February 8, 2012
Letters to the Editor: Film in Israel, Los Encinos and kosher food
On the Set … but Not in Israel
I am not surprised that “Zionism and the Three-Picture Deal” (Feb. 3) neglected to mention that Hollywood has rarely produced a movie in Israel. Other than a few days, one scene in Jerusalem, Hollywood and the Jews of Hollywood (including prominent Israeli producers) completely ignore it. Even biblical projects that take place in Israel are shot outside of Israel, including History Channel’s “The Bible” miniseries.
It’s very comfortable to buy concepts for 50 to 100 grand apiece, but other than that, Hollywood Jews don’t really care. As an Israeli filmmaker, I tried to pitch Israel-based international projects and those nice Hollywood Jews didn’t give a damn, including those prominent figures who donate money to Israeli causes. No Hollywood Jew wants to be accused of “favoring” Israel. That’s a bigger crime than producing a box office or rating bomb.
Los Encinos a Haven for Longtime Valley Residents
Bravo, Rob. Your comments on Los Encinos brought tears to my eyes (“Save Los Encinos,” Feb. 3). I grew up in Encino and have lived here since 1949. We visited Los Encinos as children almost weekly with my parents. We fed the ducks, enjoyed a picnic lunch, did some homework. And later, as parents, and still living in Encino, my wife and I took our two sons on a Saturday morning outing to feed the ducks and talk to the rangers. And, now as grandparents, we take our six grandchildren to enjoy this remarkable five-acre park as a haven from the massive traffic on Ventura Boulevard.
The culture and people have changed in Encino. Massive apartment buildings dot the landscape. Car dealers build structures, large enough to house jumbo jets, to show off the latest, most expensive models. Restaurants overflow with business people at lunchtime. And everyone is in a hurry! Too bad. We need to take time to breathe and relax and enjoy. Hopefully we can find ways to keep this incredible park open. In the “old days,” we would rally at Encino Park and find solutions to community issues. Maybe we can solve this one as well. Thanks again, Rob, for your interest.
For a second time in the last two years I actually enjoyed Rob Eshman’s editorial, which described an environmental concern that I could wholeheartedly support. To cover Los Encinos State Historic Park’s expenses, how about getting rid of two or three termed-out legislators or politically influential friends, relatives and supporters of legislators or governors appointed to the plethora of do-nothing commissions/boards (e.g., the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board) earning more than $100,000 a year? Preserving a spot of green in a concrete jungle is always a good idea.
Washing Away the Essence of Judaism
I used to think difficult vegetables were those that were too hard to get children to eat, but “Can We Afford Kosher Lettuce?” (Feb. 2) taught me difficult vegetables actually are those that are too hard to look at. What do I mean? I learned it’s too hard to wash a raspberry, it’s too hard to inspect a blackberry, it’s too hard to open an artichoke and look at it before you eat it, it’s just too hard to wash lettuce (and don’t get me started on how hard it is to use the salad spinner!), arugula needs a light table, and asparagus need a circumcision.
We once lived in a world where, if a worm was found in a fruit, that part was cut away. We continue to live in a world where water is generally scarce. How have we evolved to where an ever-flowing tap and the knee-jerk discard of whole swaths of harvest are required for a certifying organization to ensure religious piety? I remember when waste itself used to be a sin, a sin with agricultural roots that grew straight from the words of the Torah.
Maybe the real message of the article is that we as Jews are avoiding what should matter to us most: personal involvement, personal responsibility and balance in our observance. We still have holidays with strong agricultural overtones (Tu B’Shevat, Sukkot, Pesach, Shavuot) but we’ve made ourselves numb to their agricultural underpinnings and the conditions under which they were originally celebrated. Even if we today purchase certified produce, we are not absolved from inspecting what we’re about to put in our mouths. If we allow ourselves to outsource our religious undertakings, we will, as a community, eventually have no experience in what it takes to be a Jew. If we eliminate from our lives what isn’t convenient, there will be no community. And if we hoard the basics of life behind a fence, justify doing so with an imbalanced application of rules, then tax these basics until they become luxuries, are we not engendering disdain and coming dangerously close to creating a Chillul Hashem?
Rob Eshman supports crying crocodile tears over any genocide, but does he agree to actually do something to prevent it (“Bridge to Empathy,” Jan. 27)? Or does he, like all the left, bemoan the military action that stopped two genocides in time?
I define “in time” as before a large part of the target population was killed, and I refer to the attempted genocides of the Kurds and of the Marsh Arabs in Iraq (the reasons for the northern and southern no-fly zones under the armistice agreement).
This Is What’s What’s Bugging Him
As an Orthodox Jew, I was greatly disturbed by your article on the religious laws surrounding checking lettuce and other vegetables for bugs. I ran into this issue a couple of years ago and spoke at great length with a variety of Orthodox rabbis about it. Additionally, I wanted to find out for myself where all this came from.
After reading more about it in the Talmud (Oral Law) and commentary of our Sages, I think that although the Rabbinical Counsel of California (RCC) is well meaning, they are also misguided. While I agree that there is a Torah prohibition against eating bugs, what is at issue is the degree to which one must check and wash vegetables to avoid the possibility of eating bugs.
What the Talmud and Sages say is that you must check your vegetables, but anything that looks like a speck of dirt is a speck of dirt. The talmudic law does not require light boxes, multiple rinses, soap or staring at the leaf in question for 10 minutes. The law requires that one do the type of checking that pretty much every average American would do. As the article says – the RCC is not concerned about a snail or something big like that – they are concerned about something so small that it is, for all practical purposes, indistinguishable from a speck of dirt to the unaided eye using a reasonable amount of care.
I don’t want to eat bugs any more than the next person – religious law or not – but don’t you think that tiny bugs land on our food all the time? It is impossible to avoid eating these near-microscopic bugs and is just a part of the way that G-d set up the world to work.
The article points to the fact that pesticides used to be more effective so our parents’ generation didn’t have to check as thoroughly for bugs. What about generations before that? Rabbis in their sermons are constantly saying how high a religious level Abraham and our forefathers were at and how they kept all the mitzvot. Do you think that in the deserts of the Middle East that they lived and wandered in that they would waste precious water on rinsing vegetables numerous times? They didn’t have pesticides back then either. What would Moses do upon seeing fresh, ripe vegetables thrown in the trash?
Additionally, I think that the RCC is actually doing more harm than good by pitting Jews against each other. This is an actual conversation that I had with someone that I invited for Shabbat dinner:
Ms. X to Me: “Do you keep kosher?”
Me to Ms. X: “I have separate dishes and ovens for dairy and meat. I buy all my food at Glatt Mart.”
Ms. X to Me: “Do you check your vegetables?”
Me to Ms. X: “Yes, of course.”
Ms. X to Me: “How do you check your vegetables?”
Me to Ms. X: “I rinse with water and do a visual inspection.”
Ms. X to Me: “Maybe I’ll just come for dessert.”
I think it is time to tell the RCC that we answer to a higher authority.
Candidates Don’t Offer Much of a Choice
Shmuel Rosner and no doubt many Jews wonder which Republican candidate would be best for Israel (except for Ron Paul; everyone pretty much gets that horror of that option) (“Are Jews Trending Republican?” Jan. 27). On the one hand, you have Newt Gingrich, who out of one side of his mouth attacks Mitt Romney for depriving Holocaust survivors of kosher food while out the other side denigrates the president by offering voters the choice between the Declaration of Independence and Saul Alinsky (read: radical Jew). This he augments with the promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem before the Chief Justice has finished administering the oath of office – regardless of repercussions for the Jewish state and its citizens. The sechel choice? Hardly. On the other hand, you have Mitt Romney, a business school graduate with a little bit of experience as a governor and no discernible convictions other than a desire to exceed his father (sound familiar?) – a man likely to have his foreign policy dictated and implemented by others (sound even more familiar?) and who has already engaged in bellicose threats.
Beware the choice: phony intellectualism shrouded in undisciplined megalomania or someone who can be ignored or counted on for uncritical support, regardless how extreme the policy. While there is some thought that the Bush administration was good for Israel – basically allowing it free rein – a great deal of its current difficulty can be traced to that poorly considered policy. Doubts about the president’s commitment to Israel are exaggerated, and a thoughtful leader dealing with the world as it is should always be preferred to ignorance and empty posturing.
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