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Rabbi's Rectitude

January 07, 1990

The remarks about Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin in your review of the Times Award winner, "An Empire of Their Own" (by Neal Gabler; Book Review, Nov. 5), uncritically echoed the slander of an author who, at least on this subject, relied on Hollywood gossip instead of solid research. While the passages concerning Rabbi Magnin do not encompass a major portion of the book, they do represent a major flaw, for they cast aspersions on one of America's most respected religious leaders.

Anyone describing Rabbi Magnin as "unbookish" and his talks and writings as avoiding "discussion of values, social issues or even personal ethics" did not know Rabbi Magnin. In effect, the man depicted by your reviewer as fawning upon the Hollywood moguls was probably one of Hollywood's more vocal critics. He spoke his mind, not in magazine or newspaper columns, but from the pulpit, face to face with some of the stars as well as the moguls and their underlings.

The book and its reviewer are quite correct in intimating that some of Hollywood's best-known names, especially in the '20s and '30s, were on Wilshire Boulevard Temple's membership list, that Rabbi Magnin had access to many of filmdom's "personalities," and that to many of them he was a close friend; but that friendship was never a protection from his frequent criticism.

RABBI ALFRED WOLF

LOS ANGELES

Rabbi Wolf, director of the Skirball Institute on American Values of the American Jewish Committee, and Rabbi Emeritus of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, served as Rabbi Magnin's associate from 1949 until Rabbi Magnin's death in 1984.

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