November 10, 2010
Letters to the Editor: Jews and Pot, Prager, Suissa, Center for Israel Studies
Journal Supplies Dorm-Room Decor
I’m a student at American Jewish University, and I thought The Jewish Journal would be interested in how much attention this week’s edition has received from this school’s undergraduates (“Why Jews Do Care About Prop. 19,” Oct. 29)! The paper is delivered here weekly, but many students just discovered it now. This week’s cover, a Magen David made of marijuana leaves, is now posted in many dorm rooms (and maybe they even read the related article?). Kudos to the mastermind behind it — it’s truly an attention-grabber.
Pot Views Out of Sync With Old-Line Liberals
I found it interesting that your lead article was about Prop. 19 (“Jews’ View of the Pot Initiative? Mixed,” Oct. 29). The great Jewish liberal heroes of our grandparents’ generation, people such as Louis Brandeis, Lillian Wald and Stephen S. Wise, were all prohibitonists. They were painfully aware of the social carnage brought about by alcohol abuse. While prohibition turned out to be an enforcement nightmare that was simply not practical, it was not all bad. Many of the alcohol-related social pathologies decreased during prohibition. Alas, today’s liberals bear no resemblance to the liberal heroes of the pre-1940s generation. How unfortunate for us!
Rabbi Louis J. Feldman
The Good, the Bad and the Not-So-Good
After reading Dennis Prager’s article “Are People Basically Good?” (Oct. 22) and the Nov. 5 letters, I came up with the following conclusion: Some people are basically good, other people are basically not so good.
Theodore C. Friedman
I read with great interest David Suissa’s experience of “Seeing the Invisible” with Rabbi Yoel Glick (Oct. 29). I am happy that he saw in Rabbi Glick someone who concentrated on whatever he was doing with intention, interest, compassion and joy. These qualities were not a matter of temperament or nature, but virtues nurtured and expanded through spiritual practice.
Suissa muses on why it is so difficult to “sell” spirituality and realizes that it is not a commodity. It requires nothing more than paying attention; it is not competitive. There is no material benefit to practicing spirituality; only a more peaceful heart, a greater capacity for joy and compassion for others.
Spirituality is a difficult sell because it requires sustained effort and a willingness to look closely and honestly at the truth of our lives. In our consumerist society, that which is priceless is often treated as worthless. In our 4G culture, anything requiring time and attention that does not pay is a waste of time.
Most of us choose to sleep through our lives, caught up in having and getting, running from our own shadow. [There are some who] invite us to wake up, with courage and compassion, to fully live this, our only true moment of life. Jewish spirituality is one way to do so.
Rabbi Jonathan Slater
How to Educate to Prevent Anti-Israel Sentiment
You quote Sherry Lansing, a regent of the University of California and a member of the advisory board of the new Center for Israel Studies:
“Almost all of the 10 University of California campuses have experienced anti-Israel actions, and the only way to change that is through education”(“UCLA Inaugurates Center for Israel Studies,” Nov. 5).
Lansing is correct, but she doesn’t go far enough. Based on my recent experience with the teachings in a local junior high school, the root cause of the problem is that the book used, probably inadvertently, promotes anti-Israel inclinations, and that is the basis for the teacher’s class instruction to these children who listen and read with open minds that are being formed at this stage of their lives. As I examined the book, its two sections on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict omitted key information while including wording to subtly lead the reader to the impression that the conflict was brought on by the Jews in establishing the State of Israel in 1948.
These are the children who will go on to college in a few years and express these ideas by anti-Israel actions on campus. In fact, I saw this anti-Israel inclination expressed in an artwork prepared by one of the students.
On the other hand, in discussion with a well-educated friend who is Muslim, he told me quite frankly that, from his earliest education, he was taught that (I quote him more or less verbatim): “That land, the land on which Israel sits, is Arab land — all of it.” Coincidentally, those are almost the same words I got from a very nice, well-educated Muslim woman who was testing my hearing.
Yes, education is where changes are needed if anti-Israel actions are to be ended on university campuses, but in a somewhat different way than Sherry Lansing seems to think.