‘Fodder for attacks’

As an ardent Zionist, I could only wince at Morton Klein’s Sept. 17 j. opinion piece about Israel’s Arabs on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America.

Klein recommends that Israel get tougher on her Arab minority and opposes pouring “more money into Israeli Arab pockets.” Yet every recent Israeli government, whether Labor or Likud, has acknowledged that more needs to be done to equalize the economic status, educational level and social welfare of Israel’s Arab sector. 

Developing the optimal approach to her Arab citizens is one of Israel’s most difficult challenges. It requires the proper mix of effective internal security measures and political, economic and social development.

Klein’s policies are a recipe for greater alienation and discontent.

Instead of a policy that supporters of Israel can be proud of, Klein’s approach would provide further fodder for attacks on Israel. That isn’t very good Zionism.

Michael A. Jacobs | Sausalito

‘Built on sand’?

Your Sept. 10 article on the subject made me realize the that phrase “Humanistic Judaism” is an oxymoron. The central belief of Judaism is the absolute sovereignty of an Almighty God. Any belief system that denies God’s existence cannot properly be called Judaism.

From the standpoint of Judaism, Humanism is just another form of idolatry, in which the object of veneration is Man and his desires instead of God and His commandments. The weakness of such a system should be apparent.

Judaism has survived for thousands of years precisely because its values are absolute and eternal, and do not change from generation to generation. But Humanistic Judaism, having no deity, bases its views on mere human opinion, which can change from one day to the next.

Humanistic Judaism has no potential to produce anything of lasting value, and its main purpose seems to be to enable people to feel good about themselves while they cast off the values that have always been at the very heart of our faith.

True Judaism is built on a foundation of rock, but “Humanistic Judaism” is built on sand.

Martin Wasserman | Sunnyvale

Rooted in values

Your Sept. 10 article on the difficulty of retaining Jewish community professionals reflects a deep concern of mine.

As a young employee of a Jewish organization, I’m keenly aware how quickly my peers enter and leave the Jewish communal world.

Unlike in previous generations, 20-something Jews have not grown up in an insular Jewish environment that would lead us naturally into a Jewish field of work. Many are content to keep their Jewish friends and pursue careers elsewhere.

Those of us who do choose to work for a Jewish organization are ideologically driven to invest in the community. We’ve had positive Jewish experiences and are going through the exciting process of exploring our own Jewish identities.

While it’s essential to receive professional development training and proper mentorship, as the article suggests, these aren’t enough. We need to be recognized as the future Jewish leaders and therefore engaged in the decisions that shape the organizations we work for.

Moreover, we need to feel there’s something distinctly “Jewish” about our workplaces — rooted in our values and nurtured by a sense of communal responsibility — or else we’ll pack our things and move to another non-profit organization willing to engage us.

Roni Ben-David | San Francisco

‘Precious memories’

Reading Jay Schwartz’s Sept. 10 column about B’nai David brought a flood of precious memories.

My grandparents belonged to that temple. My brother and I vividly recall the somber atmosphere inside the sanctuary at Yom Kippur, seeing the rabbi on the bimah without shoes (in bright white socks), and watching the old men swaying back and forth to the haunting sounds of Torah.

The temple was also where my naming ceremony took place.

My grandfather was president of the temple at the time, and I’ve been told how he proudly held up his new granddaughter and paraded through the sanctuary to show me off. I never knew my grandfather, as he died before my second birthday, but the stories told to me about that day and about the temple connect me to him.

Although the temple may be gone, with only a plaque to mark its existence, the wonderful memories of that place, one that exposed me at a very early age to Judaism, to faith, to community, can never be erased.

Now that my grandparents and parents are gone, these memories are my connection to my past and are a part of who I am today.

Bev Shapiro | San Mateo

Wise parents

I was saddened and inspired by Jay Schwartz’s Sept. 10 column describing a less-than-satisfactory Jewish education. Many of us also wish we had received a more meaningful experience as children — one which was an integral part of our lives.

What’s inspirational is the rapid growth of Bay Area Jewish day schools, now totaling 13. They combine excellent academics with a strong, value-based Hebrew/Judaic program on a daily basis, within the confines of a normal school day.

The joy of being Jewish is paramount, filled with meaning and understanding of our precious heritage.

Graduates continue in secular high schools to emerge as leaders and scholars among their peers. Because of their strong sense of self, they’re prepared for diversity, able to withstand social pressures so prevalent today. 

How fortunate we are to be part of a community which recognizes our future is in our children’s hands, and the way to ensure that future is by raising a generation Jewishly committed and literate. They’re future leaders of our synagogues and federations, and effective advocates for a strong and viable state of Israel.

How fortunate for them and us that their parents are wise enough to choose a Jewish day school education.

Karla S. Smith | Alamo
president, Contra Costa Jewish Day School board

Genetic study

I am president of Action to Cure Kidney Cancer, a grassroots advocacy organization seeking Ashkenazi Jewish individuals who have or have had kidney cancer for participation in a genetic study conducted by the National Cancer Institute to determine if there is a gene that causes kidney cancer.

If so, the NCI plans to develop a diagnostic test that would identify those people at greater risk for the disease.

To learn more about participating in the study, please e-mail me at [email protected] or phone (212) 615-6404.

Jay Bitkower | New York

Genetic testing

Thank you for your Aug. 27 cover story on Jewish genetic diseases. This issue represents one of the most serious public health issues within the Jewish population, largely because the diseases are still mostly unknown, hard to diagnose and even harder to treat. Collectively, at least one in every seven Jews is a carrier for at least one of these diseases.

Like Tamar Jacobs, featured in your story, we also lost children to Familial Dysautonomia (FD). Among the dozen or so Jewish diseases, FD is now the most common of the fatal disorders, occurring with the same frequency that characterized Tay-Sachs until widespread testing and screening virtually wiped out new occurrences of that tragic disease.

The good news is that genetic screening for FD carriers has been possible since 2001. Moreover, the American College of Gynecologists now recommends FD carrier testing for all people of Jewish ancestry who are considering having children.

As with Tay-Sachs, it is only through widespread genetic screening that the tragedy of FD can be prevented.

If you are thinking about conceiving a child, make sure you and your partner (or egg or sperm donor) are tested for carrier status.

Dafna Wu | San Francisco
Michael Rancer | Piedmont

Inescapable irony

It was most disturbing to read the Sept. 10 letter by Verna Wefald. Space restrictions prevent me from listing all the murderous terrorist attacks the Palestinians visited on Israeli women, children and plain folks trying to go on living under daily threats during the last three years.

Indeed, one-sided is her view, as well as the media’s, which does not find it newsworthy to report on Israel’s merciful treatment of Palestinian children.

Hadassah reports that during the last six months over 40 Palestinian youngsters with severe heart problems were treated at the Hadassah Hospital, Ein Karem, outside Jerusalem, through the Peres Peace Center/Hadassah project. These youngsters would not have had access to free heart surgery otherwise, or anywhere else.

It is difficult to escape the irony here: While Israeli children are being blown up in buses, pizzerias, riding a car with their parents, Palestinian children are receiving state-of-the-art medical treatment at a world-renowned Israeli hospital. And, Israel stands accused of “inhumane” treatment of the Palestinians in the eyes of the world, as well as in the eyes of people like Wefald.

Shoshana Eliahu | Lafayette

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