Jewish Journal


September 19, 2012

Letters to the Editor: Rachel Corrie, Mormons, Liberals


The Rachel Corrie Debate

Chip Bronson and Stephanie London’s response to the excellent JTA piece on Rachel Corrie saddened me deeply (Letters, Sept. 7). I read the article (“Rachel Corrie Suit Hinged on One Small Question,” Aug. 31) and had a different reaction. I wanted to believe it was all an accident and was relieved that Judge [Oded] Gershon ruled thus. Nevertheless, his choice to use this moment as a soapbox to denounce an admittedly ethically challenged organization reveals his own biases on the matter. I remain unsure whether it was an accident or whether the driver actually saw Corrie and deliberately buried her alive, though I am not yet ready to believe the assertions of Corrie’s parents or her lawyer. We simply don’t know what happened.  

I wonder if it’s possible or even safe to admit this in public in this toxic political environment we Jews find ourselves. Alas, fact takes a back seat to the narrative we want to believe. I love Israel deeply and defend her with zeal to those who would defame her, but I know she’s not perfect. And sometimes she makes some enormous mistakes, as those we love sometimes do.  Because I love her, I remain deeply pained that so many of us are so blinded by hate of the other that we are willing to dance on Corrie’s grave.

Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen

Spiritual Leader, Temple B’nai Hayim, Sherman Oaks

An Insult to Mormons

I disagree with actor Jared Gertner’s comment that “The Book of Mormon” doesn’t disrespect any religion (“Actor Feeds Off ‘Mormon’s’ Racy Humor,” Sept. 7). When a badly costumed Prophet Moroni gives the sacred text to a gormless Joseph Smith, it mocks the Mormon religion. I forgave the show when the two young Mormons set off on their mission — they are a charming duo — until they landed in a poor African village. Here was the worst stereotype of the vacuous black savages of that continent, and we were supposed to find them funny (e.g., Villager: “I have maggots in my scrotum.” Elder Price: “Maybe you should see a doctor about that.” Villager: “I am the doctor!”). 

Naomi Pfefferman writes, “One of the musical’s most hilarious (and scandalous) moments comes when a tribesman ... declares that he’s off to copulate with an infant to cure his AIDS.” I also didn’t find the big musical number, “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (“F*** You, God”), amusing, even though the audience roared. 

If this is, to quote The New York Times, “the best musical of this century,” and is part of a plan to bring young audiences to Broadway, good luck to them. Gertner says, “People shriek and gasp and laugh because it’s affecting them in such a visceral way.  But there’s so much joy behind it.” Guess I missed the joy part as I fled at intermission. 

Morna Murphy Martell


Innovative Teaching

Amanda Gelb (“Breaking Down Classroom Walls With Resilience Theory,” Aug. 10) gets it right when she says “cross-pollination” is a key to effective education. In DeLeT (huc.edu/delet), our innovative program to prepare Jewish day school teachers, we call this “integration.” 

Mia Pardo, one of last year’s DeLeT fellows, who is teaching at Pressman Academy, developed an innovative approach to teaching first-graders about national symbols by comparing and contrasting America’s and Israel’s flags and symbols. The students became so passionate about the lesson that they began interacting with each other as if they were the symbols. They used songs and other aspects of what they were learning in dramatic renderings. The teacher recorded these improvisations, and later two of the students created a movie out of the videos. We look forward each year to seeing how the emerging DeLeT educators find new ways to make Gelb’s idea of cross-pollination a reality in day school classrooms.  

Stacey Barrett

Education Programs Development
Associate, Hebrew Union College —
Jewish Institute of Religion

Liberals Unfairly Criticized

In an attempt to show that “liberals” are hypocrites because they feel free to criticize Israel for its own good but won’t ever criticize President Barack Obama, David Suissa creates a straw man and then knocks it down (“Where’s the Tough Love for Obama?” Aug. 24). The straw man is the undefined “liberal” who, in Suissa’s view, criticizes Israel but not Obama. But he doesn’t name even one such person, and prefers to generalize about “liberals.” He quotes from an Atlantic article, but that article attacks only liberals who fail to criticize Obama. Nowhere does that article say that those same liberals feel free to criticize Israel. If these “liberals” who criticize Israel but not Obama exist somewhere outside of Suissa’s mind, he has not shown us where to find them.

Joel Grossman

Los Angeles



In the article “Fall Films: Identity Crises, Controversy, Conflict, Creativity and Chicanery” (Fall Preview, September), the actor who played Ruben in the film “Simon and the Oaks” is Jan Josef Liefers, not Leifers; and the mother of the film’s director fled Berlin in November 1938, not 1939.

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