I was impressed and saddened by Laura Birnbaum's essay in your July 7 issue regarding the converts to Judaism whom she has met ("Converts' Hardships Expose Truth".)
She describes the scorn, hostility and rejection they felt they had received from the born-Jewish communities they tried to become part of.
I find that appalling and, frankly, stupid.
I belong to a group that meets weekly to talk Yiddish. One of our members, born a Christian, converted to Judaism 25 years ago when she married. The Yiddish language was one of the things she studied, and she now talks, reads and writes Yiddish better than most of the other Jewish people in our group. She is admired, respected and -- yes -- loved, and is frequently consulted for the correct word by the people who spent their childhoods speaking Yiddish.
I hope that Birnbaum's friends represent the exception rather than the rule and that they will find the warm, welcoming and intelligent communities that they deserve.
I read Laura Birnbaum's excellent article and I could not help but cringe. I was born into a very traditionally Jewish family whose attitudes were much like those people mentioned in the article.
In the Reform High Holiday prayer book, an additional "al chayt" has been added: "For the sin committed before thee by not welcoming converts into the House of Israel."
Judaism allows converts but does not universally welcome them. For the sake of our continued existence, this must change, especially in America.
Do we not have enough enemies in this world that we must create more?
Elliott M. Brumer
Les Amer's letter (July 7) about the relationship between the kashrut of meat and the manner in which the processor treats its workers seems to misunderstand what I deem the proper relationship between mitzvah and morality. Jews share with most other religions a universal understanding of good and bad, right and wrong, fair and unfair. In addition, religions have their own unique system of spiritual expression.
For Jews, this is the mitzvah system, which creates the uniquely Jewish way of determining how God wants us to live as Jews, and which creates a special and distinctively Jewish form of piety. Kashrut and Shabbat are key elements of this Jewish way.
I would like to suggest (in this I agree with Rob Eshman) that the spiritual ends we seek are very much affected by the means used to achieve them. The people engaged in providing us with kosher food, both as producers and mashgikhim are not exempt from universally recognized standards of ethical and moral behavior regarding the manner of running their business and the treatment of their employees.
The kashrut of their product, however technically correct it might be, is, in my view, compromised if the means used to achieve it are ethically deficient. I await reasonably objective evaluations of the manner in which AgriProcessors treats its workers before I will resume the purchase of its products. In the meantime, there are other sources of kosher meat, and I always have the vegetarian option.
Rabbi Gilbert Kollin
Rob Eshman's editorial, "A Different War" (July 7), refers to the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP). The New York Times seriously damaged the vital, covert TFTP program by divulging its workings to the public.
God help us! We have produced a generation of moral monsters with no qualms about sabotaging the war effort and betraying our nation, along with its allies. I count myself among those requesting that Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez initiate a criminal investigation of The New York Times.
Rabbi Louis J. Feldman
Shame on Rob Eshman for promoting the canard that Bush Administration criticisms of The New York Times are veiled attacks on Jews. Rather than offer proof for such slander, Eshman merely quotes San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll.
Carroll offered no facts, no evidence; just ugly stereotypes of Republicans, evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews, and even uglier insinuations that President Bush not only appeals to anti-Semites, but also is under the thumb of "the Israelis" and "prominent Zionist groups." Is this really the company that Eshman really wants to keep?
Ralph B. Kostant
Rob Eshman is correct when he tells us that certain right-wing bloggers use the term "New York" as a Jewish alternative. And anything New York is of course leftist. Bill O'Reilly is guilty almost daily in his TV and radio talkathons using the terms "New York," "the elite" and "liberals" to smear Jews.
Dr. Sol Taylor
Justice and Mercy
I would like to extend a belated thank you to The Jewish Journal for publishing the article, "Religions Hold Mix of Justice and Mercy" (January 2, 2004). As a Muslim and a doctoral student at Claremont Graduate University in the School of Religion and Arts and Humanities, I agree with the writer, and I appreciate his openness and thoughtfulness to the Muslim community. If the Muslim community listens to his honest advice, then we can certainly benefit from it.
It was surprising to read that instilling Jewish identity through the study of Israeli history was not mentioned in any of the 20+ ideas ("20+ Ideas to Jump-Start Jewish L.A.," June 30).
We could learn well from our fellow Jews, who have immigrated from Middle Eastern countries, by studying their values and adopting them in our community at large. The attack on the Jewish people no longer is coming from Europe but is emanating from Arab countries in the Middle East.
Myles L. Berman
Your "20+ Ideas to Jump-Start Jewish L.A." (June 30) is excellent - some great ideas and suggestions by our Jewish community leaders.
One of the most interesting was left to the end: John R. Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, speaks of the "dilemma" that "manifests itself visibly in Los Angeles." He questions whether we are really a "community" or merely a highly diverse group of individuals. Do we coalesce in a meaningful way...." And then he concludes: "I believe our mission is to work toward true community."
Ironic, isn't it, but this is the same man who, more than anyone else, was directly responsible for the demise of the Jewish community centers in Los Angeles, without question the greatest opportunity to have a "meaningful" Jewish community.
Yes, some of the centers do exist, no thanks to The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, only because of the determination of some of the Jewish (and some non-Jewish) members of the community.
Ironic isn't it that the person deemed most responsible for Los Angeles having a second-rate system of Jewish community centers, is seeking to build a better, stronger Jewish community in Los Angeles.