Cover the uninsured

In 2003, nearly 44 million Americans lacked health-care coverage. As leaders in the faith community, we are called to offer comfort to the sick, dying and bereaved. But when a 6-year-old loses her father to prostate cancer because the family was uninsured, or when a husband loses his wife because she didn’t have the insurance to get diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in time, we must do more than comfort and pray.

The verse in Deuteronomy “You shall indeed guard your souls” (4:15) is traditionally interpreted to mean that we are commanded to care for our bodies which are “loaned” to us by God. The current cost of health care and health coverage in the United States is making it difficult or impossible for many in the Jewish community to fulfill that moral and religious imperative.

That’s why we have joined a diverse group of religious leaders throughout the Bay Area to proclaim May 10-16 Cover the Uninsured Week. We want to help millions of uninsured people get the health care coverage they need.

Please find out how you can become involved in your community by logging on to the Web site at www.CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org.

Rabbi Allen Bennett | Temple Israel, Alameda
Rabbi Ferenc Raj | Congregation Beth El, Berkeley

‘Deluded’ protesters

Professor Alan Dershowitz lectured at the Berkeley campus on Thursday, April 29. Outside the auditorium, we were given a different lecture by a few pro-Palestinians.

As Dershowitz stated, the rabble wasn’t there for dialogue. They came to intimidate. They have intimidated people at Jewish cultural events successfully. Honest debate is not possible when Arab propagandists demonstrate at Jewish cultural events. Arab propagandists traffic in lies that legitimize terrorism. They must be confronted.

Let them know that Arabs conquered and stole the entire Middle East during the seventh century; they occupy stolen lands today. Why do so many Jews allow them to besmirch us?

Allowing these protesters to scream lies about Israel constitutes meek surrender. Armed with detailed truth about Middle East history, any Jew can confidently defend Israel and Jewish existence.

The Daily Californian covered the event. Print was given to anti-Israel remarks made by a Jew. That one of the Arabs informed the lady confronting them that we (Jews) will end up “in body bags” merits print, not the deluded sentiments of self-hating Jewish allies of the terrorists.

Ira Berkowitz | Emeryville

Challenging the brit

Our tradition has always valued discussion, dialogue and respectful questioning of authority. Jews will argue about everything under the sun, but for centuries there has been a taboo on challenging brit milah, the circumcision ritual. This is changing.

Your article on how to find a good mohel ignores the fact that a small but growing number of Jews in the Reform, Conservative and Renewal traditions are now rejecting circumcision and replacing the brit with alternative non-cutting naming ceremonies. In the Bay Area alone, there are four rabbis who will officiate at such ceremonies. Please refer to my Web page — www.circumstitions.com/Jewish-shalom.html — for a list of more than 30 rabbis and other lay leaders worldwide who will act as “Celebrants of Brit Shalom.”

Most Jews do not realize that although it is one of the 613 mitzvot, brit milah is not required for Jewish identity. If your mother is Jewish, you are Jewish.

Should you want to learn more about the medical, psychological, ethical and spiritual reasons for questioning circumcision, please join Rabbi Kai Eckstein and myself in a discussion at the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center at 7:30 p.m. June 9.

Dr. Mark D. Reiss | San Francisco
vice president, Doctors Opposing Circumcision

Circumcision is a choice

The article on brit milah (April 30) ignores the fact that cutting a baby’s genitals is a choice. We know of hundreds of Jews who have chosen to keep their son’s genitals intact. The reasons why are explained on our Web site www.jewishcircumcision.org and in my book “Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective,” endorsed by five rabbis.

We advise couples to educate themselves about this issue early in the relationship rather than waiting until they know they will have a boy. Disagreements can be intense, and there is no compromise. The decision of whether or not to circumcise reflects one’s core values. We know of marriages that have failed because of conflict over this issue.

Usually, it is the mother who wants to protect her child from the pain and harm of circumcision. We encourage more mothers to act on their maternal instinct. As one mother said, “If all I can say about my son’s circumcision is ‘Dad wanted it,’ that’s not good enough.”

Ronald Goldman | Boston
executive director, Jewish Circumcision Resource Center

Denying humanity of unborn

I belong to Congregation Beth Am and know and respect the individuals in the article on the March on Washington. And yet … when I read about Jews advocating in favor of abortion at any time, for any reason, I am filled with a profound sadness.

How can people whose highest value is the preservation of life support abortion on demand?

Certainly there are reasonable arguments in favor of abortion when the mother’s life is in danger — self-defense is a valid justification. But how can terminating a life — a whole world in Jewish tradition — be considered solely from the point of view of the mother?

How can Jews, of all people, deny the humanity of unborn children?

In Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital neonatal ICU, tiny babies weighing barely a pound struggle to survive. A fetal echocardiogram of my own daughter at 21 weeks gestation revealed the four chambers of her heart and four tiny valves. Her heart pumped blood to her arms and legs and brain. She wiggled and stretched and turned.

These babies are human beings, and that they should not be permitted to live for the sake of someone’s convenience is nothing less than a tragedy.

Deborah J. La Fetra | Sunnyvale

No need for bestiality

Thanks to Rabbi Stephen Greenberg, we now know that Adam was practicing bestiality in Paradise (April 30 j.) Unfortunately, Greenberg, who himself is openly gay, does not tell us whether Adam’s partners were male or females.

But the famous biblical Creation story is actually a monotheistic modification of the Ugarit myth about the goddess Ninti (literally, “Woman-of-the-rib”). Since the Bible is generally an amalgamation of the two main stories — northern Elohist’s and southern Yahvist’s — the story of woman’s creation is given in the Bible twice (as are many other biblical stories). In the second version, God created man and woman at the same time. So there was no need for Adam to practice bestiality.

Rudy J. Budesky | El Cerrito

Free speech vs. incitement

Secretary Colin Powell pointed out at the European conference on anti-Semitism that criticizing Israel is not ant-Semitic. On the other hand, he stated that it is clearly anti-Semitism when Nazi symbols are used to demonize that small country and its leaders. And let me tell you I have personally seen scores of such anti-Semitic activity here in that Bay area.

The approach America, and the world for that matter, should take to decrease such anti-Semitic statements and the incitement of violence against Jews is to follow I.F. Stone, the famous journalist’s, approach to these matters. He suggested that we should never modify our fundamental right to free speech, the First Amendment, but rather confront those who spout hate and incite violence with appropriate legal charges against those specific crimes, and they are crimes.

An example, though not related to anti-Semitism, is a Berkeley professor’s recent suggestion to a crowd of anti-war protesters to initiate an intifada in America like the one going on in Israel, where children have been slaughtered or maimed by Palestinian terrorists. We should not stop him from making such ghastly statements, but we should be charging him with inciting violence against Americans.

Howard Roth | South San Francisco

Support for ‘child-free’

This is in response to Lauren Hauptman’s April 30 letter, “Marginalizing the ‘child-free,’ an unserved demographic.”

In her letter, Hauptman asks, “Where are the support groups for us?”

I want to encourage Hauptman and other child-free people to attend a No Kidding! social event. No Kidding! — a social group for people who are child-free (either by choice or because of fertility problems) — meets several times a month all over the Bay Area for social activities. While not Jewish in nature, the group has many Jewish people attending events, and both co-organizers and their spouses are Jewish. In fact, many of the Jewish participants are talking about getting together to celebrate Jewish holidays. Such a support group does exist and Hauptman and all child-free Jews are warmly welcomed. Anyone interested shouldsend an e-mail to [email protected].

Stacey Roberts-Ohr | Oakland
co-organizer, San Francisco/East Bay No Kidding!

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.