Interfaith activity flourishing

Carol Stern of the national Anti-Defamation League staff, as part of a panel on Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, declared that dialogue among Catholics, Protestants and Jews was no longer happening, and that perhaps it was time to revive those relationships.

Stern may be right if she is talking about New York or other cities, but she is not right if she means the Bay Area.  Interfaith dialogue — and more importantly, interfaith activity — is flourishing here.

This does not mean there is not more to be done. But for anyone who wants to be involved, there are a myriad of ways — and many organizations and activities to choose from. Among them: The San Francisco Interfaith Council, the Interfaith Center at the Presidio, the United Religions Initiative, interfaith councils in Marin and Contra Costa County, and similar organizations on the Peninsula and in Oakland.

The problem is not a lack of organizations but a lack of Jewish participation. Too many times to count, I have found myself the only Jew at a meeting. A call to the Jewish Community Relations Council might be a first step toward greater involvement.

Rita R. Semel | San Francisco

‘Passion’ hurts

Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite. His movie, it’s a real anti-Semitic movie against Jews.

His movie hurt me personally a lot.

What do you think, my friends, about his actors who keep Jesus on their shoulders? I tell you what: They all represent Jews.

It tell me that Jews killed Jesus.

This is a very sad and bad movie. Gibson should drop it.

I survived anti-Semitism in my own Ukraine country, and in the former Soviet Union. I know what it is very well.

Even if Gibson has a different view from his father, who is also an anti-Semite, he has the same idea about Jews.

Nobody should see this movie — otherwise, we will have more anti-Semitism. This movie should be dropped or destroyed.

So, my fellow Jews, let’s boycott the Gibson movie.

His father is a stupid person. He said that the Holocaust, it’s a Jewish fiction. He would never say such a stupid thing if he would have survived the Holocaust.

Paul Shkuratov | San Francisco

Kosher choices

I definitely can relate to Michal Lev-Ram’s March 5 column. I live in rural Nevada, where the Wal-Mart just replaced the kosher aisle with prepackaged Atkins meals. When I asked why, they said they weren’t selling any kosher products.

No wonder. What they had, as Lev-Ram described, does not reflect most of our kosher food choices.

Do you think they could stock one bar of halvah? Could they find some good quality kosher vinegar I would actually think about putting on my salad? What about one blessed box of good couscous? Some pita? What about the elusive kosher hot-dog bun?

If it was any other area in their store, they would have put out some consumer request forms to find out what we eat and how they could make the section better.

They would have discovered we don’t buy the things from the kosher aisle (except the Shabbat candles and memorial candles) because it’s not what we eat.

I am Sephardic, too, and I guess this is why we Sephardim are such good cooks — we can’t find our food anywhere.

Michelle Nevada | Minden, Nevada

Following suit?

I read with interest and excitement the article on inclusion, “Special connection,” in your recent education and camp guide.

I am a person who was born with cerebral palsy and have special needs. Back when I was going to religious school, I could have benefited from the programs that were cited in this article. Despite this fact, I try to keep abreast of everything that is happening in this arena.

Everybody deserves a fair shake. Our wonderful heritage knows this. Many years ago I went to a conference on Jews with disability in Los Angeles. Maybe Northern California should follow suit.

Susan Cohn | San Jose

Role model lost

To the journalistic community, Bruno Wassertheil was an icon of erudition, knowledgeability and — for lack of a more stylish word — class. The sadly premature passing of the former CBS Radio Middle East correspondent has stilled a nuanced voice of perspective on Israeli issues (and what a magnificent voice it was), and reporters everywhere have lost a role model.

He will be deeply missed.

Mike Gaynes | Moss Beach

Relics of past?

The title of the j. column is Jewish Celebrities, but where are they? 

Most of them are either non-Jews, or half or quarter or partially Jewish. How about Madeleine Albright, James Schlesinger, Sean Penn, Goldie Hawn or most of Hollywood, who are either totally secular or have lost any connection to Judaism? 

How about half of our country — most have some Jewish connection.  

Can't we do better than that? 

I assume others, like me, look forward to reading about Jewish celebrities. These “Jewish celebrities” would be just as home in the Catholic Digest or some other gentile publication.

How about devoting a column or two on some real Jews, not some relics of past generations?

Howard J. Leavitt | Riverside

License to kill?

In 1967, Israel took the West Bank from Jordan. That was the price Jordan paid for launching an attack against Israel, joining Egypt and Syria in what was intended to be the final war to drive Israel into the sea.

Ironically, under Israeli rule from 1967 to 1993, the West Bank’s economy was among the fastest growing in the world thanks to burgeoning commerce between Israelis and Palestinians.

Health care improved and the mortality rate dropped. Where there had been not a single institution of higher learning, by the early 1990s there were seven universities in the West Bank

What stopped this momentum? The Oslo peace process.

After 1993, Yasser Arafat returned from exile in Tunisia. Arafat made the territories under his control a safe haven for all manner of terrorists.

Then, in 2000 at Camp David, he turned down an Israeli offer for full statehood in 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza and launched a wave of terror beyond anything Israel had ever experienced.

The real point of the hearings in The Hague was to challenge Israel’s right to self-defense, Israel’s right to exist, to ask a respected international body to issue a license to kill Israelis.

Solon L. Rosenblatt | Greenbrae

Emotional vigil

I went to The Hague with three other supporters of the fence from Los Angeles. We stood in rain, sleet, snow and bitter cold for two days while the names of over 900 victims were read to a very emotional crowd.

Then, over 1,000 Christians marched through the streets past the “Peace Palace” with photos of every victim of a homicide murder.

Roz Rothstein, executive officer of www.standwithus.com, stood with Sylvan Zeiden, Roberta Seid and myself to share heartbreak and heartwarming stories and events that took place at The Hague for three days.

We spoke to Dutch citizens who came to view the skeletal remains of a bombed bus, with tears in their eyes, as they lamented the fact that they see a rise in anti-Semitism again in Europe.

They cried with me, and we cried for all those lost in senseless tragedy.

We all stood together, in unity, from right, left and center, to memorialize the lives of those lost, and to protect the future.

Lives cannot be rebuilt, but fences can be torn down.

Allyson Rowen Taylor | Valley Glen

Holocaust education

In the Feb. 6 j., Joe Eskenazi reviewed “Yossel: April 29, 1943,” the stunning new graphic novel about the Warsaw Ghetto revolt, written and illustrated by legendary comic book artist Joe Kubert.

Eskenazi calls it a “gripping and magnificently drawn instant classic … that succeeds in honoring the integrity of the Shoah.” Yet he also says it “may not sit especially well with those who believe it is … improper for a non-survivor to dramatize the Shoah.”

Perhaps there is somebody who holds that view, but I have never met such a person.

To say non-survivors shouldn’t dramatize the Holocaust would be to say the ill-fated voyage of the refugee ship St. Louis shouldn’t have been dramatized in the film “Voyage of the Damned”; Robin Williams shouldn’t have starred in “Jakob the Liar”; and Steven Spielberg shouldn’t have made “Schindler’s List.”

It should be obvious that such popular dramatizations have contributed significantly to the American public’s awareness of the Holocaust.

It is fortunate, indeed, that Kubert, a member of the Arts & Letters Council of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, has chosen to use his talent to further the cause of Holocaust education.

Rafael Medoff | Melrose Park, Pa.
director, Wyman Institute

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