Jewish Journal

Shoah, McCain, Ziman vs. Lee, Obama, Pope

Posted on Apr. 17, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Tinseltown and Shoah

I was disappointed to see in the review of "Imaginary Witness" the old stereotype of Jewish moguls as cackling Shylocks counting their money from the German market, while their co-religionists were being murdered by Hitler ("How Tinseltown Shaped the Worldview of the Holocaust," April 4).

The myth about the moguls can be traced to a story Joseph Mankiewicz made up about L.B. Mayer and "Three Comrades," an anti-Nazi film Mankiewicz produced for MGM that was shorn of references to Nazism after strident lobbying by the Breen Office, the studios' own censor. Stung when the screenwriter, F. Scott Fitzgerald bad-mouthed him around town for the usual reasons writers bad-mouth producers, Mankiewicz invented the tale that Mayer was in the habit of personally screening films for the German consul to cleanse them of anti-Nazi sentiments and Jewish names, so as not to lose a pfennig of those precious German revenues.

As I recall, "Imaginary Witness" is a bit more nuanced in its treatment of the subject than many standard references on Jews in American cinema, but such is the power of Mankiewicz's bizarre tale that the makers of the documentary didn't bother to look more deeply into the story of Hollywood's attempts to get on the screen the story about what was happening to Jews in Europe, which was known in both Hollywood and Washington by 1942.

That's a shame, because it's a fascinating story, which has the additional virtue -- unlike so many "personal reminiscences" about the film business -- of being true.

Bill Krohn
L.A. Correspondent
Cahiers du Cinema

John McCain

I confess to being distressed by The Jewish Journal cover photo of John McCain, suspecting that Rob Eshman's article would encourage readers to support the senator ("20 Questions With John McCain," April 4).

I apologize for jumping to conclusions and admit to being pleasantly surprised by Eshman's final paragraph: "So for the Jews, or at least for those of us who think that war, and the region ... is still issue No. 1, the ball is in Obama's and Clinton's court."

Yes, Sen. McCain is an affable, media-accessible and sometime straight talker. However, he has a greater than 80 percent voting record approval rating by the conservative wing of his party and, courting right-wing evangelicals, has flip-flopped on some of his best, former bipartisan positions: campaign fundraising reform and observance of U.S. military law and the Geneva Conventions regarding torture of war prisoners.

Yes, he was a prisoner of war for six years during the Vietnam War. Despite, or perhaps because of that and his family's military background, Greenberg's cartoon speaks volumes: McCain is shown embracing a U.S. Iraq War soldier with the face of George W. Bush; the caption: "John McCain already has a running mate."

Rachel Galperin

I am writing in response to your article in which you stated that the Rev. John Hagee staunchly opposed Israel giving up territory or compromising the status of Jerusalem in support of any peace agreement.

When it comes to the issue of land for peace, it is true that Hagee and many other Christian Zionists have grown skeptical of territorial concessions after watching the results of Israel's withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza. However, Christians United for Israel's (CUFI) fundamental philosophy from day one has been that Israelis, and Israelis alone, have the right to make the existential decisions about land and peace.

To the extent that CUFI has taken concrete action in connection with the peace process, it has at all times been limited to asking the White House not to pressure Israel into making territorial concessions that she herself does not wish to make. CUFI and Hagee simply do not, and would not, seek to tell the Israelis what to do.

Peggy Ann Torney
New York, N.Y.

Heschel West Day School

This was a very well written story by Jane Ulman on a difficult subject ("Heschel West School Gets OK, Future Still Clouded," Feb. 29).

The Heschel West Day school site has not been exhaustively tested. The Heschel property is within around 0.6 of a mile from the unlined border of the Class I Calabasas Landfill. This site does indeed need to be tested to protect the health of any future schoolchildren.

Save Open Space (SOS) is concerned about the public health and safety of the children going to a school so near the unlined section of this former Class I landfill. In addition, the school will "reduce the functionality of the wildlife corridor" per the National Park Service.

SOS would support Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in helping get L.A. County and state wildlife corridor park bond money to pay Heschel fair market value for this site. Then that money can go toward a new school in a safer site.

SOS has some possible alternative sites to add. Excellent alternatives include two Conejo Valley Thousand Oaks elementary schools that will be closed because of declining enrollment. Another alternative is the Four Square Church property in Agoura Hills that has hosted a Jewish camp in the past.

Mary E. Wiesbrock
Chair SOS
California Clinical Laboratory Scientist

Song of David

This Shabbat a friend of mine mentioned that he thought of me, as he had just read an article in The Jewish Journal stating that Oded Turgeman was "the first Orthodox Jew ever to enroll" at the American Film Institute here in Los Angeles ("David's the Singer, He's the Rapper," April 4).

Apparently, the author of the article, Matthue Roth, didn't do his research. You see, I graduated AFI back in 2004. I have the diploma to prove it, and the student loans. In fact, a large part of my admissions essay when I first applied to AFI back in 2002 centered on the fact that I was and am an Orthodox Jew trying to make it in the film world.

I may not have produced a controversial movie, but I was the first student to introduce Orthodox Judaism to the school while successfully completing the producing program. To quote Roth, there are a number of us who "struggle to be good Jew(s) and good artist(s)." And we are not unknown at AFI. Shani M. Rotkovitz
MFA 2004
American Film Institute

Heston Obituary

Is there any particular reason that Charlton Heston warrants an 11-paragraph, top-of-the-page obituary in The Jewish Journal ("Charlton Heston, Oscar Winner and Advocate, Dies at 84," April 11)? Has portraying Jews in the movies become a criteria for a major obituary in The Journal?

If so, why wasn't there an obituary for Rod Steiger ("The Chosen," "The Pawnbroker") or Jessica Tandy ("Driving Miss Daisy") among others?

Ephraim A. Moxson
Los Angeles

Hate in Translation

Editor Rob Eshman in "Hate in Translation" (March 28) describes the need to inform the Arab world of the work of German scholar Matthias Kuntzel, who presents new findings regarding the Nazi roots of anti-Semitism in the Middle East. Eshman also notes that the mainstream media in the United States have not paid sufficient attention to Kuntzel's findings.

Readers will be interested to know that not only the media, but also our universities, including our own UCLA, including the departments that the public expects to be eager to examine such discoveries, shunned Dr. Kuntzel in his last visit to our city on March 11. Both Jewish studies and the Near East Center declined an invitation to co-sponsor his lecture at UCLA or to publicize his lecture to their students and faculty. There are forces in academia that defy understanding.

Leila Beckwith
Professor Emeritus

Church and Israel

Your April 11 issue was notable for two articles that illustrate the continuing failure of some Jews to understand the nature of the world today. One article expressed shock that the Catholic Church continues to use a prayer that asks that the Jews convert to Christianity ("Upset Remains as Pope Nears U.S. Trip."

Apparently, the notion that a church founded on spreading the good news of Jesus to the world by converting all unbelievers might sincerely believe this and that uninterested Jews can simply say no is unfathomable.

The second article told us to look for 10 signs that the peace process (which I call the self-delusion process) is working, rather than to examine the fact that the last 15 years has put Israel in greater danger than ever before ("Top 10 Signs of Peace Progress"). I find this juxtaposition sad and ironic.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles


I am concerned about the bias of the recent articles regarding Sen. Barack Obama ("Letter to Obama," April 4). I like Sen. Hillary Clinton as well, but Obama is not as well known to the Jewish community as Sen. John McCain or Clinton, so perhaps we are looking too hard for reasons to make him earn our trust.

Obama sponsored the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, he opposes the literal right of return of Palestinians within Israel's borders, has rejected the rhetoric of Louis Farrakhan and pushed his pastor into retirement.

The leaders of AIPAC, the NJDC and many other groups have made clear that Obama and Clinton both have excellent records on Israel and other issues concerning the Jewish community, and for those of us who have actually taken the time to research the positions of all the candidates, we should be proud of having two great Democratic candidates who support Israel and will stand up for Jews in the United States as well.

Andrew Lachman
Democrats for Israel Los Angeles

Ziman and Lee

Like many, I am beyond amazed at this story ("Jewish Philanthropist Accuses Black Pastor of Anti-Semitism," April 9). Few questions that I hope/assume somebody is pursuing:
  • In today's You-Tube-everything-is-somehow-recorded-age, is there no tape (video or audio) of the Rev. Eric Lee's remarks?
  • Even if there is no tape, are you telling me that in a room of 200 people, there's no corroborating witnesses one way or the other?
  • There's no -- or very little -- room for the predictable follow-up of: "There was a miscommunication and the truth is somewhere in the middle." I mean, if Lee's account is indeed true, then what is the suggestion: Daphna Ziman is a pathological liar or some unstable woman who makes things up? If it's not true, then shouldn't Lee be outraged at Ziman for making up such a story and defaming him? Again, there seems very little for a plausible explanation in the middle that bridges the two stories.
  • If nobody from the audience is willing to come forward to simply say what happened, is that not a story in and of itself?
  • Why won't people simply confirm what they heard and saw?
All said, my two cents: This is a story worth pursuing. All the spin aside, what's the truth, meaning what indeed was said?

William Choslovsky
Chicago, Ill.

Is there a transcript of this speech by the Rev. Eric Lee? Can we confirm independently anywhere the statements paraphrased in your article that come from Daphna Ziman, who is not doubted, but it would be helpful to have some solid documentation on this. I understand people left before this speech, and there were very few there to confirm that it happened as stated or who would be willing to stand behind Ziman's statements about it.

Also Has anyone sent this information on to Barack Obama to see what his response would be, since his name is being bantered about by an obvious Clinton supporter -- Ziman.

Norma H
Via e-mail

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