Jewish Journal


October 11, 2007

Yom Kippur showdown in Hancock Park—two Jews, two opinions

. . . and a link to obligatory opinion number three


Kol Nidrei Interruption
I am writing to express my concern with the tone of your coverage regarding recent events at Yeshivat Yavneh ("Call to City Inspectors Briefly Interrupts Kol Nidrei," Sept. 28).

The article seems to imply that this was an unfortunate incident in a long-playing zoning dispute. The fact that this "unfortunate incident" prompted an outraged mayor of the city of Los Angeles to personally visit the campus and take a very public stand in the media seems to indicate otherwise.

For the record, the property we purchased was not a "Tudor estate" residential property but rather was a pre-existing school.

It is therefore important that your readers share the outrage of our elected officials and realize the profound nature of this calculated sting on the holiest day of the Jewish year.

As noted by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on his visit to campus on erev Sukkot, the issue is religious freedom in the city of Los Angeles. No more, no less.

When city government can be co-opted in a religious vendetta by a vocal minority, something is seriously wrong. Something that as a broader Jewish community, we need to be all very concerned.

Fortunately, the mayor, along with Councilmen Tom LaBonge and Jack Weiss, have all responded in a very high-profile manner to launch an investigation as to how this level of religious insensitivity can infect City Hall. They, along with the Yeshivat Yavneh, are committed to work to improve relations in the Yavneh neighborhood and across the city.

We are optimistic that this incident will serve as a springboard to fostering better relations and religious tolerance in the city of Los Angeles. With community support and the support of our civic leaders, we continue to look, as we have for the past decade, for a spirit of cooperation from our Hancock Park neighbors, as well.

Barry Weiss
Yeshivat Yavneh

::::::::::::::::::::: Ed. Note: For an 'op-ed' essay on this issue, click here.


There has been a furor over the events that occurred at the Yavneh on Third and June streets. Since it seems to me only one point of view has been presented, I would like to offer another.

I am a person of Jewish heritage living in Hancock Park. My mother's family was murdered during the Holocaust, and I take the issue of anti-Semitism seriously. In this respect, I am similar to many of the people complaining about anti-Semitism in our neighborhood.

Here is how I am different from the people worshipping at the Yavneh on Yom Kippur: I was observing the holiest night of the Jewish year in a synagogue. I was not worshipping at a school, especially one whose owners had agreed to abide by restrictions prohibiting its use as a house of worship and specifically its use for such a purpose after 8 p.m.

The people worshipping at the school believe, as do I, that the Book of Life will seal one's fate for the year, based upon behavior that is ethical and fair.

And yet, they knowingly flouted such standards by violating the law. Then they labeled as anti-Semites those who asked them to observe the law!

Putting aside the hypocrisy implicit in their accusation, how do they think they can get away with it? The answer is simple. They know that the use of a buzzword like anti-Semitism will elicit the following reaction: The non-Jews will feel so uncomfortable; they will overreact by accepting what they've been accused of, without genuinely examining it. So, let's examine it now.

If the building inspectors had come to the Yavneh and the worshippers were not in violation of the permits they hold, this would have been a nonissue, because no one would have been there. There would have been no service to disrupt.

There should have been no service to disrupt. There should have been no service. Why is no one in City Hall making that fundamental observation?

Someone has to stop at some point and speak the obvious, or we are all -- Jew and non-Jew alike -- going to be accused of anti-Semitism if we ever have the temerity to disagree with anything the Orthodox community desires. We can't allow this to happen here.

This neighborhood belongs to us all equally. That means we all get the benefits of this wonderful community, but we all must obey its rules.

Karen Neigher
via e-mail

Wake-Up Call
As one of your non-Jewish (Catholic) readers, I actually prefer your paper to anything Catholic I receive.

Your column ("Realists," Sept. 28) was a much-needed wake-up call for the community. There genuinely are winds of change in the air.

It's gotten to the point where I am now daily hearing callers into right-wing talk radio shows speak of Israel with enough spite that it's clear that the opinion is laced with an anti-Semitic undercurrent. The callers generally seem to be on the left, but sometimes the rhetoric emanates from a caller on the right.

Name Withheld Upon Request

Ethiopian Jewry
I am compelled to respond to the article in Sept. 21 edition, which was written by Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, titled, "Finding Our Fourth."

I have a great respect for rabbis, and with all due respect, Rabbi Kanefsky is misinformed about our Ethiopian Jewish history. He wrote "... about Barbara Ribakove who years ago, when no one had even heard of Ethiopian Jewry, created the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry, which had aided in every aspect of Ethiopian aliyah, or immigration, to Israel."

We Ethiopian Jews have been known by world Jewry for the past several-hundred years. We have had many helpful benefactors and organizations, including professor Joseph Halevy in the 19th century and his student, Dr. Jacques Faitlovich, in the early 20th century, among others, who assisted in reuniting our community with world Jewry and in our aliyah to Israel. One such organization operating here in America as late as the 1960s through the 1980s was the American Association for Ethiopian Jews, which was very active toward our community's aliyah. The North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry appeared on the scene in the 1980s.

Dr. Habtnesh Ezra
Los Angeles

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