May 9, 2012
Letters to the Editor: Dennis Prager, Jewish Service Corps, Conservative Congregants
Distorting the Truth
Dennis Prager was given the opportunity to respond to a letter sent by a reader (Letters, April 27). I’d like to respond to his response. He asserts, “It was racists in the Democratic Party, not conservatives or Republicans, who blocked civil rights for blacks.” I’ve been a long-time listener and reader of Mr. Prager’s, and while I disagree with him on almost every issue, I have always respected his integrity. However, I must say that in this case, he is veering dangerously close to a purposeful distortion of the truth.
While today’s Democratic and Republican parties are far more monolithic than in the past, people in Mr. Prager’s generation (of which I am one) are well aware that there used to be a liberal wing of the Republican Party (Jacob Javits, Nelson Rockefeller, etc.) and a conservative wing to the Democratic Party (George Wallace, etc.). Therefore, while it is technically true that “racists in the Democratic Party” did indeed block civil rights for black people, Mr. Prager knows quite well that these were most certainly not liberal Democrats; they were part of conservative/racist part of the party. And yet he continues the sentence by saying it was “not conservatives” in the party who stood in the way. Oh? George Wallace wasn’t conservative?
The bottom line is this: I think it’s pretty clear that far more conservatives than liberals were involved with blocking rights for black folks. And to paint a picture that implies otherwise is deeply disappointing, especially coming from a man who has stated numerous times that “clarity” is one of his primary goals and values.
A case can be made that some of the civil rights programs that did pass were counterproductive (affirmative action, for example), and while I don’t agree with such arguments, good people can disagree. But the implication in Prager’s statement is simply a distortion of reality from someone who knows better.
Jewish Service Corps Needed in L.A.
I wanted to respond to the excellent article by Jonathan Zasloff (“Korbanot, Or Why Jews Should Act More Like Mormons,” May 4).
I grew up with Mormons and have always been amazed at how organized they are. The whole family looks forward to their children’s mission as a right of passage — when they can give unselfishly, tout the benefits of their religious beliefs and the value systems that help them contribute to the world and lead successful lives.
As wonderful as Birthright Israel has been, and I have two children [who can] attest to the greatness of the program, a one- or two-year commitment would many times give back to the community and enhance tikkun olam in the world. It would bring young Jewish kids together for an extended period of time to explore their commonality and form a bond that will give meaning to them throughout the remainder of their lives.
I, for one, would love to see a Los Angeles chapter of AVODAH, and to have the kind of organization and excitement that has to be generated to fill the idealism and imagination that is possible. I believe that a committee should be formed to explore the possibilities.
Denis M. Weintraub
Conservative Congregants Don’t Practice What Rabbis Preach
In his quest to differentiate between Conservative and Reform Judaism, Rabbi Hanan Alexander (“About Conservative Ordination of Openly Gay Rabbis,” May 4) states, “all candidates for rabbinic ordination must be committed to an observant Jewish lifestyle that includes daily prayer, Sabbath observance and Jewish dietary practice.” While that’s correct, it’s important to note that the practices of Conservative congregants do not reflect those of their clergy. Most have ceased following the laws of kashrut, rarely attend Shabbat services and provide their children with just enough religious training to get them through a [bar or bat] mitzvah service.
This disconnect doesn’t exist in Orthodox or Reform communities, where the practices of congregants are more closely aligned with those of their clergy. The result is that a rapidly declining number of children follow in their parents’ Conservative footsteps, and Conservative shuls often merge for survival. Even The United Synagogue [of Conservative Judaism], the Conservative movement’s umbrella organization, recently found it necessary to undergo belt-tightening.
Either this trend must be reversed or Conservative Judaism will soon become a footnote in Jewish history textbooks. Step one is for Conservative leaders to openly admit that the problem exists and then focus their resources on a long-range solution. Living in a state of denial is a formula for disaster.
Leonard M. Solomon
Robotics at YULA, Too
In your most recent issue, you ran an article about the Milken robot, “Sir Lancebot,” and the Milken Knights (“Hoop, There It Is! Milken’s Robotics Team Scores Big,” May 4). In it, Roger Kassebaum said that he knows of no other Jewish robotics teams in the United States. This year, YULA High Schools has started a robotics team.
Hagee on the Roof
In Mark Paredes April 8th column, he judges a video-blog Pastor John Hagee taped on Aish Hatorah’s rooftop, overlooking the Western Wall, to be “insensitive.” This conclusion is nonsensical. Newsflash: Hagee is a Christian preacher.