January 19, 2011
Letters to the Editor: Debbie Friedman, The King’s Speech, Immigration
Jewish Life Exists in San Gabriel, Pomona Valleys
I was pleased to read the Jan. 7 article “University of La Verne Hires New Jewish President.” The University of La Verne is a wonderful asset for the greater Los Angeles area, and now, with Devorah A. Lieberman as the incoming president, there is a special connection to the local Jewish community.
However, the story failed to acknowledge that there are Jews living in the area and community where the University of La Verne is located. The Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys provides programs and services that meet the needs of the Jews living in our community — an area from Glendale in the west to Rancho Cucamonga in the east and south to Whittier; an area that has an estimated Jewish population of 40,000 to 80,000.
This is a vibrant Jewish community that includes eight synagogues, two Chabads, numerous women’s organizations, BBYO, Hillels at the Claremont Colleges and Cal Poly Pomona, two community Jewish preschools and Weizmann Day School, a K-8 school that is growing in enrollment when many day schools in the greater Los Angeles area are diminishing. This does not even begin to include the various programs and services provided by our Jewish Federation, like our 12th annual Jewish Book Festival, Camp Gan Shalom, the annual Festival of Jewish Music, Kol HaEmek (our community’s Jewish Community Chorale) and much more.
I, and the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, look forward to meeting with Devorah Lieberman once she assumes her office and figuring out ways that our Jewish community can work closely together with the University of La Verne.
Remembering Debbie Friedman
Debbie Friedman’s death touches millions of progressive Jews around the world who may not even remember her name, but who sang her songs and sang her prayers in English as well as in Hebrew (“And She Shall Be a Blessing,” Jan. 14).
She wrote Jewish music that brought the positive energy of Jewish summer camps into synagogues. In America, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews embraced her music. Her concerts were interactive; we listened and clapped, and we sang as she taught us her songs. She was a teacher in many ways; she made learning Hebrew easier with her “Aleph-Bet” song and had kids laughing as they sang her “I Am a Latke.”
She had us singing our way through the Jewish lifecycle. How many bar and bat mitzvah services told our children that “on your journey, I shall bless you ... and you shall be a blessing”?
She sang of “Hashkevainu,” a song of going to sleep and being protected; she sang of being ill and believing in the hope of recovery. Her “Mi Shebeirach” gave hope to millions, whether in “healing services” or as part of congregational wishes for recovery.
Though she wrote a wonderful melody for the “Shehecheyanu” that we sing at every holiday and every life-cycle celebration, she never wrote a melody for the “Kaddish,” the prayer celebrating God’s greatness, that we say at the end of every religious service and at gravesites as a memorial for the dead, that we could have sung at her annual yahrzeit.
Debbie Friedman never was able to finish her work; she died too young, but clearly, her memory “will be a blessing” and we will sing her values for generations to come. Amen.
Editor’s note: Debbie Friedman’s “The Kaddish” appears on her first album, “Sing Unto God” (1972).
We have heard the stories about the thousands and thousands, the crowded masses, who attended the funerals of Sholem Aleichem and I.L. Peretz. And now, through the miracle of the Internet, generations later, we have attended the funeral and celebration for Debbie Friedman. We are truly blessed.
Dangers of Hate Speech
In the current movie “The King’s Speech,” King George VI watched films of Adolf Hitler speaking to crowds of tens of thousands. George commented, “I don’t know what he is saying, but he says it well.” Yes, tens of thousands of Europe’s most educated citizens cheered and shouted along with Der Führer in his rants against his enemies — the Jews, communists and foreigners.
It was during the Great Depression, and such anger stirred the thoughts of mostly decent educated Germans to become puppets of (or even active players in) the world’s worst monster. In 1938, ordinary citizens, including Hitler’s notorious Brown Shirts, vandalized thousands of Jewish-owned businesses in the infamous Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass). Who says fiery rhetoric doesn’t have audience reaction?
Today’s radio and TV hate-mongers don’t compare to Hitler, but they have a much wider audience. And in such a wide audience, a few people can be turned to action (“The Precious Center,” Jan. 14).
Israel Has Answer to Illegal Immigration
Apparently Israel has an influx of illegal immigrants (“When Africa Comes to Israel,” Jan. 14), or as they call them, “infiltrators.” So, what do they do? They restrict work permits, heavily fine employers who hire illegals and build a wall along the border.
Gee, why didn’t we Americans think of that?
Bobbi Leigh Zito