October 5, 2007
Congregants on Beach Don’t Wear Bathing Suits
The Pacific Jewish Center, a fine congregation, is hardly “the last remaining vestige of Venice’s erstwhile Jewish community,” as a September 28 article reports (“Prayer Shawls, Flip-Flops Mingle at ‘Shul on the Beach’”).
Congregation Mishkon Tephilo, a block from the beach and founded in 1918, is not only non-vestigial, but is thriving. Attracting a broad swath of a diverse community — half our member are singles — Mishkon Tephilo, a Conservative congregation, serves not only the Venice community but the greater Los Angeles region.
The Forward’s description of the Venice scene is also a couple of decades out of date. Though definitely an unconventional community, it is not the seedy drug den described by the article.
We find it eclectic, engaging, surprising and exciting that students, pensioners, couples and singles, gays and straights, business people and professionals of all types and income brackets come together to worship, celebrate and engage the world as serious Jews. And though we are definitely informal, contrary to East Coast stereotyping we do not come to shul on roller blades wearing bathing suits and finish with a round of beach volleyball.
Rabbi Dan Shevitz
Congregation Mishkon Tephilo
Famed ‘Saloon-Keeper’ Was Unkind to Unions
A September 14 article glorifying a new film about famed New York City “saloon-keeper” Toots Shor refers to the heyday of his establishment as “exciting and worthy” (“A Shor Thing”). There is, however, at least one fact that is missing from the brief article and, I suppose, the documentary on Shor’s life.
My late father, David Siegal, was the president of The Hotel and Restaurant Workers’ Union in New York City from 1939 to 1981. I have in my law office in San Francisco a 1941 photograph of my father leading a picket line in front of Shor’s Manhattan restaurant. The picket sign that my father was carrying stated, “45,000 culinary workers petition the friends of democracy not to patronize Toots Shor. He is unfair to union labor.”
Our culture has a tendency to turn celebrities such as Shor into icons. In the case of Shor, his aversion to union workers in his day should not be considered “exciting and worthy.”
San Francisco, Calif.
The World Cannot Live With a Nuclear Iran
Martin van Creveld’s September 28 opinion article is a call for catastrophe (“The World Can Live With a Nuclear Iran”). We wouldn’t live with a nuclear Iran, we would die with it.
Van Creveld’s analysis neglects two major points.
First, there is no mention of the non-proliferation treaty. With a nuclear Iran, a dozen other countries in the Middle East would try to become nuclear, and the instability resulting from it would lead to the generalized use of nuclear arms.
Second, we are not talking about traditional warfare, but terrorism of which Iran is a major sponsor. Their bombs and nuclear material will find its way to Hezbollah, and to terrorist cells in Europe and America.
Van Creveld is effectively becoming a pawn in the hand of Iranian propaganda to make the West feel safe, and sleep through until it is too late.
Another aspect he seems to neglect is that Israel cannot let the threat reach a point where it could destroy the entire county. For the West to do nothing and say, “the world can live with a nuclear Iran,” may lead to an unavoidable war in which Israel will have to take out Iran’s installations.
Atheist Writers Only Dispute God’s Existence
Arts & Culture columnist Jay Michaelson appears to confuse “atheism” with “anti-religion” (“The New Atheism: What’s a Liberal, Spiritual Jew To Do?”, September 28).
The “new atheist” writers dispute the existence of God. They have no issues with the religions whose philosophies or traditions or cultures do not include a God-figure.
Michaelson’s discussion is unfair in its indictment of their issues. It is not mythology, culture and tradition that they claim is for the “soft-minded and thick-skulled,” but an unswerving belief in a supernatural God.
If religion can be defined as a belief that does not include God, I’m sure Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens would have no quarrels.
New York, N.Y.
Am I Too Parochial, Too?
What is it about so many well-educated Catholics and Jews that makes them flinch every time someone in their community stands squarely against anti-Catholicism and antisemitism, respectively (“The Bum’s Rush,” September 28)?
The Forward chides Jews for rising up “as a Jewish community, insisting on proclaiming our identity and our special pain.” Well, pardon me, doesn’t Mahmoud Ahmadinejad want to kill Jews most of all?
Why is it parochial, then, for Jews to condemn him as today’s Hitler? He may not have the body count that Hitler had, but he certainly has the will.
One more thing. Was I being parochial, too, when I said on the “Today Show” that Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust should be taken as “spitting in the face of every Jew in New York City”?
New York, N.Y.