April 12, 2007
Slavery, divestment, atheism, Sudan refugees
I just wanted to commend Amy Klein and The Jewish Journal on the wonderful article on human trafficking ("We Were Slaves ...," March 30). It brought the story of Pesach new meaning for this year and brought light to a horrible situation occurring in our own backyards.
Regardless of one's beliefs on illegal immigration, we as a people need to recognize the exploitation of trafficked persons crossing the border and the real price we are paying for their oppression. Next time I'm shopping and see U.S.-made clothes at rock bottom prices, I'll be thinking about what hidden costs borne by others might not be shown on the price tag.
Alycia Seaman Witzling
Your article, "We Were Slaves ..." brings to light an egregious human rights violation that is occurring across the United States: modern-day slavery or human trafficking.
As the federal agency responsible for helping victims of human trafficking become survivors, Health and Human Services is working to promote public awareness of human trafficking and to connect victims with the services they need to restore their lives.
I encourage your readers to learn more about this issue and take action if they believe they have encountered a victim of trafficking by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888, or visiting www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking.
Martha E. Newton
Office of Refugee Resettlement
Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Your cover story briefly mentioned the special task force combating slavery in L.A., one of the hubs of human trafficking. In an unprecedented spirit of collaboration, the L.A. Metro Task Force on Human Trafficking was created by two nongovernment organizations, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, as well as the Los Angeles Police Department and the U.S. attorney's office, to promote a cooperative effort in combating human trafficking.
Its mission is to increase identifying and assisting trafficking victims and prosecuting traffickers in Los Angeles. As of now, about 60 governmental and nongovernmental organizations have joined the task force. We have put up 30 billboards throughout Los Angeles, with the slogan: Know human trafficking. Be alert. Be aware.
We need help creating public service announcements, editing, Web design, marketing, advertising, etc., to help stop human trafficking in Los Angeles Please contact the LAPD at (213) 485-2511 to participate in the task force and to contribute your expertise.
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
L.A. Metro Task Force on Human Trafficking -- Public Outreach Committee
In your cover story on Passover, you have managed to redefine and ignore the Jewish essence of this holiday. It appears that The Journal is intent on eviscerating from its paper any significant religious and historical explanation of any Jewish holidays.
Many of your stories on Jewish holidays and traditions have been bastardized to accommodate and appease the nonreligious, the assimilated, the mixed-marrieds and others.
It is a shame that your writers make a mockery of our religion, our history and traditions by distortion, adulteration and ignorance.
Have you no pride in your past and in your heritage?
Contrary to Rabbi David Wolpe's statement, atheism is not an attack on religion ("Atheism du Jour," March 30). Atheism is the declaration by those who wish to be free from religion. If there is any hint that atheists are critical of religion, it is their position that they adhere to rationality not belief.
But how you think should not be grounds for conflict. When it is, as is the case in our turbulent world, then it is not hard to conclude that doing away with religion might be a prescription for peace.
Most atheists will concede that they are no better or no more virtuous than those guided by belief. It is the religious who like to say that without their beliefs, kindness and charity could not exist, that values were presented to the world by religion.
Yet atheists seem to be as charitable and kind as their religious counterparts. Since both are involved in improving the world, we should not waste time in name calling.
As an atheist, I respect my religious friends. I just ask the same from them.
To settle the problem in the article, "Is Pot Kosher for Pesach?" (April 6), in November 1997, Rabbi David Golinkin, representing the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel, in response to a question concerning kitnyot, responded with an unequivocal yes and even went so far as to say that it was perhaps obligatory "to eliminate this custom," because it was a divisive issue between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews, because "it diminished the joy of the holiday" (a plus for the pot smokers), and "because it has little authoritative sanction."
More lenghthily, he wrote: "In our opinion, it is permitted (and perhaps even obligatory) to eliminate this custom. It is in direct contradiction to an explicit decision in the Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim 114b) and is also in contradiction to the opinion of all the sages of the Mishna and Talmud, except one...."
As for smoking pot during Passover or any other time, that's up to you. The sages are mum on this.
Your editorial shocked and angered me ("Divestment Doubts," April 6). It makes me wonder whether you are a responsible or an irresponsible investor.
For yourself you can do anything, but when you act on behalf of the teachers' and firefighters' pension funds, it is your fiduciary responsibility to invest safely. AB 221 stands to protect the funds and secures the California teachers and firefighters in their retirement. Twenty-four billion dollars is a huge amount to look after, and safety is foremost. Iran is neither stable nor safe.
As editor of The Journal, you have a responsibility to your readers. Instead of highlighting the benefits of AB 221, you are misguiding them with a personal viewpoint.