February 5, 2004
I was dismayed to see inaccuracies in Gaby Wenig's article, "Kosher Consumers for a New Age" (Jan.23). She reports that USDA laws permit canned or packaged vegetarian or dairy products to contain up to .2 percent of unlisted animal byproducts, which could also include insect pieces and rat hair.
This is a repetition of a misleading old fallacy (usually 2 percent). Firstly, it is the FDA that regulates prepared food ingredients, not the USDA, and in a simple perusal of the FDA rules and regulations, one would discover that all ingredients must be listed in order of volume. Below 2 percent, the order is not required, but must still be listed, down to trace (nonedible) ingredients that are less than a few parts per million, and sometimes even those must be listed.
And, as far as I know, unhygienic additions such as rat hairs and insect parts (it's only whole bugs that are forbidden by the Torah), revolting as it sounds, do not present a kashrut problem, and are often found in such Kashrut Agency supervised products as cereals and breads.
Martin Brody, Westwood
Regarding the action taken by Zvi Mazel, Israel's ambassador to Sweden ("Home Repair," Jan. 23), Mazel is a career diplomat in the service of the State of Israel. He is very experienced. He knew that the sorriest example he could offer would be to remain silent and to do nothing. He is a shining example to decent people everywhere.
Yossie Kram, Los Angeles
I am compelled to write you for the first time, unfortunately in outrage. The blasphemous cover of the last Jewish Journal included the holy symbol of the sfirot combined with pictures of Madonna and Britney Spears representing each sfirah (Jan. 30). I understand these pop stars study a light form of kabbalah, but at what expense will you go to prove a point?
The article that followed was nothing short of gossip, or in Jewish terms loshen hara, from a person who had ulterior motives by putting down an organization he knows nothing about. If this person wants to make an informed opinion as to what the Kabbalah Centre teaches then he needs to attend the full course and then he will be more qualified to give an opinion.
I have not mentioned many of the other forms of gossip found in this article and it is not my intent to say that the Kabbalah Centre is a perfect organization.
I attended and took classes their for six years and with all its faults it is because of these classes that I began my path back to Judaism and today I am shomer Shabbos and observe all of the Jewish holidays. For most people the center is the first stop on their journey back to Judaism; and as for the non-Jews, most of the teachings taught at the center are less kabbalah and more basic principles that involve concepts like sharing to draw the light of Hashem.
Jay Davies, Santa Monica
It is hard to believe that Benny Morris, an enlightened Israeli historian, would condone the expulsion of innocent populations as a way to peace ("Q&A With Benny Morris," Jan. 30). But there it is! He puts himself in the company with the likes of King Ferdinand and Isabella, Maria Teresa, Hitler, Stalin, Hamas and any number of medieval and modern despots.
His argument is especially strange, since he writes a whole book on how the expulsion of Arabs created -- not eliminated -- the obstacle to peace between the Arabs and the Jews. Even his analysis of how the creation of Israel could not have been possible were it not for expulsion, is false. In 1948, we grabbed much more territory than mandated by the U.N Partition Plan. The plan addressed the demographic issue.
Now that the truth is out about Haganah atrocities, how can we claim that, unlike the Arab suicide bombers, we never spilled innocent blood of civilians? Is Arafat to restrain himself from "making omelets" when Morris claims that it is perfectly all right to "break eggs" in the process?
Rabbi Hillel, the premier guiding spirit of Judaism -- do unto others as you would to yourself -- must be turning over in his grave.
Shame on us.
Irwin Grossman, Los Angeles
The nerve of this Luis Lainer to write, "Just like Groucho Marx ... Sharon is declaring his intention to leave and stay at the same time" ("Hello I Must Be Going," Jan. 23).
We believe that the State of Israel has been forced to build this fence or barrier to try to protect the lives of the people of the democratic State of Israel.
Mr. & Mrs. Herbert Braaf, Woodland Hills
Thank you for printing Richard H. Schwartz's article, "Mad People Disease" (Jan. 16). I appreciated his urging Jews to be a "light unto nations" by promoting compassion for all living creatures. I am struggling with cancer and agree with Rachel Carson, who wrote "Silent Spring" in the 1960s, that cancer is an inevitable result of poor agricultural decisions, pesticides, and as Schwartz points out, "the many ways that the widespread production and consumption of meat and animal products threatens humanity."
I believe the widespread epidemic of breast cancer, just to name one cancer, is today's "wake-up call" (referring to Schwartz's reference to a modern-day Joseph interpreting dreams Pharaoh dreams) that would help imperiled people like me and others, including animals who suffer on this human-ravaged planet.
Joy Oakes, Santa Monica
Adam Gilad's column is a thinly disguised personal ad ("The First Step," Jan. 23). He tells us he is recently divorced, but is into long-term relationships, he has a new car, he is interested in the arts, he enjoys planning dates, goes to expensive restaurants and he will not even consider sex unless it might lead to marriage! My guess is that Adam's mother reads The Jewish Journal.
Regarding Mel Gibson's interpretation of the Gospel stories called "The Passion," these Passion plays have been going on for a long time and have little or nothing to do with history or fact, and a lot to do with faith and belief ("Will Jesus Film Poison Christian-Jewish Ties?" and "No Local Plans to Quench 'Passion,'" Jan. 30).
Unfortunately, Gibson's slavish loyalty to the views of the early Christian fathers will not do anything constructive to increase the great tendency in our 21st century society to bridge the gaps or barriers to religious and social pluralism and genuine tolerance so necessary for our democracy and peace of mind.
Steve Roisman, Los Angeles
Marc Ballon's article "Low Wages Force Workers to Struggle" (Jan. 2) bravely and insightfully addressed a serious issue for the Jewish community. It's always easier to look at the injustices suffered by workers outside of one's own community than inside.
AFSCME Local 800, which represents 450 agency workers, is dedicated to fair, livable wages for employees of the Jewish community. For example, in last year's negotiations we secured an agreement with Jewish Family Service (JFS) to raise the minimum hourly wage rate to $9 per hour. This resulted in approximately 20 employees getting raises beyond the 2 percent cost-of-living raise we negotiated for everyone.
In addition, for several years JFS management had routinely asked the union to agree to waive the city of Los Angeles' "living-wage" ordinance. Last year, reflecting a change in policy, the union refused to do so, resulting, I believe, in three other workers getting additional increases.
Despite these modest successes, major struggles remain for the union. Employees in many classifications continue to earn less than their counterparts in non-Jewish agencies. In the last negotiations, we tried to get management to join us and jointly survey wages in the nonprofit community, but they would not. We will try again more forcefully in negotiations this spring. We also hope to bring other workers into the union, those who work at the many nonunion Jewish agencies and temples, so that we can speak with one voice for all and help bring justice and a living wage to all.
Jon Lepie, Labor Consultant to AFSCME, Local 800 Washington, D.C.
Whether the Irving Moskowitz organization should be granted a gaming license to fund extremist groups in Israel ought to be contextualized in the framework of the larger war against terror in which the United States and Israel are allies ("Gaming Hearing Takes Israel Spin," Dec. 26). When, for instance, the Moskowitz people sponsor a Web site game, "Judenrat," which invites participants to assassinate Israeli government leaders, that is the kind of hate speech that the California Gaming Commission needs to evaluate in determining the applicant's moral fitness to be granted a gaming license. But, beyond the issues of political racketeering in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem that have been raised, The Jewish Journal article did not address the documented instances of political violence sponsored by the Moskowitz organization.
In this post-Sept. 11 world in which the forces of freedom are fighting an organized barbarism menacing the biblical values of both Israel and America, even the issuance of a gambling permit is at stake in the equation of homeland security. Just as the Shin Bet and other Israeli security authorities have had to contend with Moskowitz's interference with their struggle against violence and terror in the Jewish state, so the California authorities are fulfilling a crucial role in the war against terror by regulating funds that may be used to make Israel's struggle more difficult. As Californians and voters, we should expect from our public officials nothing less.
Rabbi Jeffrey N. Ronald. Lands of the Covenant, Ltd.
In "Home Repair" (Jan. 23), an incorrect Web site address was given for the charity Susan's House. The correct address for Susan's House is www.kys.org.il/susanhome.html .