Jewish Journal

Letters: Marty Kaplan, Bad Behavior, ‘Inglorious Basterds,’ District 2 election

Posted on Dec. 23, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Marty Kaplan

The Journal didn’t have to hire Marty Kaplan. All you had to do is automatically print biweekly columns from your computer with the names Palin (is bad), Limbaugh (is bad), Cheney (is bad), Hannity (is bad). You could save a lot of money that way. Avoid the middleman!

Richard Levine
via e-mail

Bad Behavior

Apropos of Rob Eshman’s editorial, “Bad Behavior” (Dec. 11), I wrote a rabbinic opinion for the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards that was unanimously approved by that committee last June.

In the teshuvah, I specifically decry what Rabbi Steven Weil did, which Rob heartily endorses, especially because the man in question was only indicted at the time and Jewish law has a greater presumption of innocence than American law does. (In Jewish law you cannot confess to a crime, but you can in American law.) Even if he had been convicted by that time, defaming him in public is questionable, especially since his innocent family is thereby tainted as well. Rob’s essay took the prophetic strain of our tradition and ran with it, and that is good when the moral norms governing an issue are clear. I personally, though, am glad that Judaism is based primarily on the rabbinic, rather than the prophetic, tradition, because the rabbis were much more attuned to the complications of most real cases in life and they responded to them in the appropriate, nuanced fashion. None of this means we should approve of Jews violating the law; I rather want to call attention to our duty not to do anything immoral ourselves in responding to violations of law or morals.

Rabbi Elliot Dorff
Los Angeles

Rob Eshman responds:
Rabbi Dorff and I agree that guilt must be established before any public condemnation is made. We also agree that in some cases public condemnation is warranted — indeed, morally obligatory — and that the rules governing our response to perpetrators of violent crimes should differ from our response to those who commit financial crimes. Among the latter, there is a spectrum of harm, and our responses should vary accordingly. I urge readers to study Rabbi Dorff’s teshuvah, at rabbinicalassembly.org under “Contemporary Halakhah.”

In regard to your Dec. 11 editorial, “Bad Behavior,” the argument is compelling, but it does not go far enough. It’s well and good that the synagogue you referenced “removed the indicted donor’s name from the places where it had appeared.” But did they return the money that he donated? This could be considered as financial fruit from the poisoned tree. If the tree is proscribed, should we not be enjoined from enjoying its fruits?

This would be a relatively easy decision if the money was given or pledged, but not yet received or expended. However, in a situation like this, where contributions made years before are found to be from tainted money, what should communal policy be? Personally, if the money was originally accepted in good faith and applied in good faith, I do not think it need be returned. (Although if an organization decides to keep the money, perhaps it should not make too big a spectacle out of rebuking the perpetrator, lest they appear a tad hypocritical.) But the question is worth a discussion, which so far has been missing.

Richard A. Siegel
Director, HUC-JIR School of Jewish Communal Service

Jewish Revenge

I recently watched “Inglourious Basterds” and had the completely opposite reaction that Sheldon Roth had (“My Son Killed Adolf Hitler,” Dec. 11). Tarantino has been quoted as saying that Holocaust movies always portray Jews as victims, but with his movie he wanted to do something different; he wanted to have the fun of an action movie without the sadness of World War II and the Holocaust bumming him out. After watching the movie I was not sad, but I was deeply disturbed.

I don’t think there is anything Jewish about this movie.

Revenge is not bashing in the brains of some average Nazi soldier with a baseball bat. Revenge would have been capturing Hitler alive and forcing him to attend every bris of every Jewish child born to survivors. Make him go to the weddings, the High Holidays services, every opening of every new synagogue, or yeshiva, or Jewish community center. That would be revenge!

Rabbi Ahud Sela
Sinai Temple
Los Angeles

Council District 2

I want to take issue with the assertion in this article (“Special Election or Secret Election: The Race for L.A.’s Council District 2,” Dec. 4) that the [Los Angeles] Times is not aggressively covering the 2nd District race. Maeve Reston, one of our City Hall reporters, has been hammering away on this campaign for months and has more stories coming. Those interested in the race can read the coverage at latimes.com/second.

Shelby Grad
City Editor, Los Angeles Times

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