Jewish Journal


December 6, 2012

Letters to the Editor: Gordis, Brous, Fiscal Cliff


Seeking Balance

I think that the strongest refutation of Rabbi Daniel Gordis (“When Balance Becomes Betrayal,” Nov. 30) and also of David Suissa (“War and Bickering,” Nov. 30) came from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), who brilliantly used impressive intelligence gathering and precision bombing to minimize civilian casualties and thus avoided what most often happens with Israel in asymmetrical warfare — namely that Israel wins the military battle and loses the political war.

Ambassador Michael Oren represented Israel effectively in the international media by recognizing the humanity of the Palestinians and brutality of their leaders who used women and children, mosques and hospitals, as shields for their rockets and their fighting personnel. Had the IDF or the Israeli ambassador given in to Suissa’s absolutism or Gordis’ angst and anger, the outcome would have been far less impressive morally, politically and Jewishly.

We might be most wise to recall’s the Patriarch Isaac’s observation in the Torah that was read that week: “The Voice was the Voice of Jacob, the hands were the hands of Esau.” Even as we don the cloth of Esau, our voice — and our values — must be the voice of Jacob.

Michael Berenbaum
Los Angeles

Assuring Our Jewish Future

Avoiding the ‘Jewish Fiscal Cliff’ ” (Nov. 30) is an excellent examination of the fundraising and volunteer issues, problems and ideas facing the Jewish community today.  Congratulations to Mark Pearlman on a thoughtful and thorough look at questions we must all face. We would add only a couple of additional ideas.

Effective fundraising requires many arrows be carried in the fundraising quiver. A community with diverse interests and varied philanthropic organizations such as ours requires that we be prepared to appeal to those many different constituencies. The most important of those constituencies for whom we need an approach focused on their particular passions is the 20- and 30-somethings who represent our future. To establish them as generational leaders and givers, we need to provide two things:

The first: Service opportunities, the chance to roll up their sleeves and be involved in an intimate and focused way. General appeals based on our need to support Israel and our commandment to heal the world are wonderful, but with this generation we need to give them volunteer opportunities to exercise their passion and be active personally and in specific ways for specific causes that fulfill their particular passions.

The second: Be less insular. Most of our Jewish communal organizations serve Jews first but serve the larger community with open arms, believing it to be our duty to help the widow, orphan and stranger. Many young people today feel less connected to Jewish life because Jewish life is less connected to the larger community. We all need to embrace the notion that healing the world, tikkun olam, means embracing the world through a Jewish prism that brings healing to all. Tapping into the passion and commitment of young people means doing things a little differently than we have done in the past. Today we have to provide outlets for that passion and look at a world that grows flatter and more interconnected each day, giving younger donors the chance, through their Jewish passion, to help, through volunteer service, other communities in need.

David A. Lash, Former executive director, Bet Tzedek
Mitchell A. Kamin, Former president and CEO, Bet Tzedek



Last week, Mark Pearlman wrote an erudite proposal for minding the Jewish communal coffers. He asks how we can adequately fund an engaging and vibrant Jewish community. Eight causes are given for the fiscal deterioration of the community. Unfortunately, he missed entirely the main and intractable cause: not enough Jewish children.

To illustrate this case, please look at the weekly obituary pages of the Jewish Journal. It’s actually very much the same story each week; one that’s almost unnoticed, while it screams about our Jewish demographic crisis.

The Nov. 23 issue, for example, reported 30 Jewish deceased over the age of 70 with a total of 99 reported grandchildren. That’s 3.03 grandchildren per person. Remember, though, that the numbers surely include some Orthodox families, bringing up the grandchild total significantly. Now, those 99 not only represent one decedent’s grandchildren, but two grandparents. So the news is this: Jewish L.A. now seems to average about three grandchildren per Jewish couple.

What is the solution? The fact that this might sound crazy to most further reveals the problem, but there is like 3,400 years of experience with this: Let every Jew turn Saturday into Shabbat. Then, as surely as spring follows the winter, more babies and funding will follow, naturally. Simple. Right?

Gary Dalin
Former director, Jewish Federation, Metro Division

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