We were surprised to read the mischaracterization of the American Jewish Committee (AJCommitee) in Rob Eshman's column ("Shutting Jewish Mouths," Feb. 16).
As our 175,000 constituents know, we welcome a wide range of viewpoints in the AJCommitee "tent" and our members count themselves as liberals, conservatives and everything in between. AJCommitee is a strictly nonpartisan organization, long viewed as centrist in its orientation and we pride ourselves on a deliberative style of discussion and debate on policy matters. Contrary to Eshman's view, there is no "party line" at AJCommitee.
Legitimate and informed discussion of Israeli policies is welcome, and, as ardent defenders of the Jewish state, we have been long-time participants in that debate. Indeed, AJCommitee is a leading advocate for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But we must take umbrage with anyone, even fellow Jews, who call for Israel's demise.
The essay by professor Alvin Rosenfeld of Indiana University addresses a very real threat that a Jewish imprimatur gives to the campaign to challenge Israel's very legitimacy. As the American Jewish community's leading think tank, the AJCommitee chose to publish the essay because it is important to illuminate views held by those on the political fringes asserting that Israel has no right to exist and should either be destroyed or morphed into a so-called bi-national state, which means the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
Their language needs to be read to understand why professor Rosenfeld, a highly regarded scholar, felt compelled to write his essay and why AJCommitee chose to publish it. It can be found at www.ajc.org.
Meanwhile, those who claim that an effort is underway to stifle debate are just wrong. Discussion online and offline has been vibrant, and we hope interest in the Rosenfeld essay will spark serious conversation on the important issues he raises.
Sherry A. Weinman
Los Angeles Chapter
American Jewish Committee
Bravo, well said ... and it needed to be said. I admire your courage in speaking out against an increasingly stultifying establishment... which, of course, was itself the point.
No matter how much heat you catch -- and I'm sure it will be plentiful -- know that you have many readers who respect your resolve to deliver real journalism. Kol hakavod l'cha.
Rabbi Ken Chasen
Leo Baeck Temple
Your statement about being the former head of Americans for Peace now [in Los Angeles] made everything clear about how you have used The Jewish Journal to put down the religious Jews who really care about their G-d-given birthright, the land of Israel and the nominally Jewish traitors who would sell their soul for a fake peace with the Islamic terrorists who want nothing more than to eradicate Jews from the face of the earth.
If ever there were a case for removing a traitor from a "Jewish" publication, it is you. You are a pogrom all by yourself.
In "Shutting Jewish Mouths" (Feb. 16), Jewish Journal Editor in Chief Rob Eshman makes an almost comical argument: the American Jewish Committee can stop Peace Now's abusive criticism of Israel.
But pacifists, whether in England in the 1930s, West Germany in the 1970s or in the West today, always blame the victim first.
Thus, while friends of Israel seek to improve Israel's public image, Peace Now supplies the raw materials for anti-Israel coverage. While Israel seeks new markets for its products, Peace Now assists in economic boycotts. While the IDF maps Iranian nuclear sites, Peace Now maps settlements. While Hamas prepares to introduce sharia, or Islamic law, into the formerly "occupied" Gaza strip, Peace Now advocates splitting Jerusalem. While Hezbollah and Syria plan another round of missile strikes, Peace Now demands that Israel surrender the Golan.
It's true that we all love Israel. But love from pacifists tends to hurt -- a lot.
Nathan D. Wirtschafter
Justice Takes a Beating
Joe R. Hicks' otherwise excellent article about the sentence of freedom given to the gang that nearly beat to death three innocent young girls on the street while screaming anti-white racial epithets against them left out the most important information: the judge's name ("Justice Takes a Beating in Racial Hatred Case," Feb. 16).
It is Superior Court Judge Gibson Lee, not only the object of worldwide scorn via the Internet and talk radio, but thankfully the subject of a recall petition. Lee is a disgrace to the bench and to America, and should resign immediately.
In the course of his lukewarm, non-defense of Dennis Prager, David Klinghoffer adds insult to injury by claiming that the "Muslim scriptures do not deserve" the same recognition as the Bible because "what has made America so special" can be traced to "a unique blending of Christian and Jewish beliefs," in which the "Quran played no role whatsoever" ("Prager Shouldn't Lose His Museum Post," Feb. 16).
Klinghoffer needs to go back and study his U.S. history. What made America so special is not some Christian/Jewish exclusion of other religions, but the inclusive principle of religious tolerance.
Campaigning for religious freedom in Virginia, Thomas Jefferson demanded recognition of the religious rights of the "Mahamdan," the Jew and the "pagan." Richard Henry Lee asserted: "True freedom embraces the Mahomitan and the Gentoo [Hindu] as well as the Christian religion."
Jefferson recounted that in the struggle to pass his landmark Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786), the Virginia legislature "rejected by a great majority" an effort to limit the bill's scope, "in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan."
Officials in Massachusetts were equally insistent that their influential Constitution of 1780 afforded "the most ample liberty of conscience ... to Deists, Mahometans, Jews and Christians."
Our history is clear and inspiring. It's revisionists like Klinghoffer and Prager who distort it.
Stephen F. Rohde
David Klinghoffer defends Dennis Prager and mentions Michael Medved, and there you have the three notorious Jewish hypocrites of the religious right ("Prager Shouldn't Lose His Museum Post," Feb. 16).
These Jewish counterparts of Hannity and O'Reilly support the Evangelical Christians even though they know that the Evangelicals do not respect Judaism and consider our religion only a precursor to Christianity.
Martin J. Weisman
End Silence on War
While professors [Aryeh] Cohen and [Adam] Rubin may be right that Al Qaeda did not enter Iraq until after we invaded, the answer is: So what ("It's Time For Leaders to End Silence on War," Feb. 9)?
If we had invaded the moon and thereafter Al Qaeda took up residence behind some of the many moon craters, wouldn't professors Cohen and Rubin say "lets take advantage of the situation and kill Al Qaeda on the moon, or wherever we can find them."
Perhaps our motivation for invading Iraq (aside from the fact that Saddam put live humans into giant hamburger meat grinders) was the strategic potential of controlling three anti-American rogue regimes for the cost of one invasion.
Because Iraq is bordered on the west by Syria and on the east by Iran, could the invasion planners have calculated that with one American Army in Iraq we would be able to intimidate Syria and Iran by stationing American forces based in Iraq, on their borders.
That being the case, the strategy for the invasion could be called "Three for the Price of One." Unfortunately, the plan did not work out and was miserably executed and as it stands now the situation could fairly be called "None for the Price of Three." However, professors Cohen and Rubin, good logicians and talmudic scholars, know better than to judge the merits of a plan by how well it is executed.
I wonder if The Jewish Journal knows that we have a treasure in our midst here in the Los Angeles area ("Premarital Counseling Gets Short Shrift in Jewish L.A.," Feb. 9)?
Dr. Sylvia Weishaus, a psychologist, along with Rabbi Aaron Weiss, of blessed memory, of Adat Ari El created the "Making Marriage Work" program at the University of Judaism you referred to in your article.
As someone who has been a teacher of many of the classes, I know this was either the first, or one of the first, premarital education classes in the country. It serves as a template for the many offerings available today in the United States.
Weishaus has been an inspiration to hundreds of couples to focus on the positives in a relationship in order to help their marriage grow.
Some of the contributing writers to The Jewish Journal are graduates.
The fact the "Making Marriage Work" thrives today is a tribute to her and Rabbi Weiss.
Thank you for your story on the Cohens ("Neighborhood Angels," Feb 2). I have recently recovered some money that I was sure I would never see again and I will be dropping off $500 to them this week and hopefully more in the future.
The pen is truly an arm of tzedakah.
Name withheld by request
So Many Singles
It is very admirable what Lori Pietruszka is doing and wonderful that David Suissa would bring her efforts out into the open and call on families to support the singles in the LA area ("So Many Singles, So Few Tables," Feb. 16).
However, I also think that the single community must not just rely on families for their Shabbat meals or experience. I think that by doing so, we are hurting ourselves. We are substituting building a thriving community for ourselves for the instant gratification of a Shabbat experience that we did not have to work for.
That is why so many of our college-bound teenagers and 20-somethings go to New York -- for the community that is lacking here. Many of my friends complain about the L.A. singles community and how there is "no one here." And how they have to move to New York or go to Israel to date. While I think both places are amazing experiences, you shouldn't have to uproot your whole life to date. If we would take it upon ourselves to build our community -- to invite people over, to be invited out, to get people out of their apartments and at a friends dinner table Friday night, to have over those friends-of-friends-of-friends -- we will have a community here.
I think that it is wonderful that families have over singles for Shabbat ... but I think that it is even better if singles have singles over for Shabbat.
It's three or four years down the road. Obama is president. Iran has developed nuclear weapons while continuing to talk about the genocide of Israel. The United Nations, European Union and much of liberal and left-wing opinion here scold Israel to sit by, do nothing and hope for the best.
Instead, Israel nukes the heck out of Iran. What will Obama (or Hillary, or John Edwards) do?
Does the typical American Jewish liberal Democrat care to find out? Care at all?
We can be pretty sure John McCain would stand with Israel.
Does it matter?
Bruce J. Schneider
Richard Friedman's letter contains more than one factual error, but the most obvious one is naming Abu Nidal as the bombmaker involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Nidal, a Palestinian terrorist and mercenary, had nothing to do with the event (Letters, Feb. 16). Abdul Rahman Yasin, the reputed bombmaker, was released by U.S. attorneys following his indictment, and encouraged by our government to return to his native Iraq. He was eventually imprisoned by Saddam and offered up to the United States, which refused to negotiate with the Iraqi dictator. He still lives in Iraq, and the Bush administration has apparently made no effort to capture him.
As to Saddam's "rape rooms," they existed at a time when Saddam was seen by the United States as an ally back in the 1980s. And while Saddam's support for Palestinian terrorism may be a well-known fact, his support was no greater than that of our (and George W. Bush's) current "ally" Saudi Arabia.
The war in Iraq has been a disaster for our nation, the world in general and Israel in particular. Al Qaeda and Islamic extremism have now gained a new stronghold in the Middle East. Friedman and his pathetic right-wing brethren have done great harm to both the United States and Israel through their support of the current administration's immoral and destructive policies and actions.
Shhhh. Let's just keep this between us and pray that Dodger owners Frank and Jamie McCourt didn't read their Feb. 16 edition of the Jewish Journal ("L.A.'s Gourmet Kosher Makeover," Feb. 16).
The last thing we want them to know is that there are Jews and others out there willing to plunk down cash for kosher food in this city.
Sure, you can spend $44 million for a lead-off hitter, raise ticket prices, set up an all-you-can-stomach food trough in the right-field pavilion -- even move spring training operations from Florida to Arizona to attract more fans. Just imagine the windfall if the front office could work out a way to serve a kosher hot dog at every game at Dodger Stadium.
But don't say anything. The last thing we want is a longer line at the concession stand, an improved fan experience, expanded menu choices -- or seeding opportunities for the McCourts to make more money.
Lou Barak Memorial Hot Dog Committee
Divided We Fall
As someone who has worked both professionally and as a volunteer in the local Jewish community, I am dismayed that we are allowing fear and apprehension, even grief, about Israel's future to turn us against each other ("Divided We Fall," Feb. 9). Loosely thrown around labels like "extremist" or "anti-Semite and un-nuanced distinctions like pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli silence important conversations.
Such labels are attempts at social control and, unfortunately, they do work to stifle needed dissent. It is a shanda that we are reduced to calling each other names instead of engaging, out of a set of common emotions, in a profound conversation. We must trust that others in our community, even if they analyze situations differently or have different policy positions, are "with us" and not "against us." We do not have to agree; we do have to agree to disagree without demonizing others.
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