Jewish Journal


May 19, 2010

Letters to the Editor:  Shul funds, Rabbi funds, Efrat construction


Better Use for Shul Funds

My husband and I happened to be in Los Angeles this month and saw the article about the revival of the Breed Street Shul (“Breed Street Shul Raising Funds With ‘Fiddler,’” May 14). My grandfather, Gershon Yehuda Wetstein (a.k.a. “Yeedle”), was a regular worshipper there for more than 40 years. He was also a schochet (ritual slaughterer) and as such was well known in the Boyle Heights Jewish community. A distant cousin, Rabbi Osher Zilberstein, was the rav of the congregation for 35 years.

While I can certainly understand a sentimental attachment to a shul that at one time pulsated with Jewish life and prayer, I can’t help thinking that the current campaign to renovate the building into community use is a terrible misuse of Jewish funds.

What Jewish educational institution in the Los Angeles area couldn’t put $10 million to good use? What Jewish child who longs to attend a Jewish day school will attend a public school next year because the scholarship funding ran dry?

Marsha Wetstein Motzen
Englewood, N.J.

Support for Rabbi

As members of the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center (PJTC), we write to support the efforts of our Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater to fight for social and economic justice in the United States, the Middle East and globally. A handful of current and former members recently wrote a letter to The Jewish Journal attacking him for his outspoken views, including his support for President Obama (“Jews Must Stay on Visionary Obama’s Side,” (jewishjournal.com, April 19). We disagree.

We admire Rabbi Grater for his courage in tackling controversial topics in his sermons, his writings and his public actions. His support for Israel is unswerving and is reflected in many aspects of our congregation’s life and activities. At the same time, his criticism of certain policies of the Israeli government reflects Judaism’s prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power.

As a scholar and spiritual leader, he draws on Jewish tradition not only to educate the congregation and the public about the importance of combating social injustice but also to stir debate. He actively encourages a diversity of opinion and dialogue within the synagogue.

Since he arrived at PJTC seven years ago, the rabbi has emerged as a powerful voice of conscience and commitment. We value his leadership, as do the overwhelming majority of members of our congregation, which recently renewed his contract.

We do not agree on all social and political issues, but we share a common admiration for Rabbi Grater’s bold leadership.

Susan Auerbach, Hal Barron, Jared Becker, Cindy Cohen, Douglas Crane, Mike Davidson, Peter Dreier, Mark Esensten, Jennie Factor, Betty Fishman, Jane Fishman, Yudie Fishman, Cecilia Fox, Jon Fuhrman, Rebecca Golbert, Claire Gorfinkel, Allen Gross, Karen Gross, John Guest, Sandy Hartford, Ed Honowitz, Cara Jaffe, Susan Kane, Patricia Kirkish, Kathy Kobayashi, Sandra Lavine, David Lorin. Brian Mark, Madeline Mark, Maureen McGrath, Peter Mendel, Terry Meng, Amy Nettleton, Jenny Owen, Ellen Pais, Meredith Rose, Glenn Rothner, Faith Segal, Mickey Segal, Diana Selig, Ruth Several, Mike Several, Debby Singer, Jack Singer, Jonathan Swerdlow, Ruth Wolman, Steven Youra.

Efrat Construction

I would like to add one point to David Suissa’s tear-wrenching column on Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s plight in not being able to continue building in the settlement of Efrat during the partial construction moratorium now in effect (“Natural-Born Builder,” May 14). While it is our country’s policy that the final eastern border of Israel will “reflect subsequent developments” to the 1949 Armistice line, the changes will be the result of negotiations.

It cannot be assumed that Efrat will be included in the new boundary of Israel. The settlement is deep in the occupied Palestinian Territory and has a detrimental impact on the economic development of nearby Bethlehem and on the Palestinian population in Jerusalem.

Efrat blocks Palestinian access to the road connecting Bethlehem and Jerusalem to Hebron, which restricts Palestinian access to employment, markets and social services. If Rabbi Riskin wants to build, he should return to Israel and do it there.

Michael Several
via e-mail

A May 14 article, “Breed Street Shul Raising Funds With ‘Fiddler,’ ” incorrectly named the source of funds used to hire Tsilah Burman as the first executive director of the Breed Street Shul Project. Her hire was made possible by grants from the Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Community Pillar.

A May 14 article, “Israel’s Haitian Tent Hospital Boosts IDF Image,” incorrectly described the tent hospital staffing. The 200-plus personnel who staffed the Israeli field hospital in Haiti were mostly members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Medical Corps, and the rest were from several Israeli hospitals. Dr. Ofer Merin (who, in the reserves, is commander of the IDF field hospitals) was not the head of the Israeli effort in Haiti. He was chief of the surgery and trauma unit — one of the two units that made up the hospital. The head of the field hospital was a member of the IDF Medical Corps.

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