September 11, 2003
What was John Fishel thinking? I am shocked and angry at Fishel and The Jewish Federation for using as a cover the fundraising shortfall to terminate a loyal, effective employee who for 24 years has been a voice and a conscious of the community ("Hirschfeld Dismissal Shocks, Frustrates," Sept. 5).
Hirschfeld's termination is a great loss to the community and The Federation. Perhaps a different structure is needed. In Boston, the Jewish Community Relations Committee is an independent federation agency. It has its own board and executive director and raises it own money. It is treasured by the Boston federation. With all the trouble we face here and in Israel, we need a strong voice for community relations. I am troubled for the future that one of our strongest and well-respected leaders has been let go. I am vice president of Jewish Family Services (these are my own personal views).
Elyse Salend, Beverly Hills
Lost in all the discussion of the unfortunate termination of Michael Hirschfeld as executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Committee has been the plain fact that he is a warm and wonderful man. When I first became the executive director of Bet Tzedek in 1994, he was the very first person from The Jewish Federation to reach out, offer his friendship and knowledge and give me opportunities to become a part of the Federation's network of people and passions. As our community debates what comes next, what this means and where we go, I want to thank him for all I learned from him and extend my best wishes to him and his family as he enters the next chapter of what I am sure will continue to be a life that touches so many others.
David A. Lash, Former Executive Director Bet Tzedek 1994-2003
When I came to Los Angeles in 1961 to be the assistant director of the Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC), the JCRC was considered more important than The Federation board and was considered by national figures in the Jewish community as the top arm of the American Jewish community.
I give you this background, because since then The Federation professional staff has worked incessantly to downgrade the JCRC. Many of its staff were fired or forced to retire by Federation executives, who have had little understanding either of Los Angeles or of what the role of the JCRC has been.
Soon, the only role for The Federation will be fundraising, which has progressively gone downhill. Having cut his staff completely, they have come to the conclusion that Michael Hirschfeld is also expendable.
This second-largest Jewish community will be the only city of major size without a JCRC. It will have no role in helping to make policy decisions on the national and state level. It will play no role in shaping inter-religious and interethnic programs and finally, there will be no one in charge of moving the Jewish community on major issues facing it.
This is a disaster. But the lay leaders will have to live with it, or maybe they just don't care.
Al Mellman, Los Angeles
Michael Hirschfeld represents more than just "A Missing Voice." From what I know of his work (I am one of the Koreh L.A. volunteers), he has done outstanding work for the community and been a positive factor in community relations.
His dismissal because of loss of financial support really emphasizes the fact that The Jewish Federation has lost support from many of us in the Jewish community because it failed to serve what we perceived were important needs in community.
George Epstein, Los Angeles
It was through many years of Labor Zionist Alliance's active participation in every commission of the Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) that gave us first-hand knowledge of Michael Hirschfeld's unique contribution in promoting and implementing the important work of the JCRC. We are appalled at the failure to consult with community leadership prior to such a move and very concerned that an agency critical to reflecting Jewish concerns in the general community is left without focused and undivided professional leadership.
Ethel Taft, President
Bea Chankin Weisberg, Executive Director Labor Zionist Alliance of Los Angeles
Jewish doctors have contributed so much to mankind over the millennium ("Is There a 'Docta' in the House," Sept. 5). Albert Sabin, Jonas Salk, Bela Schick and Maimonedes are just a few examples. Unfortunately Beverly Gray's article about the demise in Jewish doctors in America is true. Being a pediatrician for more than 20 years, who is also involved with the teaching program at UCLA Medical School, I see how few Jewish doctors are matriculating these days. Fortunately, this is not the case in Israel where there are long waiting lists to get into medical school. I invite any young student to spend time with me in my office so that I may show you why medicine is and will always be an excellent profession for any Jewish boy or girl
Dr. Ron Nagel , Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Los Angeles
The caption for the photograph on page 26 of the Aug. 29 Jewish Journal ("Israel Reconsiders Peace Policies") with little Shoshana "Nathasen" (actually, Natansen) is woefully incomplete. It does not note that Shoshana's 3-year-old sister, Tehilla, was murdered in the attack, and that her mother, Chana, was seriously injured and is being treated at a different hospital (Hadassah, Ein Kerem). (Chana, overriding her doctors' objections, has been expressing and sending milk to Shoshana, who, at 6 months, is still nursing.)
Yakov (Thomas) Greiff, Valley Village
Regarding the custody story ("Custody Case Allows Boy to Live in Israel," Aug. 29), I think it would be a good idea to point out to The Journal and its readers that the real issue in this story is not the safety of life in Israel. The real issue is how to provide the child in this divorce with the benefit of a strong relationship with both parents. Unfortunately, the laws of the State of California and their poor administration by our grist-mill courts routinely separate children of divorce from one of the parents, usually the father (83 percent of the time in L.A. County), but sometimes the mother (7 percent of the time in L.A. County).
I can think of lots of ways to allow the precious child of this Israeli couple to continue a real relationship with his father. He could be required to spend vacations and summers with him, for example.
Lester Ostroy, Redondo Beach
Dr. Laura's Departure
The anger and criticism directed by Tobi Ruth Love at Dr. Laura is unfortunately shared by many Jews who need a refresher course in Judaism and Jewish values ("Dr. Laura Loses Her Religion" Aug. 22; Letters, Sept. 5). That Christians, not Jews, approve of Dr. Laura's beliefs is a sad commentary of the Jewish community. Hopefully, she will not reject Jewish theology in the process.
Howard Goodman, Tarzana
The hatred and intolerance expressed by many of your Jewish readers for conservatives and Christians does not bode well for the Jewish community. What is abnormal about a Jewish convert, Dr. Laura, in seeking "approval, love and adoration" as Tobi Ruth Love denounces Dr. Laura for? Why would anyone want to affiliate with a community that expresses such self-righteous arrogance?
Shari Seaman Goodman, Calabasas
Marlene Adler Marks
I want to commend Rona Frances on her brilliant and moving "Letting Go of Marlene" (Sept. 5). It absolutely stopped me in my tracks and I am going to forward the following to all of my loved ones.
Marlene Adler Marks was usually the first article I would read while picking up The Jewish Journal. Her writing made Judaism's issues contemporary. As a result, this article brought tears of joy, pain, wisdom, love and the Almighty One right here. Hope it touches and reaches you, too.
Harry Bluebond, Valley Village
Marine in Iraq
When I read Dr. Aryeh Cohen's letter to the editor (Aug. 22), I perceived Cohen's initial comments on Rabbi Mordecai Finley's tribute to his son as somewhat disingenuous, providing him with an opportunity to dump on President Bush, the war in Iraq and the right in general. He suggests that people were deceived and misled by claims of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD), obtaining nuclear capability, and an Al Qaeda/Iraq connection. I and many of us who see the situation in the Middle East for what it is were not deceived or misled. I do believe that WMDs will be found and that there is an Al Qaeda connection.
I fail to understand why Cohen and his left-wing minions cannot see this.
George Blumenfeld, Torrance
The Right and the Left
I am sick and tired of your writers assuming that all Jews are liberals. It seems as if every week you have articles like "Arnold's Jewish Problem" (Aug. 29), or "Why the Jews Won't Dump Davis" (July 25). Jews are converting to Republicans everyday and faster then ever. It is time for The Journal to recognize the Jewish movement to the right of center.
Yair Treister, Los Angeles
Regarding the article "Arab Groups Assail Appointment" (Sept. 5), I was heartened to hear that Daniel Pipes was appointed to the Middle East Forum. As a social worker who has always believed that most people are good, I find a bit of difficulty with the American Muslim community. It appears that, unlike the Jewish community, which is constantly criticizing itself, their community does not ever publicly criticize itself. This lack of criticism unfortunately translates into tacit approval of their behavior and leaves all Muslims with a huge credibility gap.
Klara Shandling, Los Angeles