Jewish Journal

‘Dumb Jews’ react, more politics, more Israel

Posted on Oct. 26, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Dumb Jews

Your issue focusing on Jews' Jewish literacy ("Dumb Jews," Oct. 20) could not have been more appropriate. The key to building strong Jewish communities is creating knowledgeable Jews, aware of the meaning, significance and holiness of their tradition.

Your issue came out just as our synagogue began a program, started by a young rabbinical student at the University of Judaism, Laurence Rosenthal, called the Conservative Kollel. The program meets twice a month, it is free and offers intimate study sessions on a series of topics drawn from traditional Jewish literature.

I hope that it is through programs like this one that we will deepen and strengthen Jews' commitment to their beautiful tradition.

Rabbi Aaron D. Benson
Congregation Beth Meier
Studio City

You often print obnoxious and anti-Jewish materials, but the front-page cartoon titled, "Dumb Jews" (Oct. 20), depicting a young Jew in a dunce cap, insults Jews as being stupid.

Jews with little knowledge of Judaism may indeed be uneducated in that important area of knowledge but describing them as "dumb" and "dunce" is nasty and misuses those words.

Webster's dictionary defines "dumb" as lacking intelligence or not having the capability to process data. "Dunce" is defined as a slow-witted or stupid person.

Jews are often cited as among the most intelligent group of people on earth. Nevertheless, there is certainly a lack of good education about Judaism among American Jews. That is worth discussion that will lead to the desire for better Jewish education.

Show respect for the Jewish community and for the English language. Berating and abusing the former while misusing the latter does nothing for your credibility.

Fred Korr
Los Angeles

Your Page 1 heading, "Dumb Jews," is wrong, stupid and written by a dumb Jew. The correct word to have been used is "ignorant." If you don't know the difference between "dumb" and "ignorant," I suggest you use a dictionary. None of all those Jewish laureates of whom we are so proud were dumb but will readily admit that they are ignorant of matters not within their range of specialty.

Albert M. Goldberg
via e-mail

I was disappointed in your education issue this month. We have been listening to the same bromide answers for the last 50 years.

As someone who makes an effort to study Jewish texts on a daily basis and who loves Jewish learning, I find myself in the odd position of having to say that Jewish literacy is, in and of itself, not the answer.

We all know from life experience that there is an inextricable bond between belief and conditioning. The clarity and quality of what we believe engenders the clarity and quality our commitments in support of those beliefs. These commitments, such as regular Jewish learning, as well as some level of commitment to Jewish law, represent the conditioning side of classical Judaism's belief - conditioning dynamic.

For example, how many parents who have been brought up to believe that the Torah is an inspiring "myth" will be motivated to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on even one child's 12 years of Jewish education?

Beyond financial considerations, how many of these parents would want their child to spend half of each school day during those 12 years studying that "myth?" Why would those same parents decide to spend their Sunday mornings in temple pouring over arcane Jewish texts, when they could be on the golf course?

The real reason most adults and their children do not receive a real Jewish education is that, by and large, our leadership has failed to give them compelling reasons to bother to become knowledgeable Jews. A serious conversation about what we believe and what we are willing to do in support of those beliefs is the 800-pound gorilla in the middle of the room that no one will talk about.

No, its not about more user-friendly courses or cutting-edge pedagogical theories. Until we can engage in a serious communal conversation about Jewish beliefs and understand that that conversation is both necessary and possible, even for sophisticated, 21st century American Jews, we will continue the downward spiral and pretend that Jewish literacy is the answer to all our ills.

Rafael Guber
New York

Are Jews "dumb" or are their educators a bit primitive? Jewish educators need to think out of the box, otherwise it'll be the same old story for dumb Jews.

Classical Jewish education in day or after-school programs prepares people for b'nai mitzvahs but does not have the sophistication to engage Jews from high school ages through young professional ages. Educators even tout this point, but are they doing enough to change the way they convey Jewish concepts to teens and young adults looking for more sophisticated answers and more 21st century learning modes?

We need only look at the abundance of educational products in the Christian market - Internet, audiovisual, music - that has led to great strides in engaging their audiences to learn about their religion. FOX now even has a FOX Faith branch of film development projects geared at Christian audiences.

Jewish education must adapt and be more innovative in its approaches. I'm not saying today's teens and young adults suffer from a Jewish attention deficit; educators are just not reaching us.

Dan Witzling
Business Director
The J-Flicks Project
Los Angeles

I was terribly upset when I picked up The Jewish Journal just outside of my driveway, face up with the headline, "Dumb Jews." I thought for a moment that it was perhaps an anti-Semitic publication but was shocked to see that it was indeed The Jewish Journal.

Don't we have enough people around town, around the country, across the globe bashing us? Is it necessary for you to get your point across in such a demeaning way with the exposure to many who may not understand the significance behind the headline ?

I think you wonderful writers at The Journal could have come up with a better choice for your headline so as not to create more disharmony - not only amongst ourselves but fuel our critics as well.Susan Hirsch Goldfarb
Woodland Hills

Middle East Peace

In its Oct. 20 issue, The Journal continues the fine tradition of carrying opinion pieces that argue for the delusional "two-state solution," this time playing on feelings of sympathy for starving Arabs in Gaza ("World Must Now Shift Its Focus to Gaza's Plight).

The hatred of Israel and the desire to destroy it was strong among Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank before 1967, stayed strong after Israel's rule of those areas brought unprecedented prosperity and has become even stronger since the "peace process" began.

Yet fantasists such as the author of "Gaza's Plight" continue to believe in a piece of paper called a peace treaty ending this. No doubt the treaty will be negotiated by Peter Pan and the Good Witch of the North, and the Arabs will beat their Qassams and AK-47s into plowshares.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

I was expecting the Re'ut Institute's peace article to present some creative, yet realistic, options in the Middle East discussion ("A Way to Peace: Carrot-And-Stick Approach Might Break Impasse," Oct. 13). Instead, their options were the same failed attempts of the past, without taking into consideration the Arab, as well as the Islamic, agenda.

Israeli unilateral actions are hated and despised by the Arabs. Why repeat past mistakes, and why is there no mention of with whom Israel is supposed to negotiate? Among the Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas is a disrespected and powerless "joke".

Daryl Temkin
Israel Education Institute

Grupo Hispano

Thanks for the interesting article by Roberto Loiederman ("Grupo Hispano's Buen New Year," Oct. 20). I never would have guessed there is a thriving Jewish community in Whittier.

Loiederman, however, is in error to write that people are born Christian. While it is true as being a tenet in Judaism that a baby born of a Jewish woman automatically classifies him/her as a Jew, the same does not apply to Christianity. Christians (Catholics and Protestants, inclusive) are baptized or Christened into the religion, separate from the act of birth.

Thanks for putting an interesting light on this community.

Eric Salazar

Help Wanted

Amy Klein's article raises essential questions about what is arguably the most important challenge facing the Jewish community ("Wanted: Someone to Help Suffering Jews," Oct. 13).

Over six years ago, I began working in hospice to address the needs of seriously ill and dying members of the Jewish community. Our organized community has failed to adequately address its traditional responsibility of caring for our own, and every day, I met lonely, frightened Jews and families at the edges of life.

It's a little difficult to define just what "spiritual help" means, but most people do understand the help provided by the presence of a rabbi who is experienced in end-of-life issues and sensitive to Jewish concerns about beliefs and practices at this time.

Through my nonprofit, B'nai Emet Jewish Hospice, I am able to partner with medical hospices (such as Vitas Innovative Healthcare), synagogues and Jewish organizations, such as a rabbinic presence, for the underserved and unaffiliated of Jewish Los Angeles.

I invite anyone to contact me at (323) 723-2978, and I will be glad to respond to these similar questions so that "Suffering Jews" might find a measure of comfort.

Rabbi Sheldon Pennes B'nai Emet Jewish Hospice

You, Rob Eshman, have beitzim ("Beitzim," Oct. 13). I can only begin to imagine the flak you must be receiving from the left. The Democrats in this off-year election, with an unpopular president and war in the sixth year of his presidency, should be in a position to take scores of seats away from the Republicans in the House.

Instead, it will be a struggle for them to capture 15. The reason is that they have been relegated to a party of incessant karpers. No constructive criticism, no fresh ideas, no attempt to deal with serious issues. Not even any room for Joe Lieberman. Just a constant stream of the worst type of bile against everything and everyone. No wonder the Republican Jewish Coalition sees tremendous opportunity to make headway with their ads.

Avi Peretz
via e-mail

Box Office Politics

I attended the same Liberty Film Festival preview that Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman writes about in his weekly column ("Box Office Politics," Oct. 20). However, I had an entirely different experience and reaction.

I found Ms. Murty to be an impressive young woman who articulately presented her rationale for the Liberty Film Festival that she and her husband founded, which offers a venue to filmmakers with a minority viewpoint that is not being widely presented in the mainstream media.

The worldview is unabashedly pro-America, pro-religion and pro-Israel. As for the critiques of "Hollywood" that Eshman finds vague and conspiratorial, one good example was from the experience of being a political conservative screenwriter, i.e. having a different viewpoint from most of the executives he meets at the studios and feeling uncomfortable and out of place with the anti-Bush jokes and anti-religion bumper stickers. An analogy would be a Jewish person in the 1940s trying to work his way up the corporate ladder at a very Waspy corporation.

These brave artists (writers, directors, producers) are true countercultural heroes, standing up for the right to make films that go against the politically correct dogma of the day, i.e. Bush is a religious fanatic, America is responsible for most of the world's ills, the Palestinians commit terror due to oppression and the Islamic fascists can be handled exclusively with police work.

David Schechter
via e-mail

The Truth Speaks

Thank you for your piece taking the L. A. Times to task for it's slanted reporting in the Anaheim City Council race ("L.A. Times Violates Ethics in Council Race," Oct. 20). Perhaps you could educate one of their columnists, Dana Parsons, in the art of objectivity while you are at it. I have always had a sensitivity and tolerance toward people of other faiths. And ever since the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, I think perhaps the Muslim community has suffered unduly for the sins of some of their terrorist brothers.

But you are right on the mark with your criticism. It seems as if there is an apologia at work in the L. A. Times organization. And it is not at all subtle.

Please continue to expose any future misdeeds by the press and to hold their feet to the fire when they misbehave. As always, the truth shall set us free.

Bob Hernandez
Anaheim City Council


"American Jews Are Learned in Everything -- Except Jewish Texts" (Oct. 20) was written by Rabbi Yosef Leibowitz, not Liebowitz.

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