July 24, 2003
As a Milken [Community High School] senior, I had several qualms with your article ("When Bad Things Happen to Good Institutions," July 11).
This article was not newsworthy. It dealt with issues that passed, were dealt with properly and need to be put in the past.
These "scandals" dealt with minors who face the harsh repercussions of their actions. By rehashing these issues, you do not resolve the problem but create pain.
Your newspaper must deal with compelling communal issues, not issues that open wounds and make vague references to the "serious issues, such as snobbery, cliques and harmful pranks."
The concept of teshuvah [repentance] may never be achieved if we continue to recount painful stories based on erred judgment. The Jewish community must encourage young adults to repent for what they have done, not recount the tragic details.
At Milken, we value students' integrity above their entertainment value. We need to be reminded that in sensitive situations, students must be treated with dignity and be given the opportunity to change.
Miri Cypers, Encino
Myth of Uniformity
Your "culture of welcoming" column highlighted one of our more aggravated situations ("Myth of Uniformity," July 11).
What persistently clouds the whole issue, and shouldn't, is the concept of uniformity. We should strive for unity, yes. But unity is not uniformity.
A black Jew davens with me frequently in a Chabad shul on Shabbos morning. We know we don't look alike, so what? We are blessing the same day with the same prayers. And those who choose Judaism from other backgrounds should be no less welcome.
Rabbi Baruch Cohon, Los Angeles
I very much appreciated your argument for recognition of diversity among contemporary Jews. To be sure, there are many Jews-by-choice among us, and they do come from a variety of different backgrounds.
Not so long ago, many Jews in America experienced the freedom of religion to mean that they could abandon their Judaism. Now we see that America's religious freedom encourages many non-Jews to admire and even join the Jewish people. They are a precious complement to our people.
Introduction to Judaism programs are the major avenue through which non-Jews learn the basic essentials for conversion. Although the intro program of the Conservative movement is offered at the University of Judaism, it is the Pacific Southwest regional office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) -- not Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion -- that offers the Reform movement's intro program.
About 15 temples in Southern California and Arizona host the UAHC intro courses. Five-hundred students enroll in the courses every year. Hundreds go on to become Jews, although I do not know the exact number, because of Reform Judaism's decentralized conversion process.
You can hear wonderful stories of Jewish spiritual discovery from the students of our intro courses. Their journeys are truly inspiring for Jews-by-birth.
Rabbi Jerrold Goldstein , Director UAHC Introduction to Judaism Pacific Southwest Council
The Davis Recall
In "Recall Tarnishes Golden State's Shine" (July 11), former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg would have us believe that the forthcoming recall of Gray Davis would yield disaster, and real solutions for California's ills could be found in his ill-defined idea of "structural reforms." Too bad Hertzberg doesn't give us the whole story.
No one could doubt the governor's absolute failure and betrayal of the public confidence and trust. But California cannot afford to wait three years until he is termed out to be rid of him. He is a poison, a cancer that must be cut out as soon as possible.
Enter the recall, a gift of progressive Gov. Hiram Johnson early in the last century. The recall is the tool, a very extension of democracy instead of an affront to it, with which the citizens of this state may expeditiously remove an elected official.
As for "structural reform," Hertzberg was certainly referring to an effort by his allies to lower the legislative threshold for passing a state budget -- and the tax hikes and spending sprees included therein -- from two-thirds to 55 percent. This "reform" is cleverly hidden in a currently circulating initiative to withhold legislators' pay until a budget is passed.
Alex Burrola , Montebello
I'm a Democrat who voted for Gray Davis. I have tremendous respect for Bob Hertzberg and share his belief that adherence to the results of the political process is an essential protection against tyranny. I also suspect the recall effort is fueled, at least in part, by wealthy Republicans intent on delivering California for George Bush, and it galls me.
But Hertzberg's arguments against a recall are just wrong on so many points.
Here in California, recalls, initiatives and referenda are part of the total voting package. They are the heart of our democratic system. It's worth noting that Article 2 of the California Constitution -- the section that deals with recalls -- begins with the words: "All political power is inherent in the people."
Abe Rosenberg, Marina del Rey
After reading Bob Hertzberg's denunciation of the Davis recall effort, I have to wonder: Why do people who oppose the recall think we should be tolerant of an incompetent governor? Why did we tolerate Pete Wilson's incompetence? Why do we tolerate anything that's improper? Do we live in a dictatorship?
The American people seem to have an obsession with acceptance, whether good or bad, whether a bad public official or a recurring headache. After all, it's the norm. Too much trouble to deal with it.
Want things to get better? Then change.
Aric Z. Leavitt, Los Angeles
Weil and Bush
Leadership that leads in the wrong direction should not be applauded. I refer to the comments attributed to Rabbi Steven Weil, as part of his invocation for a fundraiser for President Bush (Weil Delivers Bush Invocation," July 11).
Yes, it is true that our president has provided strong leadership regarding the war in Iraq and other international issues before and after Sept. 11, but I, like many others, believe he is leading us, this country and the world in ways that have not and will not bring justice or peace.
Ben Tenn , Northridge
Concerning "Eternally Gay" (June 27), the first paragraph reads: "In spite of numerous reports that secular Jews are leaving Jerusalem in droves, Israel's capital held its second annual Gay Pride parade on June 20. I'm not sure why there is a connection being made between gay Israelis and secular Jews. I hope the implication is not that all gay Israelis are secular.
Contact the Jerusalem Open House (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get more information on gay Israelis who identify as Jewish and observant. There are more than you may think.
Jeff Bernhardt, Valley Glen
Piece of the Pie
I was amazed to read the letter in your July 4 edition from the man who said that the 6 percent that Jews give to charity is too much, as it may support the stereotype among gentiles that Jews are clannish (referring to "Why Aren't Jews Giving to Jews?" June 27). I'm wondering if this man ever asked himself how much gentiles give to Jewish charities. I doubt that the figure would even register as a percentage point.
Ninety-nine point nine percent of the tzedakah I give goes to Jewish causes, and I intend to keep it that way. Rather than worrying how those with anti-Semitic tendencies are going to perceive us, he should instead ask himself how we can help our own, as this is what it comes down to in times of crises like these.
After all, in the words of Hillel, "If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?"
Tzipporah Saunders, Encino
Shinui Weighs In
Tommy Lapid claimed that if Israel does not agree to release Palestinian prisoners, it would put an end to the peace process ("Shinui Weighs In on Releasing Prisoners," July 11). How so?
The first sentence of Phase I of the "road map" requires that "the Palestinians immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence." If terrorist groups unilaterally decide that an Israeli refusal to release Palestinian murderers from prison will void their temporary truce, it is they who have put an end to the peace process.
Deborah Koken, Costa Mesa
I do not disagree with [David] Lehrer and [Joe] Hicks that we need to look deeper for the solution to minority achievement gaps that necessitate diversity programs in college admissions ("Court's Race Rulings Raise Deeper Issues," July 11). However, we will need to look beyond simplistic "solutions," such as vouchers, and must be prepared to make the investments, both familial and governmental, to yield satisfactory results.
We will also have to examine the inherent biases in standardized testing that once benefited WASPS at Eastern colleges and are now excluding certain minority groups.
Access to higher education is also a question of class as well as caste. At the University of Michigan, consideration was given to children of alumni, students who lived in the Upper Peninsula, students who took more rigorous classes or who attended schools known for their academic programs.
According to Goodwin Liu, who wrote the "Causation Fallacy," it was more likely that plaintiffs Gratz and Grutter were excluded because of these factors, not because of the race of the applicants.
Shirley J. Wilcher ,.President Wilcher Global, LLC Accokeek, Md.
Rise in Aliyot
Two of my daughters are committed to living in Israel. Sarah, who recently completed aliyah, moved there two years ago and lives in Jerusalem with her husband and their infant son. Leah has been a resident for four years, also in Jerusalem, and is currently engaged in the aliyah process.
Both girls have experienced numerous problems in dealing with the Israeli bureaucracy. It is a testament to their fortitude and resolution that they didn't let Israel's bureaucrats discourage them from seeing the process through to fruition. The scuttlebutt is that government workers there make it particularly difficult for Americans to immigrate.
When I spoke at Sarah's wedding last year here in the states, I stated that "more than money, more than rhetoric, Israel needs Jews." Those words were met with a round of applause, the loudest of which came from Israelis who flew in for the occasion.
The comments that Israeli minister of immigrant absorption, Tzipi Livni, makes about immigration, further support that statement ("Rise in Aliyah Rates From Frum," July 4). She is quoted as saying "her ministry needs to finds ways to make the country more attractive to potential immigrants."
A good place for her to start looking is within her own organization.
Leonard M. Solomon, Los Angeles