2 troubling views

I found both July 9 opinions on the “sides” of the Madonna controversy troubling.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach believes the primary concern for feminist leaders such as Hillary Clinton should be how much cleavage Madonna reveals. In reality, Jewish feminist organizations such as Ma’ayan, Hadassah, Women of Reform Judaism and others are working to break through the glass ceiling for women in Jewish communal work.

They are organizing against gun violence and domestic abuse; for women’s economic, political and reproductive rights. Jewish feminists rightly care about real world issues, not whether Madonna calls herself Esther or Kali, or what she wears.

I am more distressed by Joseph Aaron’s gratuitous attack on philanthropist Margot Pritzker. Unlike Aaron, I admire Pritzker for supporting Danny Matt’s extraordinary translation of the Zohar. Perhaps Aaron would be surprised to learn that when Matt spoke at Congregation Beth El, many more than a “tiny handful of Jews” attended.

It’s OK if Aaron is “excited” by the “Madonna thing,” but why does he trash Pritzker and Matt? They are two wonderful Jewish role models.

Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman | Berkeley

2 resource books

I enjoyed Jay Schwartz’s column July 16 column, and the questions he raised made me want to be sure that he and j. readers were aware of two wonderful resources on Jewish views of the afterlife.

There are many such books, but here are two of my favorites: The first is a quick and easy read — a very nice summary of the range of Jewish views:

Syme, Daniel and Sonsino, Rifat.”What Happens after I Die?: Jewish Views of Life after Death,” N.Y.: UAHC Press, 1990.

The second is encyclopedic, but the material is really riveting — when you have more time, or want to look at certain sections or issues in greater depth.

Raphael, Simcha Paull. “Jewish Views of the Afterlife,” Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1994.

Rabbi Amy Eilberg | Palo Alto

Reincarnation redux

Jay Schwartz’s July 16 column on death was interesting. I, for one, believe more along the kabbalistic thought process on death/reincarnation.

However, I also think the beliefs of others on this topic are interesting: If I remember right, it is the Scientologists who believe people are reincarnated after 11 years. According to their theory, L. Ron Hubbard is due back around now.

Buddhists believe the soul reincarnates more quickly the older (and more advanced) the soul is.

And others believe in reincarnation only after hundreds of years.

I attended a past-life regression class a few years ago at The Learning Annex. There I experienced what seemed to be two parallel lives lived sometime around the 1920s or ’30s. I went into that experience without an opinion about past lives, but it made a real believer out of me.

While Schwartz may never get to the bottom of the question, he may have started another great debate on the topic.

Molly Miller-Davidson | Los Angeles

No autopsies

Jay Schwartz’s July 16 column on the Jewish view of death was very interesting. I would like to add the following:

Orthodox Jews do not sanction autopsies and cremations. Reform Jews do not prohibit this, but believe that only the memories and spirit of the deceased live on.

Rita Stock | San Mateo

‘Violent approach’?

Your July 16 article on Jamie Spector legitimized her and the International Solidarity Movement. I graduated from San Francisco State University, where I became familiar with ISM and its agenda to destroy Israel.

Today’s anti-Semitism trades “Jew” with “Zionist,” and, pathetically, its purveyors deny it.

Your coverage of ISM failed to expose that there is nothing “international” about ISM, which is solely devoted to the Palestinian cause. ISM and Spector will not engage in “direct action” in the Darfur region of Sudan, where Arab militias are conducting ethnic cleansing.

ISM adopted a violent approach in confronting Israel. Using “direct action” clearly indicates hostile intent because that’s military jargon for using violence.

I don’t know if Spector is the grandchild of Holocaust survivors — I suspect she isn’t because then she wouldn’t make hurtful comments equating Israel’s struggle with the Palestinians to the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto. There’s absolutely no moral equivalent between the two.

If anything, the Palestinians are growing in numbers and are not being systematically murdered like the residents of the Warsaw ghetto.

A World War II Palestinian leader, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Yasser Arafat’s uncle, spent part of the war in Berlin and actively supported Hitler.  

Mordechai David Pelta | San Francisco

Roadblock to peace?

The “pro-Israel, right or wrong” camp, consisting of Jews, Christians and related organizations, is a roadblock to peace in Israel and Palestine.

Some Jews/Jewish organizations are experts at blasting criticism of Israel’s policies — and denying Israel’s responsibility in the conflict.

The love fest between Christian right and “right or wrong” Jews/organizations here and in Israel is profoundly disturbing.

Sweeping generalizations don’t help, either — such as referring to Arabs (Palestinians) as “the enemy” (Martin Wasserman’s July 16 letter).

So, it’s OK to scapegoat an entire people?

Sound familiar?

As a Jew, I’m appalled. That attitude is no different than that expressed in the anti-Israel filth coming from some sectors of Palestinian society.

I’m not so naive to think that if Israel adopts the Geneva accord, terrorism would stop, but Israel would have more legitimacy in the eyes of the world if it gives up the land that it has no rights to.

For those who want to live in the past (many American Jews, it seems), this is not acceptable. For the rest of us, who live in the here and now and are looking to the future, this is the only way. 

Jon Silver | Sunnyvale

‘A mensch’

I was delighted to read the wonderful June 4 article you wrote about Emily Dubois’ project to raise 1.5 million pennies.

As we all agree, she is a mensch and a very fine creative mitzvah-thinker and doer.

One small note: You referred to the Ziv Tzedakah Fund, Inc. as “Ziv Mitzvah.” Those readers who wish to learn more about our work may go to our Web site — www.ziv.org — for full details and many useful links.

Danny Siegel | Rockville, MD
chairman and founder
Ziv Tzedakah Fund

Helping connect

Thank you so much for Dan Pine’s wonderful July cover story on JFCS/East Bay’s program for Jews with disabilities. It is written with great heart, and provides a moving glimpse of the challenges and rewards of helping connect these often marginalized members of our community with Jewish life.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, JFCS has had the privilege of directly serving hundreds of East Bay Jews with physical and developmental disabilities.

In addition to the social and educational groups for children and adults described in the article, our program also includes a spiritual support group for Jews with chronic illness, facilitated by Community Rabbi Miriam Senturia.

We provide individual and family counseling to those with physical disabilities, and our staff consultations and trainings at East Bay synagogues and other Jewish organizations continue to inspire a greater response to accessibility and programmatic needs.

But there is still so much more to be done, and additional ongoing support is crucial to sustaining the program. Pine’s article will increase awareness in the Jewish community at large about the need for more welcoming access to the richness of our cultural, social and spiritual traditions.

Judith McFadin | Berkeley
director of development
Jewish Family & Children’s Services of the East Bay

Alternate universes?

Richard Ben Cramer (June 18 j.) and I must be living in alternate universes: I am as old as the state of Israel, and I don’t recall it ever being a place where one could wander around “in perfect safety” since fedayeen terrorist gangs crossed the Green Line with impunity, randomly murdering Israelis while the Jordanian and Syrian artillery peppered the townships with explosives.

The terror has continued to this day.

The Arab rejection of a Jewish state continues, evolving from the Pan Arab nationalist wars waged by nations in the ’50s and ’60s to today’s jihadist pan-Islamic proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

Blaming poverty, domestic violence, declining educational standards and other social ills on the religious parties or the occupation of hostile enemy territory is absurd. The root cause of Israel’s problems is and always has been the Arab world’s determination to annihilate it.

If Israel didn’t have to spend billions defending itself from state-sponsored hatred promulgated by its feudal neighboring Arab dictatorships, poverty, violence and education could all be effectively addressed by the Israeli economy.

Sarah Williams | San Rafael

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