December 4, 2003
Two very moving opinion essays appeared on the same page of your Nov. 28 issue.
Rabbi Yosef Reinman wrote that, amazingly, we still carry a memory of a promise made over 3,000 years ago ("Jewish to the Core"). I see this daily at the Academy for Jewish Religion, where advanced students of all denominations are on fire with the desire to learn and the hope that we will be one.
Rabbi Daniel Greyber wrote of adolescence -- which as a mother of five I know well -- and his words spoke also of a larger phenomenon ("Limits Needed to Set Path for Youths"). For 200 years our people have been experiencing collective adolescence, trying to define our individual paths, to make an impression on modernity's intellectual and political worlds. Yet, we also act like quarreling teenage gangs -- the fruit of "desires unripe and bitter."
Where are our "parents" in this situation? The sages, who collected millennia of wisdom and inscribed it for us in Torah, Talmud and Responsa. The sages knew "our essence, our hope," and powerfully taught about taking risks rather than yielding to evil.
I believe the widespread movement toward deeper Torah study reflects a turn to tradition, not out of nostalgia, but from a desire for the profound "parental" wisdom that can guide us to our true potential.
Tamar Frankiel, Los Angeles
Rob Eshman used the same theme for the past two weeks: Israel will have to decide between being a democracy or a Jewish state ("The Answer Isn't...," Nov. 28 and "Dividing Lines," Nov. 21).
Many Americans live in Canada and can vote in U.S. elections, participate in American life to a degree they desire and still pay Canadian taxes and own property in Canada, etc.
The Arabs can live in Israel and own property, and pay taxes, etc., and vote in Jordanian elections (when and if those happen). The Arabs in Israel (including West Bank and Gaza Strip) can be full citizens of Jordan, which is Palestine.
Israel can retain full Jewish majority of its citizens in a democratic state. No need to grant Israeli citizenship to the Arabs just because their present country (Palestine, a.k.a. Jordan) is occupied by the Hashemites. They need to fix their own problem, take their country and grant citizenship to their people even if they live across the border in Israel.
Nahum Gat, Manhattan Beach
Yehuda Lev does not believe in following any type of religious order or rules ("Defining Family," Nov. 21). This is shown by his statement that who is or is not a Jew is a matter of "self-definition, that in the end what is important is how one regards one's affiliations and not what others claim are the laws as they define them." Ah, to have a new Moses in our midst!
I still do not understand why the editors allow his thoughts to be printed in a paper supported by the Jewish population of Los Angeles. Lev should be allowed to be proud of his family, but he should not be allowed to print something in order to arouse the ire of any Jew who has any type of religious affiliation.
Yale Harlow, Los Angeles
Wrong About 'Passion'
Kenneth Lautman was an excellent scoutmaster to my Cub Scout troop in Van Nuys 35 years ago, but he is sadly mistaken when it comes to Mel Gibson's new cinematic achievement (Letters, Nov. 21). It is not for us as Jews to dictate to Christians, or any other religious group, how they should interpret their faith traditions. If anyone in the Jewish community objects to Gibson's production they have the obvious right not to see the film when it is released early next year.
At a time when Jewish museums are being set ablaze on American soil, as was the case recently in Terre Haute, Ind., we would do well as a people to cultivate friendships with our Christian neighbors as opposed to alienating them by totally disrespecting their sense of religiosity!
David L. Blatt, Chicago
Shul Split Painful
As a member of Congregation Mogen David for more than four decades, I was interested and dispirited all over again at your article setting forth the event surrounding the recent dismissal of Rabbi Jonathan Muskat ("A Shul Torn Apart," Nov. 14).
It resulted from a confluence on a shul newly adjusting to Modern Orthodoxy and the selection of a very young rabbi taking over his first pulpit. The turmoil was aided and abetted by a vocal group on the board whose exercise of raw power was neither accompanied by wisdom nor restraint nor a look ahead at the dire consequences to follow.
I have no doubt that in due time more of our members would have been comfortable with the precepts of Modern Orthodoxy and that the brilliant and resourceful Muskat would have made the adjustments to keep shalom in our shul.
The Draconian action of immediate dismissal has truly "torn apart" our shul and deprived us of its heart and soul as represented by those vibrant young men and women and their wonderful children roaming the aisles at our Shabbat services.
Our shul suffered an egregious and irreparable loss and this octogenarian member is very saddened.
Bernie Axelrad, Marina del Rey