‘Timeless messages’

The dissatisfaction by congregants who do not want their rabbi to discuss politics on the bimah (Sept. 3 j.) is probably less about politics and more about preaching didactic messages.

Everyone has the right to form his/her own opinion. Preaching on a particular topic does little to teach but simply subjects us to long-winded opinions. It assumes that we need that opinion to make up our own minds.

I agree with Rabbi Ted Alexander. Why not offer us lessons in living life, in loving each other, in living our lives fully? These are timeless messages that help us go out into the world more fully human. A sermon about a political candidate or a political position simply tells me that particular rabbi’s opinion.

Most sermons should be cut in half. Ten minutes is plenty.

What I’d prefer is a talk that allows me to look inside myself to find my own reality. I prefer talks about human, everyday issues that relate directly to the speaker’s life — to our collective humanity. Then I can take that experience and translate it into my own truth.

Laura Siegel | Pacifica

‘Shortchanged, shortsighted’

I was both interested in and somewhat saddened reading your Aug. 13 cover article on Jewish Girl Scouting.

Looking back at my 11-plus years in Scouts in the same troop in the Los Angeles area, I gleefully remember and, indeed, I am still in contact with, many of my friends from scouting circa 1962-1973.

What made the scouting “way of life” so rewarding was a deeply committed group of moms who spearheaded adventuresome and thought-provoking activities and, most of all, the diversity of the troop.

We learned so much from one another about Japanese and Chinese cultures, about the traditions of Indian food, about the history of Greece, about the rituals of Catholicism and the richness of Jewish custom.

I am a deeply committed, spiritual and involved Jew. There are activities in my life that are strictly Jewish and those that are not.

Being a scout is about sharing, learning, growing, developing and paying tribute to scouts from all over the world, and from many cultures and religions who come together to experience myriad purposeful and enriching activities.

The girls depicted in your article are being shortchanged, and their parents are being a bit shortsighted.

Jacqueline Studio | Berkeley

‘Most shameful’

The news that the Presbyterian Church (USA) had voted to withdraw support on two major issues concerning Israel — the security fence and divestment in the economy — was like a blow to my solar plexus.

This is political correctness at its most shameful.

I’d been trained and ordained in this church. What a short memory for some.

In the 1980s, the bells tolled at the local church as we celebrated the release of the Rev. Benjamin Weir, a Presbyterian minister, who worked in Iran. He had been kidnapped, chained to a radiator and held hostage.

In the ’90s a Presbyterian chapel and medical clinic in Pakistan were bombed. Recently in Iraq, three different denominational Christian churches were bombed.

And heroic little Israel cannot pull out and go home — she is home.

An enemy who brags about wanting “to drive Israel into the sea” and proceeds to murder those who can reproduce for the country — the children, college youth and soldiers — must be more than verbally condemned by the world.

I’ve moved to another denomination and affiliates that love Israel and hold her up in prayer.

Shirley Thurston | Oakland

Another disease

Thank you for “In search of a cure” (Aug. 27 j.).

Another disease readers should know about is called familial torsion dystonia. About one in 900 Ashkenazi Jews carries the mutation on chromosome 9 for it.

It is autosomal dominant (each child of a parent with the gene has a 50-50 chance of inheriting it), though symptoms appear only in about 30 percent of individuals with the mutation, or 1 in 3,000 Ashkenazi Jews.

Children who develop torsion dystonia symptoms generally do so between ages 6 and 16. After onset, symptoms develop rapidly. Muscles of the body that allow for twisting movements develop spasms and become rigid and contracted.

Voluntary movement becomes difficult for most. Speech is frequently affected, but intelligence remains intact. 

Interestingly, some studies found individuals with torsion dystonia may be the most intelligent of the children in a family.

Life expectancy is normal. There’s no cure for this disorder, though injections of drugs that weaken the muscles and, in some instances, brain surgery may bring symptomatic relief.

Those interested in reading more about the disease can find information at the Center for Jewish Genetic Diseases at Mount Sinai School of Medicine Web site.

Sue Douglass | Albany

One-sided arguments

I am getting tired of all the one-sided arguments emanating from much of the Jewish community, as reflected in the Sept. 3 letters to the editor by Sheree Roth and Robert Katz.

Roth questioned whether or not Islam is a religion of peace. Unless she is a scholar, her slur is baseless. Islam is not responsible for Muslim terrorists, just as Judaism is not responsible for the terror of Ariel Sharon and the occupation, and Christianity is not responsible for the dangerous and maniacal foreign policy of George W. Bush.

As for Katz, why do so many Jews in your letters column ignore the terror visited on the Palestinians?

I get e-mails from my Jewish friends and family after Palestinian terror attacks, but nothing about the terror the Palestinians live with daily — the home demolitions, the olive fields destroyed, the children killed in bombing raids. 

The argument of far too many Jews seems to be that Jews are the victims of terror while the Palestinians have no one to blame but themselves.

I believe that Jews should open our eyes to all the suffering in the Middle East.

Verna Wefald | San Rafael

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