National tragedy?

I found Jonathan Rosenblum’s Nov. 26 article about minimizing Israeli abortion deeply offensive. Rosenblum uses a social agenda to promote his obviously anti-abortion agenda.

As an American who sees her right to choose increasingly threatened by a conservative “value-driven” administration, House, Senate and judiciary, I hate to see Israeli women’s decision to have an abortion restricted to fix “the demographic threat” claimed by Rosenblum.

If Israelis are concerned about an imminent Muslim majority, perhaps they should first resolve such issues as the “Who is a Jew?” question.

While Rosenblum is careful to not overtly condemn abortion in all cases, he marginalized the decision by reducing it to a matter of financial assistance. While this may be true for some women, the decision to abort is infinitely more complex for most.

Ultimately, Rosenblum is confounding two issues, a political issue of demographic control with a personal issue of abortion.

In democracies like Israel or the United States, a woman’s body, and decisions relating to it, are her own, and should not be subject to whims of politics or social engineering. Compromising a woman’s fundamental rights in the name of turning the “demographic tide” would be the real “national tragedy” for Israel.

Claire Raffel | San Francisco

Failing the moral test

I have always believed that kosher slaughter was a humane process that was consistent with the Jewish principle of the dignity of all life (“Kosher community defends against PETA allegations,” Dec. 3 j). For those of us who believe in the divinity of God’s creatures, the process of creating the food we eat, that which sustains life, has a religious dimension. However, when that process leads to unnecessary suffering, it fails to meet this moral test.

Those who call for greater humanity in the kosher slaughtering process are neither Nazis nor anti-Semites. They are, rather, the voice that expresses that which is at the heart of Judaism.

Elliot Cohen | Oakland

PETA and butchering

As a member of PETA, a Jew for 66 years, and a vegan for many of those years, I feel the need to respond to your Dec. 3 article “Kosher community defends against PETA allegations.”

PETA means People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and they have successfully exposed many businesses and institutions or their cruel and illegal treatment of animals over the years. But after filing a complaint with the USDA concerning alleged improper slaughtering practices and violations of Jewish law at Agriprocessors, a kosher slaughterhouse, they are now implicitly accused of being anti-Semitic.

It is deplorable that Agriprocessors and the Orthodox Union’s kashrut division have to resort to ad hominem attacks on PETA rather than responding with an open demonstration of their appropriate Iowa kosher plant’s animal butchering practices.

Surely thoughtful Jews share a common interest with PETA in their deep concern for the needless suffering of all creatures.

Rosalie Price | Palo Alto

Compassion needed

As president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, I can affirm that JVNA has consistently opposed efforts to single out ritual slaughter for criticism, and that we have been critical of some PETA tactics.

However, we believe, respectfully, that the horrific conditions revealed at the Postville glatt kosher slaughterhouse should awaken us to consider the many Jewish mandates that are violated by animal-based diets and agriculture.

Even if ritual slaughter is carried out perfectly, can we ignore how conditions on modern intensive factory farms violate Jewish teachings on treating animals with compassion?

Since Judaism stresses that we should diligently guard our health, can we ignore the many studies that link the consumption of animal products to many diseases?

Since we are to be partners with God in protecting the environment, can we ignore the significant contributions that animal-based agriculture makes to global climate change, rapid species extinction, destruction of forests, water shortages and many more threats?

For the sake of our health and that of our imperiled planet, for farmed animals, and for properly carrying out mitzvot, it is time to seriously consider a switch toward plant-based diets.

Richard H. Schwartz | Staten Island, N.Y.

Who was first?

I noticed some misleading or inaccurate statements in your Nov. 26 article “Motorcycles, Menorahs, Mazel.” The first public menorah lighting in the country was indeed in San Francisco, in 1975, and due to the efforts of Rabbi Chaim Itche Drizin (with Bill Graham’s help), then director of Chabad of Northern California, not Yosef Langer.

Langer at the time was house manager for Rabbi Drizin of Chabad headquarters in Berkeley and only took over in 1980, when Drizin left. Langer has indeed been with Chabad in the Bay Area for 30 years, but not “at its helm” as you say, for quite that long, and not with Chabad of SF exactly. Chabad had virtually no presence in San Francisco until Langer moved there in 1985, with Rabbi Yehuda Ferris taking his place in Berkeley.

I know these facts because I became a ba’alat tshuvah through Chabad Berkeley, having first been invited by the Langers.

Jane Falk | Berkeley

No dialogue?

Scott Doniger’s Nov. 26 “local voice” left me “soul searching” as well. It seems to me that he could have responded in any number of ways to his customer who used the phrase “Jew down,” a response that would have respected his own integrity while doing something in service to the elimination of prejudice, ignorance and anti-Semitism.

For instance, he might have attempted to have a dialogue with the man to ascertain the source of his ill-chosen words. Perhaps he could have explained that such words are hurtful and unacceptable, and sought to change the man’s behavior or even influenced his thinking.

None of these options require capitulation or compromise. But they do reflect a way of both not taking in hateful words, while actually rising above them.

Of course, if the man was simply belligerent and unrepentant, Doniger always reserves the right to kick him out. However, he did not indicate this in the article; it sounded as though the man was simply nonplussed.

As it is, unless Doniger’s customer was a mature and introspective type, which sounds unlikely, he most likely left the shop with greater ignorance, pain and defensive reactions to fear, such as angry scapegoating.

Alan Helfen | Redwood City

Profuse apology

Almost 50 years ago I operated a retail business in Antioch when this was a very small town with a tiny Jewish population. This letter is to add to several in the Dec. 3 j. concerning the use of the expression “Jewing down.”

In New York, I had never heard the expression, so I was surprised when a regular woman customer, while asking about a lower price on a product, added that “she wasn’t trying to Jew me down.”

I said as slowly and quietly as I could that I would be very happy if she didn’t use that expression again. She became very embarrassed and apologized profusely. She said she was a schoolteacher and had never realized the hurtfulness of the expression.

She continues to be a happy customer and I was glad that I had handled it as I did. I think it was an educating experience for her and me.

Marty Dash | Walnut Creek

Subjective words

It is often said that the Jewish Bulletin (I somehow just cannot call it j.) is biased for or against this or that. It is a common lament these days, and journalists must hear it often.

I could never say that I noticed Bulletin bias until I read Alexandra J. Wall’s Dec. 3 article “American in Paris,” wherein she calls the American Jewish Committee’s Commentary magazine, one of the most respected publications in American, “right-wing.”

Further, she describes Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount as “now infamous.”

The use of such subjective words as “right-wing” and “infamous” illuminates most clearly Wall’s biases and prejudices. Perhaps she needs to repeat Journalism 101.

Jacob Koff | San Francisco

‘The biggest losers’

Bravo to Alexandra Wall for her parenthetical reminder that it was Ariel Sharon who consciously started these last four years of mutually destructive intifada. In her Dec. 3 article “American in Paris” she accurately noted: “The beginning of the second intifada — or more specifically, Ariel Sharon’s now infamous visit to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in September 2000 — changed everything.”

All too often, especially in j., the Palestinians get all the blame for starting it, as well as continuing it. Ongoing credit should be given regularly to the mutually supportive work of the settlers and Sharon on one hand, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad on the other, for keeping it going strong to this day. In their relentless efforts to see who wins the territories, Israel and the Jews will eventually be the biggest losers.

Gerhard Stoll | San Francisco

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