Jewish Journal

To blog, perchance to scoop

Posted on Aug. 9, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Serial Blogging

It is commendable that Brad Greenberg has written about Luke Ford as a journalist in the Jewish community ("Interview With a Serial Blogger" Aug. 3). Unfortunately, Greenberg devoted more print to the mayor's affair and the porn industry than Ford's writings about our community.

Ford's book, "Yesterday's News Tomorrow," was mentioned but not explored. Had it been, we would understand that amid the lashon hara, Ford gives us "sunlight" as "antiseptic" (Louis Brandeis).

Reference to Marsha Plafkin suing the University of Judaism is an apt example. This case was investigated by The Jewish Journal but never published. Ford addressed the opportunity, if not the responsibility, to provide readers with information. He published an interview of Plafkin's experience, leaving readers to determine fact or fiction.

If Greenberg had read the interview, he would know that a jury reached a verdict on some charges favoring the UJ. He would also know that other charges were withdrawn by Plafkin (dismissed without prejudice), given her concern about the judge's impartiality.

Without Ford, what other stories will be yesterday's news tomorrow?

Daniel Hurwitz
Los Angeles

Shame on The Jewish Journal for publishing such an article ("Interview With a Serial Blogger," Aug. 3). You are no better than the person you wrote about.

A better title for that article would have been, "Interview With a Serial Porno Blogger." I was shocked, horrified and appalled. In the future, I hope you publish articles that are worthy of being in a newspaper that has "Jewish" in its name.

Name Withheld by Request

Your cover article about Luke Ford and his wayward lifestyle force me to ask you why we need to know about him, and why put him on the cover and give him undue notoriety.

I am tired of weekly reading negative things about our Jewish community that you dig up. It is worse than anti-Semitic publications which you seem to fuel.

Why can't you write about all the good and chesed that goes on around us in the Jewish community that I see. You have not done one article on Yael and Nouriel Cohen and their Tomchei Shabbat, which feeds and clothes 54 families weekly.

Please spend your time locating and publicizing the positive aspect of being Jewish and being a part of a wonderful, close-knit Jewish community and value system, as I feel I am. Turn your negative covers into something positive, please!

I wait for Thursdays to get your publication outside my synagogue and not be disappointed.

Joanne BeitHalahmi
Marina Del Rey

Ed. Note: The Journal has run eight features or news items on Tomchei Shabbat since 1998. Please check our archives at www.jewishjournal.com/archive for the complete listing.


Poor Noah Feldman (Stop Ostracizing the Intermarried July 27). His old school (an Orthodox yeshiva in Brookline, Mass.) did not recognize his wedding in the "simchas section" of its alumni newsletter and cut him out of his class reunion photo. So, in return, he wrote a major complaint piece in a national newspaper slamming his school and his old friends, and now his rabbi at Oxford has also come out to bat for him.

I am sure that professor Feldman and his wife are justifiably revered by every person -- Jewish or not -- in which they come into contact, so I am not sure why it was so important to have his marriage sanctioned by his old school.

Should it have wished him mazel tov on his marriage to a woman who has not converted to Judaism, congratulated him for rejecting the values he was taught over the many years at the day school and high-fived him for denying his children the incredible Jewish knowledge that he is apparently still so proud of (as he mentioned in The New York Times article. He can still remember the words to the sidrah read on the Shabbat of Purim "verbatim").

Rabbi [Shmuely] Boteach, what is the point of encouraging him to keep going to synagogue, lay tefillin and keep Shabbat if these traditions are not handed down?

Yes, I agree that our Jewish identities should not only have meaning through our children, however, they are ultimately our legacy and ensure our continuity as a people. Professor Feldman's actions seem quite selfish to me, especially when one looks to the countless number of Jewish converts of all denominations who have made tremendous sacrifices to ensure identities for their children and who are embraced and admired by their communities.

Finally Rabbi Boteach, please keep reminding this "prince of the Jewish nation" to "devote his resources to the Jewish people" because with all the enemies we have in the world at the moment, we do not need more articles of this whiny nature being published in our national newspapers.

Janine Lowy
Los Angeles

Why Be Jewish?

Rob Eshman's reasons to be Jewish were straightforward and down to earth but weren't conveyed in the form of his personal stories any more than those of the intellectuals whose pontifications at the Bronfman Vision Forum he criticizes (The Answer Aug. 3).

If The Journal has not done so recently, this might be a good time to go back onto the street and ask Jews of all ages and stripes (affiliated and nonaffiliated) the question: Why be Jewish? I for one would like to compare their responses to Eshman's and those of the forum participants.

Roger Schwarz
Los Angeles

The "talking heads" or "back of the heads" described by Rob Eshman will certainly find no answers to their query. "Why be Jewish?" because they reject the only answer that is true.

We are not Jewish because it is "good for us." Buddhism, Christianity and all humanistic, liberal cultures abide by ethical codes which are "good for us." We are Jewish because God gave us the Torah at Sinai and ordered us to obey his commandments. We are the Chosen People. We are chosen not in the sense of being privileged, but in that we must sanctify God's name in every act of our lives and attempt to walk humbly with God.

Karen Avrech
Los Angeles

We at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality were heartened by your response to the Bronfman conference discussion, "Why Be Jewish?"

We have a response based on the same deliverables you name, that some might find equally suspect for its simplicity: Because it makes us happy.

Think not yellow smiley faces. Think instead a profound human well-being that bears its fruit as wisdom, compassion and righteousness. That's happiness. And that's precisely our experience of what comes from a life of Jewish spiritual practice.

Rabbi Rachel Cowan
Executive Director
Rabbi Nancy Flam
Co-Director of Programs,
Institute for Jewish Spirituality
New York, N.Y.

Harry Potterstein

As I trotted off to lunch today with my favorite reading material, I thought, I really should tell these guys I like what they write.

Now J.K. Rowling presumably doesn't need another fan letter, but perhaps the folks at The Jewish Journal would be interested to know that a non-Jewish lady from Birmingham, Ala., discovered her first Jewish Journal on a rack in front of Village Books in Pacific Palisades a few months ago and has been picking it up weekly ever since.

At today's lunch, "Harry Potter" wasn't even cracked, there was so much in The Journal to digest. As usual, I enjoyed and learned from the variety of articles right up to and through Harry Potterstein (Aug. 3).

If I may, I would like to comment on two of the stories. First, the superb article on Kirk Douglas concludes with his stating that he's often told he doesn't look Jewish, and he doesn't know if that is a compliment or an insult (Kirk Douglas Packs 90 Years of Living Into Latest Book Aug. 3). From this non-Jew's point of view, it is neither. I don't recall ever saying these words to anyone, but I do remember thinking them many times. I'm just surprised, that's all.

Second, the story "Cutting Someone From Will Can Leave Legacy of Pain" (Aug. 3). The subject wonders why he was written out of his mother's will. To me, he answers his own question in the fifth paragraph, where it says his mother's estate passed exclusively to his brother, his mother's sole caretaker.

As an only child, I took care of my widowed father for five years during his slow, painful mental and physical decline. It is the hardest job in the world, and it took a toll on my own mental and physical health.

The only thing I can think of worse than being an only child going it alone is having a sibling who doesn't help. I'm not judging Steve Kaplan, I'm just wondering why he didn't help take care of his father. I know my dad was well aware of who was not only taking care of him but also caring for him, and I suspect that Kaplan's mother was aware of this, as well.

I will conclude now by thanking you for your fine publication. Of all the periodicals I read regularly, and irregularly, yours is, overall, the best. Tonight I'll open my "Harry Potter" and enjoy it until next Thursday, when I pick up a new Jewish Journal.

Lucy Taylor Chapman
Pacific Palisades


Uri Dromi's editorial in The Jewish Journal starts with the premise that Israel pulled out of Gaza in response to 40 years of being "told constantly by the world to pull out of Gaza" and "what did we get in return? A barrage of deadly missiles on our south and a Palestinian government led by Hamas" ("Open Letter to a Hamas Supporter in Gaza," Aug. 3).

With all due respect to Dromi, this description of events is inaccurate. First, Israel did not pull out of Gaza in response to world pressure. Israel pulled out of Gaza because it found it was no longer able to militarily and economically secure only a few settlements.

Second, Israel did not completely pull out of Gaza. Israel maintains complete air and sea control over Gaza's air and water rights. Furthermore, Israel controls 99 percent of Gaza's border. This can hardly be described as "pulling out."

Third, the barrage of deadly missiles on southern Israel and the expansion of Hamas are not in return for pulling out of Gaza. Israel pulled out of Gaza unilaterally, without an agreement with the Palestinians. How can this be in return?

What Dromi is reflecting is a paternal sentiment that would not be acceptable to any sovereign government. The logical extension of Dromi's article is that partial withdrawal of Israel from Gaza should be good enough for Palestinians.
I would like to remind Dromi that in 1967, Israel justified its attack on the Egyptian army partially because Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran and blocked Israel's access to the Red Sea. Why, then the double standard?

It would be more constructive for Dromi to focus his criticism on the barrage of missiles from Gaza on innocent Israeli civilians -- an unacceptable act of terror.

Josef Avesar
Israeli-Palestinian Confederation

Rabbi Carole Meyers

We lost a great rabbi last week (Obituaries, Aug. 3). Carole Meyers was a great rabbi because she did what most rabbis try to do but not all succeed: She brought her congregants closer to God and closer to Judaism.

Seventeen years ago, Rabbi Meyers officiated at my wedding. In a counseling session prior to the event, we told her we wanted a professional singer to sing the "Birkat Kohanim" at the ceremony. She replied, "But that is my favorite part; that is what I like to do."

And that is what she did. She blessed people. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know her feel blessed because she walked this earth among us.
Joanne Scherr
Via E-mail

Berries, Pizza, Smile

My son forwarded this article to me. Many of my family are in the grocery business with one of the "big three" ("Berries, Pizza and a Smile," July 13).
The big strike just about did them in both emotionally and financially. It was a horror and quite frightening. I am afraid the markets lost most, if not all, of the strong loyalty from their employees.

I do hope the powers that be at Ralphs, Vons and Albertson's read this article, as it is one of the best I have read on the selfishness and stupidity of the supermarket owners. I continue to shop at my Pavilions because of the personnel that work so hard, (and it is a tough industry) but do spend much more time and money since the strike at Smart and Final, Trader Joe's and Costco.

Thanks for the excellent piece. Kudos to Susan Freudenheim, managing editor.

Eileen O'Neill
West Hills

Bar the Bar Scene

Gosh, its now 6:30 on a Friday evening and I've got to finish this letter before 7 p.m. ("Thanks, Wingman!" July 27). It's Jewish Daylight Time and the Sabbath comes an hour later.

But here's something that is inconsistent with Jewish mores. This week's Singles Column, always irreverent, takes place in a bar. I'm sure plenty of Jewish singles frequent taprooms looking for the ideal mate, but they won't be anymore successful there than at a synagogue singles group. They'll be more successful at a Bible study, a book club, a current events club or a group of people in their profession.

The person you meet at a bar is not the real person. Liquor distorts. But that's none of my concern (I don't think). I just don't think a quasi-religious Jewish newspaper has any business promoting a drinking lifestyle.

And the best place to meet a mate is while still in college before you graduate (although Rob Eshman thinks I'm dead wrong).

Richard A. Rofman
Van Nuys

More Secrets

Thank you so much for the excellent article by Amy Klein on "The Secret" ("Judaism vs. The Secret," July 20). Her extensive interviews and follow-ups with rabbis of various denominations and others exemplified The Journal's fine journalistic professionalism.

I am especially in agreement with the comments of Rabbi Etshalom, who so well expresses the belief that man's life is about directing one's life toward God, rather that one's self.

To her list of one-word comments on "The Secret," I would like to add my own: "bunk." Except for the fact that so many people are buying into the premise that one can become his own creator, this book would be more or less laughable.

Klein's analysis of the attraction of the book is also very perceptive. It is a great challenge to pass on the basic tenet that love of self is inextricably tied to love of God and one's fellow man and that interior peace and happiness flow from this belief, regardless of circumstance.

It is especially difficult in our materialistic and also troubled world. God bless those who make every effort to meet that challenge.

I would also like to comment on Judea Pearl's review of "A Mighty Heart" ("A Mighty Heart Takes Moral Clarity," Aug. 20). Like Pearl, I was very disappointed in the movie.

I had hoped to come away with insights into the journalist's background, experiences, access into the world he was covering, as well as those of the perpetrators of this horrible crime. Instead, what I got was a chase story. Fortunately I had gained some insights from Marianne Pearl herself as she was interviewed by Charlie Rose. What a beautiful, intelligent and brave woman. And thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Pearl for giving the world such a son. Their loss is also ours.

Joan M. Mount
Van Nuys

Clear Goal

The op-ed on Hamas typifies the good-willed naivete of many Israeli and American Jews, saying: "Gee, if you just make nice with us, we'll make your life wonderful!" Sadly and truly, this is not the case ("Open Letter to a Hamas Supporter," Aug. 3).

The Islamo-Nazi fascists have a clear goal: destruction of Israel, the Jewish people and world domination. If you don't believe them, read their own words and note their actions. We must be staunchly vigilant against those who deceive, painting pictures of "peace-loving Palestinians".

The leader of Nazi Germany wrote his intentions, but nobody believed him, except Winston Churchill. The Islamists admire the Nazis (Arafat's Uncle Husseini was buddies with the Nazi leader.)

There are times in history that good intentions in the face of true evil can be disastrous. Jewish people and others must educate themselves and act with the strong will to survive, despite the rampages of such destructive forces. Crush the enemy, then and only then can you "give peace a chance."

J. Sand
Los Angeles

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