Will they listen?

In response to Rabbi Amy Eilberg’s Feb. 20 Torah column, since tikkun olam is a Jewish goal, as well as peace, I ask her this: “How can we get Republican and Democratic Jews to listen to each other?

Arnoldine Berlin | Oakland

Study’s credibility questioned

I read with great interest, and growing excitement, the article in your Feb. 20 issue regarding the new Jewish community study.

As president of Kol Hadash, the Bay Area’s only Jewish humanistic congregation, I was particularly interested because it looked like this study would help us get a clearer picture of our potential “market.”

It looked like exactly what is needed by all Jewish organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area to use as a planning tool for membership and outreach activities.

Then I reached the end of the article, and discovered that the study has an insurmountable fatal flaw, before it has even begun. It will not include the East Bay or the San Jose area.

The fact that the East Bay and San Jose federations chose not to fund the study is distressing. Of what value will such a limited study, that omits such a significant portion of the region’s diverse Jewish population, be? And what will be its credibility?

I hope the East Bay and San Jose federations will rethink their decisions and participate in this important project.

Marcia Grossman | El Cerrito

Gibson film: ‘Dangerous’

Why don’t you point out that:

• If Jesus the Jew (circumcised on the eighth day), the son of Mary and Joseph (Jews who were fleeing from the Romans), was not crucified, there would not be any Christianity. And there would be no Christmas and no Easter if there was no crucifixion.

• Christians say they believe in one God but they believe in three (the Father, the son [Jesus], the Holy Ghost) — in this case, three in one.

• God is omnipotent and omnipresent. And Jesus couldn’t prevent his crucifixion?

Nevertheless, Mel Gibson’s movie is dangerous. It took less than a cinematic event to create a pogrom. The anti-Semites will scream the Jews killed Jesus Christ, let’s make them pay.

Louis Starr | Hillsborough

‘It was a massacre’

Thanks to Joe Eskenazi for his perceptive article on the recent panel discussion on the Middle East that took place at San Francisco Labor Council. I attended this event as well, and I would like to highlight something he merely alluded to.

The anti-Israel side behaved the way they normally do: strident, bullying and extremely dishonest. What shocked me was that the pro-Israel speakers appeared surprised and taken aback by this behavior. The two pro-Israel speakers were unprepared for what has become standard propaganda and manipulation on the part of the anti-Israel side.

It was a massacre. They lobbed us softballs, obvious manipulations and lies that are their normal fare, and fairly easy to respond to, and we failed to do it. They even went so far as to justify and support suicide bombing, and we failed to respond. We were also enormously outgunned on written literature (not to mention their stack of DVDs).

There is now a well-organized, focused, determined and incredibly dishonest anti-Israel industry, with training and all varieties of media, and if the best we can do in response is flail around and whine, we are hosed.

Art M. Altman | San Carlos

‘Dedication to newcomers’

Since its inception, the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center has served as the entry point into the Jewish community for thousands of people who have moved to Contra Costa County from elsewhere in the world, particularly immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Our dedication to welcoming newcomers is seen through our strong commitment to financial support for those needing scholarships for membership, preschool, theater and summer camp, to name just a few of our programs that have enabled new emigres to become an integral part of the American Jewish community.

We are sorry those quoted in your Feb. 13 article question this commitment and the ongoing relationship we have both with Jewish Family and Children’s Services and the emigres whom we serve. We look forward to strengthening our partnership with the local Russian community so that we can continue in our building of a strong, caring and welcoming Jewish community center.

Jennifer Cohen | Walnut Creek
president, CCJCC board

‘An incoherent mess’

Let’s hope the next generation of Jewish-American journalism (sic) is not typified by the work of your own Jay Schwartz (“Jewish ‘DNA of anxiety’ permeates literary panel at JCCSF,” Feb. 15 j.).

His report on “The Next Generation of Jewish-American Writing” panel that took place at the JCCSF is an incoherent mess.

His observation, “What [the participants] came up with was heavy and not always pleasant to think about,” makes us wonder whether the more appropriate assignment for him that day would have been a stroll in a neighborhood playground, lollipop in hand. 

His ungainly writing (“the novelist struck a curmudgeonly profile,” “one audience member engaged them in an impassioned shouting rebuke,” “a Jewish ‘DNA of anxiety’ that conflicts with the Jewish American story of success”) begs for editorial intervention — and reminds us again just how far out of his depth he was that evening.

Jeffrey Segall | Kensington

Soulmates and Yiddish

I really like your new format and the expanded coverage it enables. I also found “The business of beshert” (Feb. 13 business supplement) very interesting, and the whole idea a step in the right direction — young people need all the help they can get in finding soulmates, especially among Jewish singles.

My only regret about the article is in the incorrect use of the word yenta (or yenteh). The correct Yiddish word is shadchen (matchmaker).

A yenta is a busybody and has a somewhat negative connotation — one I’m sure that was not intended.

The confusion may have come about from the sardonically chosen name of the character in “Fiddler on the Roof” (Yente, the Matchmaker). While a matchmaker (shadchen) might also be a busybody, a busybody is not first and foremost a matchmaker.

More power (and fun) to the young Jewish matchmakers (and let’s also try to preserve our Yiddish heritage).

Joel Blatt | Mountain View

Hitting the mark

I enjoyed Abby Cohn’s Feb. 13 article, “Match Made in Heaven.” I first heard about On the Mark mentor/tutor program last spring. About six months ago, I was matched to a delightful 9-year-old. Both she and her sister, who is 11, have tutor/mentors at the same time. We meet at Parent’s Place in Palo Alto. I am the only Jewish person of the four.

Sometimes we all play word games together, read aloud or go out for hot cocoa. Often, we meet separately and do homework or arts and crafts. Whatever the activity, I sense that in one short hour, good things are happening — for my student, her sister, me and the other tutor/mentor.

I got involved with On the Mark because I wanted something that was not another committee meeting, not another check written, and not a big-time commitment. I wanted something more personal — to get to know one child, to be there with and for one child.

It’s my belief that On the Mark really hits the mark. I urge others to give it a try.

Caryn Huberman Yacowitz | Palo Alto

A new era?

I just returned from an American Jewish Committee mission to Israel. This experience was different than that presented by Gary Wexler (Feb. 20 j. opinion).

I saw an Israel winning its war against terrorism. Tourists were returning to the holy sites. Restaurants were full. Hundreds of upscale housing units were under construction everywhere. The Israeli stock market is rising.

I saw an Israel with deep appreciation for American support, particularly that of President Bush and America’s intervention in Iraq.

In Israel, I felt absolutely safe.

Middle East experts advised us that while threats remain, the regional momentum is away from confrontation with Israel and the West toward internal political change. During my trip, it was reported that there were hundreds of resignations in the Palestinian Authority, interpreted as a statement against Yasser Arafat’s corrupt rule.

I saw the security fence as an effective tool against terrorism, causing Palestinians to reflect upon their own ills, instead of deflecting them upon Israel. Local IDF commanders coordinate its construction with those who affected by it. Israel compensates Palestinians for any interference it creates.

If Jews truly support Israel and our government does the same, we can tangibly help Israel usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.

Vincent B. Feher | San Francisco

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