March 13, 2003
Jews in Crisis IV
Congratulations to Rob Eshman on his excellent editorial on Ethiopian Jews ("Jews in Crisis IV," March 7). Most impressive was his decision to present it as part of his important series on Jews in Crisis.
Too often, those of us who care about this ancient and Zionist community are told that the major Jewish organizations have allocated all their current aid funds to Jewish communities in need and have nothing "left over" for the Ethiopians. But as his editorial makes clear, the Ethiopians are among the Jewish communities that need our help and must be treated as the equivalent of those Jews suffering elsewhere in the world.
It is my pleasure to tell you that the "anonymous" donor who so generously funds not only the AIDS awareness program in Ethiopia (to Jews and non-Jews alike) but also provides nutritious twice-a-day meals for Jewish children under the age of 6 and pregnant and nursing Jewish mothers is the Lloyd E. Rigler-Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation of Los Angeles. Lloyd Rigler, who directs the foundation, is literally saving the lives of thousands of future citizens of Israel.
Middie and Richard Giesberg, Los Angeles
Last year, I visited the community in question and was tremendously moved by what I saw. It is impossible to imagine a Jewish population more devoted to their religion, more eager to make aliyah and more ready to serve Israel in any way possible. It is also impossible to fully understand the misery in which they live and hunger they endure unless you have actually visited their hovels.
I am proud of the role Los Angeles and other California communities have played in bringing the plight of the Jews still in Ethiopia to the attention of American Jews -- and of the help that has been coming to them via The North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry from our area.
It is certainly time to bring them all home to Israel and to greatly enhance the aid going to them in Ethiopia. My heartiest thanks to Rob Eshman and The Jewish Journal for shedding much-needed light on this important, and often neglected, Jewish cause.
Gail Carp, Mission Viejo
Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid's column on campus activism ("The Need for Campus Activism," Feb. 14) makes it abundantly clear that there are two divergent strategies regarding Israel advocacy -- both of which attempt to promote Israel's interests.
One views advocacy as a fight against the enemy, the other as an educational process. One advocates by claiming that Israel is always right and that those who criticize Israel are anti-Semites; the other advocates by teaching that as a democratic state, Israel sometimes makes mistakes, and that engagement with and support for Israel means the pursuit of justice and peace for both Jews and Palestinians.
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, Director Hillel at UCLA
Memories of Iraq
Joel Kotkin's interpretation of Jews' status in Arab Muslim countries as livable and even enjoyable, based solely on the accounts of one Iraqi-born Jew who longs for his native community, is an unfortunate slap in the face to the rest of the Jews of the Near East who endured hardships and pogroms under Muslim rule ("Memories of Iraq," Feb. 28).
While Kotkin is correct in pointing out Jews' status in the Near East as dhimmis (non-Muslims), he fails to elaborate on random acts of violence against Jews, like the infamous Damascus Blood Libel of 1840, or that in some Muslim countries Jews were forced to wear patches on their clothing to indicate their Jewishness (sound familiar?), or that many Jews, the Jews of Yemen for instance, lived in abject poverty, social outcasts of their countries.
Indeed, for every Naji Harkham, there exist many other Jews from Iraq and other Muslim nations who felt very much a part of the "marginal, oft-victimized community of shtetl lore."
Nir Dayanoff, Los Angeles
Romance in the Negev
I don't know whether to laugh or to cry in response to Loolwa Khazzom's column ("Romance in the Negev," March 7), in which she boasts of her affair with an Arab Muslim gas station attendant. I think The Jewish Journal should be ashamed to publish such an article, as by doing so it is an accessory to the self-destruction of the Jewish people.
Name withheld by request, Valley Village