Jewish Journal


May 3, 2011

Letters to the Editor: Survivor’s pension, Philanthropy, Passover Seder, Jane Harman, Tom Cruise


Holocaust Survivors’ Pensions

We appreciate The Jewish Journal’s recognition of the work being done by Bet Tzedek’s Holocaust Survivors Justice Network (HSJN) (“Holocaust Survivors Win Modest Pensions,” April 29). However, there were some glaring omissions that merit acknowledgement as well as a basic premise with which we must take issue.

In the three years since Bet Tzedek conceived of and established the HSJN, it has become unprecedented in size and scope. It has become the largest pro bono initiative in U.S. history. Never before have so many partners come together in such a coordinated effort to provide free legal assistance to a single client group across the United States. Most importantly, the HSJN has helped survivors receive awards totaling more than $4.5 million to date. This is not a modest amount.

One of the most significant aspects of the ZRBG pension program is that, in addition to a monthly pension, survivors receive a one-time back payment. While mention was made of one survivor’s back payment in the photo caption accompanying the article, there was no discussion of these significant back payments in the actual piece. The fact is that the average retroactive payment is about $25,000, with awards of up to $100,000 not unheard of. These are far from modest amounts, and for many of our clients who are low income, they sometimes represent the difference between eating and not eating on a regular basis.

Bet Tzedek’s commitment to the HSJN is unwavering. It is a moral imperative; the most honorable of work in support of the most vulnerable among us. For those interested in learning more about this groundbreaking initiative, we invite you to visit holocaustsurvivorsprobono.org.

Sandy Samuels
Executive Director
Bet Tzedek Legal Services

Editor’s Note: The one-time back payments awarded with ZRBG pensions often amount to tens of thousands of dollars and can make major differences in the lives of Holocaust survivors. Nevertheless, one need only compare the total amount won by lawyers in Bet Tzedek’s Holocaust Survivors Justice Network ($4.5 million so far, most of it in one-time back payments) to the far larger amounts of money handled every year by centralized organizations like the Claims Conference (which in 2011 is allocating approximately $270 million for services to Nazi victims in 46 countries) to see how the ZRBG pensions could accurately be described as modest.

Neither that comparison nor the original article is intended to diminish the work being done by Bet Tzedek and the lawyers in its network to help needy survivors.

Jewish Philanthropy

If only more Jewish philanthropists practiced what Rabbi Korobkin preaches in his article (“Give Until It Hurts,” April 29). As a Jewish community, we have opportunities to help non-Jews in Haiti and Japan, for example, via Magen David Adom and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces; their rescue teams and medical corps were among the first groups to arrive at those disaster sites. Also, our Jewish schools would be more accessible and vibrant with local donors supporting our Jewish community.

Kol Ha’kavod to Rabbi Korobkin for eloquently expressing his beliefs.

Marci Spitzer
via e-mail

A Rabbi’s View of the Passover Seder

I am perplexed by David Suissa’s critique of telling our own stories within the master narrative of the Jewish story (“A Seder for Broken Jews,” April 22). Locating my story (the Torah of my life) within the story of the Exodus (the Torah of tradition) is the whole point of Passover. “In every generation, each of us is obligated to look upon ourselves as though we really did come out of Egypt.” And then we tell that story to our children.

Passover works on four different levels:

Historical: We were slaves in Egypt.

Political: There’s a pharaoh in every generation and a people, not only Jews, desperate to become free.

Psychological: Each of us has a narrow place from which we struggle to break free.

Spiritual: Each of us envisions a promised land of wholeness.

The master narrative of the Exodus, redemption, is the Torah of tradition. Through that lens we understand the Torah of our lives — our politics, our personal struggles, our spiritual aspirations. I become the story, and the story becomes me. The orange on my seder plate is next to the traditional symbols. They don’t compete with each other as David implies; instead, they enrich each other and my connection to our story.

Rabbi Laura Geller
Senior Rabbi
Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills

Another Seder Viewpoint

I am writing to complement you [Rob Eshman] on your outstanding writing (“The Arab Seder,” April 15). It’s a delight for me to read such a brilliant piece of concise enlightenment. I’m sending copies to friends.

Howard Steven Shapiro
Beverly Hills

How to Fill Harman’s Seat

The ideal candidate for the 36th Congressional District would do the following (“Democratic Hopefuls Talk Israel in Bid for Harman’s Seat,” April 29):
1) Repeal Obamacare, an unconscionable and unconstitutional government entitlement

2) Lower the tax brackets weighing on American taxpayers

3) Reduce government spending by tackling monstrous federal programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid)

4) Limit the size and scope of the United States Government (no more Department of Education, Energy, etc.)

5) Focus this country’s resources on promoting individual liberty here…

6) . . .instead of infeasible nation-building abroad.

Career politicians like Debra Bowen and Janice Hahn want nothing more than to perpetuate the statist tax-and-spend status quo. Besides, don’t they have something better to be doing, like fulfilling the offices that they have already been elected to?

RINO (Republican In Name Only) Mike Gin wants to (*ahem*) “reform” Obamacare, an unmanageable program worthy only of repeal. Besides, the praise that he has received from the L.A. Times only highlights his liberal credentials, and the last thing this district needs is another liberal lawmaker (see above).

From the crowded field of contenders, only Kit Bobko and Craig Huey stand out as representative material. I respect Mr. Bobko’s stance on limiting government spending, but Craig Huey’s outsider status as a small businessman has earned my respect.

Vote for Craig Huey for U.S. Congress!

Arthur Christopher Schaper

Jewish Leadership and Zionism

This op-ed does not even attempt to refute the facts of the JADL, [Jews Against Divisive Leadership] ad (“The Zionism of Rabbi Richard Jacobs – A Model for Our Times,” May 6). J Street and the many groups supported by the New Israel Fund masquerade as supporters of Israel but act as adversaries. The opinion piece is an illustration of the disconnect between American Jews and the leadership of too many of our Jewish organizations.

David B. Goldenson
via e-mail

Dear JADL (Jews Against Divisive Leadership) and its signers of The Jewish Journal ad:

The kindest thing I can say about your ad is that it has great “chutzpah” — to think that a small group is representing all Reform Jews. In fact, I personally am insulted that you would include me as a Reform Jew in your ad. The title of your group is an oxymoron ... it’s your group that is divisive. And I’m surprised that the signatories are so careless to allow so many inaccurate points with the purpose of discrediting Rabbis Yoffie and Jacobs. Why do you choose to go around the Union for Reform Judaism to influence change of policies if you disagree with them? Instead, you pay for an expensive ad to do exactly what you say you are against: divisive leadership.

Dozens of smart and knowledgeable leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism thoroughly evaluated Rabbi Rick Jacobs’ credentials before selecting him as the nominee for the next URJ President. Although I was not part of that process, I can be more convinced of their judgment in selecting Rabbi Jacobs—than a bunch of mavericks trying to represent themselves as speaking for the Reform Movement.

As Jews (and especially rabbis), you should heed the points that Rabbi David Ellenson (& his HUC colleagues) expressed in his response to your ad.

If you are truly Reform Jews, you know that Reform Judaism is a dynamic enterprise, reflecting a demonstrated evolution of Jewish practice and policies. This evolution, time and again, responds to Reform Judaism by the influences of welcoming inputs from all liberal Jews. You could be part of the solution and yet you choose to be a problem. Publishing this ad is not being part of any constructive solution.

It’s one thing to have a healthy debate on Israel attitudes and policies. It’s another thing to put a blemish on the signatories of this ad with their unfair AND divisive ad. Your ad and your names won’t be forgotten by myself and others. Like other lashaon hara behavior, your words will reflect on your reputation and will be remembered when you write a paper, present a lecture or look for a position on a committee or employment.

I am proud to a Reform Jew and in particular proud to be a member of the Board of Trustees of the Union for Reform Judaism. I have loved working under Rabbi Eric Yoffie and looking forward to Rabbi Rick Jacobs’ role as URJ president, especially with his passion for Israel.

Alan Warshaw
Palo Alto

An Open Letter to Rob Eshman’s Son

Dear Adi:

Although I don’t suspect this letter will be published or reach you, the fact that I am taking the time to write it on Holocaust [Remembrance] Day is somewhat significant.

Your father indicates that you will be visiting Auschwitz (“An Open Letter to My Son,” April 29). Do you see those smoke stacks by the crematorium? That is where, for expediency (in order to make room for more and more murdered Jews), millions of our race were incinerated. Your father’s newspaper ran an ad a couple of years ago from a Reform institution advertising cremation for Jews. Can you believe it? I never allowed The Jewish Journal in my house after that and told your father so in a letter. To his credit he published it. It’s ironic that a neighbor was visiting my wife and by chance left a copy of The Journal this week. I couldn’t help myself and peaked at it and immediately came across your father’s letter to you.

Your dad says that the goal of the March of the Living is for young people to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and to lead the Jewish people into the future vowing “Never Again.” This brings me to another letter I wrote to your dad, “A Jew for Gun Control, The Ultimate Irony.” Again to his credit he did publish it, although I doubt it had much effect. You are going to visit the Warsaw Ghetto. Adi, can you imagine 10,000 Warsaw Ghettos? So much resources would have to have been devoted to multiple uprisings by the Nazis that indeed the war would have ended a year earlier, and perhaps a million more Jews would have survived. Today there would be tens of millions more Jews in this world. Of course most will tell you that couldn’t happen in the United States and who needs guns here? Most said at the time that it couldn’t happen in that civilized society in Germany either. Oh, by the way Adi, while on the subject of gun control, when you visit Israel please realize that while arming the Arabs in 1948, the British imposed strict gun-control laws on the Jews. You see they wanted the Arab’s oil (sound familiar?), and figured by doing this the Arabs would make quick work of the Jews. Hashem had different plans and you would not be visiting Israel if the Jews there went by gun control in 1948 or now!

Oh, and Adi, before this letter gets too long I would like to address on Holocaust [Remembrance] Day, the Holocaust that is going on today. It is appropriate that I address this with you because your father once wrote an article encouraging Jewish girls reaching a certain age to consider marrying non-Jewish men. You don’t believe it? Well I have the article. Again I wrote a blistering letter to him asking him to save that advice for the future Sara Eshman-Kelly. Again he published it. You don’t have a sister, Sara, do you? The Holocaust I refer to today is being spread by the Reform, who have already succeeded in destroying more Jews than perished in the Holocaust. So please keep in mind that Josh Levine, or Izzy Shapiro, traveling with you may not be Jewish. (Gee I hope those are not actual names in your group.) The statistics will bear me out on this and it is not just personal opinion. However, let me tell you of a couple of personal experiences with very close friends who married non-Jews with Reform “rabbis” officiating. You see I am 63 now and can tell you what went on when I was in my 20s and what has unfortunately resulted today. Let’s take my friend Alan W. from the Bronx. He came from a family in which his grandparents came from Europe and spoke only Yiddish in the house. He married an Irish girl and a Reform rabbi officiated at the ceremony. His children, not Jewish, were even bar mitzvah by a Reform rabbi. Oh, sorry the first was, his wife offered the second child $5,000 not to be bar mitzvah and he took it. I ask Al about his kids, 30 and I believe 25, and neither has yet to date a Jewish girl and one is living with a non-Jew.

How about my friend Ron H. from the Bronx? He has a very Jewish last name and his father of blessed memory was a kosher butcher in the neighborhood. He married a non-Jew and again the Reform “rabbi” performed the service. Oh, by the way, Adi, let me point out that they all said and say this: “WE ARE BRINGING THE KIDS UP JEWISH.” In a recent conversation with him I asked if either of his kids are dating Jews and his exact answer was: “Nah, they figure their father married a Christian so they will do so as well.”

Last, but unfortunately not least, is my friend Steve. We have been friends here in California for over 30 years. His wife has worked for many, many years in a Conservative institution in the Valley. A few years ago he gave me the bad news that his daughter would be marrying a non-Jew. I hope it wasn’t because of reading your dad’s article because she was getting older. I immediately told him not to invite me to the wedding because I did not consider it something to celebrate. He did not. Our friendship has survived but whether the Judaism of his great-grandchildren will, is very, very much in doubt.

So Adi, I unfortunately have many more similar examples of Jewish friends I grew up with in the Bronx in the ’50s with but will not tell you about them here.

I will leave you with this advice:

“NEVER AGAIN” does not only involve genocide by force but the subtlety described in this letter to you. This is the most dangerous and potent kind because you don’t know it is happening until it is too late. So please listen to the advice of learning the lessons of the past, as your Dad points out, while understanding at the same time what will assure the future for Jews and Judaism.

Steve Flatten
via e-mail

What Does Tom Cruise Stand For?

Until I read Danielle Berrin’s excellent blog post a couple of weeks ago (”Should the Simon Wiesenthal Center Honor Tom Cruise?”), I only knew that Scientology was a rather kooky celebrity “religion.” I was amazed at what I read in Ms. Berrin’s post. Under FBI investigation for human trafficking? This led me to read the New Yorker article she references; then I discovered that there is an enormous amount of evidence available to show that Scientology is a highly manipulative, very crass organization whose primary goals are to make money and to achieve good “PR” by presenting themselves as worldwide “humanitarians.” Through this phony “humanitarian,” cynical “human rights” schtick, Scientology is able to recruit more paying converts.

Scientology’s ethos is very far from humanitarian, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center should not collude with this “church” in advancing that agenda. For Scientology, this award would be more than just something nice: It would be an incredible victory and moneymaking opportunity.

In the past two weeks, I discovered many, many press releases and Scientology Web sites in which the organization’s late founder, L. Ron Hubbard, is described as a humanitarian on a par with Rev. Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. But on the many other Web sites dedicated to exposing Scientology’s vicious, racist, illegal and immoral beliefs and activities, I learned that Scientologists take the sayings and writings of their founder to be absolute, infallible, inflexible dogma. Many of Hubbard’s views were remarkably Hitlerian. Let me give you a small sample:

“There are only two answers for the handling of people from 2.0 down on the Tone Scale [e.g. gays and lesbians, who Hubbard is describing here], neither one of which has anything to do with reasoning with them or listening to their justification of their acts. The first is to raise them on the Tone Scale by un-enturbulating some of their theta by any one of the three valid processes. The other is to dispose of them quietly and without sorrow.” — Hubbard, “Science of Survival”

“The sudden and abrupt deletion of all individuals occupying the lower bands of the Tone Scale from the social order would result in an almost instant rise in the cultural tone and would interrupt the dwindling spiral into which any society may have entered.” — Hubbard, “Science of Survival”

“A Venezuelan dictator once decided to stop leprosy. He saw that most lepers in his country were also beggars. By the simple expedient of collecting and destroying all the beggars in Venezuela an end was put to leprosy in that country.” — Hubbard, “Science of Survival”

“A truly Suppressive Person or group has no rights of any kind and actions taken against them are not punishable.” — Hubbard, Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter, 1 March 1965, HCO (Division 1) “Ethics, Suppressive Acts, Suppression of Scientology and Scientologists”

“Psychiatry” and “psychiatrist” are easily redefined to mean “an anti-social enemy of the people.” This takes the kill-crazy psychiatrist off the preferred list of professions. ...The redefinition of words is done by associating different emotions and symbols with the word than were intended ... — L. Ron Hubbard, HCO PL, 5 October 1971, PR Series 12, “Propaganda by Redefinition of Words”

There are many, many other examples of such hateful ideas being promoted by the organization’s founder.

It is true what Rabbi Hier says about “guilt by association.” However, the beliefs of Scientology are utterly repugnant. Jews of all people should be highly attuned to the dangers of such beliefs, and critical of anyone who would not immediately reject and repudiate such beliefs. It way well be that Tom Cruise is a nice guy who has given away a lot of money. As a Scientologist, however, he must embrace Hubbard’s views without the slightest question. Any deviation from those views is seen in Scientology as a “high crime.”

Perhaps Tom Cruise should be given the award. First, however, I would ask that he give a “yes” or “no” answer to this question — without any equivocation or evasion: “Tom, do you reject these statements of L. Ron Hubbard’s?” (followed by a selection of hateful writings such as those presented above).

It would be interesting to hear his response.

Sarah Green
via e-mail

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