Jewish Journal


March 29, 2011

Letters to the Editor: Purim spoof cover, ‘Miral,’ Itamar murders, The ‘Gibson’ Scale


Puzzled by Purim Cover

I was puzzled with the cover, and so was my wife. Then she told me, “Oh, this is their annual Purim spoof cover” (March 18).

Well, maybe a few years ago this cover was appropriate, but not on a week that the biggest story was the murder of a Jewish family in Israel.

I do not mind if you want to call me a worrier or a pessimist or too serious, but take a vote to see if these hard times still warrant a Purim spoof cover. I wonder if I am the only reader who was disappointed.

Daniel Simons
Beverly Hills

J Street Is Pro-Israel

I have some issues with Mr. Suissa’s article on Israeli Apartheid Week in last week’s Journal, but none strikes me more pointedly than his assertion that even J Street, a group not known for its passionate defense of Israeli policies, opposes the apartheid label (“Murdering Israel’s Name,” March 25). As a member of the J Street U chapter at UCLA and a lifelong committed member of the Jewish community, I can only say that J Street has never been anything but a “pro-Israel” organization. Just go to J Street’s Web page and that word is the first thing you’ll see, right alongside “pro-peace” and “Americans.” Though J Street does not publicly cheer on the Netanyahu administration at every step of the way, the disagreements stem solely from the differences in what we perceive to be best for Israel’s long-term safety and prosperity. The type of right-wing chatter that we currently hear in the Knesset’s investigations of left-wing human rights groups, in the Zionist Organization of America’s attacks on the visionary Olive Tree Initiative and in Suissa’s very own focus on a bunch of naïve college-age idealists may be provocative but offers nothing constructive in the way of solving the stark challenges Israel currently faces

Ryland Lu
via e-mail

David Suissa is exactly right that Israel needs a strong PR program to counter the accusation that it is apartheid. He is exactly wrong that it should be “Israel is not apartheid.” Anti-Israel factions would love to see the two words, Israel and apartheid together; that’s what they are doing. Would McDonald’s shout, “Our burgers do not contribute to obesity”? The natural response to that is: “There must be a relationship between their burgers and obesity.” Israel’s PR should emphasize and illustrate, using everyday incidents, of how the country is integrated.

They missed a good PR opportunity by not trumpeting the fact that Israel medic teams where among the first in Haiti, and now in Japan.

Bert Eifer
Woodland Hills

‘Miral’ Story Read, Heard Round the World

Danielle Berrin may had something important to say, but I couldn’t read past the second paragraph, which says “...made it impossible for Jews to empathize with anyone but each other.”  What about those Jews who have gone to disaster areas to help with the location and care of the injured and to help rebuild.  What about the Jews who walked side by side with African Americans to help them achieve their goals and continue to do so.  What about the Jews who have gone to African nations to teach and help with their infrastructure problems.  And what about those Jews who give monetary support to those in need no matter their denomination.

To say that Jews only empathize with each other erases the author’s credibility on the cause she is espousing.

Blanche Goldstein
via e-mail

In her New York Times full-page ad, Danielle Berrin makes no mention of the Intifada. Part of the many Intifadas is the use of children as bait and bomb carriers. In the full-page ad of “Miral” in today’s NYT it asks the question “Is this the face of a terrorist?” The answer to that question is YES.

Steven Ball
via e-mail

How sad that someone like Danielle Berrin, who considers herself an intellectual, allows herself to be used as a pawn in Palestinian propaganda. Fortunately, I have never heard of your Web site and plan never to refer to it again. My mother was in concentration camp with so-called Jews like her. During the worst of times they still identified themselves as German rather than be considered Jewish. A lover of Israel? With friends like her we need no enemies. The movie is a travesty, luckily it was panned by the New York Times and very few people will be seeing it. My question is other than her mother being Jewish, how else does Danielle Berrin identify with being Jewish? Has she ever been to Israel? Does she even understand the true dynamic? Most people of her ilk have been born Jewish, have never seen or read any religious texts, can not even read Hebrew, but have the audacity to claim to understand the issues. I suggest she first become aware of the facts before lending her name to such a compilation of lies. Shame on you as an organization claiming to represent Jews for printing such drivel and allowing it to be used against your own people.

Debora Becker
via e-mail

Shame on Harvey Weinstein

Over 6 million Jews were systematically murdered, the survivors living nightmares of starvation [and] torture, having watched their loved ones beaten, starved, murdered, the smoke of their ashes rising in front of them (“ ‘Miral’ Filmmaker Schnabel Is Feeling the Love — and the Criticism,” March 25). Does Harvey Weinstein not wonder why these survivors did not respond with hatred, blowing things up, slashing the throats of the babies of those who caused them horrors beyond imagination? Perhaps he should spend some time in Israel seeing the reality rather than the fabrication.

Kudos to Spielberg for what he’s done to preserve the truth; shame to Weinstein for what he’s done to erase it.

Dorothy Melvin
Los Angeles

Prager on Murder

It was a satisfying experience to read Dennis Prager’s article “Murderers Should Die” in the March 18 edition.  As much as I appreciated Prager’s article, he left out two factors.  First, he did not include the economics of keeping murderers alive.  Did you know that we, we the taxpayers, have spent a million dollars to keep Charles Manson alive?  We spent about $750,000 to keep the murderer Woodmansee alive.  That’s just wrong no matter how strong you feel about keeping murderers alive. 

Masse Bloomfield
via e-mail

Should Murderers Die?

In a civilized society, we should not kill to show that killing is wrong. Dennis Prager thinks that murderers should die and therefore places state killing on a higher moral plane than those of us who believe that state killing is itself immoral (“Murderers Should Die,” March 18).

Prager claims that there is almost no issue “for which the gulf between people on opposite sides of an issue is as unbridgeable as on the issue of the death penalty for murderers.” Yet he ignores the fact that many have bridged that gulf as the death penalty continues to become less and less popular with Americans. A July 2010 Field poll revealed that, when asked which sentence they preferred for a first-degree murderer, 42 percent of registered voters said they preferred life without parole and only 41 percent said they preferred the death penalty.

Prager cites the Torah as his single moral compass. But the Torah, among many ancient religious texts, includes rules and prohibitions that few would subscribe to today. According to the Torah, in addition to murder, offenses that merit death include disobedience to a parent, contempt of court, blasphemy, sacrificing to another god, false prophecy, necromancy, premarital sex, bestiality and breaking the Sabbath.

“Many Jewish opponents of the death penalty point to Israel, which has disallowed capital punishment since its establishment,” Prager argues, but he dismisses this important fact by claiming that “Israel was founded by Jews who took their values from the European Enlightenment, not from the Torah, and that is why they banned capital punishment in Israel.”

Indeed, most Americans, including the [Founding Fathers] who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and presumably most Jews in America, also derive their values from the European Enlightenment, which over time has led to less and less support for the death penalty.

The majority of nations and Western democracies have abolished the death penalty, and the International Criminal Court has barred the use of capital punishment even for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Prager engages in the utter speculation that “more innocents die with no capital punishment than with it.” If we consider life without parole the natural alternative to the death penalty, the risk to innocent people is negligible. The risk of a murderer escaping from prison and murdering again is less than a fraction of a percent. And Prager callously ignores the fact that there is overwhelming evidence in at least nine cases since 1980 that innocent men were executed in the United States.

Elie Wiesel, covering Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem (the only instance of civil execution in Israel’s history), called the execution “an example not to be followed.” “Society should not be the Angel of Death,” he said. “We should not be servants of death. The law should celebrate, glorify, sanctify life, always life.”

As between Wiesel and the value of life and Prager and the value of death, I choose life.

Stephen F. Rohde
Los Angeles

The writer, a constitutional lawyer, is president of the Progressive Jewish Alliance and represented a man on California’s death row.

Dennis Prager responds here.

Changing the World for People With Alzheimer’s

Who will make the world better for those with Alzheimer’s?


The March 25 article about Silverado Senior Living mentioned our organization’s partnership with “Enemy Pie” author Derek Munson (“Silverado Facility Confronts Elder Abuse”). This program is just one component in Silverado’s keystone initiative involving youth with memory-impaired seniors.

Every day, infants, toddlers, grade-schoolers and teens come to Silverado to make friends with our memory-impaired residents and participate alongside them in activities. We foster this relationship by inviting school and community youth groups and encouraging our employees to bring their kids to work.

Our goal is to improve the world for the memory-impaired everywhere. The biggest hurdle is society’s fear of those with dementia, who are perceived as “different,” “not normal.” The tendency is to isolate them from “normal society,” blighting their spirits and hastening their decline.

But children respond without the constraints of the adult perception of normal. With their open hears and minds, young people form deep bonds with our residents. Because of this, many have told us that, as adults, they will dedicate their careers and volunteer time serving those with dementia.

We invite you to visit Silverado and bring a child with you. In so doing, you will help to change the world.

Stephen Winner
co-founder/chief of culture
Silverado Senior Living

The Itamar Murders: Another View

The recent opinion piece “Yesterday’s terrorist is today’s statesman: Another view of the Itamar murders” (JewishJournal.com, March 14) by Jordan Elgrably attempting to justify the murder of the Fogel family simply disgusts me.  The targeted, planned, calculated, deliberate, and cold-blooded killings of the members of this family, one by one, in their own home while they lay sleeping cannot be likened to any accidental, collateral deaths in bombing defense of the independent, sovereign nation of Israel, tragic as those deaths also are. There is simply no comparison to be made, and in discussing this tragedy, there is no place to stick up for “The Palestinian Community.” What does Menachem Begin have to do with this event?  What would you tell the 6-year-old child who was lucky enough not to have been seen by these assassins so that he survived, only to wake up to dead and bloodied parents and three siblings? To what lengths will your tabloid magazine go to push an anti-Zionist agenda?  Maybe you should just re-title this so-called “newspaper” The Palestinian Journal.  At the very least, you should look at those with whom you are choosing to align. The ink with which you print this garbage is spit upon the graves of the Jewish victims. Furthermore, if attacks on Jews like this continue to occur (G-d forbid), any attempts to rationalize it or sympathize with the terrorists that perpetrate such things, may well be blood on your hands.  Shame on you. I don’t think you realize the harm that you are doing by running this kind of article, even as an “opinion” piece, but as the Editor, you should.  In response to your irresponsible lack of good publishing judgment, I will boycott all of your advertisers and encourage others to do the same, until the advertisers boycott you.

Markus Kublin
via e-mail

‘The Gibson Scale

With reference to Rob Eshman’s article regarding the “Gibson Scale” (March 9), I have never heard of anything so ridiculous, take a step back and look at what you (as a people) are doing to the Palestinians, it is shameful, you are ethnic cleansing on a scale that has NEVER been seen to date. You can try and vilify people for having hard fact founded beliefs but it is transparent for most of us. You are shameful, you are a major contributor to the false information and genocide cover up of the Palestinians. Shame on you.

Nik Walker
via e-mail

Elizabeth Taylor: Queen of the Screen, Dregs of Humanity

A child star turned enchantress, both on and off-screen, Taylor dominated the headlines for her roles and many loves. Or rather, too many loves. Better yet, her many romantic entanglements.

Reporters, fans, and the general media eulogize her as if she were a queen. In reality, she was anything but. In spite of her involvement in important charities and caused, her immoral life compromised any official good works, which ultimately she did to have another turn in the public eye.

The whole thing reminds of the nightmare sequence from Rob Reiner’s classic movie “The Princess Bride.” The heroine, Buttercup, now a recently wed princess, stands before her adoring people. Suddenly a strident “Boo!” breaks up the quiet adoration of the people. The crowd gives way to a decrepit old woman. “She had true love! And what did she do? She treated it like garbage!” The old woman then mocks the gathering, “So, bow down to her if you want, bow down to her, the queen of slime, the queen of filth! Boo! Boo!”

Someone needs to stand up and shout the same calumny about Elizabeth Taylor. There is something profoundly troubling about a world that dotes on the illustrious career of a movie mogul, yet not only neglects to chide, but even accommodates her deplorable morality.

This woman, who married the same man two times, went to the altar a staggering eight times! Even the Wife of Bath was not so frivolous! She said “I do” yet not once did she commit to those vows. In the midst of her turbulent life, her private life dominated the tabloids with. Everyone was moved by her eyes, windows to a troubled and dissolute soul that everyone seems content to ignore.

Rather than celebrating Taylor’s life, the world should mourn that once again fame has trumped morality and inner peace. Celebrity, for all its wealth and warm wishes, takes away far more than it can offer. If such fame makes a living a moral life infamous, then we should not celebrate it all.

Yes, Taylor led charities. Yes, she was outspoken about important causes, like AIDS. But her life, and lack of moral integrity, cries out far above any official good works that she did in the public eye. And did this woman have any peace? From estranged family members to debilitating illnesses that plagued her, Taylor was not enjoying her life.

About now-deceased Elizabeth Taylor, Queen of the Screen, one can only ask: “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”

Arthur Christopher Schaper

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