June 17, 2009
Hard Truths, Soft Lies, Mr. Mayor
Bravo to Caroline Glick for telling the “Hard Truth” about the real President Obama (“‘Hard Truths’ Just Political Convenience,” June 12). Her courageous exposé of President Obama’s false friendship with Israel is a shofar call to all American Jewry and friends of Israel, to open our eyes to the fact that Obama is ready to sacrifice Israel for the sake of being loved by the Arabs and Muslims.
Hershey Gold, Los Angeles
There was a time not too long ago that I enjoyed reading The Jewish Journal to learn about local Jewish stuff going on, events concerning Israel, kosher restaurants, etc. However, your newspaper seems to have taken a radical turn to the left, with articles supporting nationalized health care, L.A.’s mayor (who is responsible for our impending 9.75 percent sales tax), and of course, our president (who sees fit to tell Israel to stop building houses even as he gives the green light to Iran’s nuclear ambitions).
Therefore, even though I don’t consider myself to be especially religious, I will turn to more Orthodox-leaning newspapers to get the Jewish news I seek.
Miriam Jannol, via e-mail
As a congregant of Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center, my friendship and respect for Rabbi Grater remain intact (“Obama’s Hard Truths Can Help Bridge Gap,” June 12). But I have no way to understand his position in regard to the president’s speech to the Muslims given in Cairo.
I don’t mind the “hard truths” my rabbi and the president are so bold to proclaim, but what about all the “soft lies” that the president’s speech also promulgates?
— Is the United States one of the largest Muslim countries in the world? Its position is 52.
— Is the viability of the “Jewish homeland” dependent on the Holocaust? Partially, but only so very partially.
— Is the Palestinian issue at all comparable to the Civil Rights struggle in America? I throw up my hands in despair.
Although I can easily imagine that our young president is ignorant of much of Israel’s history, but what is Rabbi Grater’s excuse? I have to assume he thinks it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately I think it does matter terribly. Time will tell.
Carolyn Kunin, via e-mail
I want to commend The Jewish Journal on an excellent cover story on our mayor (“Judging Mr. Mayor,” June 12). The story was rather comprehensive, but I would add that Mayor Villaraigosa has been a terrific friend to Israel in so many ways. He has worked very hard to bring our city together. He has been a real profile in courage as he tackled the toughest and yet most important problems facing our society, such as education.
Howard Welinsky, Toluca Lake
I was delighted to see Rob Eshman’s column on “Saul’s Children” (June 12) because, here in Los Angeles, a growing number of local synagogues and churches are joining Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) to pursue justice more effectively.
Over a year ago, Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH) joined One LA/IAF, the congregation-based community organization that is a local descendent of “Saul’s Children.” Since then we, as part of an 1800-person assembly, met with local, state and federal elected officials to initiate legislation to fight foreclosures in the San Fernando Valley and to provide for job development in green industries and health care.
We encourage Jewish Journal readers to join us on July 12 from 3 to 5 p.m. at Wilshire Boulevard Temple (also an One-LA member congregation) as we seek assurances from elected officials that federal stimulus dollars will be used to affect meaningful, sustained change and to provide trained health care workers in our community.
Marjorie B. Green, Chair Dorot Tzedek/Generations of Justice at TIOH, Los Angeles
Thank you for your article celebrating Saul Alinsky’s work. I’m proud that Temple Judea, through our Judean’s for Justice, is involved in exactly the type of community organizing that Saul Alinsky taught. Working together with One LA, many Reform congregations in Los Angeles are involved in broad-based community organizing focusing on important issues ranging from health care to education, to the mortgage crisis. The Union for Reform Judaism, through its Just Congregations Initiative, is encouraging congregations nationwide to join this important work. Rob Eshman suggests that Alinsky be taught in Hebrew schools. Rob, you’ll be pleased to know that at Temple Judea our 11th- and 12th-graders have a class on social justice based on Alinsky’s work.
Rabbi Don Goor, Temple Judea, Tarzana
[Saul] Alinsky’s son, David, just forwarded me your excellent piece. It was great to read for a number of reasons, not least of which is that we’re bringing David, as well as several organizers connected with Saul, to Whitman College this October for a three-day Symposium called “Alinsky at 100.”
Our local community foundation here in WW just dropped a very large chunk of change to training congregations (i.e., churches and us) in Alinsky’s IAF organizing skills.
Noah Leavitt, President, Congregation Beth Israel, Walla Walla, WA
Really appreciated your column calling on a united Jewish response to Iran (“Iran First,” June 5). And so did many of my friends. I contacted my rabbi, Laura Geller, and am hoping that our religious leaders will work together toward this goal. Since Iran brings back the Holocaust to our collective memories, we need to also remember that the divisiveness of the Jewish community is always cited as one of the contributing factors to our greatest tragedy.
Irina Bragin, via e-mail
I read the article about the exceptional high school seniors with admiration and awe, but couldn’t help immediately notice that your “sampling” of 11 students included nine from private high schools, and only two from public high schools (“Renaissance Teens With Purpose,” June 5). Not to mention that 10 of the 11 seniors were going on to private colleges.
For many reasons, including the current economic situation, it would have been inspiring to have seen a more diverse sampling of where the students were educated.
If you took the time to dig a little deeper, you would have found just as many outstanding public high school Jewish seniors that may have even paved their high school path with a little less administrative TLC.
Beth Rowan Fiance, Westlake Village, Agoura High School Parent
While flipping through the recent Jewish Journal, numerous advertisements congratulated Classes of 2009 (June 5). These were Jewish schools and I was curious as to the point of a “Jewish school” when a fundamental of Jewish culture, the Hebrew calendar, wasn’t acknowledged. Thankfully, as I proceeded YULA, Brawerman Elementary and Valley Beth Shalom did acknowledge the Hebrew calendar.
As a public school teacher I understand how the Gregorian calendar and pagan culture and holidays associated with it hold a virtual monopoly in America and in much of the world. This did not happen by itself. Non-pagans, especially and including Jews, have allowed this. While trying to counter this, I am virtually alone.
In my classroom I display the Hebrew, Chinese and Muslim month, day and year along with the Gregorian. I encourage students to date their work with one of the “other” calendars. I am also trying to see my school and other schools use more than the Gregorian calendar when pronouncing the Class of ________. This can and should be done regardless of the school’s particular ethnic or religious majority.
Richard S. Levik, Mar Vista
Remembering Si Frumkin
One may not know or remember the effects of his words or actions but the ones who have been affected by them will remember (“Si Frumkin, Soviet Jewry and Human Rights Activist, 78,” May 22).
The Iranian Jewish Community was affected in historical ways by our beloved friend and mentor who had suffered like us not just from persecution of anti-Semitic regimes but also from age-old traditions which tended to tie our hands and prevent us from speaking out loud, proclaiming our pain and regaining our dignity without senseless fear and [feelings of] inferiority.
Ten years ago, when 13 Jews were arrested and accused of crimes that in those days carried certain death penalties, when the future and the dignity of the whole Jewish population in Iran was seriously threatened, Si Frumkin was one of the few who reminded us that breaking the silence and confronting our own self-anointed so-called leadership was the only path to take and if not, then denouncement and pain was the price to pay.
As we succeeded to break the silence, bring public world pressure on our persecutors in Iran and save the lives of our 13 captives and as we avoided loss of dignity and perpetuation of the feeble Jewish image in the eyes of the arrogant Islamic authorities while doing so, we always looked up to Si Frumkin and were thankful for his much-needed encouragement and guidance.
We in the leadership of the Shiraz 13 campaign, within the Jewish community, are proud to have felt some of the pain that Frumkin felt during his struggle and are thankful to have had him to share in the joy of our victory.
He was a hero who shall be remembered for generations.
George Haroonian, Past President, Council of Iranian American Jewish Organizations
Frank Nikbakht Director, Committee for Religious Minority Rights in Iran
Pooya Dayanim Director, Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee
If the New Republic article quoted by Mr. Eshman is the same article that I read it also stated that President Obama came to differ from Alinsky’s teaching that community organizing as social worker operates from the ground up (“Saul’s Children,” June 12). President Obama came to believe that effective social work must start at the top. And the social worker has so started.
Harold F. Powell, Sherman Oaks
Future of American Jews
It was my good fortune to attend the Young Israel of Century City (YICC) sessions that Susan Freudenheim describes (“Three Stops and a Chart,” May 22). Yes, the distinguished panel all discussed “charting the Jewish future” aptly and accurately reported by Freudenheim. Their common theme [was] “we need to get out more, to care more, to be curious, and to be sensitive.” The four panelists and Rabbi Penner, a scholar-in-residence, all did a wonderful job on their topics. However, what was not discussed, which I believe I brought up in a question-and-answer session after, is that we are not addressing the “main issue,” that there is no future for the Jewish people in this wonderful country of the U.S.A. Because of the great assimilation taking place and high rate of intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews (60% and growing), no one can guarantee that our children and grandchildren will remain Jewish.
I and others maintain that only in Israel, which has already surpassed America as to the number of Jews, can our future be bright and continuous. Therefore it behooves us to begin planning in earnest to make aliyah to Israel at the earliest possible time, no matter how comfortable we believe we are here.
Bernard Nichols, via e-mail
Rev. Wright Remark
As your paper correctly noted, Rev. Jeremiah Wright has recently resurrected himself from the selective oblivion of American politics (“Rev. Wright: ‘Them Jews’ keeping him from Obama,” online only).
The super-natural intellect that is attributed to President Obama has been at the centerpiece of his hype in the minds of his enthusiastic supporters, including many in the Jewish community. But his pick of Rev. Wright — a boorish, anti-Semite idiot, a racist who supports Jew-murderers — as his religious leader, should have cast doubt on his much-revered intellect.
Obama is a golem whose maker is Rev. Wright. The fact that he was Obama’s spiritual mentor for 20 years should have been very distressing to all of us — not just for his outlandish views, but the sheer stupidity. Still, most of us accepted Obama’s feeble explanations and looked the other way.
Obama needs peace and quiet to focus on his magic show: disarming Israel from its nuclear arsenal, making Netanyahu disappear into a little black hat and surrendering Israel to the Arabs. Trouble is, old Uncle Jeremiah keeps running around exposing the true nature of his creation.
But our own pride and joy Rahm [Emanuel] understands that a trick doesn’t work when everything is revealed, and thus he has been trying hard to keep the crazy old irritant away from the stage. Uncle Jeremiah must be locked back in the closet.
Meanwhile, Iran, which also threatens to interrupt the show, should be issued a stern warning to refrain from using its future nuclear arsenal on Israel, or else, what do you know, President Obama might give another strong (I mean, really strong) speech.
Many American Jews are awestruck with this amazing President’s acumen. Some of us who can see through it do not any longer fall for such cheap tricks.
Avi Zirler, La Canada Flintridge
In response to Michael Several’s letter, I’ll start with: I agree that it is essential that an Israeli-Arab peace be found for the sake of both American and Israeli interests (“Letters,” June 12).
However, it is entirely untrue that “the settlements prevent the creation of a viable Palestinian state,” and therefore that there is some kind of linkage between the settlements and coercing Iran to drop its nuclear weapons development.
Israel has given up land (security strip in south Lebanon and Gaza) — and dismantled settlements in the process — for peace. Instead, Israel got terrorist attacks and war.
The Arab-Israeli war is not about details and finding a compromise. It is about Arabs refusing to resign themselves to a Jewish state in their neighborhood, so steadfastly choosing endless war over peace. When they accept Israel, details, like settlements, can be worked out effortlessly. Indeed, Barak in 2000 and Olmert repeatedly over the past few years negotiated the settlement issue.
In the meantime, let Palestinians uphold their commitments under the Roadmap and Israel will happily cease all but natural growth settlements in return.
Steve Blumer, Calgary, Alberta
I could not agree more with Rob Eshman’s excellent and poignant column (“Iran First, June 5). I have not always agreed with Eshman on his position on the Arab-Israeli peace issue, as he has not always agreed with mine, and it is his prerogative as the editor-in-chief of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
However, at this most crucial time in Israel’s existence, I would be pleased to join Eshman’s “draft of the text” to President Barack Obama. Eshman is right on the mark to advocate that all of us Jews and other friends of Israel set aside our differences at least temporarily, to join all our collective voices for the important goal of preventing the existential threat on Israel coming from Iran.
Furthermore I believe that President Obama, although he means well, is making a grave mistake linking progress on Israeli-Arab peace prospects with the looming Iranian nuclear threat.
How can Israel in good conscience negotiate with the so-called Palestinians on a peace agreement with the cloud of a nuclear nightmare hanging over their heads? It is as the old adage says, “What comes first, the chicken or the egg?” Additionally Iran trains, equips, and financially supports terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah and others to obstruct legitimate Arab-Israeli negotiations from taking place. Iran is also causing havoc with American and allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, causing many casualties with their I.E.D. explosives.
I would venture to say had there been the spirit of cooperation between the various Jewish groups, as Eshman calls for now, during the Holocaust era, there might have been many more heroic episodes as depicted in the movie (true story) “Defiance,” with similar favorable results. God bless America and God bless Israel.
Bernard Nichols, via e-mail
My Favorite J.J. Columnist
“Leaning” on the “hood” of my purple truck, the one with the license plate “JOY, “with Hebrew words of Torah surrounding the frame, I had my elbow bent on the hood, with arm and hand propping up my chin supporting me for the ‘read ride,’ just like David Suissa’s photo (“Found Tribe,” June 12). I had spread open his column, “Live In The Hood” (that I’d picked up at the Israeli Film Festival). (Why read my favorite J.J. columnist in my driveway? Because I know that once it gets into my home, it has too much competition.)
Finally reading David’s last sentence, leaning, I laughed with his thought, if “you don’t have a ‘hood’ to lean on, you have to find ... a fellow Jew.” My spirit responds to the “leaning” and “hood” concepts that David uses (“Leaning Sideways,” April 17).
Reading David Suissa’s story about life outside of the “hood,” my adrenaline quickened noticing an important factual omission. In his list of “denominations,” David left out ALEPH, the joyous Torah-loving, Renewal movement. Aleph serves Orange County (OC) through its official affiliated minyans, Eliyah and Shira HaYam. (In L.A. I’m involved with Aleph’s B’nai Horin, Makom Ohr Shalom and Sarah’s Tent.) OC Renewal members are going, June 28, to our temporary “hood,” the international Kallah (www.aleph.org). David, come join us. Some of our members were the original Reb Shlomo Carlebach, z’l, disciples from the House of Love and Prayer.
David includes in his list of “top speakers of the Jewish world,” “Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi,” known to us as ‘Reb Zalman’, our Aleph spiritual founder (six decades ago), and leader. David may not know Reb Zalman’s Renewal disciples are organized in OC. (David, did you know that B’nai Horin’s Rabbi Stan Levy, ordained by Reb Zalman, founded The Academy of Jewish Religion/CA?) For L.A Renewal activities, read my blog, www.joyouschailights.blogspot.com .
Rabbi Elie Spitz’ shul “doesn’t know this yet,” but I believe, B’ezrat Hashem / G*d willing, that they may bring in a little “Open To Wonder” minyan joy to spark the flame of Shabbat in Orange County. We are Shlomo disciples. (I am also a founding member of the Happy Minyan, was in their house band, and I had the blesSing to serve as Reb Shlomo’s percussionist.)
After Reb Shlomo died (1994), I sponsored a “wild Carlebach Shabbaton” in his zechut / merit, at my daughter, Aviva’s, UCSB Hillel. The “decibels were on a whole other level” when the “Happy Minyan” showed up to daven. The students loved our Malavah Malkah’s Moshav Band. The gevalt/awesome traditional Carlebach minyan created for that UCSB Shabbat mamash continued to exist. (I don’t know if the Carlebach Shabbaton’s tie dyed mechitzah still exists.) Also, a decade ago to “raise up the flame,” I helped arrange for Shlomo Katz (now Israeli rabbi) and Happy Minyan to lead, with “soulful melodies,” a Young Israel of Northridge Shabbaton.
“To keep the Jewish flame alive”you have to share it. Reb Shlomo and The Ba’al Shem Tov said, “The flame (our Torah) when shared is never diminished.” As we learned in this week’s Parshat BaHa’alotecha, “raise up to the flame,” the six flames ‘leaned’ toward the center flame of the Menorah in the holy Temple. David, thanks for your flames, leanings and my gleanings.
True, when we live outside the “hood”and “you don’t have a ‘hood’ to lean on, you have to find ... a fellow Jew.”
(ArtScroll’s Chumash Parshat BaHa’alotecha 8:10 commentary reads: “Leaning upon a human being denotes that the person leaned upon is elevated to a position of distinction, as when Moses leaned upon Joshua 27:23.)
Joy Krauthammer, Northridge
My questions for Rabbi Grater and President Obama:
If a 20 percent Arab minority in Israel is no obstacle to peace, why is a 13 percent Jewish minority in the “Palestinian” area an obstacle? (“Obama’s Hard Truths Can Help Bridge Gap,” June 12).
By “two-state solution” do you mean one Jewish state in which Arabs are citizens and one Arab state where no Jew may set foot? Would you agree to a peace treaty with Mexico barring Americans from living there? Have Mexicans a right to live in America?
Is there any people on Earth whom you would forbid to live somewhere (other than Jews)? Is there any place you would forbid Jews to live other than Judea and Samaria, the heart of the Jewish homeland?
During their fFall campaign critics were castigated for emphasizing Obama’s middle name, Mohammed. Where is the apology now that he has emphasized it in Cairo? Was he falsely accused of being a closet Moslem? He said several things there to so identify himself; things no Christian would say, like HOLY Koran, or “Jesus, may he rest in peace.”
He said that our alliance with Israel is firm, and proceeded to press Israel for the concessions its enemies demand. This is not the act of an ally!
Louis Richter, Encino
Mayor’s Weak Points
Well, isn’t our mayor a failure, for all practical purposes?
What has he accomplished during his four years in office? Our roads are getting worse; our taxes are higher; our schools have an unbelievable dropout rate (50 percent by some estimates); traffic is definitely getting worse ... and the city has a huge budget deficit to boot. While he and the police chief claim crime is down, many of us don’t believe them. Gang activity seems to be just as great as ever. One thing he did accomplish: He has added approximately 30 percent to the number of city employees.
I think he did try. But he just doesn’t have what it takes. He’s the wrong guy for the job of Mayor of Los Angeles. We need leaders, not politicians, to serve the public’s needs.
I think Los Angeles Magazine has the right viewpoint: Failure ...
George Epstein, via e-mail