December 11, 2003
Michael Berenbaum, in his article "In 2003, We Are Strong" (Dec. 5), correctly points out that the situation today is considerably different from that in the 1930s. However, he is incorrect that no one currently in power has the ability for a Hitler-like final solution and Berenbaum ignores other factors which make this an incredibly dangerous time for Israel, and in turn, for Jews.
Firstly, countries now developing or in possession of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons can either precipitate a surprise attack against Israel or, more likely, have it accomplished by "terrorists," which then give them deniability. If car bombs can be placed in Israel, how difficult would it be to have a nuclear device or other weapon of mass destruction in that car instead?
Secondly, if Israel is seriously impacted, the worldwide power of "Jews" would be severely affected as a political faction, even though individual personal power might remain intact.
Lastly, the political pressures maintained against Israel are stronger now than the national pressures were against the Jews in the 1930s. One just needs to look at the vast majority of the anti-Israel resolutions passed in the United Nations or the report on anti-Semitism not released by the European Union for proof.
There are perhaps too many unnecessary declarations of "doom," which at times make us look like "Chicken Little," but Berenbaum paints far too rosy a picture of today's climate both for Israel and for Jews.
Bill Bender, Granada Hills
Berenbaum, the Holocaust scholar, is too busy dissecting the trees to see the forest. Yes, Europe today comprises democratic republics with legal protection for Jews. Yes, anti-Semitism is now a tool of the powerless, not the powerful. And yes, anti-Semitism is out of vogue -- in the United States. These facts differentiate today from the 1930s. And yes, Jewish organizations should not exploit the Holocaust for fundraising. And yes, using Nazi labels against opponents shamefully cheapens the Holocaust. But how should one react when the former president of Iran speaks openly of welcoming a nuclear weapon exchange with Israel -- because it would destroy Israel but only damage the Islamic world? Berenbaum offers cold war comfort: "The world of mutual-assured destruction [M.A.D.] is a far cry from Auschwitz."
But the jihadis who hold sway in much of the Islamic world are not westerners who can be deterred by M.A.D.; they are mad. With the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons looms the horrific death of millions of Jews. That is a Holocaust. The trees are different, but the forest is as dark today as it was in 1933.
Jon E. Drucker, Beverly Hills
Michael Berenbaum responds:
Both of these writers are correct. These are indeed dangerous times and Israel is vulnerable to nuclear attack from terrorists if not from states, but I think that everyone knows that such an attack would not pass without a commensurate response from Israel.
Surely, even the most ardent supporters of the war in Iraq must realize that it has left the United States in a weakened position to respond to the nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea. And surely we know that Menachem Begin's greatest service to peace was not Camp David, but taking out the nuclear reactor in Iraq more than two decades ago, an attack for which Israel was publicly condemned and privately cheered.
Both writers concede my basic point. These are not the '30s. The vulnerability of the Holocaust is not the vulnerability of today. I did not contend that Jews are not vulnerable, merely that we are empowered. The more clearly we recognize it, the more empowered we may feel in confronting today's problems today.
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
The articles and letters regarding the unfortunate incident at UCLA involving Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller give scant attention to an important aspect of his work, and that is the setting in which it takes place. It is easy to build and man the barricades, but it is hard to build trust and engage in dialogue and an educational exchange of views. More progress can be made with tomorrow's political, business and academic leaders by reaching out to them as Seidler-Feller and other Jewish campus professionals have done. University settings need rabbis who are not afraid to enter into the academic fray and give currency to ideas that may or may not be popular. They also need rabbis who can be multidimensional, unpredictable, show compassion to all members of the community and empower our students to learn to think for themselves and express their own ideas, rather than mimic what they have heard or merely repeat slogans.
Finally, I should say that Seidler-Feller is a treasure that the Jewish community can ill afford to squander.
Rabbi Joseph S. Topek, Hillel Foundation Director Stony Brook University
Elana Taylor's advocacy of Rabbi Seidler-Feller remaining in his position seems to ignore an important factor that I feel is at the heart of the community's dismay (Letters, Nov. 7). We all have "out-of-character moments" yet most of us do not resort to acts of violence. How a "rabbi" behaves, especially under stress, is part and parcel of his license to retain that title. Many of us are tired of reading stories of "rabbis" who steal, engage in obvious nepotism in business or resort to acts of violence when challenged by an opposing view. And the "spin" that usually follows is sometimes more demoralizing than the terrible deed itself. It appears that the kind of "tolerance" and "virtue" that Taylor boasts of, at least as exemplified by this rabbi, incorporates something closer to the "Do-As-I-Say-and-Not-As-I-Do-ism" that tirelessly dashes our hopes of finding true spiritual leaders within our community.
Gary Hall, Los Angeles
The greatest lie of the Geneva accords is that Israel was "represented" at the negotiations ("Accord Allure," Dec. 5). Yossi Beilin, the "Israeli negotiator," is so unpopular in Israel that a year ago he was bounced from the left-wing Labor Party's Knesset list even before elections. Now out of office, the former justice minister has prostituted himself to this European Union extravaganza, and has no doubt been paid for his services. Therefore, it's no surprise that Beilin "agreed" to ethnically cleanse 100,000 Jews from their homes, "negotiated" the surrender of the Temple Mount, "conceded" strategic depth Israel's generals demand and failed to achieve any substantive concessions. After all, Beilin only needed to answer to the European Union, who paid for the whole show.
Nathan D. Wirtschafter, Encino
Certainly we have a right to criticize Israeli policy, but to act against the will of the citizens of the State of Israel, to endorse an extra-governmental process orchestrated by failed politicians is a terrible act of betrayal.
Shoshi Bacon, via e-mail
Israel Not to Blame
In his Nov. 21 editorial, "Dividing Lines," Rob Eshman wrote that if Israel maintains its presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the continuing growth of the Arab population in those territories "will force Israel to face the choice of being either a nondemocratic Jewish state or a binational state that is no longer Jewish."
During 1995-1997, Israel withdrew from large sections of those territories and turned them over to the control of the Palestinian Authority. Today, more than 98 percent of the Palestinian Arabs live under the Palestinian Authority's rule. Those areas are indeed "nondemocratic," to borrow Eshman's term -- but they are nondemocratic not because of Israel, but because the Palestinian Authority is a fascist dictatorship that jails and tortures dissidents, abuses women and minorities such as Christians, desecrates non-Muslim religious sites and refuses to hold democratic elections.
Morton A. Klein, National President, Zionist Organization of America
Remember Israel's Poor
Kudos for exposing a side of Israeli life we don't often get to see ("Israel's Poor Endure Tough Situation," Nov. 28). With nearly 20 percent of the Israeli population living below the poverty line, it's time we take a serious look at both the problem and potential solutions.
For almost 20 years, MAZON and groups like us have sought to raise awareness about the thousands of struggling Israelis who face the cruel irony of living in the land of milk and honey. And the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee-Brookdale study clearly reveals the depths of the need: With an 11 percent unemployment rate and 8 percent of households experiencing severe difficulty finding enough food, it's no wonder that soup kitchens and food pantries across the country are reporting a drastic rise in the number of people they serve.
Whatever its cause, poverty and hunger in Israel must be addressed. And before it can be addressed, it must be acknowledged. How long will struggling Israelis have to wait?
Jeremy Deutchman, Director Communications and Development MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Los Angeles
Fritos in Bad Taste
Hunger is not a mitzvah. After reading the "From Fritos to Freedom" (Nov. 28) article, I was disappointed that you accepted this piece for Fit L.A. Many Journal readers look to this section for credible fitness information from experts in the field. This is a personal story, not advice from a nutrition expert.
While I have the utmost respect for Sandy, her story should not be offered as a healthy example for others to follow. Specifically, she stated, "... I ate my breakfast, and then a few hours later I remember feeling like I would actually starve if I didn't put some food in my mouth."
Her solution was to eat three meals a day and rely on God for strength instead of eating between meals when starving. As a registered dietitian, I can assure your readers that it is never healthy to starve yourself in between meals; it actually slows the metabolism, causing the body to
store fat. Eating more frequently throughout the day actually helps with appetite control, preventing overeating
at meals, increasing metabolism, promoting fat loss and lowering cholesterol.
As people under the care of qualified dietitians can attest, you can eat between meals and maintain positive associations with food -- all while staying on the path of emotional and spiritual growth.
Deborah A. Klein, President Los Angeles Dietetic Association
In "Bee-witched & Bee-wildered" (Nov. 28), Harry Altman was 12 1/2 years old at the time of filming.
In "A Tale of Two Cities" (Nov. 7), Beit T'shuvah is working with the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) on the Jewish Community Justice Project. American Jewish Congress is not working with PJA on this project.