Loved your video on getting a haircut and shave on Lag b'Omer. I think it's great that you raise awareness about our customs and traditions.
I think you made one faux pas, however. Religious Jews don't allow a razor to come in contact with their face when shaving, which is why Orthodox Jews use only electric shavers instead of razor blades.
Your barber wasn't allowed to shave you, according to Jewish law. Jews who observe the custom of not shaving would've shaved using a Norelco or Remington instead.
Rabbi Daniel Korobkin
Community & Synagogue Services Director
Orthodox Union West Coast Region
Professor Anti-Semites Love
Why the righteous indignation ("The Professor Anti-Semites Love," May 9)?
The fact is that we are clannish, have a history of marrying within and not thinking positively of much of the outside culture. We do tend to select for mates along either intellectual or financial lines.
Historically, we have tended to benefit from niche businesses, such as banking during the primacy of Catholicism, when it was prohibited to Catholics, and entertainment during the primacy of Protestants, when they looked down on such businesses. We do tend to be far more visible, disproportionately to our numbers.
What professor Kevin MacDonald has done is to provide a laundry list of reasons why the losers can't successfully compete against Jews and Jewish culture. I read the article, and I came away thinking that this bitter man is like many others who resent the need to change in order to compete.
It is true: Jews want to chuck the morally bereft outside culture. It is our mandate to be first a blessing to the world, then a kingdom of priests and a light unto the nations. Why be Jewish if Jewishness serves no purpose? We feel a moral elevation compared to outside culture based upon the mandate for our existence.
Of course, we are in conflict with non-Jewish culture. Our mandate requires us to influence the others, to convert outside society not to Judaism but to an enlightened Noahide society. Jewish culture and Jewish society developed in a direct response to the mandate.
It is most certainly benefiting our survival. When we are persecuted, we strengthen our ties with each other and to Judaism. When we are not persecuted, we rise to visibility in the face of non-Jews.
MacDonald is perfectly correct in many of his assumptions and observations.
Rather than feel hurt from the truth, I would feel proud that even the least observant Jews have the spark to influence outside society, as seen by MacDonald's assessment.
Bad Cover Choice
After working for the U.S. Postal Service for 34 years, I retired recently. In high school, I was the school paper's compositor for one year and its sports editor for two years. The Jewish Journal definitely needs my help in improving on whoever decides the covers of your paper.
I was upset and disgusted that you had a professor that anti-Semites love grace the cover [on May 9]. I purposely would turn the paper upside down so as not to look at his puss. And I wasn't interested to read the article, even though my friend read it and asked if I had.
Please send me an employment application before you lose any more readers and advertisers due to your yellow journalism.
Eshman and Suissa
I would like to combine my thoughts on two articles in the May 23 Journal -- Rob Eshman's "Wednesday With Ben" and David Suissa's "Israel Fest or Jewish Fest."
First, I hope I am not the first person to point out in Eshman's column that he presented one Jewish point of view -- and in my opinion, not the best -- as to the nature of God and suffering. He consulted a rabbi who says, "I do not believe in a God who gets involved in the activities in individual human beings."
Well it's no wonder people abandon God -- they feel like God abandoned him.
I love Suissa's idea to have a Jewish festival. That way, once and for all, we can put it out on the table what are the different categories of Jewishness and what do they believe about that lifelong question that we have about God and religion: Why do bad things happen?
The answer we will get from the rabbi Eshman consulted will be clear. Yet, the answer from hopefully every other brand will hopefully have something a little more inspiring that will actually make someone want to connect to God.
Perhaps some people forget where the name "Jewish" comes from. It comes from the tribe of Yehudah, the name given to Leah's fourth son. It was a name, meaning thank you -- as in, Leah was thanking God for remembering her and giving her that fourth son. Remembering her -- an individual.
So if someone wants to say they don't believe in a God who gets involved in individual suffering, they have every right. But if they do, I wonder if they should be calling themselves Jewish.
But, of course, that is just my opinion. Everyone can figure it out for themselves at Jewish Fest 2009.
Regarding Rob Eshman's article depicting the slowly destructive disease of ALA (Lou Gehrig's disease), our cousin in Israel, David Cohen, was diagnosed with ALS in 2003, and one of the first things he did was to create a research and support organization called IsrALS.
I invite you and your readers to learn more about how we can increase research, especially with stem cell research, which is more accessible in Israel, to battle this "orphan" disease. Neil J. Sheff
If The Journal insists on involving itself in the presidential election, which is its every right, how about some evenhandedness, lest it be known by those of us who support Sen. Barack Obama as the faux Jewish Journal.
This month, two letters were published that favored Sen. Hillary Clinton ("Diversity Lost," May 2) and Sen. John McCain ("The Wright Flap and the Black Candidate," May 9).
Nothing on your pages revealed that Clinton has run a deceptive and negative campaign that has openly invoked racism and sexism, and now her despicable reason for continuing her lost campaign, implying the worst could happen to Obama before his official nomination. Only because Clinton is a woman we should look past her negative tactics, because somehow she is therefore entitled to be president.
Similarly, the continued guilt by association rap against Obama because of his pastor, despite the clear record, both by action and words, that he is 100 percent pro-America and pro-Israel -- the latter confirmed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Editors Note: The Journal has published 12 articles and op-ed pieces about the Obama campaign since January.
Many in our community still doubt Sen. Barack Obama's and Sen. Hillary Clinton's Mideast strategies.
What is often overlooked is that their proposals for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq would enhance long-term Israeli security, in addition to providing major benefits to the United States.
Iran and Syria support militias and terrorists in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and elsewhere. Our ability to demonstrate a credible military force as part of an aggressive diplomatic push to convince these states to restrain their anti-Israel clients is severely hampered by our immersion in a series of costly internecine sectarian conflicts within Iraq.
This immersion also diverts attention from the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. U.S. ground forces are stretched so thin that the primary tool to support diplomacy vis a vis Iran and Syria is the unthinkable bombing option.
Recall that shortly after the destruction of Saddam Hussein's army, skeptics suspected that the war was initiated under false pretenses but that it would convince Iran and Syria of our steadfast interest in maintaining Mideast stability. We demonstrated our willingness to use force or threat of force in support of diplomacy. But the situation shifted in their favor, as we continue to be bogged down in the Iraqi morass.
We contend that a carefully staged withdrawal would invigorate America, refresh our military and provide more flexible options. When combined with aggressive diplomacy, these options are more likely to preserve U.S. and Israeli security.
Jerry Aroesty and Robert Reisbaum
West Los Angeles
Future of Israel
Avraham Burg writes that Jews are fearful these days for the Jewish future ("Survival Hinges on Being Light Unto Nations," May 16).
He even suggests that Israel, our first guarantee of collective Jewish security in millennia, is the source of Jewish insecurity.
Israel has given the Jewish people a reservoir of security, self-reliance and resources we previously lacked. That said, Israel does face serious threats.
Therefore, might I suggest that some introspection is appropriate on Burg's part for his enthusiastic support for the concessionary Oslo policies toward a Palestinian leadership committed to eliminating Israel that has brought about so much of Israel's current perils?
It is the Oslo policies Burg advocated that have resulted in over 1,000 dead and thousands of maimed Israelis. More Israeli civilians have been killed in the 14 years since Oslo than in the 47 years that preceded it. Today, rockets hit daily Israeli towns and cities.
For all that, Israelis remain resolute. Polls show that in increasing numbers, they reject more concessions to Mahmoud Abbas. It is Burg, who has compared Israel to Weimar Germany and headed off to live in Europe, who has lost his nerve.
Morton A. Klein
Zionist Organization of America
A great deal of ink has been used lamenting the dwindling Jewish population and intermarriage, in particular ("Sabra Love," May 16).
At its extreme end, you have the Schwartzie debacle, but in truth, that event is emblematic of a prevailing idea that a signal cause of diminishing Jewish shidduchs is the pilfering of Jewish men (who, in turn, are easily beguiled and utterly pilferable) by more brazen and desirable non-Jewish women.
Enter Orit Arfa into the controversy. I think I've never read a sadder commentary on the hunt for a mate than Arfa's, but I'm not feeling sad with her, but rather for her and her pathetic outlook on dating.
Lusting after studly Sabras, they of hard abs and chiseled arms, hasn't worked. She yearns for intelligent JDate chats with men she values for their bodies.
Fellow immigrants remind her of the "dorky American Jewish men" who were, it seems, a catalytic reason for her emigration in the first place. Apparently there are no Jews in between, because her solution to this dilemma is Scandinavians, who will, "10 seconds after meeting you," satisfy her twice-mentioned criterion of importance, buy her a drink.
And there in all its shallowness is yet another answer to a demographic dilemma. You go, independent Sabra girl!
David Suissa doesn't miss much, and he's spot on about the proposed Museum of Tolerance expansion ("Museum of Too Much Tolerance?" May 9).
Max Gottlieb may think it's acceptable to celebrate weddings and bar mitzvahs at a Holocaust museum, but those who run Yad Vashem, the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Holocaust museum in Berlin (among many others) do not.
Nor is not acceptable either for the Simon Wiesenthal Center to build a commercial catering facility on land zoned for residential use, surrounded by single-family homes and their residents.
Daniel J. Fink
The article, "Transdenominational Leader for a Borderless World" (May 23,), gave an incorrect name for the Academy for Jewish Religion, California. It also misnamed the denomination of Kheillat Ma'arav in Santa Monica, which is affiliated with the Conservative movement, not the Reform. The Journal regrets the errors.