Jewish Journal


February 19, 2009

Selling Off or Selling Out?;
Fifth District Race


Selling Off or Selling Out?
I was struck by Susan Freudenheim’s expression of heartfelt dismay about the decision of Brandeis University, her alma mater, to close the marvelous Rose Art Museum and sell some or all of its 7,000-piece art collection to deal with fiscal problems (“Selling Off or Selling Out?” Feb. 6). The choice to monetize art held in the public trust is indeed disturbing.

In a recent interview, Jonathan Lee, chairman of the Rose board of overseers and a firm opponent of the university’s plan, makes a statement that goes to the core of what’s at stake.

“The Rose is a cultural and an artistic legacy of post-World War II Jewry, who got over the shock of Hitler and World War II,” Lee said, “and pulled themselves up and made money and became philanthropic and culturally inclined; so they collected art, supported the university and gave it art. It’s a beautiful legacy.”

As I noted in the Los Angeles Times arts blog, Culture Monster, the historic relevance of this fact cannot be overstated. It represents a very specific refusal and restoration. Hitler’s Germany declared Jews to be vermin and Modern art to be degenerate.

What Lee evokes is a picture of postwar Jewish American cultural philanthropy enshrined at the Rose (as elsewhere) in a profound way. Dismantling this Modern art museum, built within a generation of the Holocaust at a progressive Jewish university, tears that achievement asunder.

Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times art critic

Fifth District Race
I hope you did not destroy David Vahedi’s council race by identifying him as the only non-Jew running (“Fifth District Race: You Can’t Be Too Jewish,” Feb. 13). After attending a candidate’s forum, I found him to be the most knowledgeable about the issues and the most substantive in his answers.

Carol Weiss, via e-mail

UCLA Gaza Symposium
Someone needs to get the message out to Chaim Seidler-Feller and David Myers that in case they were looking the other way, the left abandoned Jews and Israel a long time ago (“UCLA Symposium on Gaza Ignites Strong Criticism,” Feb. 13).

It should be no shock to anyone that the UCLA forum resembled a bizarre neo-Nazi/useful idiots convention. Rational and honest discussion is rapidly becoming a fossil on the university campus.

After Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980s, I was a grad student who witnessed dangerous fringe groups at both Boston University and Yale led by PLO sympathizer Edward Said, as well as leading socialist professors.

Their dangerous rhetoric has now metastasized and become part of the mainstream “intelligentsia.” Time to wake up and smell reality.

Richard Friedman, Los Angeles

Breed Street Shul
Thank you for the article by Lilly Fowler on the Breed Street Shul Project (“Neighbors’ Hopes Ride High for Historic Shul’s Revival,” Feb. 13).

As a postscript to the article, there’s recent significant progress to report:

In a comprehensive partnership with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, we’re engaged in strategic planning and a search for our first full-time professional staff, supported by The Federation and its Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund.

We’ve received grants toward seismic and roof repairs on the shul’s almost 100-year-old bais medrash (house of learning) from the Real Estate Principals Organization of The Federation’s Real Estate and Construction Division and from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment.

The Federation’s Community Pillar is also supporting us, as are volunteers from the Young Leadership Development Institute of the Real Estate and Construction Division.

In addition, we welcome the community to join the Consulate General of Israel’s celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s 61st Independence Day, at a Jewish-Latino-Israeli festival at the Breed Street Shul on Sunday, May 17.

Of course, much work on the Breed Street Shul Project remains to be done. We invite those interested in involvement opportunities to visit www.breedstreetshul.org, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or phone (323) 761-8950.

Stephen J. Sass, Breed Street Shul Project

Temple Ramat Zion
There was a brief in The Jewish Journal about Temple Ramat Zion’s breaking the contract of its rabbi, Michael Menitoff (“Ramat Zion Breaks Contract With Menitoff,” Jan. 30).

As an active member of the temple, a regular attendee of Shabbat services and a teacher in its Hebrew School for more than 14 years, I must reflect that the rabbi’s departure will be a staggering loss for the synagogue. For Rabbi Menitoff is truly a rabbi’s rabbi: a gifted teacher and dynamic preacher and a superb pastor, who harnesses his professional training as a psychotherapist, along with his rabbinic expertise, in serving the adults and children of the synagogue with selfless devotion.

While the president is quoted as describing the synagogue’s current financial challenges, unfortunately they are likely to be even greater, because large numbers of us, my own family included, will leave the temple and go elsewhere because of this terrible decision of the synagogue’s board.

The irony is that Rabbi Menitoff will urge us not to leave. That is indicative of his greatest virtue: He is a true mensch.

Sylvia Plotkins, via e-mail

New Study
We are conducting a study of intermarriage between Jewish and Asian Americans, focusing on the religious, ethnic and racial identities of these couples. This investigation is being carried out in collaboration with the Institute for Jewish and Community Research.

We are planning to be in Southern California in mid-March and are hoping to be able to interview couples in person at that time. We know that some of your paper’s readers fit this demographic, and we invite them to contact us if they would like to contribute to our research.

A detailed project description and link to a quick online survey can be found at: www.bechollashon.org/projects/asian_study.php.

Helen Kim, Noah Leavitt, Department of Sociology, Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.

Museum of Tolerance
The question identified in the article, “Is There No Other Site for a Museum of Tolerance?” (Feb. 13), might be asked about the Wiesenthal Center’s Los Angeles expansion plans, as well.

The issues are the same. Rabbi Marvin Hier wants to build something where, once they learn the truth, almost everyone else thinks he shouldn’t build it.

If others would do what he does (i.e., uproot Jewish graves to build an Arab museum or disturb Holocaust survivors with an inappropriate and disrespectful project), he would certainly protest.

But if the Wiesenthal Center is doing something, Hier rationalizes and offers excuses for doing what he wants and then stubbornly persists.

He doesn’t care what others think.

So in Jerusalem, he has disturbed the bones of dead Muslims. And here, he wants to disrupt the lives of living Jews.

Daniel J. Fink, Los Angeles

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