April 17, 2008
Shoah, McCain, Ziman vs. Lee, Obama, Pope
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.
Cahiers du Cinema
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."
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
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.