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Jewish Journal

Schwartzie, inclusion

February 21, 2008 | 5:00 pm

'Schwartzie'

Jamie, the woman whose mother converted to Judaism years ago, is welcome to come home to Temple Emanuel, the synagogue where she grew up ("Chai Center Rabbi Explains 'Off-the-Handle' E-mails," Feb. 15). Any Jew or non-Jew who wants to explore Judaism is welcome.

We welcome her as we welcome everyone, those born of Jewish mothers or Jewish fathers, those who have chosen Judaism, non-Jews who are part of a Jewish family, Jews and non-Jews who are searching for spirituality, young people, older people, singles, couples, gays, lesbians and bisexuals, all kinds of people, not as the Chai Center advertises, "any Jew that moves," but rather anyone who wants to be moved by Judaism.

Rabbi Laura Geller
Temple Emanuel



I would like to express our sincere thanks to your Julie Gruenbaum Fax and to the courageous ladies who stepped forward and provided the e-mails featured in your article, "Chai Center Rabbi Explains 'Off-the-Handle' E-mails."

For years, I supported and donated to the Chai Center. Never again. The e-mails quoted are a disgrace to Judaism. These e-mails showed complete disrespect to the Conservative and Reform movements who recognize Conservative and Reform conversions as fully kosher.

Jamie Katz, I hope you are reading this. It is wonderful that you are seeking to explore the heritage that is shared between you and us, other fellow Jews, and planning to get involved in a temple. You have the same rights and same duties as any one of us. Do not give up because of one person who is misquoting the Bible.

There are many more of us who are with you. And it is God who will make the final decision on who is and who is not a Jew.

Henry Kister and Family
via e-mail


I'm familiar with Rabbi Schwartz, having taken Tanya classes from him at Chabad at UCLA in the '70s and later attending lectures at the Chai Center. I have not had the pleasure of attending one of his Shabbat dinners, since I don't drive at that time.

I have always held him in the highest esteem. After reading Julie Fax's article, I am totally mortified and embarrassed for him.

I certainly understand his point and agree with his opinion about intermarriage. What I don't understand is his lack of Chasidus. He should know this familiar Chasidic saying:

"When one speaks crushing words of rebuke, it must be with the sole purpose of enlightening, illuminating and uplifting one's fellow. Never, God forbid, to humiliate and break him."

This is true not only for a fellow Jew but for everyone.

Ann Bell
Venice


Schwartzie's e-mail indicates his commitment for morality -- that spans generations -- over and above the current trend to speak to brazen women in a timid manner. It is hoped that when attending a religious event, a man will not be subject to the trappings of a whore.

Yosef Eisenberg
Brooklyn, N.Y.



For the Jews who choose to label themselves as such �"without any regard as to what Jewish law (like it or not) -- to cry out that their feelings are hurt or that they are "shunned by (their) own people" is simply inappropriate.

I should know. I was in the exact same situation as Ms. Katz. In many instances, I had received similar treatment as she. And who knows? Perhaps that is what led both Ms. Katz and me to the beit din (Jewish court of law) and to becoming Jewish according to halachah (Jewish law).

I cannot speak for her, but although I grew up feeling Jewish, having a Jewish father and a mother who had nominally converted for marriage, I took the step of studying for a year and was converted by an Orthodox beit din.

I also cannot speak for Rabbi Schwartz but will say that it is definitely not OK to insult people personally -- especially for a rabbi who is held to a higher standard -- but maybe this latest approach of his was out of a genuine fear that the Jewish people are at a demographic risk now more than ever.

Like a mama bear defending her cubs, his so-called viciousness was out of his love for his fellow Jews and the survival of us a people.

Joan Fisher


Hopefully this public outing of Rabbi Schwartz will not do harm now to other parties: Rabbi Schwartz, his family and the valuable and irreplaceable work of the Chai Center. I hope that finger-pointing, gossip and judgment will not sully the life and work, service and kindness that the rabbi has offered to 99.9 percent of those who know him and have been positively influenced by him.

To Rabbi Schwartz, intermarriage is non-negotiable unless it is under the canopy of traditional halachah. That is his public and private stance.

His uncontrolled e-mails and rage are also non-negotiable in terms of the harm done, but he has gone on record with those harmed, and I see from The Jewish Journal article that indeed one of the women in question is indeed looking at conversion from a halachic perspective.

I offer this letter to you and with the hope that those who have read it will look closely at the matter, forgive what is forgivable -- Rabbi Schwartz's overzealous passion and his sincere teshuvah over what he caused. I also pray that the court of public opinion will not turn Jew against Jew when now, more than ever, as Jews we have to stand together.

I study and learn with the great Jewish minds all over this city of ours in synagogues, homes and institutions, but my home base will always be the Chai Center. I go to the Schwartz's home to recharge when I start to lose the spark of what is most important to me, being a Jewish woman in the world.

Joan Hyler
Santa Monica


Schwartzie is too real to play the politically correctness game. God bless him. Aliza Karp
Wesley Hills, N.Y.


We have all been passionate about something, and someone does something or says something that upsets us, and we say something on e-mail we wish we could take back. Is that grounds for a news journalist to try and destroy a man who has done, in my opinion, more for Jews in Southern California than anyone?

I grew up on the west coast of Florida as a very assimilated, nonpracticing Jew. As fate would have it, upon arriving in Los Angeles, I decided to check out the Jewish scene and was lucky enough to run into Rabbi Schwartz at one of his High Holy Day services.

As he has always done with thousands of single Jews over the years, he graciously invited me to one of his and his wife Olivia's warm, welcoming Shabbat dinners with the most incredible food on this planet. I found myself learning more about Judaism in that first year than I had learned in the 34 years prior.

Yes, there were many times I thought of going back to [non-Jewish] women, but each time I was tempted, I heard Schlomo's voice encouraging me to hang in there; that I would find something in common with a nice Jewish girl out there in Southern California, an area that boasted 650,000 Jews.

So I did, and soon after, I met the Jewish girl of my dreams. Today, after 10 years of marriage, we have a 2-year-old son, and we keep a kosher home. There is no doubt about it. That had it not been for Schwartzie, I would have probably married a non-Jew. Once married, he introduced us to wonderful synagogues and schools where we attend now attend.

Dean Gould
South Bay



Join the continuing discussion of the issues raised by this article -- and the e-mails at the heart of the story -- in the JewishJournal.com Reader Forums.

Special Needs

On behalf of HaMercaz, the central program for Jewish families with children with special needs, we would like to thank you for your outstanding issue highlighting the importance of inclusion of children with visible and invisible disabilities in our communal and educational programs ("The Journey to Inclusion," Feb. 8).

The Journal has been an outstanding advocate for understanding the challenges of both children with special needs and of their families.

It was bittersweet to read in the same issue of the financial struggles of two important programs in our community: Kol Hanearim and the special-needs Macabee basketball program at Westside JCC. Our continuing challenge is to provide the funding for programs like these and others that serve our special-needs population, so that all children, regardless of ability, will have the opportunity to participate as fully as possible in the Jewish community and Jewish life.

Sally Weber
Director
Special Needs Programs
Jewish Family Service


Your Feb. 8 cover article, "Journey to Inclusion," hit a nerve with us. As the parents of a 3-year-old boy with Down Syndrome, Rony Rosenbaum's story of her son, Michael, echoed our early experiences.

We are just starting the preschool process and then will be faced with inclusion. We realize how important it is to get the best services right from birth for a child with special needs.

Hats off to The Jewish Journal for shedding light on such an important subject and for showing that kids with Down Syndrome belong in the Jewish community.

Jody and Steve Levin
Woodland Hills


I appreciated your story about the special Macabees program in your issue on inclusion of developmentally disabled people in the Jewish community. This program is special because disabled children grow up to be disabled adults and are adults more of their lives than they are children.

Jewish programs for disabled adults are important but often overlooked. I direct the JFS/Chaverim's social programs, and we are always happy to join with other adult programs, including the special Macabees and others.

The Journal's focusing a spotlight on these important programs in our community is appreciated by the families and all those who work to include disabled adults in Jewish activities that all Jews enjoy.

Amy Gross
Director
JFS/Chaverim
West Hills




Correction:
A photo caption in this week's print edition cover story ("Chance Encounters, Many Choices" Feb. 22, 2008) misidentified a picture of the violinist of the Moshav band as Yosef Solomon. He is Nimrod Nol.



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