November 27, 2003
Sense of Sorrow
As a long-time member of Mogen David and the president of the congregation when Rabbi Jonathan Muskat was hired, I read the article titled, "A Shul Torn Apart" (Nov. 14), with a sense of great sorrow and amazement. The board voted not to renew Muskat's contract but to allow him to continue as rabbi until his contract expired in August 2004.
In an effort to save the rabbi's job and with the rabbi's cooperation, a small group of families decided not to accept the board's decision. These families began a campaign to replace the board with congregants who sympathized with their point of view.
Mogen David hired Muskat at a time when the synagogue was going through a difficult transition. Due to his inexperience, he did not make the transition easier.
The Jewish Journal's article cannot begin to convey the deep chasm a handful of people have purposely inflicted to try to destroy our shul. Every synagogue has the right to hire whichever rabbi it chooses and the right to let the rabbi go if it is warranted. Mogen David deserves that right.
Al Spivak, Beverly Hills
Just the Opposite
Raphael Sonenshein ("Democratic Races Pose Hard Choices," Nov. 14) says, "On most issues, Bush offers almost nothing to Jewish voters."
He mentions President Bush's pro-life and general conservative values as examples.
On the contrary, because the president is conservative, he offers the most possible to coincide with Jewish values one could want in a politician. Some examples: understanding that evil exists in the world, allowing people to keep more of their income, defining that marriage is between people of the opposite sex, school choice to allow lower-income families access to better schools, death penalty for certain cases of murder, that some abortions are immoral.
Like it or not, these are Jewish values and they are also those of conservatives.
Dr. Ken Bendik, Los Angeles
As a Chabadnik and former editor of UCLA's Jewish news magazine, Ha'Am, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller and I butted heads quite often during my years at UCLA. Yet despite Seidler-Feller's known (and publicly expressed) anti-Chabad sentiments, we managed to build a relationship and even learn Talmud together.
It therefore saddened me to hear about his alleged incident with Rachel Neuwirth. I do not believe that Seidler-Feller's actions are defensible under any circumstances. He needs to be punished and suspended from his post as Hillel director.
Yet, as someone who knows Seidler-Feller's value to UCLA and its Jewish population, I believe his suspension should be temporary. As part of his teshuva (repentance), I would suggest that Seidler-Feller spend his time away interacting with, not arguing and debating, the various groups on campus with which he disagrees, maybe even drop by the Chabad House.
Upon his return, the insight acquired during this period of reflection would greatly enhance his tireless work as spiritual leader of the entire UCLA Jewish community.
Yaakov Arnold, Los Angeles
In Bad Taste
The headline, "Jew the Right Thing," (Nov. 14) in your recent edition of The Jewish Journal is in the most obnoxious bad taste.
I object strenuously to your use of an expression that is reminiscent of many scurrilous ones, i.e., "Jew someone down," et al.
I hope you will see fit to apologize and retract your insensitive use of this word.
Frances Wanderman, Los Angeles
Won't Wait to Act
I am reminded in "A Tale of Two Cities" (Nov. 7) that our politicians seem to be stuck on the minutiae of false burglar alarms and number of police officers throughout the city. The real work south of the Santa Monica Freeway is performed by nonprofits and religious institutions, as it is in the Jewish community.
I used the skills I learned as a volunteer with the Jewish Community Relations Committee to become an active board member and chairman of Youth Opportunities Unlimited Inc. Our small storefront offices, on Vermont Avenue near Manchester Boulevard, serve more than 1,500 youths and their families in the areas of educational development, employment and training and youth and family development. In addition to operating one of 85 Intel Computer Clubhouses for Youth worldwide (three are in Israel), we have sent South L.A. youths to live on a kibbutz in Israel.
Nonprofits in South Los Angeles are always on the lookout for new board members and volunteers to assist in many areas, including public relations, networking and fundraising. In light of tikkun olam (healing the world), the Jewish community will answer the call from the community at large and not wait for government to study solutions.
Douglas Golden, Past Chairman Youth Opportunities Unlimited Newport Beach
Thank you very much for you balanced opinion piece about the unfortunate incident at UCLA a couple of weeks ago ("Reckless" Oct. 31). I count myself as an opponent of many of Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller's views on Israel and the Middle East. But, I am afraid that some Jews who share my political views have crossed the line and are committing a terrible slander about Chaim Seidler-Feller and a gross disservice to the Jewish people.
I have known Seidler-Feller for 15 years, so let me tell you some things about him.
- He is a deeply committed Jew and Zionist.
- Zionism has been part of his self-definition his whole life. (If you knew his parents, you would know what I mean).
- He visits Israel at least twice a year, rarely to engage in any political activity but rather to study Jewish texts and visit his family there.
- He speaks Hebrew exclusively in his home to his children, so that they will grow not only to love Israel but to feel comfortable being and living there.
- While he has provided forums to Palestinian spokespeople, whom I detest, he has also provided a platform for the likes of Yoram Hazony, Dennis Prager, Shlomo Riskin and Alan Dershowitz -- all prominent defenders of Israel.
- He has led hundreds of college students to Israel on birthright programs, even during the worst of times.
- He has brought thousands of Jewish kids back to their Jewish roots as the UCLA Hillel director, many of whom also disagree with his political views.
- He is about the most gentle person I have ever met.
Rabbi Seidler-Feller's political views are certainly the subject of fair criticism. And, his physical reaction to Ms. Neuwirth's taunts cannot be defended. But, much of the invective that has been spewn at the rabbi's expense represents the worst form of lashon ha-ra (bad mouthing), and contributes to sinat chinam (hatred) that our people can little afford today.
David Eisner, New York