Karaites ‘offended and hurt’

by ‘half-truth, generalization’

We were offended and deeply hurt by your Sept. 19 Jewish Telegraphic Agency article on the Karaites. It was replete with half-truths and generalizations.

Accusations such as “allied to the worst enemies of the Jewish people” are inflammatory and do not help bring us together.

Karaites “do not keep our distance.” We fought and died in every war since 1948.

A Karaite from Egypt, Morad Farag, wrote “Al Kudsiyat,” the first work in Arabic defending Zionism. And a Dr. Marzouk, another Karaite, was hanged by Egyptian authorities for helping Israel. And recently, Israel issued a stamp in our honor.

We were not “allied” to the czars or Nazis. According to Martin Gilbert, 10,000 Karaites were slaughtered in Crimea in World War II. And, for 14 centuries, we too suffered under the yoke of Islam.

The article’s authors separate Karaites from Jews implying we are only a sect. A French documentary called us “the Jews of the Jews” because we are so attached to the Torah. Our disagreement with the rabbinates has to do with the divinity of the Mishnah. In the Old City, our synagogue stands in Rehov ha Karaim representing our long association with Israel and Judaism.

David Ovadia | Daly City Joseph A. Wahed

president, Karaite Jews of America vice president, Karaite Jews of America

Vote no on Prop. 54

In response to “Jewish groups slow to join Proposition 54 opposition” (Sept. 19 j.), I write with encouraging news. The Raoul Wallenberg Jewish Democratic Club voted to oppose Prop. 54 on Sept. 3, immediately after the October election was scheduled.

For two decades, the RWJDC has promoted participation and meaningful action on issues of concern to San Francisco’s Jewish community. Of note, we led the fight for the city’s landmark hate crimes legislation, we’ve provided education and endorsements for our community in hundreds of state and local campaigns and we’ve elected some of our own leaders to public office.

Prop. 54, which would ban the collection of race-based data, neither protects privacy nor promotes equality. It legislates ignorance, and undermines guarantees of equal access and protection under the law.

There remain abundant racial inequities in health care, employment, education, housing and our justice system to which we cannot turn a blind eye. Without considering race, we cannot track hate crimes, win anti-discrimination suits, analyze links between ethnicity and illness, or determine whether gaps in student test scores are shrinking.

On our 20th anniversary, the RWJDC urges the Jewish community to follow our lead and vote no on Prop. 54.

Philip Ginsburg | San Francisco

president, Raoul Wallenberg

Jewish Democratic Club

Hostile atmosphere

I read Linda Maio’s Sept. 26 letter excusing the Berkeley City Council’s latest anti-Israel vote with dismay.

Although I respect Councilwoman Maio, she clearly does not understand the “on the ground” consequences, no matter how well meaning.

When the council provides a forum for anti-Israel agitators, though this has little impact on Israel, the future of Palestine, and the success of the peace process, it does create a hostile atmosphere here at home.

Last year, when the council considered a boycott against Israel, local rabbis received anonymous hate calls including death threats. Jewish students at Hillel were harassed and taunted. I wince every time these resolutions come up because I know the result will nurture an environment in which people become desensitized to hateful behavior.

If council members wish to engage in foreign policy, they should run for Congress. If they wish to serve the residents of Berkeley, they should work toward fostering understanding, not antagonism.

Mayor Tom Bates and Council members Miriam Hawley, Betty Olds and Gordon Wozniak deserve credit for standing up to political manipulation disguised as an appeal to emotionalism.

Maio needs to pay attention to the purpose and results of anti-Israel resolutions at a local level.

Rabbi Jane Litman | Berkeley

Congregation Beth El

‘Preposterous notion’

Glen Hauer (Sept. 26 letters) would have us believe the preposterous notion that Berkeley City Council members are “menschen” and “real allies to Jews and to Israelis” because they voted to investigate Rachel Corrie’s death.

Corrie was a “volunteer” recruited by the well-funded International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and assisgned a dangerous task. Her death was proved accidental, yet Hauer implies otherwise.

Mouthing the ISM line, Hauer portrays Palestinians as victims, blames Israel for their “terrible anguish,” and makes no mention of the nearly 19,000 attacks against Israelis (about 17 a day) in the last three years.

Hauer should know that the ISM’s “solidarity” is very selective. It is not “in solidarity” with all American victims of terror but focuses exclusively against Israel. For example, several ISM members have matter-of-factly informed me that Israel has no right to exist.

Apparently the ISM is “in solidarity” with those who burn American flags (as Rachel Corrie did), dance in the street, and distribute candy to celebrate the murders of Israelis.

June Brott | Oakland

A serious mantra

Thank you for your Sept. 26 article about the Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach-inspired minyan in Jerusalem. That minyan, like several hundred others in Israel and America, take seriously the mantra espoused by Carlebach and Rabbi Nachman of Breslov — “Serve God with joy — It’s a mitzvah to be happy all the time.”

Since your format change aims to attract younger readers, I hope you’ll publish more and more positive stories — specifically about innovation and technology from Israel, and people excelling in the face of adversity.

Finally, your photo of Carlebach was not from a visit to the Bay Area but from Shlomo’s 1989 tour of the Soviet Union. I was one of the producers of that tour, under the auspices of the Bay Area Council of Soviet Jews.

Carlebach played in front of over 85,000 Soviet Jews who had been deprived of their right to practice their religion. Thousands who attended have since immigrated to Israel, where they’re able to live lives as free Jews.

Let’s pray that soon enough they and all of other brothers and sisters will be able to safely get on buses or shop in malls without the current anti-Jewish attacks that happen in our own country.

Joel H. Siegel | San Francisco

Proud of


Very proud am I about the East Bay federation’s refusal to participate in yet another survey. We have enough surveys and monuments. Now is the time to help all those who are hungry, jobless, sick and homeless, for those needs cannot wait.

Arnoldine Berlin | Oakland

Relentless terrorizing

Suzanne Weiss’ Sept. 18 review of “Klezmer on Fish Street” notes that “after marginalizing its large Jewish population for centuries, Poland watched them march to the Nazi slaughter, evidently without qualm.”

This line troubles me deeply, not only as the daughter of a man who fought in the underground army but whose grandfather was arrested and murdered by Germans for, among other things, helping Jewish Poles escape Warsaw after 1939.

As is well known, Poland was under occupation by the Nazis for the entire duration of the war, from day one. The whole country’s people were being terrorized relentlessly. It is simply not true that Poles were “evidently without qualm” as their Jewish population was slaughtered. Jews suffered despicable treatment and losses, to say the least, but non-Jewish Poles, too, were victims of atrocities by both Nazis during the war.

The punishment metered out to Poles for even speaking to a Jewish person in front of a German occupier during WWII was death. Not arrest, not punishment, but immediate execution. Despite this knowledge, countless Poles risked their lives to save Jewish people in Poland.

Joanna Raczynska | Buffalo, N.Y.

A contradiction?

Rabbi Stephen Pearce writes in his Aug. 22 column on the Torah Parashat Re’eh: Although some Jews still cling to the practice of tracing lineage to ancient priestly descent, modern Jews, for whom there is no functioning priesthood, inherit priestly prerogatives.

But earlier in the paper I read the article: “Modern families uphold ancient pidyon ha’ben rite” by Fran Memberg. Since carrying out the pidyon ha’ben rite requires a Kohen, one who traces his line

age to ancient priestly descent, there is seemingly a definite contradiction between the articles.

However, the Memberg article states: “The pidyon ha’ben rite is a ritual for certain Jewish male infants observed in most traditional Conservative and Orthodox families.” Later the article states: According to Rabbi Harvey Winokur of Reform Temple Kehillat Chaim, “[Pidyon ha’ben] is not a ritual that’s practiced to any extent in Reform congregations.”

So now I see the resolution of the contradiction. Pearce is propagandizing that only Reform Jews are modern.

I would suggest that he give greater respect to Jews of other denominations.

Arthur Cohn | Portola Valley

Drugs and teens

Your recent article “White House aims to combat teen drug use with faith” described important issues regarding the relationship between public officials and organized religion. However, the piece overlooked an equally important reason why Jews, and all Americans, should be very skeptical of this effort.

Unless the program embodies a total change of direction by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the effort described will extend that office’s long record of misinformation, reliance on ideology rather than science, and contempt for the intelligence and experience of teenagers.

These and other deep flaws in our approach to teens and drugs help ensure that this issue is always with us.

The question of how government and religious institutions should work together is important. It’s just as important to recognize that, after 30 years of the approach taken by the ONDCP, the results are in.

Just about half of American high school graduates will have used an illegal substance. Overall, more Americans are addicted to, dependent on, abusing and using a wider variety of substances than ever before.

Steve Beitler | Palo Alto

‘No God, no Torah’?

I just got a hold of an article, “Why are Conservative Jews undermining the Bible?” which was published in your newspaper way back on March 15, 2002. It was by Jack Engelhard. He was a guest columnist.

I just wanted to say how ignorant some people are — people who are undermining everything that Judaism stood for, for 6,000 years.

To say that there was no Torah, no God, no Abraham, no Isaac, no Jacob — why call themselves Jews? Might as well be something else. You see, those of us who still study Torah and still believe in God, have a gift — which is being able to tell a real Jew from a phony-baloney.

And as a matter of fact, I will write to the Conservative book club and see if they’ll send me their “Tree of Life” Bible, so that I can see for myself what it really stands for.

Moshe Neyman | Avenal State Prison