January 30, 2003
Army of One
In "An Army of One" (Jan. 24), The Jewish Journal states, "he can count the times he's missed a deadline on the fingers of one hand." It should have read, "Army Archerd has never missed a deadline in 50 years writing his column at Daily Variety."
Army Archerd, Los Angeles
David Bianco's misleading statement that "the Levitical proscription of mishkav zachar (homosexual relations) has always been understood to refer to a specific kind of male-male sexual intercourse," meaning a promiscuous, multipartner lifestyle, begs clarification ("Gay Halacha," Jan. 17).
There is scant commentary in the classic sources on what type of homosexuality the Torah proscribes. Scripture simply prohibits a man lying with another man "as with a woman." To extrapolate that the Torah couldn't possibly be referring to monogamous homosexual relationships by virtue that they didn't exist in biblical times is not only pure speculation, it's tantamount to suggesting that because guns didn't exist in biblical times, only murder with knives and spears is proscribed by the Torah.
Further, the description of male homosexuality appears together scripturally with prohibitions against incest and bestiality. May we understand that if a brother and sister wish to engage in a monogamous, nonexploitive, lifelong commitment to each other, this, too, is acceptable?
While I sympathize with the moral quandary the Conservative movement finds itself in, you simply can't have your cake and eat it, too. At least the Reform movement's approach makes more sense. The Central Conference of American Rabbis states the reason to sanction homosexuality isn't based on a redefinition of the words mishkav zachar. Instead, they argue, the changing moral fabric of our society -- and not the Torah -- defines what should and shouldn't be considered immoral.
While this line of reasoning is completely untenable to all who believe that the Torah is God's word, it's at least more intellectually honest than the Conservative position, because it doesn't read into the biblical text what's not there. Empathy and love must be shared with every Jew; but at the end of the day, Orthodoxy's loyalty to the holy text perpetuates the integrity of our tradition.
Rabbi Daniel Korobkin , Kehillat Yavneh
As a proud father of two wonderful lesbian daughters, I found it encouraging to read that some rabbis are seeking to challenge the Conservative movement's 1992 "consensus statement" prohibiting commitment ceremonies between homosexuals and barring them from being ordained as rabbis ("A Conservative Challenge," Jan. 17).
The consensus statement, while acknowledging that homosexuality is not understood, places modern Conservative Jews in the position of accepting ancient Jewish law declaring homosexual activity to be an abomination (Leviticus 20:13).
Perhaps what we actually need to do is question long-standing prejudices and look around. We just might see lots of good, kind, capable, hard-working, normal human beings who happen to have different sexual orientations.
Is it right to condemn them? Is it fair to deny them the opportunity to advance to positions open to others? Is it fair to prevent them from entering into committed relationships blessed by their religion?
I can only hope that the Conservative movement's law committee rabbis will look as closely at people as they do at ancient scripture. If so, they may see the bright minds and warm faces of my daughters and others like them. Perhaps then, they will issue a new consensus statement that recognizes that gays and lesbians are equal in status with other Jews.
David B. Michels, Encino
As a Conservative rabbi, Julie Gruenbaum Fax's article on homosexuality and the Conservative movement raised two concerns for me.
On a personal note, I really object to the fact that whenever I read about Rabbi Benay Lappe, her sexual orientation is her greatest claim to fame. Lappe is first and foremost a Talmud scholar and a teacher. I would take great umbrage if you began your articles about me with reference to my heterosexuality. I would hope that my sexual orientation would be far less important than my contribution to Judaism as a rabbi.
Second, and of far greater importance, is the bias in the article that in order for things to change, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) and the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) will need to address the issue of rabbinic ordination for homosexuals. To me this is an elitist approach, adopted by the Reform movement, which is bound for failure. If the lay people who run synagogue boards are not addressed, than even if the Conservative movement seminaries ordain deserving gays and lesbians, they are not likely to find jobs in synagogues after ordination. Those gay colleagues who mistakenly think it is now safe to "come out" may find that their contracts are not renewed.
I doubt many lay leaders nor religious school students are familiar with the opinions or teshuvot (repentance) of rabbis Elliot Dorff and Bradley Artson on the issue of homosexuality. To force this issue from above is wrong and a lot of people will be hurt or alienated. Change of this magnitude must come from lay leadership. If it were just up to the RA and CJLS, I doubt we would be enjoying the great blessing which has come with the ordination of women as rabbis. It took the strength and determination of the Jews in the pews.
Rabbi Michael S. Beals, B'nai Tikvah Congregation Westchester
Your recent article on the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA) emphasized the new centers in Long Beach and Orange County and incorrectly implied that there are no plans to rejuvenate the Los Angeles centers ("Redefining Its Role, Jan. 24). On the contrary, we have already raised more than $5 million of a $14 million campaign for the complete renovation of the Westside JCC.
The renovations will include inviting outdoor spaces, new early childhood classrooms, an arts and culture performance center, upgraded aquatics and fitness center, a cafe and the Jewish Adventure Zone, an innovative indoor activity space for children. We expect to begin construction in summer 2004 and reopen the center at the end of 2005.
Within five years of opening, we expect that more than 8,000 people will be members of the Westside JCC. An additional 5,000 to 10,000 nonmembers will use ourfacilities and services on a fee basis.
The new Westside JCC will be a center worthy of our world-class city and will rank among the finest centers in the country. It will also stand as proof of the commitment of JCCGLA and its affiliated centers to renovate or build the centers our growing community needs. We encourage the community to join us in building for the future.
Virginia Maas, JCCGLA Capital Campaign Chair
Nancy Bell , Westside JCC Capital Campaign Chair
Robert Sax, North Hollywood
We used to have a JCC in the South Bay with a relatively large number of members, who paid yearly dues, which were forwarded to the JCCGLA organization (Letters, Jan. 10).
The JCC board was composed of volunteers who developed and implemented programs and services for the South Bay community.
When the JCCGLA board unilaterally dismantled our organization, they promised that they would send a "program manager" from Los Angeles to offer services to the South Bay. This never took place, the new programs never came and the ongoing programs were eliminated. Most South Bay Jews stopped paying JCC fees.
Obviously, this centralized organization is not effective, and localized independent efforts merit support and development.
If the JCCGLA really "looks forward to continuing to serve the fast-growing and diverse Jewish population of Los Angeles for many years to come," it needs to learn from its mistakes and to listen to the local communities, which as diverse as they are, have different demographics, economic means and varied needs.
Gaston Bernstein, Torrance
Obesity Weighs Heavily
"Obesity Weighs Heavily on Jews" was an interesting article offering a spiritual take on obesity and Jews (Jan. 24). I have a slightly different take on the concept that to maintain a healthy weight you have to overcome the yetzer hara (evil inclination). As a doctor of public health and a weight-control coach, I have been inspired by the wisdom of the human body and by the spiritual experience of being able to listen to your "miraculous" body.
One of the miracles is the existence of a "flavor-ometer" that is turned on by hunger hormones and turned off when our stomachs are full and our blood sugar rises. This finding supports what many naturally slim people already know, food tastes best when you're truly hungry. By eating when you get hungry, until the flavor fades, you can control your weight in a more fluid, effortless way, much the way you listen to your body tell you when to breathe. Of course, eating is more emotionally charged than breathing for most of us, and often the hardest part is knowing the difference between physical and emotional hunger. And yet, by turning yourself over to a higher power you can receive this wisdom and control your weight more effortlessly.
Dr. Lauren Outland , Santa Monica
Judy Gruen wrote on a subject that is important, not only for Jews but all Americans. However, as a secular Jew, I am deeply offended and troubled by the illustrations. (A gym -- full of Chasidic men working out in their Sabbath garments, including shtrammels.) They are depicted with their pointed shoes, pointed chins and long noses. If this were to appear in the Los Angeles Times, or any non-Jewish publication, there would be an uproar. This is a perfect example of Jewish self-hatred.
For a responsible Jewish newspaper you are contributing to the anti-Semitism amongst Jews and others with these illustrations. Why not illustrate a man from Florida with white shoes and belt, loud shirt, and a 48-inch waist? Incidentally, many of the Chasidim that I know are trim and fit. Many of the women, after giving birth to seven, eight or more children and rearing them, look radiant, energetic, thin and beautiful.
If we are not careful we will be successful where our enemies throughout history have failed.
Steve Waterman, Woodland Hills
In the article "Moonves: No Sympathy for Hitler" (Jan. 24) you quote him as saying: "Clearly the whole thing ends when Hitler has taken total power of the country [Germany] in 1938 on the eve of World War II."
That is incorrect, Hitler took power in Germany in 1933. In 1938 he annexed Austria. If he misspoke or was misquoted I can forgive him. Otherwise, I question his knowledge of German history during the Hitler regime. I was in Austria in 1938 when Hitler took over.
Manfred Rosenfeld, Calabasas