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
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.
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.
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.