Rabbi David Wolpe ("Spiritual Agoraphobia," Nov. 15) pounces on a carefully posed straw man by characterizing Orthodox leaders' objections to two recent books as rejections of the Talmud's dictum "there is wisdom among the nations [of the world]."
It was not, however, wisdom that evoked the criticism of the books, but rather dangerous misinformation. The books included attributions to Judaism of ideas that are utterly foreign to, and irreconcilable with, our faith. Maimonides, with whose works Wolpe demonstrates familiarity, was quite explicit about the dangers inherent in precisely the sort of ideas that the books included.
There is, unfortunately, no dearth of distortion and misinformation in the Jewish literary marketplace -- or even, sadly, in the pulpits of Jewish congregations. Rabbis, as teachers, have the responsibility to draw lines between explications of Judaism that are authentic and those that are not. "I'm right, you're right" is simply not a valid approach to Judaism, and hardly what we ought to expect from rabbis.
The true rabbinical leaders of our generation are neither burning books nor rejecting wisdom, but rather unabashedly standing up for -- and teaching all us Jews -- the truth of our spiritual heritage.
Rabbi Avi Shafran Director of Public Affairs Agudath Israel of America
Battle for Jewish Souls
If the Jewish community put some resources into reaching out to the entire Jewish community -- affiliated or not -- and embracing them, then threats such as Jews for Jesus would vanish overnight ("The Battle for Jewish Souls," Nov. 15).
If Jews for Jesus can locate Jews who are so ignorant of their religion they could accept a doctrine that is totally alien and anti-Jewish, then why can't the organized Jewish community find these same people and preemptively do the same in the name of true Judaism?
My only question is, when Jews for Judaism does its job, and the "Behold Your God" campaign moves on, will the Jewish community once again forget those Jews that almost went over to the other side?
Harvey Farr. Los Angeles
With the worldwide campaign currently under way to discredit, disgrace and humiliate Jews, why is it that a Jewish publication is compelled to put the Jews for Jesus program on its front cover?
This organization, as their own agenda claims, is not about Judaism, but all about Christianity. They run their operations through deception and lies. You should be ashamed of yourselves for acting as the public relations arm of this despicable organization -- giving them free advertising to tens of thousands of Jews.
Robert Kershberg, Los Angeles
We Want You!
Shalom from Israel! Thanks to your article by Mike Levy on May 3, 2002 about Jomie Garelick ("We Want You!, May 3), I am now in Israel on the Sar-El program. It's a satisfying adventure beyond belief. To be able to lend a hand to these young Israel Defense Force Jewish warriors is very fulfilling.
Robert Clarke, Pacific Palisades
Jewish War Vets
I would like it to be known that the reality of my statement regarding Jews in combat was that I spent too much time experiencing WWII to make an insensitive comment that Jews were not on the front lines ("Jewish War Vets Remember," Nov. 8). I removed the dog tags off many of my fallen buddies who never came home. Some of them were imprinted with the word "HEBREW." Yes, I am proud to say that I am a Jewish war veteran. Yes, I am proud to say that I fought along with many other Jews on the front lines.
If this episode has embarrassed any Jewish War Veterans of the United Stares (JWV) member in any way, I wish to state emphatically that what I recall saying to the reporter and what was printed are two completely different views. I hope in some way that the above article has not diminished the commitment and overall good that the JWV brings to our sick and disabled vets in hospitals all over the United States.
Joseph M. Ellis, Woodland Hills
Today, I buried my best friend, my brother, Irving David Rubin. Most of you knew of Irv only through the eyes of the press. And if that is true you really did not know him. Irv was a kind, compassionate Jewish warrior. Irv stood up to bullies, protected the weak, the elderly and was a very patriotic American. Irv battled Nazis, the KKK and racist bigots of all types. Irv protected not only Jews, but African Americans, Hispanic Americans and others who were victims of racism. Irv never gathered a committee to find out the causes of bigotry, nor did he believe in writing petitions to stop the same. Instead, he put himself in harms way to defend those in need.
Irv was the one person we could always call upon when the chips were down and no one else would help. I know there are thousands of you who benefited from Irv's generosity. I ask you to repay Irv's altruism by contributing to charities in Irv's name; especially those in the Jewish community that help the elderly and the poor. Learn self-defense and ask your synagogue to teach more Jewish self-reliance. It is not un-Jewish to defend one's self (look at Israel). This will truly honor the heroic stature of Irv Rubin.
I am proud to have been Irv's friend for 32 years and pray that you will continue the ahavat Yisrael (love of the Jewish people) that Irv so freely gave.
Dr. Leland S. Shapiro. Simi Valley
As a corrections professional with more than 30 years experience, I must come forward and proclaim that the "facts" in the official version of Irv Rubin's death do not add up. Irv was politically incorrect, controversial and, indeed, used methods that made most of us uncomfortable, but the bottom line is he was a brother Jew who at least deserves that the truth surrounding his death be known. We owe at least that much to his widow and children.
Jerry Cutler, North Hollywood
I was pleased to see the article in about Jewish life at UCLA with programs such as JAM and TLC ("Orthodox Pursuit," Nov. 15). I think it's great that Orthodox students, such as myself who did not go to New York or Israel, have a place to go for that dose of Judaism in our lives.
I go to USC and the Jewish life here is really growing, too. The Chabad came to USC about two years ago and they have provided a home away from home for many Jewish students of any denomination. I don't know what I would do without them being a support system. The Hillel is also doing great and getting more members each year.
Rivka Katz, Los Angeles
The Wedding Singer
I was thrilled to find my beloved grandson's wedding mentioned in a great article by Michael Aushenker ("Behind the Music: The Wedding Singer," Nov. 8). There were a few omissions. My greatly loved new granddaughter, Daphna Shozland, is a doctor, and my grandson, Dr. David Hollander, is in his second year to get certified as an ophthalmologist, not an optometrist. On another subject, I find your magazine an excellent publication.
David Lerner, Valley Village
In the Up Front, "Mom, Can We Keep Him?" (Nov. 8), the Web site for Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land is www.safehaven4donkeys.org.
In the article, "An Eye for Modernism" (Nov. 15), the person that Julius Shulman snapped photos of Googies Coffee Shop for was Douglas Haskell, editor of Architectural Forum.
A New Home for Hillel
In addition to UCLA, of Los Angeles Hillel Council's 18 campuses only UCSB has built a new facility in the past 15 years ("A New Home for Hillel," Nov. 15). The number of participating UCSB students has grown exponentially since the building opened its doors one and a half years ago. While both CSUN and USC have vital, active Hillels, neither campus has a new facility. USC Hillel is currently reviewing its needs in anticipation of planning for a new building. CSUN Hillel alumni will host a gala mortgage-burning celebration in February 2003. Alumni of UCLA, USC, UCSB and CSUN are invited to visit their campus Hillels, meet terrific student leaders and get involved in the exciting Jewish renaissance.
John D. Hanover President Tobi Inlender Executive Director Los Angeles Hillel Council
Horseman Without a Horse
I am outraged, but not surprised, by the Egyptian government's decision to air the television series "Horseman Without a Horse," and in effect, use its state-controlled media to indoctrinate its own people and inflame the Arab and Islamic world with hateful anti-Semitic propaganda ("Variety Comes Down on Egyptian Television," Nov. 15).
Sadly, this is just the latest example of Egypt, under Hosni Mubarak, betraying the late Anwar el-Sadat's 1979 commitment to Middle East peace by promoting hatred for Jews and Israel in its media. Other recent examples include pieces in Egypt's state-controlled press promoting the blood libel against Jews and praising Hitler for the Holocaust.
Stephen A. Silver, Concord
Whatever can be said about Irv, it should be noted that he was a man of great conviction, a man of passion, with a love of Israel, of Judaism, of Jews. An advocate for the free and open expression of Jewish life has passed. May he rest in peace, and may his children walk freely as Jews, wherever they may live.
Alyse Golden Berkley, Encino
I am certain that Jews for Jesus appreciated greatly your publicity and reprint of their religious beliefs. I would like to have learned from the article how to respond to such a threat, how to protect my children and my loved ones from such deception. How to immunize my community when they come to my city, Baltimore, which is also on their "hit list." I want to know how I can stop them.
Shoshana Miriam, Baltimore, Md.