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Letters to the Editor: Murder, USAID, Menches

January 11, 2013 | 11:37 am

Why Is Murder Wrong? It’s Simple … and Complex

The reason I can’t accept the foundation for Dennis Prager’s argument is that it relies exclusively on secondhand testimony (“Why Is Murder Wrong?” Dec. 14). Hearsay. Sadly, there is no irrefutable proof that the Bible is written by God; indeed, there is evidence that it was drafted by multiple people. The witnesses you may summon to profess God’s word — preachers, statesmen and busloads of devoted ordinary people — can do no more than exclaim their own personal faith. Good for them, but inadmissible as evidence. 

So, if murder isn’t punished by God, is it evil? Can’t say. But I can say that it’s abhorred pretty close to universally. People don’t like it. It’s treated as one of the worst crimes in every culture. It’s recognized as an act that fractures a society, and so societies rebel against it. 

Perhaps we’re hard-wired to not like seeing people we care about get killed, and therefore put great effort into devising laws and punishment to keep that from happening. Perhaps it’s just something that evolved along with civilization to help us keep from exterminating ourselves altogether. The prohibitions against murder are multitudinous and nearly universal without needing it to spring from Scripture.

We need rules that allow us to function as a civilization. Perhaps they are merely manufactured items forged by citizens desiring to bring harmony to the world. But that doesn’t make them any less valuable or useful.

Roger Thiessen, via e-mail


Highlighting the Good Work of USAID

The most important work our government does for our long-term global security goes unnoticed at best and funding is cut at worst (“America, the Mensch,” Jan. 4). Rajiv Shah is an excellent USAID director as well as an incredible talent and find for the U.S. government. I’m glad Rob Eshman got to hear him speak and was excited enough about what development and diplomacy can do to write a piece about it. 

Naomi Leight, via e-mail


My son, Robert M. Birkenes, who lives in Bangkok and who has been working with USAID for many years now, forwarded your wonderful article on Rajiv Shah to me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

The wonderful things USAID programs accomplish in our world should be publicized. Our government should employ a professional PR firm, which has international connections, and have them promote the great things USAID does every day throughout the world.

Robert E. Birkenes, Boca Raton, Fla.


Great Need for Board of Rabbis

If one area in the country needs an independent Board of Rabbis, it’s Los Angeles, which is ethnically diverse and has a pattern of relatively weak religious practice and affiliation among its Jews (“Federation Re-evaluating Board of Rabbis,” Jan. 4). Rabbis, congregants, noncongregants and synagogues in our local environment face significant challenges. Considering the removal of a service agency that has proven its worth over the past five decades is shortsighted. Unfortunately, that’s nothing new.

Pini Herman, Carthay Circle


A Bar Mitzvah to Remember

As a Jewish educator for more than 40 years, I have attended many outstanding b’nai mitzvah. None has meant as much to me as Shawn Lapin’s at Temple Judea of Tarzana (“Two-Person Army for Their Son,” Jan. 4). As I recall, the idea began with his two brothers, who felt that Shawn deserved what every 13-year-old is expected to attain. The Lapins, with the support and encouragement of Rabbi Steven Jacobs, prepared for a unique, beautiful rite of passage.

I can picture Shawn dressed in a handsome suit on the bimah. He sat patiently with a sympathetic aide by his side. When we reached the highlight of every bar mitzvah, the Torah service, Shawn proudly stood and said the word “Torah” loud and clear. It took him a year of preparation to learn that one powerful word.

Congratulations to the Jewish Journal for highlighting the activism of the Lapins. As advocates, may they go from strength to strength.

Judith V. Aronson, Los Angeles


Listen to One Who Knows About Learning a Trade

I was happy to see that the young man in the photo accompanying your article about vocational training (“Training for a Trade,” Dec. 14) was wearing hand and eye protection while operating a grinding tool. I didn’t, however, see any sort of hearing protection in the picture. As a lifelong tradesman who has reached the age of 60 (with fingers and eyes intact, thank God), I do have significant hearing loss, due, no doubt, to long exposure to screeching power tools.

I firmly believe the trades can offer mentally, physically and financially rewarding opportunities for our youth, but the skills acquired must be accompanied by an awareness of the related safety and health issues. I hope all the young folks who follow this career path will find it as deeply satisfying as I have.

Gary Abraham, Los Angeles

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