Like an Onion

Letters published January 4, 2006

For the record: It's unfortunate that Becky Meiser's article was titled "Selling Kabbalah" [December 14] and that her reporting led others to believe my goal was to "market Jewish secrets to the masses." In fact, I am proposing something quite different.

Given the contemporary popularization of Kabbalah, rabbis and Jewish scholars ought to take the lead in developing serious books and courses in Jewish mysticism -- grounded in traditional Judaism -- for those seeking real knowledge. There is a need to provide an authentic alternative to the Kabbalah Centre's reckless merchandising of pop-Kabbalah books and pseudo-Kabbalistic paraphernalia promising the sky.

Simply stated, let's replace the selling of snake-oil and Kabbalah-Lite with real, substantive teaching.

Rabbi Yakov Travis

And by the way: Your article about an upcoming book on Kabbalah implied that comments I made were about that book -- they were not.

As the piece clearly noted, the book at issue "is slated for publication." Not having been offered a pre-publication copy, I could not possibly have commented on it, as your reporter well knew. So it is inaccurate, bordering on slanderous, to describe me as having called Rabbi Yakov Travis "the Jewish equivalent of Benedict Arnold" -- a characterization I did not use at any point during my interview with your reporter.

It was equally inaccurate to write that "Shafran accused Travis of being a snake-oil salesman in religious garb." I used those words to refer to the Kabbalah Centre and similar ventures -- not about Rabbi Travis, whom I have never met and whose book I have not seen.

Rabbi Avi Shafran
New York City

Politics of Pain
A sick philosophy:
Dr. Frank B. Fisher's letter of December 14 is right on target. This country's drug policy is run by a bunch of puritan fanatics who do not know pain and its agonizing effects.

My 87-year-old father has spinal stenosis, spinal arthritis, and degenerating discs. Because of his age and overall condition, he is not a surgical candidate. Each day for him is an exercise in coping with pain. Yes, he gets medication -- barely enough to keep him from going crazy. To my entreaties for more powerful meds, I get the same tired refrain: "We don't want to get him addicted." That is a sick philosophy.

So what if he becomes addicted? The man is in his final chapter of life, and he should be as pain-free as possible during his remaining time. I don't care what the drug is -- it should be provided to him for relief.

People are suffering needlessly. The callous bureaucrats who control our nation's drug policy should be replaced by people who themselves have suffered pain.

John Lusk

Go Figure
Does painting by numbers change the picture?
The cover article "Beavis and Butt-head Do Government" [December 14] was no more than a clever attempt at manipulating facts to mislead the public and reinforce old stereotypes.

Fact: There's plenty to show for the money the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority is spending from the Riverview/Lakeview HOPE VI grant: a modernized infrastructure for the nearly 70-year-old Lakeview site. Fifty-six units are converted, with another 64 converted units 80 percent finished and due for occupancy in the spring.

Fact: 461 units were reconfigured and modernized at King Kennedy's Delaney Village and Outhwaite Homes, and 279 new units were constructed at Carver Park. In addition, the Carl B. Stokes Social Services Mall was created to serve the community with a primary health-care facility, skills-building, job-training and placement services, and transitional housing programs for single men. CMHA has demolished 243 uninhabitable units at Valleyview, where construction will begin in the spring on 95 public-housing units, 33 affordable tax-credit units, and 62 market-rate units.

Fact: CMHA has added 437 new, affordable housing units in Central, Detroit-Shoreway, Glenville, Hough, and East Cleveland.

There are plenty of inaccuracies throughout the article -- obviously for effect. But the bottom line is, Scene's premise of having nothing to show for millions in grants doesn't hold up. The only thing that holds up is Scene's determination to perpetuate stereotypes -- for both CMHA and the individuals and families it serves.

Anyone who bothers to take a look at the actual work completed and under way at CMHA in the last five years has clear evidence that the Authority is doing the right thing.

George A. Phillips, Executive Director
Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority

Editor's note: While we appreciate George Phillips' view of his agency, none of the "facts" stated above contradict the information presented in our original story.

Biting Back
Not everyone rolled over for Bowling:
I just read your article about Rodney Bowling ["Reality Bites," December 21]. I worked with Rod on his In Your City project before I learned of his notorious past. I was caught up in his "success." That disappeared after he bounced several payroll checks and then proceeded to blow me off. I took him to small claims court in Shaker Heights. Of course, he did not show up for the hearing. I won the case, but have not been able to collect yet. He owes me over $1,600.

I feel horrible about the time I was associated with him. Neither he nor his business practices are a reflection of me or my standards. It's a shame that people like him are out there, getting away with things like this.

Mike Swanson

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