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Jewish Journal

Your Letters

July 5, 2001 | 8:00 pm

Rabbis' Wives

After 56 years of being a rabbi's wife, thanks to The Journal ("Rabbis' Wives," June 22) I now discover I am obsolete. I resent the implication that the old-fashioned rebbetzin is someone to disparage. Although I have never been a paid professional Jewish educator, I have instructed and inspired a host of men and women, many of whom went on to become rabbis, cantors and lay leaders.

I was the West Coast founder of the Women's League Torah Fund, which in the last 53 years has raised millions of dollars for the University of Judaism (UJ) and the Jewish Theological Seminary.

I also worked side by side with my husband, Rabbi Jacob Pressman, in founding such institutions as the UJ, Los Angeles Hebrew High School, Akiba and Pressman academies, and Camp Ramah.

I never felt I was slaving for my husband or the congregation without pay. On the contrary, I have been able to express myself and develop a wide range of interests. Throughout, I have enjoyed myself and in the process made many wonderful friends. Please do not put me, and others like me, out to pasture.

Marjorie Pressman, Beverly Hills


I thoroughly enjoyed your article. The women you wrote about are all deserving of recognition. However, I was disappointed that there was no mention of Tova Dershowitz, wife of Rabbi Emeritus Zvi Dershowitz of Sinai Temple.

Tova is a perfect role model of a rebbetzin. While raising four children and working full time, Tova was always available to members of the congregation and the community.

She taught many classes for the sisterhood and chaired numerous events. Since her retirement, she is busier than ever. Tova is a member of the board of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and was recently honored by the Women's Division for her outstanding service.

I hope that you will feature more rabbis' wives in future articles and allow your readership to learn about Tova Dershowitz, a true rebbetzin and a total mensch.

Judy Galperson, Past President Sinai Temple


JCC Reforms

As a past president of Valley Cities JCC, I don't share Lee Smith's enthusiasm that the decision by his board to "reinvigorate" center services was "ground-breaking" ("JCC Board Approves Major Reforms," June 22). As I see it, the only ground broken was on the symbolic grave in which they are burying the Jewish Community Centers (JCC), as we once knew them.

While I don't profess to be an expert on the changing demographics of the Jewish community around each of the local centers in Los Angeles, I can't believe that there aren't Jewish kids in need of after-school care in the Hollywood-Los Feliz area or seniors in need of services and programming in the East Valley.

Count me among those who decry the piece-by-piece dismantling of the JCCs we worked so hard to build.

Art Verity, Van Nuys


Special Education

As a special-education adviser in LAUSD and a former member of the special-education committee for the Bureau of Jewish Education, I read your article ("Drastic Rule Change," June 29) with mixed feelings.

I personally feel that all students should be provided a "free and appropriate education" in the school of their choice, but the reality is that LAUSD's special-education budget was cut by over $40 million for the upcoming school year. It is no longer feasible to provide private-school students with special services. Please note that other districts in this area have not given such services for several years.

I would also like to remind the public that IDEA, the special- education law, was supposed to be funded as soon as there was a budget surplus. Instead, the current Republican administration voted to give a tax cut. I will personally volunteer to return my $300 if Congress will fund IDEA; then LAUSD can afford to continue services to all students.

LAUSD provides the best services to the special-education students currently enrolled. Perhaps the Hill family should give the district another try.

Maralyn Soifer, Special Education Adviser LAUSD


Iranian Community

It is heartwarming to see not one but three articles covering the Iranian American Jewish community. We appreciate this attention and hope for further coverage of this active and productive segment of the larger Jewish community.

Please note that in Tom Tugend's article ("Iranian Community Honors Katsav," June 15), the Council of Iranian American Jewish Organizations' complaint was not merely whether our name was mentioned in the official invitation for President Katsav or not. Indeed, it had to do with a much more principled issue.

Katsav is not only a source of immense pride for Iranian Jews but is also a symbol of unity. His historic visit should have been an all-inclusive affair, not in words and invitation cards, but in action.

As for our part, we kept this affair completely beyond internal partisan matters and acted accordingly.

George Haroonian, President Council of Iranian American Jewish Organizations


Stanley Mosk

Had Stanley Mosk been more political, his numerous qualifications made him an ideal candidate for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he would have served with great distinction in the tradition of Louis D. Brandeis, Benjamin N. Cardozo and Felix Frankfurter ("The Mosk Seat," June 29). If not that, I believe he would have made an outstanding commissioner for Major League Baseball.

Mosk was the visionary and champion of civil and human rights like no other within the California judiciary. And he did it by always demonstrating a level of "elegant civility" that shall remain the standard for all to strive to emulate.

Sid Skolnik, West Hollywood


Yitzhak Frankenthal

Mazal tov to Rob Eshman for again highlighting the vitally important work of Yitzhak Frankenthal, truly one of Israel's unsung heroes ("Hard Talk," June 29).

Leaders of the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) had the honor of meeting with Frankenthal during one of his recent visits to Los Angeles on behalf of Parents' Circle. We continue to be moved and inspired by his example. In fact, Frankenthal's comments regarding the importance of continued dialogue between Arab and Jewish leaders here in Los Angeles -- "Go the opposite way. Don't let Hamas win. You need to fight against terrorism and talk. That's what Rabin said." -- are exactly what motivate PJA to talk with members of the Arab and Muslim communities, even when we disagree vigorously with them. The task of engaging in such a dialogue during these difficult days is certainly harder, but it is all the more important.

Daniel Sokatch, Executive Director, Progressive Jewish Alliance


Camryn Manheim

I find your selection of Camryn Manheim as a "super role model" reprehensible ("Redefining Beauty," June 22). Manheim's achievements as an actress and social activist notwithstanding, her decision to bear a child out of wedlock, depriving him of a real father and family life is tantamount to psychological child abuse and certainly not worthy of being heralded as a role model.

What message are we sending our Jewish children? Are fame and celebrity more important than family values? Yes, "big girls" deserve basic respect and rights. But what about innocent children?

Also, in regard to Manheim's being touted as a role model for overweight people, nowhere in the article was there any mention of the serious effects of gross obesity on a person's health, nor is there any mention of Manheim attempting to pursue a good old-fashioned diet (such as Weight Watchers) and exercise.

Name withheld by request


Gina Nahai

I always read with great interest Gina Nahai's occasional pieces -- enjoying their vivid descriptions, artful composition, and thoughtful reflections. Thank you for publishing them. The latest one ("Age of Restoration," June 22) was a true delight, as usual.

David E. S. Stein, Redondo Beach

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