Jewish Journal

More Prager and Dershowitz,
Jewish Community Library

Posted on Feb. 13, 2009 at 3:02 am

Prager and Dershowitz
As many supporters of Israel do, I admire both Dennis Prager and Alan Dershowitz and enjoyed the recent dialogue featured in The Journal (“Why Doesn’t Alan Dershowitz Join the Right?” Jan. 30).

Dershowitz made many excellent points as to why he still considers himself a liberal. The real question for him is: Why do you think the left — especially the Jewish left — has turned so virulently on Israel? Why have they abandoned the only country in the Middle East that exhibits true religious tolerance and gives equal rights to women? Why have they become sympathetic to a cause that otherwise flies in the face of all the social values you mentioned in your response? Finally, what can be done to reverse this pernicious trend?

I would love an answer to these questions from our honorable liberal brother.
Michael Feinman, Agoura Hills

What a contrast between Alan Dershowitz and Dennis Prager. Dershowitz clearly, concretely and forthrightly defined himself as a liberal centrist and described what he believes in. He has no trouble defending Israel and does so courageously.

Prager devalues what he perceives as “liberal” and can’t understand why someone who agrees with him in one area, namely support of Israel, would not want to throw away the rest of his beliefs and come over to his side.

There is a bullying quality to his logic, which comes down to: If you are not with me, there is something lacking in you.

Most of us, I daresay, have opinions that are sometimes contradictory. The important thing is not to identify oneself as right or left but to continue to think for ourselves and not simply take on the opinions of talk show hosts.
Madeline Mark, Altadena

It never fails to amaze me the amount of dismissive critiques Dennis Prager has generated in The Jewish Journal over the years up until and including recent letters to the editor. Let’s see — he’s simplistic, smug, a one-issue thinker, a right-wing fanatic, homophobic and unsubstantiated, to name a few. None of which — I must say in his defense — is reflective of Prager.

But what amazes and pains me even more than the avalanche of negativity Prager unfairly generates, is my own devalued expectation of my dear fellow Jews. Naively, I have continually expected us Jews to behave in an introspective, moral and sophisticated way. Regardless of one’s political or religious identity, the cold truth is for many of us, the ability to simply disagree as menschen, without ad hominem, often mean-spirited attacks, no longer, if ever, exists.
Please understand this is ultimately not a right or left issue, any more than it is a secular or religious one. If anything, let us consider it to be a serious Jewish issue.
The inability to disagree with respect common among so many Jews should make us ask: What are we failing to do within the organized Jewish community to stem this ungodly trend?

In the meantime, I hope The Jewish Journal continues to provide a forum where good, well-reasoned people, the likes of Dennis Prager and Alan Dershowitz, can passionately but respectfully disagree — need I say as Jews.
Rabbi Michael Gotlieb, Kehillat Ma’arav

Santa Monica Holocaust Memorial
Neil Sheff thinks it is “ironic” that we are building a new building for the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, while Jewish schools are struggling (Letters, Feb. 6). What he obviously does not know is that the people contributing the most to our museum (the Goldrich, Martz, Shapell, Gonda, Taper, Ziering, Breslow, Kean and Schoenberg families) are also some of the leading benefactors of Jewish education here and around the world.

Why? Because we believe Holocaust education is a part of Jewish education. The new Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust building, scheduled to open in Pan Pacific Park at the end of 2010, will serve 50,000 students a year. We think that’s an investment worth making.
E. Randol Schoenberg, President, Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Jewish Community Library
Thanks to Julie Gruenbaum Fax for “Jewish Community Library May Merge, Move” (Jan. 30). Both the Jewish Community Library itself and its possible dismantling have been underpublicized.

The collection is easily navigated and brilliantly selected. Its books, DVDs and music offer a wide range of materials that people cannot find in synagogue libraries, the public library system or even the American Jewish University (AJU) library.

Merging the adult community library with the AJU library is a poor solution. It will not serve the large population that lives close to The Federation building. It also sends the wrong message: Our kids need Jewish books and literary programs close by, but we don’t.

Families would need to travel between two distant locations — one for children at The Federation building and another (once the AJU library is expanded) for adults in the always crowded Sepulveda Pass. Those who wish to explore the extensive academic collection at AJU can already do so.

If more people knew about this gem of a community library, they would support it — and gain reasons and motivation to support the institutions that house and sustain it. I encourage everyone to visit the Jewish Community Library on the third floor at 6505 Wilshire Blvd., peruse the collection and meet the dedicated staff.
Rabbi Debra Orenstein, via e-mail

We in the library community are deeply saddened by the decisions of The Federation and the Bureau of Jewish Education to end their support of the Jewish Community Library, necessitating the search for a possible merger with American Jewish University (AJU). Although AJU is a fine institution, its library is not a community library. As pointed out in your article, the missions of university libraries and community libraries are very different.

Unfortunately, the Bureau and Federation failed to involve library professionals in their search for a solution, so very practical and important questions have not been addressed.

Furthermore, the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles serves a critical need in Los Angeles, one of the larger Jewish communities in the world, for nondenominational, open and free access to Judaic books, irreplaceable archival materials, teaching aids and audiovisual materials.

Although there are many Judaic libraries in Southern California, all are affiliated with an institution to which one must belong in order to borrow books, except the Jewish Community Library. Its resources serve the unaffiliated, as well as those who are underserved by their own institutions.

Unfortunately, many schools and synagogues do not have adequately stocked or serviced libraries or, indeed, no libraries at all, and rely on the Jewish Community Library and its highly knowledgeable staff to meet their information needs.

The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles has also become one of the premier Judaic libraries in the country and is known throughout the library world for its innovative programs and excellent service, thanks to the extraordinarily capable leadership of Abigail Yasgur, library director.

Her vision for providing family programming and service to children and outreach to the community at large are a key factor in transmitting our Jewish heritage to a new generation. Many reliable studies have proven that library services are directly related to student achievement.

Jewish sages wisely admonished our people not to live in a community without a library. The Association of Jewish Libraries, an international organization of more that 1,200 library professionals, the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California, and local librarians all recognize the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles as fulfilling a critical need in our community and wish to see it continue to function as the beacon of Jewish learning it has proven to be.
Susan Dubin, President, Association of Jewish Libraries

Fighting Anti-Semitism
I was born in the Soviet Union and spent most of my life there, and believe me, I was in many situations when I was helpless to defend myself and speak in support of Israel (“Hamas Achieves Several Victories in Other War,” Feb. 6).

Living here, I’ve heard many times that the United States should not support Israel because it cost us only trouble. Radical Islam learned this from Soviets, and as a result, we are facing now an unprecedented wave of anti-Semitism. We have to respond to it.

I have an opinion that one of the reasons why the Holocaust happened is a passive position of Jewish people. If thousands of us will stand with the Israeli flag, if we will send thousand responses on daily media lies, if we make phone calls to Congress, sign petitions, it will make big difference.

Do not be passive bystanders.

Thank you Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein.
Boris Blansky, West Hollywood

Synagogue Vandalism
Your report on the recent attack on the synagogue in Caracas rightly addressed an important issue that is personally poignant for me (“The Last Straw in Venezuela?” Feb. 6).
I traveled extensively throughout Venezuela in the late 1980s and early 1990s, meeting with Israeli diplomats stationed there, Jewish community leaders and Jews from all walks of life. From one and all I heard glowing accounts of the strength, confidence, success and freedom from fear of the Venezuelan Jewish community.

Many of these leaders told me that no place in the world offered a better life for its Jewish community and that the country was singularly free from any anti-Semitism, whatsoever. They legitimately pointed out to me that even American Jewry could not state that it experienced no anti-Semitism.

We now see, unfortunately, how fragile Jewish security can be, no matter how secure the situation may appear. Sadly, Jewish history has repeatedly taught us that painful lesson. It only takes the emergence of one villainous government to alter the political landscape and awaken hidden anti-Jewish feelings the general populace may harbor, leading to the things described in your editorial.

No matter how comfortable Jews may find themselves in some Diaspora communities, we must regrettably draw the conclusion — which could also apply here in the United States — that no Jewish community can ever be 100 percent secure and we must remain ever vigilant. Anti-Semitism, even when put to bed, is often a light sleeper.
Morton A. Klein, National President, Zionist Organization of America

Private School Dilemma
I am sure that many parents have wrestled with the plan to start children in Jewish day school (“As Economy Tanks, Schools Seek Survival Tactics,” Jan. 30). Then they probably hope to see graduation day.

Sending children to private school was always coupled with economic and demographic problems. It is a very sad, long story.

What can we do realistically to address this problem? The article in The Jewish Journal is starting a “think tank” across California and elsewhere.
Frances Corn, retired teacher, Los Angeles

Sexual Abuse
The Awareness Center sees all survivors who speak out about the crimes committed against them as heroes, especially when those survivors come from ultrareligious communities like the one Joel Engelman is from (The God Blog, Feb. 2). The experiences Joel shared on National Public Radio is very similar to those of Orthodox survivors from Chicago, Los Angeles, Chicago, Melbourne, Australia, and throughout Israel.

The shame and blame survivors are forced to endure really belongs to those who commit these heinous crimes and those who assist in the coverups.
I am personally outraged that New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind still refuses to make hotline reports when he suspects a child has been abused. Considering he is a lawmaker and also an Orthodox Jew would make you think he would feel he has a moral responsibility to do what ever it takes to protect one more child from becoming the next victim of a sex crime.

I’ll admit I question his ability to be considered a “victim advocate” or a Jewish community leader, when he doesn’t put children’s safety first and make hotline reports.
Vicki Polin, The Awareness Center Inc.

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