March 18, 2004
Schindler vs. Mel
It was extremely gratifying to read the editorials on the movie "Schindler's List" in this week's issue ("Schindler's Impact" and "Celebrating 10 Years of 'Schindler's List,'" March 12). I was especially impressed by Tom Teicholz's experiences in the Ukraine, and the tearful reactions of some who had just seen the movie. Considering the degree of anti-Semitism in that part of Europe, it was especially encouraging.
Now we have Mel Gibson and his "The Passion of the Christ." I wonder what people will be saying about it 10 years from now. I especially wonder if much of the understanding and positive effects of "Schindler" will be undone by the "Passion." What will be the effect on young people who saw the latter film?
It was Gibson's right to make his movie as he saw fit. It was also his responsibility to think to what consequences may have resulted from his work. Steven Spielberg's message was one of understanding. Gibson's message could well be interpreted as one of hate. Only time will tell which message is the stronger. If history proves to be the example, we already know the answer.
Elliott M. Brumer, North Hills
I am Jewish and I went to see Mel Gibson's movie that has made some Jews (who have not seen it) nervous, "The Passion of the Christ." If Gibson were Jewish, some people would be describing this movie as a "pro-Jewish propaganda." This movie is definitely not anti-Semitic. This movie is good for Jewish-Christian relations. Jews should be its biggest supporters.
The movie shows the Roman governor Pontius Pilate as the person who made the decision as to what should be done with Jesus, and that his decision was made based on his assessment as to which would be most likely to result in a rebellion, antagonizing Jesus' Jewish supporters or antagonizing Jesus' Jewish enemies.
The movie shows a great deal of pain and torture inflicted on Jesus, but by a group of sadistic Roman soldiers under the command of Pontius Pilate.
If enough people see this movie, the claim of group responsibility of Jews will be a historic oddity. Jews who stay away will be maximizing the effects of past anti-Semitism and wasting the potential for a new, positive era in Jewish-Christian relations to arise from this film.
Dan Persoff, Reseda
Excellent editorial ("My Culture War," March 12). Although I am not a Howard Stern fan, and I am a Mel Gibson/"The Passion of the Christ" fan, you do make great points about free speech. Let the audience have selective choice.
However, how does society present a way to allow audiences to make choices/selections of what kind of media entertainment they want to hear or watch without exposing children and teens or others to negative, violent or pornographic material? I ask you and your readers to think about this. Think about inventing ways to control free selection of media choice. Whoever invents this will either be labeled as "Big Brother" or will be even richer than 50 Cent or Howard Stern. My patent application is already in the mail.
Bill Hodges, Santa Clara
Reading Rabbi Avi Weiss' account of the demonstrations at The Hague regarding the wall Israel is building should give all of us concern ("Bearing Witness at The Hague," March 5). Again, as it is often the case these days, we are on the defensive.
We are on the defensive because we are distorting the facts. The Arab complaint against us is not that we are building a wall! The complaint in front of the court is that we are taking about 17 percent (estimates vary) of West Bank territory as we build such a wall.
Why can't we build the wall along the Green Line? [Benjamin] Netanyahu and others claim that it's not defensible. But the Green Line was defensible from 1948 until 1967! Are we weaker militarily then we were in 1948?
Irwin Grossman, Los Angeles
I noticed your article several weeks ago that the support for John Kerry was getting soft and your article about Bush with the Jewish Republican Coalition ("Local Kerry Support Shows Softness," Feb. 27). I have only one question: When will you have an article about the Jewish Democratic Coalition and Jewish people who are supporting Kerry? It is very important that The Journal attempts to be viewed as balanced and fair. I'm looking forward to it. Thanks!
Marcia Albert, Los Angeles
Thank you for the enlightening articles about the impending closures of the Valley Cities and Silverlake JCCs ("Valley Cities JCC Slated to Shut Down," March 12).
For many years my family participated in activities at the Westside JCC; we felt we were part of the Jewish community. No more.
Two years ago, I was at a meeting at the Westside JCC when The Jewish Federation assured us that it would continue to support the Westside JCC if the members could raise a certain amount of money by a certain date. They did. But, even so, The Jewish Federation abandoned the Westside JCC.
As a result, my grandchildren identify less and less with the Jewish community. And my family and many friends no longer respond to The Jewish Federation when it appeals for our contributions. Instead, we donate to more worthy charities, such as the Irene Epstein Memorial Scholarship fund that helps financially needy, academically deserving seniors at Fairfax High School go to college.
George Epstein, Los Angeles
In her article "Keeping Jews in the Flock," (March 5), Loolwa Khazzom argues that interfaith relationships bring Jews closer to the Jewish tradition and therefore one should embrace those couples. She supports her argument claiming that her friend Rebecca, a secular Jew, after marrying Jamal, a devoted Muslim man, began celebrating Shabbat, attending Orthodox services and is moving toward keeping kosher.
Many communities in Los Angeles accept interfaith married couples into their midst. Nevertheless, one cannot impose on communities who wish not to do so without what they see as proper conversion, to surrender their principles in favor of certain individuals. Do communities have to shape their ideologies to those who choose to practice Judaism in a way different from theirs? I think not. Societies or religious communities thrive because they adhere to their principles rather than cater to the individual. It is not a matter of Jewish communities not wanting to accept those who have managed to find love, respect and laughter outside Judaism. But just as interfaith couples wish that their feelings and sensitivities should be respected, they, too, must learn to respect those communities who do not agree with their way of life.
Danny Bental , Tarzana
State Sen. Sheila Kuehl is to be commended for trying to lead us to the promised land of universal health-care coverage ("Bill Seeks to Cure Health-Care Plague," March 12). But just as God and Moses found that the Israelites were too accustomed to Egypt (they complained about being set free to starve in the wilderness), we will have to wait for a new generation for a different system to work. As a medical director of a health plan, I'm sure I represent Pharaoh in this story but the enslaving administrative costs that the senator condemns are necessary to prevent unlimited use of the expensive medications, procedures and hospitalizations.
Just as God waited 40 years for a new generation ready to enter the Promised Land, it may take a new generation of providers willing to adhere to practices that have been shown to be effective and of patients willing to improve their health habits. Even if her estimates of 25 percent to 27 percent of administrative costs are true, it is eclipsed by the 50 percent of estimated health-care costs attributable to lifestyle choices of overeating, smoking, excessive drinking and sedentary activity. Even 40 years of wandering in the desert won't produce the attitude changes required for Kuehl's proposal to work.
Dr. Gil Solomon, West Hills
I am not a writer or a philosopher, I am a Jew who has read Jane Ulman's article, "Viva Vashti" (March 5). Was this article a Purim shtick? I hope so. Ulman deliberately missed out the central part of Purim and that is of Esther and Mordechai. The Megillah is called Megilat Esther, because it was through her, through her self-sacrifice and her determination that the Jews were saved.
When I celebrate this most joyous of all holidays with my children, I explain to them the difference between the Jews and the other nations, how Mordechai respected Esther, how he cared for her every move, and in contrast, how Ahasheverosh and Haman and their entourage respected their women (Haman was willing to risk his job to advise Ahashevrosh to kill Vashti).
Ulman has left out the most important part of the Megilah: When Esther speaks up, and how she tells Mordechai that she will risk her life to go to the king uninvited, to defend her people. The Megillah then tells us many times how Esther actually goes to the king and speaks up for her nation.
After reading Ulman's article, I have concluded two scenarios. One, she is a self-hating Jew that cannot tolerate to see other Jews celebrating their victories, their miracles that God sent onto them. The other scenario is that she fulfills one mitzvah of Purim, and that is to drink until she does not know any difference. I am afraid that both are true.
Zalman Solomon, Los Angeles
Cherish and Respect
In reference to "Cherish and Respect" (Feb. 13) Rabbi Haim Ovadia says that Shabbat is a gift to us from God. Humans need lots of attention and companionship, especially young children. After school our children are shlepped to music or karate or whatever. In the evening the older kids lock themselves in their rooms with the phone to call friends and do homework. As for the younger children, either we're too busy or too tired for them.
Then there is Shabbat. I don't cook or shop or talk on the phone. I don't use the computer and I don't drive anywhere or watch TV. So, what's left to do? Happily and importantly I give my children and my grandchildren undivided attention. We play games, take walks or just sit and look at each other and talk. Children have a lot to say and they have many questions.
As simple as that may seem, it is the most precious gift you can give your children. The positive repercussions this causes will effect your children and family for the rest of their lives. Not to mention the happy moments you will derive, which will add up to many unforgettable memories.
Miriam Fiber, Director Maohr Hatorah Preschool Santa Monica