After Sept. 11, John Ashcroft led a panicked America down a path on which liberty was surrendered for an amorphous sense of security. The cries of the usual suspects on the left – the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Progressive Jewish Alliance – were ignored as so much theoretical whining in the face of a real and an implacable enemy.
And thus, we have arrived at the current impossible situation. The Immigration and Naturalization Service detains and threatens to deport members of the Jewish community – Iranian Jews who immigrated to the United States years ago to seek asylum from oppression – on the flimsiest of pretexts, and the community's voice is silent ("Persian Jews Protest Recent INS Tactics," Dec. 20). The outcry dies in the throats as a result of the underlying fear that all those others (the Muslims who immigrated to the United States years ago to seek asylum from oppression) need to have been arrested. This is not the time to muck up the works of the security apparatus. There can be no freedom for anyone unless there is freedom for everyone.
Dr. Aryeh Cohen, President-elect Progressive Jewish Alliance
Reality for Campus Ills
I am perplexed by Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller's opinion ("Reality for Campus Ills," Dec. 20). He uses the term "survivalist" in a pejorative manner and his statement that "the current rush by the survivalists to produce propaganda brochures of questionable utility" mystifies me. Does he believe that educating students regarding Israel's position is of "questionable utility?" The Anti-Defamation League statement that "anti-Semitism on college campuses is virtually nonexistent" is dangerously misleading – all too often, "anti-Israel" is a proxy for "anti-Semitism." My question for the rabbi is why he denies the facts on the ground and feels the need to employ the use of insulting terminology? The classic mantra of "can't we all just get along" isn't enough right now – truth and facts via education and acknowledging reality are what is needed. Our students need us to guide them and support their efforts.
Maxine Morris, Los Angeles
While recently attending a lunch in honor of excellence in education at UCLA, I happened onto the Muslim Students Association office. On the wall facing the hall were fliers promoting "Judaism = Nazism, Israel = Apartheid" and other overused and tired rhetoric of baseless bigotry and racial and religious hatred. These fliers incited a political agenda that reeked of a sick and twisted pursuit of the eradication of the legitimate country of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants. And this found in a university paid for and endorsed office? A university that prides itself on tolerance, learning and acceptance of the pursuits of its students hosts a union of hate-mongering bigots? Are these the same people that Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller believes want to exist peacefully with him, in his dreamy "peace-at-all-costs" reverie? How can an administration allow this to exist in an otherwise liberal and truth-seeking institution?
Cori Drasin, Beverly Hills
I don't agree with Loolwa Khazzoom regarding the "terrorization and expulsion of Mizrahim throughout the Middle East and North Africa" ("Arab Accountability," Dec. 20). For the sake of truth and the hope to live someday peacefully with our Palestinian and Arab neighbors, we should not add oil to the fire that already exists. Even during the worst wars between Israel and the Arab states, some Jews were accused of Zionism and put in jails and some were even executed in public, but no Jews were put in concentration camps or ghettos or expelled. All the Jews who came to Israel did so of their own will (for various religious, economic and, of course, some out of general fear) and had the option to do so or to stay citizens of Iraq, as indeed a few thousand did.
Yona Sabar , Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
"The Pianist" gives us a vivid picture of a Nazi-built wall imprisoning Jews within the Warsaw Ghetto ("Living Part Is Key for Brody," Dec. 20). It is tragic that 60 years later, it is possible that a Jewish state can only live in peace behind the walls of a self-imposed ghetto.
Martin J. Weisman, Westlake Village
The Ground Floor
When you talk about Jewish life in the South Bay and neglect to mention that Temple Beth El-San Pedro, now in the midst of celebrating our 80th year is also part of the thriving community, you do a disservice to our strong membership ("The Ground Floor," Dec. 13).
We may have fewer members than the other mentioned synagogues, however, we have just opened an interim location trying to bring new members from the west side of the peninsula into our congregation. Rabbi David Lieb has been with our congregation for over 25 years and has brought us wonderful programs and services; Cantor Ilan Davidson brings such warmth to our Shabbat services and has brought together a multicultural psalmfest over the past few years that continues to grow, and Debi M. Rowe, our Torah School director, brings us new and innovative programming for our students. We have a vibrant preschool and a Sisterhood that boasts almost 200 women strong.
So when you discuss the future of the South Bay Jewish community, please take the time to remember all of us. It will help us all to grow.
Reva Skoll, Sisterhood Past President Temple Beth El
The 'People's House'
Dr. Joel Geiderman's article, "A Chanukah in the 'People's House,'" (Dec. 13) contends that "we Jews have a great friend in the White House." If so, why does Bush stand on the sidelines when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict calls for intervention by a third party? Presidents Carter and Clinton at least tried to find a common ground. And Bush has promised to fight terrorism wherever it occurs, which should include suicide bombers.
I also suppose that Geiderman is not bothered by the order Bush signed that makes it easier for religious groups to obtain federal funds for charity work, which allows them to hire based on an individual's religious beliefs. This has not been permitted in the past because it threatens the separation between church and state – something that does not bode well for Jews.
The good doctor's credentials as an avowed member of the "religious right" earned an invitation to the White House, but that doesn't make Bush a "real mensch."
Edward L. Koblitz, Los Angeles
Abraham Not Guilty
What a relief that our holy patriarch Abraham was found not guilty of attempted murder of his son Isaac by a razor-thin majority at the University of Judaism ("Abraham Not Guilty," Dec. 13). Abraham was not tried by rowdy gentiles but by a Jewish judge, lawyers, rabbis and a jury of over 400 Jews. The rabbis at this "mocking" and embarrassing trial of the greatest leader mankind has ever known, were not impressed that our Creator had already determined that Abraham's courageous and successful test to sacrifice his son resulted in his being exalted and "blessed with everything."
Martin S. Rosenberg, Thousand Oaks
Fuel for the Fire
Many of us equate fossil fuels with energy, forgetting the other usable forms of "fuel for the fire" ("Fuel for the Fire," Nov. 22). Energy guru Amory Lovins said it is possible to take OPEC out of the equation again, with the same old tools: efficiency and renewable resources.
Now that marijuana is legal for medicine in California by the initiative called the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and has been cleared by the California Supreme Court of law, isn't it time to legalize the growing of hemp for energy and its other uses in California? We have the right, we have the initiative process and we need the energy. What we don't need is another oil war in the Middle East. We need energy independence. Its price is a few million dollars for 700,000 signatures in California, and a simple majority of citizens who vote.
Richard M. Davis , Curator U.S.A. Hemp Museum
The last paragraph in "Emek Celebrates New Growth Spurt" (Dec. 20), should have read: "Every part of this school is a part of Rabbi Stepen and Rabbi Eidlitz," said Gary Bregman, a North Hollywood attorney whose four children attend Emek. "They carry on a tradition of 3,000 [years], and they'll make it last another 3,000 years. They give us hope and this school is a beacon of light."