January 23, 2003
A Conservative Challenge
In our studies at Beth Chayim Chadashim's (BCC) Queer Jewish Think Tank, we are not throwing out the halacha, nor are we bending and twisting the texts to suit our own devices ("A Conservative Challenge," Jan. 17).
BCC and Rabbi Lisa Edwards are at the forefront of this exploration and are 100 percent committed to the full integration and acceptance of gay Jews within Judaism.
To relegate a Reform synagogue to the sidelines in this globally impacting discussion and to discount the essential importance of BCC, a 30-year-old gay synagogue, by not consulting them for your "Out of the Closet" issue, is shortsighted at the very least.
There is a danger in leaving the entire halachic, Talmudic and Tanachic "playing-field" to those who dwell "inside the box." Other voices must be listened to and those other voices do have a great deal to say.
Melanie Henderson, Los Angeles
Thank you for your excellent article covering the controversy within the Conservative movement about the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. However, I wish to take strong exception to the comments of Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, who said that ordaining gays and performing commitment ceremonies for us would fracture the movement.
The movement is already fractured. I was raised in a Conservative home, and my grandfather was one of the founders of the movement in Chicago.
As a gay man I am a second-class citizen, my relationship of 20 years unrecognized, my learning unimportant. In many Conservative shuls, I am not welcome in positions of leadership or for honors on the bimah.
Like so many other gay folk, I have joined the Reform movement where I am much more welcome, although my practice and beliefs are more in line with Conservative ideology. I guess I just don't count when it comes to assessing what is happening in the Conservative movement.
It's already fractured, rabbi. Open your eyes and watch the people leave that you have driven out.
Avram Chill, Silver Lake
Plant a Tree, Save a Car
Rob Eshman's logic on oil is a little slippery ("Plant a Tree, Save a Car," Jan. 17). If it is in the Jewish interest to reduce dependence on Arab oil, then why not support tapping into domestic sources of energy as well as conservation?
Environmentalists, who seem to oppose all oil drilling anywhere in America, share the blame with SUV owners for fattening the Saudi bank accounts that find their way to terrorist groups.
Conservation and new technologies are important, but like it or not the U.S. economy is going to need a lot of oil for many years to come.
The United States (and Jewish interests) cannot afford to declare these energy sources off-limits due to the childish, fanatical mindset of many environmentalists.
Frederick Singer, Huntington Beach
In reading Rob Eshman's article, "Send Troops" (Jan. 10), I am greatly disappointed in his apparent lack of understanding of the realities of the world situation. The worst idea that could be proposed is for the United States to send troops to Israel to serve as a buffer. I shudder to think of what the fallout would be from U.S. troops killing Israelis trying to break up a firefight between Israel and the Palestinians, especially if it was perceived as intentional. And if U.S. troops, acting as buffers, don't try to intercede, why would Israel need a buffer force?
Emanuel R. Baker, Los Angeles
From L.A. to Tel Aviv
In David Margolis' story about The Federation's Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership ("From L.A. to Tel Aviv -- A Partnership That Works," Jan. 3) he did not distinguish between projects, which are conceived, developed and executed by the Partnership's staff and lay committees, and those in which the Partnership is a partial source of funding for implementing projects of independent institutions with goals that complement and reinforce those of the Partnership. The Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity is one such independent institution.
One example of the center's recent work is "The Dybbuk" project, a two-year-old, ongoing three-way collaborative effort among the Tel Aviv University and UCLA theater departments and the Center, with each institution providing the talents of its respective artists in the creation of a pioneering world-class contemporary dramatic musical work based on a Jewish classic.
Despite the article's unfortunate omission of the Center, we look forward to continue sharing the Center's accumulated experience and expertise in developing and strengthening Israeli-Diaspora relations through Jewish culture in the communities of Tel Aviv and Los Angeles, and to involving the Partnership in future Center initiatives directed toward shared goals.
John H. Rauch, President Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity
David Margolis' otherwise comprehensive article missed one of the more ambitious projects which is currently being explored by the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership of The Jewish Federation. That is, the attempt to create in Tel Aviv a legal services agency modeled after Bet Tzedek Legal Services. Bet Tzedek is the only Jewish organization in the country that is dedicated to providing free legal services to the poor, elderly and disabled members of the community, covering a wide variety of legal areas. Further, it is the only organization to provide free assistance to, and representation of, Holocaust survivors in applying for reparations and other available programs.
Tel Aviv has a significant indigent population who have virtually no access to the legal system and is very much in need of an organization like Bet Tzedek. We hope this project will take root and come to fruition during the coming year.
Stanley Kandel, President , Board of Directors Bet Tzedek Legal Services
I would like to thank Rachel Brand for the thoughtful and comprehensive article about the Second Generation ("Support Group Helps Second Generation," Dec. 27). In addition, I would like to clarify a few minor points. Many Second Generation individuals have achieved fully actualized lives, successfully incorporating the lessons learned at home to become some of the most productive members of our community.
The goals of our organization now are to provide a supportive environment where those who share our legacy can exchange ideas and feelings about their heritage. We promote Holocaust education and memorialization, foster an understanding of the implications of the lessons of the Holocaust on society and support both the State of Israel and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.
Dr. Morry Waskberg, Vice President
I wanted to thank you for writing such a sensitive and caring article about the noble organization Second Generation and survivors of the Holocaust, especially now when so many people that I know and work with try and say that the Holocaust never existed and that it's only a big lie created by Jews.
Some day, people like the doctor you interviewed won't be around to tell their story or their parents' story. And the people who say the Holocaust was a lie and that Jews were never singled out and murdered will win the public over with their lies.
Name Withheld by Request, Los Angeles
Lowering the Bar
Thank you Gary Wexler ("A Plea to Lower the Bar on Bar Mitzvahs," Jan. 10) for openly saying what too many of us do not have the courage to say when it comes to extravagant, vulgar, inappropriate, hedonistic, tasteless parties that have come to define the terms bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah all too often.
Wexler's article should be required reading for every Jewish parent of children 10 and older. It should be sent by synagogues and rabbis to parents and children. It should be given to every parent when the bar mitzvah date is given. I hate to use the term "silent majority," but I hope there is one, and that more parents develop the character to do the right thing and not succumb to peer pressure, social pressure or their children's whiney demands.
Howard M. Fields, Hidden Hills
My response to the Shalom Center ad (Jan. 17) and to Rob Eshman's recent plea to be allowed to present all points of view is this: Auschwitz is the lesson to Jewry from those who refused to stand up and fight Hitler. The destruction of Israel by nuclear-tipped scuds will result from Shalom Center "peaceniks" sitting comfortably in the Diaspora while urging other Jews to do likewise rather than confront the Iraqi enemy.
Peaceniks, among other appeasers, pushed Israel down the primrose path to Oslo and toward today's Palestinian suicide bombing turkey shoot. The Shalom Center purposefully ignores the lesson of WWII and the graves of 6 million Jews. We who fought Nazism in the military vow "never again." Jews must ignore the peacenik guilt trip and rise to the needs of Israel's survival should the hostile Arab world get nuclear weapons.
Jerry Green, Los Angeles