January 8, 2009
Gaza, Madoff, Menschen and Muslims
We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza and Israel ("Gaza Outcomes," Jan. 2). Hamas' rocket attacks on Israel, chiefly aimed at civilians, are a gross violation of international law.
We recognize that the State of Israel has the right to defend itself. But the manner in which it has chosen to do so has been ill advised and morally questionable, causing considerable loss of life and grave damage (including educational and religious institutions) in Gaza. Hundreds of men, women and children in Gaza have been killed, thousands have been injured and infrastructural damage from air and ground assaults threatens the health and well-being of many more.
In light of this:
1 -- We call on the State of Israel to cease its ground offensive and air attacks in Gaza, which have led to the loss of lives of innocent civilians without offering any prospect of political resolution to either Israelis or Palestinians.
2 -- We call on Hamas to cease its rocket attacks on Israeli cities, which have no aim other than to inflict damage on innocent civilians and thus defy all norms of decency.
3 -- We call on the leaders of the State of Israel and Hamas alike to pursue peace and to recognize that violence -- provoked or not -- will only beget more violence in the long run. The answer is not to be found in the militaristic reflexes that have been exercised to this point -- reflexes grounded in a politics of honor, vengeance and reprisal. It is time to pursue other avenues to reconciliation. It is our hope that after the immediate cessation of hostilities, serious resources and political access be placed in the hands of those with the will and ability to affect real diplomatic progress in resolving the conflict.
4 -- We call on all sides in the conflict to abide by international law and to protect the human rights of all persons involved -- civilian and military.
5 -- Finally, we call on the United States, and especially President-elect Barack Obama, to assume a leading role in pushing the warring parties beyond the cycle of violence and bloodletting. All concerned Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, should urge the current and new administrations to discard the past eight years of neglect and mobilize American policy toward a diplomatic resolution of the Gaza -- and larger Israeli-Palestinian -- conflicts. The time for action is now.
In the Jewish tradition, all human beings are created in the image of God. We do not discriminate between Jews and Arabs when violence is directed against innocents; we mourn the loss of life on both sides.
Please join us in calling for an end to the violence and a more active American engagement in the current crisis.
Rabbi Leonard Beerman
Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater
Rabbi Steven Jacobs
David N. Myers
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
Arthur P. Stern
The Journal reported on an early screening of the movie "Defiance" for an audience of Anti-Defamation League delegates ("Zwick's 'Defiance' Brings Heroes of Jewish Anti-Nazi Resistance to Screen," Nov. 21).
After the screening, national ADL Director Abraham Foxman said he was unsure how "Defiance" would be received by Jewish viewers. He said, "I am not certain whether we are ready to embrace fighting Jews."
I was appalled at that comment. Tuvia Bielski, the leader of the Bielski Brigade, played by Daniel Craig in the movie, was my former father-in-law.
I was married to Bielski's daughter for over 17 years and have two children from that marriage. During that time, I learned that this seemingly unassuming man was actually a great hero, as many of the surviving partisans would visit his family in their small Brooklyn apartment. They would tell stories of their harsh life in the woods.
I came to realize that none of those partisans would be alive, and I would not have two wonderful children today, Bielski's grandchildren, if it wasn't for those "fighting Jews."
The Bielski family had been trying for years to publicize the exploits of the Bielski Brigade to show the world that not all Jews went to their deaths without a fight. Finally, director Ed Zwick took a chance to make this film showing fighting Jews we can all be proud of.
All of your mensches are very special people ("Mensches," Jan. 2). But one of them brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.
Andrew Wolfberg is a special, special person. Wolfberg taking the challenge of the 8-year-old boy with cerebral palsy is such a beautiful act of kindness, caring and tenderness that there are no words to describe the humanity Wolfberg gave to this special young boy.
In these days of the Bernie Madoffs, et al, Wolfberg is a very large breath of fresh air.
Harvey M. Piccus
The Madoff Effect
The Jewish Community has become despondent at a time when we need to take action ("Charitable Boards Face Criticism Post-Madoff," Jan. 2). Yes, there has been a lot of bad news -- tough economic times, the Madoff scandal and concern about Israel's security. But every single day in our community, there are also thousands of quiet heroes performing their miracles, large and small.
Whether visiting an ailing Holocaust survivor at home, volunteering at SOVA and providing nourishing groceries to those who are hungry, counseling spouses and children who suffer from violence in the home or assisting seniors to find proper health care and other vital services, the philanthropic fabric of our community changes lives for the better every day.
We save lives. Don't lose hope, and don't give up on our mission of tikkun olam (repairing the world). At the turn of this New Year, we will be the solution to the challenges our community faces.
It is time for all of us to renew our commitment to the community by becoming active again, giving of our time and donating money to worthy causes.
Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles
I believe there are several times as many Jews as Muslims in Los Angeles (Jewishjournal.com video, Dec. 31). Why do they outnumber us badly in each demonstration? Are all the Jews too busy to stand up and be counted on the evening news? Sick!
Web Editor's Note: We have a constantly-updated list of rallies and other ways to support Israel online here
Jewish day school didn't seem like a viable option for my family two years ago when we were considering elementary schools for our then pre-kindergartner ("Can Recession Fuel Return to Public Schools?" Dec. 26, and "Keeping Middle-Income Families in Jewish Schools," Dec. 19 ).
Our family income is far less than the so-called "middle-class" earnings of $276,000 that Julie Gruenbaum Fax says is required in order to afford Jewish private school for two children. I'd hardly consider that a middle-class income, even in Los Angeles.
Truly middle-class families are not able to afford private school of any sort, and yes, we are compelled to find the best public schools we can and make the best of it.
I agree strongly with Bill Boyarsky that the Los Angeles Unified School District is an oft-maligned system that actually does offer some excellent schools with dedicated teachers and principals.
At our daughter's public elementary in Venice, there are plenty of other Jewish kids, but few who attend Hebrew school, mostly because they don't know where the good ones are.
Where are the good Hebrew schools and youth programs? Why can't I find a Jewish day camp on the Westside? Will they feel alienated at summer camp if they never attended Jewish day school? What if you don't live in the Valley, Brentwood or Pico-Robertson?
My challenge is how do I provide a Jewish education for kids in public school. I'm open to suggestions.
The "Q&A With Howard Blume" (Dec. 19) presented two points of interest for our community at Temple Isaiah. First, savvy parents can secure a high-quality public education through magnets, charters or SAS programs; second, parents feel they can't choose their neighborhood schools.
At Temple Isaiah, we believe that a good public education is every child's right.
Over the last year, in partnership with One LA-IAF, Temple Isaiah has engaged in a process of congregation-based community organizing.
We've recently started to work with Emerson Middle School. Our hope is to build relationships among parents, teachers, local businesses and faith-based organizations -- all committed to the success of the neighborhood school.
But our cause is broader than the Westside. We recognize that the capacity to change on the local level can lead to change citywide. If we can stabilize one school, we are helping to stabilize the Los Angeles Unified School District and moving toward ensuring a good public school for every child. If we strengthen one school, we can be teachers and models for other communities.
Rabbi Dara Frimmer
Death of Dr. David Lieber
May it give his wife, children and grandchildren some measure of peace to know that their husband, father and grandfather has left an enduring legacy to so many people ("Dr. David Leo Lieber Z"L: To Know Him Was a Privilege," Dec. 26).
I know I am not alone when I say Dr. Lieber will always be remembered with great love and fondness. I am only one of his former students who were so grateful to have known the teacher and the man. May his memory be for a blessing.
Bella Szkolnik Kapp