Jewish Journal

Letters to the Editor: Bet Tzedek, hunger and ‘Parts Unknown’

Posted on Oct. 4, 2013 at 11:01 am

More Info Needed for Full Bet Tzedek Picture

I find multiple problems with the article “A Union’s Jewish Connection” (Sept. 27). These problems bias the article dramatically against the Bet Tzedek employees and give Jewish Journal readers far less than full information. They include: an unclear news angle clarifying why this story, now; a premise that puts Bet Tzedek employees on the defensive; and an assertion from Bet Tzedek management that Bet Tzedek employees want to sacrifice client services for their own needs.

The biggest problem stems from characterizing management as passive victims to inflation, shrinking payments from a state fund, and health care costs skyrocketing largely because of the recession.

In fact, a brief examination of Bet Tzedek’s publicly available tax returns shows an impressive pattern of 26.6 percent growth from 2009 through 2011. Not only did the growth outpace inflation, which averaged 2.4 percent during these three years, but Bet Tzedek maintained strong surpluses over expenses in each year.

To be fair, Bet Tzedek suffered a cataclysmic 16 percent revenue drop in 2008, forcing a devastating deficit. Bet Tzedek’s rebound, constituting truly impressive management and fundraising, has my deepest respect and admiration. (How management did that would be a well-deserved news story.)

These facts do not at all bear out the published explanation for the $900,000 cut in health care costs.

Perhaps management is still trying to undo the damage from 2008? I would need further information to be convinced of this, but at least it’s plausible and it would balance the conflict somewhat.

The absence of a more thorough explanation allows for this conclusion: In reverse of the assertion that Bet Tzedek employees are pitting their needs against their clients’ needs, it appears management wants to continue its laudable fiscal growth at the expense of its employees. Now, that would be a problem.

Mark A. Rothman, Los Angeles

Who Bears Blame for Hunger?  

Too many Americans remain unaware that the invisible scourge of hunger is experienced all around them ” (“Who Decides Who’s Hungry,” Sept. 27).  How many people skip a daily meal to get by financially? How many know there is a food bank for students at UCLA?

As New Deal and safety net programs are being dismantled, more and more middle-class families are at risk of hunger. Meanwhile, budgets at the local, state or federal levels continue to be balanced on the backs of the poor and vulnerable, even when the likelihood is that such programs will be needed more than ever in the future.

Appeals to humane civic and religious values and asking for calls to elected leaders, while worthwhile, can get us only so far. The situation will not change until massive pressure from the grass roots emerges to implement a living wage and meaningfully indexed funding for our shredded safety net programs. Power concedes nothing without a demand.

Gene Rothman, Culver City

The article should be retitled “What Is the Limit the Productive Should Pay to Sustain the Unproductive?” since nowhere in the article is “who decides who’s hungry” discussed.

To be sure, the incapacitated, who cannot take care of themselves, must be given governmental assistance. A measure of a society is how it treats its disadvantaged. Thankfully, no one goes without food or health care in the U.S. because of free charitable food banks and required hospital care for the indigent. But those who would rather take from the government (i.e., you and me) to feed and support themselves not only do a disservice to us, but to those who really need help.   

The federal food stamp program (euphemistically now called SNAP), an abomination of dishonesty and corruption, has increased by 68 percent in participation, and 116 percent in cost in the nearly six years of this administration alone. Do we now have so many more, in so short a time, who cannot feed themselves? And, if so, whose fault is that?

C.P. Lefkowitz, Rancho Palos Verdes

Food for Thought

I saw the “Parts Unknown” episode, and while it was cool to see authentic Gaza Strip recipes, the representation of the conflict was terribly imbalanced (“Parts Unknown,” Sept. 27). It gave almost no mention of the culinary advances in Israel proper and utilized only the most divisive and sensationalized imagery of the separation seam. As a foodie as well as a peacenik, I was disappointed.

David Meyer, Senior Rabbi, Temple Emanu-El, Marblehead, Mass. via jewishjournal.com


In “Who Decides Who’s Hungry” (Sept. 27), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program passed the House of Representatives on Sept. 19. 

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