Jewish Journal

LETTERS: July 31-August 6, 2009

Posted on Jul. 29, 2009 at 10:44 pm

When the Going Gets Tough for Survivors

We can all be proud of the organized Jewish community’s response to the newly needy among us (“When the Going Gets Tough, Where Do You Go?” July 24). Yet the going has been tough for some time for too many survivors. Virtually every challenge demonstrated in that article can be applied to needy survivors.

A recent community forum at Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust highlighted the needs of indigent survivors. Representatives of The Federation, Jewish Family Service, Bikur Cholim, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, 2nd Generation, and Generations Connect described their efforts to meet those needs. Yet there is no complete understanding of the full extent of survivor poverty.

Many factors make this identification difficult. None is as powerful as the prison of shame, as stated eloquently by Temple Aliyah’s Jeff Bernhardt in Julie Fax’s effective journalism. Whether Holocaust survivors or not, no one wants to admit need. But even the resources available to survivors before the recession — augmented by some key philanthropists in our community — could not meet the full need of many.

Rabbi Mendel Cohen of Generations Connect and I met recently with Federation and JFS leaders to chart next steps. The will exists to make a difference for the destitute survivors among us. The most well-intentioned leaders can fail without their community behind them. Each of us must ensure our communal safety net stretches further.

Mark Rothman, Executive Director

Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

California Quagmire

A “well done” to Elissa Barrett and David Myers of the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) for their Opinion piece, “California Quagmire,” regarding our state’s budget crisis (“California Quagmire,” July 24).

Other than repealing Proposition 13 and overturning term-limit requirements, their suggested immediate steps are excellent and should be embraced as soon as possible by our state legislators: Close loopholes in commercial property taxes, repeal corporate tax breaks introduced this past year and reform our criminal justice system.

However, like many others, they believe that taxes are “our sole sources of revenue.” That need not and should not be the case. To deal with the budget, we address expenditures on one side of the balance and income on the other side. Taxes are only one part of the equation. There are other ways to increase income/revenues. We do need a bit of a paradigm shift to seek out and implement means for bringing new revenues into the state treasury. I can think of several.

George Epstein

Los Angeles

The problems that plague California raise endless policy, budgetary and political questions. However, the sober yet stimulating analysis from Elissa Barrett and David Myers reminds us that our Jewish values and tradition could guide California to an ethical, sustainable budget. Their sound suggestions of property tax, corporate tax and criminal justice reform are informed by our own Jewish values of social responsibility and fairness for all. California’s problems will not solve themselves. Our representatives in Sacramento need the Jewish community — and the best of the Jewish tradition — as partners.

Sam Yebri

via e-mail

While Americans are starting to take off their rose-colored glasses and see the flaws in Obama’s extreme left policies, Barrett and Myers team up to push their own socialist agenda. They start out by reminiscing about the good old days in Babylon, when Jews set up soup kitchens and other charities. Sounds nice, but it’s all down hill from there.They want to solve California’s budget woes by removing the tax incentives of the large corporations that employ millions of people. Do they really think these companies will stay and take the hit while other states are trying to lure them away with even greater tax breaks?

Daniel Iltis

Los Angeles

Palestinian Plight

I was disappointed in Cheryl Halpern’s opinionated dissection of President Obama’s speech made before the Arab community (“Palestinians’ Plight, Holocaust Are Not Analogous,” July 24). What can be accomplished by this repeated rhetoric? Her argument is specious because what happened thousands or 60 years ago is not germane to the world today. Ms. Halpern portrays a “link” as something ominous. I prefer to think of links as bridges, a way of bringing people together, finding a common ground.

The real and only humane argument is “how to stop the killing of children and other innocent people, whether they are Arab, Palestinian or Jewish.” And if it takes a two-state solution to accomplish this, then that is where our energy should be focused.

Obama laid it right on the line during this campaign. Let’s not only give him a chance, but it is imperative to support him. Isn’t Judaism about tikkun olam. Aren’t we supposed to try and repair the entire world?

Simona Klein

Santa Monica

Cheryl Hapern has it “spot on” in her article.

President Obama, who had huge Jewish support clearly, is lacking in his history and knowledge of Jews and the Holocaust. However, I am not surprised, knowing that he attended Rev. Wright’s church for 20 years, where anti-Semitic screed was preached and Louis Farrakhan was celebrated.

My surprise is that Jews, who walked with African Americans during the civil rights movement side by side with Martin Luther King Jr., thought they were doing a mitzvah by voting for Obama. They judged a man by the color of his skin and not the content of his character. This is why we have one of the most dangerous presidents ever in the office of the White House. I think that I am more upset by Jews than by Obama, as I knew his agenda upfront. He was just who he is ... an anti-American, anti-Israel, supporter of the Arab countries at the expense of the Jews. Just like Jews in pre-war Germany, who felt they were more German than Jewish, we reap what we sow. Shame on the Jewish community for rallying for a real Trojan Horse.

Allyson Rowen Taylor

CEO, People Against Hate Speech and Co-Founder of “Z” Street

Los Angeles

President Obama’s speech in Cairo committed an even graver sin than the implied linking of the Palestinian desire of a homeland to the Shoah. (The question of whether the “Palestinian desire” is for a homeland or for a jihadist state from the Mediterranean to Iraq is another matter.) Halpern’s dismay over this overwrought, misplaced and unfounded comparison in Obama’s Cairo speech is justified, but Obama’s seemingly off-hand “On the other hand” that linked the Shoah and the Palestinians’ political status takes at least a modicum of thought and attention to make the connection. Even worse was Obama’s explicit statement that the “plight of the Palestinians” and their “humiliations” are to be likened to the slavery and the following era of Jim Crow segregation experienced by the Africans brought against their will to America. This horrific falsification of fact and history is straight out of the worst anti-Israel Arab playbook and could be used to justify anti-Semitism by disaffected African Americans. Obama’s remark demonizes Israel if not Jews by affiliation and gives reason to the terrorist. So much for Rahm Emmanuel’s “influence.”

Equally disturbing is that neither the President nor his supporters have been called to account for the latter demagogic tidbit. When are Obama’s Jewish minyans going to realize that the current occupant in the White House is worse than misguided on the Middle East — and has already failed the test on Iran, not to mention Honduras?

Jarrow L. Rogovin

Los Angeles

Wagner Controversy

Manny Steinberg (“Letters,” July 24) says that Wagner “loved Hitler.” I think he has it backwards, since Hitler was born six years after Wagner’s death in 1883. Hitler did admire Wagner, however.

Jeffrey S. Lee

Newport Beach

Remembering Buenos Aires

Active Memory” (July 17) looked at Buenos Aires Memoria Avtiva’s work focusing on the continuing investigation into the July 18, 1994 Hezbollah bombing of the Jewish Community Center there, which killed 85 people. Let us also remember the 29 people killed in the March 17,1992 Hezbollah bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. You lamented “the world’s tendency to forget the lessons” of such terror attacks.

One reason for this is the media’s downplaying or ignoring attacks on Jews and Israelis. In the UK, while BBC Radio reported hourly on the 1994 attack, BBC main TV news ignored it. Responding to criticism, a BBC producer laughingly predicted “this will all be forgotten in a few days.” Not quite. A week later two Palestinian bombings in London, one against the Israel Embassy (one police officer lightly wounded) and one against a north London Jewish community center (no injuries) forced BBC TV News to refer back to the Argentina attacks. The Independent’s Robert Fisk claimed that “Hezbollah has taken a leaf from the Israeli army’s policy of an eye for an eye.” As the world forgets, ignores or lies we must always remember.

Bob Kirk

via e-mail

Chaos and Unity

I have had the privilege of meeting David Suissa number of times in the various synagogues “in the hood” (“Chaos and Unity,” July 17). Suissa is a wonderful Jewish man, well-spoken, who writes a very good weekly column in the journal. However, I say to him, “Please don’t fret. Israel is not really all mixed up and there is more unity there than chaos.” I base my perceptions on the vast experiences I have derived from my many missions to our Holy Land. There I conferred not only with the common folk as Suissa describes, but with many politicians and military at all levels. My journeys included not only the established large cities, but also Judea, Samaria, Shomron and the Golan Heights.

I am quite optimistic about the future and strength of Israel inasmuch as at strategic times the government and people of Israel will form a government of national unity such as was established right before the Six Day War in 1967, with outstanding results. Furthermore, ever since P.M. Netanyahu came into power in 2009, he has reached out to the Labor Party and brought them into the coalition, as well as inviting Tzipi Livni of the opposition party Kadima to likewise join him in national unity.

As far as Suissa ‘s reporting, there is concern for freezing of the settlements as a result of pressure coming from President Barack Obama. There are virtually no perceptible differences between former President Bush’s settlement policy and that of President Obama. Yet no one to my knowledge criticized George Bush.

I believe that President Obama is brilliant by his tactics in attempting to conduct a viable foreign policy taking into account 1.4 billion Muslims. However, we need not worry that this will be at the expense of Israel. I believe Obama understands the very special responsibility he has been given as leader of the free world. President Obama is thereby fulfilling the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to assess all sides of the issue. Obama has surrounded himself with very capable people, such as Rahm Emanuel, Dennis Ross, Hillary Clinton and others who are all respected friends of the State of Israel.

And finally, let us not be distracted from the most urgent issue of our time, as Rob Eshman has written and emphasized many times, mainly the existential threat from a nuclear Iran.

Bernard Nichols

via e-mail


In “California Quagmire” (July 24), the term kehilah kedoshah was mistakenly changed to kehillah kedushah. Also, the quote from Pirke Avot should have begun: “If I am not for myself” rather than “If I am only for myself.“The Journal regrets the errors.

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