Your editorial is wrong (“Stand Our Ground,” July 19). The “Stand Your Ground” law had nothing to do with the Zimmerman case. You posit the only reason George Zimmerman got out of his car was the “Stand Your Ground” law. That is not supported by the evidence. Your conclusion is “but for” his getting out of the car, the incident would not have happened. The same can be said “but for” Trayvon Martin doubling back, approaching and striking Zimmerman, it wouldn’t have happened. The Zimmerman case was a pure case of self-defense.
Rob Eshman responds:
The shooting would have been a “pure case of self-defense” had George Zimmerman stayed in his car and Trayvon Martin attacked him there. But Zimmerman got out and followed after Martin — against the police dispatcher’s instructions — because the “Stand Your Ground” law permitted it. That’s why Circuit Judge Debra Nelson told Zimmerman’s jury that they should acquit Zimmerman if they found “he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary.” “Stand Your Ground” laws increase the risk of taking innocent lives.
I share Rob Eshman’s outrage at the results in the trial of the death of Trayvon Martin. From my perspective as an attorney, I also agree that the case the jurors received from the prosecutors could not have resulted in a conviction. Eshman talks about the disastrous effects of both “Stand Your Ground” laws and the lack of gun control. Raphael Sonenshein focuses on the Supreme Court decision gutting the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act and the urgency to reenact it (“Fight Bigotry at Ballot Box,” July 19). Yes, yes and yes. All three issues are paramount if we are to achieve the accepting and inclusive society that is imperative for our democracy. Beyond the legal issues, however, is the societal question. I am haunted by the idea that, had George Zimmerman been black and Trayvon Martin been white, Zimmerman would have been convicted despite the flawed prosecution. As Californians, we are represented by legislators on the state and federal levels who will champion the progressive side of the legal issues. As for the rest of us, we need to find ways to do more. My rabbi is on vacation, but I plan to ask that my synagogue sponsor a black/white dialog — not limited to Jews and not just touchy-feely stuff but focusing on preconceptions about “the other” and the responsibility each of us has as an individual to act in ways that demonstrate that black teenagers have the same right to life as all of our white children. I would hope that other local synagogues, churches and mosques will do the same.
Barbara H. Bergen
The mess in Egypt comes down to the fact that large segments of the Egyptian public recently conducted massive demonstrations to reflect their fear that the policies of the Morsi government were leading irreversibly and rapidly not only to an Egyptian economic disaster but perhaps to a theocracy with the imposition of strict religious values on the general public (“Dissecting Egypt’s Chaos,” July 12).
If the overthrow of the Morsi government leads in the near and distant future to a more prosperous, more democratic and less theocratic Egypt, which apparently so many Egyptians desire, the overthrow of the Morsi government may eventually (if not now) be viewed by most Egyptians as a step forward rather than backward for Egypt.
Shmuel Rosner’s brilliant dissection of the current Egyptian democratic initiative comes to the pessimistic conclusion that the more likely short-term outcome is civil war. However, what about the more optimistic prospect of a “protestocracy”? That is what’s happening right now in Egypt. This combination of civil unrest, even by military coup, when elections fail to produce a stable government occurring within the ambit of an essentially democratic process not only is a long-term possibility for Egypt but not dissimilar to the American experience.
Our Declaration of Independence states that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive … it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government.” Even if Egypt descends into civil war, it still has an American experience to guide it. So maybe President Obama’s so-called cynicism in trying to balance saving face and fostering stability in Egypt isn’t so cynical after all.
Bill of Rights’ True Purpose
In his letter (July 12) criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Brian J. Goldenfeld begins by extolling the checks-and-balances established by the framers of the U.S. Constitution, but then turns around and belittles the DOMA decision as the product of “parliamentary tricks” decided by “five people in black robes.”
In fact, the DOMA decision is based on the fundamental principle eloquently expressed by Justice Robert Jackson in 1943 that the “very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”
Stephen F. Rohde
In regard to Susan Freudenheim’s article “The Gay Marriage Debate” (July 5), if society would only pay as much attention to the commandment “Ve’ahavta le’reacha1 kamocha” (Leviticus 19:18), which Rabbi Hillel explained as, “Do not do unto others, what you would not have them do to you,” rather than focus on biblical references to Sodom and Gomorrah, perhaps our world would be a better place. After all, while the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and Zephaniah refer vaguely to the sin of Sodom, Ezekiel specifies that the city was destroyed because of its commission of social injustice.
I say, let’s be kind to our fellow man and leave the judging up to the Higher Source.
God and Prayer
I really identified with David Suissa’s examination of prayer in practice (“The Problem With Prayer,” July 19). Many years ago, when at the Western Wall, I noticed that a single slip of paper had somehow floated free from the crevice in which it had been placed. When the scrap came to rest at my shoe’s edge, face up, I read: “Can you fix my camera?” It was then that I realized that some of us may have confused God with the camera repair person. In the ensuing years, when a good friend conducted doctoral research on prayer at USC, I was intrigued by his findings that, among other things, the formulation of a prayer may very well be an excellent form of intrapersonal communication. That is, when we can truly articulate what it is that we want/need, then (and only then?) can we begin to have our prayer answered, often via our own immediate actions.
Women of the Wall
Nice article, Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, as is your daughter’s (“Father and Daughter at the Wall,” July 19). I think she has a future as a writer.
I have one clarification. You write, “With nowhere else to go, the men and women there prayed together in a fully egalitarian, mixed-’seating’ (‘standing’?) minyan.” Official Women of the Wall policy is that we are a women-only group with male supporters that does not aspire to egalitarianism. That is why we need and deserve to be in the women’s section.
Just to clarify, there were two women among the thousands who were blowing whistles. Women of the Wall has not been in the ladies’ section of the Kotel for the full 25 years. For many of those years, they prayed in the same parking lot area of the Kotel Plaza where they ended up on Rosh Chodesh Av. Many times they’ve prayed at the section of the Kotel known as Robinson’s Arch. When they have prayed there, it’s been incident free, in peace. The issue people have is less about what these people are doing and more about the provocation over the last two years of insisting in doing it at this particular part of the Kotel and the media circus that they bring to the otherwise tranquil, holy spot.
Jenni Heltay Menashe
Very Special Delivery
I am a Jewish chaplain at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center, San Pedro, and we, too, deliver Shabbat battery-operated candles, challah bread and grape juice to our Jewish patients when desired (“Shabbat Kits Keep Cedars Patients Connected,” July 19). The main difference, however, is that either our priest, minister or volunteer nun deliver them, as I am off on Fridays. Our patients are very moved that we do this and especially that our Christian chaplains are the ones who deliver them. They truly feel that they are welcomed in our hospital.
Chaplain Judith Sommerstein
Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock (TBI) will be celebrating its congregation’s 90th year of formation at its upcoming annual Chanukah party with a historical exhibit. We would deeply appreciate stories, letters, photos, yearbooks, home movies or other memorabilia from TBI congregants, their descendants and friends that ties in with the congregation’s history.
The original founders were approximately a dozen women who were passionate about having a temple in Highland Park. On Dec. 23, 1923, they successfully formed the Highland Park Hebrew School Association with the help of their husbands, families and friends. After seven long years, the temple was built and officially dedicated on Dec. 18, 1930. The building contractor was a president of the congregation and the architect was a third-year USC student in architecture. It was a brave venture by the founders and congregants, given that it was during the Great Depression and located away from East Los Angeles, the major hub of Jewish life. In 1946, the name was changed to Temple Beth Israel.
Today, the congregation continues to provide excellent Jewish programming and meaningful services. For further information and donating/loaning memorabilia, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Delaine W. Shane
Chair, History Committee
Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock