I have an answer to Dennis Prager’s column criticizing the annual list of 50 top rabbis published by Newsweek/Daily Beast (“Time to End the ‘Top Rabbis’ List,” March 29). Prager complains that the Newsweek ranking brings the cult of celebrity to the fragile institution of the rabbinate, inflicting “gratuitous pain” on those rabbis who don’t make the cut and inflating the egos of those who do.
It’s too bad that Prager missed the Forward’s latest project, published a day before the Newsweek list, in which we profiled 36 rabbis who have inspired Jews throughout the country. The rabbis were selected from hundreds and hundreds of nominations submitted by our readers, who sent us compelling stories of men and women offering inspirational leadership in synagogues, classrooms, Hillels and hospices. Only two of the rabbis cited in our project were also on the Newsweek list, illustrating how very different the process and criteria were. And we didn’t rank the 36 rabbis, preferring to present them as an assemblage of the extraordinary work quietly done on behalf of the Jewish people.
The Forward is following up on this project with hard-hitting analytical stories on the challenges facing the American rabbinate, but we wanted to start by listening to our readers. I have no beef against the Newsweek list — the editor this year was a fine journalist who used to work at the Forward. But there are other ways to highlight inspired leadership, and we have shown how it can be done.
Lamenting Library’s Closure
We read with dismay about the impending closure of the Slavin Family Children’s Library (“Slavin Library to Close,” March 22). As a whole, its collection represents the best in Jewish children’s books, music, DVDs, programming and more. Broken up, it is bubkes.
It is disconcerting that the collection can’t be placed in a more accessible and visible location. A library is so much more than the sum of its parts! They are synergistic enterprises that give a foundation to its ethnic, religious community. Cities with smaller Jewish populations than Los Angeles, such as San Diego, Montreal and Cleveland, support Jewish literacy with libraries. While the library has never been a priority of the Federation or the BJE — otherwise resources would have been found to support it — it is still a dream of these two professional librarians to lift the children’s library out of the 6505 space and situate it in the current nexus of the community where families may visit and use it on the way to and from schools, markets, bakeries and so forth, fully integrated in communal life.
Two Jews, Three Opinions?
I commend Jonah Lowenfeld for covering the story of the first three UC student governments to vote (overwhelmingly) to approve resolutions urging their campus administrations and the University of California as a whole to divest from companies that either assist or profit from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (“Three UC Student Governments Endorse BDS,” March 22). I commend him for including the voices and perspectives of Palestinian students and Students for Justice in Palestine activists in his story. And while he included the voices of Jewish students and activists who opposed these measures, he completely left out the voices of the many Jewish activists both on and off campuses who promote the non-violent BDS movement and the rights of Palestinians to equality, justice and self-determination in their homeland. Two Jews, three opinions, but one is being silenced within the Jewish community and the Jewish Journal.
The Greek Life
As a longtime reader of the Journal and also of David Suissa, I must comment on his column regarding fraternities (“Life of AEPi,” March 8).
I am a member of a ZBT fraternity (Michigan State University ’57), and I remember that McGill University in Montreal, at that time, had a ZBT chapter on that campus. ZBT is still a viable and active fraternity and has been around longer than AEPi. I am still in contact with many of the “brothers” I knew then.
The article “Moving and Shaking” (March 29) omitted Rabbi Sarah Hronsky, senior rabbi at Beth Hillel Day School, from the entry about the Passover celebration at Los Angeles City Hall.
In the column “Jewlicious Works” (March 15), the Marx Brothers’ stateroom scene was from “A Night at the Opera,” not “Monkey Business.”