Jewish Journal

‘Widows’ speak, Shmuel of Arabia, Bush of Texas, Arabs of Israel

Web extra! Letters from Paul

Posted on Aug. 30, 2007 at 8:00 pm

More Hindu Widows
I was shocked by Rob Eshman's solution to the "problem" facing 30-40-something Jewish women not for its outlandishness, but for its compassion and simplicity ("Our Hindu Widows," Aug. 10).
At the dawn of Creation, God knew it wasn't good for a human being to be alone. By any halachah, a woman who values her Judaism, who knows God and Torah, does not need a Jewish man to live out her Judaism or her maternal desires or to produce and raise Jewish children. Here's the real truth - she does not need a man at all. While this article spotlights heterosexuals, there are many capable, devoted Jewish lesbians raising healthy Jewish families without a man in sight. Some find Jewish women to love, others do not. Must we now ascertain the religious affiliation of sperm?
Those who decry interdating and intermarriage because it will not result in Jewish children are counting genes and assuming that genetics influence religious identity and behavior. Far better to use Torah to encourage a world in which gay and straight people pursue love, justice, and peace with a life partner who accompanies them on a Jewish journey [rather] than one in which we use Torah to punish those seeking to fulfill a mitzvah.
Name withheld upon request

As a personal recipient of Rob Eshman's generosity of spirit, I do not doubt his good intentions when he suggests that we find ways to facilitate matches between older Jewish women and non-Jewish men. In this matter at least I do, however, question his judgment.
Jewish leaders believed that the way to hold onto Jews was to reduce standards and make Judaism "more accessible." Every time it was tried, we hemorrhaged more Jews.
In other words what Eshman and others continue to suggest is the reason why what hasn't worked hasn't worked is because we have not yet done enough of that which repeatedly hasn't worked.
I fear that Eshman's noble desire to encourage rabbis and communal leaders to create "pathways for inclusion" to bring non-Jewish men into the Jewish fold would end up being nothing more than a series of "Reno Conversions" that would further divide the Jewish people.
Rafael Guber
New York

Subject:Intermarriage ("Our Hindu Widows," Aug. 10).
I dealt with several Jewish dating services.
Received 9 calls from Jewish women.
All of them asked the same three questions, while not in the same order, the very FIRST questions were.
1. What do you drive?
2. What do you do?
3. Where do you live?
Art Lowy
Via e-mail

Regarding the editor's note in response to Jack Wertheimer, where Rob Eshman wrote, "Nowhere did I advocate for intermarriage." Let's get real here. Dating/interdating leads to marriage/intermarriage. Isn't that the idea of dating? You didn't have to say it, it was very much implied.
Please help to keep Judaism alive. The Jewish Journal used to publish a much better Jewish Singles Calender/Event Listing. Last week's calendar featured one Jewish Singles event. The Jewish Federation used to e-mail weekly the "Jewish LA Singles Newsletter." It was great, however that e-mail stopped a few months ago.
As I said last week, "Try being part of the solution instead of helping to decrease our numbers." I'm sure I'm not the only who will appreciate it.
Name withheld upon request

Shmuel of Arabia
I strongly agree with David Suissa's point that Arabic was a major Jewish language in which many of the seminal works of Judaism were written ("Shmuel of Arabia," Aug. 24).
Other than the Jewish thinkers and works he mentions ("Guide to the Perplexed" and the "Kuzari"), there are many more, like the writings of Rabbeinu Bahya ibn Asher and Rabbeinu Bahya ibn Pakuda, author of the "Duties of the Heart." Furthermore, normative Judaism as we know it today was, more than anything, a product of Iraq, more specifically the Babylonian Talmud. So, even when works were not written in Arabic, Arab culture influenced Jewish thought and law.
Unfortunately, this fact has been and still is very much suppressed by the Ashkenazi establishment - here and, even more, in Israel. Hence, I was very happy to see that there are still enough people who take pride in their Arabic-Jewish heritage. And I hope that this is the true meaning of the Shass-slogan: "le hakhzir 'atra la-yoshna" (To bring back the Golden Age). Kul al-sharki'in kvayssin!
Benjamin Rosendahl
Los Angeles

Wishful Thinking for the Bush Legacy
When will leftist wishful thinking ever end ("Help Bush," Aug. 24)?
When will you ever realize that the Palestinians are not a nation but a dysfunctional conglomeration of hateful clans?
When will you ever realize that the Palestinians, the world's largest charity case, cannot form a viable economically stable state? And the only possible solution is a confederation with their brethren in Jordan and not another non-viable Arab country that spawns hatred and violence. Wishful thinking over the past 60 years got us to this predicament and only brings about false expectations and the perpetuation of our struggle.
Betzalel "Bitzy" N. Eichenbaum

So nice of Rob Eshman to worry about the Bush legacy. There will be many things to remember concerning this inept president. The Iraq war, which is one of this nation's greatest catastrophes. The failure to respect our civil rights and the separation of church and state. The disregard for the environment. And, so far as the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation is concerned, Bush has stood on the sidelines for six and a half years. What will he do now with the Arabs sill dedicated to destruction of the Jewish state? That legacy should have been impeachment for transgressions far greater than Clinton.
Edward L. Koblitz
Los Angeles

Rob Eshman's editorial expresses a panicky insistence that it is now so auspicious to establish a Palestinian state that this time it will work, because Arab Sunnis are worried about radical Shiite Iran ("Help Bush," Aug. 24). In fact, the proposal underestimates that is exactly the very reason why it won't work - again! In an unexpected appeal to the conservatives, our liberal editor even presents the Palestinian state solution as a pro-Bush move. He will achieve the legacy that eluded the liberal's hero Bill Clinton, so sign up! The whole notion is enough to incite a cliché: One of the definitions of insanity is to keep repeating the same failed action while expecting a different result. Affecting a sagacious pose, our editorial invokes the time-honored question, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" Wrong metaphor. At this point, even a bar mitzvah bucher would know to ask, "Why is this nightmare so different from all other nightmares?" (This question even has a cadence better matched to the original Hebraic chant!) While Editor Eshman resisted the temptation to carry this Pesach metaphor into a liberation of (Palestinian?) slaves - which can be left to Jimmy Carter and his ilk - there is no reason to think, however, that oppression would not continue to come down on Israel's civilians until half or even all of Israel becomes Sderot. To evoke Isaiah, they have not spoken in secret.
The last time we witnessed the midwifing of a small Arab state into - what was supposed to be - true autonomy, it was all but stillborn: Lebanon was shortly thereafter racked with war(s), its southern zone occupied by a state within a state. Lebanon's second state within a state, the Palestinian camps - because the Lebanese refuse to grant them citizenship, they were actually granted their own quasi-autonomous status - is another anarchic entity and now hosts an al-Qaeda presence. No matter what temporary victory of the national army against al-Qaeda in these camps, their theocratic seeds have sprouted. Syria continues to menace Lebanon as it assassinates leading anti-Syria politicians and will do whatever it can to prevent the U.N. Security Council-mandated investigation and trials of Syria's second and third in command, and Asad in-laws, for the murder of Lebanon's former Prime Minister and his legislator son. Hezbollah clearly has designs on Beirut. Maronite Christian leader General Aoud has sold out his people's real interests and allied with Hezbollah! The noose around Beirut is tightening and it will be all the regime can do if it survives.
The Gaza story is no better. Weapons smuggling to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon has been shockingly free and easy. Even the narrow corridor into Gaza from Egypt seems not to be controllable. A flow of cash at the tiny Delphia boundary between Gaza and Egypt maintains the flow of weapons. When Hamas captured Gaza, they captured an arms and munitions treasure trove to boot. Mr. Eshman did not address the threats of Arab allies of Iran, their training in Iran and the arming of them by Iran. These fighters have gone to southern Lebanon, Gaza and, of course, Iraq. Many of the ones that end up in Iraq fly into Damascus before crossing the desert border. Some of the Hamas fighters that took over Gaza were trained by Iranians. In fact, the U.S. has unwittingly played the same role with the Palestinian Force 17 of Fatah. By training them, those that ended up fighting on the side of Hamas in Gaza were much more capable than they would have otherwise been, and the same will be true in the West Bank.
The fact is that many Arabs are not in such a fright over Iran, starting with Hamas and Hezbollah and apparently even al-Qaeda these days. A good number of Sunnis will seize upon the establishment of a Palestinian state at this point as an opportunity to strike devastating blows against America and Israel, so they will lose no time beginning their campaign to undermine and take over the new "state". Certainly Syria will see it that way, if only for their regime's own survival, because an Israel at peace would not only result in a more open region and hence greater American influence, but it would seriously threaten the survival of that failed regime when it no longer has conflict with Israel as an excuse for not moving the nation forward. Just as Syria and Iran were not going to tolerate a democratic, prosperous, functioning Lebanon, that much less will they risk a Palestinian state in a modus vivendi with the Jewish state. An autonomous Palestinian state would be even more difficult to control for arms importation.
We have seen these failures recently in Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq. Iran was only the first of such enormous failures when the Carter administration allowed a "democray of the street" to overthrow the Shah. Now, Mr. Eshman and the usual suspects of born-again realists in Washington want to do it again? Should we intone the Four Nightmares questions or just go straight to kaddish (the memorial prayer)? How about a refrain of Dylan's "When Will They Ever Learn?" Mr. Bush meant well in all those places. But a Palestinian state, especially at this point, will guarantee a vicious struggle for control of that state with "help" pouring in from Lebanon and Syria and Iran while our Jordanian ally also becomes increasingly threatened. Europe will undoubtedly "help" by profligately throwing cash into the pot, so to speak, certainly not security troops - with many of those euros ending up in the hands of the barbarians. At this point, Mr. Abbas has not even controlled the language of incitement, the culture of death. How is he going to control anything else?
Ironically, the only solution is to firmly put the West Bank into the orbit of Jordan. Many a Middle East watcher long ago came to the unavoidable conclusion that not only can only Jordan control the (in)security of the West Bank, but a radical Palestinian state on its border - a maxi-terror mini-state - would be an existential threat to that Western ally's existence just as much as it would to Israel. My proposal is really just an extension of the West Bank security fence policy, which I first advocated some 13 years ago, as it is ultimately about security - ours, the West's and Israel's. In conclusion, Mr.Eshman's deeply held hope for a resolution would only lead to a much more dangerous, wider war as those totalitarians misunderstanding of the West's preference for peace is seen as weakness. It need not be so, but the West must also remember that peace comes through strength, not insupportable good intentions.Jarrow L. Rogovin
Los Angeles

Your call for readers to help President Bush "midwife and recognize the state of Palestine" sounds like wishful thinking. Given the daily rocket attacks from Gaza and the continual activity of Palestinian terrorists in the 'West Bank,' Israel can only relinquish significant areas to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for an effective end to terrorism. Thus it is up to Abbas, not Bush, just as it was not up to Clinton to produce a peaceful Palestinian state.
The BBC just reported a mid-August Palestinian poll of Palestinians conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center which showed that: 62 percent of Palestinians reject peace with Israel, 47 percent support PM Fayyed in the 'West Bank' while 24 percent support Hamas. Further, if elections were held now, Abbas would get 21 percent of the vote, Haniyah of Hamas 19 percent and Marwan Bargouti 17 percent. Hardly a vote of support for peace with Israel. Of course, you note that "an agreement will not automatically bring Israel peace," but what is to stop a Palestinian state under Abbas from continuing terror with the support of his people? I want to see peace, but there is little sign that Abbas is taking it seriously; he seems to be hoping that the U.S. will push Israel into an agreement at any cost, and that is not acceptable.
Bob Kirk
Via e-mail

Israeli Arabs
Amotz Asa-El makes an interesting argument in his article, namely that September 2000 was a turning point in Jewish-Arab relations in Israel (an argument I agree with)("Israeli Arabs Prove Part of Problem Not Solution," Aug. 17).
However, he misses the main point: Israeli police used live ammunition against their own citizens, killing 13 of them! (A fact that is mysteriously missing from the article.)
In other words, Jews can demonstrate with anti-Israel rhethoric (as Neturei Karta and other Chareidi groups often do), throw acid at soldiers (as some settlers did during the Gaza withdrawal) and get away with it, while Israeli Arabs are automatically considered a "fifth column" and a target for bullets by police officers (none of whom got persecuted for shooting at and killing Israel's own citizens). So, to rephrase Asa-El, "the crux of the debate is" not "what Israel's Arabs make of the very idea of a Jewish state," but rather how this state of ours treats its own minorities.
Benjamin Rosendahl
Los Angeles

What solution does Amotz Asa-El want Israeli Arabs to propose and why does he even expect Israeli Arabs to serve as the bridge between Israel and its Arab neighbors?
Asa-El demonstrates unrealistic expectations of Israeli Arabs, blaming them for being cunning while engaging in deceit and diversion. The Israeli-Arab activities alluded to by Asa-El reflect the deeds of few Israeli Arabs, and similar goings-on are attributable to Jews as well.
The author also fails to cite statistics in his editorial. The truth is that there are more than 1.2 million Israeli Arabs living in the State of Israel. The number of them participating in terror attacks on Israel is a handful. The majority of Israeli Arabs participate in Israel's democracy, economy, and society peacefully and honorably.
Understandably, Israeli Arabs do not want to live in a Jewish State, and they work within the framework of Israeli law to change the concept of such a state. Would Jews want to live in an officially Muslim or Christian country? Resistance to the idea does not make them cunning or deceitful.
Israel must solve its problems with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors and stop blaming Israeli Arabs for failing to act as a bridge.
Josef Avesar
Israeli-Palestinian Confederation

Your report "Likud Winner Bibi Takes Aim at Extremist Party Rival" is a travesty from a journalistic standpoint (Aug. 24). It constantly refers to Likud candidate Moshe Feiglin as an "extremist," a "right-wing radical" and as having an "extremist ideology" as if this were all a matter of undisputed fact rather than the opinion of writer Leslie Susser and the Jewish Journal's editors. It's not surprising The Journal would try to anathematize Feiglin when its editor Rob Eshman (in a proper editorial at least) is prepared to hold his nose and "help Bush" give terrorists chunks of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem in the waning days of his presidency.
Gil Weinreich
Los Angeles

Why does the journal permit so-called journalism describing Moshe Feiglin as an "extremist"?
Since when does advocating for the Jewish state to include yesha ('West Bank' and Gaza) and Torah guidelines constitute "extremism"?
Aren't Peace Now's efforts to expel Jews from Hebron more extremist?
J. Sand
Los Angeles

Web extra! Letters from Paul
The "lack of available Jewish Men" ("Our Hindu Widows," Aug. 10). In Los Angeles? Hey, come off it. Try North Dakota, which had, in 1939: 255,000 Protestants, 134,000 Roman Catholics, and 1000 Jews. In the whole state, for crying out loud.I was there in 1940, on Thanksgiving Day, in Devil's Lake (Pop. 7,078).
It was hard enough to sell subscriptions to McCall's magazine on any day. But on Thanksgiving? Forget it.
I had walked into the lobby of the Dickey Hotel. It was unoccupied save for one young woman sitting alone.
I approached her. "Say, what is there to do here for entertainment?" I asked. She looked at me sourly. "In the summer," she said, "we fish and we f***. In the winter, we don't fish."
Fast-forward to December 1947. I was newly returned home to Los Angeles. Again it was Sunday. My sister Naomi had a friend from New York staying with us as a houseguest.
They were sitting at the table when I voiced my discontent. My friend Jerry Kahn was with me.
When I voiced my discontent, my sister's friend Sally spoke up.
"Why don't you go to a dance?"
"Who are you going to meet at a dance?" I asked petulantly.
"Why do you have to meet anyone?" Sally asked. "Why don't you just dance and have a good time?"
Jerry and I left the house. "What do you say?" I asked.
"Dance?" he responded. "All you're going to meet there are the dames who missed the boat."
Nevertheless, we went. A dance had just ended. All the dancers left the floor. Save for one lone girl, who stood there, looking toward the bandstand.
I approached, coming up behind her. "My I have the next dance?" I asked.
"Sure," she said, without turning around.
Years later, Helen told me what she had seen when she turned around. A tall, skinny marine whose wrists stuck out of his jacket. And whose glasses were big and round. (I was still wearing my GI-issued, issued by the Army.)
We danced. And it was magic.
Helen was bright and witty. Her first words to me were issued with the trademark Yiddish pronunciation of Mrs. Greenbaum* of the Fred Allen Show.
Less than three months later we married.
I just might send duplicate copies of this letter to our grandchildren: Louis, Elizabeth, Jessica, Jonathan, Yale and Hannah.
*That wasn't her name. My wife can't remember it either.
Paul Gropman
Woodland Hills

You meet too many "beautiful" single Jewish women?
Poppycock. Where would they find the "brilliant" men would want to marry them?
I don't recall ever meeting any "beautiful" Jewish women.
But I have known a considerable number of Jewish men. Most of them were neither handsome nor brilliant.
One of them was Hyman Philip Kahn. He walked up to me and took a position at my side. It was the summer of 1939. I was, and had been, an enrollee if the Civilian Conservation Corps. So was Jerry, the name by which he preferred to be called.
We didn't know each other then. It was his first "hitch" in the CCC. But I was then on my third hitch.
"I was born with two strikes on me," he confided. "I was born Jewish and born poor."
Well, I never encountered any one in the CCC who was born rich. So I crossed off that "strike" against him.
We became friends. After we both got out of the CCC he invited me to come to a party at this house. He lived on Amboy Street in Brooklyn. That was a venue identified with the Jewish Mafia. (Murder, Inc.)
I brought along a somewhat nice looking red-headed girl. In the course of the evening I realized I hadn't see "Red" in a while. I prowled through the apartment. In one room I discovered "Red." She was sprawled across a bed and some fellow was trying to get into her pants.
"Paul," she called out when she saw me. "He's trying to rape me!" I walked across the room, took him by the scruff of the neck and dragged him off her. He skulked away.
Jerry should have added to his complaints that he was also born "unlucky." He complained of pains in one leg. An examination at the Veterans Administration hospital in the Bronx revealed "intermittent claudication."
So, alas, poor Jerry was born unlucky. During the course of surgery, Jerry died. His nephew called to tell me of the tragedy.
I was told that the anesthetist had gone out "for a smoke" in the course of surgery. Imagine that. Poor Jerry was without luck. But not without brains. After his discharge from the CCC, he began to study drama at New York University. To achieve his degree he had to write an original three-act play.
He did. I read it. It wasn't half bad.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
Paul Gropman
Woodland Hills

The Aug. 24 correction to "Day School Teacher Program Seeks to Improve Quality of Instruction," (Aug. 17) on the DeLeT program neglected to note Stephen S. Wise Temple's involvement with the program, as both a training site for program Fellows and a school which has hired DeLeT graduates. We regret the ommission.
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