Hancock Park vs. a Hebrew academyRe "Change drives tension in staid Hancock Park," Oct. 1
The increased tension in Hancock Park isn't the result of change but the violation of codes and covenants. The Hancock Park Homeowners Assn. supported the conditional use permit that allowed Yavneh Hebrew Academy to open in 1998. Under its terms, Yavneh was entitled to operate as a Jewish elementary school in an otherwise residential zone, but it was specifically precluded from operating as a community synagogue or adult education center, and from staying open after 8 p.m. Rabbi Daniel Korobkin suggests that "we should figure out a way to get along." But it is the rabbi who, in violation of the permit and with disregard for the adjacent homeowners, established a community synagogue and an adult education program and advertised these in the Jewish Journal and on the Internet.
City inspectors went to Yavneh because it had repeatedly failed to conform to the legally prescribed hours of operation. It's unfortunate that the inspectors choose to visit on Erev Yom Kippur, but code enforcement is not anti-Semitic, and the effort to portray it as such is incendiary.
To Hancock Park residents who so vehemently oppose Jewish prayer being conducted quietly, behind closed doors, without external noise or traffic, and claim that their motivation is guided by a passion for "land-use law" and not bigotry: "Thou doth protest too much."
Warren M. Lent
The article on Yavneh Hebrew Academy mentioned a letter from the attorneys who are suing the city to prevent our students, families and friends from praying at our religious school. The letter claims that our school had "frequent and substantial noncompliance" with our permit. That is untrue.
The city held three public hearings, during which it took many hours of testimony, including from the people who are now suing the city and our school. Based on the facts, the city made formal written findings that our school follows the rules, and specifically found that the larger community considers our school to be a "good neighbor." The city also formally found that our school is in "substantial compliance" with our permit.
Our school has public hearings every year that subject us to more scrutiny than perhaps any other school in the city, yet year in and year out, our school is found to be in compliance with our permit. It is disappointing that the small group suing the city ignored those findings when they cast unfair aspersions on us.
Rabbi Yossi Mentz
Yavneh Hebrew Academy
Clarence Thomas as an angry manRe "Step by step on a path toward conservatism," Oct. 2
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wants to have his cake, eat it and now sell it to us. Let him promote his book simply by claiming he comes from poverty and had a strict grandfather, which is, apparently, the core of his conservative philosophy.
Thomas bemoans liberal approaches to social justice. Conservatives -- even those as callous as Thomas -- do have solutions to social problems. The difficulty is that those solutions cannot work for more than the lucky handful who beat everyone else to the top like Thomas did. I guess once some people get what they need to live well, it erases the part of their memory where their struggling childhood lived. It should give us pause that we never seem to hear nor see any truly impoverished conservatives.
It's hard to understand why Thomas still seems so angry. After all, he is a Supreme Court justice. Rather than ventilating in public, which I feel is inappropriate, he should get some good professional help. It concerns me that he is making decisions that affect our lives while still seething inside.
It is no small irony that Thomas, who has consistently disdained the notion of targeted redress for those victimized by the society that surrounds them, now asserts his own victimization as justification for a rigidly ideological approach to dispensing justice and a burning anger that cannot fail to affect his judgment.
The children are left to sufferRe "Child health veto risky to both parties," Oct. 4
While not at all unexpected, President Bush's veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program bill was hugely disappointing to those of us on the front lines of the healthcare crisis.
I'm reminded of the aphorism, "It's very expensive being poor," and in no way does a poor person pay more than with his or her health.
This bill is not about funding, it is about justice. It is unjust to force children from poor families to go without the care they need, or to ask hospitals to go uncompensated for seeing patients who cannot pay.
The first five years of the State Children's Health Insurance Program were a successful test run, but only a test run. It couldn't reach all the children whose families are too poor to afford private insurance.
I urge the president and Congress to finish the job.
Chair, Board of Directors
Venice Family Clinic
In 2000, Bush campaigned as a "compassionate conservative." His veto of the children's medical bill puts the final nail in the coffin of that and other such promises. His action does not fit with the mantra of Christian values so often touted by the Republican right. Although Bush doesn't hesitate to spend billions per month on an ill-conceived war, he has suddenly become "fiscally conservative" on the backs of our children.
Adrian M. Wenner
A force for good or badRe "The triumphs of faith," Opinion, Sept. 29
Ian Buruma declares that opposition against immoral acts of governments by religious groups represents a triumph of faith. He does this by first noting that atheism has become "fashionable," asserting that many atheists say that religion is responsible for "violence, oppression, poverty and many other ills." He cites instances in which people of faith have risen against despotic followers: devout Christians who sheltered Jews in World War II and Buddhist monks who oppose the Myanmar junta. Conclusion: Religion, at least in his examples, is not the villain but the champion.
Opposition to despotic regimes by organized religious groups is not a triumph of faith. It is a triumph for those who stand against immorality, whether they are religious or atheists.
Humanity needs those who take stands against immorality, whatever their religious beliefs are or are not.
Buruma gives a cogent reply to the Christopher Hitchenses of the world who believe that the practice of religion is backward.
Buruma counters with examples of religious faith being a driving force for human liberation over the last 70 years, primarily in Europe and Asia. I would add that ethics and values based on religious faith have fueled most of the important movements for social change in our own country: abolition of slavery, women's rights, the civil rights and farm workers movement and so on -- all social movements with a spiritual foundation.
I would suggest that Hitchens and others who denigrate all religion seriously study the contribution of religion to the development of a more humane society. They fail to understand the essence of religion -- God's desire for human liberation, and man's religious endeavors to do his will.
No reasonable atheist denies that religion can have positive (as well as negative) effects on the lives of believers. But that fact does absolutely nothing to address the assertion that religion is based on myth. Belief in Santa Claus can lead to positive result for children on Christmas morning.
Religion can indeed be a force for good -- or bad -- depending on who wields the force. While many devout Christians resisted the Nazis, many other devout Christians supported them. That is why, although religion may be inevitable in politics, it must be kept out of government, as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other founding fathers understood so well.
Rush Limbaugh's disgraceRe "War opponents return fire," Oct. 4
Rush Limbaugh, once again, is spouting what he spouts best -- sulfurous hot air.
Branding a soldier "phony" because the soldier now opposes a war in which he has fought -- and sacrificed greatly for it -- rankles more than I can say.
This man lies and sows the worst kind of hatred in his listeners, and his days at the microphone should end in the complete disgrace he so richly deserves. If only he was as bankrupt as his morals are.
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