Shining a Light on Military Rape
I’ve taught sexual harassment prevention in the private and public sectors as an outside trainer for 20 years (“A visible war against military rape,” Feb. 8). I felt good about what I did because I educated and dissuaded potential perpetrators and empowered women to exercise their rights. But I knew I hadn’t done enough and the problem persisted. I knew the military had not addressed this human rights issue. I didn’t know how, who or what would ever bring about the necessary changes to eradicate this horror of abuse, excuse, accusation and “exoneration.” Thank you for this monumental contribution toward gender equity and human dignity.
As a retired VA social worker who published “Needs of Female Patients in a VA Psychiatric Hospital,” Social Work, July-August, 1984, (done with a task force of mainly female nurses and social workers at the West Los Angeles VA facility), I could not be more pleased to see your cover article on director Amy Ziering’s exposé on the experiences of women in the military.
Consistent with the experiences of women reported in “The Invisible War,” ogling, verbal sexual harassment and similar experiences were reported by 40 to 50 percent of the study respondents, especially in public settings used by both sexes, such as the VA canteen (mess hall).
The VA administration and staff moved rapidly and effectively to address such concerns. A Jewish patient-rights leader, Charles “Chuck” Gold led his group of male and female veterans into the VA canteen to inform the offending males that such verbal harassment was intolerable. The West L.A. VA modified its physical environment so that female veterans could be accommodated and integrated into general wards and other settings. Special programs for women, including assessments for military sexual trauma (MST), are now routine. Some of these changes became a model for national VA programs.
Finally, I commend Ms. Ziering for courageously calling attention to a key issue about rape in the military: the need to take these adjudications completely outside the chain of command. The need to address these issues and to end the “old boys’ network” is long overdue.
Gene Rothman, D.S.W., LCSW
An Inspirational Young Man
I am blown away by this young man’s insight, wisdom and centeredness (“Neal’s Prayer,” Feb. 8). Neal, my hat’s off to you. Thanks, too, to your dear mom, who because of you has given so much to the rest of us.
Our Anemic Health Care System
Kudos to Marty Kaplan for reminding us of not only the harsh truths about our anemic system of health care in this country, but of the other factors, such as too broad an interpretation of the Second Amendment, that also has serious consequences for Americans (“Bad for Your Health,” Feb. 8).
Although we as a people have many things for which to be thankful, our system of delivering health care is not one of them. Nor is our attitude about guns. Kaplan cited the principal factors of why we stack up so poorly against much of the industrialized world when it comes to life expectancy. And although so much of what he wrote should be considered no-brainers, I, for one, fear too many of our faults stem from attitudes deeply ingrained within us as a people to make a real change any time soon. But one can hope. And that is why Mr. Kaplan’s piece is not only refreshing but downright necessary to be read and reread. Self-delusion about who we are as a people might make us feel good. But it will never allow us to move forward and actually become who and what we think we are.
The Senseless Death of a Doctor
The murder of Dr. Ronald Gilbert is beyond sad for his family and patients (“Slain Doctor Remembered for His Love of Judaism,” Feb. 8). How can we even question the need for gun control measures in this country? It makes no sense.
Brent’s vs. Any Deli Out There
Thanks for the article on delis (“Why Isn’t L.A. Up to Haute Kosher,” Feb. 1). Maybe I’m just a purist, but not withstanding the San Francisco vibe, I’ll match Brent’s with any deli going. I only wish Ron Peskin, the owner of Brent’s, would move into the vacant Junior’s space on the Westside.
God’s Law and Same-Sex Marriage
You’ve got to be kidding. Gil Steinlauf’s “The Queerness of Love” (Feb. 1) harkens more out of a Purim spiel. For love to be holy, sometimes it must remain bounded. The homosexual encounter in Leviticus (for context) is prefaced by the act of adultery (and not rape), a willing event entered into by both parties. Many times, even willing acts are forbidden by God. But what if society decided that familial marriage was now OK, and then I decided that I would speak out of both sides of my mouth and stand “in accordance with the laws of Moses” by violating those laws of Moses that Gil Steinlauf did by officiating? Then I am sure I could call on my good friend, Gil Steinlauf, to officiate that wedding, too.
The Torah was given as an eternal gift to instruct humanity on how to live together. It is a covenantal document with the Jewish people and through them with the entire world. Although the Torah must, at times, be “modernized” to deal with new inventions not known at the time of its inception — for example, the use of electricity and the laws of the Sabbath — we are not free to reinterpret well-defined laws to satisfy prevailing social mores.
“Do not lie with a man as with a woman” (Leviticus 18:22) is stated most clearly as abhorrent. Rabbi Gil Steinlauf cannot disregard this law or, indeed, any law not to his liking. If only one commandment were altered or reinterpreted per century since the beginning of the Common Era, the Torah would be largely unrecognizable today.
Although Rabbi Steinlauf feels that love conquers all, the Bible is far more concerned with evil than with love. If I love my sister or my dog does that mean the rabbi would be comfortable officiating at these marriages as well? And if not, why not?
Perhaps the single most important requirement for the continuation of Judaism is an unchanging Torah. I would much rather stick to the words of the Torah and the interpretations of our great sages than to submit to Rabbi Steinlauf’s queer love interpretation of the Bible.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Prager and a Moral Framework
Before we agree with Dennis Prager that “nonsense and moral confusion dominate the liberal arts in almost all Western universities” (“I Found God at Columbia,” Feb. 1), a few cautionary observations are in order. Prager’s point — a good one — is that a moral framework is needed in which ideas can be weighed. Alas, he could not find such a framework at Columbia University. But a university is not a yeshiva or a madrassa (a Muslim school); university students are not the converted, nor are they subject to be converted. This means that the choice of moral framework is bound to be contested, and that point does not detract from the value of a university. The primary purpose of a university is not to agree on issues or values, but to enable a great variety of people to talk and think about what is shared and what is not.
A good university course displays strengths and weaknesses of opposing ideas, not to gain conformity, but to allow students to be better informed by becoming aware of views other than their own. I believe that a person can understand her point of view only when she also understands the opposing view. As I see it, Prager does not try to understand the opposing view as much as to slay it, only to find that he fails, time after time, to do so. Although this can be dismaying, it makes possible Prager’s life’s work.
At the very least, I feel Prager should give Columbia the benefit of the doubt. After all, if he hadn’t been an alienated student at Columbia, he might not have found God.
Barry H. Steiner
Political science professor
California State University, Long Beach
A Young Man Comes of Age
I just ran across your article titled “Boy Donates Two Ambulances” (Jan. 18), the story of how Robert Leeds, as part of his bar mitzvah, collected enough funds for two ambulances to be donated to the State of Israel. Although I enjoyed the story, there was one glaring correction needed: In reading of his ideas and his actions, it seems that the term “boy” falls woefully short in describing Robert Leeds.
Culver City, Calif.
An Outdated Political Theory
David Suissa correctly points out the idea of “linkage” forms both Chuck Hagel’s and John Kerry’s political theories (“Hagel’s Other Problem,” Feb. 8): the notion that peace between the Palestinians and Israelis will affect Islamic conflicts elsewhere in the universe. As we all should know by now, the post-9/11 worldwide phenomenon of Islamic terror and civil war has rendered the concept of “linkage” as irrelevant as fears of the Y2K computer bug from 13 years ago.
Not just the examples cited by Suissa that have little to do with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but many more in North Africa, Central Asia and the Far East show that the policy objectives motivating Hagel and Kerry are outdated, if not foolish.
Far more ominous, however, is the fact that President Barack Obama, clearly not a bipartisan president, unexpectedly reaches across the aisle to a Republican, Chuck Hagel, for what can only be seen as their common animus toward Israel.
A Feb. 8 article (“Finding Holy Ground in Pico-Union”) reported that Wolfgang Puck and the band Wellspring will be involved with an interfaith Passover seder taking place March 17 at Craig Taubman’s “Pico Union” building. They will not be participating in the event.
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