October 1, 2008
Shame on Rabbis for Obama, hooray for Amy Klein, thanks for Marty Kaplan
"True Confessions of an Online Dating Addict" -- "Cathy" it's not (Sept. 26). It's brilliant, and one of the smartest singles columns I've read. I love reading each week's adventure. Klein's journey is familiar, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks so. This strip is so innovative, and I can't think of another comic or column like it. I wouldn't be surprised if it winds up with a following like "Bridget Jones Diary," which also started as a weekly column. I hope you continue to publish it for a long time, barring Amy meeting her "Prince Charming" online.
Rabbis for Obama
I take exception with the group "Rabbis for Obama" ("Rabbis for Obama Seen As First in American Politics," Sept. 19). When one obtains the title of rabbi, he is obligated to keep religion and state separate. A rabbi is not just an ordinary citizen. His public statements carry a subliminal message that all Jews think as he does. The separation of church and state is the foundation for religious freedom in our great country. Shame on you Rabbis for Obama.
God has a sense of irony ("The Crash," Sept. 26).
In the next few days, we'll conclude the Shmita year, the seven-year agricultural cycle. Among the rules of the of the Shmita year, at the end of the one, all debts are nullified.
In the past few months and weeks, and especially the past few days, we have witnessed the collapse of many financial behemoths, and the devaluation of hundred of billions of dollars of debt instruments. Many hundreds of billions of dollars of debt are being wiped off the books.
In a similar vein, Jewish law prohibits charging interest on loans. There was something unseemly about making money from money. Thus, at the same time as massive loans are being written off, we are observing a free fall of our economy due from many obscure, and obtuse, derivative financial instruments (such as credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations), which brought about the redundant pledging and excessive leveraging of financial instruments.
Interest on a loan was the first step that led to derivative financial instruments.
God indeed has a sense of irony.
I must commend The Journal for the two informative articles on Sarah Palin ("Shooting Sarah Palin," "Sarah Palin, Chabad Share Same Appeal," Sept. 19).
However, I cannot believe that not a single letter in favor of the articles was received.
Allow me to correct this discrepancy by saying that the articles were superb illustrations of a uniquely capable woman.
Two McCain advisers recently stated that a McCain administration wouldn't "actively [engage] in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," ("McCain Advisers: ‘No' to Syria Talks," Sept. 26).
Not only has a two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict been the consensus position of the U.S. government for the last 10 years, but more than 70 percent of American Jews support a two-state solution, according to a recent poll commissioned by the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby J Street. It is unclear what McCain seeks to gain by taking such an unpopular position.
Real peace and security for Israel and the United States will only come through a negotiated end to the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, and either of these peace agreements are unlikely to happen without strong leadership from an American president.
We need a president who understands this basic fact.
Since Marty Kaplan believes Democrats are far more educated than Republicans, who he says embody the antithesis of intellectual pursuit, he might benefit from learning a short history lesson he obviously missed during his academic career: That the senior Nazi officials attending the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 held advanced university degrees, including doctorates ("Post-Palin Depression," Sept. 12).
Apparently being highly educated and cultured did not prevent them from enacting the Final Solution to the Jewish Question.
While Kaplan is entitled to his misguided beliefs, he should realize that those of us who support McCain-Palin, especially in liberal territory, must do a lot of research to back up our views.
It doesn't take a genius to realize many highly degreed professors on the left are babbling fools, while lacking a college degree is no barrier to possessing common sense.
Leslie Fuhrer Friedman
Rosh Hashanah and Change
Marty Kaplan evoked all the feelings and thinking that I've been stumbling to communicate -- to my friends on both the left and the right ("Is Change Possible," Sept. 26).
Our tradition and our government both offer us a mirror to reflect and an opportunity to transform what we don't like. Of course, Kaplan said so much more, so much better. Still I wanted to let him know I'm profoundly moved and grateful for his eloquence.
So what are you working on now?
Bett Lujan Martinez.
The Possible Society of CA
Tashlich on the Beach
To set the historical record straighter concerning Tashlich on the beach ("Best Tashlich Custom Is a Toss-Up," Sept. 26).
In 1985, when our rabbi, Jeffrey Marx, arrived at Santa Monica Synagogue, he brought 60 of us to the edge of the water on Rosh Hashanah to toss away our sins.
Over the years, in addition to meditations and music, we have written our sins on helium balloons and then released them up into the heavens; recorded them on edible paper which we fed to a live scapegoat; put them in a collection bag held by a scuba diver who came up out of the sea; and built a Western Wall of sand onto which we scratched our sins.
For more than two decades, we have freely shared our Tashlich ideas and services with other Los Angeles congregations. Now, each year, as more than 800 of us gather on the beach, we kvell that Jewish communities from Malibu down to Venice, from Agoura to as far east as Hollywood, have followed our example.
Director of Education
The Santa Monica Synagogue
The five academics sidestepped the issues we raised, instead focusing on issues we didn't raise (Letters, Sept. 19). Our concern was never traditional anti-Semitism on campuses, but rather anti-Zionism, which distorts facts to demonize and incite prejudice against Israel and its supporters, a well-documented trend in academia.
Dissenting faculty -- let alone students -- have difficulty speaking out for fear of ostracism and possible penalties in their reputations, grades, promotions and opportunities for publication, grants and participation on academic committees and review and editorial boards. Yet, these five academics take refuge in speaking about "negligible anti-Semitism," thereby denying the painful experiences of many students and faculty -- in effect, abandoning them.
Our attempts to cooperate have repeatedly resulted in the attitude expressed in their letter -- they alone know about campus life, and campuses are their exclusive turf.
They disrespectfully dismissed 20,000 SPME [Scholars for Peace in the Middle East] academics, StandWithUs and students and other faculty at UCLA and across the country who believe the problem is serious. The five should at least have the modesty to admit they do not represent all students and faculty and perhaps are unaware of some information available to others.
People can interpret situations differently. Consider UCLA. Several professors continue promoting their anti-Zionist agenda in and outside the classroom and under the guise of "Middle East history" courses with no history courses offered with alternative perspectives. On Yom HaZikaron in May 2008, students on Bruin Walk encountered a mock "apartheid wall" covered with photos of IDF soldiers aiming their guns at Palestinian women and children.
The five academics may believe these incidents have no short- or long-term impact, and should be ignored. StandWithUs respectfully disagrees, but recognizes that this debate is important and has been occurring on many campuses. Therefore, in a spirit of cooperation, we invite the five to a private and/or public discussion about these issues.
Director of Research/Education
David Suissa's praise for Sarah Palin, "A likable adrenalin junkie," "folksy charm" (unlike Hillary's "steely demeanor"), "flirting with her husband," a woman who can cause a tough Israeli war hero to "fall under her spell," was certainly fitting if she was an "American Idol" contestant ("Shooting Sarah Palin," Sept. 19).
But Palin is running for the second highest office in our land, one that is, literally, a heartbeat away from the presidency.
What does Suissa have to say about her total lack of foreign policy and national experience? She's a "quick study." She has enough "street smarts" (how about education and experience?) "to quickly improve herself." But this is the running of a country that we're talking about here not a local business. The issues now facing our nation are far too serious and complicated for on-the-job training.
This is not the time for any candidate for high office to begin their studies.
Our tradition teaches us: "Don't look at the container but what's inside of it."
Suissa and all of us would be better served by looking at the political track record and experience of our candidates, not their looks and personalities.
Rabbi Jeff Marx
Now that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain's running mate, has visited the United Nations and met with representatives of several countries, the McCain campaign can claim that she has international relations experience with countries in addition to Russia, the "neighbor" she understands well because she can see it from Alaska.
No doubt, meeting some world leaders, even for the first time, makes her well-qualified to become vice president and to be just a heart beat away from the presidency. In fact, whenever the issue of Palin's experience for the position arises, McCain's campaign spokesmen respond immediately that she has more "executive" experience than Sen. Barack Obama.
However, since when does having been in an administrative position guarantee that the individual has developed or demonstrated the qualities essential to being an effective executive? After eight years, is there anyone who still believes that George W. Bush's executive experience as governor of Texas qualified him to be president?
Given Obama's extensive educational background and varied work experiences -- graduation from Columbia University and Harvard University School of Law, a community organizer on the south side of Chicago, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago, a two-term Illinois State senator, a first-term U.S. senator and almost two years on the campaign trail, he has already demonstrated the leadership, organizational, problem solving and prudent decision making abilities essential to being an effective executive. In a word, there is simply no contest between the experiences of Palin compared with those of Obama.
As David Brooks wrote in a recent New York Times column, "Democracy is not average people selecting average leaders. It is average people with the wisdom to select the best prepared."