April 24, 2003
Women Suffer Blow
I write to express my hurt and outrage at your recent article, "Women Suffer Blow on Praying at the Wall," (April 11). To which women, exactly, are you referring? Surely not the thousands of women, secular as well as religious, who come year round to pour their hearts out to the Almighty at all hours of the day and night.
I have never been to the Kotel without being overcome by emotion -- partly because I am praying in a spot so drenched in sanctity, but also, invariably, because of the sight of my fellow daveners. No matter what time of day or what season of the year at the Kotel, any Jewish woman can experience a sublime connection to our foremothers -- we watch all around us the devotion of living embodiments of our Mother Rachel, weeping for her children. These are the real Women of the Wall, and they come to worship and beseech God's mercy every day, not once a month with fanfare and advance press releases.
Nowhere in your article do I sense any concern for the sensitivities of these women who are hurt and offended by the strident, politically based activities of Women of the Wall, which disturb their prayers and marginalize their devotion to the peace and holiness of the site. Please, the next time you choose to address this issue, take into consideration the feelings of the real Women of the Wall.
Shana Kramer, Director Creative Learning Pavilion of Torah Umesorah Los Angeles
Rome and Baghdad
Reuven Firestone's article on Islam modernization through defeat oversimplifies the issue. Islam did lose many wars, and its confidence was shaken ("Rome and Baghdad," April 11). The losses to the Turks and Mongols were the greatest of such disasters. These did not just fade the caliphate away, but brutally overwhelmed it in worse ways than the American victory over Baghdad. That which Firestone claims did not happen happened.
The reason why a "softer Islam" did not emerge after such debacles is because the invading hordes took up the religion and even infused it with new fervor. Islam did soften somewhat during various periods in history, and often when its confidence had been high for centuries.
It was the defeats, upheavals and ease of interpreting the Koran in belligerent ways that seems to have always led to a new wave of fundamentalist Islam. Professor Firestone generously praises the value of humble pie to Islam, but his historical analysis of cause and effect in this case entitle him to a slice.
Andrei L. Doran, El Segundo
A Letter of Thanks
This is a note of a sincere, warm "Thank you."
We are residents in a retirement facility, which has a number of Jewish residents. Receiving The Jewish Journal each week keeps us in touch with what's happening locally and internationally within the Jewish communities. While physical conditions don't permit being active anymore, as we once were, just reading and seeing photos as to what is going on helps keep our interest "upbeat."
To enjoy all of this and not say, "Thank you," would be remiss on my part. My wife and I wish you and your entire, so capable staff a very happy Passover holiday.
Jack and Cecily Flamer, Chatsworth
The War at Home
Just wanted to let Rob Eshman know that he wrote a great article on "The War at Home" (April 18). Three-hundred and fifty people killed in one year in Los Angeles alone? It is amazing how many problems go unreported by the major news media.
Thanks for reporting on the extremely high murder rate here in Los Angeles, which has been invisible by the major news media. Your article helps create the first step -- awareness. Hopefully, enough people read it.
What's the next step? Your suggestion for individuals -- community leaders and anyone who is willing to make contact with L.A. leaders -- was that speaking out is key. I hope your message is heard.
Mike Cohen , Sherman Oaks
Between 1997 and 2001, a total of 5,960 Los Angeles County residents were killed by guns. Where is the outrage? "The War at Home" echoes a message we at Women Against Gun Violence try hard to share.
Those who protest the war in Iraq need also to turn their energies to protesting this war at home. Support Sheriff Baca and Chief Bratton's request for resources.
Ask them, and all law enforcement, to focus their attention on where the guns are coming from. How do they so easily get into the hands of young people and those with criminal records? Are there enough resources in programs which trace confiscated guns to help identify gun dealers who sell out the back door? Do legal gun owners lock up their guns so that they cannot be stolen?
By all means send support to the sheriff, and for more information and ways to get involved, contact us at email@example.com, or phone (310) 204-2348 and check out our memorial Web site, with pictures and tributes to victims of gun violence, at www.wagv.org . Those stories should be enough to help you feel the outrage.
Ann Reiss Lane, Women Against Gun Violence
The Challenge of Pluralism
In Julie Gruenbaum Fax's piece, "The Challenge of Pluralism in Israel" (April 11), Ehud Bandel is quoted as saying, "The sad reality about religious life in Israel is this unholy alliance between the Orthodox and the secular that says that Judaism is a matter of everything or nothing at all."
While I agree entirely that Jews are best searching for spirituality "at home," I find it difficult to understand how Bandel sees Orthodoxy as monolithic or "everything or nothing." It is clear that no Jew, no matter how righteous or pious, is "all"; no one has reached perfection. Even Moses was denied entry to the Holy Land for his lack of perfection.
Judaism teaches that each and every adherent should strive to the best of his or her ability and to make the greatest possible use of the unique gifts that God has bestowed upon him or her. An Israeli Jew can go to a Sephardi, Azhkenazi, Charedi or Mizrachi community to find like-minded strivers and together create a better Israel, and a better Jewish people.
Manny Saltiel, Los Angeles
Birthright Continues Birthright Israel
I was excited to read the features on Birthright Israel in your April 4 issue ("Birthright Continues Despite Setbacks"). As an alumna of the winter 2000-2001 trip, the articles brought back wonderful memories. Birthright Israel provided me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Israel (free of charge) with people my age, all experiencing the same wonder and excitement together.
I went on my trip with peers from all over the United States, but when I returned, I was anxious to meet people locally that had shared in my experience. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is helping to make this possible. The Federation is currently planning ways for Birthright Israel alums to stay involved and connected through social gatherings, and give back to the community through tzedakah and tikkun olam.
When you hear about the generous financial support The Federation provides for these trips and others like them, you think "Dayenu." But it's when you really begin to take advantage of these programs that give you an opportunity to be part of a community, you realize The Federation is doing much, much more.
I hope people will call The Federation's Israel connections/experiences department at (323) 761-8342 to learn more and get involved.
Kimberly Gordon , Birthright Israel alumna
Helluva Ball Club
I had no idea that baseball Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg was also an outstanding executive in his chosen sport until I read Richard A. Macales' informative and entertaining article, "Helluva Ball Club." (April 4). Greenberg's work in the front office was sadly omitted from the acclaimed documentary film on his life The Journal reviewed some time back.
After I read Macales's article, I checked the record of Greenberg's Cleveland and Chicago teams. In 10 years as general manager and/or part owner, his clubs finished first three times and second five times. They never had a losing season and won a then-league record 111 games in 1954.
His son, Steve Greenberg, was deputy commissioner of baseball. It is too bad, as Macales correctly writes, that Greenberg didn't get the Angels franchise. The Dodgers should have never moved out of Brooklyn. Shame on you for what you did to Brooklyn's loyal fans and to the Angels team, Walter O'Malley!
Dr. Melvin Myers, Chatsworth
Your cover story referring to "The American Empire" ("War Marks Defining Moment for Jews," April 4) was highly inappropriate. An empire as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is "a major political unit having a territory of great extent or a number of territories or peoples under a single sovereign authority."
Has The Jewish Journal now joined the Arab propaganda machine (along with some naive members of the political left wing) in suggesting that the United States plans permanent sovereign rule over the Iraqi people?
I could not have imagined a more inflammatory cover page feeding into the misplaced rage of those who really wish to hurt us all. What's next? Perhaps a cover story with an expose detailing the Zionist conspiracy behind the empire?
Edith Ellenhorn , Beverly Hills
Your choice of headlines, "Will the American Empire Be Good for the Jews," on the April 4 issue disturbs me. Without question, I want what is best for the Jews throughout the world, but to put it on the front cover in reference to this war and show concern only for the Jews is wrong. What about Christians and Muslims, will it be good for them? I am fearful that this type of headline will only bring out more anti-Semitism.
Phoebe Reff , Tarzana
In the Friday listing for the April 4, "7 Days in the Arts," the "Strange Fruit" songwriter adopted the sons of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.