March 3, 2005
Letters to the Editor
As members of The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance Super Sunday Committee, we were disappointed to find almost no mention in your articles of the Valley's participation in last month's Super Sunday. ("Super Sunday Calls Raise $4.6 million," Feb. 18).
For months, our team of volunteers and Federation staff worked countless hours to prepare for Super Sunday; the day was a tremendous success.
In addition to raising more money than ever before, we had hundreds of volunteers of all ages dedicated to the tradition of tikkun olam – making the world a better place. Synagogues, rabbis, Jewish day schools, Hillels and Jewish camps came to support the event and represent the community.
The Valley made Super Sunday into more than a fundraising event – we made it a true community outreach event. We sent out 1,600 follow-up letters to people within our community who could benefit from Federation agency services: people who are unemployed, people who have recently experienced a death in the family, people experiencing financial difficulties and so on. We also generated several hundred letters of encouragement to the Israeli and U.S. troops fighting throughout the world.
Super Sunday is a communitywide event, covering all of metro Los Angeles, from the far reaches of the valleys to the South Bay and everywhere in between. Next year, we would hope that the coverage provided could be more extensive.
There are so many stories that could be generated from Super Sunday. We would appreciate The Journal treating it with more significance, as we feel it deserves.
The cover story by Kelly Hartog, coinciding with Valentine's Day, describes a lonely, disillusioned single epidemic sweeping the L.A. Jewish Community from the secular to the Orthodox ("The Mating Game," Feb. 11).
Obviously, single loneliness and a failure to meet someone special is not just a Jewish phenomenon. It's true throughout society here in L.A. and beyond.
To paraphrase Torah, at the beginning of the Torah is Genesis, the lord G-d said that it is not good that we should be alone.
Today's modern life does present obstacles for people, and it takes creativity to maintain balance.
The Journal article mentions in detail the wide variety of programs open to singles. They are numerous, and they have been available for years.
The dilemma isn't that there are not enough opportunities to meet people. The reasons for singles' despair include three important realities:
1) People don't make the effort. They don't participate in the community activities
2) People are losing touch, because they have been seduced by solitary distractions like iPods, anonymous chat rooms and home entertainment rooms. They are in hibernation and closed of their hearts.
3) Everyone at some point learns what is important in life. That question about the meaning of life, and the earlier this discovery is made, the sooner people will reject the obsession with material consumption, which leads to loneliness and isolation.
The answer to life's meaning and importance is simple, and it's no mystery. Valentine's Day is an annual reminder. The answer is love. But finding love is unlikely if your personal priorities obsess over selfish endeavors which deny the basic need for human involvement.
The human spirit desires companionship and love, not plasma TVs and giant SUVs. Materialism does not manifest happiness, real intimacy, spirituality or an adventurous heart.
Once people embrace this awareness and reduce an empty pursuit of the inanimate, then they will participate, their horizons will broaden, their perspective will evolve from self-indulgent overconsumption to the natural inclination and theological invitation to not be alone.
Explore the world beyond yourself; open your heart and nature will cooperate.
The decision to accept any advertising from PETA makes me question the integrity of The Jewish Journal ("Cruelty Uncovered: Is 'Aaron's Best' Kosher's Worst?," Feb. 25 advertisement).
PETA is an organization that coined the phrase, "Holocaust on Your Plate." They have created a moral equation between the mistreatment of chickens and the atrocities that our Jewish ancestors faced during the Holocaust.
This is an affront to Jews throughout the world, regardless of where each of us may stand regarding the subject of shechitah. The slaughter of animals for food may be reprehensible to some. Still, it must never be compared to the Nazi's attempt to systematically destroy the Jewish people.
Shame on The Jewish Journal for accepting business from an organization that has trivialized the killing of 6 million Jews.
I have never written a letter to any paper before in my life. But seeing that you decided to accept the ad, "Cruelty Uncovered: Is 'Aaron's Best' Kosher's Worst?" into your paper on Feb 25, really concerns me.
If you had written a balanced investigative article on the issue, it could have served the community well. But by accepting an ad that is by nature complete propaganda and designed to undermine kashrut is no service to the community.
The charges leveled against AgriProcessors Corp. are serious and should be treated with sensitivity and great deliberation, not with an ad that obfuscates the truth and promotes divisiveness.
Editor's Note: Our first three articles on the controvesry are available at jewishjournal.com/archives. Our next article on the subject will appear next week.
Tom Teicholz has written a fine tribute on the recent passing of playwright Arthur Miller ("The Death of a Moralist," Feb. 18).
But characterizing Miller as "the American playwright of the 20th century" is an untenable and far too sweeping encomium to describe his achievement.
It would have been more accurate to place Miller as one of the great triumvirate of 20th century American playwrights – the others being Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams.
To be quite frank, Miller's critical reputation rests upon basically two plays: "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible."
O'Neill and Williams each wrote many plays which have achieved great acclaim and remain in the repertory today. Also, filmmakers have turned to their plays many times through the decades for inspiration, which cannot be said of Miller's work.
Finally the Nobel Prize committee bestowed its award for literature on O'Neill – a distinct achievement among American playwrights. Miller never achieved that pantheon.
"Polish extermination camp" expression was used to reference to the Sobibor concentration camp (Kishon – The Writer," Feb. 25).
This information is false and offensive to Poles who suffered enormously in World War II.
Sobibor was German concentration camp, not Polish concentration camp. Sobibor concentration camp was set up on Polish soil by the Nazi-German occupation forces and administered by Hitler's SS.
I would appreciate if you could correct above error and instruct your journalists to not use "Polish extermination camp" expression in the future.
Jan Adam Les
Eric Alterman wants me to tell you what I think of your publishing Cathy Young's piece about him ("When Jews Wax Anti-Semitic," Feb 18).
I think it was great!
The guy was outed in just the way he deserved to be. If he claims to have been libeled by Young, as he does, then let him produce all the columns he has written discounting concerns about anti-Semitism in Europe, about Israel's treatment of Palestinians as the root cause of much anti-Semitism, etc.
The guy doesn't stand up to scrutiny. No disapproval from me of your choice. (Now don't back down.)
M. Louis Offen
I am stunned, to say the least, that an organ of the Jewish community would publish an opinion piece that is nothing more than slander.
[Cathy] Young, in her piece, attacked Eric Alterman as anti-Semitic and self-hating as a result of his having stated his opinion that he understood why the British Muslim Council boycotted Auschwitz liberation observances. I have searched your archives and the article that Young refers to is absent.
You have allowed your pages to be used to libel an observant, pro-Zionist Jew, educated in Israel, active in his shul, who educates his children at Jewish day schools, without even extending the courtesy of publishing in full, the article that sent Young on her misguided tirade.
Is the fact that The Journal didn't publish Alterman's article before it allowed Young to let loose with her venomous harangue an example of your journalistic fairness? Have the editors of The Journal even bothered to read Alterman's article?
Are you aware that The Boston Globe, where Young's article first appeared, has, through its ombudsman, acknowledged that Young's characterizations of Alterman as an anti-Semite and a self-hating Jew were "ad hominem" "inappropriate" and beneath the journalistic standards for op-ed pieces at the Globe?
Young has resorted to an old ploy of those who are unable to fairly debate a contested issue. She has vilified and demeaned the messenger, misrepresented the message and in so doing, attempted to dehumanize the author and set up a false argument to attack.
You of all entities in the Jewish community should realize that these are the tactics employed by every totalitarian regime throughout history.
The re-publication of Young's diatribe is a shameful contribution to the epidemic of lashon hara. The Journal needs to publicly apologize to Alterman and publish his original piece in full, as well as his reply to Young's article.
To do any less will have the effect of destroying the already tenuous credibility of The Journal and place you among the likes of William Randolph Hearst and other yellow journalists.
E. Hil Margolin
Rob Eshman got it only half right in his This Week column about the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation fundraiser ("First Steve, Then Bill," Feb. 25).
Our organization, The "1939" Club, is one of the largest survivor organizations in the country (www.1939club.com). We established the first chair on Holocaust studies in the country (UCLA) and we co-sponsor what has become the largest Holocaust Art and Writing Contest in the country at Chapman University. We continue to sponsor memorials, teacher workshops, lecture series and symposia on the Holocaust as well as honor the Righteous. We also party.
We have five dinner or luncheon dances a year. We usually have an interesting guest [talk] on the subject of the Holocaust. Our events are at major hotels. We have the largest dance floor available and a rousing band. The survivors, in their 80s and 90s, dance up a storm – including the hora and the Electric Slide. They outlast the second generation on the dance floor. They eat hardy. They are celebrating life. They are celebrating that they are in this great country, that they were able to marry, and have children. They are celebrating that their grandchildren and great-grandchildren will carry their legacy.
Yes, they remember. They are also entitled to celebrate.
It is unfortunate that Ophira Levant resorts to regurgitating lies against the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) made by right-wing Islamophobic people who are intent on marginalizing the American Muslim community by spreading untruths against their leaders and organizations ("Web Letters," Feb 25).
To set the record straight, CAIR is an American organization established by American Muslims. CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties group and has 31 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. CAIR's principled stance against terrorism is beyond the need to be defended against baseless accusations.
CAIR enjoys the support of Americans from all ethnic and religious backgrounds. CAIR works regularly with the Jewish community and leaders to promote dialogue and cooperation. It is acceptable for Muslims and Jews not to always agree on the politics of the Middle East, but this should never become an excuse to demonize or tolerate racism against one another. Muslims are actually more hurt and disappointed when such racism comes from individuals who belong to the Jewish community, a community that suffered so much from that racism and hatred.
It is incumbent, as fellow Americans and "cousins" through Abraham, that we do not fall into the disinformation trap put out by Islamophobic characters such as Daniel Pipes and others.
It is important that we learn the truth about each other as friends, neighbors and co-workers by communicating and dialoguing with one another, as our Jewish and Islamic traditions teach us. Our children and our respective communities expect nothing less from us.
To read CAIR's Mission, Vision Statement and Core Principles, visit www.cair-net.org/default.asp?Page=About.
In "Fox Takes a 'Walk' Down Provocative Path" (Feb. 25), the photo is of Knut Berger as the gay German,
Axel, and Carolina Peters as his sister, Pia.
I'm surprised that you would print Cathy Young's utterly inaccurate and slanderous column regarding Eric Alterman. This sort of hate speech masquerading as – well, I'm not sure it's masquerading as anything in particular – accusing a fellow Jew of being a "self-hating" "anti-Semite" is loathsome. Of course, so is completely misrepresenting Mr. Alterman's views, his words, his inferences, his connotation and so on.
I happen to be a Jew who lives here in Los Angeles, but one who has read Mr. Alterman's books, columns and other work for 15 years at least. He is at times a polemicist, at times a historian, at times a journalist (and now a blogger), and he is always a serious intellectual and thinker, the kind with whom one needs to reckon. What you did was not reckoning, it was spreading manure across a field. Either you are ignorant of Mr. Alterman's positions and place, in which case shame on you for running a piece such as Young's without doing your homework, or you are partisan hacks, the kind of people that I loathe.
Whichever it is, short of an apology and/or an offer to run Mr. Alterman's full response in The Journal, I will endeavor to get as many of my fellow readers in this town to unsubscribe, both physically and intellectually, from your Journal. I await your response.
This week I opened to the Jewish Journal to find a full page ad with the bold headline: "Cruelty Uncovered: Is 'Aaron's Best' Kosher's Worst?"
The ad was taken out by PETA – the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA's allegations of cruelty to animals perpetrated by Rubashkin's AgriProcessors Corp. first hit mainstream media in an article in the Los Angeles Times in early January of this year. The article was by no means a convincing indictment of AgriProcessor's practices; the author referenced substantial support for the slaughtering procedures under attack. This perhaps explains PETA's new tactic: targeting the Jewish community with "splash ads" that conveniently leave out any information not supporting its agenda. In touching concern for the spiritual wellbeing of kosher-eaters, PETA appeals to the Jewish community by quoting Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank, president of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement, as commenting: "The scenes recorded are not what shechitah should be, nor does it correspond to the Jewish way of treating animals...When a company purporting to be kosher violates the prohibition against tza'ar ba'alei hayyim, causing pain to one of G-d's living creatures, that company must answer to the Jewish community, and ultimately, to G-d." What was perhaps most striking to me was PETA's decision to include a quote from a Rabbi of the Conservative movement. Wouldn't its claims of animal cruelty be made all the more credible by an Orthodox Rabbi's condemnation of the slaughtering practices?
Indeed, it would. PETA's problem, however, is that the Orthodox movement stands firmly behind AgriProcessors. The Orthodox Union, the largest kosher certification authority in the world, has declared that the procedures at Agriprocessors "meet all our standards to the highest degree." In fact, in all of the articles that I have seen on the subject, I have yet to find one Orthodox Rabbi that condemns the practices. Again, PETA conveniently leaves this minor detail out of its advertisement.
So perhaps, in fact, this is an attack, not on AgriProcessors, but on the slaughtering practices of Orthodox Jewry. A sad conclusion, but unfortunately – not altogether surprising. Torah observance is not regarded as fashionable in today's culture of self-gratification and pseudo-enlightenment. Thus, in formulating some response to PETA's ad, I largely ignore the substantive issues of their allegations. Federal law deems humane any slaughtering "in accordance with the ritual requirements of the Jewish faith or any other religious faith that prescribes a method of slaughter whereby the animal suffers loss of consciousness by anemia of the brain caused by the simultaneous and instantaneous severance of the carotid arteries with a sharp instrument and handling in connection with such slaughtering." Whether or not PETA's videos reveal the animals' consciousness I will leave to those more familiar with animal psychology. I have long understood that even when a completely dead animal might still thrash around for a while. I've even heard the same thing of people. But again, this not being my field, I leave those deliberations to the experts. To PETA, I have this to say: While you were eating each other; while you were pitting man against beast in stadiums for your entertainment, Torah observant Jews were stopping to help relieve the burden of a tired donkey – even when it belonged to an enemy. While you were out hunting for sport, Torah observant Jews were trying to decide whether milk and eggs are kosher since they are taken from a live animal. While you hung antlers in your dining room, and wiped your feet on animal skin, Torah observant Jews made sure to send away the mother bird before taking her eggs. While you were shooting animals in the head before sitting down to a feast, Jewish people would study countless laws, sharpen their knives to a razor, and carefully perform a procedure designed to kill the animal without pain. Torah observant Jews taught the world what it means to be kind to animals. And now, in this moment of remarkable arrogance, the student presumes to become the teacher? Mr. Friedrich, did you send a letter to Mr. Rubashkin gently asking "his Excellency" to take a more compassionate approach to animals, as you did with Yasser Arafat? You described AgriProcessor's "level of cruelty" to the animals as "absolutely outrageous"; were you as emphatic in your description of Arafat's use of a donkey to murder innocent men women and children? You quoted Rabbi Rank. Yet he is not an authority on the ritual slaughter of Torah observant Jews. He makes the presumptuous claim that "the scenes recorded are not what shechita should be." And yet, unless Rabbi Rank wishes to rewrite the laws of shechita, the scenes recorded were done entirely in accordance with the laws of shechita. The company does not "purport to be kosher"; the Orthodox Union has unequivocally declared AgriProcessor's meat to be kosher, and its practices beyond reproach.
To the Jewish Journal, for agreeing to run PETA's ad, and to all of the conservative Rabbis that have joined in this farce, I have this to say: Shame on you. Shame on you that you so desperately seek the approval of your flamboyant, pseudo-humane friends in organizations like PETA. Shame on you, that you now seek to cast aspersions on practices that have the Torah's approval, even if you lack the courage do defend them as your own. And when Moshiach comes, and we are once more able to bring the daily sacrifices and burnt offerings, will you then too stand beside your PETA friends denouncing Torah observance? When PETA send its undercover investigators to a Kapparot site on the day before Yom Kippur, will you stand beside them waiving your indignant little fists, and declare this age-old custom a violation of tza'ar ba'alei hayyim as well? Torah was meant be a light unto the nations. Do not darken its light by inviting the PETA's warped perceptions of right and wrong into Torah observant slaughter-houses.
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