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January 10, 2003

Mamet’s Macho Love Of Israel Is Immature

How nice that David Mamet has fallen in love with Israel in his middle age (“‘If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem’: The Power of Blunt Nostalgia,” December 27). I remember feeling the same way, except I was a teenager.

Now, 30 years later, I see that the course I once followed, and which Mamet embraces today, will produce not the Israel of our dreams, but no Israel at all. He should read his history. The only security Israel ever experienced was during those last years of the Oslo accords, when the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Israelis worked hand in glove to stop terrorism.

The alternative, of course, is the Israel of Mamet’s macho dreams and our awful present: an Israel empty of tourists, with a failing economy and terrorism a daily fact.

I’m glad Mamet came around to loving Israel, but he should understand that to love Israel means wanting to see it live in peace with its neighbors. It means working with the Palestinians, not despising them. It means honoring Yitzhak Rabin’s memory and understanding that he, the most macho Jew of all, showed the way.

All of Mamet’s Jewish pride amounts to exactly zero if it doesn’t save Jewish — and Arab — lives.

M.J. Rosenberg

Chevy Chase, Md.

David Mamet’s essay is clear, honest and insightful. His words about the “steadfastness, courage and resolve” of ordinary, actual Israelis encapsulated feelings that I, a non-Jew, have long held about Israel and the Israelis, but could never articulate so clearly. That Israel’s refusal to be annihilated is vilified rather than lionized should be a source of shame to everyone in our insipid, morally confused Western world.

I have a newborn son and hope one day to take him to Jerusalem to let him see how brave men and women live. Or how ordinary people, in the face of the polite Western world’s ignorant scorn, can uphold a simple code of moral clarity and grace under pressure.

Tom McLaughlin

San Carlos, Calif.

David Mamet needs to get his facts right. Theodor Herzl never went to the Galilee to visit Boris Schatz, and to the best of my knowledge never influenced one single person to move to Israel. Schatz was influenced by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda to come to Jerusalem, where the latter already made his home. Nor did Schatz reinvent the calendar with respect to the Balfour Declaration, as Mamet claims — Ben-Yehuda, my grandfather, did.

Rabbi Elie Ben-Yehuda

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

United Synagogue Prez Impartial on Gay Ban

The December 20 article on the Conservative movement’s policy on gays may have left Forward readers with the false impression that, as president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, I am seeking to overturn the movement’s current ban on homosexuals serving as rabbis (“Conservative Chiefs Push To End Gay Pulpit Ban”).

As the lay leader of a major arm of the Conservative movement, I have decided to send a letter to the chairman of the movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. This letter will ask the committee to revisit the policy on gays by researching the issue of homosexuality to determine whether it is — or is not — halachically acceptable behavior.

I am making this request without prejudice and have not explicitly called for the ordination of gay rabbis. The matter of ordination is not within the purview of a lay arm of the movement, such as the United Synagogue.

As I travel and meet with Conservative Jews in various parts of the country, I have found that there is some discomfort with the current policy and a concern about the attitude toward gays in our movement.

It is healthy to air and discuss controversial issues such as this, and the proper forum for such a discussion is the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. I will respect whatever decision is forthcoming from the committee.

Judy Yudof


United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

New York, N.Y.

Mamele Has Fat Chance Of Raising Healthy Kid

Although I found much of what the East Village Mamele writes in her December 27 column to be amusing, sincerely honest and sometimes quite insightful, I am also concerned for her little daughter that mommy’s issues about her body image are unfortunately being displaced to worries and fears for her daughter (“Hefty Baby Giving Mommy Food for Thought”).

I sincerely hope that mommy can realize that her daughter can hope to be free of the same worries and insecurities of mommy if mommy herself can remain focused on her own conflict with her body and its cravings and fears that probably mirror or suggest underlying spiritual and emotional yearnings.

Wisdom teaches us that modeling is the most effective teacher for growing, very observant and frequently mimicking human beings who look up to and love and admire their parents. Children will mostly mimic “the walk we walk” and discount “the talk we talk” when they do not match.

Irwin Schlass

North Bergen, N.J.

Does the East Village Mamele believe everything she reads, and is what she reads those stupid women’s magazines whose raison d’etre is to teach women self-hatred? Many thin women are very self-hating, and many chubby women are content and self-accepting because they don’t look to mass media to tell them how they should be. The Mamele needs to take off her Madison Avenue blinders — but then what should I expect from a woman who uses the pornographic term “bootylicious” to describe herself?

If she’s so concerned that her baby daughter “fit in” to this sick, superficial society in which we live, why doesn’t she also raise her Christian and bleach her hair blonde? And she shouldn’t forget the nose job and the silicone breasts. Maybe even a Botox injection or two would give her a good start in life.

A mother’s values are the most important thing that she passes on to her child, and at this point it sounds like this is where the Mamele’s baby is at risk! How much common sense does it take to know that a child should be fed when she is hungry? The Mamele’s neurotic fussing will hurt her baby more than any extra helping of food.

Judith Antonelli

Brookline, Mass.

Portion Column Turns Torah Into Pulp Fiction

A few years ago, Louis Farrakhan called Judaism “a gutter religion.” The Forward certainly lends credence to his statement with its December 27 Portion column, which stoops to such a low level that both the Torah as well as Moshe are degraded to cheap pulp fiction (“Dangerous Liaisons in the Desert”).

The Forward purports to be the voice of American Jewry and the conscience of the community. I certainly hope not!

Maurice Klugmann

Suffern, N.Y.

Congratulations to Evan Zimroth on his Portion column on the circumcision performed by Zipporah in Exodus 1. His combination of humor and biblical insight came as a large measure of fresh air.

Phil Paris

Via e-mail

The December 27 Portion column was just plain disgusting and not very funny. The Forward owes its readers better.

Hillel Karp

Livingston, N.J.

Shul Youth Groups Play Vital Role in Education

Opinion writer Jonathan Woocher omits a number of significant elements that have played and continue to play an important role in our effort to provide quality Jewish education (“How People of the Book Turn the Page on Education,” December 20).

Woocher mentions the denominations as sources of quality education, but fails to inform the reader of the extent to which the synagogue movements have contributed to advancing a new and exciting agenda in this area.

Another area barely mentioned is informal youth activities. Ask any involved Jewish adult what childhood experience led him or her to an active role in Jewish life, and you are bound to hear the names of the any number of denominational youth groups. These informal educational experiences serve as venues for actualizing what is taught in the classroom, allowing students to transform learning into a way of life.

The synagogue movements — the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Orthodox Union and others — have a tremendous contribution to make with regard to the efforts described by Woocher.

Richard Lederman

University Heights, Ohio

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