Perhaps you wonder whether your column has an impact ("Moral Diet," Jan. 5). Upon reading it last week, my wife and I -- longtime vegetarians and supporters of organic farming -- were struck by the justice and power of [Rob Eshman's] words. I immediately spoke with our president, executive director and others at the synagogue, and all agreed that Sinai Temple would join Hazon's Tuv Ha'Aretz program. We will encourage our members to buy shares in a local farm and enjoy their organic produce. Perhaps we will even persuade some members to till a little local soil!
Kashrut is the Jewish expression of our stewardship of the earth. As the Midrash teaches us, God told human beings at the outset of our journey, we are responsible for the well being of the world, for if we befoul its air and destroy its earth, no one will follow to undo our neglect. This kashrut initiative expresses that holy purpose of taking care of God's gift. Along with our program to encourage buying fuel-efficient cars, which has so far enabled more than 50 members to purchase hybrid vehicles, this is our synagogue's attempt to fulfill the ethical underpinning of the mitzvot.
Rabbi David Wolpe
I am responding to your article, "Moral Diet." I will quote your words: "Many kosher-observant Jews would argue that kashrut is not about morality, but about obeying a set of divine but incomprehensible laws. That's a fine line of reasoning for infants and automatons, but most of us who struggle with kashrut do it to elevate our souls...."
Your words deeply offend, hurt and disgust me. I indeed keep kosher because it is Divinely commanded and at a certain point incomprehensible on a strictly rational level. I do not believe the Almighty needs to make His laws with my approval, nor do I think He needs yours. Of course everyone has free will, but a servant of God does not demand of his Master to explain Himself or His directives.
Beyond insulting an entire group of Jews, your words serve to alienate and destroy, instead of creating and building. A person with such a position of influence like yourself has an awesome responsibility. Do you think it's fine to be so judgmental and condescending? I disagree with Jews who don't keep kosher, but I do not call them names or insult them.
Dennis Prager has every right to express his opinion, and those criticizing his view that a congressman should take his oath on the Bible are intolerant and judgmental ("Democrats Call on GOP to Condemn Prager, Rep. Goode," Jan. 5).
The blatant disregard and disdain for American customs and values is the hallmark of the left, which bullies its way into schools, health care, the workplace and every other segment of American life, from education to social issues, trying to impose its will on a majority that neither believes in nor wants its advocacy. But when one member of the right dares to defend a tradition honoring a belief system that built this country, the left wants him to humbly apologize.
Those criticizing Prager should instead apologize to him for trying to isolate him and intimidate him into submission -- very un-American approaches to disagreeing with someone's views.
It is time for all Americans and all Jews to eschew calls of "racism" whenever Islam or the Quran is commented on in ways felt to be "politically incorrect." The name calling is not productive and honest debate about the issues is squelched by this type of unthinking emotional outburst.
The Judeo-Christian Bible is clearly the basis for American values, and Dennis Prager and Rep. Virgile Goode were correct in making that point.
It should be noted that the Jeffersonian Quran that Rep. Ellison chose to use for his ceremonial swearing-in was the book that Jefferson studied prior to advocating war against the Muslim pirate slavers of the Islamic Barbary States of Morrocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Tripoli. It was the Bible that provided the values to oppose Muslim slavery, not the Quran of the Muslim Barbary pirates.
The Democrats for Israel should save their condemnation for Rep. Ellison, a man who built his career on Jew-hatred as the spokesman for the Nation of Islam. The demand by the group, that the Republican Jewish Coalition rebuke Prager and Goode is vulgar, pathetic and misguided.
Michael A. Wienir
Jane Ulman always writes well, whether it's about her sons, Torah references or others ("Who Needs Law School? Just Marry a Lawyer," Jan. 5). I was particularly touched by her latest column for it's humanity, expressions of love and the nature of her marital relationship, warmth, subtle humor and personal insights.
Even though I didn't want to overstate my initial response upon reading her very human account, still "brilliant writing" first came to mind.
I hope to see much more of Jane's work in this vein.
As Mormons around the world celebrate the reopening of Brigham Young University's Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem on Jan. 8, we pause to mourn the passing of Teddy Kollek, a leader of compassion and vision whose support was crucial in securing permission for the center to be built in the mid-1980s ("Teddy Kollek, Jerusalem's Modern Day Herod, Dies at 95," Jan. 5).
BYU students have studied in Jerusalem since 1968, and "Mr. Jerusalem" helped the university to secure the land and building permits necessary to erect the permanent facility, which was opened in 1987. For many years the mayor maintained close ties to BYU, which granted him an honorary doctorate in 1995 during one of his visits to Utah; his last visit to the university took place in 2002. Mayor Kollek praised the Jerusalem Center as a possible bridge to peace and a symbol of Israel's capital as an open city.
Kollek's graciousness to the Mormon community was not limited to BYU. In 1979 he bestowed the Jerusalem City Medal on LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball on the Mount of Olives, where they had participated in the opening of a memorial park commemorating the church's dedication of the Land of Israel for the gathering of the Jews in 1841. In addition, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in Israel at the invitation of Mayor Kollek during his last year in office. May his name and memory be blessed, and may his dream of peace be fulfilled in our lifetimes.
Take a Hike
As Jews who practice and preach tikkun olam, supporting to hike up the minimum wage to $7.25/hr is the least we can do to help those in need ("Is Turnabout Fair Play for the 110th Congress?" Dec.1). This will allow the weekly income of a minimum wage earner to rise up to $290 up from $206, before tax!
To those of you who say, "this will destroy our small businesses," the facts don't bear this out. It is precisely in small businesses where decent wages keep workers happy, motivated and striving to succeed because they feel the system honors their basic needs.
To those of you who say, "It's not our job. Let the working poor find two jobs if they need more," I say that you are ignorant. Read Barbara Ehrenreich's book, "Nickel and Dimed," which shows the impossibility of a life with two full-time jobs as a parent.
As Jews we should demand more of ourselves and set the bar higher to help motivate those around us to honor basic human needs.
Give and Not Get?
For those who believe Jimmy Carter that the obstacle preventing is the so-called "occupation" by Israel, let's remember: Hamas, Hezbollah and the PLO/Fatah all maintain charters that call for Israel's destruction ("With Friends Like These..." Dec. 15).
Hamas has repeatedly said they will never recognize Israel's right to exist, in fact, this very issue has prevented the Palestinians from forming a unity government.
Hamas and Hezbollah are fundamentalist Muslim groups. As such they adhere to teachings from the Quran, which states that the Muslim judgment day will only come after the Jews and Christians are killed. These are non-negotiable beliefs.
So, if I lived in Concord, and there was a group committed to my destruction, who would never negotiate with me, would never accept my existence, would continue to send suicide bombers and rockets to murder me, would accept the cut off of international aid and suffer terrible financial hardships rather than accept my right to exist, would never sign a peace treaty with me, why would I want them to live without restriction next door, say in Walnut Creek?
That's exactly what Jimmy Carter suggests Israel should do.
Let him live in "Concord" for a while and see if he feels the same way.
Enough already with Democrat attack dogs against Dennis Prager or anyone else who dares raise concerns about the growing influence of radical Muslims in American politics ("Democrats Call on GOP to Condemn Prager, Rep. Goode," Jan. 5).
Consider the recent cases:
Muslim leaders initiated and lobbied for an L.A. County Human Relations Commission award for Israel-basher Dr. Hathout; a United Teachers of L.A. committee called for boycott and divestment/sanctions against Israel; and radical Arab/Muslim city council candidate, Belal Dalati, who re-registered as a Democrat to build on his political base in a community called Little Gaza in Anaheim, Orange County.
Defend, deny, attack: Every time Jewish leftists ignore their own growing Israel problem (i.e., Jimmy Carter's latest book), and the rising global and local attacks on Jews, they lose more Jewish votes.
Are we now going to see local Democrats like Andrew Lachman mimick the nasty political tone of national Democrats ("Democrats Call on GOP to Condemn Prager, Rep. Goode," Jan. 5)?
Instead of rebuking Senator Durban (D-IL) for comparing our brave volunteer troops to Nazis, Stalinists and the Khmer Rouge, or calling out Democrat congressmen for voting against the Palestinian Anti-Terror Act of 2006 (41 of 46 no votes were Dems), local Democrats now castigate talk show host Dennis Prager for raising concerns about new Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) taking his oath on the Koran, without a Bible present.
Even if you believe, like his leftist Jewish supporters in Minnesota, that Mr. Ellison is just fine with his background as spokesman for Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, or close ties to the radical Council on American Islamic Relations, do Jewish Democrats really want to spend their time picking fights with adored Jewish leaders, rather than confronting real threats to the Jewish community?
I guess so. Liberalism has replaced Judaism as the religion of Democrats.
In the Dec. 29 article "Yoram Hassid: The Man in the Middle," The Iranian American Jewish Federation's committee chair should have been identified as Eliyahoo Ghodsian, not Davood Ghodsian.
In the Jan. 5 article "Ricky Ashley Comes of Age -- on Stage and Off," Dan Elish wrote the book for the new Jason Robert Brown musical, "13," not Dan Ellis.
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