Jewish Journal


March 15, 2011

Letters to the Editor: Gibson Scale, Glenn Beck, Aaron Liberman and Latino-Jewish Coalition


Great Americans vs.‘Slimebags’

The best reasons that I read The Jewish Journal are because of great Americans like Dennis Prager and David Suissa. It is nauseating to see columns by leftist slimebags like Marty Kaplan and Rachel Roberts (the doctoral student — OMG) (“Muslim Criminals, Jewish Activists,” Feb. 18). Maybe the two of them can get together and hate Israel and America together!

Laurence Gelman
via e-mail

‘Gibson Scale’ Raises Ire

Mr. Eshman owes Glenn Beck an apology for falsely accusing him of being an anti-Semite (“The Gibson Scale,” March 11). Why? Because Beck dared to quote George Soros in his own words? Or, maybe, could it be that Eshman is parroting the left wing’s view of Fox News, thus libeling Glenn Beck in the process?

David Halpern
Los Angeles

When it comes to Glenn Beck, you are either ill informed or you have an agenda! Given your track record, I am going with a big ol’ agenda. I don’t care if you hate his politics, but have the decency to be honest about that and don’t call someone anti-Semitic because you don’t agree with him. I watch Fox News daily and have listened to Glenn Beck many times. Sometimes I agree with him and sometimes I don’t, but he is far from an anti-Semite — he is a huge supporter of Israel and of Jews! His criticism of George Soros pertains to [Soros’] politics and the means by which he uses his resources to push his political agenda — it is not about Soros being Jewish. Beck’s statement about Reform Jews was idiotic, but it was uneducated, which is not the same thing as anti-Semitism. Do you also believe anyone who criticizes the Koch brothers is religiously biased as well? Given your position of leadership in the Jewish community, don’t you feel an obligation to be truthful about such issues?

Debbie Swanson
Beverly Hills

While Rob Eshman’s points in his editorial were well taken, I suggest that it is insensitive and unnecessary to use derogatory terms such as “Crazy Town” and “nutter” to make his point.
It’s arguable that these callous and stereotypical references to a serious disability weaken credibility in a piece that’s aimed against stereotypes and discrimination.

There are many people of all cultures and beliefs who have struggled with their own or a beloved family member’s mental illness who do not find these glib references cute or amusing. 
This is the exact kind of publicly used terminology that alerts the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) StigmaBusters. This is ironic because NAMI is making the same efforts to defend the mentally ill against prejudice as Eshman is making for the Jewish people. 

The impact of an editorial can be very strong. A lot of damage can be done by insidious negative messages carried by the words that are used.
An apology would be very helpful here for what I’m sure was an unintentional maligning of another discriminated-against minority group.

Diane Rowe
Santa Monica

Rob Eshman would have us believe that he’s the perceptive “guard at the gate” when it comes to outing anti-Semitic public figures. He reveals significant blind spots however:

1) While many of us sensed that the WikiLeaks mastermind was a treasonous bad guy, Eshman several months ago was reveling in the courage of the WikiLeaks characters, while enjoying the embarrassment it caused to governments around the world. The fact that Assange is a rapist and a good old-fashioned anti-Semite should not have come as a surprise to him.

2) Eshman confuses criticism of George Soros and the Reform rabbinical establishment that falsely accused Beck of anti-Semitism as anti-Semitism itself, when it is normatively called “criticism.” Glen Beck himself has exposed anti-Semitism in the Muslim world and in the world of the far-left far more than any other figures in the media.

3) It is inconceivable that the newest inductee to the anti-Semitic hall of fame was carefully omitted Ron Schiller, the executive at NPR who met with a man posing as a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, assuring him that the Zionist (Jewish) influence was minimal. Could it be that the horrible realization that NPR, the bastion of liberal media considered “home” among liberal Jews, is as horrible and even more toxic than the ranting of Hollywood psychos Gibson and Sheen?

Richard Friedman
Los Angeles

You have proposed a Gibson Scale for rating anti-Semitism. I assume Gibson gets a rating of “one Gibson,” the lowest rating in your article, for his clearly anti-Semitic remarks while under the influence of alcohol. Some argue that alcohol caused him to make those remarks and therefore he is less culpable, but many others, myself included, believe alcohol merely allowed his true beliefs to be expressed by clouding his judgment of what should or shouldn’t be said to a police officer when you are a public figure.

The highest (7 Gibsons) rating was given to Glenn Beck. You cite two related examples of Beck’s anti-Semitism that earned him that high rating on the Gibson Scale. One was Beck’s “diatribes” against George Soros in recent months, and the other was when Beck “compared Reform Judaism to Radicalized Islam.” I disagree with Beck on both of these remarks but to call them anti-Semitic, let alone earning him the highest rating on the Gibson scale, is absurd.

Glenn Beck brought up Soros’ own account of his activities during WWII in Hungary when he avoided Nazi persecution by passing himself off as a Christian, accompanied a government official on his rounds to confiscate Jewish property, and, in a recent interview, denied feeling guilty about those actions.  Beck clearly meant to denigrate Soros’ integrity by bringing this up, and I disagree with his doing that because none of know how we would behave under similar circumstances, but how is that anti-Semitic?

He compared Reform Judaism to Radicalized Islam while he was commenting on the full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, taken out by a large number of Reform Rabbis, denouncing his comments about Soros. His actual comment when responding to that ad were something like Reform Judaism is more about politics than religious faith and the same is true of Radicalized Islam. Even ignoring the issue of terrorism I do not believe that is a fair comparison because while the majority of Reform Jews are politically liberal, Reform Judaism does not espouse a uniform political goal whereas Radicalized Islam does – namely the institution of a Muslim monotheistic government. Beck used an inaccurate analogy, and an obnoxious one because of the tactics used by Radicalized Islam, for which he later apologized. Beck may have a low opinion of Reform Judaism’s strength of faith, as do many Orthodox Jews, but this is not anti-Semitism.

It is obvious to me that in awarding Beck the highest rating on the Gibson anti-Semitism scale of anyone else mentioned in your article you were motivated more by Beck’s political beliefs than any hint of anti-Semitism. I beg you not to descend into the same foul intellectual territory into which many liberals have descended when they accuse anyone who criticizes the politics of President Obama of being a racist.

Steven Novom

J-Street Zionists?

My family and I once were dues-paying members of Rabbi Rosove’s religious Temple (“Why I Support J Street,” March 11). No more. While I respect the good rabbi in many aspects, his position on J Street has led me to wonder.

As a retired engineer who still is involved in consulting, serving on the board of an engineering society and editing an international engineering newsletter dealing with technical matters and challenging issues, I take issue with Rabbi Rosove’s basis for support of J Street, and have discussed the matter with him in the past. Like so many others who are blinded by ideological aspirations regarding Israel’s existence — and certainly mean well — he fails to face reality, fails to accept the facts that stare us in the face, and perhaps most importantly, fails to understand that the way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is by dealing with the root cause, not just the apparent symptoms.

As an accomplished engineer in my area of specialization, I look for facts — not rhetoric, not wishful ideological thinking. In this case, the facts were quickly spelled out for me by a Muslim friend (we sometimes play poker together) who at one time was in the diplomatic service of Jordan. I quote him more or less accurately: “From the time I started school, I was taught that the land where Israel exists is Arab land — all of it.” Interestingly, similar words were told to me by a Muslim woman audiologist several years earlier. The solution, then, to the conflict is not a matter of how much more Israel must give up to the Palestinians, but to stop the teaching of such ideas (brainwashing) to Arab/Muslim children.

But we need to go further. There is a problem here at home also — and likely throughout the country. I found that my granddaughter, in 8th grade here in the L.A. area, was being taught that the Jews “took away the homes of the Palestinians” when the state of Israel was established in 1948 — with no further meaningful elaboration. How many of these children will go on to college, bearing this image in their minds?

I checked the book from which they were being taught.  Everything was factual — but it omitted significant information that would have provided a more proper, and more honest viewpoint.

George Epstein
Los Angeles

While the articles and letters on J Street try to paint J Street as a mainstream organization, we can state they are primarily a leftist organization, and put up a thin veneer of Israel tolerance. You left out the divestment debate that J Street felt was appropriate to hold at their “Zionist” conference. As time goes on, and their Palestine pipedream isn’t realized, we will see them make the easy transition to join their leftist anti-Zionist comrades-at-arms.

S Z Newman
via e-mail

Heaps of Hoop Pride

What a feeling of Jewish pride to read about a young man named Aaron Liberman, who just happens to be an outstanding basketball player on an outstanding basketball team, Valley Torah! Did I really say that a school named Valley Torah has an outstanding basketball team (”Aaron Liberman: Finding balance between faith, basketball,” March 1)? I certainly did!!

Led by Aaron Liberman, Valley Torah went on to defeat Bishop Diego in the Southern Section 6AA championship game and won the Southern Section championship — the first ever for an Orthodox Jewish school. Aaron is not a one-man team; he has a lot of support from his brother Nathaniel, Yosef Grundman, Arynton Hardy, Nathaniel Cohen, et al!!

With all that being said, I close with “Go Get ’Em Valley Torah!!!”

Harvey M. Piccus

More Latino-Jewish Bridge-Building

Because “The New Power of a Latino-Jewish Coalition in L.A.” (March 11) is also blossoming in our synagogues, I was stymied by Jonah Lowenfeld’s observation that “it seems easier for these communities’ leaders to support one another’s unique political priorities than it is for them to identify the priorities that their communities share.” On the contrary, I have found that my work as a rabbi has yielded the exact opposite. Whether I am lunching with LAUSD teacher Orinio Opinaldo or convening with Yvonne Mariajimenez of Neighborhood Legal Services on stemming foreclosures in Los Angeles, one thing is clear: We do have common interests that are not hard to identify. Lowenfeld is right in saying, “Building relationships requires conversations like these.” But it is imperative that these conversations begin at the grass-roots level, not only on a leadership level. Temple Beth Am’s partnership with OneLA ensures that I, along with my congregants, nurture meaningful relationships with Latinos across Los Angeles on a weekly basis, beyond the periodic meetings of high-level leaders. And that is why a Westside rabbi continues to lunch with an East side elementary school teacher.

Susan Leider
Associate Rabbi
Temple Beth Am

Regarding your cover story on the Latino-Jewish Coalition in Los Angeles, please allow me to add one more vital component to this collaboration. In 2008, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was accompanied by city engineers (Carol Armstrong) and members of the Los Angeles Federation (Evan Kaizer) to sign a collaboration between the Yarkon River Authority and the Los Angeles River.

This historic event was the impetus for our school, Abraham Joshua Heschel, to officially adopt a section of the Los Angeles River where we will host the Yarkon River Kiosk, which includes informative signage honoring this collaboration between the two cities. We will also include interpretive signs in both Spanish and English to teach visitors about our shared cultural and ecological heritage of the river.

Within this year, under the auspices of The Trust for Public Land, our students will be planting native species to provide a park along the banks of the Los Angeles River for residents who live in low-income housing and whose children currently only have asphalt driveways for their recreational outlet. We are excited to have the opportunity to work alongside our neighbors and use the river as our conduit for this partnership.

Thank you for providing this important story in your March 11 edition.

Kathy Reynolds
Science Teacher
Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School

Using Darfur for Own Purposes

David Suissa’s article on hypocrisy (“A UN Resolution Against Hypocrisy,” March 11) is a good example of its topic. People who are concerned about Darfur are concerned about Darfur. They would not utilize Darfur to accomplish another objective, in this case U.N.-bashing for reasons unrelated to Darfur. As long as the humanitarian crisis in Darfur can be of use to Suissa in this way, would he really want it to stop?

I should add in passing that the premise of the article, which is that the U.N. is unconcerned about Darfur and doing nothing about it, happens to be false.

Daniel O’Hearn

This is the forth week (or the fifth) that David Suissa comes up with an article that shoots straight to the core of the issue (“A UN Resolution Against Hypocrisy,” March 11).

Some years back I was lucky enough to hear Bat Yeor talking about the EU. She called her speech “The Palestinization of the EU.” She gave it a new name, URABIA.

A few months later she might have called the U.N. UNRABIA as a result of the ongoing Palestinization of this organization that became a branch of the Arab League working on destroying Israel.

This is where the tragedy is. The U.N. is not defending and protecting all people but is working hard on killing a legitimate democracy, a member of the UN who, for some reason, became a beacon to refugees — real refugees — from Africa. No Arab country accepts them. Some actually shoot them.
Sadly, our representative is no friend of Israel, and while she vetoed the last try to demean Israel she added her own ugly words where she let the world know that she actually agrees with the idea of slapping Israel’s face.

In my opinion it is time to send the U.N. home. It does little good and it spends money on the wrong people in the wrong places — our money.

Batya Dagan
Los Angeles


In his letter to the editor, “Examining the Jewish Position on Unions” (March 11), Michael Rosenberg is correct to note that the vast majority of American workers “have fewer days off, pay more for their benefits, are paid less… [and] see their 401(k)s dwindling.” But he focuses his ire in the wrong direction.
The whole debate about the compensation of public servants – the teachers, firefighters, police, and office workers who make our society possible – misses the point. (In fact, Wisconsin public-sector employees make 4.8% less than their private-sector counterparts.) The questions we should ask ourselves are: Why is the middle class pitted against the middle class in a scramble to secure an ever-shrinking slice of the economic pie? And why is state after state – California included – in a headfirst race to dismantle the social safety net, erase pathways out of poverty, and shrink the middle class?

There was a time in America when business and government recognized that a strong middle class, created by good wages, fair benefits, and yes, collective bargaining, helps power our shared prosperity. As union membership began to shrink in the 1980s, so has the standing of the American middle class. Unions are human institutions, they are not perfect. But to blame them, and their members, for our economic ills is to create a diversion while the real antagonists slink out the back door.

Elissa Barrett
Executive Director, Progressive Jewish Alliance

Stop Glorifying All Acts of Terrorism

I am a peace activist with LA Jews for Peace, and I accept David Suissa’s challenge and am ready to sign his statement that condemns “glorification of terrorism and Jew-hatred that permeates their [Palestinian] society, and begin immediately to teach the benefits and compromises of peaceful co-existence” (“Behind the Itamar Murders,” March 13). In fact I go further than Suissa: I call for Israelis to stop glorification of terrorism such as the reverence paid to Baruch Goldstein who murdered 25 Palestinians at prayer in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994. I call on Israelis to stop teaching hatred of Palestinians so that Israeli soldiers learn to treat Palestinians as human beings so they will no longer commit war crimes like the Goldstone Commission documented they did during the 2008-09 Gaza bombardment.

Finally, I call on Israeli leadership to teach the benefits and compromises of peaceful co-existence so they never again allow an opportunity for peace to pass them by as they did by ignoring the 2002 Arab League Peace Initiative and refusing to accept the compromises offered by Palestinian leadership as documented in the Palestine Papers.

Jeff Warner
Los Angeles

What About Libya?

As the turmoil in Libya continues week after week, The Journal has decided to show nothing of this on its cover — why? By contrast, when the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt erupted, with their still unpredictable outcomes, The Journal’s cover reflected these great changes. With in-depth articles inside. Then you veered sharply back to local issues for the past few weeks. Are you waiting to see how it all turns out in Libya? Are you undecided, like Obama? Have you received criticism over your focus on the turmoil in the Arab world? Do you think it won’t impact Israel? Or are you saving Gadhafi for your Purim cover? 

Happy Purim, to all of us.

Bob Kirk
Los Angeles

Eminent Domain in Transit Planning, Clarified

Perhaps Professor Reich was missing my point in regard to eminent domain (Letters, March 4). The point within the context of my Metro article (“Just What is Jewish Mass Transit?” Feb. 25) was “the end doesn’t always justify the means” and that eminent domain should not be used as a shortcut to blow off valid local concerns. Eminent domain should be a last resort and not a foregone conclusion. As Professor Reich points out, as a councilmember, I am clearly aware of the principles of eminent domain and am willing to use it in appropriate circumstances, generally as a last resort and if there are no other viable options. When it comes to placement of the Century City subway station, Santa Monica is clearly a viable option, even if politically powerful developers may have their own reasons for preferring something else.

Of course, eminent domain isn’t the only way to acquire property for park-and-rides. There are multiple possibilities and one of the options being discussed with Metro is an expansion of one of my City’s own parking facilities to accommodate Metro riders. While I do happen to have an inherent problem with bait-and-switch tactics and revisionist history per se, far from putting the brakes on an expansion of regional transport, I’m looking for ways to expand the utility of the subway to allow Westside residents to actually be able to take advantage of it. As it is currently planned, the extension is essentially a “one-way” subway to bring people into and out of the Westside with insufficient real access to the network for the actual residents of the region. Let’s not forget that a public transportation system is not just about ridership, it’s also about access. If we’re going to rethink the way we get from point A to point B, let’s both do it for the right reasons and do it right. 

As for the issue of eminent domain, the interesting and unanswered question in regard to the Century City alignment is whether, how and in what way one public agency (Metro) can exercise eminent domain (in the form of an easement) over another government entity (the School District). This is clearly not the same as a taking from a private individual or company and I’m not sure if there is “a long tradition in American constitutional law and urban planning” regarding this specific issue.

John Mirisch
via e-mail

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