May 22, 2003
In discussing the ordination of homosexuals, [Rabbi] Debra Orenstein's essay ("Holy Boundaries," April 25) goes to the core of Conservative Judaism. As Orenstein notes, both the biblical and the post-biblical sources (until the late 20th century) are uniformly and very strongly negative about male homosexuality. This approach leaves a fundamental question: In what sense is this new sexual ethic of the Conservative movement "Jewish"?
Avraham Sachs, Los Angeles
New Crop of Rabbis
Thank you for your terrific coverage on the Academy for Jewish Religion's inaugural ordination ("Seminaries Issue New Crop of Rabbis," May 16). Just one correction and one point of clarification. Rabbi Mel Gottlieb is the dean of our rabbinical school not, as stated in the article, the dean of students. In addition, we want to make clear that, like other rabbinical seminaries, a total of 70 course credits, equivalent to five years of full-time study, are required for graduation. Our three outstanding ordinees were able to graduate in three years only because they were advanced placement students, transferring from other programs. Having said that, we appreciate The Journal's well-founded interest in our unique and innovative program, faculty and students.
Rabbi Stan Levy, Chair Board of Governors Academy for Jewish Religion
I would like to commend Gary Wexler for his recent essay illuminating how "too Jewish" really is "not very Jewish" at all ("When Jewish Is Too Jewish," May 9). Having served the Jewish community professionally as a Hillel director and rabbi, I found his insights refreshing, important and daring. I believe this discussion needs to go much, much further if the community hopes to produce religious leaders of national and international import.
Marsha Plafkin, Los Angeles
If Wexler thinks he is making an affirmative statement about himself as a Jew and how Jews should act, I would say he is confused about his values and embarrassed about being a Jew.
Diane Agate, Tarzana
The May 9 issue contained three particularly impressive pieces: Gary Wexler's "When Jewish Is Too Jewish," Steven Spiegel's "'Road Map' Critics Are Off Course" and Reuven Firestone's "'Leasing' of Peace Could Be Best Move." All three questioned established ways of thinking and taught me something.
Between Spiegel and Firestone, we just might get out of the Middle East impasse and enable Israel to play an important role in the community of nations. Listening to Wexler, we can recalibrate the delicate balance between Jewish particularism and universalism, so that being proudly Jewish enables us to contribute beyond ourselves.
Congratulations to The Journal for including a range of well-articulated views on important issues in this, as many other, issues.
Rabbi Susan Laemmle, Dean of Religious Life USC
Steven Spiegel's academic discourse on the "road map," while optimistic, is somewhat naive. The road map is dead on arrival. Even if Mahmoud Abbas has sincere intentions toward peace, as long as [Yasser] Arafat wields control of the Palestinian Authority, its finances and terrorist apparatus, there will be no peace.
Indeed, the chance for peace in Israel will only come about with the defeat of the top purveyor of terror -- Arafat. Spiegel advises the opponents of the road map "Don't let your fears control your minds." I say let reality control the course of action.
Kevin Rice, Los Angeles
Hitler on CBS
Tom Tugend, in reviewing the new TV biopic on Hitler, states that the origins "of Hitler's virulent anti-Semitism continue to baffle the experts.... A definitive answer may never be found" ("Rabbis, Scholars OK CBS 'Hitler' Pic," May 9).
A childhood friend of Hitler says that he was an anti-Semite before he went to Vienna. Most certainly, he was predisposed to see the Orthodox Jews as not just different or even foreign in their "otherness" and separateness, but as evil. This predisposition made him an easy target for the anti-Semitic literature in which he immersed himself.
But in our eagerness to find some abstruse or psychological theory explaining his hatred of Jews, we should not ignore his own explanation of how this evil developed in him. The persistent view of some people as separate "others," can easily lead to viewing them as evil.
Carl Pearlston, Torrance
In the article, "Foundations Try to Stop a Jewish Killer," the Cure FD Foundation was incorrectly referred to as the Familial Dysautonomia Cure or FD Cure foundation. Also, Dysautonomia Foundation Inc. operates on a yearly genetic research budget of $359,500, and its clinical care centers run on an annual budget of $596,078.