June 29, 2010
Letters to the Editor: IKAR, Friends, and David Pine
Creative Worship Abounds
As Julie Gruenbaum Fax noted, Los Angeles is at the vanguard of a national trend in creating inventive Jewish worship opportunities (“How Different Is IKAR?” June 25).
Fax missed L.A.’s vanguard of the vanguards, the Movable Minyan, now going into its 23rd year. Before our move to the Institute for Jewish Education on Third Street, the Westside Jewish Community Center accustomed itself to us as its first resident congregation for eight years. IKAR came, a couple of years after our move, to fill our previous worship space and put their Torah scrolls in the Torah ark we had used.
In contrast to the minyans in the article, largely founded by graduates of Reform and Conservative seminaries, ours was founded and led by Jewish nonseminary-trained lay people.
Over the nearly quarter-century since its own first living-room service, our Minyan has seen five of its lay members — a historian, a pension administrator, a therapist, a corporate public relations expert and a newspaper editor — all go on to rabbinical ordination and to serving the larger community in innovative ways that initially flowered in the learn-it-and-do-it-ourselves culture of the Movable Minyan.
I read Julie Gruenbaum Fax’s article “How Different Is IKAR?” (June 25) with great interest. Kudos to Rabbi Brous for taking a chance and turning her dream into a reality and for inspiring change.
As I read the line, “IKAR is not alone in inspiring members with creative spirituality and a focus on bettering the world,” I was expecting to see Temple Emanuel’s name follow. However, I [was] surprised and disappointed. Was there really no mention of Temple Emanuel’s innovative and creative services or any of our social justice programs?
Temple Emanuel’s Shabbat Unplugged, held on the first Friday of each month, was one of the first alternative musical Shabbat services in Los Angeles. It was the collaboration of Rabbi Jonathan Aaron and Cantor Yonah Kliger over 11 years ago that brought this service to life and regularly draws hundreds of people. Our newer musical service, Shabbat B’Yachad, [is] held on the third Friday of each month.
Los Angeles is indeed at the vanguard of creating inventive worship opportunities, and Temple Emanuel is a leader in that effort.
I think it’s great that our Sustained Dialogue Project is getting this kind of publicity in such a mainstream news source (“Friends,” June 25).
There were a few points, however, that stood out about the way both the conflict at Williams and my actions as part of Students for Palestinian Awareness (SPA) were portrayed.
The no-cake staging was not meant to be offensive or a confrontational affront. Rather, it meant to reveal the Palestinian narrative — one that is not necessarily known about (we gave out pamphlets about al-Nakba, prepared by the Jewish Voice for Peace). This was an important point in SPA’s planning process.
The most striking point, however, was the use of a particularly disconcerting noun, “anger,” to allude to my actions. Both SPA’s discourse on campus and any dialogue that I have begun, both in print and with other people, attempted to maintain the utmost civility. SPA in general attempts to be as sensible as possible so as not to offend any particular group or person while still criticizing the state of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians, which SPA deems inhumane. In fact, because of the calmness we maintained, many opposing pro-Zionist voices became slanderous, and several acts of vandalism against our registered events were committed, all of which were largely frowned upon by students, faculty and the administration.
Furthermore, I personally deem my participation in dialogue on college campuses an intellectual endeavor. The same intellectual rigor I apply to my coursework at Williams is also applied to my discussions of this conflict. I do not hold any anger toward any group. I am more interested in spreading awareness about a humanitarian issue I feel strongly about.
In addition, an important aspect of SPA is its diversity. Our goal with SPA is not to oppose any religious groups, as you note in your article, and because of this, we have members of all faith groups. Oftentimes, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is portrayed as being a religious conflict, when for all of us at SPA, it is a humanitarian one. I think it is important to mention in future written work that our group includes two Jewish members who hold board positions, and several other Jewish members at large.
Rob Eshman makes some good points about the characteristic rush to find new PR strategies for Israel to deal with each new outburst of international venom (“Six Steps to Better Israel PR,” June 18).
For example, shortsighted ideas like trying to turn Israel into a popular brand name cannot succeed, because Israel is not simply a commodity but a cause that has been viciously maligned and whose merits needs to be affirmed anew in the court of public opinion. No one will change their visceral disgust for someone they have been falsely led to believe is a murderer because they are shown that he is handsome, personally charming or intelligent.
However, Eshman superimposes his own political thinking when he says that “a final status agreement with the Palestinians ... [is] critical for Israel’s long-term well-being.” While all would welcome a genuine Palestinian peace partner, the fact remains that Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority is not willing to make peace with Israel. Israel needs to make this fact widely understood — not prioritize a false PR message over national security by pursuing further concessions and negotiations with a non-peaceful Palestinian partner.
Find a Solution — Civilly
David Pine is certainly correct when he complains about the lack of civility displayed when he spoke at the recent gathering (“Seeking a Bridge to Peaceful Two-State Solution,” June 18). We need to remind ourselves that even those who have different solutions to the conflict are no less passionate about the need for Israel to survive.
It is difficult, however, to take Americans for Peace Now seriously after Arafat and the Palestinians rejected the Clinton/Barak offers of 2000/2001. Also, one just has to watch their TV programs (see Palestinian Media Watch), which, in Arabic, clearly point to a one-state solution. And so do their school textbooks, showing a Palestinian state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.
Despite that, Americans for Peace Now still perseveres [toward] a two-state solution, which at this point is really a three-state solution and, should that not work out, we can always hope that Hamas will metamorphose into the kind of society run by the Palestinian Authority that, by its actions, wants there to be a one-state solution.
So, as he points out in his article, it’s still Israel’s fault?
A community news brief (“J Street Expands to SoCal,” June 25) misattributed background for the group’s new Los Angeles political director. It is Amos Buhai who is a fifth-generation Angeleno with campaign experience on the local, state and federal levels; he also served as a consultant for the New York-based organization Personal Democracy Forum, which investigates how technology is changing politics.
In “Esha Mitzvah at Nachshon Minyan” (June 25), the correct name of the group is Eishet Mitzvah.