June 12, 2008
Birthright Israel, sex and the column
Your idea of creating multiple levels of free services and programs for various Jewish groups is brilliant ("Free at Last," June 6). In retrospect, and l'havdil, we should take a lesson from Hamas and Hezbollah. What gives these organizations their popular support among the masses is the free medical clinics, schooling, mosques, food, etc., that they provide to their people, filling a gap that is not provided by the local governments.
Their continuous belligerence against Israel provides spiritual fulfillment to the masses and at the same time causing the suffering and misery. If it were not for this war mongering, Hamas and Hezbollah could have been a huge community success.
Birthright provides a spiritual and apolitical fulfillment. While most Jewish people do not need the material support, your suggestions for apolitical "Jewright" can provide the spiritual fulfillment within the Jewish community and increasing the bond among the people.
Once again, you hit the nail on the head. It is hard to believe that Birthright has been in existence only eight years. I wish it had been around when I was growing up.
Our 26-year-old twins went on separate trips, and each returned transformed in different ways. After Birthright, one son gave up sports marketing and became program director at UC Davis Hillel. He is now focusing his career in the Jewish nonprofit arena.
The other son saved his money and got some help from the Jewish Free Loan Association. He left a successful job in film post-production and is now working in Israel for a year. These transformations would never have happened without Birthright Israel.
Our children's enthusiasm has trickled down (or up) to me and my husband, who have secular Jewish roots. Woefully uninformed on Israel, we subscribe to The Journal to educate ourselves and help us feel more in tune with our sons.
Neither of us has ever been to Israel. Like many baby boomers, we are treading to keep afloat financially and can't make the journey. We hope to do it some day.
In the meantime, I wish some philanthropist would fund "Deathright Israel" -- to guarantee all American Jews one visit to Israel before they die.
Sex and the Column
We always hear about the negative impact that pop stars like Britney Spears have on the teens and preteens that look up to them as role models ("Sex and the Column," June 6). It's even sadder when an adult Jewish female like Orit Arfa tries to emulate the characters of "Sex and the City."
During this Shavuot holiday period, it might do Arfa well to brush up on her study of the Jewish women in our rich history: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Rachel and Ruth are better characters to pattern one's life after than Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha.
The Wright Flap
In his long diatribe against Sen. Barack Obama, the writer exposes himself as a right-wing ideologue (Letters, June 6). For example, he included the exact words repeated for days by right-wing media and blogger dittoheads that Obama had thrown his "grandmother under the bus" because Obama, in his memorable speech on March 18, 2008, said that he had some understanding of white racisim from his own white grandmother (who helped raise him), when at times she expressed it in his presence.
By his attempt to show some understanding of the issue, Obama no more threw his grandmother under the bus than the Rev. John Hagee (who the writer shamelessly defends) tolerates our religious belief. Sen. John McCain literally begged Hagee (a professed bigot) for his endorsement and only disavowed it when it was publicly disclosed that Hagee incredulously said Hitler was sent by God to murder 6 million of us to create the State of Israel.
It is wishful thinking by the writer that Obama's chance to be president has been torpedoed by his past association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. McCain and the writer want us to focus on this guilt by association nonissue, rather than on Obama's own actions and words and the terrible political and economic conditions our beloved country has fallen into under the Bush/Cheney regime.
For the future well-being of our country (and Israel's), we have to change course and not pursue the same disastrous one that McCain assures us he intends to continue.
MBA Student Success
Every week, when The Jewish Journal arrives, I look for the American Jewish University (AJU) "success" ads (Advertisement, June 6). You've probably seen them. They feature graduate students of various ages and backgrounds.
This month, AJU featured an MBA student -- Noelle Ito, the 27-year-old director of development for the Little Tokyo Service Center. Our family is acquainted with Noelle in a different context. Noelle was a high school classmate of our late son. Throughout his battle with cancer, which began during their senior years in college, Noelle exhibited incredible loyalty and support.
She inspired others to stay connected. After our son died in 2004, Noelle was a prime mover in implementing a fundraiser in his memory. Thanks to Noelle, the all-volunteer 2nd Lt. Andrew Jacob Torres Memorial Golf Classic has raised more than $230,000 for cancer research.
Noelle brings tremendous energy, organization and style to all our efforts. It has been said that "one day, cancer will be a disease of the past." When that day comes, the credit will go to the Noelle Ito's of the world and also to the institutions, like AJU, which nurture them.
Anita Susan Brenner
La Canada Flintridge
An Opinion essay by Arnold Steinberg ("Historic Prop. 13 Property Tax Revolt Turns 30," June 6), omitted the fact that the article was reprinted from the Weekly Standard. The Journal regrets the error.