November 18, 2004
Letters to the Editor
You are not the only person to have read "The King's Persons" Mr. [Robert J.] Avrech ("Medieval Me," Nov. 12). Thank you so much for reminding me of one of my all-time favorite books and of Joanne Greenberg, one of my all-time favorite authors.
As a German Jewish refugee, I remember being totally astonished that 800 years ago prohibitions against Jews were so similar to those we experienced before emigrating, i.e., Jews were no longer allowed to employ Christian maids.
It's the ominous "they" who murdered Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin ("Will Sharon Share Rabin's Fate," Nov. 5). So claims the left's M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum. Castigating millions of Jews in Israel who fear territorial withdrawal will undermine Israeli security as the extreme right, and linking them with some kind of communal blame for the immorality of one man is despicable. Yigal Amir killed Yitzchak Rabin and no one else.
Rabbi David Eliezrie
Congregation Beth Meir HaCohen-Chabad
Why do book reviewers such as Michael Tolkin feel compelled to insert into a book review their own political agenda, regardless of the book they are reviewing ("When We Elected Lindbergh," Nov. 12)?
Tolkin takes an absurd position that a character in the novel "stands for all those who know that George W. Bush is surrounded by a crowd" that knows certain things that Bush is against but support him anyway
Philip Roth did an unusual thing. He provided us with an essay titled, "The Story Behind 'The Plot Against America,'" published in the Sept. 18, 2004, edition of The New York Times. Roth does state that he does not think highly of President Bush, to put it mildly, but he does not state anywhere that he intended his novel to be an indictment of the Bush administration or policies. Roth quite clearly states that he was first struck with the idea behind his novel in December 2000.
Roth goes on to state: "Some readers are going to want to take this book as a roman a clef to the present moment in America. That would be a mistake...."
Why does Tolkin find it necessary to insert his own political agenda in regards to gays in his review of Roth's outstanding novel?
Yale M. Harlow
Only a newspaper with a tremendous bias – and political agenda – would promote as its cover story, "Annual Book Issue" and then feature a review of a book that came out months ago (visually punctuated on the cover story with a swastika). [A review] that morphs into a vicious, vitriolic attack on President Bush, essentially equating a fictional presidency of the known anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh with the real presidency of staunchly pro-Israel, pro-Jewish George W. Bush, and prophesying cataclysmic disaster for Jews because Jews like me stood by the president.
The fact that Tolkin would get "satisfaction" if Jewish Bush voters woke up and found Nazis dancing in the White House is sick, and the fact that The Jewish Journal printed this garbage was serious editorial malpractice.
Dr. Joel Geiderman
In contemplating the election results and the direction the American Jewish vote, in particular, is moving. I had a thought.
This may be a stretch, but I believe that there were millions of votes that were not cast in the election. They were the votes of the sons and daughters of Americans (both Jews and non-Jews) who have accepted and acted upon the notion of abortion.
Over the past 31 years, 45 million pregnancies have been aborted in the United States. It is my belief that the great majority of these individuals who would have been born and who would now be voters in the prime of life, they would have been liberals and would have tended to vote Democratic.
Without weighing in on the moral aspects of abortion, it is safe to say that religious and socially conservative people over the last 31 years have tended away from abortion, while nonreligious and more socially liberal individuals who do not share these moral constraints have been more likely to abort their pregnancies.
The problem with the Democratic Party and the 76 percent of American Jewry who voted with them is not that they have casually aligned themselves with abortion-on-demand, but that they have so furiously and adamantly wedded themselves to abortion-on-demand.
This position is beginning to catch up with them. The Democratic Party is demographically aging and dying. This is true across the nation, and it is true within the confines of American Jewry.
While the majority of Jews still vote Democratic, this majority is not the group within American Jewry who are having the children. Orthodox Jews in the United States (and also in Israel) are the ones who are having the greatest numbers of children.
It does not take a genius to see the trend. American Jewry is drifting and will continue to drift to the right for many years to come. Higher abortion rates among the liberal end of American Jewry is only one of several factors responsible for this trend, but demographics don't lie.
Dr. Robert C. Hamilton
In the "L.A. Brigade Helps Israel Fight Hunger" (Nov. 12) the project chair is Marcie Zelikow.
Sense of Place
Your review of "When She Sleeps" is disappointing ("3 Novels Explore Life in Cold War Era," Nov. 12). Who needs a critic to tell us that, for example, the title, of all things, is "uninspired."
"When She Sleeps" is a beautiful novel that should be of special interest to readers of The Jewish Journal, set as it is in Los Angeles' Jewish community. But more importantly, [Leora] Krygier has a perfect sense of place, relationships and emotions.
This reader could hear the noises and smell the smells of Saigon, Thailand, Paris and Los Angeles, while living the journey of two half-sisters, children of the Vietnam War, struggling to find each other. It pulled me into their lives from the first page to the last.
It's a far better read than Michal Lemberger's review lets on.
I recently spent an enjoyable few days reading "When She Sleeps" by Leora Krygier. So you can imagine how shocked I was to read your review.
Did the reviewer read the same book? I was relieved to find out by looking on Amazon and the publisher's Web site that many people think highly of this book, unlike your reviewer who seems arrogant and ignorant. I would like The Journal's readers to know that "When She Sleeps" is an excellent book.
Something smells about Michal Lemberger's review of Leora Krygier's new novel, "When She Sleeps." Lemberger's nasty tone – from complaining about the title (who, might I ask, slams a book title?) to her just being plain wrong in her assessment of the characters and the story – speaks volumes about Lemberger.
First, it is not a book about the Cold War but the aftermath of Vietnam and how that war infected the lives of two families, a Jewish family with a Holocaust history in Los Angeles and a family of war refugees in Vietnam.
Second, the thoughtful and thought-provoking language in the book is so beautiful that I often reread passages for the language alone.
Third, the characters that Lemberger considers one dimensional or similar are worlds and generations apart, with complex emotions that change, grow, sink in despair or soar to the heavens.
Krygier's novel dips into the past and springs into the present using dreams, the magical part. Only a skilled writer, with passion for her characters and the gift of communicating a complicated story that entices those who read deeply, could accomplish this.
A constructive negative review is the mark of a professional. A hostile review, such as Lemberger's, tells us another story, one that has everything to do with the reviewer and nothing to do with the book.
Publicist and Author
I am a reviewer, myself, and someone who has read Leora Krygier's new release, "When She Sleeps." I was more than a little surprised at Michal Lemberger's review of this book on two counts.
As a reviewer, I am appalled your paper would publish such a vitriolic review. That the book is an original story – quite different from anything I have ever read – and that it is exquisitely told is not an issue here.
The problem is that a destructive review like this can impact an author's future, and though reviews certainly are covered by our country's statutes of free speech, I feel that a respected journal such as yours has a responsibility to get at the truth, when so much is at stake.
Perhaps the editors of The Journal should have invited another reviewer to weigh in, to ascertain if some prejudice might be motivating Lemberger (a prejudice against poetic language perhaps?)
Count No. 2. I am aware that a reviewer's first responsibility is to his/her readers. Certainly we want to be truthful with them, but we must also be ethical.
Surely a book that was chosen among thousands to be published by a fine literary press like Toby must have some value; the author some talent.
Do not we as reviewers then, have a responsibility to "pass" on something we hate this much, perhaps to send off the piece to someone who just might be able to see some of what the editors at Toby saw in this work before they chose to invest in it?
From the start, this reviewer (or the desk at The Journal who writes your headlines) inappropriately classified this novel. "Life in the Cold War Era?" seems a bit of stretch for "When She Sleeps." Of course, the story occurs during that time, but this categorization – from my perspective – does not fit this novel in terms of tone or theme.
On closer inspection, it seems that the reviewer borrows words from other reviews of this work, which leads me to wonder if she read the work at all. Did she find the style not to her liking and so cut a corner or two, use other reviews as a guideline? Did she resort to a reviewer's equivalent of a student using Cliffs Notes to write an English lit midterm?
This, of course, would be another reason why ethically she might have passed the review on to someone else.
Perhaps Lemberger felt that using the slash-and-burn technique added credibility to her opinion. It may have done the opposite, when it left me and possibly others wondering what kind of prejudice she brings to her assessment, what kind of soul?
"The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't."
U.N. Hamas Report
Michael J. Jordan's report (Tensions Rise Over U.N. Hamas Report," Nov. 12) might have mentioned the UNRWA schools' vicious incitement to murder of Israelis. Their "textbooks" are raw propaganda.
UNRWA is not unique among U.N. agencies in its alliance with Israel's enemies. Remember the kidnapping of soldiers on the Lebanese border with U.N. "peace keepers'" connivance?
An earlier "peace-keeping" force, on the Gaza armistice line, meekly stepped aside at Col. Nasser's command when he was ready to resume firing.
It's important to keep clearly in mind that Yasser Arafat's fortune consists of funds he stole from the Palestinian Arabs and from U.S. and European foreign aid. He is known to have worked briefly as an engineer before embarking on a lifetime of terrorism and revolutionary activities. Clearly his brief employment did not yield nearly a billion dollars in net worth.
During the decade he has spent in Jericho and Ramallah as head of the Palestinian Authority, he has built no hospitals, no schools, no universities. His people live in poverty because of his poor decisions, while his cronies live in luxurious estates. He has used his ill-gotten money to support terrorists, fund his wife's Paris lifestyle and keep Swiss banks busy opening accounts.
This terrorist-gangster has enriched himself at the expense of the people he purports to be the symbol of – this speaks ill of the man, unfavorably of his people and should irritate the Western taxpayers whose aid money has been wasted.
Patriot Act vs. Civil Rights
It is hard to believe that Marc Ballon wrote a lengthy article critical of the Patriot Act without giving any specific examples of provisions that supposedly limit civil liberties ("Patriot Act: Does Security Trump Rights," Oct. 8 ). It seems that examples would be necessary to evaluate the criticism that he so willingly supplies.
In the article, he again pushes his pro-Kerry agenda in his reference to the interview with Rabbi Elliot Dorff and the rabbi's claim that Sen. John Kerry's positions on the Patriot Act and other issues reflect Jewish values, while the position of President Bush does not.
However, nowhere does he mention that Kerry voted for the Patriot Act. Also, in an article on the Patriot Act, why do we get gratuitous references to the environment and stem-cell research?
It seems like this is another editorial masquerading as a news article.
My hero, Robert Reich, writes in his ovular "God, Gays and Guns" ("God Gays and Guns: The U.S. Fault Line" Nov. 12): "The gulf between rich and poor in America is now wider than at any time since the robber barons of the late-19th century monopolized industry and bribed the government to do nothing about it."
So what else is new?
Note, however, that those 19th-century robber barons, corrupt and ruthless as they were, built something. What they left us, from railroads to public libraries, enriches America to this day.
But this administration, just as ruthless, even more corrupt, builds nothing. Rather it tears down the legacy of the liberal/progressive (choose your pejorative) era: protection of the environment and of civil liberties; equal opportunity for minorities and women; affordable health care for all, especially children; free and excellent public education; a tax code that at least tries to be fair to rich and poor alike – the lurid catalogue of destructive rollbacks is endless.
Real income drops; our soldiers and their civilians die; much of the Bill of Rights is on the trash heap. Instead of creating something lasting for America, this administration embarks on ill-advised, amateurish foreign adventurism to control oil production and distribution, masquerading as the quest to "bring democracy" to the Middle East.
Makes the robber barons look good by comparison!
Review of Review
In his review of Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America," it's obvious that Michael Tolkin wishes only to bemoan how terrible things were in America during the Eisenhower administration and how much worse they are – if such a thing is possible – during the administration of George W. Bush ("When We Elected Lindbergh," Nov. 12).
In doing so, Tolkin tells us that Charles Lindbergh was a fascist and that Burton Wheeler was a Nazi. (Calling someone a fascist or a Nazi has become a common way for the ignorant to say they don't like someone.)
The parallel with the evil Dubya, who, like all his Republican predecessors, is bringing down a dark night of fascism on America, is obvious to Tolkin, if to no one else who doesn't already believe so. Just as I was reading Tolkin's "First they came for the gays...." ending to his review, I heard the Ashcroft Gestapo breaking down my gay next-door neighbors' door, after which the poor souls were dragged off to Union Station for shipment to a red-state concentration camp.