Gibson’s sadism

Since Mel Gibson seems to delight in presenting us with blood-soaked, sadistic films that portray humanity at its worst, what films will he produce next? Will it be the story of the Inquisition, with its torture chambers and burning people at the stake? Or will it show the massacre of Jewish communities during the Crusades? Or perhaps the pogroms and mass killings in Russia? Or the Holocaust?

Karl D. Lyon | San Francisco

Plant-based diet

According to the Talmud, Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story, was a vegetarian while she lived in the palace of King Ahasuerus, to avoid violating the kosher dietary laws while keeping her Jewish identity secret. Therefore, Purim is an ideal time for Jews to shift toward vegetarian diets.

This dietary change would be consistent with important Jewish mandates to preserve our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people and pursue a more peaceful, less violent world.

While Purim commemorates the triumph of the Jews in ancient Persia over an oppressor who threatened them, a shift to plant-based diets would enable contemporary Jews to reverse current threats from an epidemic of disease and the many environmental problems related to modern intensive animal-based agriculture.

Richard Schwartz | Staten Island, N.Y.

Hitler’s willing helper

The name of Leni Riefenstahl on a list of notable deaths introduced on the screen by the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should have been expunged from being memorialized at Sunday’s Oscars. This great photographer was one of the principal publicists for the developing Nazi Party.

I believe you could honestly say that she contributed to the major support for Adolph Hitler, leading to his rampage through Europe causing the deaths of close to 56 million people. For those who want to learn more of the facts of how she participated in Hitler’s rise to demagogic power just click on www.brightlightsfilm.com/26/riefenstahl.html.

By placing her name prominently at the Academy Awards, the whole program, which wanted to minimize the political and foreign policies of the United States, gives an unwelcome endorsement to an artist who used her talents to create a monster. I say shame on the Academy Awards and an apology is warranted to the American public who sacrificed its sons and daughters to defeat Riefenstahl’s hero.

Norman E. Mann | San Diego

Epidemic of irresponsibility

I read Dan Pine’s Feb. 27 column and was disturbed by his experience and what I also perceive to be a lack of sensitivity and empathy among many youth today. It reminded me of a few years ago when “Schindler’s List” played at the Grand Lake Theatre to a group of students from Oakland Tech, and many of them laughed at the more horrifying scenes. I teach in the Oakland public schools and am appalled at what kids get away with and the lack of supervision and support from most of their families. What to do? I’m not sure, but I think some accountability and responsibility from parents would be a good start.

Also, schools should have a stronger policy on what is not allowed and carry it out. There are few meaningful consequences to many outrageous behaviors. Many of my students get a “whooping” from their parent if they misbehave. No instruction or direction or teaching about what is appropriate — just hit and punish. Then of course, they do the same.

We have established and are perpetuating an underclass that permeates every aspect of our communities and will last well into the future.

Thanks to Dan for his insights.

Susan Sholin | Berkeley

‘Mean-spirited’ response

We enjoy Jay Schwartz’s writing in j. and are dismayed by Jeffrey Segall’s mean-spirited letter to the editor (Feb. 27). Schwartz’s writing represents an important constituency, the young adult Jewish community, and perhaps more importantly, he is a member of our larger Jewish community in the Bay Area — must we really beat up on each other so?

Jodi Perelman & Brad Shapiro | San Francisco

Reason to circumcise

To answer Jay Schwartz’ question (Feb. 20 the column): “Will circumcising our as-yet-unborn son make us better Jews?” Hardly. But circumcision is not only a question of religion, but of health. It seems to be a fact that the part of the body under discussion is kept clean more easily when circumcised, to the benefit of men and women. There are illnesses to which a woman can be exposed, and which cannot happen if the man has been circumcised. Your wife should not worry; her future son will hardly blame her for what he had to undergo as a baby. He might even be grateful. And as you have said, maybe you’ll be blessed with only girls — then some Jewish boys will in time be happy.

I am Jewish, but not religious. My beliefs were shaken when I found out my parents had been gassed in Auschwitz. In my autobiography I asked God why he permitted 6 million Jews to be slaughtered, my parents among them, when He was ready to save the people of Sodom had there been only one righteous person. Had He not found even one righteous person among the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis?

Gershon Evan | San Francisco

‘Kangaroo court’

Riddle: What do Belize, Cuba, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia and Senegal have in common? Answer: An interest in commenting on Israel’s security barrier at The Hague. The United States, Israel and the European Union, signatories to the internationally sponsored “road map,” opted not to testify.

Many of the 90 states who voted to take this issue to The Hague are totalitarian states or states with known ties to terrorism.

The proceedings in The Hague are a sham with a predetermined outcome certain to unfairly tarnish Israel. The complainant Palestinian Authority has not lifted a finger to confront the very sources of terror in its midst that are why Israel has been forced to build the barrier in the first place.

The fence is the most effective way Israel can protect the lives of its citizens from violence, and the deliberations before the International Court of Justice represent much ado about nothing. Kangaroo courts are not the place to discuss serious issues of peace and security that face Israel and its neighbors. 

The time for riddles has long since passed. It’s time to get serious about peace and security, and the ICJ process is a big step in the wrong direction.

Steve Lipman | Foster City

Hunger in Israel

Thank you, j., for devoting your Jan. 30 cover story to the growing problem of hunger and poverty in Israel.

Israel is indeed facing a new, formidable enemy: food insecurity. For the 1.3 million Israelis who have fallen below the poverty line, among them nearly 700,000 children, putting food on the table is the No. 1 challenge every day.

As one of the organizations dedicated to fighting hunger in Israel, Hazon Yeshaya Soup Kitchens must steadily expand services to meet the growing needs of Israel’s poor.

Despite the efforts of the individuals and agencies portrayed in your reports, new economic austerity measures threaten to make the situation worse.

For many years, the American Jewish community has been at the forefront of programs to alleviate U.S. hunger and homelessness. Many synagogues and communal organizations have adopted local hunger programs as a primary focus of charity and volunteer efforts.

It is vital that Jews around the world now include Israel in their outreach to the hungry and impoverished, to provide the most basic staples of life to those who desperately need them. 

Together, we pray that no man, woman or child will go to bed feeling the pain of hunger.

Abraham Israel | Jerusalem
director, Hazon Yeshaya Soup Kitchens

Pro-truth crowd?

Joe Eskenazi’s Feb. 6 report on the union-organized panel discussing Israeli-Palestinian conflict omitted all that would detract from his bias.

Uda Walker’s litany of facts concerning conditions that exist in Palestine as a result of Israeli occupation was totally relevant. Shlomi Ravid, instead, wanted to speak only of peaceful solutions without considering that which has created the present state.

Ignoring 50 years of Israeli occupation seems not the place to begin a discussion. We must recognize the inherent connection between the Israeli state/ IDF and the horrors that create Palestinian resistance.

Naomi Lauter thinks there is no occupation. Her views, mistruths and multiple contradictions necessitated audience response.

If Palestinians were ill-represented, the pro-Israel folk should have had better representation by progressive (Jewish and others) thinkers who are unafraid to see the disparate situation in Palestine and have the fortitude to face problems inherent in a reconciliation based on reality rather than the Old Testament.

Eskenazi’s assumption — “mostly pro-Palestinian crowd” is arrogant. The crowd was hoping to hear how we all can help end a brutal occupation that doesn’t serve Israel and deprives the Palestinians of dignified lives.

The crowd was pro-truth.

Jeanette Cool | San Francisco

letters policy

j. the Jewish news weekly welcomes letters to the editor, preferably typewritten. Letters must not exceed 200 words and must be dated and signed with current address and daytime telephone number. j. also reserves the right to edit letters. The deadline is noon Monday for any given week’s publication. Letters should be sent by e-mail to [email protected] or by mail to j., 225 Bush St., Suite 1480, San Francisco, CA 94104.