June 20, 2012
Letters to the Editor: Voter initiatives, immigration and Israel, outreach, teen philanthropy
Looking for a Real Cure
Does Raphael Sonenshein really think that one of the top three cures for what ails us is to correct voter initiatives, or that what we really need is longer careered politicians (“California: Can This Patient Be Saved?” June 15)?
Instead of looking to successful states for comparison, Sonenshein kept his focus intra-California, citing three primary reasons for our state’s political and fiscal troubles: voter initiatives (“surgery done by amateurs”), term limits (“starving the legislature of durable careers”) and Proposition 13.
Texas’ state legislature only meets for six months out of every 24, and even then most Texans think that is too much. Perhaps having legislators who are actually spending the bulk of their time in the real world might be preferred to career politicians who have never been anywhere close to the world outside of Sacramento.
Reforming Proposition 13 is politically dead on arrival because even liberal Californians understand that finding ways to give our politicians even more money is not the road to fiscal discipline.
Israel Should Be More Selective
In his usual artless way, Steve Greenberg has, in his June 15 cartoon, argued that, for the sake of consistency and decency, Israel is obligated to make itself the home of every would-be migrant who manages to cross its borders.
Permit us to deliver what will be news to Greenberg: The Muslim and other African migrants who have made it to Israel’s border have crossed through at least two Muslim countries and could have sought refuge in any of 50 or more African states. Instead, however, they have struggled to make it to Israel, which confronts more than enough serious challenges to its existence without this additional burden.
One can be, as we are, genuinely sympathetic to the struggle of people who are oppressed and those who merely seek a better life for themselves and their families without believing that that sympathy compels Israel (or the United States) to turn itself into the refuge for all these people and, so, commit national suicide.
Israel cannot become the life raft for the billion or so people of the African continent (to which Israel has and continues to make significant contributions).
Appreciation for Chabad’s Outreach Efforts
While I agree with the thesis of Rabbi Yanklowitz’s opinion piece, I fear it might widen an unfortunate chasm within campus outreach (“The Shame of Irresponsible Jewish Outreach,” June 15). I am an atheist raised in the Conservative movement. I observe holidays and rituals, am raising Jewish children and try all the time to do more tikkun olam. While an undergraduate at USC, I participated in Hillel events and continue to be in touch with that rabbi. But I found a real Jewish home at Chabad of USC, and I continue to have a home there even though I do not share many of the fundamental beliefs of the rabbi and rebbetzin [Dov Wagner and Runya Wagner]. In over a decade, I’ve never felt bullied, influenced in my intellectual belief or judged. I bring my non-Jewish partner (who is raising Jewish children) to their home and they welcome him. I can say with certainty that I practice more mitzvot because of the Wagners.
[Although] I now make my Jewish home at IKAR, I wonder sometimes if I would have had the dedication and drive to raise Jewish children if not for Chabad’s influence. Rabbi Yanklowitz ... cited practices that we all know are common to campus Chabad houses. I’ve no doubt that there are some kiruv practices that would make my blood boil, but I also believe that Chabad outreach does much more good than harm for Jews who come from and grow into a wide range of observance and practice.
Teen Philanthropy at Temple Emanuel
I applaud the Teen Philanthropy Movement for its new project (“Philanthropy Project Puts Teens in Charge,” June 8). Temple Emanuel pioneered a teen philanthropy called MATCH (Money and Teenagers Creating Hope) in 2003.
For these past 10 years, Temple Emanuel’s high-school students have been invited to serve as board members of an endowment fund of approximately $250,000 and to determine how to allocate its annual interest to organizations that make a difference in the world. Each year, the executive committee (made up of high-school seniors) refines the mission, determines the need that will be addressed, and sends a request for proposals to organizations working in that area.
The students study Jewish texts related to tzedakah, learn about the issue upon which they have chosen to focus by meeting with experts, and learn the skills necessary to be thoughtful philanthropist.
I’m sure our students would be delighted to meet with the students who participated in the first year of the Teen Philanthropy Movement to share their experience and to learn from each other.
Rabbi Sara Mason Barkin
The article “Fueling the jFed Generation” (June 1) said the national umbrella group Jewish Federations of North America is based in Washington. The group is based in New York.
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