April 26, 2011
Letters to the Editor: Ryan vs. Obama, Bibi, Palestine and dancing rabbis
Paul Ryan vs. Barack Obama
It is very telling that in both of the articles criticizing Paul Ryan’s courageous budget proposal, many words (and much hand wringing) are expended defending existing entitlements that are bankrupting our nation but not one word addresses the unsustainable cost of these programs or how we will pay for their escalating costs (“Obama’s Way: Maintain Support for Social Programs” and “Threat to Food Stamps Lies Hidden in Ryan’s Plan,” April 22). These authors exhort our national leaders to craft policy with their “hearts” based on “compassion.” Much of the nation is realizing instead that it is necessary to make policy decisions with our heads based on logic, and taking into account basic financial arithmetic. The American dream is not one of dependency, but of striving, individual freedom and the satisfaction that comes from independence. Our collective future depends on returning to these values.
Arnold Steinberg’s paean to Congressman Paul Ryan and Ryan’s ill-conceived budget plan is filled with distortions and misinformation (“Ryan’s Way: Stop Government Excess,” April 22). More disturbing than the lack of factual accuracy, however, is the ill-mannered, nasty and pejorative nature of the essay. The piece is filled with derogatory remarks about — in no particular order — Democrats, liberals, people needing food stamps, the “dependent class,” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Henry Waxman, Medicare as a Ponzi scheme, government unions, unemployment insurance, etc. Perhaps Steinberg is dreaming of a career succeeding Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage. It seems that they’re reading from the same playbook. I am appalled at the lack of civility in this polemic. It completely precludes any productive discussion of the issues and merely evokes anger and rejection.
Barbara H. Bergen
Plan for Bibi
David Suissa, in his column of April 15 (“Bibi Needs a Plan, Fast”), wonders what Bibi should do regarding the impending U.N. recognition of Palestine. The answer is simple: He should publicly welcome it with open arms, and then invite the Palestinians to sit down and negotiate the details.
David Suissa overlooks the opportunity presented by the U.N.’s anticipated recognition of a Palestinian state. He sees the issue narrowly as a public relations disaster, to which Israel should respond by presenting a peace plan. Rather, many countries in the world, as well as much of the U.S. Jewish community, realize that peace and normalcy will never be restored in the Middle East unless there is a solid boundary between the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, clarifying who has legal jurisdiction over their respective geographies. With an internationally recognized border, encroachments by either sovereignty will be obvious, and the citizens of both polities can get down to the serious business of state-building and economic development. This process took place in the 19th century between the U.S. and Mexico, and despite repeated military incursions and a nationalistic antagonism on both sides, disputes over the land and water boundary are now amicably resolved. There is no reason why Israel and Palestine cannot do the same.
Peter L. Reich
Professor of Law & Director,
Mexico City Program
Whittier Law School
In response to Dennis Prager (“Dancing With the Rabbis?” April 15), I state that my valued teachers, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson and Rabbi Elliot Dorff, and my fellow colleagues Rabbis Mark Borowitz, Nina Feinstein and Zoë Klein, beautifully preserve the dignity of the rabbinate on a daily basis. I credit them with their dedication to raise funds by participating in this event.
Prager equates preserving the dignity of the rabbinate with addressing rabbis by their titles. He references the beginning of the 1960s, when these “past values” were overthrown. However, in 1913, Conservative Judaism’s founder, Dr. Solomon Schechter, emphasized that Conservative Judaism would typify “a Jewry related to modern living.”
We rabbis dance in public, we wear bathing suits in public, and some even take ballet classes on our days off. And yet, when we teach, we are called “rabbi,” we lay tefillin during daily morning davening, and we study weekly. We earn the title “rabbi” through our personal relationships with Jews and our ability to balance being an authority figure and a human being.
Is it possible that we have a “liberal-conservative” divide here, as Mr. Prager claims? Perhaps he would prefer that we be “conservative” Conservative rabbis. But if this means I must leave post-modernity behind and abandon modeling a balanced rabbinic life, then I embrace striding the liberal-conservative divide. I am a real-life Conservative rabbi who thanks my colleagues for being real-life rabbis.
Rabbi Susan Leider, Associate Rabbi
Temple Beth Am
In “Search for Polish Past Inspires Film, Education” (April 22), the first caption should have read: Gertrude Bloom (daughter of Leah Tickotsky) with her husband, Hyman.
In “Etta Israel Expands Programs” (April 22), the $200,000 Cutting Edge grant Etta Israel received was awarded by the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.