Jewish Journal

Letters to the Editor: Bris alternatives, Glenn Beck, Hollywood women

Posted on Aug. 24, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Bris Alternatives

I appreciate Jonah Lowenfeld’s reports on the Jewish movement against circumcision (“Little-known Non-cutting Ritual Appeals to Some Who Oppose Circumcision,” Aug. 5) but disagree with the takeaway message from his latest story on brit shalom, a covenantal naming ceremony for Jewish boys where no actual cutting takes place. Reading the story, it’s easy to conclude that brit shalom is barely ever practiced, is largely propagated by anti-circumcision activists and is undertaken by those with weak ties to Judaism.   

Despite its rarity, it’s a mistake to discount brit shalom as an emerging ritual. There is a huge surge of young parents, now in their 20s and early 30s, who are highly educated and embrace natural parenting. Among this group, circumcision is largely rejected. Jewish parents are well represented in this demographic. This is one reason I predict brit shalom will become an increasingly sought-after alternative to brit milah. For those skeptical that a relatively new Jewish ritual can take hold, consider the bat mitzvah, which only became fashionable in North America in the late 1970s.

Rebecca Wald
Fort Lauderdale

Older and Wiser

Pirkei Avot 5:21 says, “At age sixty, one attains wisdom.” Thank you for the article, “Am I Still Relevant at 60” by Gary Wexler (July 29).  Wexler’s words from both his article and blog reveal a process of deep self reflection and harvesting truths and wisdom, to inform and empower the next part of his life as a wise elder.

Just such a ritual process has been offered to us by feminist Savina Teubal, z’l, who created the “Simchat Chochmah — Joy of Wisdom” celebration, and by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, author of “From Age-ing to Sage-ing.” Women and men have been using this process in their Simchat Chochmah journey to achieve similar results to Gary’s blogathon. As we baby boomers enter our 60s, we need to prepare ourselves to honor this transition and become the wise elders that our society needs us to be in this time of paradigm shift and challenges.  Simchat Chochmah is a workshop offered this fall at American Jewish University.

AriellaShira Lewis

Politically Correct but Logically and Ethically Wrong?

Rabbi Yanklowitz’s assertions about America’s illegal aliens and “cruel practices” – beastly America accepts more immigrants annually than the rest of the world combined – are politically correct but profoundly wrong.  Dubious “facts” come from partisan sources (i.e. the Chamber of Commerce, a lobbyist for cheap labor) or unspecified “studies.” Credible data are misconstrued: he argues the minimal contribution of illegal labor to the gross domestic product means the economy would suffer grievously without it — broadcasting his inability to make logical connections. 

Troubling, too, is the disconnect between his emotional tone — giddy excitement about an issue he’s just discovered — and the stale argumentation.  This tired reiteration is even less convincing than a legion of awful predecessors since it lacks nuance, clumsily evades inconvenient truths, and is impolitic about its extremist views — i.e. openly opining about removing borders.

What passes for “morality” is multiculturalist selectivity about who deserves our sympathy. Immigration is a zero-sum game. The losers are the most vulnerable Americans, including 14 million unemployed. But the rabbi is indifferent to them.  Politicizing exegesis, he consciously mistranslates Leviticus, spiriting away its meaning.  Worse, the rabbi forgets Judaism’s foundational ethical teaching: Justice and charity begin at home with one’s kin and fellow citizens. 

Stephen Steinlight
Washington, D.C.

Rabbi Yanklowitz responds:
Steinlight uses an over-the-top tone in his dismissal of my plea for basic legal rights for domestic workers. He claims that support for abused undocumented workers is “profoundly wrong,” “dubious” and that my arguments to help this most vulnerable population in America lacks the “inability to make logical connections,” is “giddy,” “clumsy,” “extremist,” “indifferent” and that I  “forget Judaism’s foundational ethical teaching.” It is precisely this type of angry demagoguery that halts sophisticated and collaborative discourse about the greatest contemporary moral problems of our time. So many Jewish leaders today fear speaking their conscience because our discourse has been lowered to cheap partisan attacks. May we all have the courage to address the plight of the oppressed and dismiss the cynics and politics that attempt to distract us with petty bickering.

Objecting to Stereotypes

I have to take issue with the cover of your Aug. 12 Jewish Journal where you show a picture of Emmanuelle Chriqui with the headline “The New Jewess: Forget the old stereotypes — meet Emmanuelle Chriqui and Hollywood’s new breed of glam.”

To which “old stereotype” do you refer in regard to Jewish women? Do you insinuate that the stereotype of Jewish women is not to be glamorous? Is Bess Myerson not glamorous? Is Lauren Bacall not glamorous, etc. etc.?

I hope that the editors of The Jewish Journal will soon lose their self-hatred complex.

Paul Malevitz
Los Angeles

The Beck Debate

We need news commentators like Glenn Beck who love and cherish the Jewish state, no matter what their religious or political motivations. Although I do not share all of Beck’s religious convictions, I do share his heartwarming support for Israel.

In The Jewish Journal’s “Pro-Beck / Anti-Beck” (Aug. 19) debate, Sammy Levine’s defense of Beck’s “Restoring Courage” Rally in Jerusalem is both timely and necessary. I heartily concur with Mr. Levine’s contention that “for so many Jews, hatred of the right overwhelms their love of Israel.”

Rabbi Grater’s grating criticism is clearly motivated by political acrimony, which sadly overemphasizes Beck’s infrequent mischaracterizations of certain Jews and religious sects. These faux pas are ultimately irrelevant with respect to his well-intentioned and worthwhile support of the Jewish state.

I hope that the state of Israel will deem Glenn Beck one of the Righteous Among the Nations. Though he may not have saved Jews from the Nazi Holocaust, his fervent advocacy for the Jews and for Israel may rally the world to defend the Chosen People from the galvanizing threats of Iranian President and radical Islamist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to “wipe Israel from the face of the Earth.”

If only left-leaning Levites like Rabbi Grater would appreciate those who advocate for Israel as a nation and people, respecting her culture, values and religious legacies, and not merely the Jewish identity of celebrities and communities. They would find much less to carp at and more to celebrate in Mr. Beck.

Speak up for the Jewish State, no matter how hard the mainstream media may lash back!

Arthur Christopher Schaper

Pleased that The Jewish Journal gives equal opportunity for both the pro-Glenn Beck and anti-Glenn Beck voices to be heard. Unbiased reporting at its finest. 

On the pro-Beck side, Sammy Levine presents facts that support his position: Beck explains why U.S. support for the State of Israel is important — that Israel has the right to survive and to defend itself against the people who “want to vaporize them;” a right to the land it acquired in the 1967 war; and “Israel is the only country in the Middle East that shares America’s values of freedom and human rights. “To those who would demean the State of Israel, claiming that it is “the evil one — that is the obstacle to peace,” Beck responds with two simple questions: “How many homosexuals have been stoned to death by the Israelis? How many terrorists are wearing a yarmulke?” Beck might well have noted that the Arabs/Muslims teach (brainwash?) their young that the land including the State of Israel is “Arab land, all of it!” And they reward suicide bombers and other terrorists for heinous acts against other human beings ...

On the other hand, with all due respect to his esteemed position as the spiritual leader of the Pasadena Jewish Temple and chair of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative, Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater offers few (if any) relevant facts but lots of personal opinion — making anti-Beck statements based only on his unsubstantiated personal viewpoints combined with vague interpretations, leading to negative implications of Beck’s motives. He also misses significant aspects of President Obama’s statements regarding peace negotiations. As an MIT-educated engineer (retired) who relies on factual data to draw valid conclusions, I find it hard to place any credibility in the rabbi’s anti-Beck statements — not a single one.  My observation regarding the rabbi’s commentary: When one is determined to find fault, he will always do so — right or wrong, even absent substantiating facts.

George Epstein
via e-mail

I have a suggestion for Rabbi Grater, who incredulously labels a man who is going to Jerusalem to lead a pro-Israel rally in Jerusalem as “one of the most dangerous ... enemies of the Jewish people. Why not let the Israeli people decide if Glenn Beck is truly a friend of Israel (as he has consistently claimed throughout his broadcast career), or is indeed a false prophet, as Rabbi Grater so gratuitously asserts. Why is it that liberal Jews in America, like Rabbi Grater, find everything wrong with organized Christian support for Israel, just as they find everything wrong with Israel’s actions; from defending itself against a violence-intended flotilla, to refusing to remove Jewish settlements from the West Bank until the Palestinians at least recognize its right to exist. One thing is crystal clear: In a world still dominated by those who hate the Jews and the State of Israel, the strongest allies of the Israeli people are Christian conservatives, typified by Glenn Beck. Sadly, among the weakest of Israel’s allies are the liberal Jews of America, who find everything wrong, not only with its policies, but with those who support it the strongest.

Leonard Levine
Los Angeles

Glenn Beck may be a guy who could pull an Arianna Huffington on us, changing his stripes at some time like she did. But I will take someone in the media who can send a pro-Jewish and -Israel message to millions of people in the world, with all his few flaws. Who else will/could do what he is doing. Some journalist from MSNBC? Those folks are all anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian. Even CNN doesn’t have anyone who would do what Beck is doing. Christiane Amanpour? Everything Beck is saying about the left needs to be said and heard. I want to hear about the anti-American and -Jewish thought of a George Soros (who is corrupt, by the way). Why don’t you watch his upcoming rally and then comment? Like your nemesis Sammy Levine stated, even Bill Maher compared Israel to “thugs” and for being an occupying army. Really. Don’t even mentioned Israel having thousands of rockets needlessly flying into that country. About Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. No one can or would do a better job defending Israel. Rabbi, can you name a leftist college professor that is pro-Israel, loves that country and praises it?  I doubt it. By the way, I’ll take Dennis Prager, Thomas Sowell, George Will and Charles Krauthammer over your guys Howard Zinn, Cornel West, and Paul Krugman, all of whom have absolutely no common sense and wisdom. And hate Israel and Jews, too.

P.S. We do need someone in the media who supports Israel and holds rallies for that country, even with some flaws. But it would be nice to have a liberal equivalent to Beck doing the same thing.  Only thing is we could never find that person!

Richard Levine
via e-mail

The Big Top 10

Dennis Prager’s analysis of the Ten Commandments (“Still the Only Solution to the World’s Problems,” Aug. 19) was a compelling interpolation of current events, eternal values and pressing issues. Excellent throughout!

Indeed, no one is godless, the greatest folly of atheism. We all answer to someone. The question is, to what, or to whom. The insipidness of modern life has foolishly assumed that “it’s my life, I can do what I want.” Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

I also enjoyed Mr. Prager’s connection of covetousness and class warfare. The “haves and have-nots” is a false dichotomy created by the political class to incite envy among prospective voters who have not because they work not, or ask amiss, that they may spend what is not theirs on their diverse lusts.

My only concern is that, for all the holiness and goodness inherent in God’s Law, or rather, Instruction-Direction (the literal meaning of Torah), Mr. Prager does not explain how mankind can live up to the standard in the Law. Talmudic Rabbi Yochanan writes: “But if a man do the whole, with the omission of one, he is guilty of the whole, and of every one.”

Knowledge of the Law certainly has not made the race any better, let alone a near-heaven on earth. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned because they wanted the knowledge of good and evil, which only instilled in them yetser hara, which undermines any fantastic notion of yetser hatov in humanity today (consider mass murder at the hands of the state, Nazi, communist, etc.).

The Law is good, Mr. Prager. But it does not make me good. I think we would do well to search for the One who can make us good, true, and holy. The Law is certainly a diligent schoolmaster, but the world is still failing to heed the necessary Instruction.

Arthur Christopher Schaper

Not Seeing Eye to Eye

After reading Rob Eshman’s “The Seer” (Aug. 12), I’m thinking, “It’s deja vu all over again.” Rob apparently couldn’t stomach the thought of actually advocating wealth redistribution on his own, so he quotes a communist-becomes-millionaire Israeli. As a former communist during the ’60s and staffer for the McGovern campaign, let me remind you: Socialism has never worked. But like the eternal leftists on every campus, without fail, every generation submits to the tikkun olam sirens, beckoning to have one more try with human misery and economic destruction, knowing that, his time around, they will be successful.

I’m wondering: at what point during your banquet did you realize that taxing one’s way to wealth was good for the common man: Was it during the duck with cabernet sauce, the spring vegetables or the white fish? Instead of playing titillating games with fraudulent economic theories that even Marx renounced, why not convince the Israeli leftist unions and mafia in the Knesset to try a different approach: Let people actually make a profit. Everything else has created an economic basket case out of the “people of the book,” the smartest and most industrious people on Earth. Let people actually be free to create wealth. See what happens? Just ask the million or so Israelis who have come to the U.S. to try to keep what they earn!

P.S. Here’s a great idea for guest of honor Shraga Biran: Let him sponsor housing for the 10,000 Jews that the Israeli government exiled from their homes in Gush Katif. Perhaps he can provide counseling for those who have since taken to drugs, depression pills and have had their lives destroyed for “peace.” Don’t put a guilt trip on us. The solution lies wholly within the corrupted Israeli parliament.

Rabbi Shifren
Los Angeles

Israel’s Big Opportunity

In my youth I learned a soliloquy that ended, “In other words, say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t use big words.” Gidi Grinstein’s piece (”Israel’s Breakthrough Opportunity,” Aug. 19) reminded me of this sage advice. When I finished her New Social Contract, with all of its purported high concepts, I could only conclude that the Grinstein Manifesto would make Marx proud. If Israel falls prey to nonsense like this, it will be consumed from within long before its multitudinous external enemies get the job done.

Nancy Schuman

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