November 20, 2003
I am sick and tired by all the excuses of community supporters, leaders and the media to excuse Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller's behavior. I was at the event. He aggressively assaulted Rachel Neuwirth. And no amount of spin can erase this. I do not care how many names one is called -- a rabbi does not physically attack a woman. Many students witnessed and stood in stunned speechlessness by his behavior. This is not something they will soon forget. For this reason alone, he needs to be removed from his position. He has tarnished his profession, lost his credibility and, in my eyes, his authority. In the real world, this is what happens when one speaks slanderously, let alone aggressively.
Hallie Lerman, Los Angeles
What unmitigated hubris of attorney Donald Etra to consider prosecuting Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller's victim for hate speech because she called her attacker a "kapo." Does he also believe a rapist should sue his victim for provoking him with a short skirt?
Leslie Fuhrer Friedman, Venice
The letters regarding the Seidler-Feller incident have focused on the question of whether he should be retained at UCLA or whether he should be dismissed. There is a more important issue raised by the incident -- namely, the import of the alleged remark made by Rachel Neuwirth for relations between members of the Jewish community who hold different views regarding the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no question regarding the impropriety of the "kick" that Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller allegedly made. It is also the case that the rabbi's alleged resort to a form of physical violence was more immature than the verbal comment presumably made by Neuwirth. However, there is a considerable question as to whose behavior was more immoral.
As was noted in the editorial concerning this incident, inflammatory language can foster unacceptable, destructive behavior -- e.g., the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin. Such language diminishes, if not destroys, the possibility of constructive dialogue between American Jews with sharply different perspectives regarding the policies that Israel should pursue to assure its security and to foster peace. Such a dialogue, apart from reducing tensions within the American Jewish community, would also be useful to Israel.
Seymour Feshbach, Professor of Psychology UCLA
Happened to pick up a copy of The Jewish Journal at the local deli while having breakfast. Your article, "Full Disclosure" (Nov. 7) was a pleasure reading. It is rare being exposed to a writer that is honest, forthright and tells it like it is. It took courage and self-confidence for you to take the woman's magazine challenge, which I deem as honest research. Having once belonged to Elysium (nudist colony in Topanga Canyon), I can remember bringing ladies up there for the first time and some felt a bit uncomfortable at first, but were nevertheless curious for the experience, but may have never ever mentioned it to anyone.
You are a real, honest and forthright woman. Stay the way you are -- don't change. If a man can't handle it the way you are, it is his loss.
Gary M. Shechter, Woodland Hills
I suspect a sly subtle and calculated effort to manipulate the press and media by Mel Gibson to promote curiosity and increase controversy before release of his movie on his religion he is so passionate about ("'Passion' Play," Nov. 14). I wonder how much of the advertising and marketing budget is devoted for that purpose. There are those who fervently yearn for the Vatican dogmas of the pre-Holocaust era and Gibson is free to put on the screen the genesis of his religion as taught to him by his parents and religious teachers because America strongly belies in the Hebrew Bible injunction: "Proclaim liberty throughout the land" (Leviticus, 25:10).
As for the plot of his movie -- is it really any different from the plot of the very high- ranking officers and gentlemen of Catholic French army who framed Jewish Capt. Alfred Dreyfus? Let us be vigilant so Gibson's creation will not resurrect the latter-day Father Mclaughlins, Henry Fords, Joseph Kennedys and the lesser-known and unknown cadre of Jew-blamers, haters and baiters and wishful exterminators. Let us continue the great American experiment of freedom of religion where a person can be a fine human being without the necessity of eating matzah as if it was flesh and drink wine as if it was blood.
Kenneth Z. Lautman, Los Angeles
It seems that the article, "How Jews, Christians See Gibson's Film," (Nov. 7) "The Passion of Christ," is missing a significant appraisal, since the agony of Jesus is the dominant feature. The realization should be there that the cheapest commodity of the Roman Empire was humanity. A punishment of crucifixion was not unusual. The agony of Jesus was the same for masses of people through the history of Rome.
A couple examples are the 6,000 slaves who were tied to posts with their arms over head and the many thousands of Jews trying to escape hunger in the siege of Jerusalem who were caught for agonizing deaths on the stake. The Romans were very practical people and would not waste a second piece of wood when none would do the trick. According to Homer Smith in "Man and His Gods," crucifixion with arms outstretched in art did not come into vogue until the seventh century.
Stan Goldman, Van Nuys
We wish to express our gratitude to the following people and organizations who contacted us to express concern and offer help during the recent Simi Valley fires: Carol Koransky of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; Tanya Sorkin of The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance; and Mt. Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries. Your willingness to help in our time of need shows how strongly we are all connected.
Carole Fineberg , President Congregation B'nai Emet
Nancy Beezy Micon, Board Chair The Jewish Life Center of Simi Valley
Jews and Violence
In your Nov. 7 issue, two pieces had a common theme ("A Tale of Two Cities" and "A Father's Daughter"). Gaby Wenig asks if, now that a Jew was murdered by criminals in South Los Angeles, the Jewish community will do something about the ongoing slaughter committed by violent criminals in that part of town?
Murray Fromson bemoans the "eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth tactics of the present [Israeli] government" and wonders how long it will take "the hawks" in Israel and the United States "to wake up to the obvious." The motif underlying both pieces seems to be that the Jews have miraculous powers -- to end violent crime in Los Angeles, and, if only Israel's government wasn't so unreasonably stubborn/evil/aggressive, to make peace with the Arab enemies of Israel. Would that it were so.
Chaim Sisman, Los Angeles
Raphael Sonenshein's piece ("Democratic Races Poses Hard Choices," Nov. 14) purports to be an objective piece of scholarly news analysis written by a professor of political science. Clearly, it is anything but that. Describing Bush as "swaggering" and implying that he is responsible for America being a "bully" is hardly the stuff of dispassionate analysis.
I am disappointed in The Journal for allowing itself to be used by Sonenshein. With all that has been said lately about liberal bias in the media, wouldn't The Journal and its readers have been better served by properly identifying Sonenshein's diatribe as an opinion column?
Rafael Guber, New York