July 10, 2003
River of Hope
Rob Eshman writes about the "River of Hope" (June 27) coinciding with my hope. I am happy that COEJL is working to revive the river and beautify our environment.
How about a walk by the river, from the West Valley to the sea? My letter to you may encourage more people to get the itch and volunteer in helping make our living environment people friendly.
Agnes B. Goodman, Woodland Hills
Editor's note: COEJL can be reached at www.coejl.org .
As an African American convert who has studied in yeshiva, both in New York and in Jerusalem, I have come to love Israel in both the geographic and national sense. However, there are some things that need to be said that no one is saying, and I think I need to be the one ("An Unorthodox View of Who's Orthodox," June 20).
I am really bothered by the separation of camps: Reform vs. Reconstructionist vs. Conservative vs. Orthodox vs. Lubavitch vs. Ashkenazi vs. Sephardi vs. religious vs. nonreligious. It never ends.
Twelve tribes walked out of Egypt, along with a multitude of others. All of them were equally present at Sinai, and all were given the same Torah. But we look at each other as if somehow one is less than or greater than the other.
I believe we need to learn to appreciate the value each of us has to offer, religious or not, Ashkenazi or Sephardi and, yes, rich or poor. If we can get past our differences and start focusing on what we have in common, "Am Yisrael Chai" would be more than just a refrain to a popular song. It would be an insurmountable truth that would surely cause the heavens to open up with blessings for us all.
Gary Hall , Los Angeles
Piece of the Pie
Kudos to Tom Tugend for opening up a subject that many of us who toil in development in the Jewish community have agonized over for a long time ("Why Aren't Jews Giving to Jews," June 27).
Thank God there is a flip side. At Bar-Ilan University, we are building a new campus (a virtual minicity) with magnanimous and visionary donations by powerful Los Angeles Jews who "slice the pie" very differently.
Suggestion for Part II, Tom: The dismal failure of the power elite of Hollywood Jews to identify with Israel at all, let alone give from their own deep pockets during this crucial time. But that story could take more space than The Journal's 48 pages.
Ron Solomon, Executive Director West Coast Friends of Bar-Ilan University
Tom Tugend's article was a mind-opener. Tugend was on point with one particular sentence. When discussing why Jews give less to Jews, he wrote, "One fairly obvious cause is the unstoppable integration of Jews into the general American society."
This suggests that as Jews move away from Jewish practice, the less they support Jewish institutions.
Tugend did not apply this analysis specifically to the Orthodox community. In the Orthodox community, it is the mega-rich who seem to support the institutions.
Since the Orthodox community cannot rely on meaningful assistance from The Federation, it is incumbent on the Orthodox community to rely on its own. Since many Orthodox Jews struggle just to keep their kids in yeshiva, it is up to the mega-rich Orthodox Jews to support the institutions. And they do.
The difference is the difference between charity and tzedakah. As Jews abandon their Jewish practice, they see giving to the poor as charity. When they feel like it, they give.
Orthodox Jews, on the other hand, give to the needy because of the mitzvah from God. Thus, they give because they have to, not because they feel generous. Jewish practice is the answer.
Alan M. Goldberg, Lawyer
Rather than being "actively involved in the community," or taking the kids on a trip to Israel, teaching children about Judaism (preferably in a day school setting) will guarantee we continue to have a Jewish community. Support for Jewish institutions and Israel will follow.
Mary Pinkerson, Long Beach
In "Jewish Churchgoers on the Rise" (June 6) Gaby Wenig wrote about some Jews who believe that they benefit -- as Jews -- from attending a liberal Methodist church in Santa Monica. It's worth mentioning that this phenomenon works both ways!
A few years ago, I knew a liberal Methodist minister who was a very happy, dues-paying member of a synagogue in Baltimore. (By virtue of the fact that her spouse is Jewish, she was eligible to join the congregation.) On several occasions, she told me how wonderful it was to attend Shabbat morning services there.
In short, we now live in a world wherein some Jews find that attending church makes them better Jews, while some Christians find that attending synagogue makes them better Christians. This is not only ironic, but also it challenges preconceived notions of what's possible (for most of us, anyway), so I am grateful that you brought the matter to your readers' attention. That's journalism at its best.
David E.S. Stein, Redondo Beach
I am a member of Mishkon Tephilo, an egalitarian, participatory Conservative synagogue located just three blocks south of the church in Ocean Park. I was disheartened to read about the Jews who have not found the community and spirituality they seek in a synagogue, particularly since I know that that is Mishkon Tephilo's specialty.
One look at our 1948 building would tell them that we completely lack an "edifice complex," despite congregants of all ages (and several races), including an unusual number of singles, there is not a macher in sight.
Instead, we have a rabbi who is congenitally incapable of not adding a third part of harmony to the congregation's already rocking multipart singing; a large cadre of congregants capable of leading services, including chanting Torah and Haftarah, and a kiddush so friendly that people not only talk to newcomers, they might even invite them home for Shabbat lunch, as happened the first time I attended Mishkon.
Phyllis Sorter, Santa Monican