May 8, 2008
The Shoah, Beit T’Shuvah, Clinton, Raphe and Szyk
How incredibly written was The Jewish Journal editorial ("Genocide 2.0," May 2). I had to read it three times because of its meaning and how you expressed what so many Jews seem afraid of doing: That although the Shoah, without any challenge, excruciatingly belongs to us, there have been and seem to always be never-ending holocausts in different parts of the world. "Never again" is our obligation to scream everywhere it's needed to be heard. It's our duty, our responsibility.
I know of the work that people like Ruth Messinger does. You performed a service by mentioning the organizations and individuals who do the same.
Thank you for reminding those who sometimes forget that "never forget" means just that, and we don't own it. Wouldn't it be something if all Independence Days were more than fireworks and flag waving; that celebrations of changes in mindsets and behavior would reflect the freedom all peoples deserve.
With my hopes that next year you don't have to reprint this marvelous editorial.
I was so happy to see "A Day in the Life at Beit T'Shuvah" on your cover (April 25). My daughter is a recovering addict from Beit T'Shuvah, and I can truly say they saved her life, as even when she relapsed they gave her a second chance.
Most of the centers I had researched looked more like private hospitals, and she had been in and out of several drug rehabilitation centers and had relapsed. I had no idea that Beit T'Shuvah existed, and I was very lucky when a friend suggested it, and seeing it for the first time and feeling the energy I felt in my heart, this was the right place.
Going to the services on a Friday night was a wonderful and enjoyable experience and brought me back to my Jewish roots. I learned a lot just by being the parent.
They have weekly meetings to give the families of the addicts emotional support -- God bless Elaine who ran them every week. Just to see families from all walks of life discuss our most intimate experiences gave us all strength to deal with functioning in the everyday world and not to blame ourselves. They taught us to leave our children at the door, not to interfere and let them do their work.
Thank you Rabbi Mark Borovitz and Harriet Rossetto for making this possible, and bless you both for doing this wonderful mitzvah for the lost people of this sometimes difficult and stressful life.
Thank you for giving me my daughter back.
As an alumnus of Beit T'Shuvah approaching 10 years of sobriety, I read your article, "House of Repentance," with great interest. However, I was saddened by the omission of Elaine Breslow's name from the article.
Elaine and her husband, Warren, whose names adorn the front of the main building of Beit T'Shuvah, have been community leaders for over a decade. Without their financial support and moral leadership, Beit T'Shuvah never would have grown from the unknown 32-person recovery home I attended to the large and well-known facility it is today.
On a personal note, Elaine saved the lives of myself and my family. I showed up on the doorstep of Beit T'Shuvah 10 years ago after having been kicked out of my parent's house as a 22-year-old that was spiritually empty and psychologically broken. Elaine took me under her wing as if I were her own son.
Elaine's patience, pragmatism, generosity and unique form of tough love saved my life. My relationship with my family has long since been repaired, and my life is filled with the joy of having a family of my own.
While small in stature, Elaine has been a giant to dozens of addicts and families whom she has touched in her special way. I, along with so many other alumni of Beit T'Shuvah, owe our lives to Elaine. Any mention of Beit T'Shuvah without mentioning Elaine Breslow fails to capture the essence of what Beit T'Shuvah represents and the role she has played in the lives of so many.
Bias Against Clinton
Amen to Gina Nahai's article on the bias exhibited by the media with regard to Hillary Clinton ("Diversity Lost," May 2).
Nahai is a wonderful writer whose book, "Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith," we read in our book club.
All my friends are outraged by the constant bias directed at Hillary Clinton, while giving a complete pass to Barack Obama, who apparently walks on water.
We have written to various news channels confronting this one-sided reporting to no avail.
The worst offenders are Chris Matthews and Keith Olberman of MSNBC and Dick Morris, a constant guest on Fox News and a one-time Clinton adviser. These include their panels of "experts." Pure venom.
To this list must be added Air America Radio, which was supposed to be an antidote to conservative radio and a new voice for the Democratic Party. The hateful comments by Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow are worse than anything I have ever heard on conservative radio and reason enough to start reconsidering what the Democratic Party stands for and what is democratic about it.
Jewish Film Festival
Your article gave a quick review of the film festival, mentioning "... eight venues on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley, announced executive director Hilary Helstein" ("Rivers, Refuseniks, Traitors Come Together at Fest," May 2).
Either Helstein left it out or you are not aware that there is, for the first time as part of the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, a showing of the film, "Eichmann," in Pasadena, of all places. Yes, and its proud sponsor is the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center
Please remember that we drive to the Westside or the San Fernando Valley to see films of interest. We would hope that readers in those areas would come to Pasadena to see something of interest.
"Eichmann" will be shown on Tuesday evening, May 13, at Laemmle's One Colorado.
Kudos to Tom Tugend (love his writing) on his article about the Arthur Szyk Haggadah ("The Art of the Seder," April 18). This haggadah is a significant part of our haggadah collection. We have owned it since before it went deluxe (1956).
There is one fact you should know. When Szyk came to the United States, he connected with a lithographer named Herman Jaffe. Jaffe was a member of the Forest Hills Jewish Center, where my husband, Rabbi Jacob Pressman, was a student rabbi while Rabbi BenZion Bokser was in the chaplaincy. This was in the late '40s.
Jaffe really put Szyk on the map with his magnificent printing of the haggadah and other of his works, including The Four Freedoms and a tribute to the establishment of Israel. Rabbi Pressman had the pleasure of visiting Szyk in his New York studio and watching him at work on his medieval-style, small-format work. Thought you would be interested in this additional history of Szyk
The Green Seder at the Workmens circle on 4/27/2008
I'm sick and tired of hearing about all the cutesy alternative sederim that people invent ("Black-Jewish Passover Not About Blame," April 25). They all miss the meaning of Passover and are foisted upon us by liberal rabbis of the Conservative and Reform movements, to whom the word "God" or the word of God seem to be either nonexistent or irrelevant.
In fact, having a Darfur, feminist, male, S&M or other equally inane theme with their oranges, coconuts and whatever other stupidity people can invent is a chillul Hashem (desecration of God's name). I even heard that there was an interfaith Muslim seder where the story of the Exodus was read from the Quran. Next we'll have a seder for bodybuilders with a barbell on the table.
All of these abominations completely miss the meaning of the Exodus from Egypt. Passover represents the beginning of the Jewish nation, which was culminated with the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai (Shavuos).
Passover is when the Jewish people expressed their faith in God by taking an Egyptian deity into their homes to eventually sacrifice it (The meaning of Shabbat Hagadol), and those who left showed faith in God to go and leave Egypt, something that 80 percent of the Jews did not do and were killed during the plague of darkness, and depend on God for their sustenance and protection.
The period between Passover and Shavuos (counting the Omer) is the time that the Jewish nation became spiritually ready to receive the Torah. The traditional haggadah details all this, and the seder ends with the hope of spiritual redemption with the coming of Moshiach.
David Sackman would do much better to end his seder with the traditional "Next Year in Jerusalem," instead of the noble sentiments he expressed about fighting for a decent world. In fact, he would be much better having a traditional Seder, as would all Jews.
Traditional Judaism fights for his sentiments every day. These sentiments should not be reserved for just two days out of the year and will only be achieved through the coming of Moshiach.
I have been following Raphael Sonenshein's calumnious columns for some time in which he rarely ceases an opportunity to bash the Bush administration and its policies ("The U.S. in the World: What's Best for Israel"). In his April 11 column, he continues his emotional far-left tirade of American torture of detainees, the president's disdain for world opinion, the world's disapproval of American policy and hatred of America, Bush's belligerence and his lack of diplomacy, singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."
Let's be clear. Sonenshein's simplistic, passivist views, admittedly shared by many, are neither new nor truthful. In times of conflict, extracting information is essential for self-defense. Obviously, torture is wrong, and it rightfully should be condemned for normative rules of combat. But there are exceptions.
When in the course of battle there is extraordinary reason to believe that a prisoner has information regarding the imminent welfare of many troops, it is imperative to extract this information. Many lives may depend on it. Whether or not there are laws forbidding torture, in the field, commanders must protect their troops and will use any means available to do so.
Consequences, if any, will have to wait for later. It is a far greater immorality to sacrifice our troops or innocent people for the sake of a suspected terrorist. War is hell.
As for world hatred of the United States, Bush's disdain and belligerence and his lack of diplomacy, all are untrue. To be sure, leftists of the world and Islamofascists and their sympathizers do hate America. However, most of the African nations, almost all of Europe and most of Asia and the democratic countries of Central and South America have great respect and admiration for us. If not, why is everyone trying to get into this country?
Lastly, the Bush administration is not calling to bomb Iran, although in the very near future we may have to take forceful methods, perhaps a blockade of the Strait of Hormuz may become necessary. The world cannot allow a terrorist regime to possess weapons of mass destruction. And contrary as stated, the Bush administration has been engaged in diplomacy in almost all parts of the conflicted world, yes even in Iran. This simplistic Bush bashing is neither constructive nor factual. It is lashon ha-ra (bad-mouthing) at its worst.
Charles P. Lefkowitz
Rancho Palos Verdes
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