October 9, 2003
Readers of David Finnigan's article, "Just a Peace Rally? Read the Fine Print," (Sept. 26), may have been left with the erroneous impression that the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) did not support the recent "End the Occupation" rally in Hollywood primarily "out of respect for" Rosh Hashanah. This is incorrect. While PJA indeed has a policy of not sponsoring or endorsing events that fall on Shabbat or Jewish holidays, this was not our primary concern in this instance.
There were far more compelling reasons for us to stay away from this rally. Foremost among them was the fact that PJA is a Zionist organization. As such, we would never participate in an anti-Israel rally convened by virulently anti-Zionist organizations like International ANSWER. In fact, as a Jewish voice in the progressive community, PJA is an outspoken and leading critic of the unfortunate presence of some of these organizations in the wider anti-war movement.
Daniel Sokatch, Executive Director Progressive Jewish Alliance
Turn the Tide
Thank you for your plea for more inclusiveness and acceptance of diversity within our Jewish community ("Turn the Tide," Sept. 26). As a Jew who was brought up without any knowledge of my identity and having lived as a Catholic for many years before finally reclaiming my lost heritage, I find that the thing I love most about being a Jew is the fact that I can argue with God, with my rabbi and with other Jews -- and still remain a Jew. There is a place for all of us somewhere within our Jewish community. As a Catholic, any deviation from strict dogma would have gotten me excommunicated.
But there is a price to pay for this freedom. As a member of two Jewish speakers bureaus, I meet members of many Jewish groups not only here in Los Angeles but across the United States and often come face to face with the kind of prejudice, exclusion and personal rejection within Jewish communities you described in your editorial.
We need more of the kind of interaction and dialogue championed by Rabbi Harold Schulweis, bringing together not only members of diverse Jewish groups but of other religions, for respectful meaningful dialogues. How sad it would be to remain so isolated from one another, because there are so few of us!
You have brought this problem to our attention and that will, hopefully, help to turn the tide.
Trudi Alexy, Los Angeles
The article by Avraham Burg, the former speaker of the Knesset, in your Rosh Hashanah edition contained this remarkable sentence: "Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism" ("Leaders Stay Silent as Israel Collapses," Sept. 26). How can this sentence alone and in the context of the entire article be interpreted as anything other than an apologetic and justification for suicide bombings?
Herbert Roth, via e-mail
The critics of what Avraham Burg said in the Sept. 26 issue, and the article several weeks before, have, I believe, missed the point. The point here is that we can no longer point the finger outside at the Palestinians as the root of all our troubles, particularly at this time of the year. Our tradition demands of us that we reflect on us, not on "others," not even God. We may wrestle with God, but in the end it's our own self that we must do battle with, every day. That I believe is what Burg, by his writings, is asking of us.
Bruce F. Whizin, Sherman Oaks
Ed note: See Arthur Cohn's response to Burg, page 10.
Cantor Turns Rabbi
We applaud the impact that Cantor Mark Goodman has had on Valley Beth Israel and we're proud that he has chosen the Academy for Jewish Religion to pursue his rabbinic studies. However, a point in "Cantor Turns Rabbi to Save Synagogue" (Sept. 26) requires clarification. Rather than simply a "rabbinic college," the academy is both a rabbinical and cantorial seminary. Indeed, our cantorial school is the only such program west of the Hudson River. It was established precisely because we recognize the integral role that cantors play in the life of a congregation.
Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, Dean of the Rabbinical School
Cantor Nate Lam, Dean of the Cantorial SchoolAcademy for Jewish Religion Los Angeles
Rabbi Shneur Zalman Schmukler asks why, when chickens are being slaughtered all the time in Los Angeles, do people criticize the chicken-swinging ritual of kaparos ("Human Atonement or Animal Cruelty?" Oct. 3). One reason is that the ritual and the complacent rhetoric of the practitioners toward the chickens are inimical to making life a blessing for ourselves, for those around us and for God's other creatures. The "kind attributes" ascribed to God by Schmukler are withheld from the victims of kaparos. That this cruel ritual is a medieval custom, not a Jewish law, makes it even more reprehensible.
Karen Davis , President United Poultry Concerns Machipongo, Va.
In "Survivor Descendant Convention to be Held in Los Angeles" (Sept. 12), Dr. Florabel Kinsler and Dr. Sarah Moskovitz are not survivors of the Shoah.