February 20, 2003
The Bottom Line
It is remarkable that in a community that raised over $42 million for the United Jewish Fund (UJF) last year, Marc Ballon could not find any of The Federation's 30,000 supporters who applaud The Federation for its outstanding efforts ("Pumping Up the Bottom Line" Feb. 14). The community gives because it believes that Federation's support of services to the needy and of efforts to build a stronger community make a difference in the quality of Jewish life here and abroad. Over the past decade we have raised and expended over $500 million in cash for communal purposes, a tremendous reflection of the relevance of our cause and an amount that dwarfs the amounts raised by any other Los Angeles Jewish organization. It would be refreshing to stop seeing editorial comment masked as news.
The Los Angeles Jewish community, the second largest in the United States, is a complex, dynamic, fragmented and often disconnected Jewish population. It is not, nor will it ever be a "community" in the traditional sense of a Detroit, Boston, Chicago or Cleveland. Comparisons of Los Angeles to Boston or Detroit, although provocative, reflect a stunning lack of context, knowledge or sophistication. We seek not a clone of these Jewish communities, but a stronger L.A. Federation and Jewish community.
With that goal in mind, The Federation is involved in supporting essential, as well as cutting-edge, programming taking place in many areas, including Jewish identity and human services, both here and in Israel. We are expanding our partnership with the local synagogues beyond present initiatives. And we are reaching more young leaders than ever before. While you report criticism of the L.A. Federation as a "fundraising machine," you fail to make the connection to the great things that Federation is constantly making happen, from the Conejo Valley to the South Bay and beyond.
The glass is half full, not half empty as you imply.
Perhaps, in an effort to emphasize the positive in our community, The Journal might review its own mandate and determine if a more positive tone about all the good things being done by The Federation might have a salutary effect on strengthening Los Angeles Jewish life and support for the UJF. I, for one, would be delighted to see the paper create "value added" to the community-building role with which The Federation is charged. I believe you have that responsibility.
John R. Fishel, President The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
Love After Marriage?
We have been besherts from day one and believe it is a permanent life-long condition ("Is There Love After Marriage?" Feb. 14). If it changes, you were never really beshert.
We love the sight of each other, phone calls from each other and relish the achievements of one another. Besherts care more about each other than they do about themselves and never have to work at a marriage; love is not work. Making someone happy is sheer pleasure.
Sharon and Roger Werbel, Monterey Park
A Single Problem
Amy Klein's editorial plea for validation of permanent single status by the Jewish community ("A Single Problem," Feb. 14) does not answer a number of questions that naturally emerge: First of all, why is there the Jewish bias against singleness that she admits does indeed exist?
The Jewish tradition accepts the legitimacy of sexual craving and promotes its expression through marriage. This is not true of other religious traditions. Thus, a long-term single person is either abstaining from sexual activity, or engaging in some form of sexual activity that does not involve a traditional marital partnership.
To advocate the validation of the permanent single state implies a validation of the sexual aspects of this kind of existence. The Jewish tradition still does not validate a permanent condition of singleness, so The Jewish Journal should either openly contest this aspect of the tradition or not discuss the topic at all.
Larry Selk, Los Angeles
Including JDate alongside other Jewish online dating sites as "only serving the need of the singles community" overlooks the contribution of JDate's Giving Back campaign. Amy Klein's article addresses the need for singles to get involved in "something more than finding a husband." JDate recognizes the strength of its more than 500,000 members to help strengthen the Jewish community. JDate regularly recruits volunteers for nonprofit organizations across the country in order create an environment for our members to possibly find their beshert, while at the same time making a valuable contribution to their community.
We welcome everyone to visit the Giving Back channel at www.JDate.com in order to suggest community projects and nonprofit organizations in need of group volunteer support.
Alon Carmel, Founder JDate.com
Sinai Temple Ad
While I am certainly not against artistic expression, I found your allowance of a full-page ad for a temple, with the picture of a woman's breast as part of the advertisement for a temple to be abhorrent (Feb. 14).
What's next? Will The Jewish Journal allow an ad with an artistic photograph of a male's genitalia with the caption reading: "Come join the other 'members' of our temple."?
Joseph Schames, Los Angeles
I agree with at least one thing that Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid write in "The Need for Campus Activism" (Feb. 14). First, campus leaders need to be on the front lines encouraging efforts to better inform students. That is what many of us who operate on college campuses have been trying to do for the entirety of our careers. What is of little help in this regard is the kind of propaganda put out by groups like StandWithUs. From the StandWithUs brochure I found on my seat at Rosh Hashana, I learned, among other things, that Jews are defenseless in the face of hostile neighbors.
Israel is the fulfillment of the vision of late 19th-century Zionists like Theodor Herzl, who dreamed of transforming the dispersed Jewish people into a unified nation-state. To depict Israel as anything less than a powerhouse is to do violence both to the historical record and present-day realities.
If this is the kind of balanced and informed perspective that Rothstein and Seid would like to bestow upon college students, I would suggest that they leave education to the educators.
David N. Myers, Professor and Vice Chair UCLA History Department Los Angeles
Many words and eulogies have been written in response to the tragic loss of the seven astronauts on the space shuttle Columbia, including Israeli Col. Ilan Ramon (Cover Story, Feb. 7). During a televised conversation with Ariel Sharon from space, Ramon said, "I call upon every Jew in the world to plant a tree in the land of Israel during the coming year."
While we mourn and grieve with their families, planting a tree is a gesture that will bring enduring beauty and benefits to Israel, as we reflect with pride and deep appreciation at their outstanding accomplishments.
Allan M. Levine, Valley Village
The Jewish community of Los Angeles has some serious soul-searching to do. I say this, because this past Saturday night my synagogue was privileged to host one of the most inspirational and moving events I have ever witnessed here in Los Angeles (see story p. 18). Thanks to the creativity and hard work of Koby Oshrat, Israel's consul for cultural affairs, nearly 1,000 people saw members of three faiths gather together to pay tribute to the crew of the Columbia space shuttle. The program included rabbis and ministers, Israeli and African American choirs, cantors and Indian musicians, NASA astronauts and local politicians, Jewish leaders and Israeli diplomats, all under one roof, sharing one stage, with one unified purpose. We laughed, cried, sang and prayed together.
So, why the soul-searching? Because a program of this nature should have never been able to fit in my synagogue, or in any other synagogue. In a community of close to 600,000 Jews, the Staples Center should not have been large enough to house such an apolitical, unifying evening. Or is it just that this got in the way of all those important Valentine's Day parties?
Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel Los Angeles
Jews and Saddam
Dr. Rafael Medoff's article "American Jews and Saddam: A Lesson From the 1930s?" (Feb. 14) was perceptive to the point of being frightening. The parallels of our present situation and the 1930s are even more striking than Medoff suggests. The World War I experience left people scarred, cynical, isolationist, anti-military and even willing to flirt with evil ideologies such as Stalinism. Unfortunately, the Vietnam experience has also left us scarred, bitter, anti-military and reluctant to take on the monsters of the 21st century.
The attack on Pearl Harbor found us woefully unprepared to take on the military challenges facing us. The most rapid and massive mobilization of personnel and equipment in history plus a major change in attitude came almost too late. Perhaps, hoping against hope, we have learned something from history.
Rabbi Louis J. Feldman, Van Nuys
In "Army of Friends" (Circuit, Feb. 14) the caption should have read: (From left) Richard and Daphna Ziman, and Selma and Army Archerd.