‘Ridiculous conclusion’

As one of the demonstrators outside SBC Park on June 6, I am shocked by the ignorance laden in June Brott’s letter. Instead of asking a police officer about us, she could have come to directly to us to figure out why we were there, rather than jumping to the ridiculous conclusion that we all want to demolish Israel and replace it with Palestine.

No one at the protest was a “professional demonstrator”; we were there because we care about justice, peace and human rights. 

It is simple enough to splash words of peace on a scoreboard but the scenes from Rafah paint an entirely different picture. As for singing songs of peace, perhaps Israel should practice what it preaches and treat all persons under its control with dignity, respect and tolerance — the manner in which every human being, regardless of race or religion, should be treated.

Scott Campbell | Oakland

Intimidated, harassed

Only Jewish groups are systematically targeted with choreographed intimidation and harassment at public gatherings. This occurs at every pro-Israel or Jewish thematic venue.

The intimidation and harassment is protected as free speech. But the “protest” morphs into overt abuse and physical threat. Our right to public assembly, free of coercion, is impinged.

Organized intimidation of others is not a First Amendment right. Legislative and political process must be initiated to curb the hooliganistic outside-financed nationwide disruption of Jewish gatherings.

Criticism of Israeli policy is legal. But contrived, overt demonization of Jewish existence goes beyond the pale: San Francisco State, Alan Dershowitz, Benjamin Netanyahu hounded out of Berkeley, Daniel Pipes — all are exemplary.

Why only at Jewish gatherings? I am enraged.

Restraining orders keeping tormentors 1,000 yards from us must be obtained. Tormentors and inciters should legally register as political pressure groups. Sensitivity training about our rights should be made mandatory. Lawmakers should be lobbied to enact relevant legislation.

Organized tormentors should sign an affidavit stating that they understand that Jews and members of other groups have a right to associate publicly without being harassed. They should understand that legal ramifications to intimidating behavior do exist.

Ira Berkowitz | Emeryville

Airport rejection

Many of you are planning to travel abroad this summer, and we wanted to share some useful information we learned the hard way.

We were all packed and at the airport checking in our luggage for a trip to Israel when the ticket agent informed us that there was a problem with one of our passports.

She explained that to enter several countries, including Israel, the passport needs to be valid for six months beyond the last day of your intended visit.

Even though our passports were valid for the specific dates we intended to travel, one of our passports was going to expire shortly after our trip.

We were turned away at SFO, and unfortunately our vacation plans had to be postponed.

While the airline asked if we had valid passports at the time of booking our tickets, they did not mention this six-month rule.

Most people we have talked to including well-traveled ones were not aware of this rule either. We hope you don’t get turned away at the airport like we did.

Susan and Alan Saporta | Belmont

Having it backwards?

Let me get this straight: j. columnist Jay Schwartz, who had his own wedding performed by a humanistic rabbi and had a statue of the Buddha underneath the canopy, is worried that faux b’nai mitzvah and non-Jewish ketubot “might contribute to the further dilution of Jewish culture”?

I’m pretty sure he has it backwards.

Jonathan Shapiro | Petach Tikva, Israel

‘Eyes on the ball’

Mazel tov to Yitzhak Santis and Steve Berley for being named agency staff members of the year by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation — and for helping to lead the Bay Area pro-Israel community through this difficult time (be it from rampant anti-Israel forces that plague our community, those on the marginal extreme in our own community who denigrate their good works to those who don’t know or — worse yet — don’t care about the vital peace and security issues facing Israel).

Our community faces a unique set of challenges and occupies a unique position on the national stage. Having returned recently from AIPAC in Washington, D.C., I was amazed by the reaction of those who would look at my badge and smile in knowing recognition, “Oh, so you’re from the Bay Area, eh?” People notice.

Without their hard work and diligence, we might very well have gone off on tangents, fragmented our message or — worse yet — given in to those who want nothing but the worst for Israel.

Kudos to both Yitz and Steve and all the staff at the JCRC for keeping our eyes on the ball and for their ceaseless efforts on Israel’s behalf.

Steve Lipman | Foster City

Quest for learning

Regarding your May 7 cover story, the reference to my “not overly rosy” religious school memories had nothing to do with the Reform affiliation of the congregation or the temple itself. I was a kid who, having spent the day at school, was not overly eager to go back again for Hebrew school.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the youth group outings, the simchas we celebrated, the warmth of the community, or Sunday school. My teachers and rabbis were exemplary. So I have not gone from Reform to Orthodox but rather deepened my connection through commitment to learning, wherever learning is found.

I am learning that our language-state is as central to the unity of the Jewish people now as it has been since Egypt. According to Aviva Zornberg, Moses’ “fear that the matter is known” is not for his own life but for the life of Israelites. Seeing that the divisiveness of the Israelites appears to be true (that his own kin would turn Moses in), he questions how will they be redeemed.

The point is, we need to act as one, remembering what unifies us, and not the opposite.

dam Neril | Moraga

‘Eloquent voice’

A news item in your April 30 edition reported that in 1939, the archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, said European Jews “were responsible for their persecution by the Nazis.”

Fortunately, Lang resigned in 1941, and was replaced by William Temple, who emerged as a powerful and eloquent voice against the Holocaust.

In speeches, and articles in 1942-1943, Temple lent the power and prestige of his position, as England’s senior Christian voice, to the cause of rescuing the Jews. Temple did not shy away from criticizing the Allies’ apathy; he boldly asserted that the Jews were “caught between the hammer of the enemy’s brutality and the anvil of democracy’s indifference.”

His words echoed around the world. The U.S.-based Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe (the Bergson group), which lobbied for rescue, used the archbishop’s words as the headline of a full-page advertisement in The New York Times and elsewhere. For the first time, millions of Americans learned that the head of the Church of England was speaking out for rescue.

During that grim era, many prominent Christians were either indifferent to the plight of Hitler’s Jewish victims or harbored anti-Jewish prejudices. Not so William Temple.

Rafael Medoff | Melrose Park, Pa.
director, The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies

‘A global jihad’

Former East Bay Rabbi Arik Ascherman (May 28 j.) is mistaken when he condemns the killing of innocents in Gaza but neglects to comment on lost innocent lives in Israel.

If the Palestinians and their leaders had obeyed the Oslo accords, accepted Camp David, put an end to advancements by Hamas, Fatah and the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade and condemned the use of suicide bombers, those lives would not have been lost.

Although Ascherman is quick to criticize Israel, that nation has every right to defend her borders.

Unfortunately, the Palestinians have mastered the art of public relations. They shield themselves with women and young children, knowing that lost lives will gain sympathy and world condemnation against Israel.

We have to go back to the beginning of this war. It is not an occupation; it is Israel’s existence.

Until Ascherman and other “human rights advocates” realize we’re in a global jihad, with Israel as the scapegoat, we’ll be fighting in Topeka, Fullerton and Miami.

We cannot play into the hands of terror, we must fight this war as if our very lives depended on it. Because, sadly, it does.

Allyson Rowen Taylor | Los Angeles

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