Jewish Journal

Letters to the editor: Pomegranate trees, money in the Jewish community and UCLA

Posted on Jan. 15, 2014 at 9:59 am

A Love That’s Deeply Rooted

This article brought tears to my eyes as I, too, have a tendency to fall in love with my trees (“Pom Wonderful,” Jan. 10). So I would urge you, if you have not already done so, to consult with a certified and licensed arborist before heeding the advice of a contractor who tells you to cut down your tree.

If you wouldn’t seek the advice of an auto mechanic for medical problems, why put the fate of your beloved pomegranate in the hands of someone who isn’t a tree specialist?

Please publish a follow-up, or at least let me know what the arborist says. And good luck! I’m rooting for the tree … pun intended.

Ellyn Gelson, Encino

Stereotyping Wolf a Disservice to All

Yes, you’re right about money and lack of values (“ ‘The Wolf’ and the Jewish Problem,” Jan. 3). I, too, shudder when I see a Jewish name connected with a financial crime (or any other scandal for that matter). However, of the top philanthropists of 2013, out of the first 11, five were Jewish: Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros, Eli and Edythe Broad, Michael Bloomberg, James and Marilyn Simons — total lifetime giving of these five exceeds $7 billion. Of the top 50, more than 40 percent are Jewish. Also look at the Nobel laureates in literature, science, medicine, economics and, yes, even peace. Is it amazing that for the past 26 years the Federal Reserve chair has been Jewish?

I know you must receive these e-mails, telling of Jewish accomplishments, constantly, but in times like these it’s good to remember as we try to teach our children values and respect. The problem is that we expect Jews to be better, and the harsh reality is that we as a people are human, and you get the bad with the good. It’s the “bad apple” story, but fortunately there’s more good than bad.

Thanks for your column, I look forward to it every week.

Jo Anne Yusim via e-mail

I share many of your sentiments. I am deeply disturbed and disgusted by all the bad Jews in the news and in recent films, the Belforts et al. of “Wolf” and the by-comparison-lamed-vavniks of “American Hustle.” I agree that we need to look harder and longer at money and morality; that we need to pay less attention to the stupid sideshows.

I would just take issue with a premise, near the bottom: “We have benefited from an economic and political structure that is becoming less and less just.”  

True, it is becoming less and less just. But false that we Jews are all beneficiaries. You must know that wide swaths of us are also victims of income inequality, off-shored jobs, budget and tax cuts that favor the wealthy, etc. 

You must know that most of the Jewish community falls way under the 1 percent, and that Jewish Vocational Service and other social welfare agencies are swamped by Jewish casualties of the Great Recession — kids who can’t get jobs, laid-off adults and 50- and 60-somethings who can’t replace lost jobs, flat-out impoverished seniors, etc.

Our economic suffering may be less than that of other groups, but it’s wrong to imply that we are all, or mostly, on the receiving end of the current distribution of wealth. One step toward bulking up our moral fiber is recognizing that many of our own also suffer with the rest of the struggling middle class.

Ellen Muraskin via e-mail

Bravo for your incisive critique and your call for conversations in the Jewish community about money. Toward this end, I would like to call your attention to an innovative curriculum that prompts such conversations about the ethical ways to acquire and spend money. Developed by Wilshire Boulevard Temple in partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), “Money Matters: Jewish Ethics of Money and Business” comprises a series of lessons for middle school and high school students devoted precisely to the questions that you raise in your article, namely, “What’s the right way to make money? How much is enough? How much must we share and with whom?”

While the high school module has been developed but awaits production, teachers’ guides and student workbooks for the middle school module of “Money Matters” are available right now on the URJ Web site. Hopefully, leaders within our community will heed your call for constructive discussions about the ethical ways to acquire and spend money and will take advantage of this valuable resource at their fingertips.

Susan Ehrlich, Beverly Hills

New Low for Calif. Higher Education

I could not agree more and wish to hug Dennis Prager with all my might (“UCLA’s Further Deterioration,” Jan. 10). He is absolutely right in what he states about the deterioration of the state colleges in California. He should also include the public schools, the courthouses and everything else that begins with “public.” It’s a disgrace. I am ashamed to say that I even live in California, my birth state. It’s no wonder that the citizens are leaving and businesses closing. I will be leaving soon myself. Adios, California, state of fools.

Alexandra Joans, Los Angeles

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