March 31, 2005
Letters to the Editor
Rona Ram missed the point (“Awareness Week at UCLA Hit by Apathy,” March 18). In her article, she asserts that apathy and indifference among Jewish students with regard to anti-Semitism threatens Jewish continuity and resulted in disappointment among the organizers of these events.
Quite the opposite is true. Those who overeagerly cry anti-Semitism when it doesn’t exist pose the greater threat to Jewish continuity, and the fact that many of the students who attended our week’s events were not Jews reinforces the program’s success.
UCLA Jewish Student Union
It is truly shameful that any rabbi would conclude that it is OK to deliberately starve anyone to death (“Purim Saga,” March 25). It reminds me of the logic used by the Nazis during World War II. The Nazis introduced a food hierarchy, which had the German army at the top and the Jews at the bottom. Jewish women and children, as well as Soviet POW’s, were seen as “useless eaters” (nutzlose fresser). Therefore, to maintain supplies for the German army, the most “rational” solution was elimination of the useless eaters.
Are the most vulnerable segments of our society now to be considered nutzlose fresser? And is convoluted logic being used to classify food as medicine, so that these folks can be eliminated with a clear conscience?
Inaccurate Portrait of UCI
Some readers of The Jewish Journal will get an inaccurate portrait of life at this university [University of California Irvine] and, particularly, the maturity and exceptional caliber of our students (“Campus Turmoil,” March 11). UCI is one of the country’s great campuses, with students who are diverse, bright and proud.
The article, however, challenges the character of our students, as well as the character of the university, by giving wide audience to disputed issues that, in our opinion, do not show the true nature of our university.
In fact, the type of student you find at this campus — as proven over its 40-year history — is respectfully tolerant, intellectually curious and personally compassionate. Students come here to learn and join a close and inclusive community.
UCI has an earned reputation for being one of the quieter and more serious universities in the nation. Put simply, it’s the kind of campus where our student body includes Fulbright and Mitchell scholars, and faculty members have been awarded three Nobel Prizes.
It is also a public university, where everyone enjoys the protection of the U.S. Constitution. This includes the free and peaceful expression of political and nonpolitical ideas — ideas that we acknowledge can at times be controversial and offensive to some.
For example, UC guidelines state: “The university has a special obligation to protect free inquiry and free expression. On university grounds open to the public, generally, all persons may exercise the constitutionally protected rights of free expression, speech and assembly.”
Moreover, our students learn to discern between logical and unreasonable statements.
These protections make the university stronger, not weaker, and we invite you, as well as each of your readers, to visit us any time to develop your own opinion of the university. Walk the campus, talk with our students and faculty and arrange to visit classes.
In other words, decide for yourselves what is the true character and nature of the campus. If you are a parent with a son or daughter ready for college, we believe you will agree there is no finer environment for seeking a higher education with the highest standard of moral behavior and purpose.
Ralph J. Cicerone
Vice Chancellor Student Affairs
We applaud the growth of Hebrew language immersion programs as described in Fax’s article (“All Hebrew, All the Time,” March 18). Kadima Hebrew Academy has been teaching Hebrew effectively through immersion for 35 years.
The majority of our graduates can converse in Hebrew and are able to read, analyze and discuss contemporary Hebrew literature. As we open our Early Childhood Center this fall, we will also be teaching our youngest students Hebrew through immersion.
Dr. Barbara Gerebof
Head of School
Judaic Studies Coordinator
Kadima Hebrew Academy
As an educational director emeritus, I wish to commend Julie Gruenbaum Fax for the well-written report on how to teach Hebrew in a day school, making it a living language.
The Pressman Academy of Temple Ahm is to be praised for launching the Hebrew immersion program, and showing other day schools the derech way to go.
In 1963 in Chicago, where I was in charge of a religious school that met four days a week for two hours a day, [students] in kitah aleph (first grade) learned Hebrew ... without hearing an English word at any time. The teacher was an Israeli who didn’t know a word of English.
After three months of school, the supervisor of the board of Jewish education, came to visit the school. After his visitation in all the classrooms, he said to me, “Why didn’t you tell me that you have a class with all Israeli children?”
I had other Israeli teachers who knew English — the children in their classes were not “Israeli children.”
To all day schools I say, “Im tirtzu — if you want it — it’s not a tale.”
I want to thank you for the wonderful article highlighting Hebrew immersion programs in Los Angeles. It is our hope that other schools will institute this program that has been so successful at Pressman Academy and begin to transform the quality of students facility with Hebrew.
I want to acknowledge the tremendous amount of teacher support and training that is needed to make this program effective and was provided at our school by Aliza Liran, Angie Bass and the Melton Research Center of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS [Jewish Theological Seminary].
Rabbi Mitchel Malkus
When Jews Lose
Joel Kotkin’s “When Jews Lose” [March 18] completely misunderstands Jewish life in Los Angeles. He asserts that mayoral candidate Hertzberg’s loss signals a defeat for “the future of Jewish influence” in this city. In so claiming, Kotkin assumes that only a Jewish candidate can articulate Jewish values.
In fact, many Jews I know support Antonio Villaraigosa because they feel that his platform promoting education, social services and transportation is more consistent with tikkun olam [heal the world] than that of Hertzberg.
As to Kotkin’s bold statement that West Los Angeles Jews are not interested in local issues, this is completely uninformed. A lifelong Westsider, I was a frequent picketer during the 2003 grocery workers strike, along with many fellow members of the Workmen’s Circle and the Progressive Jewish Alliance. Kotkin should spend a little time in the Jewish street before attempting to select authentically “Jewish” candidates and communities.
Peter L. Reich
Professor of Law
Whittier Law School
I believe James Besser’s remarks in his March 11 column, “The Golden Rule of Jewish Leadership,” cry out for a reply. As president of the Los Angeles Section of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), I would point out that not all Jewish organizations live by Besser’s “Golden Rule.”
Since NCJW was formed under the leadership of social activist Hannah G. Solomon in 1893 to “shape the destinies” of American lives, we have been at the forefront of social change. We have consistently taken a progressive, and sometimes controversial, stand on issues, such as child welfare, women’s rights and reproductive freedom.
Today, NCJW comprises 90,000-plus members nationwide. We stand by resolutions, based on Jewish values, that make our mission clear. Our membership believes in their hearts and heads that things can and should be better and is unafraid to tackle the tough issues.
We do not adjust our convictions and political efforts to keep or obtain donations. Some may think we’re naive. And maybe it has cost us some financial help. But I think our membership will argue that it is why NCJW has been a formidable, positive force for change for over a century.
Barbara Greene Ruskin
National Council of Jewish Women
In response to your article about outreach to high school students, since the late 1980s, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has been offering “Confronting Anti-Semitism” programs to middle and high school students (“Fight Against Hate Hits High School,” March 18). This project was developed in response to a survey of Jewish youth that showed that middle and high school students in a wide range of communities had experienced anti-Semitic taunts, epithets and graffiti in their classrooms, in school hallways on the playground and in their neighborhoods.
Designed for seventh- through 12th- graders and their families, this interactive workshop empowers students to respond to anti-Semitic incidents and challenge persistent anti-Semitic stereotypes. The program is offered to synagogue religious schools, day schools, youth groups, camps and confirmation classes. Workshops can also be customized for college-age populations and adult groups.
Pacific Southwest Region
No Options in Israel
In our nation, women of different faiths can conform to religious fundamentalism if they choose (“The Agunah: A Modern Day Nightmare,” March 18). Orthodox Jewish women can adopt more liberal forms of Judaism that allow them the civil rights that all other citizens enjoy regarding marriage and divorce.
Unfortunately, this is not true in the State of Israel. All Jews must conform to Orthodox traditions to be legally married or divorced. Secular and non-Orthodox Jews must leave the country to be legally married.
Martin J. Weisman
In “For Iranians, Purim Is the Real Thing,” (March 25), Nahid Pirnazar was incorrectly identified as a male. The Journal regrets the error.