July 22, 2004
Students do it. Girl Scouts do it. Why don't congregants do it? Carpool, that is ("Gridlock," July 9).
Why wait for perhaps decades for better public transportation? Each synagogue (church, mosque) could establish and distribute a carpool roster by area.
Besides alleviating traffic and parking problems, it would create or enhance friendships between neighbors who might not even know each other and make worshipping a much more enjoyable and meaningful experience. Try it, it works.
Lee Soskin, Studio City
Ask a rabbi, and he or she may cite traffic or distance as the reason for less or greater temple participation.
Ask, as was done by the last Los Angeles Jewish Population Survey, the potential congregants, of whom 71 percent attended synagogue at least once a year, what were all their reasons for joining or not joining a synagogue? A quite a different picture emerges.
The most important reason for joining or not was: 1 -- quality of the rabbi (80 percent reported as an important or most important reason), followed by, 2 -- importance of children's schooling, 3 -- friendliness of congregation, 4 -- cost, 5 -- the respondent's personal religious observance, 6 -- the quality of cantor or liturgy, and finally, the least cited important reason was, 7 -- distance from home, which only 56 percent, of which 25 percent said was very important and 31 percent said was important to their joining a synagogue.
While this data is 7 years old, I don't feel things have changed that much as to seriously alter the general picture.
While I'm also an advocate of light rail and other forms of public transportation and convenience, I don't agree that presence or lack of it has a lot to do with the major causes of Jewish affiliation in Los Angeles.
Pini Herman, Phillips & Herman Demographic
A member of this community has brought to my attention the article, "Jew Jokes Not a Joke," that was published July 2. In the last column, it describes the problem Jewish players had because of a conflict between practice and Passover.
They were designated as basketball players. This did not happen in the basketball program at Newbury Park. Samuel Goldstein was not on the basketball team nor has the walk-on coach, John Marsden, ever coached in the basketball program.
I think this was just an error, because Passover would not conflict with basketball practice, as the season is over earlier in the year. I believe baseball to be the sport in question.
However, I would not like to have any member of our community believe the coaches, parents and players in the Newbury Park High School basketball program would tolerate the situation your publication described. Rather, we welcome all student-athletes and hope each boy's experience is an affirming one.
What happened to Samuel Goldstein is deplorable, and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms. I only wish to clarify what has been widely disseminated in your publication.
Steve Johnson, Head Basketball Coach AP/IB History Teacher Newbury Park High School
I am disappointed that you chose to profile Bill Handel in The Journal ("Can't 'Handel' the Heat? Turn Off the Radio," July 9). Although he supports a worthy organization like Bet Tzedek, I feel his radio manner is often cruel to others.
He seems to feel that because he is "an equal-opportunity offender," he can say anything, regardless of whom he hurts. I have listened to him on and off for several years, and I am appalled at his level of insensitivity.
Elaine Franklin, Burbank
The horror and suffering in the Sudan ("A Dollar a Day," July 9), which has been going on for some years, has been all but suppressed by the media until the United Nations, ironically, recently forced its hand.
For the liberal elite and the news media that speaks for it, Arabs and Muslims have become so politically correct that Arab outrages, even against once-sacrosanct blacks, had to be kept from the American people. There is little room left in international news except for the constant bashing of Israel.
Dr. Bruce J. Schneider, Irvine
While it's true that Jewish American writers are writing in English -- as French Jews write in French and Hispanic Jews in Spanish -- you don't have to write in a "Jewish language" to be a Jewish writer, any more than you have to be Ashkenazi to be concerned with the challenges of Diaspora.
Just look at the recently deceased Arab Jewish writer of Iraq, Samir Naqqash. He spent the greatest part of his life writing about his exile from Baghdad and wrote exclusively in Arabic -- yet another "Jewish" language. Naqqash, who died July 6 in Petah Tikva, Israel, wrote about the struggle of Arab Jews to adapt themselves to life in Israel; he wrote of relations among Muslims, Jews and Christians in Iraq, and his work has been widely published in the Arab world -- an exceptional fate for a Jewish writer.
Jewish writers must be, in my view, universal humanists first and foremost, as were several of Naqqash's influences: Sartre, Faulkner and Naguib Mahfouz among them.
Jordan Elgrably, Director Levantine Cultural Center
With regard to Sandy Frank's article on same-sex marriages ("Same-Sex Marriage Poses Key Questions," July 9), is he kidding? Although I find fault in all of his arguments, let me address two.
One, that we shouldn't tamper with marriage because "every society ... has had the institution of marriage." Marriage has been ever evolving. It was only in the last century that it was accepted that people married for love. For centuries, marriages were arranged to better a man, i.e., dowries, and keep a woman from poverty, since she couldn't own property or work.
A short 100 years ago, Catholics and Protestants couldn't marry. A shorter 30 years ago, blacks and whites couldn't either. And let's not even touch polygamy. Thank God marriage is ever changing.
His other argument about raising children is equally inane.... "Marriage channels male energy into things like raising children and supporting families and away from things like crime."
A man participating in the day-to-day caring for his child is a modern concept. This argument makes the case for heterosexual males to get married early and become dads fast.
It's never taken a marriage license to make a baby. In the meantime, quite a few of the couples I saw getting married on television had their children beside them.
By denying loving couples their desire to marry, what are we telling these children? Are we telling them that their families aren't good enough?
It's time for us as a society to understand that families come in all shapes and sizes, and that no amount of legislation will change evolution.
Michelle Grant, Santa Monica
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