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Questioning gay marriage? Then dispute unions for heterosexuals, too

Your Nov. 28 opinion pieces regarding gay marriage were less than edifying. Each writer based his opinion on his own definition of what marriage should be and, naturally, came to a self-serving conclusion.

More useful would be a discussion of what marriage is, historically and currently. Is it even relevant in modern times?

Maybe then, in that context, you could have a useful discussion about gay marriage. Or, given that about half of all marriages end in divorce, perhaps a better topic for discussion would be, “Should marriage exist at all?”

Norman Reid | San Francisco

Disturbing commentary

It was sad and disturbing to read David Benkof’s Nov. 28 opposition to gay marriage, especially since he admits that he himself was once part of a same-sex couple. 

His opinion is that it is vital to “preserve an ideal environment for raising children.” As a forensic psychologist, I have been professionally involved in scores of cases of domestic violence, all of which were related to heterosexual couples.

Can anyone these days believe that straight couples have a monopoly on providing a healthy family environment?

Second, he speaks of the necessity to “promote a healthy balance between the sexes.” But is not self-evident that two parents who are kind, respectful, loving and treasure their children are much more important than what gender they are?

Finally, Benkof opposes gay marriage as an injunction to “accept God’s norms about the fundamental bedrocks of society even when we don’t understand them.” But the heart of Jewish tradition has always encouraged a compassionate, thoughtful interpretation of God’s commandments.

True tikkun olam must address healing the harm the dominant culture has historically inflicted on denigrating same-sex couples relationships while privileging heterosexual marriage.

Jules Burstein | Berkeley

Good, bad and ugly

It has become apparent by now that a phenomena of anti-Semitism, in old and modern forms, is on the rise again. 

• Good anti-Semites. They express freely the prejudicial feeling toward Jews. I do admire people who have an opinion and are able to openly express it. When an opinion is expressed, it is opened for discussion. Discussions do facilitate growth and change for better.

• Bad anti-Semites. They act on their prejudicial beliefs. They paint graffiti, smash Jewish tombstones, break windows in synagogues or even sacrifice themselves in suicide attacks. The rule of law must be indiscriminately applied to any act of violence against individuals regardless of their political, racial or religious affiliation.

• Ugly anti-Semites. They are the worst kind. They could be beggars or multibillionaires, your neighbors or prime ministers. Most of them are nice, polite and very illusive. They are quiet when the voice must be raised, but vocal when it need not. The silence facilitates the rise of any ugly discrimination and prejudice, not just anti-Semitism. 

Only simple human decency and intolerance to “killer silence” can stop the sickening circle of violence and hate.

Steven Shamrak | Melbourne, Australia

Mumia and tikkun olam

Jews should help free Mumia Abu-Jamal from jail for the murder of a police officer. He didn’t commit this crime. This is important to me because my bar mitzvah Torah portion was Leviticus, chapter 19.  

This chapter eloquently tells us we are to help those who are weak and vulnerable. We’re told not to be indifferent to the suffering of others, or to add to their suffering.

Another person has admitted to the crime for which Mumia has been in solitary confinement in Philadelphia for over 20 years. The judges who have presided over his case have refused to examine this and other evidence of Mumia’s innocence.  

Police and judges framed Mumia for a crime he didn’t commit. The major media and major politicians have refused to talk about Mumia’s innocence. The aforementioned have contributed to this travesty of justice.

Millions of other people are currently in prison. Most are black or brown, and nearly all are poor and working class.

Please help me and others with this tikkun olam issue. You can visit www.laboractionmumia.org for more information.

Eric Bergman | Alameda