Jewish Journal


December 7, 2011

Letters to the Editor: Reform Judaism, job searches, high-speed rail


The Real Reform Judaism

In a recent broadside, David Mamet accuses Reform Judaism of surrendering “Hebrew, the Talmud, kashrut, ritual, the Eastern European Jews and currently [toying] with condemnation of its co-religionaries in Israel” (“Conflict, Choice and Surrender,” Nov. 18). Unfortunately, he ignores the facts.

The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which educates clergy and leaders for Reform Judaism and beyond, sends all of our rabbinical, cantorial and education students for a full academic year to our Jerusalem campus. Meanwhile, our Israeli rabbinical students split the horns of the false dilemma between religious and secular life, modeling a viable form of Hebraic and Zionist Judaism at the heart of Israeli culture. Reform Judaism also sustains the Israel Religious Action Center and the Association of Reform Zionists of America.

Hebrew is a staple in Reform services, as is our millennial tradition of mutual aid. Shabbat services, Torah study and religious schools in Reform synagogues are bustling affairs, binding Jews to our sources, our past and each other.

In short, Reform Judaism dedicates the human and financial resources to, and stakes its political and social capital on, these efforts. Admittedly, we are not fundamentalist in our commitment to “Hebrew, the Talmud, kashrut, ritual,” but we most certainly have done the hard work of bringing “Eastern European Jews, [our] co-religionaries in Israel” and the plurality of affiliated North American Jews closer to those things. Far from surrendering them, as Mamet suggests, Reform Judaism is advancing the cause.

Joshua Holo
Dean, Hebrew Union College-Jewish
Institute of Religion, Los Angeles Campus

Wanted: Help Wanted Ads

I read your recent cover story on unemployment (“Still Unemployed: Out of Luck but Not Out of Hope,” Nov. 25) with much interest as my family has been impacted dramatically since I was laid off (with eight others) two years ago by a large Jewish nonprofit. The point I would most like to share is that there is an amazing lack of employment advertising in your otherwise excellent newspaper. Perhaps offering “help wanted” and “seeking employment” ads for free or at a steeply discounted rate would encourage our community to step up and help each other at this very difficult time. I suggest a partnership with JVS (Jewish Vocational Service) to add a regular column that features its clients.

Israel Scott Kotzen
via e-mail

Offering Bridges to Employers

Diane Goodman clearly articulates the terrible frustration experienced by job seekers relying solely on the online submission process to secure employment (Letters, Dec. 2). There is no doubt that the dynamics of today’s job search process are radically different from even a few years ago with the advent of monster.com and other services. 

She references JVS in her letter and states that all of the job postings secured by JVS for our clients are online. Though we do offer an online job bank (free to both job seekers and employers), what distinguishes our system is the role of the JVS case managers and job developers, who act as a bridge between the client and prospective employer — a key factor that sets our services apart. In addition, JVS offers job seekers comprehensive resources, vocational training opportunities and the chance to refresh and increase their basic skills (resume and interview workshops and free computer training, for example) to make them more competitive as candidates.

Most important, clients of our WorkSource Centers have the benefit of an experienced and integrated team dedicated solely to assisting them in their job search so they don’t have to navigate through this daunting process alone.

Katherine Moore
JVS Los Angeles 

It Is the Best of Times

Bravo and thank you for your so truthful Thanksgiving editorial (“Proud Bastards,” Nov. 25). I cannot possibly agree with you more that we are living in the best of times. Unfortunately, some of our paranoid fellow Jews seem to benefit from creating fear and take any chance, real or unreal, to gain and promote their self-fulfilling prophecies, or businesses.

The biggest threat to our survival can only come from within us.

Jacqueline Levian
via e-mail

Give Rail a Chance

As a professor of environmental law, I find that Greenberg’s cartoon (“Bull-It Train,” Nov. 25) leaves out crucial facts about the California High-Speed Rail project. Greenberg claims that the bullet train will have low ridership, cost too much and fail to make a profit. But the cartoonist is contradicted by similar rail projects’ popularity in other parts of the world, costs saved by reducing pollution damage to natural resources from airline and auto trips eliminated, and the long-term health benefits of a cleaner environment. In a parallel example of ecological improvement, clean air regulations and enforcement since the 1970s have made the Los Angeles basin less smoggy than it has been in decades, despite exaggerated fears about cost and diminished profits. Let’s not let fear get in the way of successful planning. 

Peter L. Reich
Professor of Law, Whittier Law School

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