Hooray for j., ‘hip new product,’ innovative journalism

Congratulations on j., the latest development in nearly a century and a half

of Jewish journalism in our area. As stated in your premiere issue, the Jewish Bulletin succeeded the Emanu-El, founded in 1895 by that congregation’s forceful, opinionated rabbi, Jacob Voorsanger.

But the Emanu-El was hardly our community’s first major Jewish newspaper. There were several Jewish journals as early as the Gold Rush era, including the influential Weekly Gleaner, established in 1857 by San Francisco’s first rabbi, Julius Eckman, who also initiated the city’s first Jewish school.

By the 1880s there were no fewer than four Jewish papers in town, including the Hebrew, published by a world-class Jewish weightlifter and marksman, Philo Jacoby.

Yet another source of Jewish news, opinion and gossip was Isidore Choynski’s acerbic “San Francisco Letter” in Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise’s nationally circulated American Israelite printed in Cincinnati. Then in 1895, the Emanu-El, with its ultra-Reform orientation, joined the crowded, competitive field.

So j. inherits a rich, varied history. Of course the 19th century organs look staid in comparison, but I think their editors would have approved of your hip new product. This is Northern California, after all, and innovation comes with the territory.

Fred Rosenbaum | Berkeley

founding director, Lehrhaus Judaica

Dislikes change

My husband and I have received the Jewish Bulletin since we got married 40 years ago. We are both native San Franciscans and always had the paper in our homes growing up. We both read it cover to cover every Friday afternoon.

I was so disappointed when j. arrived and I did sit down and read it all the way through. It is garbage, full of slick ads and not at all what I expected you to put out in the city of San Francisco.

It is also way too long and full of useless info. And what do we need to know how David Epstein met his girlfriend.

If you are trying to attract 18-34 year olds, you might consider that most of the money donated to Jewish causes in San Francisco comes from the 45-75 age group and we do not like change.

I will try this for a few more issues and if it does not improve, I will feel very bad ending my subscription after so many years.

Sherry (and Burt) Berenstein San Carlos

Web site lauded

I wanted to compliment you and your entire staff on the fabulous new look of your Web site. It is not only very clear and easy to follow, but a nice refreshing change.

Margot Spatz Oakland

‘An inspiration’

Mazel tov on the masterful redesign effort that resulted in j. The new design is not just refreshing; it’s an inspiration for improving ourselves in the New Year.

David M. Golden | San Francisco

‘Shocked, disturbed’

Upon receiving the last issue of the Jewish Bulletin and reading one of the first sentences, I was shocked and disturbed to read what you have decided upon for the new name.

To name a newspaper j. is an insult to all of the people during the early years of the Holocaust who were forced to wear “J” on their clothing.

If it is for the younger generation that you are hoping to attract, what happens to those of us who lived through World War II and had family members who were part of most of that horrendous time of our lives?

Edythe Newman | San Francisco

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are not going to allow the Nazis to appropriate a letter from our alphabet — especially a letter that speaks to us as Jews.

‘Appalled by decision’

I am appalled by your decision to choose j. as the new name for the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California.

For your information, the Germans began stamping the passports of German Jews trying to fly to Switzerland with the letter “J.”

This was done at the specific request of the Swiss government whose goal was to make it easier for the frontier guards to identify Jewish refugees to strip them of all their assets (money, jewelry and precious stones) before sending them back to Germany to their death.

Your decision is a direct affront to the thousands of German Jews who were murdered trying to escape the Nazi horrors.

Michael J. Franzblau | San Rafael

Joining the fight

In regard to your Sept. 19 article “Jewish groups slow to join Proposition 54 opposition,” it is true that they may have been slow, but they are joining. Here in San Jose, the Jewish Community Relations Council shares Jonathan Bernstein’s view that this is an important test of the Jewish community’s concern for social justice, and has passed a strong resolution in opposition to Prop 54.

We have also joined with the Santa Clara County Coalition for an Informed California and the statewide anti-54 campaign. A number of our members have been working for the anti 54 campaign, and area rabbis have spoken strongly in public against the proposition.

Michael Dine | Los Gatos

vice chair, JCRC of Greater San Jose

One-sided position

The report of the wonderful Sunday of Jewish learning and music at the Marin JCC (Sept. 19 j.) was accurately reported except for the Michael Lerner event.

From my position up front in the audience I heard Lerner denounce Israeli policies.

I thought I knew Lerner’s position but was surprised how completely one-sided it was.

The member of the audience that stood up pounding the floor with his cane shouted that there were no buses blowing up in the West Bank. I don’t recall that he called Lerner a terrorist. And the enraged man was not trying to physically attack Lerner since Lerner was too far away for the 95-year-old to get to him.

It would be interesting to find out what other versions of that momentary event could have been reported.

Gerson Jacobs | Greenbrae

‘Our hearts go out’

A clarification is needed about your Sept. 12 story on the Berkeley City Council resolution regarding Rachel Corrie.

We were asked to support House Resolution 111, which requested a full investigation into Rachel’s death. Council support for that resolution, including my vote, in no way discounts the horrible killings of innocent people in the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

We are parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters. We can barely imagine what it must mean to suffer such a loss. Our hearts go out to those families. This killing of innocent people is tragic and must end. It is clear to me we must all work to press for a political resolution if we are to end the madness and rage that results in more and more death.

Rachel’s parents were able to read and take notes on the existing investigative report but were denied an actual copy. After their reading, they had even more questions. They asked members of Congress for a separate investigation surrounding the death of their daughter. That resulted in HR111.

My vote was a vote for accurate information surrounding Rachel’s death. I would support such a request from any parent, no matter what his or her political persuasion is.

Linda Maio | Berkeley

Berkeley City Council

Morally shrinking?

I am another Jew who would like to thank the Berkeley City Council for supporting an investigation into the bulldozing death of Rachel Corrie.

When a nation acts oppressively toward another people, that people is hurt, but so is the nation acting oppressively. It shrinks morally.

In extending its reach far into the lands of another people and trying to force them to accept dispossession, Israel hurts Palestinians in every aspect of their lives. But the story does not end there. 

Israel betrays the hopes of Jews who sacrificed to build a society that would not only be a refuge from anti-Semitism but a beacon to the whole world, embodying the striving for freedom and justice that have characterized our tradition since the time of Moses. Bulldozing of homes, their residents and the people protecting them is the negation of this tradition.

This harmful behavior needs to be halted. The terrible anguish of the Palestinians cries out for this. Israel needs it, too.

By calling for an investigation into Corrie’s killing, the council members acted as real allies to Jews and to Israelis.  They showed that they noticed something was wrong, and that they care about it. They are menschen.

Glen Hauer