September 21, 2000
Letters to the Editor
I was appalled and deeply disturbed by some of the letters you received (Letters, Sept. 15) regarding Teresa Strasser's Sept. 1 article and the picture of her mother and stepfather. I'm not criticizing The Jewish Journal for printing the letters; you are to be commended for exposing the naked racism extant in our community.
Obviously, the writer from Mission Viejo who withheld his/her name by request was well aware of the disgust the letter would engender. All I can say to that person is that they ought to be ashamed.To the reader who did possess the chutzpah to sign her name to her tasteless and very bigoted remarks, it should be noted that there are many of us who viewed Strasser's article as a sweet story by a child who was genuinely pleased by her mother's newfound happiness late in life; nothing more, nothing less.Alas, as we contemplate the year past and the forthcoming new year, it remains abundantly clear that we still have a lot of work to do as we continue in our attempts to heal the world.
Stu Bernstein, Santa Monica
I was shocked by the petty and bigoted response to Teresa Strasser's generous and open column that shared her family dynamics, revealed personal histories, chronicled her mother's Las Vegas nuptials, and paid a loving tribute to a "cool" and accepting stepfather whose presence and support had enormously enriched their lives.
The accompanying photo shows a jubilantly happy couple. What was not to love?
I wish the newlyweds mazal tov. I wish Teresa mazal tov. And I say mazal tov to The Jewish Journal for affirming the qualities of love and good will are not exclusive to a particular religious realm.
Kharin Mishan, South Pasadena
I am an African American just returned from my first trip to Israel. I was there for five months and fell in love with the country, the culture and the people. Through researching Jewish history, I was pleasantly surprised at the lengthy Jewish-African relationship (i.e. Moses/Zipporah, Abraham/Keturrah). I met so many wonderful Jewish people in the Holy Land (Black and white) and was often thought to be Hebrew because of the Ethiopian Jewish presence.
I looked forward to seeking out the Jewish culture here in Los Angeles, to keep up my now-elementary Hebrew and stay connected to a land that so embraced me. I was excited when I looked through a seldomly bought Los Angeles Times and The Jewish Journal fell out.
My elation quickly turned to sadness and anger as I read the letters written in response to an article by Teresa Strasser. Blatant prejudice, "Anglo" superiority and misplaced indignation slapped me in the face. If the cry had been that her husband was Christian, I would have been more understanding.
To see how totally disconnected the American Jew is from their own country, culture and history is disheartening. To think that I would never be accepted into the Jewish community I looked so forward to embracing here in Los Angeles is distressing. I'm not so narrow-minded as to think that all Jews felt the way the two people who responded do. But the fact that no positive response to the article was printed leads me to believe that, unfortunately, this could be the voice of the majority.
I totally understand why the first writer asked for her name to be withheld. I wouldn't want anyone to know I held such racist views either. Let's hope she isn't passing her own prejudices to the young Jews in her sphere of influence.
I encourage those of you who may have forgotten or never known the true diversity of your race to revisit your homeland and your history. Then you'll know that to embrace Teresa's non-Jewish stepfather is to embrace yourself.
Tish Hinton, Beverly Hills
I was appalled by the narrow-spirited views expressed regarding Teresa Strasser's mother's marriage in two letters published in the Sept. 15 Jewish Journal.
The writer who called him or herself "very unprejudiced" may be so, but he or she evoked a racist expression, "a Jewish woman in the arms of a Black man," an image which has been used to inflame hatred against Black men for generations.
The other writer characterized The Jewish Journal as an "Anglo Jewish newspaper." Really? Does that mean that Jewish Blacks need not bother to read it? I don't believe The Jewish Journal considers itself Anglo. It probably does consider itself American. The last time I checked, America stood for, among other virtues, diversity and tolerance.
While reading these letters, I thought of my white Jewish friend whose African American husband planned her son's Bar Mitzvah celebration. How's that for an example for our young Jewish people?
Janet Zarem,Pacific Palisades
It has been my experience that most Anglos claim a lack of prejudice out of ignorance rather than malice. There may be some healthy shame as well.
There is much diversity within our Jewish community. Of course, in shul I sometimes I find myself sitting with an African American, Asian or Latino who also happens to be a Jew. I have several close family members who, through intermarriage, are both Black and Jewish. These are not mutually exclusive. Many adoptions create families that are a microcosm of our human family, including people from many ethnicities who consider themselves as Jewish as anyone else. All branches of Judaism welcome Jews-by-choice, though how one becomes a Jew-by-choice is still at issue in some quarters.
Among my own friends and acquaintances, Jews who are also people of color are born into Jewish families. The Jewish Journal is our Jewish newspaper, too.
There are West Africans in New York who have been Jews for as far back as they can trace their lineage. And there were the North African Jews airlifted to safety in Israel not so long ago. There are more than a few Jews of color who regularly read The Jewish Journal. I am hopeful that some of these people will share their feelings as well. I feel very grateful that we are given so many opportunities to learn from each other. Perhaps God has given us a scenario so exquisitely woven with diversity that we might know of our interconnectedness. We all have been given the ability to love, forgive and grow. In acknowledgment of those gifts, I challenge my own assumptions and prejudices whenever an insight provokes thoughtful self-scrutiny. Without mindful reflection there can be no growth.
Marjorie Loring, Thousand Oaks
My family was shocked to read the two letters objecting to Teresa Strasser's article. These hateful letters are an embarrassment to the greater Los Angeles Jewish community and to Jews everywhere. Jews, I have noticed, are not all Anglo. In the United States and Israel, I have seen an array of skin colors. Our own family consists of multiracial members, who are just as Jewish as the letter writers.
Diane Mautner, Oxnard
The letter writer whose name was withheld writes, "I consider myself a very uprejudiced person." If the objection is to the color of the man's skin, it sounds like raw racism - an attitude, it is obvious, Jews should avoid.
Myra White, Claremont
I will share the two letters with my American history students to remind them that racism is still strong, that we must remain alert to it and fight it, and that it can come from people who have themselves been victims. To Teresa Strasser's mother: Mazal tov!
Ann Bourman, Los Angeles
Editor's Note: Teresa Strasser's Sept. 1 article, "Shotgun Wedding," can be found online in The Jewish Journal's archive.Go to www.jewishjournal.com and click on the word "archive" at the bottom of our banner. Select "09.01.00" and then click on the link for Teresa Strasser on the menu to the left or halfway down the page under our columnists section.