December 30, 2004
Letters to the Editor
How sad! Fearing that the MTV generation of Jews might not support Jewish causes, The Federation introduced a group of 14 young Jewish girls and boys to the fundamental Jewish concepts of tikkun olam and tzedakah ("Charities Seek Ties to MTV Generation," Dec. 24).
In the same article, we're told not to worry, because the recent rise in attendance at Jewish day schools will surely bode well for the coffers of charitable organizations.
Rob Eshman's editorial also informs us that philanthropists Peter and Janine Lowy are reportedly focusing The Federation on the growing problem of day school education ("See Change," Dec. 24).
In 2003, the two largest recipients of gifts from the Jewish Community Foundation were groups who encouraged sending teachers of Latino students to Israel for sensitivity training ($50,000) and another who advanced the cause of Russian immigrants learning about civic life in Los Angeles ($45,000). Meanwhile, many more organizations who met the foundation's exacting criteria received little or no funding at all for their programs to advance Jewish education.
Are the donated dollars, or lack of them, finally bringing sense to a community's priorities?
Before readers beam approvingly over Steve Greenberg's knee-jerk cartoon dealing with creationism and evolution (Dec. 24), allow me to recommend a recent, groundbreaking scholarly work: "From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany," by Richard Weikart. .
Weikart carefully documents how Darwinism provided the rationale for "stronger," "superior" and "more highly evolved people" attempting to crush "weaker," "inferior" and "less highly evolved people." This is markedly different from a doctrine that teaches that we are all created in the Divine Image and are all the descendants of Adam and Eve.
We have been taught to hate William Jennings Bryan, largely because of his attack on Darwinism at the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tenn. Bryan was a pacifist who knew, only too well, of the social consequences of Darwinism.
If we are to survive the 21st century, we must gain a new appreciation for the moral insights of our sacred texts and have the courage and integrity to challenge the knee-jerk, simplistic paradigms of the "beautiful people."
Rabbi Louis J. Feldman
Claire Berlinsky's article was a breath of fresh air ("Marseille Programs Curb Anti-Semitism," Dec. 17). It is heartwarming to see the Muslim leaders of Marseille stand up for peace and condemn violence and anti-Semitism .
Marseille's example is a living proof that, indeed, there are peace-loving Muslims who have learned to tolerate others. They are fed up with meaningless hatred, killings and terror under the name of religion. It is my sincere hope that the deeds of these moderates get more coverage in the media, and that the rest of the moderate Muslim world will wake up from their long sleep and spur more deeds of loving-kindness and peace-making.
I teach an adult ESL class in Inglewood, and as I always do in the month of December, I bring in one my Chanukiahs and describe for the class the celebration of Chanukah. Some of my students who have been with me for several years are familiar with the holiday (as they are when I have shared information regarding Pesach), while those who are brand new know nothing about Chanukah.
The Social Action Committee at my Temple (Leo Baeck) has a "Mitzvah of the Month" and for December, it was to bring an unwrapped toy for children at the Westside Childrens Center. Along with my discussion of Chanukah for the class, I casually mentioned that if anyone wanted to participate in this activity, their toy would be most appreciated. Imagine my joy and delight when over half the class contributed a toy and several brought a bag full.
It just goes to show that the mitzvah of giving and receiving can always be an interfaith activity.
Rob Eshman's tell-it-like-it-is article on the official opening of the hunting (a Jew) season ("Garbage Mouth," Dec. 17) reminds us once again of the conflagration that can ensue when the volatile components of an evangelical anti-Semitism are mixed with the inflammatory and fallacious diatribes of the conservative and Christian wing of the Republican Party.
The chief disciples of this "apostolic" platform, which conveniently numbers exactly 12 ( i.e. William Donohue, Mel Gibson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Bill O'Reilly, Gary Bauer, Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, Ralph Reed, Sean Hannity, James Dobson and Rush Limbaugh) are inadvertently given a seal of imprimatur and a patina of credibility by their political (but not religious) association with Dennis Prager, the consummate fighter for all flat world causes that fly the conservative banner.
Prager, while obviously abhorring (and doing his best to negate and extirpate) the pervasive and persistent strain of anti- Semitism that seems to have a permanent seat in the conservative platform that he so constantly shills for, carelessly conflates the two loves of his life (i.e. America and Judaism) to the detriment of the former and the rhetorical demise of the latter. And thus is born the Dennis Prager phenomenon!
Thank you for highlighting the important need of the Jewish community to reach out to a new generation of donors and volunteers ("Charities Seek Ties to MTV Generation," Dec. 24).
During my tenure as the executive director of Bet Tzedek (a consitutent agency of The Jewish Federation), we began working on this crictical issue more than 10 years ago. Recognizing that it would be the next generation of Jewish philanthropists and volunteers who would determine the ability of our organization to continue to combat the tragedies of poverty in the 21st century, we began a concerted effort to gradually bring young people to our cause.
Bet Tzedek's "The Justice Ball" has been an unparalleled success. Under the lay leadership of the then-twenty-something Randall Kaplan, this event began modestly but magically by attracting close to 1,000 young people to a night of dancing and music at the House of Blues – all in support of Bet Tzedek's mission of providing free legal representation to the elderly, indigent and disabled of our community.
Over the years, this event has become wildly successful in many ways. Between 2,000 and 3,000 people attend each year. Most are young Jewish professionals, between 25 and 35 years old.
A planning committee of 25 or 30 young people helps Bet Tzedek organize the event, secure great musical groups to play the evening (the B-52's, Macy Gray, Billy Idol, Sugar Ray to name just a few), sell tickets, solicit corporate sponsors and spread the word about the incredible work of Bet Tzedek.
Now during Mitch Kamin's tenure, the results of "The Justice Ball" have been exactly what we envisioned 10 years ago – a high profile fund-raising event, a rapidly growing group of 30-somethings who contribute to Bet Tzedek, become board members, become volunteers, are introduced to Jewish communal service and find philanthropic homes in the Jewish community.
The reasons for this success are simple – Randy created the right atmosphere to attract his peers, the organization committed itself to this effort and the people who got involved saw both the personal and professional importance of involvement. Most of all, they were overwhelmed by the impact, passion and mission of Bet Tzedek – a Jewish-based philosophy that reaches out, helps the poor, combats poverty and saves lives with astonishing effect and efficiency.
This critical part of the Jewish community's efforts to seek ties to the MTV generation is exactly the kind of growing success that deserves attention and support.
Your article, "Lonely Jews in Public Schools," raises many questions ("When Xmas Enters the Classroom," Dec. 17). In New York City, I was one of only five Jews in my elementary school, one of whom was the principal.
Three of us participated in a graduation play. I wasn't given special attention as a Jew, was absent for the Jewish holidays but otherwise participated in the pleasures children share in the holidays, with Christmas obviously a religious one. Incidentally, many schools in New York with large Jewish populations were closed for Jewish holidays, without much concern for the Christian minorities.
I wonder how this matter is handled in democratic Israel? Are all schools secular? Do Muslim girls wear head scarves? Is there a celebration of Christmas and Ramadan? Or do they have separate schools for each religious denomination? What schools do the Druse attend?
In secular schools, each school must make its own arrangements, recognizing minorities but also catering to the majority. Otherwise all minorities can have their own schools, and they do.