Jews in Panama

I read with interest in the Oct. 22 j. about the Sephardi in Panama “seeking a rabbi from within.” Recently my wife and I were on a cruise to Russia. Until then I had no idea about the Jewish population in Panama. But aboard ship, I met a group of 18 religious Jews from Panama. I spotted them with highly adorned tallitot and tefillin bags.

They were all part of one Sephardi family. They had been on a previous cruise of 42 family members.

When I asked this frum group about sticking to kosher eating, they informed me that they bring their own food on this luxury liner, and one of them supervises the food.

They also told me that their synagogue in Panama has 400 people attending daily a.m. and evening services.

On board, they had daily minyans and invited me to the 6 a.m. minyan.

Yes, indeed, they have Jews in Panama.

Morrie Mink | San Francisco

Day school homophobia

In the Oct. 22 j. article on homophobia in the day schools (Oct. 22 j.), Vicky Kelman suggested that the best way to discuss the Torah’s injunction against homosexuality is to explain that “we follow interpretations of the Torah, and that even the most religious people don’t follow everything.”

So, how do we interpret the sin of bestiality? It’s OK for Fido to sleep on top of the covers, but not under?

Why put these ideas into children’s heads at all?

OK, so Danny has two moms. Does his friend Chaim have to know that they sleep in the same the bed?

Why do we have to discuss these things with our kids or with other people’s kids? Let them be children. They’ll find out about all this stuff in time.

And I don’t understand the comment about religious people not following everything. What is that about? Strictly observant Jews take the 613 commandments very seriously. I would love to hear what Kelman meant by her comment.

Yetta Introlegator | St. Paul, Minn.

Don’t destroy houses

I applaud Israel’s significant step to remove a few thousand Jews from Gaza. Hopefully this will improve safety for all Jews — and their Palestinian neighbors, too.

The houses these people leave should not be destroyed. I suggest Israel give the vacated housing to Muslim families living within Israel who are willing to move and give up their right to live within Israel forever.

This will be a small step to mitigate Israel’s growing demographic problem of a rapidly expanding Muslim population within Israel. Israel will probably have to offer these families moving and employment assistance to help them start life in their new neighborhood.

Howard Strassner | San Francisco

Facts and logic

Gerardo Joffe’s recent letter to the editor included this remarkable statement: “Regardless of what Israel may do to appease them, nothing will persuade the Arabs to make peace, not to kill the Jews, and not to attempt to destroy Israel.”

In response, I have some facts and logic about the Middle East.

Fact: The 1979 Camp David accords ushered in peace between Egypt and Israel that has lasted over 25 years.

Fact: The 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty ushered in peace between Israel and Jordan that has lasted 10 years.

Logic: Joffe is incorrect. Two of Israel’s Arab neighbors were persuaded to make peace, not kill the Jews, and not attempt to destroy Israel.

Joel Rubinstein | San Francisco

Again and again and…

I get so very tired of the geniuses who propose a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians were first offered a state by the United Nations in 1947 but attempted to destroy Israel instead.

They were offered a state again after the 1967 Six-Day War but chose instead the 1968 Khartoum Conference policy of rejectionism — no peace, no negotiations.

They were offered a state a third time at Oslo in 1993 but refused to honor their commitments against terrorism and launched a terrorist war instead.

The fourth time they were offered a state in the West Bank and Gaza was at Camp David in 2000. Yasser Arafat walked out and launched the current terrorist war instead. Bush’s “road map” is a fifth offer of a state if they will stop the terrorism.

At what point do the geniuses understand that the problem isn’t lack of offers of a state but Palestinian refusal of any peaceful settlement?

Having waited 57 years, through five wars, and thousands of terrorist murders for the Palestinians to negotiate in good faith, Israel is now unilaterally dividing the land according to who lives on it. That is the meaning of the security fence.

Jack Kessler | Point Richmond


It’s now 10 years since the first Palestinian homicide attack, on a bus in Tel Aviv. It, and the 300 homicide attacks that followed, caught Israel by surprise.

In 1993, Israel signed the Oslo accords that were to create a Palestinian state and bring peace to the region. Israel couldn’t imagine their new “partner” would so ruthlessly attack her.

Israel was forced to build a security wall to keep these savage ghouls from entering Israel and slaughtering innocent people. The wall, however, is a hardship to the many Palestinians that used to come into Israel to use Israel’s services, and to make a living.

But the leaders of Palestinian terror soon became targets themselves. Israeli intelligence fires missiles from the sky and picks off terrorists.

The biggest Palestinian miscalculation, though, was the belief these homicidal acts would elicit universal admiration. As radical Islam has used suicidal-maniacs as weapons worldwide, previous allies of Arab terror have been repulsed. Recent attacks in Russia, Spain, the Philippines, India and America have changed people’s sympathies for these murderers.

One can only pray that after Yasser Arafat departs, the Palestinians will find leadership that will crack down on terror and will make real peace with Israel.

Michael Jacobs | Danville

Another revolt?

Sharon opposed dismantling the Gaza settlements before the elections but favored it after the elections. Nevertheless, he thinks “he has a mandate to conduct Israeli policy as he sees fit” (Oct 22 j).

Then we have Leslie Susser, who laments the fact that the issue of having a referendum might be “removed from Knesset and handed to the people.” In other words — oh, no, the people may have the last word — not the government, which cares about American aid more than anything else.

Chanukah is coming soon. The Macabees revolted against the Greeks even though they knew that the Hellenist Jews would help the Greeks crush their revolt; the Macabees’ position was: If they get in the way — as they did — so be it. That made Chanukah a revolt and a civil war.

Government contempt for the people breeds revolution. If Sharon does not change his mind, he may face another Macabee-type revolt.

Neal Wohlmuth | San Francisco

Helping the elderly

Your Oct. 22 editorial on poverty makes it very clear we need to do more outreach, and, with as much discretion and tact as possible, help all “our less-fortunate people.” That includes the elderly.

Also, the articles in your senior supplements are very enlightening, and prove that though bodies age, minds can go on “learning and producing.”

Many seniors, however, increasingly find traveling distances difficult, so many give up on some programs they supported and attended for years. The remedy? The same as we now use for children’s after-school programs: Use vans (perhaps the same ones used by the children while they’re in school?) to take elders all over.

For example, we have a Traveling Jewish Theatre that does not travel, so a great many East Bay elders have never attended. Also, the popular MID program of lectures by excellent speakers and professors was moved to San Leandro: As a result, many Oakland-Berkeley elders dropped out of the program, and that after 30-40 years or so of steady attendance.

Transportation fees could be charged on a sliding scale, of course, and many elderly could go on enjoying life instead of sitting home resting.

I plan to rest after I die.

Arnoldine Berlin | Oakland

Care for elderly

In addition to Jewish Family and Children’s Services, there are private elder case managers providing similar services (Oct. 22 j.). Best to retain someone before illness strikes.

Armed with the elder person’s health history and wishes should disability occur, the elder care manager can do a better job. Good idea in the retention process for the elder care manager to meet face to face with patient’s children.

The senior should complete and file with the elder care manager, the children and the family doctor a health care power of attorney. The document is useless if no one knows where it is. Seniors also need a financial power of attorney so in case of grave disability a trusted family member or friend can act on their behalf.

I also recommend seniors post in a conspicuous place at home the names and phone numbers of the elder manager, key family members, and the family doctor. The notice should include which hospital the patient prefers and insurance information.

Mark I. Klein, M.D. | Oakland

letters policy

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