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Jewish Journal

Letters to the Editor: US-Israel Crisis, Prager, American Jewry

March 23, 2010 | 11:44 am

A Peer Supports Peer

The tennis article about Shahar Peer and Dubai (“A Tennis Lesson for the World,” March 19) failed to mention the wonderful action of Andy Roddick. The top-ranked American player (not Jewish) refused to play in the men’s tournament because of the refusal of entry to Peer.

Wesley Lester
Encino


Announcement Furor Obscures Issues

Regarding Rob Eshman’s recent commentary titled “Teenagers” (March 19), which examined the varied and tumultuous reactions to the move by the Israeli government to proceed with the development of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem:

Here’s a notable point left unaddressed: The excitations prompted by the matter have focused mainly on how the move was announced, the reactions of various segments of the Jewish community and what the diplomatic style that accompanied the decision means for Israel’s relations with the United States.

All of that leaves the act of proceeding with the development in East Jerusalem — the act that touched off all of the pronouncing and postulating — unexamined. I must wonder, however, if anyone recalls that East Jerusalem remains occupied territory, as recognized by both the United States and the United Nations. Or that the 1,600 housing units and the land they will claim are matters of immediate and enormous concern for many Palestinian individuals and families.

Might there be some room for analyses of those circumstances?

Jerry Sullivan
Los Angeles


Granted, it might have been “politically correct” for Israel not to announce its plan to build new housing in East Jerusalem during Biden’s visit. But reverse the coin and ask what would Israel have gained by not doing so? Would it have saved one Israeli life or freed one Israeli soldier held by the Palestinians or stopped one rocket from being fired into Israel or stopped suicide bombings or brought the Palestinians to the bargaining table to negotiate in good faith a settlement of its conflict with Israel? Those Jews who now bellow “political correctness” should remember what the disastrous “sha, stil” policy got us into.

Dell Scott
Encino


Not Every Man’s Passover

Your columnist Dennis Prager has said on his radio show that it appears that all people are in need of a “religion.” If a belief in God is not logical to an agnostic or an atheist, then they will believe in some secular cause as a substitute. Rob Eshman’s admission that he is a secular Jew (nonreligious), married to a Conservative Rabbi (religious), is quite revealing, because the balance of the article (“One Man’s Passover,” March 19) gives credence to Prager’s theory. Rob has made “healthy eating” his religion. Reading his Passover menu, one has to wonder what the majority of his Passover guests must think but dare not say out loud. Where is the golden chicken soup with matzah balls that mother used to make? Where are the potato and matzah kugels? Where are the many other savory dishes that Passover guests love that leave them with a fond memory of this wonderful family holiday?

I fantasize that I may be in the Eshman kitchen this coming Passover. I will be looking over Rob’s shoulder as he prepares his “religion of health” artichokes, leeks and chard. At the count of three, Naomi and I will say in unison, “Ooga booga.”

Rob, please don’t take offense.

Daniel Langbaum
Los Angeles


You did it! You opened yourself totally to us about Passover and drew us all in to the frank discussion. You thereby made Passover a real, current, living, multi-faceted, most meaningful experience to be taken seriously and neither ignored lightly nor observed to the ninth degree without really reliving the experience of Passover in our neshamah as well as our viscera. The loving interrelationship of you and Rabbi Naomi is a second lesson in how two strong-minded people with different agendas can together create a mutually acceptable reality. Whether it was calculated or simply a stream of consciousness, you took us by the hand and led us deep within your questions about the Passover. Then you introduced us to the diligent, matter-of-fact way in which Naomi took back the kitchen and the age-old story and there you all were. Once again, like no other people, we shall be telling of the travail of our ancestors, eating the very foods they ate then (the big three you correctly recalled) and retelling and retelling so that it will never be forgotten. Your article will resonate in my head as I lead our seder, and I may secretly give a little smile as I picture it. It is not to worry if you may stir up some bitter criticism and some strong applause. You did it!

Chag Sameach.
Rabbi Jacob Pressman
via e-mail


More Kudos for Rabbi Barclay

The LMU Jewish Students, aka Hillel, has been around for well over 20 years (“Students, LMU Clash Over Hillel Advisers,” Feb. 5). I should know, as the founding Hillel rabbi and the senior Jewish presence on campus. I remember the many events with bagels and cream cheese, the Holocaust observances, the panels on the Middle East, discussions about what it was like to be Jewish on a Catholic campus and the erecting of the palm-covered sukkah in the middle of campus every year. We were not always many, but we were always successful.

Seven years ago, a Campus Ministry-funded rabbinic intern named Michael Barclay arrived. He additionally began teaching classes in the department of theological studies. He later was ordained as a rabbi and became the Hillel rabbi. In this short period of time, Hillel experienced an explosion of student participation under his guidance. Rabbi Barclay created a regular kabbalah study group, offered effective counseling for students and brought in exciting scholars from around the world. What was so critically important was that most students attending the events were not from the rabbi’s classes, but were students genuinely excited by the quality of the programming he developed and facilitated. Hillel had become cool. Just over two years ago, LMU’s Hillel program was recognized as a top program among small schools around the country.

Rabbi Barclay is busy as the spiritual leader of Temple Ami Shalom, a Conservative congregation in West Covina, as well as being the associate rabbi at Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills. A new father of twin baby boys, he focuses his attention more on pulpit work, and I understand from his congregants that he is as successful there as he was as the Hillel rabbi here at LMU. Thankfully, he continues to teach in the department of theological studies at the university, offering classes highly rated by students, and even though he is busy as a father and teacher, he continues to make himself available and be a source of guidance and counseling for Jewish and non-Jewish students here at LMU.

I wanted to publicly appreciate and thank Rabbi Barclay for his important and truly outstanding contributions as a teacher and rabbi to both the LMU community and the Jewish community at large.

Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer
Loyola Marymount University


Organ Donations

In the article “Surgery Prompts Examination of Jewish Concept of Soul” (March 19), writer Merissa Nathan Gerson does a serious disservice to all those in need of organ transplants by miscommunicating Reform Judaism’s stance on organ donations. If Gerson read the entire CCAR [Central Conference of American Rabbis] responsa on this subject, she would have understood the CCAR’s stance, per the responsa’s conclusion: “The exceptional nature and rights of the dead body do not stand in the way of the use of parts of the body for the healing of another body. The part used is not taken into the living body as food, hence it is not considered derech hana-a ... Therefore, the general principle stated first remains unimpugned, i.e. that “we may heal with any of the prohibited materials mentioned in Scripture. This is especially true, as Maimonides indicates, because the patients about to receive these implants are actually in danger of death, and for such patients any possible help is permitted by Jewish tradition.” There is a severe shortage of organs, and Reform Jews should know that they can help save lives through organ donation.

Rabbi Sara Goodman
Santa Monica
Sara Goodman is a Reform rabbi ordained by HUC in 2008.


Merissa Nathan Gerson responds: Your words seem to only further the statements made in this article, which are to vouch that organ donation is acceptable when a life is being saved. My search was one about finding peace with organ donation, as this man’s hip bone did save my life.


Prejudice in the ‘Hood

In my childhood in Miami Beach, there were neighborhoods where Jews could not live, and the same was true in some other cities. Now, that is the attitude of Arabs in Jerusalem. I am surprised to see the Obama administration criticizing Israel for the crime of building housing for Jews in “gentiles-only” neighborhoods (“U.S.-Israel Crisis: This Time, It’s Serious,” March 19). After all, people with Obama’s skin color have suffered decades of similar discrimination in our country.

Marshall Giller
Winnetka


President Obama has his hands full as he promulgates his views of democracy around the globe. His views seem misguided as he concerns himself more with a Jew constructing a home in Jerusalem than with a Muslim constructing a nuclear bomb in Iran (“U.S.-Israel Crisis: This Time, It’s Serious,” March 19). Should he not stand up to the Iranian megalomaniac who wants to rule the Middle East and then the world as he vows to annihilate the only democracy in the East?

The U.S. could not ask for a more reliable friend than Israel in the cantankerous Middle Eastern conflagration. It is in America’s own interest to stop the threat posed by Iran as it arms terrorists like Hamas and Hezbollah and threatens a holocaust with its soon-to-be-nuclear arsenal.

Vice President Biden condemned Israel, a staunch ally, for planning new housing in East Jerusalem, where Jews have lived for millennia. The U.S. leaders should save their condemnations for the anti-American terrorists and Iran’s nuclear program. Are Obama and Biden advocates of the Neville Chamberlain appeasements of Nazi Germany in 1938?
Boys, please pull your heads out of the sand and face reality before it is too late.

Harry Grunstein
Montreal


It is time to speak out for all who believe that Jews have the same political freedom, national, civil and religious liberties as every other people to live anywhere in the world, including the right to live anywhere in Jerusalem, Judaism’s eternal capital. To suggest, demand or even submit to anything less is to support overt religious persecution._

The outrage hurled against the Jewish State by the current U.S. administration for (1) daring to approve the building of homes for Jews in a Jewish neighborhood, two miles from the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount, and for (2) daring to do so when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel, is grossly misplaced and is itself an affront. The public expression of this outrage is yet another means to pressure Israel’s government unfairly.

Outrage should, more appropriately, be directed at those expressing the outrage. We are especially appalled at those who claim to be supporters of Israel and yet demand that this policy of religious bigotry be enforced with threats of official shunning both diplomatically and in terms of military support.

Let’s be clear: The only apologies should come from those attempting to bar Jews from building homes and living in any neighborhoods in Jerusalem, and from those who think that if Jews do build in Jerusalem, they should do it quietly and hope that no one notices. We reject any such discrimination and duplicity. We say to all those who claim to support the Jewish State, including Israeli officials, not to be afraid, to say out loud: Yes! Jews can, do and will build and live in Jerusalem, now and forever. We call on all those who reject this position to explain why an official policy of religious discrimination is acceptable when it is enforced against Jews.

It is most shocking that a U.S. administration claiming to support a strong Israel would allow its policies to fan the flames of Arab hatred, incitement and violence against its only free and democratic Middle Eastern ally.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Z STREET
Eli Hertz, Myths and Facts
Helen Freedman, Americans for a Safe Israel
Charles Jacobs, Americans for Peace and Tolerance
Doris Wise Montrose, Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors
Mort Klein, Zionist Organization of America
Cherna Moskowitz, The Moskowitz Foundation
Rabbi Jon Hausman
Rabbi David Jay Kaufman
Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins
Professor Louis Rene Beres
Professor Edward Alexander
Professor Judith S. Jacobson
Rick Richman, Jewish Current Issues
Daniel Greenfield, Sultan Knish
Pamela Geller, Atlas Shrugs
David Goder, One Jerusalem
Yael Lieberman, Boker Tov, Boulder
Jim Hoft, Gateway Pundit
Dr. Phyllis Chesler
Rachel Ehrenfeld
Gary E. Erlbaum
Kenneth G. Langone
Richard Fox
Adrienne A. Price
Joshua Katzen
Hillary Markowitz
Ruth S. King
Rael Jean Isaac
Joshua Landes
Steven E. Stern
Morris Willner
Richard A. Baehr
Leonard Wisse
Alex Grobman
Edward M. Snider
Craig Snider
Richard Cooper
Howard A. Cohen
Alan B. Miller
Bart Blatstein
Benyamin Korn
Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld
Richard Allen
Stephen B. Klein
Barri Glick
Barbara Fix
Eric S. Goldschmidt
Joseph Wolfson
Gloria Z. Greenfield
Maxine Elkins
Jerome M. Marcus
Clive Ginsburg
Lee Miller
Michael Sachs


The shameful uproar over a “simple zoning” issue of Israel is so unnecessary (“U.S.-Israel Crisis: This Time, It’s Serious,” March 19), especially concerning the fact that Iran is in the process of acquiring nuclear weapons, and this is not a good time to make an “enemy” of this country’s best friend.

Richard Levine
via e-mail


Are You There, God?

There you go again, Dennis. Obfuscating your message so that we don’t really know what to believe it is (“Jews and God – a Troubled Relationship,” March 12).

Your definition of God [is] the biblical man with a flowing white beard, who transcends nature but can’t control it and ends up destroying hundreds of thousands of his creations in tsunamis and earthquakes, etc. I guess you also believe that the creation of the earth and the universe was accomplished in six days with man the product of the seventh. Days might just be billions of years, right? You also subscribe to the Christian supersessionism by stating that belief in any other god but yours is equivalent to no God.

I have yet to read a scientific statement that espouses that humans are wired for God and religion. Can you cite your source for this?

So we introduced God, a monotheistic god, to the world and were His Chosen People. That has resulted in great enmity and the oppression and cruelty of the Christian World for two millennia. Better He made the Christians as Chosen and let us get on with our lives.

If (all) Jews believed in the God you described, you claim we would have an enormously powerful impact on the world and we should give it a try. Seems to me we’ve been trying since we conjured up this God and we are a minute part of the world’s population, albeit with unusual impact far in proportion to our numbers. However, just a belief in God is not going to get us to that utopian place you project.

Stan Greenfield
Woodland Hills


What is “troubling” about Dennis Prager’s missive about the relationship between God and “we Jews” is its conceit (“Jews and God – a Troubled Relationship,” March 12). Prager bemoans the absence of a belief in God by most Jews, which leads him to conclude the lives of those who adhere to such a view are both “pointless and tragic.”  How we miscreants have managed to hold to such a belief must be seen by Prager as somewhat miraculous, given his assurance that “the human brain is wired for God,“ making us all, I suppose, “deity ready” at birth. To underscore the validity of his position and to once and for all expose the emptiness of “secularism,” Prager, refusing to show any of the mercy for which He is so renown, resorts to the ultimate in persuasion: “... for this Jew ... the Jews are indeed God’s Chosen People.”

If so, chosen for what? To be a never-ending example of resiliency, to show the world how a group can collectively and continually take a punch? In my view, the giving of the Torah is not the seminal event in Judaism; that honor belongs to the Holocaust, for if Prager’s assertion that “the human being needs God” were ever true, surely such a “need” was rendered inoperative by the murder of millions of His Chosen while He sat on the sidelines. The Roman Catholic Church in general and Pope Pius XII in particularly are roundly and correctly condemned for the same inaction. Yet only God gets a pass. Why? Because He is God. This is like the winning political candidate who, when addressing his supporters, invariably thanks God for his victory. Since God only endorses winners and is credited as the responsible party for all things good (God and His mercy are responsible for the one person found buried alive days after thousands died in a devastating earthquake, with those losses being attributed to fate), it would be a sacrilege to expect the losing candidate to acknowledge His role in the candidate’s loss.

Notwithstanding my views, I am either delusional or have haywire for wiring, but honestly, I have no sense of tragedy and my life seems to have as much purpose and meaning as my religious counterparts’. How I have accomplished these feats in the absence of a relationship with Him is one of the inexplicables of life, which I guess is fodder for the faith enjoyed by the Dennis Pragers of the world. That being so, he should rejoice in having one less thing about which to be troubled.

Gary Miller
via e-mail


I read with interest two weeks ago Dennis Prager’s column about the afterlife (“Jews and the Afterlife,” Feb. 26), and I read the follow-up letter of disagreement by reader Michael Leviton. Then, last week, I read Prager’s second column on the same subject. I take issue with the columnist’s assertion that “if there is no God, life is pointless.” I admire Prager’s strong faith, but I think he’s more than religious—he has a problem.

I know not of the existence of a deity, but whether or not he exists, in my 72 years, I’ve had a great time. I recommend to Dennis Prager that he find a hobby, take his wife to Hawaii (if he’s not married, get a girlfriend) and go to the shelter and take home a puppy. Or join the Peace Corp.

Stan Gordon
Encino


The Fault Line

So you think Christopher Hitchens’ “seismograph may be off” because “a load of contrary evidence” proves his concerns about European anti-Semitism are overblown (“The Seismic Jew,” March 12)?  Relying on a single survey and a poll, you caricature Hitchens as cranky, alarmist and—worst of all—insufficiently “nuanced.” After all, those surveyed (whoever they were) dislike Muslims more, which apparently makes everything OK. Methodology matters not at all as long as anti-Semitism increases at a rate acceptable to you, the ADL and Pew. Or perhaps you were distracted by the delights of a private dinner Chez Burkle.

Amy Lyons
Los Angeles


A Healthy Difference of Opinion

I wish to make a public vow: If the Democrats succeed in unconstitutionally making “obamacare” into law, I will go on strike. As I am not gainfully employed, my strike will take the form of complete withdrawal from my liberal-leaning synagogue. I will not attend services, I will not continue to do any volunteer work, and all charitable contributions of any and all kinds will cease and promises of such future contributions shall become null and void. I will file my taxes because I am a law-abiding citizen, but that is all I will do to contribute to the common good.

Carolyn Kunin
Pasadena


The Truth as She Sees It

When you spread lies about happenings in Israel, you are not only dangerous but as anti-Semitic as they come.
For your information, a minor housing authority in Jerusalem issued an announcement about 1,600 homes that WILL be built but not before more approvals and not before two years. For your information, G-d gave ALL of Jerusalem and the rest of Israel to the Jews ONLY and that was 3,000 years ago; it was not a present from the U.N.

The disaster we have as an American president is an anti-Semitic Muslim who created this so called crisis with the help of the most untrained, incompetent Secretary of State in modern history.

One hundred years from now, Jews will live anywhere they want in Jerusalem.

Bunnie Meyer
via e-mail


Media Watch

It never ceases to amaze me how people who consider themselves well-informed on Israel and express strong views base their assessment on poor sources such as an American blogger, an individual Israeli observer. Even The Jerusalem Post, which is often cited, is not read by Israelis or regarded as having good sources inside politics. The current version of this tendency is the apparently widely held view that Rahm Emanuel and the Obama administration “set up Israel” during the Biden visit. If there was a setup of Netanyahu (and Biden), it came from an Israeli source.

If people such as those who believe in this myth made a minimal effort to keep up with the Israeli media ...  they would know their myth has no basis in fact. Ambassador Michael Oren told a conference call to Israeli consuls that the leak came from a midlevel bureaucrat and an MP reported that he was in a meeting when Bibi was informed of the public announcement of the Ramat Shlomo construction. He reacted with shock, according to that MP. In addition, Netanyahu is engaged in an ongoing feud with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat over construction projects Barakat is encouraging.

The tendency of strong opinions based on bad sources is not a matter of right or left. It is simply the lack of a minimum effort of people to be well informed on matters related to Israel before expressing their views. A minimal effort to review the sources on which Israelis base their opinions would correct this. In the age of the Internet, not doing this and considering oneself well informed is inexcusable.

Lawrence Weinman
Los Angeles


Create a Climate for Real Peace Process

I find it amusing that the Journal’s Editor-in-Chief is taking to task American Jewry for what he sees as a petulant, childish reaction to the current Israel-U.S. “crisis” (“Teenagers,” March 19) while his own paper then goes on to publish articles with the same reactions he’s bemoaning (“Tormenting Israel” and “U.S.-Israel Crisis: This Time, It’s Serious,” March 19). Eshman writes that the right reaction should have been one of admission, apology and patience. That was exactly the official reaction of the Israeli government and its prime minister, and using the word “crisis” here is overstating what has really occurred altogether.

And maybe, just maybe, the reason for the curious timing of the previously agreed-upon expansion announcement was Israel finally telling everyone that enough is enough. Eshman and others need to finally drop their Pollyanna view of the so-called peace process that has exhausted, depressed and hardened the Israeli populace and given credence to the possibility that the Palestinians just don’t want peace with us, unless of course, that peace comes with an Israeli-free Middle East. Abbas is not a partner because he really doesn’t believe in it and can’t even pretend to for fear of being assassinated for even expressing those views. That’s a climate for a real peace process?

Allan Kandel
Los Angeles


Correction

In “UCLA Med Sciences Leader Steps Down” (March 19), David Geffen’s endowment to UCLA’s School of Medicine was $200 million.


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