Jewish Journal


June 8, 2010

Letters to the Editor: Flotilla, Young Jews, and Prager


More Insight, Less Confusion

Can you please replace the mindless Rob Eshman (“Haiti Versus the Flotilla,” June 4) with reprints of Charles Krauthammer? Instead of aggravating the intelligent, confusing the equally naïve from his position of authority and supporting all those who intend to cause Israel harm, please publish an insightful piece instead from Caroline Glick or Charles Krauthammer like his intelligent Washington Post article on the same topic that shows how it is all really not that complicated.

C.J. Wright
via e-mail

Demonstration Pros, Cons

As one Jew among the many who attended Sunday’s pro-Israel rally, I wish to express my deep gratitude to the many Christians who came out to show their support for Israel in the current crisis. At a time when many in the world would be happy to see Israel disappear from the planet, the support of Christian groups is tremendously meaningful and deeply appreciated.

My special thanks go to the group of Armenian Christians who drove all the way from Las Vegas to participate in the demonstration. When I asked them what motivated them to join the Jewish cause, their answer filled me with pride: “It’s because when the earthquake happened in Armenia, the very first planeload of aid and supplies was from Israel.”

Thank you to our Christian friends for recognizing that Israel, despite all her faults, remains a shining light in a world rapidly being overcome by darkness.

Lida Baker
Los Angeles

There isn’t even an attempt in Federation’s call to demonstrate at 6380 Wilshire Blvd. to justify or explain the commando raid, and since it is clear that there is little understanding or support for the blockade of Gaza, we’re supposed to “mobilize the community” and wave flags.

This is not the kind of “support” the educational and social services partners in our twin city of Tel Aviv want or expect from friends who know anything about their concerns with Israel’s direction and choices.

“Anyone who cares about Israel” should consider whether the Netanyahu government can build sustainable security for the Jewish state. Nobody who has been paying attention can believe Israel’s problems are solely to be blamed on Islamic extremists, pro-Palestinian activists, naive young people, political anti-Zionists and persistent anti-Semites.

Perhaps a Yom Limmud would be more appropriate than a demonstration, so we could seriously consider ways to support Israel’s integration of her neighborhood and address the humanitarian and political needs of the Palestinians.

Jake Wirtschafter
via e-mail

Who Should Be in Charge?

I am grateful that David Myers, Rabbi Wolpe, Rabbi Seidler-Feller or Elissa Barrett are not in the Knesset or the IDF and are not making life-and-death decisions (“Jewish Community Reacts to Gaza Coastal Raid,” June 4). In the face of deadly forces, the last thing we need is liberal, misguided, misleading “commanders-in-chief.”

Robert Reyto
Los Angeles

Prager a Fundamentalist?

It makes me sad to read Dennis Prager’s assessment of why young Jews do not have a deep positive sense of Jewish identity (“A Letter to Young Jews,” May 21). The very arguments he sets forth about God as the source of right and wrong are exactly the same as those used by every fundamentalist group in inculcating into their children the surety that they are right and the others wrong; so wrong, in fact, as to require either “salvation” or “destruction.”

I raised my daughter with a positive sense of her Jewish identity, and, at age 14, she already sees herself as a leader in her Jewish community. She feels herself an equal to the males in our tribe. She went through a bat mitzvah and is a part of a wonderful local Jewish youth group that focuses not only on being with other Jews but uses the forum to create discussion on social issues relevant to that age group, such as how to make decisions about sexual or drug-use behavior. I am proud of the Jewish identity she has developed. 

On our living room wall hangs a poster of a quote by Albert Einstein that embodies the Yiddishkayt that I want my daughter to pass on to her own children: “The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, an almost fanatical love of justice, and the desire for personal independence ... these are the features of the Jewish tradition that make me thank my stars I belong to it.”

Sharon Alexander

Grater vs. Prager

In response to Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater’s criticism of the Bush presidency for, among many other things, its “disdain” for “civil liberties,” Dennis Prager offers the astounding claim that there is “no validating evidence” — “none,” Prager emphasizes — of any such disdain.

Prager proceeds for 22 paragraphs (“Rabbi Clarifies Left’s Beliefs,” June 4) to discuss Rabbi Grater’s other complaints about Bush (using scarce space to reminisce about his days as a graduate student at Columbia University) but never defends this outlandish claim.

In fact, federal court decisions, Congressional investigations and several books — including Janet Mayer’s “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals” — have documented not only Bush’s disdain for, but blatant violation of, civil liberties.

From inflicting torture, including waterboarding; and cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment on detainees to kidnapping people and “rendering” them to other countries to be tortured; from illegal warrantless wiretapping to the infiltration of religious and political organizations; from the systematic use of the “state secrets privilege” to deny accountability to restricting the Freedom of Information Act;
from profiling innocent members of religious minorities to abusing the collection of information without court orders, Bush has one of the worst civil liberties records of any U.S. president.

Stephen F. Rohde
Los Angeles

Parenting Book Has Value

As an early childhood and parent educator for over 25 years, I take issue with Larraine Newman’s review of “You’re Not the Boss of Me” (“Give Parenting Book’s Author a Time-Out,” May 28) by Betsy Brown Braun. Not only do I feel this book is an invaluable asset to my ethnically and economically diverse parent body, I feel it is a must-have for any parent’s bookshelf. Perhaps Ms. Newman did not read the whole book. I feel her review, and the reality of the book’s wit and wisdom, are misaligned. I use this book (and Ms. Braun’s first book, “Just Tell Me What to Say”) repeatedly as references and guides in the teaching of young children and their parents. I recommend both books wholeheartedly. I hope your readers do not summarily dismiss this invaluable tome as a result of Ms. Newman’s misguided review.

Barbara Elson
National Board Certified Teacher
Early Childhood Education
via e-mail

I read the article “You’re Not the Boss of Me” ( (May 28) with curiosity about the mean-spirited nature of the article. As someone who has worked professionally with both Betsy Brown Braun and Wendy Mogel, as well as with thousands of parents and children, I can assure Ms. Newman that both of these women are extremely talented and popular experts in the field of parenting. They are both treasures for the Los Angeles community and are in no way comparable. I don’t understand why anyone could compare their books, since they are quite different. Both are valuable resources for parents (and since when can parents not tolerate two different books on child rearing?). If the author thinks that Braun’s advice is “impractical,” I would encourage her to join one of Braun’s groups (she runs dozens of them around the Los Angeles area) to see just how practical and down-to-earth she can get. This is a refreshing and remarkably honest parenting book—she dares to take on ...brats? Entitlement? Affluenza? What did parents do before Betsy Braun came along?

Rita Eichenstein
Los Angeles

We have just finished reading Laraine Newman’s article about parenting books (“You’re Not the Boss of Me” (May 28). We find that her criticism of parenting books in general is harsh, and particularly her remarks about “You’re Not the Boss of Me.” Betsy Brown Braun is very knowledgeable and experienced with her work counseling parents and helping them solve issues with their children. Parents need to hear many approaches to help them develop the skills that will work for their family.

Sue Avisar and Marilyn Balachio
via e-mail

Interest-free College Loans

It was a pleasure to read of the outstanding accomplishments of the graduating seniors (“Examples to Us All,” June 4). Their passion and commitment to making the world a better place is inspiring. As they go off to college, they will learn that higher education is also quite expensive. When they do, they can call the Jewish Free Loan Association for an interest-free loan for the university of their choice. More information can be found at the Jewish Free Loan Association’s Web site, jfla.org. Congratulations to all the graduating seniors.

Saul M. Korin, MBA
Loan Analyst and Community Outreach Coordinator
Jewish Free Loan Association
Los Angeles

Armenian Genocide

Remind me: What was Israel’s excuse for failing to condemn the Armenian genocide? Turkey’s friendship? And did anyone notice, now that Israel is knocked down by the anti-Semitic hysteria, who kicked us by joining the Hamas supporters demonstrating at the consulate? Our ever-loyal Jews for Peace!

Louis Richter

Insanity Defined

Re: “Eva’s Peace Process” (May 21), the last decade or so has made it painfully obvious that “concessions of land” and “constructive dialogue” policies simply have not brought Israel any closer to peace. All accommodations, offers and efforts made by Israel have failed to stem the anger and hostility of her Arab neighbors. Whenever Israel chooses to demonstrate understanding, empathy or exchange of ideas; whenever Israel withdraws from some piece of land, it has the exact opposite result from what was intended. Israel’s Arab enemies see these things as categorical weakness and inevitably respond to every initiative with repeated aggression. This egregious fact destroys any illusion that forgiveness or territorial compromise can or will bring about an end to this conflict.

A common definition of insanity is attempting the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome. Israel must be kept secure, guided by a Jewish ethical and moral compass, tempered by the realities of Middle East politics and Islamic Fundamentalism.

Steven Zonis

More on the Flotilla Crisis

Israel is a true democracy. In the Knesset (parliament) which is democratically elected by the people, there are even MKs whose party platform includes the destruction of Israel. One such parliamentarian is MK Hanin Zoabi, who assumed that the IDF wanted as many fatalities as possible in the activist flotilla that was bringing aid and maybe arms to Gaza from Hamas supporters in Turkey. I wish that she was correct in her assumption, because the IDF could have easily destroyed this flotilla with a simple barrage of missiles from shore with the total safety of its citizenry. Not even one soldier would have died or been injured; but, that is not Israel’s way as she was only trying to blockade the Gaza from insurgents with a death wish for Israel. The IDF tried to peacefully stop the boats, first with megaphones and radio broadcasts and then with a very lightly armed landing party. It was the so called “peace-loving” activists who started the melee on board the ship with knives, axes and bats (part of the aid package?).

Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said, “The sole responsibility for the violent incident lies with the activists who have chosen violence and confrontation.”
Yet, as always, the world newspaper reports start by first blaming Israel for the atrocities caused by her enemies.

Harry Grunstein
Montreal, Canada

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I attended public school and L.A. Hebrew High School. In the summer of 1971, not long after terrorists attacked the airport at Lod,
I visited Israel for the first time. It was a heady time —the nation was still celebrating over the victory of the Six-Day War. The hope in the air was tangible. I returned the following year with my family and experienced the Munich massacre while living in an apartment near Tel Aviv. After the difficult victory of the Yom Kippur War, I left UCLA to volunteer at an Orthodox kibbutz. I loved it and decided to stay as an oleh. There I grew carrots, raised turkeys, celebrated holidays and suffered with the nation at the attacks at Ma’alot and Kiryat Shmona as I waited to be drafted. In February, I entered the Golani brigade and started basic training at an old English base in the northern part of the country, next to the Mediterranean. Despite the toughness of training, it was a wonderful place to be. Soon after my draft, terrorists struck again and my unit was popped up to Kfar Yuval, next to Kiryat Shmona to provide security. We saw soldiers enter the house where the terrorists were holding hostages—the first man in was killed. It was his house, and his wife and children inside.

Not a month later, my unit moved to a base south of Jenin to complete our basic training. It was the first of many bases in the West Bank that I served in. I spent much of the next two-and-a-half years in the West Bank, mostly as a drill instructor for basic trainees and later as a weapons expert. This entailed marching through villages, farms and fields belonging to the local Arab population. Families who had enjoyed the traditional Middle Eastern respite of sitting on patios watching and talking to neighbors no longer did so. It is difficult to relax with platoons of soldiers in full combat gear marching thorough your village.

Later on, at a base near Shechem (Nablus), I taught mortars. Despite orders to stay on farm roads, we would regularly turn our armored personal carriers and tear into the cultivated fields of local framers. We fired our mortars at targets in the fields and surrounding hills. I remember one particular exercise when soldiers who I was instructing dropped an 81-millimeter shell on the roof of the mausoleum of a local sheik, located on the side of a hill four kilometers away. We cheered. There was more. We broke into houses, turned over furniture and water barrels, sometimes beating the families who lived there. We were not fighting soldiers or an army, but rather farmers, villagers and townspeople.

I write all as this by way of introduction. I am no innocent—I have seen and done good and bad. But the news of the unprovoked attack upon the flotilla saddens me very, very deeply. Reflecting on the actions of the soldiers and the response of the government drove me to think about what was visited upon us by our enemies and what we have visited upon others. The similarities are sad. We have learned our lessons so well that we are comfortable doing unto others. Ghettos, checkpoints, walled cities, appropriating land and buildings, ignoring laws and making new ones limiting the rights of others. Attempting to break a naval barricade to bring people to a new land or food and supplies to an old one. The irony of this is obvious and sad.

I feel for the soldiers who attacked the boat. But these men were not clerks. They are naval commandos, highly trained men of war. If, as the Israeli spokesman wants us to believe, they landed with paint guns, then they were woefully unprepared and their commanders are very culpable for the events that took place. It is very difficult for me to believe that this unit, in particular, was not prepared for all contingencies But, from personal experience and current reading, I am familiar with the extensive training and quality of equipment that this unit has at its disposal.

I am proud of my people and my service. I am also outraged and deeply troubled and sad. It used to be said that the Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. During this time, I have been challenged by people who have asked me how we could trust those people and how we could be friends. But over the years, I have met and spoken with Palestinians in their homes and heard them express their desire to simply live without the army in their villages and homes.

Perhaps the Golden Rule of do unto others as they would do unto you is too true. We are doing unto others what was done to us. But we can make changes if we choose to do so. We do not need to be slaves to the past—ours or anyone else’s.  We can choose to leave our own Egypts and really enter into the land of Israel.

The bitter irony for me is the similarity to our own history. The people on the boats did the same thing that we did on the Hatikva as the British boarded it—they fought back. We really should not be surprised.

David Greenfield
Educational Technology
Veteran, Golani Brigade (1975-77)
via e-mail

I am old enough to remember the British navy preventing Holocaust survivors from landing in Palestine after World War II, and now the worm turns. Comparing the flotilla of private boats off Gaza to our Cuban missile crisis is simply ridiculous. How come Israeli intelligence did not know that there were no arms or ammunition for Hamas aboard the flotilla? I have to assume that the Netanyahu government simply has no interest in improving Israel’s global image.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village

The June 5 edition of The Wall Street Journal is reporting that “Israeli officials said their commando units spent nearly four hours trying to persuade the [Turkish] ship to alter course away from Gaza. The ship maintained a speed of 10 knots, and activists on deck taunted the Israeli military, shouting, ‘Go back to Auschwitz.’ ”

The IDF deserves the Nobel Prize for Peace for not sinking the Turkish vessel. It must have taken near-superhuman strength not to.

Carolyn Kunin

Support, Criticism for Rabbi Grater

I hope the editors will allow me to reply to Rabbi Grater’s many defenders (May 21). Like the rabbi himself, I reserve the right to be a critic without being an enemy. But neither the rabbi nor I stand in any imminent danger. We can agree to disagree, give each other a hug and know we will probably see each other again next Shabbat. If, however, I thought that Rabbi Grater was surrounded by enemies and in a mortal struggle for his very existence, I hope that I would know the time had come to withhold criticism and give him nothing but love and support. I expect he would do the same for me.

I know that the rabbi believes his criticism is good for Israel, and though I disagree with it, it wouldn’t bother me so much if this was some fringe view. Most unfortunately for Israel, many—if not most—American Jewish liberals, especially the young, seem to agree with his criticism, and, unlike the rabbi, they have callously abandoned Israel.

Is it possible to be both a liberal and a Zionist?  Rabbi Daniel Gordis came to the conclusion that it isn’t and has abandoned his liberal positions where they conflict with support for Israel (as discussed in his book “Saving Israel”). I know Rabbi Grater has read Rabbi Gordis’ book and has been influenced by it to some degree. I can, therefore, hope he and our synagogue and the rest of liberal American Jewry may realize the imminent dangers Israel faces and start defending her before it is too late. But I also fear that for Israel there may not be time enough to wait for such a miracle to occur.

Carolyn Kunin

How does a clergyperson (of any faith) engage in authentic moral reflection in a public setting when so many matters in our world are highly controversial and bitterly contested? This seems to me to be a key question raised by the letter written in support of Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater (May 21) in response to a previous congregant’s letter of different view.

Dennis Prager’s column, which references this support letter, oddly and mistakenly dismisses it with the phrase, “...for the rabbi of almost any Reform temple to write a leftist column or to give a leftist sermon is as courageous as an Orthodox rabbi sermonizing on keeping kosher.”

Perhaps there are not a few clergypersons who stick to public expressions of views that are largely “safe” in the context of their personal settings, for many reasons.  If this relatively rock-free path were indeed the one Rabbi Grater had chosen, it is unlikely both that his congregants would have seen the need to compose their letter of support and that Dennis Prager would have devoted a column to related matters.

As authentic moral reflection in a public setting requires courage, let’s pray that many have that courage.

Kathryn Kirui

Prager’s World

In his piece in The Journal (“Rabbi Clarifies Left’s Beliefs,” June 4), Dennis Prager writes “...Turkey and Brazil, two Third World giants .... ” I write not to agree or disagree with the thesis of Prager’s article, but to point out that the term Third World has been obsolete since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites in 1991. The First World included the advanced capitalist West, plus Japan and Australia, and perhaps Singapore and South Africa. The Second World included Communist regimes such as North Korea, Cuba, China, Vietnam, the U.S.S.R. and its Eastern European puppets, plus a scattering of Marxist regimes here and there. But since the collapse of Communism (Cuba and North Korea are economic basket cases, China is Communist only in name, and the other Marxist regimes are gone), there is no more Second World and thus no more Third World. It takes language a while to catch up with reality, but hopefully the use of this obsolete term will quickly fade away.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Dennis Prager deftly articulates cases against specific liberal thinkers on specific issues. I would like to see him render an opinion on each of the following conservative thinkers (I use that term loosely): Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly,  Michele Bachmann, Louisiana Gov. Jindal, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Sean Hannity and Sen. Mitch McConnell. These representatives of the new conservative wave often exaggerate, distort, malign, fabricate, rewrite history and slander. Their followers and listeners absorb this mush and make it part of their belief system. Then they gather in crowds with signs proclaiming they are oppressed, under a socialist government, overtaxed, losing their rights, fearing the loss of their guns. Signs picturing President Obama as Adolf Hitler along with the hammer and sickle are seen at these rallies. Down with Big Government is another signage theme.

Pearl and Sol Taylor
Sherman Oaks

Israel’s PR War

I’ve heard (too) many people say that Israel has lost the public relations war. In one sense they are right, with the understanding that nothing Israel does in terms of its own security will ever win a PR war with a world afraid to stand up to Islam fanaticism.

With the Haiti situation a unique exception (Did anyone in the Muslim world say anything nice about what Israel did in Haiti? No!), the only time Israel will win the PR war is when, G-d forbid, it is destroyed. So, let’s get off that bandwagon.

I am not sure anything we do will help Israel get better press. However, supporting organizations like MEMRI are a good beginning.

Better yet, especially for those of you sitting in your comfortable and secure living rooms who know better ways for Israel to respond and/or develop better PR, why don’t you make aliyah and put your lives where your mouths are?

Paul Jeser
Los Angeles

History Lesson for Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas OK, Helen Thomas is old. I am getting there myself. I guess she had a “senior moment” and forgot that Jews have lived in Israel for about 3,500 years—long before Arabs were anywhere in the area and about 1,500 years before there were any Muslims anywhere. Jews never left their homeland. Even when the majority of them were forced out of Israel by the Romans, who renamed their land Palestine after a people who no longer existed. There has always been a Jewish community in Israel.

Jews went to live in different countries because they had no choice. They certainly cannot call Germany, Poland or Russia their homeland any more then the Jews who settled in Persia, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria over 2,000 years ago can call those countries their homeland, even though they were there long before the Arabs sent armies out to occupy and take over those countries.

Jews need to be in their own homeland because every other country has treated them very badly. They were told that they were too rich, too poor, capitalists, Communists, trying to fit into their society, staying apart from their society, causing the Black Plague, ritual murderers and on and on. Jews were murdered in most of these countries at one time or another. And everyone, except Helen, it seems, knows that 6 million Jews were murdered in Europe only 70 or so years ago. This is what Helen Thomas wants them to go back to?

Is Helen ready to move back to where she came from? After all, the white man is occupying the Native American’s land.

Oh, and her apology? It simply meant, “I am sorry that I spoke what I really feel.” Is this really what nonbiased journalism is about?

Tobi Ruth Love
Thousand Oaks

L.A.’s Pro-Israel Rally

At the inspiring rally for Israel on June 6, the only discordant note was the appearance of a representative of Americans for Peace Now, the fifth column within our gates. With “supporters’ like these, who needs enemies?

Their invitation showed questionable judgment on the part of the organizers. When the speaker evoked a continuous, angry and vociferous response from the assembly, they should have recognized their mistake and dismissed him. But they actually allowed him to drone on and on, much longer than the other speakers.

Louis Richter

Missing From ‘Madness’

The most important part of the Nazir Khala article “Manhattan Madness and Muslims” (May 28) was what he didn’t write about. The utter condemnation of Jihad—the Muslim holy war.

Danny Bental

A column about a new law in Arizona (“Arizona Demands ‘Show Me Your Papers,’ “ May 14) misstated the previous job of Gov. Jan Brewer. Before becoming Arizona’s governor, she was secretary of state.


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