March 22, 2007
Jefferson was Jewish?
I'm a fan of Lloyd Garver's always humorous and insightful column on cbsnews.com and was pleased to see his opinion piece in The Jewish Journal ("Oy! Jefferson, Jewish? Who Knew?" March 16).
I, too, was raised in a family where we kept a mental roster of well-known Jews.
I carried on the tradition with my own children. My best guess is that this practice will not continue as my children raise my grandchildren. And I think that is as it should be. Garver is right to point out that the willingness of many Jews -- quite possibly most Jews -- to oppose Joe Lieberman's position on the Iraq war is a sign of progress. What will be "good for the Jews" will be to collectively arrive at a time when that factor no longer enters our minds.
Lloyd Garver's column "Oy! Thomas Jefferson, Jewish? Who Knew?" was not only funny, but so true. I, too, thought how sad my parents aren't around to learn that Jefferson is one of us. Having enjoyed Garver's columns at cbsnews.com in recent years, I'm now kvelling just knowing he's one of us.
Bravo to Rob Eshman's efforts to get more members of the L.A. Jewish community to consider driving a car powered by something other than gasoline ("Smug Alert," March 9). Yet another option not mentioned by Eshman: the Honda Civic GX, which runs on compressed natural gas. I might not be able to buy a jug of vegetable oil at Costco and pour it into my tank, as a biodiesel-owning co-worker does, but I can fill up my tank at home at a fraction of what gasoline would cost.
I am grateful that The Journal quickly included the shocking news of the passing of Nathan Shapell, one of the giants of our world Jewish community (Obituaries March 16). I would respectfully add certain aspects that bear disclosure. In six tortured years from 1939 to 1945 he endured the worst: the Shoah.
In six incredible years from 1945 to 1951 he performed a near miracle for thousands of survivors, displaced persons wandering aimlessly around Europe by creating, with the help of the American Military Government, a city of refuge and rehabilitation in Munchberg, Germany. He was its president, the creator of model Kibbutzim that trained those who would make aliyah to the Holy Land, the creator of a Free Loan to help people establish themselves and builder of new homes to house the homeless.
He came to Los Angeles in the early 1950s, joined Temple Beth Am and, in six years, began a three-year term as our president. He joined me in the cause of creating the first major memorial to the 6 Million -- after the community at large was reluctant to build one. It is a great stone replication of the Kotel with the names of the major death camps inscribed on it. It was completed in 1966, has been seen by hundreds of thousands since that day and was rededicated in 1991 by Shapell's children and grandchildren. A memorial candle has been burning at its side, replenished once a week, ever since. The charred Torah he brought with him from the Shoah rests in its Ark; he held that Torah in his arms at Yizkor four times each year. He has said Kaddish for the 18 members of his family murdered by the Nazis -- and the millions more -- every single day of his life.
Beth Am is proud to claim him as our own, to urge everyone to read his incredible eyewitness account of those tragic days, "Witness to the Truth," and to mourn his passing with heavy hearts.
Rabbi Jacob Pressman
Temple Beth Am
Breaking the Silence
I am closely related to one of the boys who started "Breaking the Silence" and it has been hard for me to get him to realize that he is doing damage ("The Freedom to Shut Up," March 2). I am going to send him your article.
By the way, my take on why he was involved is that he was wounded in his psyche, actually psychologically injured, by serving in Hebron and he is doing this to heal himself -- not altogether consciously.
Poverty in Israel
Dina Kraft exposes the seamy underside of Israel's "socialist paradise" in her recent cover article, "Homeless in the Holy Land" (March 9). With government data showing 25 percent of Israelis living in poverty, it's high time the media step forward to report this under-covered -- and vitally important -- story.
As a funder of critical social services throughout Israel, we hear stories every day of parents struggling to feed their children; seniors forgoing daily meals so they can afford their heart medications; recent olim (immigrants) confronting a daily existence more bleak than in the war-torn and poverty-stricken countries they have left behind. All of this in a country that, as Kraft notes, has twice the number of millionaires per capita as the world average.
Something is wrong with this picture. Which is why we're proud to be part of addressing the problem, by joining forces with a group of inspiring Israeli advocates to launch Leket, the country's first national food bank. Meeting the needs of hungry Israelis in a comprehensive and strategic fashion will go a long way toward easing the daily pressures felt by so many on the bottom rung of the economic ladder.
H. Eric Schockman
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
Temple Emanuel is proud of our bat mitzvah, Danielle David, and her decision to make a difference in the life of a child through the Make-a-Wish Foundation (How One Bat Mitzvah Girl Made A Wish Come True," March 16). Like Danielle, all b'nai mitzvah at Temple Emanuel are challenged to find a mitzvah project that involves both direct service through volunteering, as well as the giving of tzedakah to an organization that they find meaningful. The mitzvah project is monitored by their mentors, adults with whom they explore what it means to become bar or bat mitzvah; through the study of Torah, the exploration of what prayer means to them; and an engagement in tikkun olam.