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Jewish Journal

Letters

April 7, 2005 | 8:00 pm

 

Not Funny

While I appreciate The Journal's attempt at Purim humor, as a long time and very proud shtreimel wearer, I was saddened by your cover of Michael Jackson, currently under indictment and on trial for [alleged] child molestation (Purim Cover, March 25). As a senior bureau chaplain for the Los Angeles Police Department and chief of operations for Hatzolah Rescue Team, I, unfortunately, have witnessed too much pain and suffering of children (and adults) at the hands of sexual predators.

A shtreimel situated on the head of our governor, mayor or even the latest Hollywood macher (not currently under indictment) would have garnered a prominent position on our shteilbel's bulletin board.

Rabbi Chaim Kolodny
LAPD Senior Bureau Chaplain

Hahn Gossip

I wish to correct an error made in "Newsroom Rebellion Silences Gossip About Mayor's Family," April 1 ("Newsroom Rebellion Silences Gossip About Mayor's Family," Apr. 1). It simply is not true that any L.A. Weekly reporters have refused to pursue a line of questioning or potential story pertaining in any way to the mayor's race. As a general policy, we do not discuss stories we may or may not be working on, and the issue at hand is no exception.

Alan Mittelstaedt
News Editor
L.A. Weekly

Editor's note: The Journal stands by its story.

Campus Turmoil

Thank you very much for your concern about the strength and well-being of the Jewish community at UCI, but your concern may be unjustified ("Campus Turmoil," March 11). Your article was correct, in that there is hostility toward the Jewish population, but you seemed to have left out the fact that we, the Jewish community, are fighting back, peacefully. You made mention of a certain speaker brought by the Muslim Student Union, but you conveniently didn't mention either of the two articles in the major UCI newspaper (The New University) or the one in the conservative newspaper (The Irvine Review) that responded to the speaker, and criticized the judgment of the Muslim Student Union in bringing him to UCI. Your article appeared much later than any of these three, and not mentioning any of them brings the true intent of this article under question.

The truth is, that since this speaker came, there has been a great response by the Jewish community, and the UCI community as a whole. Hillel, Alpha Epsilon Pi (the Jewish fraternity) and Alpha Epsilon Phi (the Jewish sorority) all partnered in support of the Blue and White Day, which occurred shortly after the speaker, and at least a month before your article was published. The Jewish organizations mentioned above, along with other organizations, also sponsored the visit of the bombed bus No. 19, along with speakers at its side, which also happened before the publishing of your article, but was not mentioned.

Since your article was published, I have seen a response from the readers of your newspaper, and it is not good. It has brought light on to a topic that we, as a community are working to correct, and it did nothing to help our community in that endeavor. I have heard parents of high school students tell their children they can't apply to UCI because of your article, and this hurts the Jewish community more than anything the Muslim Student Union could ever do to us. Without a steady influx of Jewish students into UCI, the attacks by the Muslim Student Union will only grow stronger, as we will have less people to respond and defend ourselves. Without new Jewish students, we will have a stagnation of ideas, and new ones will be few and far between.

At UCI, we have done our best to foster a Jewish community, and through Hillel and both Jewish Greek organizations, we have begun to do this. With a brand new Jewish Community Center and Hillel center within five minutes from campus, there is a place for us to go and hang out. We organize a kosher lunch every Wednesday and a Shabbat dinner every Friday night, both of which have an amazing attendance, bolstered by the support of all three Jewish organizations.

Every other week, we show a movie from Israel with Israeli food, and it, too, is attended with the support of all three organizations. This year, for the first time, there is a tremendous support for Israel in the editorial section of The New University, something that hasn't generally occurred in the past. From what I am told, UCI is much better off now than it has been in recent history, and it might have been a better help for your newspaper to highlight the progress we have made, rather than a few setbacks to that progress.

Alex Chazen
New University Staff Writer
Alpha Epsilon Pi Member

Right to Die

So we should err on the side of preserving life when the facts are not clear? What President Bush said would seem more heartfelt if he was not so quick to go to war, costing untold numbers of lives to noncombatant Iraqis and American soldiers alike ("Jewish Ethical Views Differ on Schiavo," March 25). The facts were unclear, as he and many have professed, regarding Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, and it is still not clear how it was presumed that they are enemy combatants in the U.S. war on terror.

Similarly, capital cases, where parties are put to death and given scant additional review, during his Texas governorship, would seem to qualify as situations where the facts are not clear, and one may choose to err on the side of preserving life. Genetic analysis, as an aid in reviews and reversals of capital cases in the last two decades, proves this quite effectively. It seems obvious to me that this proclamation, seen in this light, rings of hypocrisy, and demonstrates how cynical and pandering the administration is in taking sanctimonious stands such as these.

Dr. Mark Dreskin
Pasadena

I find Judy Gruen's article on end of life issues it a bit offensive, simplistic and also inaccurate ("Spiritual Help Can Benefit Hopelessly Ill," April 1). First off, for every intellectual crackpot like the Princeton professor she refers to trying to "eliminate the possibilities for the dramatically ill or infirm," there are hundreds if not thousands of bioethicists, including rabbis and other clergymen, writing and working in hospitals and hospices to cope with the increasingly and incredibly complex issues related to the end of life. Anyone who has ever spoken to a doctor knows that for many considerations, including the prosaic one of acting to avoid potential liabilities, hospitals and hospices are slow to hasten the death of a patient.

We both know where we stand on the Oregon law. I did a little research on The Netherlands, in fact the legal progression has been to progressively limit the cases in which the law prevents euthanasia. A comprehensive study I found in the British medical journal, The Lancet (equivalent to the New England Journal of Medicine in the United States), found a minimal increase in the percent of all deaths in the country that were by euthanasia increased by .8 percent between the law's enactment in 1991 and 1995; an increase of .2 percent occurred between 1995 and 2001. The number of deaths by nontreatment decisions showed no increase between 1995 and 2001; there was no increase in explicit requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide during that time. The number of doctors who were ever involved in the ending of life without the patient's explicit request (one assumes this includes cases where it was done at the family's explicit request absent that of the patient) declined from 27 percent in 1990 to 13 percent in 2001. This hardly indicates a trend toward widespread "killing of patients." The authors of this comprehensive study in The Netherlands reach a conclusion diametrically opposed to Gruen's rhetoric given the advances in medical technology and techniques to prolong. The authors found "the absence of a rise in the proportion of nontreatment decisions [read such actions as removing medical devices] after 1995 surprising."

The Netherlands has a lower infant mortality rate than the United States, which has the dubious distinction of being No. 1 in that category among countries in the developed world. Perhaps we in this country have something to learn from The Netherlands about the dignity of life and utilitarian economic decisions on health care. Unlike Gruen's idle speculation of what may occur in some brave new world, government health care policies today in our country contribute to the deaths of countless children each year, now.

The Oregon law on euthanasia is quite restrictive. I suspect Gruen has not taken the trouble to read it.

The Oregon Death With Dignity Act states the following:

An adult who is capable, is a resident of Oregon, and has been determined by the attending physician and consulting physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, and who has voluntarily expressed his or her wish to die, may make a written request for medication for the purpose of ending his or her life in a humane and dignified manner in accordance with ORS 127.800 to 127.897. (Task Force to Improve the Care of Terminally Ill Oregonians, 1998, p. 57)

Other sections of the law are designed to provide safeguards for the practice. For example, two unrelated persons must witness the written request; there must be a consulting physician; the patient must make an informed decision; the attending or consulting physician can request a referral to a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist if they suspect that a psychiatric condition or depression may be causing impaired decision-making; and family notification is recommended.

I also found Gruen's attitudes toward the "proper" actions by family members to be quite judgmental and simplistic. If anything, the growth of hospices has shown that society has moved toward easing an individual's final days, not a rush to end their lives. While Gruen might have chosen how her mother spent her final days, who is she to speculate that when a family acting with the wishes of the suffering patient decides that it is time for the pain allow the bodily life to come to a close "negate the guiding hand of Hashem"? Right now, my aunt lies on her deathbed and refuses food. If after years of conscientious caring and almost daily visits by my cousin, who is only concerned with her having no severe pain, declines to attach a feeding tube, is she missing a "transcendent moment" at her mother's passing? Did the millions around the world who prayed in the moments surrounding the pope's death miss a "transcendent moment" because in his final days the pope declined to be brought to the hospital and at some point in his final hours those around him chose not to continue any extraordinary means to keep him alive?

Jewish tradition teaches that the nefesh (soul) continues on long after it leaves the physical body. One hopes that the tragic case of Terri Schiavo spurs many to have a frank, intimate discussion with their loved ones about the exceedingly complex issues related to the end of physical life. And that no outsider, be he politician, religious leader or self- proclaimed advocate for the "culture of life," dictate or simplistically judge their decisions on this most complex matter. That would truly be honoring Hashem.

Lawrence Weinman
Los Angeles

According to your article, Rabbi Avi Shafran stated that Terri Schiavo was not in a state of goses, the edge of death ("Jewish Ethical Views Differ on Schiavo," March 25). But how did he know that? Did he know her medical history? According to reports, she had severe brain damage (although she was not considered brain dead), and the base of her brain was slowly filling with spinal fluid, which eventually killed her.

That being the case, how close to death does a person have to be to be declared in a state of goses?

That also means that it is possible the rabbi's basic incorrect assumption allowed time to arrive at a conclusion, which is incorrect. Or, at least, did not allow him to explore another aspect of this issue.

The other question, not fully addressed in the article is the Jewish issue on a living will. Schiavo's husband maintains that she told him that she would not want to live this way. It took him a long time to prove his point, but apparently, at last, he prevailed. In Jewish law what form does a living will have to be? Can it be verbal? How many people have to vouch for the verbal statement? In Jewish law is it just the husband? Two or more people? Or, does Jewish law recognize a living will at all, written or verbal? According to Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, as quoted in the article, a living will is irrelevant. Is that true?

Gary M. Barnbaum
Woodland Hills

As opposed to Judy Gruen, I do not believe in the beauty of suffering.

She accuses doctors, "bureaucrats" and family of trying to eliminate the "mess and expense" of the "inconveniently ill." How outrageous of her! After my 90-year old mother had a stroke, I faced the terrible responsibility of deciding whether to continue a feeding tube. Mom could no longer speak or swallow. After a week of misery, I believe she said to herself "enough is enough." Mom fell into a coma and died peacefully.

I would soon have decided against the tube. There was no love or compassion in having this spirited, independent woman, at her age, continue to suffer.

Gruen tells about a friend who brought a young man out of a coma by reading him psalms. Most of us in life-and-death situations must be more pragmatic. Otherwise, we are in danger of skidding on the slippery path so beloved of the neocons: the culture of life. Whether Gruen intends it or not, that path leads to the destruction of abortion rights and the curtailment of stem cell research.

Gruen should stick to frilly hats and comedy writing. She is out of her depth here.

Cynthia Lawrence
Toluca Lake

Here and Gone

I read about the swift departure of Rabbi Issac Jeret from Brandeis-Bardin Institute with puzzlement ("Here and Gone," Apr. 1). Here was a seemingly dedicated clergyman committing to a challenge of a lifetime. Stepping into a storied legacy of Shlomo Bardin; charged and energized to steer a thriving Jewish Institute toward four generations of Jewish outreach. His commitment lasted 10 months. His tenure was shorter than the search to secure his services. I think the admonition was to lay down in green pastures, not to continue to look for them.

I read about a temple that seemingly pursued their target without regard to the morality of their actions. They seem the perfect 21st century moral role model: Pursue your goal at any cost, succeed without regard to damage caused to others, win at any price. Moral relativism has been accepted by religious institutions.

The challenge facing all Jewish institutions in the 21st century is relevance and guidance. In this instance the actions of the protagonists appear to mirror the moral morass of general society, demonstrating little leadership or interest in igniting a beacon to all. It would seem appropriate to demonstrate adherence to our tradition, and make restitution to Brandeis-Bardin Institute.

Bill Kabaker
Via e-mail

Counter Culture

Thanks for your article on Zucky's ("Zucky's Counter Culture," Apr. 1). I have very fond memories of the place and the people. I am positive we can all live better with out the food. We could all eat healthy. I grew up in Ocean Park and remember the original location. Please let your readers know if there is anything we can do to help them save the structure. Very disappointed to find out there was an attempt to limit Jewish merchants. I am 72 years old and will never think of Santa Monica the same. I still have a menu from the old Zucky's restaurant.

Sanford Nadlman
Los Angeles

Burden of Truth

It is my opinion that any historian who denies the occurrences, in his lifetime, of the most heinous acts of murder in history, that are well documented and even admitted to by the perpetrators, and also so adjudicated by high courts of law, is a liar, cheat, distorter of facts and history ("Letters," March 11). His "professionalism and craft," integrity and credibility is dubious, because once a liar.

Moreover, an academic or whoever, who defends such an historian is not far removed from the one he is defending, and does not enjoy my admiration.

David Brook
Professor of Life and Survival
University of Buchenwalk Koncentrations
Lager, Germany

Absent Husbands

Thank you for publishing Jane Ulman's well-researched and important article ("Women Still Struggle to Have It All," April 1). She describes accurately how frustrating it is for most women to be carrying too much of the load in their families.

But she left out a key part of the story -- what if the husbands did more to improve the fairness and daily teamwork in their home life? During the past several years while I was researching my new book "Wake Up or Break Up:The 8 Crucial Steps to Strengthening Your Relationship," I came across hundreds of inspiring examples (especially among Jewish couples) where women were less stressed and more fulfilled because their husbands were doing a much better job of helping out with kids, chores, weekly planning meetings and daily supportive listening and brainstorming.

In the marriages where men do decide to be mensches, it's amazing how much less arguing and burnout there is. I urge every couple who cares about fairness and a good relationship to start getting creative and finding positive ways to share the load. It can be done!

Leonard Felder
West Los Angeles

Joseph Aaron

As a Jewish publisher, already in my 92nd year, I have read more than my share of calumnious articles. But Joseph Aaron's Op-Ed was especially vicious -- not merely because of his nasty attacks on Edgar Bronfman, who has done so much on behalf of Holocaust survivors like me, but also for its bizarre misrepresentation of Isi Leibler. Leibler "a man of integrity and honor?" ("Listen to What the Machers Are Saying," March 25). Are we talking about the same Leibler whose boundless ego and penchant for communal intrigue are legendary among Australian Jews?

Close to 40 years ago, Leibler successfully conspired to put the newspaper of which I was publisher -- The Australian Jewish Herald -- out of business. Why? Because on Leibler's very own recommendation I had taken aboard a columnist by the name of Mark Brahm. An erudite Orthodox intellectual, Brahm was, at times, highly critical of Israel's policies toward the Arabs. As a committed Zionist, yet one who deeply believes in freedom of the press, I was willing to allow his views to be heard even though I knew they were not popular. Somewhere along the line Leibler realized that Brahm's views were the diametric opposite of his own and he demanded that I sack the controversial columnist.

I told Leibler that while I disagreed -- in fact, strongly disagreed -- with Brahm's ideas, the man did have a right to air his views. For the record, those ideas were little different, than what one hears in mainstream Israeli political discourse today.

That I would not comply with Leibler's order was too much for the Australian Jewish dictator to bear. He promptly ordered a boycott of my paper forbidding Jewish community institutions from advertising in the pages of the Herald and the Yiddish weekly I published. In a few short weeks my paper -- which I had built up from a moribund eight-page bulletin, to a lively 40-page weekly -- was driven out of business. This affair swiftly became a cause celebre in Australia and made headlines in the non-Jewish press.

I enjoyed the public support of leading intellectuals and politicians in Australia, both Jewish and non-Jewish, but it was to no avail. Leibler had a virtual stranglehold on the Jewish community and, sad to say, Australian Jews cowered in fear. Many of them agreed with my position, and told me as much in private, but they dared not say so in public! So on Tisha b'Av 1968, weeks before we were to celebrate the paper's 90th birthday, I had to pull the plug -- and the rest, as they say, is history.

Nearly four decades later, Leibler decided that because he couldn't call the shots in the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the best thing to do would be to bring down that venerable organization -- and actually destroy it in the process. No matter that what he did was grist for anti-Semitic mills. No matter that he had no real evidence of any wrongdoing. These days, you only have to hint that someone has done something wrong to tarnish a good name. And because of this reckless egomaniac, the WJC found itself having to fight off all kinds of scurrilous attacks from people who love to see the Yidden at war with one another. That is why Leibler is now the star of so many anti-Semitic hate sheets and is a hero to Jewish muckrakers like Joseph Aaron. But presumably, none of that is important to him. Like a spoiled child, the 70-year old Leibler is used to having his own way and is oblivious to all other considerations.

In my possession is a letter to me from my good friend Nahum Goldmann, who Aaron hails, but upon whom Leibler wrote a vituperative attack in the pages of my paper. When in 1967 I asked Goldmann whether he wished to counter the critique, the great Jewish leader wrote: "I have not the slightest wish to reply to the utterances of Mr. Leibler. For some time already I have given up reacting to the attacks of some of the Australian representatives because of their lack of manners and the form in which they gloat in their criticisms."

Thanks to the likes of Aaron, Leibler is still gloating. What a shanda!

David Lederman
Israel

Praise Scientists

The Journal has a very interesting advertisement ("Jewry Role in Human Affairs"). In this ad, short biographies of outstanding scientists and inventors of Jewish origin appear from time to time. It is important to give tribute to the great minds of Jewish nation.

I don't object that it is necessary to write about art and charity, travel and politics, Torah and kabbalah, music and spirituality, but existing apparent neglect of science in mass media is undeserved, unreasonable and inefficient for society. Such articles about science and technology will give readers knowledge necessary to better understand contemporary situation and future perspectives. In addition, many of those who work in science and technology have interesting personalities and/or life stories.

Dr. Mark Burgin
Via e-mail

When Jews Lose

I recently read your article lamenting Bob Hertzberg's failure to advance through Los Angeles' mayoral primary ("When Jews Lose," March 18).

Before worrying about the implications of the Jewish community not having a representative as a mayor of Los Angeles, I think it's also important to look at Hertzberg the candidate.

Early in the primary season I received an e-mail from Hertzberg's office with a 10-point talking list regarding what he wanted to do with Los Angeles. Initially I appreciated the marketing of it as a great starting point for a plan to improve some problems in Los Angeles.

However, when I read Hertzberg's plans regarding the environment that consisted simply of not doing road construction during rush hours, the paucity of Hertzberg's ideas was apparent. When he sent an e-mail telling everyone of his support for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), his campaign was finished.

Schwarzenegger is the governor who has reneged with California educators to the tune of 4 billion of the last two years. How is breaking up the LAUSD and cutting 4 billion out of the education budget supposed to help California? Maybe it could, but neither Schwarzenegger nor Hertzberg cared to explain.

Meanwhile, Arnold has raised 50 million on unspecified campaign/campaign initiatives. I thought he had enough money to be able to govern without it? But I digress. Hertzberg lost the election because of his lack of ideas and his thoughtless alignment with Schwarzenegger as all things good for California.

P.S. I thought Hertzberg was a Democrat...

Zachary S. Brooks
Via e-mail

I have participated in many elections during my lifetime. I do not decide on a candidate because he or she is of my ethnic background or my religion. I consider his ability to lead and his experience to administrate any number of people and his or her ethical background. Los Angeles is a very big city with citizens of many different backgrounds. We need someone who has proven that he is capable to administer this city. It is my opinion that no one person or group is all right or all wrong and we should decide if the candidate is able to make decisions that are going to be the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

I am a regular reader of The Journal and I am hoping that this runoff re-election will be free of unnecessary contentions.

Polly S. Hertz
Los Angeles

Campus Turmoil

Regarding your "Campus Turmoil" cover story, I find it rather telling that Muslim students at UC Irvine and other American campuses are so vehement in their protest against Zionism (their politically correct term for Judaism and Jews) and Zionist (Jewish) influence and "control" (March 11). Compare that intense fervor with the nearly total silence of American Muslims after Sept. 11. There were no criticisms of or protests against their fellow Muslims who so hideously attacked the United States, killing nearly 3,000 innocent people.

It is quite clear to any objective observer that Muslim students in America support the goals of the worldwide Muslim offensive against everyone and everything that does not conform to Muslim doctrine.

Richard Saunders
North Hollywood

Terri Schiavo

I am not obsessed with religious doctrine and practice ("Jewish Ethical Views Differ on Schiavo," March 25). I am an ex-liberal and Democrat. But, a phrase from the past plays loudly in my head, "Forgive them for they know not what they do." Sorry, but "they" cannot be forgiven for they knew exactly what they were doing when they obsessively and stubbornly pressed ahead with their suspect hidden agenda that resulted in the state-sponsored execution of innocent Schiavo. Those undeserving of forgiveness are also the "limp-wristed" "girlie-men" types who pulled the covers over their head to protect themselves from political fallout. Those undeserving of forgiveness include those who made politically "watered-down" attempts to save one innocent American life.

More specifically, "they" are supporters and practitioners of the law/legal system that obsessively paved the way for the barbaric execution of an innocent, disabled woman. They are people of power who "heroically" ducked the issue to save their political careers. They are the ghoulish and perverted advocates who arrogantly and obsessively drooled at the thought of bringing this disabled woman to the altar of the "blessed" and "peaceful" priests of euthanasia (attorney George Felos, a deranged Hemlock society neurologist, the morally twisted ACLU....). They are represented by the allegedly adulterous and bigamist husband who cruelly wrenched Terri Schiavo from the caring hands of her biological family for suspected personal gain. They are the media and the legal/medical apologists that tried to calm and soothe the passion against Terri Schiavo's state-sponsored execution with legalese and justification that seemingly made her execution appear so reasonable.

Is it not an irony that another Schindler [Terri Schiavo's maiden name], a German businessman, risked his life and fortune to add those slated for the Nazi crematoriums to his famous "Schindler's List," the list that saved a thousand or so innocent from the legal, state-sponsored executions of the Third Reich. Yet, the most powerful politicians in our nation could not and would not save one innocent life from the obsessed and dedicated federal bench and Floridians bent on consummating the execution of Terri Schiavo. It took a reformed Nazi supporter, turned humanitarian, to save thousands from cruel and unusual/inhumane punishment when he faced risk to his person and fortune (and he did lose his fortune). But, professed American humanitarians of power could not bravely set aside their fortune (political) to step forward and add Terri Schiavo to a "Schindler's List," when no risk to their life existed. How truly shameful!

No, those of political power and others that let Terri Schiavo or did little or nothing to stop it cannot be forgiven when they are weighed against one reformed Nazi, Schindler, who faced death and lost his fortune as he passionately protected lives from the law of the Third Reich; law that justified and promoted euthanasia against the innocent of Germany and Europe.

We, as nation have moved one large step backward toward confirming the precedents set for life and death as advocated by the Third Reich, and one major step forward to trashing the lessons of the post-Nazi Nuremberg trials. We have soiled our undergarments, and it is very doubtful that this stain will ever be removed.

Joel Katzman
La Jolla

 

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