October 18, 2007
Hullabaloo in Hancock Park, Suissa in the hood, newcomers in the tent
As someone who used to live adjacent to Hancock Park and now lives in the east part of the San Gabriel Valley, I have two things to say to all the Hancock Park residents who oppose the functions of the Yavneh Hebrew Academy ("Stupidity Yes, Anti-Semitism Not Quite," Oct. 12).
First, get over it, and second, you don't know how good you got it.
Living surrounded by more non-Jews than most Hancock Park residents could ever imagine existed, what I wouldn't give to have a bunch of observant Jews and their kids keeping me up late at night davening or shmoozing or violating whatever use permit Hancock Park residents seem to care so much about.
For those residents of Hancock Park who want to enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with not living around Jews, I know lots of housing available in my area. Better yet, I invite all permit-violating observant Jews who are fed up with their uptight neighbors to join me out here. Eruv available upon request.
Todd B. Zoltan
David Suissa writes with insight, honesty and sanity ("There Goes the Hood," Oct. 12). He is an astute and caring chronicler of Jewish life in our community and a passionate advocate for our people and our homeland.
His recent columns, ranging in topics from the Conservative movement to Israel advocacy to marketing Jewish ideas and causes, are right on the mark. David is the writer I read first and the one whose thoughts resonate the longest.
Although a fan of David Suissa, I must take exception to his article, "Daze of Awe," in which he states marketing is not a very Jewish idea (Oct. 5). I believe Jews have a long history of marketing Judaism.
It started with Adam and Eve. They were God's first focus group and the first free trial offer.
In Egypt, He needed something special. He needed someone special, the first-ever celebrity spokesperson: Moses. It worked so well that the competition launched a rival product line, Christianity, and tapped another Jewish spokesperson.
Judaism's product launch was huge -- singing, dancing, clouds of fire, very Hollywood. The ad copy, arguably the first long-form ad copy ever written at five entire books, was compelling. It even came with the first guarantee: "I will defeat your enemies."
And over the years, the product line extensions have been sensational: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Chabad. I applaud David and Gary for continuing our fine tradition.
I am happy to report to Rabbis Dorff and Olitzky and to your readers that the big tent I belong to already carries out their suggestions on how to welcome the newcomer, ala Abraham Avotenu and Sarah Ematenu ("It's Time to Invite Newcomers Into 'Big Tent,'" Oct. 12).
In addition to a welcoming committee, there are shul hosts who greet newcomers, a designated member who introduces himself each week who anyone, including newcomers, can meet with to arrange a place to have Shabbat lunch at (if you still have room to eat after attending the lavish kiddush everyone is invited to). There's also "Tefilla Buddies" if a newcomer or old-timer needs help navigating the services, where they are paired up with mentors. All that in addition to the very friendly, nonjudgmental members who make everyone of any background feel very welcome.
As I read the article, I thought the rabbis must've come up with their ideas by having visited my shul.
B'nai David-Judea Congregation
Four Simple Words
I enjoyed reading, "Four Simple Words" (Oct. 5). I had been thinking about my conversion and what had led me to find Reform Judaism.
I was raised by a very religious Christian mother who constantly used her own four words as she taught me right and wrong. Instead of "Because, I said so," her words were, "Because, God said so."
I learned as I matured that her lessons were almost invariably right, but I could never accept her simple words. I tried to accept fundamental Christianity, then liberal Christianity, but could never accept the four simple words.
I tried living without organized religion but found that I missed the important life lessons and the people who felt them important. I was introduced to Reform Judaism through marriage when I was in my 40s. I found the important lessons of life, the morals and ethics that guide our daily lives and help us with our important decisions, without requiring my mother's four simple words.
In Reform Judaism I found that I was free to replace "Because, God said so," with my own four simple words, "Because, it is right."
Men of Reform Judaism
Pacific Southwest Region
Two points of clarification with regard to my comments in "Shul tripping -- A Nostalgic Hippie Tours the Alternative Scene" (Oct. 12). The first is that the author repeatedly refers to my association with the Academy for Jewish Religion (AJR). This is inaccurate. I am the dean of the Rabbinical School and chaplaincy program at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California (AJR, CA) located at the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA. AJR, CA is not affiliated with AJR, a rabbinical and cantorial school that is based in New York.
The second point of clarification relates to my remarks in general. Yes, I do believe that these new groups have a significant value in terms of their giving people a "sense of belonging, community, family...." However, I want to be very clear that many, many other Jews can and do find these very same things in traditional Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform congregations.
It is precisely because of AJR, CA's deep respect for all of Judaism's denominations -- reflected in our curriculum, faculty and alumni job placement -- that I am proud to be its dean.