November 23, 2011
Letters to the Editor: David Mamet, Marty Kaplan, anorexia
Mamet: Out of Touch With Today’s Reform
As an observer and researcher of American Jewish life who teaches this subject at both USC and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion [HUC-JIR], I was looking forward to learning from David Mamet how “Reform Judaism has met with few conflicts it did not attempt to resolve by submission” (“Conflict, Choice and Surrender,” Nov. 18). I was curious to see how the author of “The Wicked Son” would make the case against the ordination of women and gays, patrilineal descent and outreach to the intermarried population. Or, maybe he would be criticizing Reform-led efforts to limit the power of the Orthodox religious establishment to shape Israeli social policy. I am always on the lookout for cogently argued, “in your face” essays that I can use in class to engage my students. I was disappointed to find Mamet stuck in the early 20th century, complaining about the Reform movement abandoning Yiddish, Hebrew, the Talmud, kashrut and ritual. These last four have all made their way back into Reform Judaism. With regard to Yiddish, does Mamet want Rabbi Mordecai Finley to switch back to the Mamaloshen? Unless I really missed something, the rest of Mamet’s editorial is an angry, incoherent rant. As faculty member of Trojans for Israel and faculty adviser of USC Christians United for Israel, I would now think twice about asking Mamet to make the case for Israel.
Bruce A. Phillips
Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies
Louchheim School of Judaic Studies
HUC-JIR and the University of Southern California
Kaplan Krossed the Line
Being that I am very much a senior citizen, I can vividly remember the late l960s, when venom-filled leftists would spell America with a “k” to imply that America was Nazi-like. It must be mentioned, in all fairness, that sensitive, thoughtful devotees of the left were sickened by this.
This type of vicious hatred is manifested in Marty Kaplan’s article “Keeping up With the Kandidates” (Nov. 18) — implying that candidates with a solidly conservative outlook are Nazi-like. Kaplan crossed the line of civility and The Jewish Journal must now bear the burden of having published something that venomous.
Rabbi Louis J. Feldman
Editor’s Note: As is implied by the title in question, the use of the “k” was meant to refer to the Kardashians and the entertainment focus of the campaign, not to any historical reference.
Prager’s Anorexia Argument ‘Perfectly Flawed’
Dennis Prager’s outlandish argument that anorexia is one of 12 “left-wing hysterias” is naive and lacks any understanding of this serious disorder (“Man-Made Global Warming: Why Many of Us Are Skeptical, Parts 1 and 2,” Oct. 28 and Nov. 11). Prager’s whole point is that because there are only on average 200 reported deaths per year of anorexia (instead of 150,000), then the disorder is not that significant and is just over-hyped by “left-wing hysteria.” His argument is perfectly flawed.
Any simple Google search on “deaths from anorexia” would point him to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Their sites says specifically: “Although eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, the mortality rates reported on those who suffer from eating disorders can vary considerably between studies and sources. Part of the reason why there is a large variance in the reported number of deaths caused by eating disorders is because those who suffer from an eating disorder may ultimately die of heart failure, organ failure, malnutrition or suicide. Often, the medical complications of death are reported instead of the eating disorder that compromised a person’s health.”
Prager obviously has no understanding of how serious and devastating an eating disorder is.
On the Ground in Mauthausen
I read the moving story of Motek Kleiman (Survivors, Nov. 18). The story, like many survivors’ experiences, depicts an almost unbelievable journey through “hell” and eventual liberation.
What caught my attention was Kleiman’s experiences in Mauthausen, where he approaches an Austrian colonel and escapes with him to Vienna.
To set the record straight on the conditions in Mauthausen and its sub-camps, I would like to offer a few observations based on personal experiences of surviving the last four months of the war in Mauthausen and its sub-camp, Ebensee. The Nazi camps’ personnel wore SS uniforms, and it would be difficult to identify the origins of a particular SS man. Jewish inmates would not dare to approach an SS guard, and certainly not an officer. This would result in punishment and certain death. Furthermore, an escape from Mauthausen with its electrified barbed-wire fence, watch towers, etc., and surviving such an escape, would be a real “miracle.”