Jewish Journal

Letters to the Editor: Cardboard Sukkah, Child Abuse, Gender Terminology

Posted on Aug. 22, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Cardboard Sukkah Idea Has a Few Holes In It

It’s a brilliant idea, though the street folks will now be cardless as well as homeless until they can invest donations in new, and, perhaps better, art supplies (“HomelessSukkah.com,” Aug. 16). Here’s hoping your metaphor will be supported and addressed this season in a new year and new form of giving.

Melanie Chartoff via jewishjournal.com

I saw your article. It’s a great idea, especially if you can get the mayor to come.

However, if the roof is cardboard it won’t be a kosher sukkah. The cardboard often comes from boxes, which are susceptible to ritual contamination since they had an interior, and are therefore not capable of being a kosher sukkah roof material (called schach in Hebrew). This is why bamboo mats or branches are commonly used.

Joshua Kovacs via e-mail

Rob Eshman responds:

Yes, Mr. Kovacs is 100 percent right. I neglected to check with my very local rabbi first — I was under the impression cardboard counted as natural schach. She set me straight, as usual. The online version is correct, and, thankfully, several organizations and people have joined the effort at HomelessSukkah.com.

Child Abuse: The Shock Heard Round the Jewish World

It is dismaying to read the latest of so many accusations of child abuse in the Orthodox community, and as a teacher it is such a disconnect to read L.A. District Attorney Ben Forer’s words, that “people don’t want to believe” allegations of sexual abuse (“Childhood Abuse Victims Name Alleged Abuser,” Aug. 16). 

“Families come out in support, in every community, in support of the predator, no matter what the evidence is,” Forer said. Contrast that to allegations against a teacher in a public school district. There, people want to not only believe that any allegation is true, but that more and others must be involved. 

Teachers in the LAUSD, who must be annually certified by passing a test on child abuse awareness, are mandated reporters to law enforcement (not to parents, or school administrators, or school police) of suspected child abuse, on penalty of possibly losing their job, arrest or both. Why is the standard in the Orthodox community, of all places, any less? 

One must be very sure before accusations (not to mention photos) are made public, but hopefully as much energy is being put into a concerted effort to get the victims to go to the authorities and seek whatever due process is still available to them.  

Mitch Paradise, Los Angeles

Is this article the reason why there have been no copies of the Jewish Journal in their usual stands in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood since last Thursday? There are usually leftover copies that are removed only when the subsequent week’s issue is released. If so, the article should be reprinted weekly and the newsstands monitored for those abetting abusers.

Aaron Gross via jewishjournal.com

This is a beautiful article (“The Torah and Child Sexual Abuse,” Aug. 16). Having lived this crime with my sons, I know its truth so well. Protect all children always by being public.

Betty Backus Martin via jewishjournal.com

Clarifying Sex, Sexuality, Gender Terminology

I was extremely upset by Dennis Prager’s article, “Do Men and Women Matter?”(July 19) and the responses by Alex Romano and Prager (Letters, Aug. 1). As a queer Jewish feminist with a bachelor’s degree in gender studies and a minor in LGBT studies, the choice by the Jewish Journal to publish comments and articles that confuse feminism, gender, sex and sexuality was extremely disappointing and hurtful. 

In the simplest explanation, biological sex refers to whether we are female, male or intersex. Gender is a social construct that defines people as men or women. Transgender and cisgender refer to gender identity. Sexual orientation is attraction, including lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual, queer and more. Feminism is about equality. 

Please note that it is very difficult to simplify identities and labels, and there are numerous identities I have not mentioned due to the word limit. Understandings of sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and feminism change from person to person; they are very personal and individual. I personally think our world should be more gender neutral and treat all people with humanity and respect. I look forward to you publishing articles that do not erase women, non-binary people and the LGBTQ community.

Emily Kunstler via e-mail

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