Sexual orientation a ‘non-issue’

In response to Marc Klein’s question concerning Debbie Friedman (“Did Debbie Friedman coverage go too far? ‘Coming out’ debate is an old one,” Feb. 11), I believe that one’s sexual orientation is “out of bounds.” As for the New York Times obituary mentioning that Debbie was a lesbian, that also was out of bounds. After all, I do not see “heterosexual” included in other obituaries.

   Let’s just get over this issue and let people live their lives as they wish. I want to see the day when a person’s sexual orientation is a non-issue, even for those organizations who use it to further their own agendas. My sympathy goes out to Cheryl Friedman and her family for their loss and for having to deal with this issue that has hurt them.

Julia Humphreys   |   Daly City


Being gay is nothing to hide

In the past many Jews took on non-Jewish surnames to hide their religion. But they were still Jewish. There’s no reason to pretend that they weren’t. Similarly, there’s no reason to pretend that Debbie Friedman wasn’t a lesbian. It’s not lashon hara (evil speech) if there’s no “ra” (evil). Only if someone has a negative, distorted view of gay and lesbian people do they think that even mentioning one’s gayness is defamation.

   The unfortunate fact is that many families just cannot accept their gay and lesbian children and siblings. That is truly their loss. But we are not required to participate in their ridiculous games after this person has deceased. There is no reason to avoid mentioning the fact that she was a lesbian in an article.

   Debbie Friedman was a celebrity, whether she wanted to be or not. It’s not lashon hara to recognize her full humanity.

Mike Bromberg   |   San Jose


No point to disclosure

Debbie Friedman (z”l) was known for her music.  Her gender preference is irrelevant in this context. It is necessary to be clear about what one’s goal is before disclosing information about another, news stories included, whether previously disclosed or not. In this case, I think that it was lashon hara of Marc Klein to discuss Friedman’s sexual preference, as it has nothing to do with her music, past, present and future. It is of concern that Klein, as editor and publisher, states uncertainty about a basic Jewish principle.

Doris Leavitt   |   Santa Cruz


Friedman story was unethical

Sometimes it is good journalism to omit stories. I think Debbie Friedman’s death was one of those times. 

   While I can see that an editor or publisher might not want to be “scooped” in a story, there should be stop signs that signal that this is one to be skipped.

   While much of the Jewish world was reeling with the sad knowledge of Debbie’s death, it made no sense in timing or even in ethical considerations to run this story and encourage those who always enjoy a bit of lashon hara. This is not the National Enquirer. I expect more from a publication that represents the Jewish scene.

   To his credit, Marc Klein did offer an apology to the family.

Francine Weistrop   |   Milton, Mass.


‘Barefoot Rabbi’ loved Zohar

The list of Rabbi Jerry Winston’s writings (“‘Barefoot rabbi’ founded worship group, attracted searchers,” Feb. 4) is not complete without “Colors From the Zohar.” 

    In the Introduction he wrote, “Another understanding of the word ‘Zohar’ is ‘illumination’ … a technique in calligraphy which places a letter in relief against a beautiful background in such a fashion as to make you see it in a new light. The Zohar … works much in the same way. By altering your angle of vision — by illuminating familiar objects and thoughts with new colors — one’s whole style of perception changes to invest old ideas with new dimensions, and to make the familiar startlingly wonderful again!”

   You could say that was Rabbi Winston’s life purpose fulfilled in the minds and hearts of his students and friends. 

  He was a deep thinker and an intellectual sophisticate with the common touch. He also had a warm laugh and a marvelous twinkle in his eye. We will not see his like again any time soon. 

Dennis Briskin   |   Palo Alto


Inspired by Lieberman’s faith

In response to what was mentioned in the letters in the issue of Feb. 4 — there is an interesting story told of Joe Lieberman that might help people become inspired by him. There was an incident where Joe Lieberman had a nomination ceremony which was very important for his career. The day, however, happened to fall on Shabbos. With his political career at stake, Joe Lieberman did not attend the nomination in order that he should keep Shabbos.

Alexander Yisroel Dvorkin   |   San Francisco