Jewish Journal

More secrets, more tzedakah, Tisha B’Av and sharks

Posted on Aug. 2, 2007 at 8:00 pm

'Secret' Is No Fun

It was with dismay that I finished The Jewish Journal's cover story about "The Secret" and Judaism ("Judaism vs. The Secret," July 20).

Not because of the controversy itself -- I have no opinion there. Rather, I was disturbed by the spin placed on the end of the article -- not a new one for the pages of The Jewish Journal.

Suggesting remedies to attract Jews to Judaism, the writer asks if we would rather choose Rabbi David Wolpe's honest assessment of life, versus "The Secret's" positive promises.

Regardless of the merits of each view, why must the writer treat Judaism as an item to be peddled, for which we change our marketing to keep buyers happy? Why is it a product we choose if we prefer its benefits over the other brands?

Torah is not a product to be sold, nor do we choose it as such. Whether one accepts it or not, it is a deep-rooted worldview and philosophy, dedicated to truth in this world. To treat it as anything less, and suggest it be changed to suit fads, is to miss its point entirely. The rabbis quoted spoke from honest conviction; shall they lie about their understanding of the world to attract more clients? No, to suggest changing the Torah's viewpoint is oxymoronic; it would no longer have any value as a philosophy. After all, what use is there in attracting Jews to a Judaism that has given up its very Jewishness in order to attract them?

Leor Hackel
Los Angeles

It was interesting to read people's points of view about the "The Secret." The reason why the "The Secret" is so popular is because it does what every quick solution in this world does. That is, trust everyone and anything but God. Only sincere love, and happiness can be attained through following the Lord God. Anything else that dares to go in any other direction is all just for a season. And it won't last. That's why this DVD and book is a deception.

People don't like to hear what Rabbi David Wolpe and Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom said because it is The Truth. People want to be misled, people want to believe that love and happiness and riches can be attained through a quick-fix solution.
Applause to Rabbi Wolpe and Rabbi Etshalom who speak out about the falsehood of this DVD and book.

Char Lovelady
via e-mail

Giving Tips

In your article, "A Primer to Giving: What to Ask Before You Start," Susan Grinel, director of the Family Foundation Center of the Jewish Community Foundation, recommends asking a charity for its most recent Form 990 Annual Information Reports if they are not available online and comments that a "charity's willingness to send the documents is a good way to assess its commitment to transparency" (July 27).

In fact, such a request is more than that. It is a good way to determine the charity's commitment to obeying the law. The Internal Revenue Code requires any charity whose Form 990s for the most recent three years are unavailable online to send a copy to anyone who requests them. (The charity may impose charges for copying and mailing.)

Such a requirement, of course, applies only to organizations required to file the Form 990, and not every tax-exempt charity is required to do so. For example, small organizations (those with annual gross receipt that normally do not exceed $25,000) are not required to do so. In addition, and of particular importance to your readers, synagogues are not required to file the Form 990 and thus will not have such forms available online or upon request.

Ellen Aprill
John E. Anderson Professor of Tax Law
Loyola Law School
Los Angeles

Kudos to Amy Klein on her excellent article "A Primer on Giving: What to Ask Before You Start." I'd like to add just a few thoughts.

First, donors should pay attention to external recognition earned by charities.

Letters of recommendation, awards, and major grants can provide independent and informed opinion about charitable organizations. External recognition should be recent and indicate a familiarity with the organization's activities and leadership. Along similar lines, look for certifications by the Better Business Bureau and the Standards for Excellence Institute, two worthwhile rating agencies.

Second, if you have a family, involve all members, including the kids, in giving decisions.

Third, bear in mind that researchers have studied the usefulness of the allocation of expenditures between program and overhead as reported on charities' financial statements. They find that the allocations are often inaccurate and tend to overstate the amount spent on program relative to overhead.

Fourth, if you're really serious, ask about the organization's governance. Check to see if they have effective policies for program evaluation, stewardship of resources, staff performance evaluation and salary review, etc.

Ira Kaminow
Tzedakah, Inc.
Potomac, Md.

Hollywood Givers

While I applaud the involvement of the Hollywood community in Jewish issues, it seems like most of it is more for "show" and less for "action" ("Does Hollywood Give Jewish?" July 27).

During the entire second intifada in Israel, Jews were being murdered by terrorists [but] not once did any celebrity ... speak out and openly support Israel. Not once at a pro-Israel rally or a fundraising event could we ever get a Jewish celebrity to speak as a keynote speaker.

While I admire their support for Darfur and Africa, our community must first learn to take care of their own, and then help heal the world. But we are living in times that are similar to the threats of the 1930s and when a rogue country says, "Death to the small and the large Infidel" and "wipe the Jewish state off the face of the earth" the silence from Hollywood is deafening. When stars speak about what is not popular, like Israel, and not just jump on the Bono bandwagon, that is when they will be recognized as a righteous person for doing something that is right, without concern for publicity, commercial payback or fear of retaliation by the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people.

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Valley Glen

Tisha B'Av

It's a shame that our national days of mourning interferes with the summer play time of the Movable Minyan's president, Alan Fisher ("Marking Tisha B'Av Poses Challenging Dilemma," July 20).

Perhaps if Fisher understood that we aren't just crying about a demolished building, but what that destruction represents, he might feel less "out of step."

We mourn on Tisha B'Av and its three preceding weeks because we distanced ourselves from God by sinning. God, in turn, distanced Himself from us, destroying the symbols of His relationship with us, the Temples, which set into motion the tragedies that have befallen us these past 2,000 years. The Second Temple, specifically, was destroyed as a result of the baseless hatred we displayed toward each other. We believe that the Messianic age has not arrived and the Third Temple has not been built because we haven't yet corrected these flaws. That is why on Tisha B'Av, in many Orthodox synagogues, we are lectured on the harm of gossip and baseless hatred so that we may cease this behavior so prevalent among our people.

Once we do, Mr. Fisher's Movable Minyan, along with the wandering Jews from around the world, will find a permanent home in a peaceful, post-Moshiach

Daniel Iltis
Los Angeles

Jewish Extremists

Ron Samuels is right in pointing out that Jews, too, have committed atrocities in the name of faith, but the examples he cites are improper (Letters, July 27).
Both the King David Hotel bombing and Deir Yassin killings were political acts involved in the war for the creation of Israel, not "faith-based" actions.

Better examples might include the massacre of Muslim worshipers by Baruch Goldstein; the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin; and many of the smaller ongoing actions carried out by Jewish-Israeli settlers in the West Bank against their Arab neighbors. In these instances, Judaism itself has been cited as supporting such crimes, and they have -- to a significant extent -- been justified or endorsed by Jewish religious extremist groups.

Jeffrey Ellis
Los Angeles

Federation Coverage

Thank you for covering the JCC side of the conflict with The Jewish Federation (Greenberg's View, July 20).

I especially loved the cartoon by Steve Greenberg, with the shark in the pool & the bewildered JCC member at the door. That says it all!!

Congratulations to both The Jewish Journal and to Steve Greenberg.

Marion Needelman
JCC member

Day School Costs

This column ought to be required to be memorized by every Jewish organization's staff throughout the United States ("Dumbing Down Judaism," July 27).

My husband and I are lousy at the practice of Judaism, but value more than anything what kind of people we are as a result of being Jewish. My daughter has gone to a Jewish school her whole life. Many of her classmates with siblings are not returning. Although some of the parents won't admit it, I believe they now send their kids to public schools because they cannot afford to send several children to religious day school.

I know that our wonderful shul has difficult financial choices they must make, but I find it absolutely outrageous there isn't sufficient money within our community to make Jewish day school education available to every Jewish child.

I don't understand why the Catholic Church can make day school affordable for their children, but we cannot. Please consider a column explaining why. Is their community wealthier, do they invest their money differently, or do they prioritize what they give to their local houses of worship differently? I am not being disingenuous; I really would like to know the answer to this question.

Wendy Widlus
Via e-mail

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