and compassionate president of our Jewish Federation Council as John Fishel ("Visit to Ethiopia Changes His Life," May 26). We support his Jewish worldview. We support his leadership on the issue of Ethiopian Jews through Operation Promise. His determination to advance the rescue of the remaining Jews in Ethiopia who are living in squalor, waiting for years to make aliyah and reuniting with their families in Israel speaks to his menschlicheit. For John, "It's the right thing to do."
John Fishel accompanied me on a trip to refugee camps to Chad. It is in those camps that one sees the truly dispossessed and I was moved by John's compassion. I learned a lot about this man who clearly has a profound commitment to strengthening Jewish life and also to making life better for all human beings.
Rabbi Lee Bycel
In addition to the well-deserved accolades John Fishel received in last week's Jewish Journal, allow me to add one. He has effectively reached out to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the only major Jewish Organization to be headquartered on the West Coast. For too many years and for inexplicable reasons, 6505 Wilshire Blvd. and 9760 W. Pico Blvd. (now 1399 S. Roxbury) operated as if we were a continent apart, not two miles apart. With few exceptions, we rarely communicated or shared visions. John Fishel has singularly breached that gap. My colleagues and I regularly exchange ideas with him and have availed ourselves of his big picture view and his creative heart. He is an unselfish gift and all of us in the greater Los Angeles community are the richer for his service.
Rabbi Meyer H. May
Marc Ballon has done a wonderful job in his series of articles on John Fishel and L.A. Jewish Federation. Something which Ballon said regarding the disconnect (underappreciated feeling) many "small" donors feel with Federation struck a chord with me. During the L.A. Jewish Community Centers' (JCC) crisis a few years ago, we were at a meeting at Federation trying to obtain additional funding for our JCC. The distinct message we received was that since the majority of people at the JCCs were not a good source of money during Federation fundraising, they were somehow less deserving of monetary support from Federation. What seemed to have been forgotten in the exchange was that the JCCs served as an entry point for many Jews into organized L.A. Jewry. They also serve as a support group and meeting place for the entire Jewish community. One other important point was that the JCCs as a whole were hamstrung in their ability to do their own fundraising if it interfered with money going to Federation (JCCs were not able to raise money during "primacy periods" when Federation was involved in it's own quest for funds) and donors were jealously guarded if large donations to the centers would impact their donations to Federation.
While Fishel has had numerous accomplishments in his tenure at Federation, both domestically and internationally, and has at times helped us at the JCCs, the overall support from Federation to the local JCCs leaves much room for improvement.
As one who twice was an executive of the Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation Council — once in the 1960s, and again in the 1970s — I feel that the article was wrong on so many areas, that I must respond (“Federation Support of Civic Group Wanes,” May 26).
The JCRC came into existence in the ’30s, as a result of overt anti-Semitism in Los Angeles, including regular Sunday marches by the local Nazi Bund, whose National headquarters was in Los Angeles. Wilshire Boulevard Temple was defaced and a rock thrown through one of the windows during the High Holidays. At that time, the leaders of The Federation created what was then called the Community Committee to fight anti-Semitism here.
Shortly thereafter, they hired a newspaper reporter who originally had come from Germany at the beginning of the Hitler period. His name was Joe Roos, who in Chicago had been researching the Nazis there. Roos, eventually, became the executive director of what became the JCRC.
As a matter of fact, he created the term “community relations” and that became a national idea. The philosophy of the CRC, with its high power Hollywood figures and Rabbi Edgar Magnin, decided that the way to fight the Nazis was to create relationships with other minorities and church people, and soon the JCRC helped to create a major organization of some 65 major groups in the black, Japanese, Chicano and church communities. That group was called the Los Angeles Community Relations Conference, which brought their leaders once a month to 590 N. Vermont for its meetings. Great interfaith and intergroup connections were developed there, which changed Los Angeles.
The JCRC was led by people such as Mendel Silverberg, a leader of the Republican Party; Dore Schary, Judge Bob Weil; Dr. Max Bay, and Sid Levine, Mel’s father, and so many leaders of The Federation — there was collegiality not only with Federation board but also at the staff level. As a result the role of the Jewish community was held high all over the county. The major contributors to the JCRC were also major contributors of The Federation, all the way into the 1970s when I returned as the director of the Middle East Commission.
It was about that time that Roos was unceremoniously removed from his 37-year position as executive director at age 60. From that time on, the JCRC has gone downhill. It became an ineffective tool of the Federation directors, with little freedom to do what it did best. Mel Levine’s disappointment was expected.
There is no connection between the Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) and the power structures of the L.A. community.
Instead it has become a place for KOREH L.A., an important program, but not community relations. Whereas, in the past the JCRC was the community instrument for so many remarkable ideas and programs, it is hard to find the JCRC taking a stance on things important, and then if they do, they are censored by a Federation board, who worry about the major contributors, none of whom is involved with the rest of the community’s parallels. The JCRC was the center of religious social action committees in the synagogues. I know, because I ran three successive social action conferences, co-sponsored by the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements.
It was the JCRC that convened the first Soviet Jewry Rally in the World at Sinai Temple back in 1963. It was the CRC that jointly with the West Valley Jewish Center (before the Milken) that held the first Israel Day at Pierce College when 30,000 people came out.
I could go on, but if anybody can show me where the current JCRC has had any effect either on the Jewish community or the rest of the Los Angeles community, I would be astounded. The JCRC is almost unknown now.
By the way, it was at the JCRC where Dick and Middie Giesberg became active with the Falasha Community in Ethiopia. Where are the Giesbergs of today?
I laughed out loud when I saw your clever cover, "Code Schmode" (May 19) with Mona Lisa rolling her eyes! Thanks for a good chuckle, and for the poignant articles on the film that followed.
The Green Party's sneaky infusion of Resolution 190 into its policy, calling for the boycott and divestment from Israel, is just another example of anti-Semitism disguised as concern for human rights (Seeing Red Over Green's Israel Policy," May 19).
If their intentions were purely motivated, they would stop filling their tanks with gas, most of which comes from intolerant and brutal Muslim theocracies. They would also give up much of their wardrobe, which was probably manufactured in China by children earning slave wages in unsanitary conditions.
Of course, these sacrifices would be too great to endure just to protest human rights violations. It's much easier to instruct companies and universities to avoid doing business with Israel. After all, they reason, it's not going to adversely affect them.
In their ignorance, however, these hypocrites are unaware of the contributions that Israeli products have made to every aspect of our lives here and around the world. According to Newsweek, for example, "Israel holds the most medical-device patents per capita in the world."
I wonder how firm these champions of human rights would stand if they knew one of these devices could save their life or that of a loved one.
P. Daniel Iltis
Why isn't the ordination of 14 Reform rabbis not on the cover The Jewish Journal?
This is much more important than the latest movie release. Movies are released everyday in someone's life, becoming a rabbi is once in a person's lifetime.
There has been a change in the content that The Journal prints -- especially toward the Reform movement. Can anyone at The Journal explain why?
I noticed the recent column urging young women to get out of dysfunctional relationships ("Walk Out the Door," May 19). I think it is even more useful to discuss how to keep from getting into such relationships to begin with.
The principles of staying out of dysfunctional relationships are the principles of forming good relationships, and they are pretty simple and straightforward: First of all, every normal young adult has a set of fundamental values and purposes, based on his or her feelings about what is worthwhile to accomplish in life. When a person is on track toward achieving these purposes, he/she will very likely be drawn to others who are sympathetic and supportive.
But if one looks instead to "just having fun," or achieving wealth and power as ends in themselves, then one will be drawn to those he/she regards as useful to her or him in such pursuits. Since these motives are basically selfish, whatever relationships that initially develop out of them will wither and fail in the long run.
Durable relationships are built on feelings of shared moral purposes. This is the underlying basis of all real love and friendship -- between man and man, between woman and woman and between man and woman.