Jewish Journal

Letters to the Editor

Posted on Dec. 16, 2004 at 7:00 pm


Special-Needs Support

I read with great interest your article on Jewish special education ("Support Still Lags for Special Needs," Nov. 12). Like I do with any article related to this topic, it penetrates to my very being because I am a person with special needs.

I was born in the early '50s with moderate cerebral palsy. Making a place for me in Jewish life was provided by compassionate religious school teachers and camp staff.

I was the token one. Yes, I benefited but could have benefited beyond my wildest dreams if there were programs designed for me.

Today, I'm an advocate for one of the regional centers. Although this agency is not Jewish, our mission is the same – inclusion. Inclusion, that's the key word we advocate in all our presentations. We have come far in raising people's consciousness, but we have somewhat further to go.

I'm wondering if the Commission of Jews With Disabilities is still in existence. I was once a member of this group that was composed of members with and without disabilities. We tried hard to shake the Los Angeles community with thought-provoking innovative ways of demonstrating that this population had many viable messages to teach.

I respect the notion that more has to be done in this arena. I look forward to hearing about future progress.

Susan Cohn
San Jose
Kosher Slaughter

Agriprocessors' and Agudath Israel of America's responses to PETA's accusations are shameful, slanderous and insulting. Whether one believes that shechitah [ritual kosher slaughtering] is humane is irrelevant to this complaint, and PETA's representative has stated as much ("Kosher Slaughter Controversy Erupts," Dec. 3).

Agriprocessors demeans both the Jewish community as a whole and the events of the Holocaust by stating, "We'll put them [PETA] on the wall with Hitler." A recent inappropriate advertising campaign by PETA, which equated the meat industry with the Holocaust, was appropriately denounced by the Jewish community; Agriprocessors assertion equating PETA with Hitler should also be denounced.

Whether one agrees with the underlying motivations of the parties involved in this dispute, Jewish organizations should avoid accusations of anti-Semitism where none exist. This habit of crying wolf will seriously undermine legitimate claims in the future.

Dr. Alexander Werner
Studio City

Interfaith Marriage

Shame on The Jewish Journal ("A Happy/Merry Solution," Dec. 3). Never would I have thought that a Jewish paper would accept interfaith marriages. It is one thing to condone interfaith marriages (95 percent of my friends have interfaith marriages). It is another thing to accept them, and tell them how and where to buy Chanukah/Christmas cards.

Are the Torah and Talmud just antiquated short stories? Does Jewish identity mean nothing to you guys? A Christmas tree does not belong in a Jewish person's home. Plain and simple.

Interfaith marriages are forbidden by Jewish law. If you don't believe in that, you might as well change your name to the Jewish-Christian Journal.

Eric Muscatel
via e-mail

L.A. Museum of the Holocaust

As the executive director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, I feel that I must respond to some recent letters by Rabbi Harry A. Roth and Lawrence Weinman in regard to our capital campaign to build a permanent museum in Pan Pacific Park (Letters, Nov. 26).

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is the oldest Holocaust museum in the United States. We have been in existence since 1961 and have been providing Southern California with ground-breaking educational progamming over the last four decades.

Thousands of schoolchildren, mostly non-Jewish, tour our museum annually, and we are the only museum in Los Angeles that is always free and open to the public, a true blessing in a city where many students and school districts simply cannot afford field trips. The museum pays for busing for districts that cannot afford transportation, as well.

The plan to construct a museum in Pan Pacific Park is not a new idea and has been the ultimate goal for the last 20 years. The new building will create a cohesive unit in Pan Pacific Park, as it will encompass the already existing Holocaust Monument that has stood there for many years.

From our new location, we will continue our important work, work that is not repeated by other cultural and religious institutions in the city. The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust has partnered with the Museum of Tolerance, the Anti-Defamation League, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the University of Judaism, the Skirball Cultural Center, UCLA, the Gay and Lesbian Center of Los Angeles, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and countless other organizations.

I would encourage those who have not been to the museum or attended any of our programs to do so immediately. I can assure you, once you walk through our doors, you will not be disappointed.

Finally, I am not sure why Weinman and Roth see a connection between the oldest Holocaust museum in the country and the day school crisis in Los Angeles. Weinman and I disagree: I do not see us as a "community of limited resources" but rather a community of endless talent, resource and possibility.

Rachel Jagoda
Executive Director
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Peace Recipe

I was touched by reading "Whose 'Land' Is It?" (Nov. 19), Gaby Wenig's insightful, personal review of Barbara Grover's photographic exhibit, "This Land to Me," which helps us listen equally to Israeli and Palestinian stories that matter.

When our fears from this conflict hijack our best judgment and wisdom, art like Grover's and other shared, positive human experiences can help us realize the equal humanity of the "other" and begin to treat one another far better.

Here on the San Francisco Peninsula, my wife, Libby, and I are part of a 12-year-old Jewish-Palestinian living-room dialogue group, preparing for our 151st meeting, still learning to change "enemies" into partners. There are now 10 similar groups here.

Another art – shared foods – and the human stories behind them, inspired us to print last month a first-of-its-kind 100-page cookbook, "Palestinian and Jewish Recipes for Peace." Like Grover's exhibit, it seeks to reveal the humanity of our two fine peoples. It's described more at traubman.igc.org/recipes.htm.

Since I grew up in Westwood and graduated from University High, I was interested that "This Land to Me" was generously backed by Wally and Suzy Marks, who also helped develop the historic Helms Bakery Building.

I was raised on Helms breads and Knudsen milk. Later in my life, it was educator Gene Knudsen Hoffman, daughter of the creamery's founder, who first said what I've learned is profoundly true: "An enemy is one whose story we have not heard."

When Grover's exhibit leaves, Libby and I encourage your Jews and Palestinians there to keep listening to one another's stories. It can do small miracles. And sometimes big ones.

Len Traubman
San Mateo

Stands Firm

In response to Sandra Helman and Eric Gordon who disagreed with my stand on travel to Cuba (Letters, Dec. 6), I stand by my statements that travel to Cuba really only benefits Castro.

Yes, it feels good to help a few people. It's nice to think of all the conversions and the revival of the Cuban Jewish Community.

I'm glad you try to stay in Paladors. The ad I complained about promoted tourist hotels.

The most important thing for Cubans is how they are going to survive. This means that they participate in Castro's rallies, they pretend to be Jewish or Presbyterian or anything to get handouts. Synagogues are a source of needed items. This is not revival this is survival.

Cuba's recent apparent relaxation of laws regarding religion is deceiving. Religion is infiltrated by and under the control of state security. (Castro's equivalent of Hitler's SS). Cuba's Jewish community relies on many outside organizations for assistance. That's money, which always ends up in Castro's pockets, since his Mafia-type regime controls all retail stores on the island.

I won't enumerate the human rights abuses, the involvement in international terrorism, the trafficking in human persons, the prostitution; this is documented by many sources, including the State Department.

Tourism is Cuba's most important moneymaker. It is also an apartheid industry. The average Cuban is excluded from the tourist areas, suffers from food shortages, has no freedom of speech, no freedom of the press, no freedom to travel and no freedom to choose how to educate their children.

The island is a prison. The president vetoing the lifting of the travel ban is correct.

The fact that countries do business with Cuba, including Israel, and that tourism is flourishing, doesn't make it right. I will wait until Cuba is liberated to visit.

Kathleen Sahl
San Pedro

Cause for Concern

In the review of Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America," I can find something of comparable concern in the events of today ("When We Elected Lindbergh," Nov. 12). I'm sure many of your readers will see the same parallel, also in your article "The Left and the Islamists"

We Jews are in a worrisome situation as a result of the reports following the election. It is astonishing to see the joint support of Kerry by the Jewish community of 75 percent and the Muslim community of 90 percent.

We also worry about Kerry's desire to seek support from "allies" in conducting his foreign policy. Would he subordinate the American foreign policy to the U.N? Would Kofi Annan be able to veto our foreign policy? In effect would Kofi Annan be president by default?

Jews, typically liberal, and the Muslims currently most threatening to the West is a strange alliance, very dangerous to us Jews.

Of 26 members of Congress who are Jewish, only one is a Republican supportive of the president. Of the ll Jewish senators only two are Republicans supportive of the president's support for Israel.

If Kerry would have shown an inadequate concern for fighting terrorism, would his election have been a serious cause for concern for Israelis as well as our American Jews?

Jerome Greenblatt
via e-mail

Horrific Business

As a Jew, I appreciate the condemnation by rabbis across the country of the abuses videotaped at the largest kosher slaughtering plant in America ("The Kindest Cut," Dec. 10). However, simply being outraged by animal cruelty isn't enough. Each one of us must take responsibility as consumers and realize that our choices have consequences that can't be ignored.

Slaughtering is a horrific business, and, whether we want to admit it or not, the animals suffer greatly. As if a painful death isn't bad enough, the animals endure systematic abuses throughout their abbreviated lives on factory farms. The vast majority of farmed animals never go outside, rarely move freely and often endure mutilations without painkiller.

These facts alone should be enough for all of us to truly follow God's intention of compassion and mercy and remove animal products from our diet. It's up to us.

Josh Balk
Outreach Coordinator
Compassion Over Killing
Takoma Park, Md.

Animal Slaughter

I am an Orthodox Jew who is horrified by the reporting of what goes on at the Agriprocessors meat processing plant ("Kosher Slaughter Controversy Erupts," Dec. 3). Though I am well aware that PETA has a double agenda, promoting vegetarianism as well as stopping the inhumane treatment of animals – and I only identify with the second (though my daughter is a vegetarian) – I wholeheartedly support PETA's campaign against inhumane killing of animals masquerading as the most kosher type of shechitah.

As of today, I will no longer purchase any Aaron's Best Meats or Rubashkin's Meats.

Dr. Chaim Milikowsky
Ramat Gan

The Orthodox Union is to be commended for initiating an end to the horrible treatment of animals at the Postville, Iowa, slaughterhouse that were revealed on the PETA videotapes. But what about the many other violations of Jewish teachings related to animal-based diets and agriculture?

When Judaism mandates that we treat animals with compassion, can we ignore the cruel treatment of animals on factory farms, where they are raised in cramped, confined spaces without sunlight, fresh air or opportunities to fulfill their natural instincts?

When Judaism stresses that we must diligently protect our health, can we ignore that animal-based diets are major contributors to the epidemic of heart disease, many forms of cancer and other killer diseases and ailments afflicting the Jewish community and others?

When Judaism mandates that we be partners with God in protecting the environment, can we ignore the significant contributions of animal-centered agriculture to air, water and land pollution; species extinction; deforestation; global climate change; water shortages, and many other environmental threats?

For the sake of our health, the sustainability of our imperiled planet, Jewish values, as well as for the animals, it is essential that we consider shifting toward plant-based diets.

Richard H. Schwartz
Staten Island, N.Y.

Bush Voters

With regard to the ridiculously sterile opinions article by Cathy Young ("Idea of Dumb Bush Voters Lacks Reality," Dec. 3). I am going to speak as a humanitarian, to perhaps shed some light on why people believe Bush supporters are "dumb."

We believe that people like myself (a full-time waitress, full-time student) should not be paying nearly $400 a month in taxes. We believe that fear is not a good enough reason to vote for someone.

We believe that there are more issues to worry about than the war in Iraq and Israel. We believe that the Patriot Act is, first and foremost, an infringement on our constitutional rights. We connect more with a woman and her status as a human being than with a fetus and its pending status as one.

Liberals could care less about political IQ. We're too busy worrying about the people who inhabit our world.

Los Angeles

I found this article to be perplexing, to say the least The implication is that Democrats consider people who voted for Bush to be dumb.

On the contrary, people voted for Bush for a variety of reasons. The voters included those who believed in one or more of the following: the RNP best supported Israel (blatantly false), provided the best defense against terrorism, believed in the Iraq War, held ideological beliefs consistent with the evangelical right-wing Republican Christians or knew their financial future was assured with this candidate.

Of course, there were others who had concerns with Sen. Kerry or perceived that the Democrats lacked a clear message regarding a wide range of topics (e.g., peace, jobs, outsourcing, fairness for everyone, health care, etc.).

However, implying that Democrats are not reflecting deeply on their vision and mission is simply untrue. A quick review of the Op-Ed section of The New York Times (Dec. 8, 2004) reveals no less than four articles regarding the need for the Democratic Party to energize itself. Many ideas are being considered, such as engaging citizens in the rural communities and using new methods to increase Democratic turnout in 2006.

Letters I have received from Sen. Boxer and the New Democratic Network, as well as articles from The Nation, also voice the need and commitment for the Democratic Party members and leaders to reflect deeply regarding a new vision that will attract a new base of Democrats for the future.

I see nothing dumb about this intelligent and thoughtful response.

Marcia Albert
Los Angeles


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