November 7, 2002
When Shepherds Desert
Joel Kotkin misses the mark in his critique of rabbis who oppose Valley secession ("When Shepherds Desert Their Flocks," Nov. 1). Kotkin writes, "it seems unlikely that most of our esteemed, prominent rabbis ever really considered the arguments of the pro-secession forces."
I spent more than 12 months doing exactly that as a member of the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders and its secession-working group. We pored through thousands of pages of data and heard testimony from demographers, business leaders, social welfare advocates, ethicists and pro- and anti-secession forces. We toured neighborhoods in Pacoima and Van Nuys, and listened to the needs and concerns of area residents.
I write these words on the eve of the Nov. 5 election. If the pollsters are to be believed, Valley secession will be soundly defeated tomorrow, and Jewish voters will vote overwhelmingly to preserve a united Los Angeles.
Sorry Joel, on this issue rabbis and their congregants are in sync and in the right!
Rabbi Mark S. Diamond Executive Vice President The Board of Rabbis of Southern California
While I am sympathetic to some of Joel Kotkin's points, I object to the tone of his article, which I found to be a rude tirade. Even the purported irresponsibility of some of our rabbis does not excuse the blatant irresponsibility of Kotkin's mode of discourse.
But we've seen this before. This article was a more rancorous restatement of his essay "Religion, Rabbis, and Reform" (March 1). I could excuse your printing a mean-spirited article once, but twice-and even worse than before? Something is wrong here.
David E. S. Stein, Redondo Beach
In our view, rabbis would not be doing their jobs if they did not speak out on public issues of moral import. Congregants expect their rabbis to interpret contemporary issues through the lens of Jewish tradition and experience, even if those teachings are not always popular. Rabbi Stephen S. Wise did so on organized labor, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel did so on civil rights and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath did so on the Vietnam War. Come to think of it, so did Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah.
Esther Saritzky President
Rabbi Alan Henkin Regional Director Pacific Southwest Council Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Invest in Community
Michael Kaminsky ("Invest In Your Community," Nov. 1) has a wonderful my-cup-is-half-full attitude regarding the Jewish Community Centers (JCC) in the Los Angeles area. Yes, it has been a year since the financial crisis hit the Westside JCC and other JCCs in our area. Unfortunately, the events that transpired thereafter have served to turn senior citizens, such as myself, and many others away from providing support to the Jewish community. We no longer have faith in the so-called leadership and power structure controlling the Jewish community. The result has been that many of us no longer contribute either funds or effort to what should be good causes.
George Epstein, Los Angeles
Downside to Literacy
Parenthood is not about forcing our children to read at age 3 ("The Downside to Literacy," Nov. 1). It is about helping them to discover who they are and what their soul's purpose is in this life.
It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children how to live in the world as moral, caring people, and in our case, good Jews.
I would suggest that Viva Hammer stop worrying about her daughter, Bruria, being the scholar she may have hoped her to be, and let her be who she is meant to be. Read to her, expose her to the wonders of the world and let her own soul take flight. Nurture her and love her for who she is. You can give her no better gift.
Sandra E. Block, Los Angeles
I was a bit disappointed that Mike Levy's article on "Judges Facing Judgment Day" (Nov. 1) didn't mention Judith Ashmann, a solid close friend of the Jewish community, a Jew and an active participant in Jewish community affairs.
Michael Hirschfeld Executive Director Jewish Community Relations Committee
Censoring Mr. Spock
My sister, my father and I went to the Skirball Museum the other day. The first exhibit we saw as we walked into the museum were photographs taken from Leonard Nimoy's book of photographs ("Censoring Mr. Spock," Nov. 1). The photographs depict a stark naked woman in various poses wearing nothing but tefillin.
I discussed this with my daughter and she said we live in America where people practice freedom of expression. I understand this, but where is respect for the holy symbols of our culture, where is our sense of dignity and pride in who and what we are? At what point do people say, "I can do what I want, but I will leave something of value to humanity that will be an inspiration and an asset." The photos are offensive to the senses and are a perversion of Judaic teaching.
Miriam Fiber, Los Angeles
Not Easy Being Gifted
Given the level of education, income and expectations of the "average" day school parent, it is safe to conclude that our day schools are full of gifted and highly gifted students ("It's Not That Easy Being Gifted," Oct. 25). Also, given the high number of acceptances our students receive to prominent high schools and distinguished colleges, it is safe to conclude that our day schools are doing a fine job of educating our gifted students. Any Reform, Conservative or Orthodox Jewish day school worth its accreditation, makes every effort to meet the needs of each and every one of its students. To conclude, based on one parent's critique, that the Jewish day school system, enrolling approximately 5,000 students, has failed is irresponsible and without merit.
Sari Goodman Director General Studies Emanuel Academy of Beverly Hills
Hebrew School Horror Stories
The humorous anecdotes in last week's article about Hebrew school horror's belie the fact that today more than ever, Hebrew school teachers fight an uphill battle to make Judaism "fun" ("Hebrew School Horror Stories," Oct. 25). The ever-increasing demands of extracurricular activities on our children's time make attendance at Hebrew school a difficult chore at best. I often wonder if requiring kids to attend Hebrew school while their friends from school are engaged in more "fun" activities in fact has the effect of generating a future generation of Jewish anti-Semites.
Edith Ellenhorn , Beverly Hills
Perhaps, your headline writer and I read different articles but from what I saw "Hebrew School Horror Stories" was exactly the wrong title to give your cover story. The situation in Hebrew Schools has changed and was clearly reflected by two of the teachers who, I am proud to say, work for me at the Sinai Temple Religious School. Both of them, like their colleagues in the story and around the country, work very hard to ensure that their students have educational, interesting and even fun experiences at Hebrew school.
Michael Raileanu, Valley Glen
Although the content of your "Hebrew School Horror Stories" article was meant to be a comparison of Hebrew school experiences "then and now," with an emphasis on how they are better now, I was "horrified" by your cover! The title and illustrations, although humorous, encourages a very negative stereotype of Hebrew school. The Jewish Journal can be seen on display all over Los Angeles. Not everyone who scans the cover is a reader of the publication. Anyone seeing that cover, who did not take the time to read the story, would presume that Hebrew school, which most of us, these days, call religious school, is something worth keeping your kids out of at all costs. In the future, I hope you will consider the effect of your cover headlines on the masses for whom that message may be the total of their news about the Jewish community.
Ellen Goldberg Religious School Director Temple Isaiah Los Angeles
As director of a religious school in the San Fernando Valley, working to change the ways in which parents and students perceive the afternoon Hebrew school, I was indeed horrified to pick up my Oct. 25 issue of The Journal and see blazoned across the cover: "Hebrew School Horror Stories." Quickly flipping through the paper to find the article, I was somewhat relieved to see the sub-headline: "The institution ... has come a long way, baby."
Having read the article, though, I am still left with the sense that Sharon Rosenthal barely scratched the surface. Religious schools and afternoon Hebrew schools have come a long way in the past 40 years. Today's Jewish educators present students with a variety of innovative and engaging programs within both formal and informal settings.
Family Jewish education, one popular method utilized in our school, not only extends classroom learning into the home, but engages parents in understanding our Jewish experience in a way they may have not embraced years ago because, per your article, they were too busy traumatizing their teachers! I am disappointed in The Journal and its flagrant sensationalism on a slow news week and hope that this does not set back our efforts in the field.
Miriam Berk Director of Formal and Informal Education Adat Ari El Synagogue
College Ad Misses the Point
I read the article, "College Ad Misses the Point" by Sussanah Heschel, and I admit I am appalled by her attitude ("College Ad Misses the Point," Oct. 25). Although Heschel describes herself as a Zionist Jew, her attitude shows otherwise.
One has to wonder why Heschel doesn't complain about Yasser Arafat's human rights violations. Since 1948, the Arab world has portrayed the Palestinian Arabs as the underdog. In fact, these Arab brothers have treated the Palestinian people as dogs. Rich Arab nations never working to improve the Arab-Palestinians conditions, but rather maintaining and increasing their very destitution as to use their own people as pawns.
Has Heschel forgotten that since Arafat took over, the Palestinian Authority has accepted billions of dollars in donations? Please explain to me where all these funds have gone. The money ended up in Arafat's and his regime's bank accounts and was used to buy bombs and suicide murdering terrorists.
There is one other tiny little fact you are missing Would you look at a map and compare the size of Israel to its Arab neighbors?
Razly Miles , Culver City