Battle on Campus
My compliments to Rob Eshman for ("Lesson Plans," Aug. 23). Israeli hasbara is important, and Eshman rightly questions the current PR campaign directed to college campuses. I share Eshman's respect for students "who come to ask questions and, when confronted by a pressing social issue, to seek answers." Such students will and should not be content with superficial, monolithic answers.
In the end, attempts to marshal Jewish students into a unified phalanx -- under the single, simple banner of "Israel wants peace" -- are unlikely to succeed either with them or their challengers.
Rabbi Susan Laemmle Dean of Religious Life USC
Regarding Mike Levy's article about Israel advocacy on college campuses ("The New Campus Battleground," Aug. 23), I would like to add that among the myriad pro-Israel efforts underway, Los Angeles is particularly fortunate to see an extraordinary level of cooperation between major Jewish communal organizations. A unique coalition of representatives from Anti-Defamation League, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Betar on Campus, Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, College Campus Initiative of the Jewish Federation's Jewish Community Relations Council and the Los Angeles Hillel Council have been meeting on a weekly basis to cooperatively plan, strategize and take action to support pro-Israel campus activities. This collaboration resulted in the first Action Israel Conference held last February.
The conference was so well-received, that the coalition partners immediately began planning for the weekend-long Action Israel 2 in Ojai this October. The Action Israel coalition should be a model for pro-Israel college activism throughout the country.
Steven Mercer Director College Campus Initiative Jewish Community Relations Council
I was thrilled to see The Jewish Journal devote an issue to the rising tide of hatred on American campuses, and glad the community is now able to realize what Jewish students are up against at many campuses. Far too many people minimize the problem.
I was disappointed, however, that StandwithusCAMPUS.com was not listed as an important pro-Israel student resource regarding all the various organizations that are trying to address this problem. Standwithus has new brochures, a new Web site and powerful downloadable flyers that we have developed with students from San Francisco State College, UCLA, Berkeley, etc.
We agree with Rob Eshman's editorial that without the facts, campaigns might possibly lack substance and durability, and ultimately lack impact. That is why we are pressing hard to furnish the college community with important facts that clarify Israel's position.
Allyson Rowen Taylor, Valley Glen
What's needed is not better PR, but a more honest and realistic policy. That's what's being done now, and isn't working. Suppose Jewish students said, "end the occupation" -- the battle for hearts and minds would be over. Is that "surrendering" to Palestinian violence? No. It's simply now recognizing a reality that all parties to the dispute in Israel (except the Sharon government) accept as the outline for a settlement, no matter what they say publicly: Israel must end the occupation, give up the settlements, and there will be a path to peace -- the details to be worked out to the satisfaction of both sides.
Saul Halpert, Studio City
Rabbi Michael Ozair
Many of us were saddened and shocked at the recent disclosure of improprieties concerning a once-influential associate of the Happy Minyan ("Charismatic Rabbi Faces Charges," Aug. 23). Notwithstanding this unfortunate news, I want to express my solidarity and admiration for the good works of this unique outreach congregation in the community. There are many Jewish souls whose only connection to Judaism is through their efforts.
I have had the opportunity to participate, from time to time, both as a Shabbos mispallel and guest speaker, and recognize the positive, spiritually upbeat and authentic Torah environment they are creating. It will be my honor and pleasure to be the Happy Minyan ba'al tokeah for the third consecutive Rosh Hashana.
Rabbi Aaron Parry, Los Angeles
My wife and I read with dismay Wendy Madnick's article about the accusations involving Rabbi Michael Ozair. As long-time supporters, students and friends of Ozair, we have only known him to be an inspiring teacher and a great, loving human being. We are saddened at this recent turn of events, and will be heartsick if he turns out to be guilty of a crime.
But as American Jews, we are outraged by the unfair, guilty-until-proven-innocent slant to the article. Our American legal system teaches presumption of innocence as one of its foundations. And as Jews, the concept of lashon hara holds evil speech to be tantamount to murder. Madnick knitted together a fabric of unproven accusations, alleged "other victims" who weren't pressing charges, innuendo and unrelated or not-necessarily-related events, such as his divorce and his expulsion from Beth Jacob.
It will be next to impossible for Ozair to ever recover his reputation in the community after such an attack. It remains to be seen what, if anything, Ozair is actually guilty of. If he turns out to have done wrong, he will have to pay his debts. But The Journal is guilty, today, of murder, according to Jewish law and tradition. You should take a good hard look at your journalistic policies -- as Americans and, more importantly, as Jews.
Bill Burnett and Debrah Lemattre, Altadena
The Irrelevance of Arab Hatred
If there was ever an award for the most egregious misjudgment in the history of Jewish journalism, then Larry Derfner's piece ("The Irrelevance of Arab Hatred," Aug. 23) would surely be among the leading candidates. His prescription for curing Israel of its Palestinian problem has all the ingredients of coming disaster: A unilateral withdrawal that convinces Israel's enemies not that the Jewish state is seeking peace, but that it can be defeated.
Anyone who does not believe that this is exactly the conclusion Yasser Arafat reached after Israel's hasty and ill-advised flight from Lebanon in May 2000, does not understand the psychological mechanics of the Middle East.
Avi Davis, Westwood
Larry Derfner thinks the only reason Israel has problems with the Palestinians is the presence of Israeli settlers and soldiers on the West Bank, "lording it over them." He is wrong. The goal of the Palestinian Authority is to destroy the state of Israel and eliminate Jews from the Middle East. Yasser Arafat founded the Palestinian Liberation Organization, with the avowed goal of destroying Israel, at a time when there was no occupation; not one Israeli in all Judea, Samaria or Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority has changed its name, but not its goal, its leadership, or its tactics of terrorism. It is the destruction of the Jewish state that Arafat seeks, not an independent state on the West Bank.
After Arafat's final rejection of peace, we now know that any concession made to the Palestinians is just another building block in their stonewall rejection of peace.
Deborah Koken, Costa Mesa
Larry Derfner just doesn't get it. All Arab countries, whether officially in a state of "peace" with Israel or not, need do no battle. They have their point men, the PLO, fixed in place, doing battle for them. This is essentially the way the Arabs have operated since 1920. They've also tried the big Jihad ('48, '56, '67, '73) and they can't win that way, so they've simply fallen back to "Plan A." Israel must relinquish nothing to this proxy army of Arabia, just as America must stand fast against Al-Qaeda, the proxy army of all Islamists.
Yossie Kram, Los Angeles
Larry Derfner's opinion piece is breathtaking in its wisdom. If only the world had been given the benefit of his insight in 1939. An article entitled "The Irrelevance of German anti-Semitism and anti-Slavism" would have prevented those sky-is-falling Jews and Poles and Russians from worrying about the oft-stated Nazi desire to kill or enslave them.
Chaim Sisman, Los Angeles
Jewish 'Life' in Simi
The anonymous writer (Letters, Aug. 23) responding to the article, "Jewish 'Life' Comes to Simi" (Aug. 9), makes an important point: There is and has long been a diverse and vital Jewish population in the area. Demographics also indicate this an area where Jewish families are moving.
We take pride in the fact that this is truly a community effort and feel compelled to correct two misunderstandings: "I hope the B'nai Emet people find a way to include Chabad..."
First, The Jewish Life Center is a separate entity from Congregation B'nai Emet. B'nai Emet is donating land that will be the site of The Jewish Life Center. The sad fact is that in an area with over 8,000 Jews, there is no permanent home or Jewish Center to serve the community: Congregation B'nai Emet leases space in an industrial park and Chabad operates from a modest storefront. Our board is representative of the entire community and includes people such as Margy Rosenbluth, immediate Past President of The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance; Arnold Saltzman of Mt. Sinai Memorial Parks & Mortuary,; and Glen Becerra, the mayor pro tem of Simi Valley.
Second, we have made efforts to include Chabad, discussing with its Simi Valley rabbi such things as creating a Jewish library and designing a kosher kitchen suitable for Chabad functions.
Those of us involved in The Jewish Life Center wish to create a warm, welcoming home where all can gather to share our traditions, culture and values.
Nancy Beezy Micon Chair of the Board
Mark Friedman Chief Financial Officer
The Jewish Life Center of Simi Valley
The 'Contemporary' Bar Mitzvah
Thank you for the return of Jane Ulman. Reading her column on Jeremy's Bar Mitzvah was like turning on a 500-watt light in a darkened room ("The 'Contemporary' Bar Mitzvah," Aug. 9). The column brightened the whole paper, and it certainly had to tug at every parent or grandparent who has suffered and kvelled at a bar or bat mitzvah. When Ulman came back, she came back with a world class piece.
Elvan L. Spilka, Des Moines, Iowa
Ventura County Jewish Festival
The recent second annual Ventura County Jewish Festival was a great event in a county with a quickly growing Jewish population. Too bad that part of the region snubbed the event altogether.
Thousand Oaks, which is clearly in Ventura County even though it orients itself toward the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, failed to be represented by any congregations or organizations. Simi Valley is further east, but its congregation set up a booth, as did organizations from Los Angeles, including The Jewish Journal. Considering that the festival was held at the new CSUCI campus adjacent to Camarillo, a city that borders Thousand Oaks, these no-shows are sad.
Ventura County is full of Jewish newcomers, Jewish residents who travel into Los Angeles and Jews unaffiliated with the existing congregations. The entire Conejo Valley missed a stellar opportunity to reach out to potential members, many of whom do not think life ends at the Conejo Grade.
Steve Greenberg, Camarillo
Born in East L.A.
Thanks for the fine article about my old neighborhood, one I am so proud to have been a part of ("Born in East L.A., Aug. 2).
However, the paragraph dealing with service in the military during World War II needs clarification. The article states "36 Boyle Heights youths served in the military." The "36" were probably members of only the Saxons. Several hundred, (over 75 percent) of the Boyle Heights and City Terrace Jewish boys served in the military in all parts of the world during the war, many of them enlistees and many decorated for their action in service. We shouldn't overlook the service in the war of hundreds of our classmates from the Mexican, Japanese and all the other ethnic groups that made up Roosevelt High, probably the most diverse school in Los Angeles at that time.
An interesting side note are the number of couples in the group in which the husband and wife are both graduates of Roosevelt High.
Those of us who were not Saxons are indebted to Hershey Eisenberg and Gene Resnikoff and their committee for providing us the opportunity to gather and share our lives and remembrances of those wonderful days in the "heights."
Gershon L. Lewis Former Mayor Monterey Park