June 15, 2011
Letters to the Editor: Jewish credo, day schools, circumcision
Challenging God, Politics of ‘Credo’
Of all the items on Dennis Prager’s list of his basic Jewish beliefs, item No. 7 repels me the most (“My Jewish Credo,” June 10). He quotes G.K. Chesteron, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.” He then goes on to draw the conclusion, “Therefore, the secular West has produced a plethora of foolish, often dangerous, substitutes for God-based religion. These include substitute religions such as socialism, feminism and environmentalism, and evils such as communism and Nazism.”
When people believe in God, they too will believe in anything. They will believe in the idolatrous worship of capitalism as perfect and self-regulating. They will believe in Bible-based second-class treatment of women and gays. They will deny the science of global warming.
And while I agree with Dennis about the evils of communism and Nazism, fundamentalists will believe in the foolishness of thinking that they alone know what God wants, thinks and feels; that God is on their side alone; that nothing they do can be wrong because God is on their side — which leads to all sorts of evil.
Dennis is trying to make the case for conservative religion. He dislikes liberal religion almost as much as he dislikes secularism. Being a liberal religionist, and therefore in the middle between secularism and conservative religion, I find equal amounts of nonsense believed by both the secular left and the religions right, for which Dennis is a primary spokesman and proponent.
Dennis Prager’s 15 core beliefs allowed for much pontification and pedantic punditry while offering little room or tolerance for countervailing and more factually truthful positions.
Two beliefs stand out for their red-flagged myopia and egregious falsehoods: Conservative Christians, Wall Street Journal journalists and the retinue of extreme right-wing talk radio hosts are Israel’s best friends, while the Israel-Arab conflict is the morally clearest dispute in our time.
Friends tell friends the whole truth: the good, the bad and the ugly. Self-aggrandizers tell friends what they want to hear for the former’s ultimate benefit. The conservative tsunami of evangelical Christians, Wall Street Journal columnists and the hallelujah chorus of fringe, right-wing talk hosts thus definitely fall and fit seamlessly into the category of self-aggrandizers.
The Israel-Arab conflict, drawn with the only two colors in Dennis Prager’s quiver — black and white — takes the world’s most intractable geopolitical problem and makes a yes-or-no decision on its probity and rectitude, negating in the process the cornucopia of colors that both peoples paint their worldview from.
It appears that Mr. Prager’s demagoguery and lemming-like political catechism has lost none of its steam, while losing the goodwill and gratitude of those — yes, liberals — who see a palette that can and should be painted with hundreds of other colors.
Mr. Prager’s “Jewish Credo” will thus be the bane, and not the boon, of a Jewish revival.
The Case for Day Schools
The editorial (“I’m a Believer,” June 10) touting the benefits of Jewish day schools comes as no surprise to Jewish Journal readers. It’s not just Jewish schools that generate extraordinary results. Parochial schools are consistently more successful in educating and inspiring students than government-operated entities. For example, Catholic schools throughout major U.S. cities boast graduation rates exceeding 98 percent. Compare that to the dismal performance of the LAUSD, with a graduation rate of barely more than 40 percent in 2010.
If our government is serious about preventing the United States from becoming a second-rate country, it must act outside the box. The time has come to provide parents with real options in the form of school vouchers. With strict rules that vouchers may fund only secular courses, there will be no First Amendment issues. Our children will be the ultimate beneficiaries, and America will retain its position as the world leader.
Leonard M. Solomon
I’m the social media manager at PEJE [Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education]. I’m writing because I was moved by your “I’m a Believer” piece. Like you, I also went from skeptic to believer. Your pride in your son, and your son’s schooling, was nicely articulated. Thanks for going public with it.
Fight for Rights, but Don’t Impose Opinion
As a woman, a mother, a Jew and a health care provider, I found Jena Troutman’s crusade an abomination, imposing her own beliefs on the public (“Circumcision Opponent Abandons Santa Monica Ballot Initiative,” June 10). It is her responsibility as a “children’s rights advocate” to provide information and fight for those rights based upon research, studies and facts, and not on frivolous personal opinion. I am relieved she chose to abandon her cause, even if it is for all the wrong reasons.
Challenging God, Politics of ‘Credo’
Mr. Prager, space limits me from discussing all 15 points of your Jewish credo, so let me just comment on Nos. 13 and 14 (“My Jewish Credo,” June 10).
In No. 14 you say at the present time conservative Christians and conservatives generally — such as Wall Street Journal columnist and talk radio hosts — are Israel’s, and therefore Jews’, best friends. As a liberal Jew and one of Israel’s best friends, I resent your libelous statement about me. You also state that “universities throughout the Western world are centers of Israel hate.” With a broad brush and without any proof, you libel all these centers of learning, but this Wild West manner of yours, wherein you make outlandish statements without any proof, is common to most of your writings.
Now as to the 13th point of your Jewish credo where you proclaim, “God, not human beings, is the author of the Torah,” how do you explain to your conservative Christian friends that one of God’s commandments in Exodus 20 says, “Thou shall have no other gods before Me” and that by worshipping Jesus as God’s son they must be as evil as the homosexuals that many of them despise because the Bible forbids such acts?
In conclusion, Mr. Prager, any credo of yours has no credibility.
Leon M. Salter
So feminism and environmentalism are often “dangerous substitutes for God-based religion.” Therefore if you fervently believe in women’s rights and the crucial need to protect our environment, you obviously can’t believe in a God-based religion. It seems to me that just the opposite is true: that if you believe in the God of the Torah, you would surely support feminism and environmentalism.
Pretty Women: How Much Do Looks Matter?
Marty Kaplan’s “If Bachmann and Palin Weren’t Pretty” (June 3) was a refreshing trip down memory lane to back in the day when a woman’s opinion would be ignored rather than refuted on substance by focusing attention on her appearance. As usual, Kaplan’s extreme leftist, intolerant hate spam spits out claims of their “verbal foulness,” “evil or stupid”...“wingnut views,” and how “doggie” is their talk due to his disagreement with their policies without ever addressing the substance of his disagreement. This is his usual juvenile approach, probably because when it comes down to substance, Kaplan will lose most arguments. If you doubt this, just ignore Kaplan’s hateful vitriol and read Bachmann’s economic policies (which most Americans agree with) and Obama’s economic policies (which most Americans disagree with). When will progressive women recognize and call out extreme leftists like Kaplan (see also the behavior of Bill Clinton, David Letterman, Anthony Weiner, etc.) when they exhibit egregious sexist behavior or write juvenile sexist whines (hard to call it an article when it so lacks in journalistic integrity) like this one?
I find it interesting and typical that of the letters to The Journal about Marty Kaplan’s column on prettiness and Palin, that all the women would be supportive of his foolish column and the one male writer was in dissent. Would these women support a column that made fun of, let’s say, Barbara Boxer? That the only reason anyone takes her seriously is because of her looks? Hopefully, we will soon find out.
Just wanted you to know that I agree with Marty Kaplan’s column on pretty women and current politics. I figure you may have gotten some flak on this column so I wanted to let you know there is at least one feminist who agrees with it.
Too Much Bloodshed
God knows, we live in a world full of sorrow. David Suissa’s “Cheap Blood” (June 10) though, reminded me of the horror of the Holocaust, when millions of Jews were slaughtered and the world did not say a word.
It ignored all the signs. The disappearance of countless people, the emptying of the ghettos, the animal trains packed with Jews going towards the death camps, the wholesale stealing of Jewish property and then the actual ashes coming out of the chimneys in the butcher houses.
All the big papers in the United States found better things to write about. The Jews in the United States were too afraid to raise their voices because anti-Semitism was widespread and loud. Only toward the end of the war the Bergson group (a grandson of Rav Kook) got an ear in the White House and about a quarter of a million Jews were saved.
Silence kills. We know that. We saw it with our own eyes. Now silence kills Darfurians in Sudan. The subject is off the radar. There is a Holocaust going on and our president is worried about Palestinians who live relatively good lives. What they want is to take another people’s homeland. And the world is making an awful lot of noise about justifying this particular goal. What goes on in Darfur is plain killing, genocide, for no good or bad reason. How can we expect justice from this world regarding Israel when the smell of blood from Sudan does not bother it?
“Never again” is a fine caption but it does not speak for the world. This world wants to do it again and again and it is up to us to stop it.
The Question to Ask: Is It Good for the Jews?
The article “California’s 2011 Redistricting: Good for the Jews?” (June 9, jewishjournal.com) evoked nostalgia. I haven’t heard “Is it good or bad for the Jews?” for many years. It used to be that was the first and most important question — no matter what the issue.
Certainly we should be asking this question as events unfold in the turbulent Middle East.
Israel and Palestine: Talk Is Cheap
Does Israel really believe that the Muslim countries surrounding her will ever truly accept Israel’s right to exist, even if these countries verbally accept Israel’s legitimacy?
Words are cheap, only actions and true belief’s matter. The surrounding country’s will never accept Israel’s right to exist until they realize that Israel will only become stronger, wiser, more inventive, and more democratic than they will ever achieve. That will not happen while these country’s are in a constant state of denial. If their citizens can’t comprehend the differences in their lives compared to those of Israeli citizens, and if Muslim children are indoctrinated from birth that Israel is the “Evil Empire,” we might as well admit that the emperor wears no clothes.
I for one hope that we never hear the Muslims accept Israel’s legitimacy. It won’t bring peace and it could cause Israel to let her guard down.
The article “L.A. Synagogues to Take Part in Federation Israel Trip” (June 10) should have said that David Ben-Gurion lived in the Negev; he was born in Poland.