May 4, 2010
Letters to the Editor: Psychic, Seidler-Feller, Flight of the Intellectuals
An Even Younger Youngest
Congratulations to Rachel Lester for getting elected to her neighborhood council (“Jewish Student Youngest Ever Elected to Neighborhood Council,” April 23). I do want to note, however, that at 15 she is not the youngest person ever elected to a neighborhood council. Our son, Micah Rodman, was 14 when elected to the Olympic Park Neighborhood Council (OPNC) in August 2007. During his tenure he’s learned quite a bit about politics and the needs of his community; a great experience we hope Rachel shares as well.
Psychic ‘Healing’ Questioned
I remain utterly nauseated at the practice of psychic Rebecca Rosen (“The Jewish Medium is the Message,” April 23) of charging $500 an hour for one of her “readings.” The quotes are not because I doubt her abilities but their ultimate value, beyond the shock awareness of hearing them. They do nothing but foster dependence on and complete obeisance to the psychic. As Rosen herself notes at the end of the article, she herself fears disempowering her clients and steering them away from concentrating on developing their own intuition and inner guidance.
Her practice is clearly elitist. What ever happened to the spiritual tradition of the spiritual leader as humble servant of those he/she serves? What ever happened to spiritual practice as fundamentally divorced from material gain — since the objectives are, presumably, wholly different? Rosen’s feeble, self-centered and arrogant defense compares her work with that of medical doctors and therapists — men and women who are doing real, actual, critical, healing work on the body and truly saving lives. Rosen is not saving any lives. And she is propagating a practice that, by the very nature of its cost, assures her of a) the rich/celebrity class, who can easily afford it, and b) those just under [that class] who force themselves to take a big bite financially to gain Rosen’s “insights.”
Of course, the poor, the average worker, gains none of these benefits. Let me ask Rosen, does she ever — as many medical doctors do — donate any of her time to the poor or working class here or of any country?
Does she ever work for free? I doubt it, because as she selfishly points out in the article, “You’re paying for my time and energy, which are extremely limited. There is only one me and thousands coming to see me.”
Poor Rebecca Rosen, forced by all these desperate, adoring souls and rich celebrities to charge $500 [per hour] for her gifts. Personally, from a spiritual point of view, I find her behavior, and the behavior of others like her — from all religious traditions — abominable. As Rosen claws for more profits the average working-class person putters on, as they always have, unaware of what’s available on the other side of the castle walls, where the king and his consorts freely (well, perhaps not) avail themselves of the likes of Rosen’s talent.
Like all of us, Rosen has much, much work to do. On herself.
More Korobkin, Please!
Please publish more of Rabbi Daniel Korobkin’s book reviews. He is able, in a few words, to seize the essence of the books he discusses. His comments on “Yehuda Halevi” (“Halevi: The Poet and the Man,” April 16), especially, whet the reader’s appetite.
Grater Can Speak for Self,
We are current and former congregants of Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater who feel compelled to disagree with his recent comments on Israel (“Jews Must Stay on Visionary Obama’s Side,” jewishjournal.com, April 19).
Rabbi Grater claims to speak for the Jewish community (“The Jewish community knows that President Obama is this kind of leader ...”). The rabbi is entitled to his views on American politics, but he is not entitled to speak for American Jewry at a time of fraught U.S.-Israel relations, brought on by the White House’s ineffective Middle East diplomacy.
When the White House pushed Israel over a zoning issue in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, the Arab side felt compelled to be no less demanding than the White House. The president’s position was unpopular with many Americans. Almost immediately, three quarters of our elected representatives, including 76 senators and more than three-quarters of the House, both Republicans and Democrats, signed bipartisan letters in response, demanding that the president reaffirm the U.S.-Israeli relationship.
In support of his political position, Rabbi Grater quotes an ancient text, the Pirkei Avot: “While we are not called upon to finish the job, we are certainly called upon to never cease from trying.” Unfortunately, the nature of “the job” is left undefined. If the task is to ensure the survival of the only Jewish state in the world and the 6 million who live there, then Jews and other supporters of Israel may demand that President Obama not just say that he is a friend of Israel, but act like one.
Edward Vaisbort, Pasadena
Anita Brenner, La Canada Flintridge
Carolyn Kunin, Pasadena
Ahuva Einstein, Pasadena
Josef Ulloa, Covina
Seidler-Feller Not Worthy of Pedestal
Your lengthy and highly positive article on Chaim Seidler-Feller (“To Nudge and to Support,” April 30) stimulated memories of my experience of him.
The first was at a program he sponsored for Dennis Ross speaking about the Middle East peace. Seidler-Feller was very concerned about Muslims and spoke about raising money to plant trees in Judea and Sumeria.
I must say I wondered why a rabbi was concerned with people who have billionaire supporters needing Jewish money when there are many Jews in need. My second experience was at an Alan Dershowitz speaking engagement at UCLA. A visibly agitated Seidler-Feller was not happy with what Dershowitz expressed. When I later learned of his “altercation” with a woman at the event, I was shocked that someone who had expressed humanitarian concerns at my first exposure could physically attack anyone, [much] less a woman.
What I find just as shocking is that The Jewish Journal puts Seidler-Feller on a pedestal as an example of righteousness to admire. I must ask, if a rabbi outside of the progressive community would physically assault a woman, would that rabbi ever be the subject of such a Jewish Journal article expressing his righteousness?
Intellectuals Have Flown Away From Jewish Journal
Never before has The Jewish Journal spoken more truthfully than with the cover “The Flight of the Intellectuals” (April 30). Upon opening the cover, there was a full-page ad from J Street slamming Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. J Street’s delusions about [achieving] peace [in the Middle East] by giving up Jerusalem exemplify how unintellectual they really are. Then an article about Chaim Seidler-Feller, who after having attacked a “female journalist” for using her First Amendment rights, is portrayed as a hero while inhibiting the groups he deems as “right wing” from the UCLA campus. This is not my idea of a mensch.
I have long lost any faith, no pun intended, in The Jewish Journal as a paper that represents the diverse Jewish community in Los Angeles, even with the addition of an occasional Dennis Prager op-ed or an article by Martin Sherman or David Suissa. There is a flight of intellectuals, and The Jewish Journal is an example of that.
Dignity for All?
How can Dennis Prager not understand that those of us who engage in political activism believe we are promoting the dignity of all peoples (“A Jewish Value That Has Influenced My Radio Show,” April 23)?
Also, how does he make sense of the corrosive language and behavior of his brethren at Fox News who share his politics but apparently not the dignity of each individual — in particular the one who holds the office of president of the United States?
Libby R. Wein
I would like to commend Dennis Prager for standing up for the Jewish value of not humiliating an opponent, whether or not readers concur with his self-assessment that he practices what he preaches. Prager is describing one tenet of nonviolent communication, a methodology that can be learned more formally if one studies Marshall Rosenberg’s work “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.” I am indebted, incidentally, to a Muslim friend not only for introducing me to this text, but also for leading an interfaith workshop on this.
Libby R. Wein
Walking on J Street
In the J Street full-page ad last week (April 30) J Street hopes that it will result in a civil discussion in our community. I must confess that reading this tirade against Israel has stretched the bonds of my civility to the breaking point. How true the adage “fear most those Jews amongst us.” I find terror in the fact that J Street has enough rich American benefactors to enable them to spread worldwide their venom against Israel. Open your eyes, J Street. It is Israel’s survival that is at stake. Palestinians have a right to their position. All good people want a resolution. In the give and take, never forget that Palestine’s survival is not at risk. Use your influence to urge the Palestinians to sit at the negotiating table. Stop feeding the flames of their obstinacy. If you truly desire a civil discussion, it should be between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
Yossi Sarid taking Elie Wiesel to task (paid ad: “An Open Letter to Elie Wiesel on Jerusalem,” April 30) on issues of national memory and historical rights in Israel should be dismissed as laughable if it was not continuing the damaging and destructive path his new benefactor, J Street, has embarked on since its inception. Before 1967, only the Muslims could worship unimpeded and they continue today to try and negate any religious claim by others to holy sites anywhere in Israel. Forget about Jewish access to holy sites, just look at what’s happened in Bethlehem where a thriving Christian community has been displaced by an autocratic and intolerable Muslim population.
It’s sad that Sarid has no spiritual connection to the land and therefore treats it like any other piece of property, to be bargained for or traded for lies and deceptions with so-called partners who have proven time and again to be untrustworthy and filled with malicious intent. The holy war is perpetrated by the Palestinians, not the Israelis, and the blinders he wears concealing this fact make him an unreliable and dangerous figure. We need Obama to “save us from ourselves”? A statement like this shows his chutzpah and ego have no bounds. The Jewish spirit needs more people like Wiesel and not like Sarid so that Jewish inalienable rights are at least as important as any other, a fact Sarid and J Street have not quite grasped in their rush to help our neighbors, bent on our destruction.
I appreciated Ben Sales’ review of my book “Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us About Building Vibrant Jewish Communities.” However, I must set the record straight about two mischaracterizations in the review:
1. Sales writes that “the thesis” of the book is: “Lose your synagogue, lose your rabbi, go to a church basement, and start singing prayers in Hebrew ...” This is quite overstated. I am not in favor of anyone leaving their synagogue or “losing” their rabbi. I state explicitly in the book (page 75) that “I have tremendous respect for the community built in healthy synagogues. At their best, they model (often much better than independent minyanim) what it means to care for people who are vulnerable, to educate and engage children, and to provide services for the elderly.” While I believe synagogues can do more to unlock the power of prayer, I do not advocate leaving synagogues for minyanim. Most Jews coming to minyanim never started out in a synagogue to begin with. As for rabbis, I believe now more than ever Jews need rabbis as teachers, if not as stand-ins for their own Jewish identity.
2. Sales claims I write that independent minyanim can “save American Judaism.” In fact, I write (page 15) that Hadar, one of the flagship minyanim, “is not going to ‘fix’ American Judaism.” I believe empowered Jews have the potential to alter the path of American Jewish life, but I do not believe in the rhetoric of “saving.”
Rabbi Elie Kaunfer
executive director, Mechon Hadar
Following the airplane crash on April 10 that killed the Polish president and 94 others, it was so meaningful that four rabbis, representing the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, paid a condolence call to the Polish Consulate in Los Angeles. As I read Julie Gruenbaum Fax’s Community News item “Rabbis Pay Condolence Call to Poles” (April 23), I was proud to be a Jew! These four rabbis really represented the entire Jewish community. I thank them for their act and The Jewish Journal for informing us.
Bombing Auschwitz Rail Lines
With shock and shame I read the letter sent to you by Myron Kayton regarding the Allies’ refusal to bomb the Auschwitz rail lines (“Bombing Auschwitz Rail Lines Was Not a Viable Option,” April 23).
Kayton states: “Tugend repeats the canard that arises every few years, that the United States and Britain should have bombed the rail lines at Auschwitz. In the 1940s, bombing accuracy from an altitude of 25,000 feet would have placed half the bombs outside a three-mile radius of the intended target. Bombs aimed at rail lines would have killed hundreds in the barracks during each raid and made life even more miserable for the survivors.”
It is a fact that in 1944 the head of the War Refugee Board created by President Roosevelt, John Pehle, asked the U.S. War Department to bomb the Auschwitz Rail Lines. It was obvious that Allied bombing of train tracks elsewhere in Europe was interfering with German transport and negatively affecting their war effort.
John McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War, argued that the Germans would quickly repair the damage, making the operation a waste. A week later, when asked again, his argument was that Auschwitz was too far for the Allied planes to reach, making it a dangerous operation. This, even though at that time, Allied planes controlled the skies and the German air force was no longer a challenge. Eight days later, 452 B-17 bombers flew to bomb Nazi positions and came within 10 miles of Auschwitz.
In their book “To Save a World,” the authors quote a Jewish inmate survivor as saying: “We kept praying the Allies would bomb Auschwitz. We knew some of us might be killed. But we were all slated to be killed by the Nazis anyway, and if the gas chambers had been knocked out of commission, further murders would have been avoided.” It just plain stands to reason.
The pain and agony felt by the Jews in Europe, in addition to the torture and suffering they were undergoing by the Nazis, was greatly amplified by the feeling of being abandoned by the United States and the Allies.
This is a great country and it has been wonderful to the Jews and we must have and show much appreciation for it. In its greatness, it allows us to be vocal about its mistakes. Many say it was anti-Semitism, but at the very least, we must admit that not bombing the Auschwitz train tracks was a mistake. A very big and tragic mistake.
Dr. Rachel Freedland
Let me see if I understand this correctly. According to Rob Eshman’s column (”Wandering the Biltmore,” April 30), he points out that “$500 billion - billion—is sitting in private Jewish foundations in America, and only 5 percent is being used.”
The Obama administration gives Israel $3 billion a year with strings attached, veiled threats and admonitions, and Israel is expected to bow down and be obedient. What’s wrong with this picture?
Health Care Chaos
I must respond to Stuart Weiss’ Letter to the Editor response to my letter regarding single-payer health care in California (SB 810). Not only am I familiar with the “sovereign State [sic] of Massachusetts,” I was a practicing physician there in the 1990s and know the system well. I welcome the opportunity to spread the gospel of single-payer. The Massachusetts health care reform plan of 2006 is a very complex multiple-payer system that is failing due to lack of both cost controls and primary care physicians to administer the program. The average wait for new patient examinations is nine months. Why is this a problem especially in Boston, the mecca of our health care system? With reimbursements similar to Medicaid rates, which are well below decreasing Medicare rates, the primary care physician cannot survive economically.
Ironically, Obamacare is the Massachusetts model for health care reform. It will not stop the economic disaster we face where two-thirds of bankruptcies are medically based and 2/3 of these are families who have health insurance. Single-payer—be it in California or nationally—will rescue the billions of dollars hidden and squandered by the health care industry and give it back to the public. Single-payer will mandate our governments to control the outrageous prices we all pay in the health care marketplace—premiums, medicines, medical supplies and equipment—and return dignity and respect to a profession ravaged by powers beyond its control. The average medical school debt is $200,000 and only 30 percent of primary care residencies are filled with American medical school graduates. When the public becomes aware that one-third of the world profits of the Swiss pharmaceutical industry come from the United States, it will understand that we all need protection. We already see the excess profits of the health insurers (WellPoint, with a 51 percent increase just announced and planning premium hikes).
Yes, Stuart Weiss, I have made a long and dedicated study of health care reform and know the difference between single-payer and the Massachusetts plan/Obamacare. In the spirit of Maimonides, I will continue to do what is best for my patients.
Jerome P. Helman, M.D.
In Rob Eshman’s column, “Wandering the Biltmore,” he stated that $500 billion is sitting in private Jewish foundations. That is incorrect. $500 billion is the amount controlled by all foundations in America.