Jewish Journal

Letters to the Editor: Green Cars, Halachah, Dress Code, Marty Kalplan

Posted on Jan. 5, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Green Cars Benefit Earth, Israel

Kudos to The Journal for the Dec. 3 cover story on ways to reduce consumption (“My Chanukah Miracle”) and for Rob Eshman’s Dec. 10 column on the new Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid (“The Home Front”). We should strive proactively to reduce our environmental footprints.

Mark Shapiro (Letters, Dec. 17) complains about the cost of a Volt compared to that of a conventional gas-burning car. What Shapiro didn’t mention is that the price of a conventional car and the oil it runs on are greatly subsidized — these prices do not include the cost of exhaust pollution on human health, military protection of access to oil (think Iraq and Afghanistan) and deadly oil spills (Gulf of Mexico).

I expect [this month] to possess a new Nissan LEAF, an all-electric car that doesn’t burn gasoline and that, after rebates and tax credits, should cost not much more than $20,000.  With the solar photovoltaic panels on my home, running a LEAF won’t cost the environment anything. In addition, as can be inferred from Mr. Eshman’s column, less oil consumption here can translate into a more effective U.S. voice in support of Israel.

Ben Zuckerman
Physics and astronomy professor

Halachah, Reconsidered

As Rabbi Moshe Tendler observed (“What Is Western Society’s Place in Determining Halachah?” Dec. 24), Jews’ willingness to consider brain death sufficient for taking organs from gentiles, but not for giving organs by Jews, symbolizes a one-way street in tolerance and acceptance. We welcome (and expect) theological revisions by the Church, which has moved from the Crusades and forced conversions to the Second Vatican Council and acceptance. Yet we cling to halachic doctrines like yayin neschekh and bishul akum, which teach that our Christian neighbors are idolaters whose very hands contaminate our food and drink.

Some reciprocal reconsideration is in order. In 1997, Samuel Sheinbein fled from Maryland to Israel to escape prosecution for murder and enjoy the more lenient sentencing imposed by Israeli courts. Israel refused to extradite, due to a law derived from the theory that Jews cannot receive a fair trial in gentile courts. But contemporary Maryland is not Czarist Russia. Imagine our outcry if the United States refused to extradite someone accused of murdering an Israeli, on the ground that Israel could not fairly try a Christian.

Many other rules derive not from Sinai, but conditions specific to times and places that no longer exist. For example, the restriction on women’s reading from the Torah reflects the concept of kavod ha-tsibbur: Her reading would insult the congregation by implying no male could do so. The insult, of course, depends on the accuracy of the implication. If female scholars can speak before mixed audiences without automatically implying [male] ignorance, it may be time to rethink the reach of kavod ha-tsibbur.

Mitchell Keiter
Los Angeles

Dress Codes Are a School’s Choice

With regard to “Schools Go to War With Nazi-Insignia Clothing Company” (Dec. 24), I have one response: For shame!

What gives this clothing company such a sense of entitlement that it can sue a school district for the right to be on the campus in the form of clothing worn by students? And since when is there an expectation of freedom of speech on a school campus? 

Schools have every right to establish dress codes. As a public school administrator, I’ve sent students home for wearing clothing far less offensive than the Metal Mulisha company produces. Tank tops with “spaghetti”-type straps are frequently banned in elementary and middle schools.

Being faced with crippling budget cuts all across the state, the Murrieta Valley School District has more important business to attend to than settle frivolous lawsuits. We should all boycott this company. 

Maralyn Soifer
West Hills

Put Those Paws Together for Slavin Library

I am a psychotherapist, child development specialist and Jewish educator, and when it comes to the marvelous Slavin Family Children’s Library (SFCL), I am at the other end of a leash with my two Delta Society Pet Partner Therapy Dogs, volunteering several times a year to bring the nationwide R.E.A.D.  program to this library. I began the pilot program over three years ago with Sylvia Lowe and Amy Muscoplat, the librarians, and have brought three to five teams of 
R.E.A.D. dogs to be read to by the children at 15-minute intervals. We have children who return each time we appear — those children who feel accepted, safe, not judged when reading to our skilled therapy dogs. Our program is without cost to JFC and we are proud of our mitzvah mission to create a love of reading, skills improvement and a trust in the human-animal bond that defies description. Please keep our library going. 

Judy Bin-Nun
with Raizel and Ketzel — devoted R.E.A.D. dogs
Los Angeles

Republican ‘Politicians’

Marty Kaplan’s column, “The Senators Who Dissed Baby Jesus” (Dec. 24), expressed the frustration, anger and disappointment that I feel toward our current crop of Republican ‘politicians’ with respect to their hypocrisy, demagoguery, obstructionism and, often, stupidity.

Please continue exposing their antics, although from the results of the last election, I’m not sure it will accomplish anything. I believe we live in two Americas, i.e., politically, religiously, socially, and intellectually. There are the coastal states (termed blue) who live in the 21st century, and the heart of America (termed red) who still yearn for the good old 19th century, and†to whom the Republicans pander.

Gilbert H. Skopp

A Different Conservative Voice?

The Journal should reconsider its decision to appoint Mr. Prager as a regular spokesman for conservatives (”I Wish Settlements Were the Issue” Nov. 19, 2010).

His acolytes, the conservatives, benefit little since they are his chorus. Liberals have become inured to his voice since the ostensible subjects of this and many other columns are obscured by what appears to be his chief objective: a polemic against liberals. Moreover his attacks are ad hominem, his most bitter criticism when they are lobbed at him by the liberals. There are some on the left who yearn to stretch beyond their political biases toward a better understanding of the conservative viewpoint. Mr. Prager would do better to speak to them in a matter calculated to evoke thoughtful consideration rather than predictable defensiveness.

Roger Schwarz
Los Angeles

PA is No Peace Partner

David Suissa is correct, Israel should indeed stop shadow-boxing and start telling the world plainly that there will be no peace in the near future because Mahmoud Abbasí Palestinian Authority (PA) doesn’t want it (”Can we ever admit failure?” Dec. 17).

This is exactly the reason the PA declares a willingness to make peace, but only if there is the so-called “right of return” and an Israeli withdrawal to the perilous 1949 armistice lines, so Israel can be swamped demographically with Arab refugees of the 1948-49 war and their millions of descendants and also be dismembered territorially.

It is time to drop the talk of Abbas being a peace partner. There should be no rewards or concession to Abbas until and unless the PA fulfills its 17-year-old commitments to arrest terrorists, outlaw terrorist groups and end the incitement to hatred and murder that suffuses the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps.

Steven M. Goldberg
vice chairman, board of directors
Zionist Organization of America
New York

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