June 22, 2006
Each year, the Jewish community bemoans the high cost of a day school education, while touting its value with subjective quote, such as, "Population studies have shown that day school alumni are more likely to retain a lifelong affiliation rate with Judaism and to educate their own kids Jewishly." Objective statistics somehow are never included to support those claims.
In fact, commitment to Judaism stems from the home, not the school. If it appears that day school graduates are more dedicated, the likelihood is that they come from homes where Jewish values and observance are a priority. Those same graduates, had they attended supplemental schools, would be just as likely to become stalwart adult members of the Jewish community, without having impoverished their families in the process.
Despite the wonderful work being done by people like Miriam Prum-Hess, there will never be enough money to enable the vast majority of middle-class families to utilize day schools. That's because there are other very worthy causes, such as caring for the elderly, indigents, immigrants and the Land of Israel, that also deserve additional funding.
Unlike those other causes though, there is a day school alternative -- the supplemental school. Supplemental schools are far more affordable, can usually provide financial assistance and offer classes for kindergarten through 12th grade. Synagogues generally provide the kindergarten through seventh-grade components, while community schools, such as the Los Angeles Hebrew High School (LAAHS), offer classes for students in eighth through 12th grade. On June 12, LAHHS graduated 68 students from its five-year program. This is its 55th graduating class.
Regretfully, during the past decade, many synagogues have downsized their Hebrew school programs from three days per week to two days or less, deeming them unattractive to committed families. Returning those programs back to their initial stature will provide middle-class families with a viable alternative that won't drive them to the poor house.
The Jewish community must refocus its efforts and resources to bolster supplemental education. Synagogues must revisit the curricula of their schools to assure that their students receive a rigorous and robust Jewish education.
Finally, the Bureau of Jewish Education must raise its standards for accreditation of supplemental schools. Once synagogue-based Hebrew schools provide the level of Jewish education that they did in their glory days, middle-class families will no longer find it necessary to make great financial sacrifices when raising children, and a quality Jewish education will be accessible for all.
Leonard M. Solomon
Los Angeles Hebrew High School
One practical solution to balance budgets and save is to move to nice, affordable areas of good value and build satellite communities as we are doing in Tehachapi ("Middle-Class Squeeze," June. 9). The Kern County Kehilla is providing for the needs of the local Jewish population and has the guidance of the rabbis affiliated with the Orthodox Union, Agudah and Chabad.
Roger M. Pearlman
I note the reference in the article on the academic achievements of young Kenny Gotlieb that he is a grandson of a survivor of the "Polish Holocaust" ("Seniors' Deeds Pave Path for Future," June 9). Excuse me, but can someone explain to me what is a "Polish Holocaust?"
Is this suggesting that the majority of Holocaust victims were Poles? Or is it supposed to imply that the Holocaust was created by Poles? Surely neither of these. Is it supposed to mean that the Holocaust largely took place in Poland occupied by Nazi Germany? If so, then please say so.
I am afraid that this constant coupling of the word "Holocaust" with the word "Poland" makes the young people of today forget that the author of the Holocaust was Nazi Germany, whose armies conquered most of Europe and imposed the genocide of the Jews throughout the Continent. So please call it the "Nazi Holocaust" or the "European Holocaust," or best of all, just "The Holocaust" (for there was only one) and not "Polish Holocaust."
It is unfortunate that the Jewish media is all too willing to jump on a bandwagon of kosher-bashing Rob Eshman and The Forward before him are being guided not by Jewish law and ethics but by the standards of Whole Foods and PETA ("But Is It Kosher," June 9). PETA has consistently advocated that "meat is murder" and compared factory farming chickens to the mass murder of Jews in the Shoah. Any shechitah [kosher slaughter] is going to be deemed unkosher in their eyes.
Precisely because of the Jewish values Eshman refers to, Nathan Lewin, attorney for [Aaron] Rubashkin, and supervising rabbis hired independent investigators. They interviewed dozens of employees and found the allegations [of slaughter-house cruelty and mistreatment of employees] to be without merit. To summarize, "AgriProcessors, faithful to Torah ethics, provides an environment where its employees are treated with justice."
Why are Jewish journalists giving a greater benefit of the doubt to PETA than to the companies that provide kosher meat and the rabbis who supervise them? The negative repercussions of such criticism amongst both the Jewish and non-Jewish world are self-evident. I would direct your readers to the recent edition of the Jewish Press to hear Lewin's full account.
It would be nice if Rob Eshman were to shy away from articles critical of his fellow Jews. But, if he cannot resist the burning journalistic desire to attack, I would hope that he would put more energy toward presenting a balanced view.
In the June 2 edition, a lengthy article by Amy Klein was published, featuring the use of the mikvah at the University of Judaism. It was a very instructive article but somewhat incomplete. The article failed to recognize the function of the Rabbinical Assembly Bet Din, which has been long established and meets at the University of Judaism ("Court Seeks to Ease Way for Conversions").
The Rabbinical Assembly Bet Din serves conversion candidates of all persuasions and not only those of the Conservative movement. Candidates come to the Bet Din of the Rabbinical Assembly from throughout the Pacific Southwest area and even from other states or countries.
We are very proud of the Rabbinical Assembly Bet Din and the good work it has done for the past many years. We are especially appreciative of the wonderful rabbis who give of their time and expertise to serve on this Bet Din.
Pacific Southwest Region
In your May 19 letters section, Ilana Zadok asks, "Where were the American Jews [during the Holocaust]?"
For her information, hundreds of thousands of us were in the U.S. Army, Navy and Marines fighting Hitler and his allies. Of the nine-man B-17 crew of which I was the navigator, two others were also Jews: the pilot and the ball-turret gunner.
The lead pilot on my group's Berlin raid of Feb. 3, 1945, when we scored direct hits on Hitler's central command offices, was Col. Robert "Rosie" Rosenthal of Brooklyn, who was flying his 52nd bombing mission, a record for the 100th Bomb Group. Rosie's plane was shot down, but he and his crew parachuted behind the advancing Soviet lines and all returned safely.
The U.S. Eighth Air Force had begun attacking Germany in late 1942 as the Nazi campaign of genocide against the Jews and Gypsies intensified and the concentration camps became slaughterhouses. Thousands of American Jews died on the battlefields in World War II, and it is unfair to imply that the American Jews did nothing.
South Central Farm
I have been following the battle over the South Central Farm for some time and am disgusted at today's outcome ("Ecohustle Blooms in Community Garden," June 2). Developer [Ralph] Horowitz's intransigent position and accusations of anti-Semitism do great harm to us all. It is past time for someone of influence to intercede. Where is his rabbi? Or his mother?
From reputation and general veneration, I had always believed Rabbi Jacob Pressman to be an intelligent and reliable community leader. Reading his foolish letter this past week convinced me I was wrong on all counts (Is It Kosher?" June 16).
Pressman would have us believe that there is some Orthodox cabal controlling the purse strings of the literally hundreds of kashrut supervising agencies; that a group of black-hatted, white-bearded rebbes control the bank accounts and policies of these "for profit" groups -- this is America after all -- shades of the protocols! And all that has to be done to properly fund day schools is to divert these funds to cover the schools' budgets, how simple and how asinine and misleading. Shame on you Rabbi Pressman. You do know better!
Growing up in L.A., I know that neither Pressman nor his Conservative (and Reform) colleagues contributed one whit to kashrut observance in this city. There were no restaurants or widespread bakery products available while he was in his prime, so he has nothing to say. Sit back and enjoy your Oreos!
As regards high and truly unbearable tuition rates in our city, there is a simple solution, one that both the secular rabbinate and The Jewish Journal oppose -- vouchers. I and my fellow community members pay thousands in taxes to fund a public school system that we choose not to use. Can't we get some credit?
Nature of Kashrut
I enjoyed reading Rob Eshman's article ("But Is It Kosher," June 9), which detailed the controversy that followed People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) with the Orthodox Union over kosher slaughter practices, and AgriProcessors' questionable treatment of its own workers. Most interesting to me was the latter part of the article, which tried to discuss the nature of kashrut.
The article quotes scholar Meir Soloveichik as calling the nature of kashrut "mysterious and obvious ... the Bible insists that it be perfectly clear to the non-Jew that the Torah-observant Israelite lives a life that reminds him constantly of his unique relationship with God." In other words, it is to let the non-Jew know that we are special and follow laws meant to "set us apart and elevate our souls."
Then in the last breath of the article, Eshman recommends that "the kosher label should not just imply the humane, responsible treatment of animals and the just treatment of food industry workers, it should certify it." In other words, kosher should mean that universal standards of humane treatment are being met, standards that any reasonable person would want.
So, which is it? Do we follow kashrut to set ourselves apart from the rest of the world or to encourage the rest of the world to join with us? It can't be both.
Roz Rothstein's article on the anti-Semitic Jew, [Norman] Finkelstein, highlights a major lapse in common knowledge about Jewish history ("Beware the Finklestein Syndrome," June 9). While every effort is made to inform the world about the Holocaust, very little information is disseminated about the history of lies and hate against the Jews, or its relationship to the Holocaust. I have seen history books that devote two pages to Anne Fran but fail to mention that Jews were patriotic Germans and no threat to Germany.
Theobald of Cambridge, a 12th century apostate to Catholicism, created the "blood libel" which has lasted to this day and caused thousands of Jewish deaths. If there was general awareness of the history of hatred against the Jews, then when people hear a Finkelstein, they can wonder, is he a whistleblower or a modern-day Theobald?
Those who wish to spread vicious lies against Jews today do not convert to another religion; their venom is more credible when they remain Jews, especially if they can claim to be from a family of survivors .
Enjoyed your articles on "The DaVinci Code," (May 19), but only the first three gospels of the New Testament (Mathew, Mark and Luke) are synoptic gospels. They are synoptic because they are similar to each other and different from the writings of the fourth gospel of John.
As a convert to Judaism, I was reassured to read your series of articles on those like me who chose to become Jews ("Did It Stick?" June 2). A lapsed Catholic with many Jewish friends growing up on Long Island, early on I was attracted to the ethics and worldly focus of Judaism. Following a course of study at Temple Emanuel in New York City, I converted in 1967, and my first wife and I raised our three children in the Jewish tradition.
In 1992, on the eve of her bat mitzvah, my youngest daughter asked if I would be bar mitzvahed with her. That glorious day came to pass at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, with Rabbi Harvey Fields observing that in the 130-year history of the temple, there was no record of a father and daughter having a b'nai mitzvah. At the party afterward, when Tessa and I greeted everyone, I said that I had checked around the room, and I was the only person who had had a first holy communion and a bar mitzvah.
In my life in Los Angeles with my wife, Wendy, inspired by Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller at UCLA and through my work with the Progressive Jewish Alliance, enriched by interfaith activities, Judaism has strengthened and complemented my struggle for civil liberties, human rights, peace and justice.
Stephen F Rohde
In the June 16 issue, the photo accompanying the story, "Jewish World Watch Eyes National Stage," was taken by Alicia Bergman.