December 23, 2004
Letters to the Editor
I was surprised, astonished and shocked to read William Donohue's comments as reported in your editor's column last week ("Garbage Mouth," Dec. 17). In fact, I was unaware of Donohue's comments until I read them in The Jewish Journal. I unequivocally reject Donohue's remarks.
The Catholic and Jewish communities in Los Angeles have long enjoyed a deep and abiding affection for one another. We live in the same neighborhoods and send our children to the same schools. We socialize together and often attend each other's religious services as invited guests. Our shared moral values have brought us together to work for stronger families, and a more just and tolerant society.
Twelve years ago, in a pastoral letter to members of the entertainment industry – as well as to those who are its customers – I wrote of the awesome moral power of the media, which is second only to the human family in its capacity to "communicate values, form consciences, provide role models and motivate human behavior."
The best and most successful films produced by Hollywood always say something meaningful about human dignity, freedom and justice. As I also said in my pastoral letter, these values "are the exclusive property of no single religious community, ethnic grouping, educational level, economic class or political party.... Being human values, they are recognized and affirmed by all the people."
Let us refocus our efforts on producing and patronizing film and television projects that uplift the human spirit common to all of us, Catholic and Jew, religious and secular.
Cardinal Roger Mahony
Thanks to Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman for putting the Iowa slaughterhouse controversy up front ("The Kindest Cut," Dec. 10). It is important for readers to understand that PETA is not challenging kosher slaughter. PETA's position is the same as ours: that kosher slaughter is more humane than the processes employed in other slaughterhouses. PETA is claiming, however, that slaughter at the Agriprocessors plant in Iowa is unkosher, and since it follows neither kashrut nor government regulations, it is illegal. Anyone who views the videos posted on the PETA Web site must agree. The suffering depicted is beyond the pale. The "kosher meat man" quoted by Eshman, who says "Nobody gives a sh– about PETA" had better be wrong. We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of animals and call ourselves Jewish. Have the Orthodox abandoned the commandments?
The real story behind the Agriprocessors kosher slaughter PETA video is the tale of two Orthodox Jewish organizations and two distinctive worldviews. Agudath Israel and its lawyer, Nathan Lewin, clearly viewed the PETA project as an assault motivated by anti-Semitism, while the Orthodox Union and its principled leader, Rabbi Zvi Hersh Weinreb, asserted that "The Orthodox Union will not engage in maligning PETA in any way, nor in questioning their motives." He then announced that he would ask Agriprocessors to "stop letting workers tear the trachea and esophagus out of animals" (following shechita). He is further quoted to have said that he found the procedure especially inhumane.
The OU required these changes even though it was possible to argue that the shechita had been performed in accordance with the letter of the halachic strictures. Weinreb, however, understood that if, as Jews, we were to continue to claim that kosher slaughter adheres to the most humane standards, then rabbinic decisions regarding shechita must reflect the highest ethical and humane ideals. In this swift and unapologetic way, Weinreb transformed what could very well have degenerated into a damaging chilul Hashem (desecration) into a Kiddush Hashem (a sanctification of God's name and of the halachic process).
Hats off to you Rabbi Weinreb for your courageous decision,
Rabbi Chaim and Doreen Seidler-Feller
Lonely Jews on Xmas
The headline of the Dec 17 issue and the complaining of this type of Jew makes us see red ("When Xmas Enters the Classroom," Dec.17). My grandparents were Orthodox Jews in Latvia. Although Saturday was a school day for my mother, her parents did not complain because they wanted her to have an education and that was the way it was. There were no Jewish school groups or mention of Chanukah in schools, as described in your article. On one Christmas Eve, I recall my grandma singing "Silent Night" in German and telling me, joyously, of the Christmas celebrations they shared with their Christian neighbors.
As a child, I remember asking my mother about Christmas and Easter observances in my public school (in a mostly Jewish neighborhood). My mother explained that we live in a "Christian country" where we are a tiny minority and God bless this Christian country. Jews have never had the freedoms and opportunities as we have here. To the people who resonate with those complaints – quit your bitchin'. Welcome the warmth of the season and enjoy your blessings.
Adelaide and Milt Meisner
I appreciate The Journal's ongoing attempts to chronicle the melding of Jewish tradition with American culture ("Merry Chrismukkah to You," Dec. 10). However, I was somewhat dismayed by the coverage given to "Chrismukkah" concept. This new "holiday" (which is somewhat reminiscent of Frank Costanza's Festivus on "Seinfeld") is essentially a celebration of assimilation, interfaith marriage and dominating impact of Christian culture on Jewish experience.
The loss of Jewish identity that ideas like this represent is not something to be celebrated or reported with such a whimsical tone.
In David Finnigan's article ("Singing Klezmer Isn't Hard to Do," Dec. 3) he states: "Yet, Sedaka admits that for all the pop hits he has written ... writing pop music is not bubble gum and can require as much elaborate creation as a Bach symphony." As J.S. Bach wrote no symphonies, this would be impossible to do. The symphonic form was developed by composers living after Bach.
Lewis C. Holzman
Jews on Xmas
Very sad reading about Grant High School, but funny, too ("When Christmas Enters the Classroom," Dec. 17). How times change. When we moved from San Gabriel Valley to the San Fernando Valley in the mid-'60s, I had only one requirement: Where ever we lived, it had to be in the Grant High district. Not only was Grant outstanding academically, but it was the first school I had ever heard of that sent home notes around the holidays, asking if your child would be attending school during Rosh Hashanah and/or Yom Kippur. I thought that was wonderful. Having grown up in New Orleans (where there wasn't even a Jewish neighborhood, we were just scattered around the city), I knew what my kids had gone through in San Gabriel. I'm sorry Grant High and other schools are not like that anymore, but with a strong Jewish influence at home, and at temple, hopefully today's teens will grow up to be mothers and fathers who will work at the school level to honor all Holidays.
Paulette Vision Pistol
Your cutsie interfaith Chanukah-Christmas cards and gifts stories running the last few weeks would have the Maccabees turn in their graves. Jews did and do not sacrifice their lives to make a mockery of Judaism. Where do you draw the line?
My 14-year-old granddaughter attended a Jewish day school from kindergarten through sixth grade. During those cozy and comfortable years, she viewed Christmas carols, lights and the holiday in general as simply quaint, nothing more ("There's No Santa but Keep It Quiet," Dec. 17). In seventh grade, we switched her to a non-Jewish private school. We assumed her upbringing at home, plus her day school background, would buffer her against the December dilemma. Not!
Now, in ninth grade, most of her girlfriends are non-Jews. She has lost interest in lighting the menorah with me. She bought a Santa hat (I chewed her out on both of those). She clearly is losing interest in her Jewish identity. Can anyone out there offer any suggestions on how I can get her back in the Jewish groove, to feel proud of her Judaism?
Name Withheld Upon Request
Reporters and readers alike are debating whether or not the method of slaughter employed in Postville, Iowa, is halachically correct ("The Kindest Cut," Dec. 10). These worries miss a vital point.
By focusing on the last few seconds of life, otherwise educated and loving Jews ignore the question of animal treatment during the preceding 99 percent of their lives.
Most cattle are raised on coarse feed that creates painful gastric problems (they do not graze on grass for most of their lives). They are kept in fields not shielded from sun. They are denied exercise, lest they burn calories. They are castrated, branded and dehorned without anesthesia or follow-up veterinary care. They are transported long distances in overcrowded trucks, often without food and water. Kosher animals might "enjoy" a less painful death than nonkosher animals, but virtually all animals raised for consumption (kosher or nonkosher) live lives of pain, crowding and abusive treatment. Were it a dog or cat being treated this way, the handlers would be arrested and jailed.
Judaism teaches kindness and compassion toward animals. It is intellectually dishonest to ignore 99 percent of an animal's life, in favor of the last 1 percent.
I found the article "Idea of Dumb Bush Voters Lacks Reality" (Dec. 3) to be perplexing, to say the least The implication is that Democrats consider people who voted for Bush to be dumb. On the contrary, people voted for Bush for a variety of reasons. The voters included those who believed in one or more of the following: the Republican Party best supported Israel (blatantly false), provided the best defense against terrorism, believed in the Iraq war, held ideological beliefs consistent with the evangelical right-wing Republican Christians or knew their financial future was assured with this candidate. Of course, there were others who had concerns with Sen. Kerry or perceived that the Democrats lacked a clear message regarding a wide range of topics (e.g., peace, jobs, outsourcing, fairness for everyone, health care, etc.). However, implying that Democrats are not reflecting deeply on their vision and mission is simply untrue. A quick review of the op-ed section of the New York Times (Dec. 8) reveals no less than four articles regarding the need for the Democratic Party to energize itself. Many ideas are being considered such as engaging citizens in the rural communities and using new methods to increase Democratic turnout in 2006.
Letters I have received from California Sen. Barbara Boxer and the New Democratic Network, as well as articles from The Nation, also voice the need and commitment for the Democratic Party members and leaders to reflect deeply regarding a new vision that will attract a new base of Democrats for the future. I see nothing dumb about this intelligent and thoughtful response.
Ms. Davis, did you ever think you would ever get a fan mail letter from someone who is probably old enough to be your grandfather? Well, you got one now.
I generally skim over the singles articles but your pretty smile and the interesting title caught my eye so I read the article ("Single Woman of Valor," Nov. 26). I enjoyed it for several reasons: 1) I married one and she still is; 2) we have a bright, attractive, professionally successful daughter whose sentiments are identical with yours and 3) I really liked your-no-holds barred approach to the rights of a single woman. You know, I have trouble understanding young men today. In my dating days I always enjoyed interesting, stimulating girls like you. Are men just afraid of bright women nowadays?
If so, who needs them?
Anyway, thanks for expressing your views so well. You're certainly my nominee for a WOV.
The editorial report ("Garbage Mouth," Dec.17) on the anti-"secular Jewish" comments by Catholic lay leader William Donohue may be regarded as the chickens coming home to roost.
Two years ago in November, there was much resentment in Catholic circles against an anti-church film from Mexico, "The Crimes of Father Amaro," being distributed in the U.S. The Journal and other newspapers disclosed that the distribution company, Samuel Goldwyn Films, was headed by a Jewish executive, Myer Gottlieb. The Catholic community was well aware of this, and expressed its outrage.
At the time, I wrote The Jewish Journal:
"If Jews hope to receive Catholic support in the struggle against ... anti-Semitism, they should at least have enough self-control to prevent Jewish sponsorship of public material that is gratuitously hostile to a major Christian religion. I regard the conduct of this Jewish executive to be in reckless disregard of the current worldwide struggle against anti-Semitism. I am astounded at the silence of our Jewish leadership in this matter."
The Journal published neither this letter, nor any letter or comment criticizing such silence. Apparently the view in Jewish leadership circles was as usual, that the controversy would blow over. Well, it didn't blow over; it remained in the memory banks of those offended, and resentment generated then is being expressed now.
The chickens are coming home to roost, something the Jewish leadership should keep in mind in its present state of indignation over the current attack on "Hollywood's secular Jews."