David Suissa gets it right when he praises the incredible work of selfless individuals ("Neighborhood Angels," Feb. 2). Through their tireless efforts to feed struggling Jewish families, Yaelle and Nouriel Cohen bring honor not only to themselves but also to their entire community.
In the face of a problem as deeply entrenched as hunger, people like the Cohens are an important part of the answer. But they cannot do it alone.
Alleviating the suffering brought on by economic insecurity will take broad civic participation. In other words, it will take all of us, working together in concert with able community and government leaders, to make the critical difference that will finally end hunger once and for all.
Communications and Development
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
I was quite perturbed by your article, "The Missing Holiday" (Feb. 9). In it, David Suissa seems to imply that the Orthodox community just picks and chooses its holidays. When Orthodox people celebrate a holiday, they do it with true meaning and observe the holiday's laws.
It has been this way since the beginning of time. We do not make up laws and rituals, such as sitting under a tree eating fruit.
Suissa seems to be a big fan of Tu B'Shevat and what it represents, but I wonder if he feels the same way about other holidays that are a little more strenuous than eating fruit. To compare a Tu B'Shevat seder to the Passover seder is like comparing apples to oranges (pun intended).
David, you are better than that.
In a letter published in The Journal, a Mr. Eli Ziv of Woodland Hills accused Jane Ulman's article about the Conejo eruv of tiptoeing around the real issue, which he claims to be a real hatred of traditional Jewish observance, much of it coming from secular Jews ("Questions Remain After Agoura Eruv Dismantled," Feb. 2).
The problem is that Ziv has never been in our Conejo Valley community, did not see the eruv that we commissioned and was not present at the Oak Park Municipal Advisory Council meeting, where I, as the spokesperson for the eruv committee, gave a very sincere apology to the homeowners who had complained.
I don't know what has driven eruv controversies in other communities, but here in Oak Park and Agoura Hills, it was simply a matter of our contractor doing a lousy job and creating an eyesore. The eruv was ugly, and it trespassed on private property.
Nobody made us take it down. That decision was ours, and the bottom line is this: The neighbors had every right to be upset, and we took our eruv down because we agreed with them.
If Ziv and others (i.e., reporters from the Daily News and Ventura County Star and KFI-AM's John and Ken, none of whom were present at the Oak Park meeting) wish to convolute the facts to feed their own agendas, well I suppose I can't stop them.
But I wish they'd all leave us in the Conejo Valley alone to work out our problems amongst ourselves, which we seem to be able to do quite well, thank you.
Your article, in my opinion, was fair and balanced.
In "Time for Leaders to End Their Silence on Iraq" (Feb. 9), Aryeh Cohen's and Adam Rubin's compelling arguments are undermined by unsupported allegations and false statements. They write, "The Bush/Cheney war, launched on the basis of ... outright lies against a country that posed no threat to the United States...."
"Lies" is a strong allegation, yet they do not say who, when, what and how the lies were the basis of launching the war. Iraq fired anti-aircraft missiles at U.S. no-fly-zone forces, plotted to assassinate President George H.W. Bush and supported terrorists (via $25,000 sent to the families of successful suicide bombers) striking against U.S. ally, Israel -- that's hardly "posing no threat".
In 1994, my daughter announced her engagement to her beshert. My engagement gift to the couple was the "Making Marriage Work" course at the University of Judaism ("Premarital Counseling Gets Short Shrift in Jewish L.A.," Feb. 9). It was inestimably meaningful for them both and for their very successful and enduring relationship.
I encourage all of you prospective parents of the bride or groom to invest in maximizing your kids' chances for a happy and successful marriage.
Barbara H. Bergen
The StandWithUs community is a big umbrella that includes people with a wide range of opinions about Israeli policy ("Divided We Fall," Feb. 9). When The Journal uses labels like "conservative," and "left" or "right" wing, it misrepresents all groups' positions, leaves too much to personal interpretation and ignores the significant variations within each label. StandWithUs regularly takes heat from those who consider themselves more conservative or more liberal than our organization.
We did not identify Combatants for Peace as anti-Israel because we are "left" or "right" or because we want to silence criticism of Israel. Simply put, Combatants for Peace presentations are one-sided (blaming only Israel for the ongoing conflict), ignore context (like Palestinian terrorism and extremism) and make unsubstantiated charges against the Israel Defense Forces and Israel.
The StandWithUs mission is to counter, not to silence, such misinformation and unfounded accusations through education, precisely so there can be informed, open debate. Combatants for Peace does not meet this litmus test.
Roberta P. Seid
Education/Research Director StandWithUs
I was a college student when the Jewish State of Israel was born. We Jews were so proud of the founding fathers who issued a declaration of independence, stating that all the citizens of their democracy would be equal and [expressing] a desire that their country would be a "light unto the nations."
However, after almost 60 years of Israel's existence, we see a quasi-theocracy, where non-Orthodox Jews are second-class citizens and government officials consider expelling non-Jews. This can only lead to a Jewish republic, similar to Saudi Arabia's Islamic republic.
We do not have to guess what a Jew-hating madman, such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would do with his first nuclear weapon when half of the world's Jews have isolated themselves behind a ghetto wall.
Why can't Israel take a cue from Ireland, which has a huge Roman Catholic majority, but has not allowed religious fundamentalism to raise its ugly head and prevent it from being a true democracy?
Martin J. Weisman
I loved reading the article on the Renewal rabbis and chaplains being ordained by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi's Aleph rabbinic program during the Ohalah retreat ("Renewal Seeks Consistency in Its Rabbinical Training," Jan. 26).
I hope parts two and three are written. There is so much more to learn about this rabbinic program and what the students are learning and teaching, and the impact on our L.A. community and worldwide.
One woman in the photograph printed, taken in Boulder, Colo., is Rabbi T'mimah Ickowitz. I would have liked to have read her quotes as she lives here in L.A. and has been actively teaching and sharing for years her love for Judasim and sacred text. (I have studied with her.) Rabbi Alicia Magal was quoted, and I would love to have heard something more important about how this talented L.A. woman is faring as rabbi in Sedona, Ariz., the most magical of places.
We have extraordinary teachers here in L.A. who actively mentor the Aleph students. Please run more stories on Renewal, even if we don't have a "Hood."
Adam Rubin and Aryeh Cohen are perplexed by the Jewish community's silence on the war in Iraq ("It's Time for Leaders to End Silence on War," Feb. 9). Their main sources for reference are Al Gore, the former vice president and present-day amateur meteorologist, who fiddled for eight years while Islamo-fascism metastasized, and Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, who brilliantly compared American troops in Iraq to Nazis.
Rubin and Cohen portray preinvasion Iraq as a cross between Tibet and Disneyland. Saddam's rape rooms; his many torture chambers; his sheltering of Palestininan terrorist Abu Nidal, the bombmaker of the first World Trade Center bombing; his abrogation of U.N. treaties by kicking out inspectors and firing on allied aircraft; his paying $25,000 to Palestinian families of homicide bombers; [and] his firing Scuds at Israel do not concern Rubin and Cohen.
Perhaps they should re-read the Tractate of Talmud they present as a morality lesson to their fellow Jews -- it seems they are the ones that are very lost.
I am disturbed at the strong leftist turn that puts a two-faced Muslim on the cover of The Jewish Journal (Cover, Jan. 19); that prints a sophomoric harangue against [Benajmin] Netanyahu ("Netanyahu Ranks High ... as Racist Demagogue," Jan. 19); that promotes the writings of a "progressives" front for the far left; an editor who urges his readers to see an Arab movie to "understand" the "Palestinian terrorist" as a type, and who found fault with the Israeli defense of Israel against the Hezbollah on moral grounds but not with Hezbollah for using bomblet explosives, as well, and more.
Los Angeles needs a competitive Jewish paper before this one tries to jam a single-state solution for Israel and Palestine down our throats. That's the Palestinian preference and the Jewish far left's agenda.
How about a campaign for the release of Israeli soldiers held by Palestinians? The unity of Jews?
In "Botox-Aided Pianist: Oscar Documentary Nod a 'Gas'" and "Filmmaker Gets Up Close an Personal With Fleisher" (Feb. 9), Leon Fleisher's last name was misspelled as Fleischer. We regret the error.
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