Easy scapegoats?

Kudos to Steve Greenberg for his June 25 political cartoon “How the Bay Area Goes from Peace to Hate in Ten Easy Steps.” In one simple visual, he described how well-intentioned human rights activists who grab onto easy scapegoats have allowed their causes to excuse or condone anti-Semitism.

This continues to be a problem plaguing Northern California. A majority of the anti-Semitic incidents reported to the local Anti-Defamation League are connected to anti-Israel sentiment.

Almost every day, we hear from Bay Area Jewish activists who are ostracized by other activists who condemn Israel or Jews in general. When contacted, the ADL encourage people to not hide their Jewish background and find allies who can speak out against the scapegoating.

Many of the people we talk to recognize that when we as Jews walk away or remain silent, we condone such behaviors. As more and more speak up and get others to speak up, the climate will change.

Hopefully, in the near future, Greenberg’s cartoon will become obsolete.

Jonathan Bernstein | San Francisco
regional director, Anti-Defamation League

Not for Jews alone

As a Jewish artist who’s created many custom ketubot, I read “Faux mitzvahs” by Jay Schwartz (June 11 j.) with interest.

I have interfaith couples and “non-traditional” Jews as clients. The last two ketubot I made carried Hebrew, Arabic and English. I’m working on one now which will have Armenian. Sanskrit, Bengali, and Chinese have been requested in the past.

The point is to make the language of the ketubot meaningful to each couple.

Quakers have traditionally signed documents at their weddings to signify affirmation and support. Chinese share the custom, placing the document opposite the door of the new home to remind the couple of their promises. Interfaith couples, I find, are the ones who ask themselves the hard questions before marriage — and their text reflects their thoughtfulness.

Perhaps this process of choosing a ketubah text and significant visual imagery a couple can live with for a lifetime is too important to be exclusively for Jews, and if non-Jews recognize how important it is to approach marriage thoughtfully, then we should encourage the practice.

It doesn’t dilute Jewish culture, but rather intensifies and enriches our own understanding of the worth of the process of creating a ketubah.

Jane Brenner | Santa Rosa

‘Wasps having sex’

I really enjoyed Jessica Ravitz’s June 4 column. On that same subject, readers might want to check out a (mostly fictional) book called “Beautiful Wasps Having Sex.” The basic theory is that Jews, via the film industry, invented the Anglo-Saxon/blonde standard of beauty. It’s a fun read.

Jeffrey Goldman | Tokyo, Japan

Distressing trend

I read Jessica Ravitz’s June 4 column, “Nip/Tuck,” and express my thanks for the sensible opinions conveyed. I only wish more young women in this country would use their heads and adopt her perspective.

I also find the trend in plastic surgery quite distressing. Women these days are trading their given looks to adhere to a single standard of beauty, endemic of a culture which thrives on hollow, style-over-substance lifestyle choices.

When these choices negate the unique physical characteristics typical of ethnic idiosyncrasies, I think the phenomenon becomes more shameful.

A Taiwanese wife of an artistic collaborator of mine is a woman blessed with beautiful face and body. Poor self-esteem drove her to bleach her hair, “fix” her eyes and nose in an attempt to look “white” and add breast implants.

She looks terrible, a parody of what she was before this surgery.

An ex-girlfriend, a pretty Polish woman who didn’t care for her large nose and small lips, decided she simply wasn’t WASPy enough. She acquired a little nose and larger, fuller lips. I think she just looks silly.

I’d like to think people will come to their senses and stop tampering with the bodies they were born with.

Robert Buchanan | Elverson, Penn.

Morality and humanism

A June 25 j. weekly article raises the question of why the Humanistic Judaism movement hasn’t caught on here.

A good deal of the answer lies in its humanistic, non-theistic approach. Humanism assumes that people are basically good and will use reason to determine how to act properly.

But reason is only a tool. Reason is often used to justify all kinds of bad behavior.

People are not basically good. They must be taught goodness, and this is best taught by religious moral education. If behavior is not based on a transcendent moral authority like God, then it becomes a matter of personal preference.

How a Jew can believe after the Holocaust that humanism will lead to good moral behavior is beyond me.

Edward Tamler | San Mateo

Rush to judgment?

“I think, therefore I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh.” This, the last sentence of the June 25 j. article “Hate talk,” infers that Rush Limbaugh is anti-Israel and/or anti-Jewish, and that his audience is intellectually challenged. I have been a member of that audience since his show landed in the Bay Area.

Several years ago, after a trip to Israel, Limbaugh dedicated a week of shows detailing his reasons for supporting Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. His support for Israel is as passionate today as it was then.

I think that Dan Pine, Ronn Owens and his L.A. goddaughter should check out Limbaugh’s program sometime. Better yet, they should go to his Web site, where he links to all the media output he analyses, giving his audience access to each original piece in its entirety so they can judge the insight of his commentary for themselves.

The title and text of your article were designed to create the illusion that hate talk equals Limbaugh. Your article proves to me the Limbaugh adage that when liberals can’t compete in the arena of ideas, they resort to attacking people through innuendo and inference.

Jules Kalbfeld | Pinole

Bias at KQED?

My thanks to Lila Kaufman (“Destroying Israel?” in the June 11 j.) for bringing attention to bias in KQED’s programming on the Middle East conflict.

KQED has broadcast two respectable, balanced documentaries on the region in recent years — “The 50 Years War: Israel and the Arabs,” on the history of the conflict, and the Frontline production “Shattered Dreams of Peace: The Road From Oslo,” on the failure of peace negotiations.

KQED has also broadcast several shows openly sympathetic to the Palestinian side, including the notorious “Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land,” an unabashed blood libel that calls Israelis cold-blooded murderers — and impugns the loyalty of Americans who support Israel’s right to exist. 

But KQED has historically been reluctant or refused to show programs overtly sympathetic to Israel — such as “Israel: A Nation is Born, with Abba Eban, a Personal Witness,” “Decryptage” (exposing anti-Israel media bias), and “Relentless: The Struggle for Peace in Israel” (documenting Yasser Arafat’s and the Palestinian Authority’s deliberate indoctrination of Palestinian children to become suicide-bomb terrorists).

If KQED is truly committed to balance, its programming schedule should include the Israeli perspective as well as the Palestinian one. 

Stephen Silver | Walnut Creek

Extremely misleading?

Your readers deserve a counterpoint to the June 25 Susan Hirshfield letter headlined “Not all are Jew haters,” regarding KQED’s latest anti-Israeli propaganda film. Contrary to the author’s assertion, the entire documentary, from its introduction of U.N. Resolution 242, presented information that was either false or extremely misleading.

Unfortunately, even well-intentioned Jews are so ignorant of the history and facts that they buy into slogans such as a “Berlin-style” wall. Like the program’s penchant for criticizing legitimate self-defense as “a brutal occupation,” this is nothing more than a self-serving phrase promulgated by those who loathe the existence of Israel.

The IDF is present in the territories only because the Palestinian Authority is not interested in a peaceful solution but is continuing to use terror as a tactic. The IDF’s actions in combating and preventing terror are in measured proportion to this threat.

From the Jewish leadership in pre-state Palestine to the current government in Israel, Israel have always been willing to compromise, and has in fact taken every risk to reach a peaceful solution to end more than 80 years of unprovoked violence and terrorism.

Edward Sherman | Santa Rosa

Forgotten refugees

I am delighted that Susan Hirshfield is not “afraid of exposing the good, the bad and the ugly …” I wish, therefore, that she would expose the brutal dispossession, then expulsion (now it’s called ethnic cleansing) of the 900,000 Jewish citizens of 10 Arab countries, most of whom were indigenous.

The Palestinian Arabs, with the support of the Arab League, forced us all out between 1945 and 1970, confiscated our hospitals, communal centers, businesses and bank accounts.

We lost our friends, our schools and our rich 3,000-year-old culture and heritage.

The Arab world is now nearly Judenrein. We did nothing wrong to deserve this. The only reason they got rid of us is because we were Jews.

I hope that Hirshfield will also remember us the next time she discusses the Middle East refugee problem. We are the forgotten refugees.

Joseph Abdel Wahed | Moraga

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