I'm a member of Beth Chayim Chadashim. I want to say how heartening it is to read your words, and the words of Rabbi David Ellenson last week ("'Til Death Do Us Part," Feb. 13 and "Countering the Family Values Monopoly," Feb. 6). You do so much to take the conversation out of the place of fear where it was put by the right wing, and put the focus back where it belongs -- on the simple fact that we just want to live our lives, like everyone else.
Melanie Henderson, Los Angeles
While it was gratifying to see recent coverage in The Journal in support of gay/lesbian-themed TV shows ("Producer Channels Life Into 'L Word,'" Feb. 6) and same-sex marriage ("'Til Death Do Us Part," Feb. 13), it was disheartening to see a bigoted reference in Amy Klein's feature "Jerusalem for a Song" (Feb 6). In an otherwise laudatory account of David D'Or's career and his selection this year to represent Israel in the 49th Eurovision international song competition, Klein wrote: "Since it began competing in 1973, Israel has won the contest three times, most infamously with transsexual Dana International in 1998." Merriam-Webster defines the word "infamous" as "having a reputation of the worst kind, disgraceful."
On the contrary, at the time, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Dana International's win: "I congratulated her and all those who took part in the effort. This appears to me to be deserving of congratulations. It's definitely an honorable achievement."
In short, Dana International's success enjoyed the support of the vast majority of Israel's leaders and public, right, left and center.
I might also add that Israel, in terms of attitudes toward and treatment of sexual minorities, has long been, and continues to be, more supportive and accommodating, both socially and legally, than either the United States or its Jewish communal institutions (The Jewish Journal included). Although the word "controversial" might have been more accurate of the press coverage at the time, I'm hoping Klein's unfortunate word choice was a careless slip, rather than a deliberate decision. Still, an apology would be appreciated.
Scott Portnoff, Los Angeles
I found Rob Eshman's editorial, "'Til Death Do Us Part," disturbing from a number of perspectives. For one, he quotes the late Rabbi Alexander Schindler, a leader of the Reform movement, as saying that "We cannot deny the demand for gay and lesbian visibility." Schindler talks about visibility and Eshman uses that to support his argument in favor of state-sanctioned gay and lesbian marriages. Marriage was not what Schindler was speaking about. However, the most specious argument Eshman presents is that, "Logic and evidence indicates that legalizing gay marriage would strengthen, not weaken, families." I wonder where Eshman uncovered evidence about gay marriages longevity since these unions do not exist in our country, and I question his logic. I have been a therapist for more than 20 years and would have never thought that gender identity is a guarantee for stronger family bonds. The gay and lesbian clients, colleagues and friends I have are faced with the same issues as everyone else. What kind of world of make believe is Eshman living in when he can use these arguments to try to convince me that legalized gay unions is a necessary development?
Avi Engel, Los Angeles
Regarding legalization of same-sex marriage: Laws are not meant to impose certain religious tenets on the population ("Countering the Family Values Monopoly," Feb. 6 and "'Til Death Do Us Part," Feb. 13). They say the Bible refutes homosexuality. The Bible also says certain meats are to be avoided, women are not to talk in the church, we are not to work on the Sabbath (which was Saturday, not Sunday), we should all speak in tongues to prove our salvation and when women have their menstrual period they are unclean -- among other things that nobody argues about.
No, when we talk same-sex marriage, we are talking about allowing discrimination or not allowing discrimination into our laws. If we allow discrimination against one group of people, then discrimination against other people is allowable.
Renee Durante, Sunnyvale
Hier vs. Gibson
As a Christian, I was mortified by Rabbi Marvin Hier's attack against Mel Gibson for comparing the Holocaust with other slaughters. ("Hier: Gibson Is Insensitive," Feb. 6)
Gibson's statement that the Holocaust was one of many horrors of this century is true and does not diminish the importance of the Holocaust. Hier would do better to question the propaganda springing up by so-called Muslim mainstream groups about tolerance while holding Jews in contempt, rather than attack Christians, who believe in respect for Jews.
Caroline Miranda, North Hollywood
A Friendly Drink?
One wonders what Paul Berman was drinking when he wrote "A Friendly Drink in a Time of War" (Feb. 6). First, he accuses the left of a double standard in regard to the Arab world tolerating tyranny there but nowhere else. Next, he calls us anti-Semitic for allegedly singling out Israel for criticism. Most deluded, he proclaims the Iraq War an anti-fascist war.
The left has consistently decried not only Iraq's, but all other despotic regimes in the region -- most of which continue to enjoy near-unqualified U.S. support. It also decries unprovoked war against a sovereign nation. Israel is held to a higher standard precisely because it is the closest thing to a democracy; the left expects more of Israel, just as it expects more of the United States. And while it may be an anti-fascist war for Berman, does he seriously believe it was this for those who launched it? Democracy will only be tolerated in Iraq if it meets our geopolitical needs. This can be deduced not merely from our track record, but from our expanding alliances with the oil-rich and strategically significant former Soviet republics, most of which are at least as tyrannical as was Hussein's Iraq.
Vincent Brook, Los Angeles
Gary Wexler is right ("Visit To Another Israel," Feb. 6). We should stop kidding ourselves that Israel can exist without Judaism and that Judaism can exist without the Orthodox. Instead of seeing the Orthodox presence in Jerusalem as a negative, Wexler should thank God that the Orthodox are going to stick around for the long struggle -- not because of a sentimental attachment to ancient history -- but because we are commanded to do so today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that.
Elaine Leichter , Los Angeles
Lets get to what's bugging [Gary] Wexler. (1) Jerusalem has been "overrun" by religious Jews "squeezing out a creative, secular population"; (2) Israel is building a "wall through the country... unnerving everyone"; and (3) Israel needs to present "creative" ideas in order to solve the Palestinian issues.
As to the first assertion, it is both bigoted and false. The majority of Jerusalem's Jewish population for thousands of years has been Orthodox, not secular, and nowhere have I seen asserted, except by Wexler, that secular Jews are being squeezed out of the city. On the contrary, one sees in Jerusalem a growing trend (and somewhat disturbingly so) toward Westernization.
As to the second assertion, official U.S. sources, and even the usually biased press refer to the separation created by Israel as a fence or barrier. Only the spokesmen for the Arab world -- and Wexler -- refer to it as a wall, a real attempt to depict Israel as an apartheid state. Sharon has stated throughout the time since the United States presented the "road map," that were the Palestinians to rid themselves of the terrorist groups, Israel would make substantial territorial concessions and recognize a Palestinian state. No movement has been made by the Palestinian Authority.
Finally, how can anyone accuse Israel of not being creative in its search for peace? The failed Oslo accord and the failed Camp David proposals are not testimony to a failure on the part of Israel to be creative, but rather a failure on the part of the Palestinians to abandon [Yasser] Arafat's goal of eliminating Israel and its Jews.
Richard S. Weiner, Los Angeles
Hong Kong Jews
I hope you know that Jonathan Kesselman's article, "Jews in Hong Kong?" (Jan. 9), is extremely offensive to people of Chinese and Asian descent.
Is it common practice for The Jewish Journal to publish cheap racist stereotypes and try to pass them off as articles?
Radford Tam, Via e-mail
Alon Carmel and JDate
I read your cover story on JDate.com ("Desperately Seeking Souls," Feb. 13) and wanted to send this letter. I live in New Jersey and joined JDate a few months ago because I wanted to meet a Jewish woman.
There are profiles of women pictured wearing crucifixes and openly stating they are not Jewish. When others and I have complained we were told, "There is nothing we can do about it."
A Jewish dating service is supposed to be for Jews only and by allowing a large number of non-Jews to join, the owners of JDate are doing the opposite of what they supposedly desire. It's time they state on their site what the "J" in JDate stands for and when they find a profile of a man or woman that says they are not Jewish to remove the profile.
Mark Jeffery Koch, via e-mail
The article about Alon Carmel's meteoric rise from growing up in "Mosad Ahava," an orphanage in Israel, to becoming the successful cofounder of JDate was both heartfelt and inspirational. Alon has never forgotten the love and support that was given to him as a young child growing up in AHAVA. As an adult, he approached the Bnai Zion Foundation in Los Angeles and asked our organization to adopt AHAVA as one of our projects. AHAVA now represents one of our five ongoing projects in Israel including the Bnai Zion Hospital in Haifa, the Quittman Center for the developmentally challenged, the Library of Peace and the David Yellin College of Education. We are proud to have Alon Carmel as an active member of our Bnai Zion Board of Directors.
George W. Schaeffer, National Foundation Chairman Bnai Zion
I was shocked and appalled to read a hate and trashy letter in your Feb. 6 issue, assassinating the character of Dr. Irving Moskowitz ("Irving Moskowitz"). Moskowitz is a great American benefactor and a great Jewish patriot for many years. How could The Jewish Journal print such a hateful piece of trash without checking into the truth of this matter? Who is the author of that piece of garbage and what is his agenda? With people like that so-called rabbi, the Jewish people do not need other enemies.
Bernard Nichols , Los Angeles