Are cows kosher if what they eat is non-kosher?

Your Jan. 9 article regarding mad cow disease and the increase in kosher beef consumption did not address a critical issue — that both kosher and non-kosher cows are fed the same non-vegetarian diets containing remains of dead animals.

I was outraged to learn that so-called “kosher” cows could potentially be fed remains of prion-infected cows (and pork among other things).

If cows are fed “‘non-kosher” food, even if the slaughtering practices are done according to kosher law, can those animals be considered “kosher”? It seems the answer should be “no.”

It does not matter how cows are being slaughtered when their life is sustained through non-kosher means.

As a Jewish person who has eaten kosher beef “religiously,” I would like to know if the kosher qualification is little more than a gimmick.

I will stop eating beef until I am certain that herbivore cows are fed consistent with their natures — vegetarian.

Lucie Harris | San Mateo

Ecological threats

Many contemporary Jews use Tu B’Shevat as an occasion to discuss how Jewish values can be applied to reduce many of today’s ecological threats. This is more important than ever in view of the many environmental threats currently facing our planet.

While Judaism teaches that “the earth is the Lord’s,” and that we are to be partners with God in preserving the environment, there are daily news reports about water shortages, air and water pollution, the effects of global climate change, and soil erosion and depletion.

Tu B’Shevat is the New Year for Trees, an ideal time to consider the rapid destruction of tropical rain forests and other valuable habitats.

While Israel has made remarkable progress in many areas, it faces recurrent droughts, very badly polluted rivers, severe air pollution in its major cities and industrial areas, rapidly declining open space, congested roads, and an inadequate mass transit system.

In view of the above and much more, I urge Jews to use Tu B’Shevat and activities related to this increasingly important holiday as occasions to start to make tikkun olam, the repair and healing of the planet, a central focus in Jewish life today.

Richard H. Schwartz | Staten Island, N.Y.
president, Jewish Vegetarians of North America

The ‘depths of hate’

I admire Naomi Lauter and Shlomi Ravid’s courage for entering the lions’ den to present the pro-Israel community’s message before the S.F. Labor Council last week. 

I am outraged when I hear reports that in response to Lauter’s comment that she “could not see how any woman could abandon her children and kill herself just to kill some Israelis,” some in the audience claimed they could and would.

How far some have some plunged into the depths of hate.

How much effort are we devoting in the pro-Israel community to converting “unsalvageables” such as these? Perhaps our strategy should focus less on “outrage” and more on “outreach?” There are those in our community who are genuinely seeking guidance, or perhaps are just overwhelmed or do not care … yet. These are the people we should be focusing our efforts to reach.

Those of us who passionately care for Israel need allies, and I only hope that the result of Naomi and Shlomi’s good work is that a few more folks came over to our side of the line. Otherwise, why bother?

Steve Lipman | Foster City

One-sided coverage?

I agree with Jonathan Siegel (Jan. 30 j. letters) that KQED should be boycotted and inundated with complaints for one-sided and unprofessional coverage of the Arab/Israeli dispute.

Yet the problem with KQED’s and NPR’s coverage is not limited to its hostility to Israel. Both are part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which was created by Congress (and funded by taxpayers) under a mandate to report in an unbiased manner. NPR consistently violates its mandate by reporting on events from a skewed, left-wing perspective.

It is no secret that conservatives do not contribute to NPR member stations or listen to NPR, and I would be willing to wager that over 90 percent of NPR employees are to the left of the political center.

As a Democrat, it would be abhorrent to me to have my tax dollars go to support a public radio station that solely aired the views of Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly. Yet it is also wrong for NPR to blatantly violate the law by filtering out conservative views.

Our tax dollars should go to support public radio which truly is unbiased and has no political agenda, and we should let KQED and NPR know this.

Josh Baker | San Francisco

‘A far better solution’

The Jan. 30 article explaining Yana Slobodova’s problem (being sent back to Russia) does not mention what happened to the person she bribed to apply for asylum to get here.

Another question comes to mind: Why is a person accused of murder not kept alone in a cell, thereby avoiding possible danger to a young cellmate and mother?

Slobodova is not a dangerous person — she teaches music and helps support her family. To separate her from her husband and son, who are citizens, is “cruel and unusual punishment.” A far better solution would be to make her pay for her youthful mistake by expecting her to donate her time and talent to our public schoolchildren, who could certainly profit from her talent teaching music, sort of a “community service” punishment. This way the law could be applied for the good of others, and use compassion for a three-generation family.

Arnoldine Berlin | Oakland

Pro bono need

I really appreciated your Jan. 30 article “Emigre family seeks help as wife awaits deportation.” However, the article was profound both in what it stated and what it omitted.

First, Alexandra Wall noted that the Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal is working on behalf of Yana Slobodova to keep her in the USA. However, what does that mean? What it may mean is what the husband and father, Alexander Makarchuk, reveals in his desperate plea for help: “If a good lawyer can just explain to us how to fix this problem…”

San Francisco is full of excellent Jewish attorneys who practice immigration law. Why haven’t they helped out this family? Making money comes second to keeping a family together, not to mention the need for pro bono work here.

I expect a Jewish attorney who read this story to fix this problem before it is too late. I would love to help this family, but sadly I do not have a license yet to practice law in California.

Mordechai Pelta | San Francisco

Movie roots

When I read your Jan. 30 review of the Barbara Lebow play “A Shayna Maidel” being performed by San Jose City Lights Theatre, I thought the plot sounded familiar. Sure enough, an excellent TV movie was made out of the play in 1992, called “Miss Rose White,” starring Maximilian Schell, Kyra Sedgwick and Amanda Plummer.

Playgoers who enjoy the play might want to check out the movie.

Janice Gelb | Los Altos

Full inclusion

It was nice to read the Jan. 30 j. story “Special Connection.”

Many of those I taught in my special education class in the East Bay in 1999-2000 are now included in their synagogue religious schools.

Inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life has been my primary goal.

I have been teaching Jewish special education for five years, and secular special education for four years. I have been a teacher at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco for three years, teaching Judaism to children with moderate to severe disabilities. We meet once a month, and families do not need to be members of the synagogue to have their children attend.

All children have a right to a Jewish education, bar or bat mitzvah, and inclusion in their synagogues. The San Francisco Bay Area is becoming an area where full inclusion is a real possibility.

Lynne Young | Corte Madera

Puzzled by outrage

I support the actions taken by the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, and am bewildered by the outrage by some members of the Jewish and non-Jewish community (Jan. 23 j.).

While his actions were not considered “diplomatic,” his response to this “piece of art” were understandable. The reports have omitted the poem that accompanied this “art,” which did glorify Palestinian suicide bomber Hanadai Jaradet’s “brave actions.”

Today, while the Mourners Kaddish is still being heard by the survivors of the Haifa bombing, and while over 20 people were murdered, both Jewish and Arab, there is no mention of the impact of the loss of entire generations of families, nor the continued suffering of the wounded.

If a glorification of a lynching was portrayed, and Jesse Jackson destroyed this “art,” he would have been hailed a hero for this demonstration of solidarity.

I guess the difference is Jewish lives, anti-Semitism and lack of compassion for the safety of the citizens living in the state of Israel don’t count.

A memorial with the names of the dead from this “swan” should be put in place of this monstrosity.

Allyson Rowen Taylor | Los Angeles

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