Jewish Journal

Politics, sectarian healing, Exodus all over again

Posted on Nov. 22, 2007 at 7:00 pm


It's hard to determine which of the two opinion columns in the Nov. 16 edition of The Jewish Journal is more objectionable: Was it Arnold Steinberg's indiscriminate and uninformed diatribe against political liberalism ("Politics of Liberal, Conservative Jews Reverse"), or Arthur Cohn's rehashing of the old arguments about moral equivalency, which impede any potential resolution of the intractable Middle East conflict ("OneVoice Speaks Mistakenly on Achieving Peace")? It is unusual that in one week there would be so much space devoted to two contributors with such outdated and misguided views.

Steinberg's accusation that liberals "would enforce their version of morality" is so irresponsible since it is those with conservative views, whom he so strongly defends, that most often insist on imposing their morality on the rest of us. Restricting a woman's right to choose, refusal of equal rights to gays and lesbians, promoting religion in public schools and government support of parochial education are just a few examples of beliefs that conservatives are determined to impose on the rest of us. Liberals, contrary to Mr. Steinberg's views, generally believe that government should not dictate morality, but rather leave moral decisions to individuals.

On the subject of Middle East peace negotiations, Cohn repeats the frequently cited moral difference between the Palestinian's wholesale violence and the Israeli's measured acts of self-defense. He insists that until the Arabs change their denial of Jewish rights and history, there is "no chance for serious progress in our efforts to achieve peace in this region." He makes no suggestion, however, how this Arabic change of heart is to occur. I don't have the answer to this dilemma, but I do know that an unbalanced dependence on "out-dated" history and narrow accusations of blame are not the answer.

John F. Beckmann
Sherman Oaks

Despite the parentheses, Arnold Steinberg's obnoxious dismissal of Reconstructionist Judaism ["(Forget the Reconstructionists, i.e., Jewish Unitarians, who are oxymoronic 'religious' secular humanists.)"] did not go unnoticed.

His statement in no way advanced his tenuous harangue against prophetically inspired political progressivism, and his aspersion dealt a blow to k'lal yisrael, the inclusive embrace of the entire Jewish people. This value -- fundamental to Mordecai Kaplan's founding of Reconstructionism and still central to the movement -- should guide Jewish pundits to honor a multiplicity of Jewish voices rather than add more hyperbolic divisiveness into public discourse. Furthermore, Steinberg betrays an egregious misunderstanding of liberal religious thought in general and Reconstructionist Judaism in particular.

Religious humanists have consistently distinguished themselves from secular humanists, maintaining that religious community manifests experiences that have real value for its practitioners and for society as a whole. While Unitarians and Reconstructionists may share some theological perspectives, they each pursue these social and spiritual goals differently: Reconstructionism emphasizes the ethnic uniqueness of Jewish culture and presents a vital alternative to secularism -- connecting a modern, religious naturalism to the ancient texts, prayers, rituals, and narratives that are the foundation of our people's identity. This approach is not Unitarian, not oxymoronic and most certainly not secular.

Rabbi Rick Brody
Temple Ami Shalom
West Covina

Arnold Steinberg's "Politics of Liberal, Conservative Jews Reverse" on Nov. 16 succinctly shows why most Republicans in California consider him the wisest man in the state. Understanding the difference between good and evil is the central question of our day.

The American Jewish community is a key element of our nation's cultural and moral fiber. I am glad to see Mr. Steinberg turn his considerable talent to ensuring this important constituency can continue to discern the difference between good and evil and, just as important, know what to do about it.

Chuck DeVore
California State Assemblyman
70th District

The Exodus

Julie Gruenbaum Fax writes in "Exodus Redux" that, "The world uproar that followed is credited with leading to the creation of a sovereign Jewish homeland" (Nov. 9).

While it's true that the Exodus story did mobilize anger against Britain, it's not what led to a Jewish State. The real reason the British left Palestine was due to the efforts of the Irgun and Lechi.

Indeed, this is what the British Colonial Office itself said in its official statement, Termination of the Mandate 15th May 1948: "84,000 troops had proved insufficient to maintain law and order in the face of a campaign of terrorism waged by highly organized Jewish forces... Since the war, 338 British subjects had been killed in Palestine, while the military forces there had cost the British taxpayer 100 million pounds."

The statement adds that therefore "the continued presence there of British troops and officials could no longer be justified."

Stories of passive Jewish victimhood sparking the world's moral outrage and leading to U.N. "permission" to grant the Jews a homeland no doubt holds great appeal to the liberal Jewish mindset but by the sword we took it and by the sword we shall remain.

David Isaac
Los Angeles

Upscale Growth

Thank you for bringing to the table the challenges Los Angeles is facing in its desire to grow and in effect outplacing local residents ("The Downside of Upscale Growth," Oct. 26).

Students at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) recently participated in a lunch session with Dean Steven Windmueller and David Robinson of SAGE to discuss what is happening among the residents of the University District that surrounds the HUC-JIR Los Angeles campus. Many of the residents live in poor conditions and their homes have been bought out or will be bought out and converted into units for USC students or destroyed as part of campus expansion. It is very important that we educate ourselves and others about what is happening and make sure Los Angeles developers recognize the need for housing at all income levels and pay attention to the needs of current residents before redeveloping their neighborhoods.

As Hillel states in Pirkei Avot "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?"Luisa Moss

My Sister Sarah

As an activist in the early 1970s with a Jewish group that successfully pioneered the campaign to ordain the first woman rabbi, I support Rabbi Susan Silverman's right to promote her sister ("My Sister Sarah," Nov. 16). Rabbi Silverman says she is "proud" that her sisters will use "obscenity, racism, and sexism" to raise funds "like the ancient prophets did. Sort of." Behind this gloss of humor is a preoccupation with profit, not the prophets, not Jewish ethics, and not traditional Jewish religious values.

While Rabbi Silverman has her right to express such views, I would like to know if The Jewish Journal will also provide a full column for a woman rabbi (or rabbis) who concur that vulgarity, crass profit-motives and blatant racism and sexism do not reflect well on our broader community. The Jewish community may not embrace feminism or gender equality, but I cannot believe that the Silverman clan is a role model either.

Name Withheld Upon Request

Oy Kanefsky

Isn't it funny how the meaning of the words brave and courageous has changed over the years ("Letters," Nov. 2)? When I was growing up these words had a different meaning.

Over the past few weeks, as I've perused your Letters page, I have noted that those words constantly appear in letters supporting the view of Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky. Your readers describe his stand as showing courage and bravery. Since when is it brave or courageous to advocate bowing to pressure?

Certainly, the rabbi's actions may be described as honest or provocative. In my opinion, though, it is courageous to do what is right despite the fact that world opinion is pressuring you to do what is expedient.

The people who are showing real bravery are those who undergo the utmost sacrifice -- those young Israeli soldiers who readily give their lives for our country.

Elkie Reichman
Los Angeles

Special-Needs Program

We at HaMercaz want to thank the Jewish Journal and its reporter, Nancy Sokoler Steiner, for the fine article on siblings of children with special needs ("Special-Needs Program Puts Spotlight on the Siblings," Nov. 16). We'd like to note that The Miracle Project, a program of Vista del Mar, is indeed a HaMercaz (www.hamercaz.org) partner and one of the truly fine resources available for our families. For further information on HaMercaz, contact Amy Bryman, LCSW, HaMercaz Coordinator, at 866-287-6030 or hamercaz@jfsla.org.

Sally Weber
Director of Special Needs Programs
Jewish Family Service

Rookie of the Year

As I was browsing through this week's Jewish Journal, I came upon the Ryan Braun article ("Jewish Rookie Makes Baseball History," Nov. 16).

As a 16 year old, I love to play and watch sports, and I appreciate the success of Jewish athletes so I was interested in this article specifically. It begins by saying that Ryan Braun became the first Jewish baseball player to win the Rookie of the Year award. This statement conflicts with the sentence that later states he "is the son of an Israeli father and Christian mother," and though Ryan was not raised Jewish, he acknowledges his Jewish heritage. We learn from the Torah, that a Jew is one who is born from a Jewish mother. The article title should really read "Jewish Heritage Makes Baseball History."

Chaim Shapiro
Los Angeles

Ron Paul

Thank you for your balanced article on Ron Paul ("The Few, the Proud, the Jews for Ron Paul," Nov. 16). Wish more journalists could write articles like this one.

Jayson Gould
via E-mail

In the Nov. 9 Giving Supplement's "Extraordinary Givers," Carmen Warschaw's name was misspelled. The Journal regrets the error.

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