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‘Myopic, divisive’

I don’t understand why Paul Hartman (Nov. 25 letters) felt the need to veer into the realm of lashon hara and personalize his attacks on Rabbi Henry Shreibman’s essay about modern Judaism and interfaith families.

I resent the false notions that my wife, who is Catholic, and I (or any interfaith families) are destroying Jewish continuity, engaging in self-indulgence and committing acts of self-destruction. Hartman’s words are wrong and hurtful.

We are proudly raising our son in both traditions and will do the same with his little sister when she arrives this February. Reaching out to interfaith families, as Shreibman modestly suggested, is a healthy thing for Jewish institutions to do given the reality of intermarriage.

Why shouldn’t the Jewish community make a renewed effort, in Shreibman’s words, to explore the deep involvement of the interfaith family and help ensure that people like us have Judaically rich places to go?

Hartman’s diatribe is reflective of the kind of myopic and divisive attitudes that destroy religion and spirituality. Someone once asked the Dalai Lama what religion he practiced. His answer? “I practice the religion of kindness.”

Wise words for all of us to heed.

Steven Friedman | San Rafael

Distorted message?

I was reluctant to grant j. an interview because I felt it was unfair to characterize individual works out of context, without seeing them and the “Justice Matters” exhibition as a whole.

Dan Pine’s Nov. 18 article describes works that he did not view. A piece is described as a sculpture, for example, although there are no sculptures exhibited.

I wonder how many critics of the exhibition actually saw it. What they probably saw is a Web site that distorts the exhibition’s content and misrepresents its message.

The pictures shown on this site were selectively and surreptitiously taken. Items not in the exhibition are juxtaposed with selective images to suggest meanings that neither the artists nor the presenters intended.

As an atheist, I am reluctant to describe myself as Jewish, but Israel would have to grant me the right of return and Hitler would have sent me to the death camps. In that sense, I am Jewish.

I invite your readers to visit the Berkeley Art Center and see if the exhibition represents the humanity of the Palestinian people, their suffering and their longing for justice.

Robbin Henderson | Berkeley
executive director, Berkeley Art Center

‘Kashering’ the hotels

We appreciate j.’s Nov. 18 coverage of the San Francisco hotel workers’ boycott and the Jewish community’ s response, but we want to clarify a few points in what was otherwise an excellent article.

The Progressive Jewish Alliance’s meeting with the hotel management was set up in the most forthright way possible — we made it very clear to Hilton’s Jon Mazzoni that we were there to discuss the boycott and labor dispute, and he accepted the meeting under those terms.

In addition, we did not find the Hilton’s ad in j. “offensive.” Rather, we saw it as an opportunity to discuss with them PJA’s broader definition of kosher — that is, our belief that the way a hotel treats its employees is as Jewishly important as the way it prepares its food.

Finally, PJA’s goal is certainly not for Jewish events to be under-attended; rather, we want successful Jewish community events at hotels that treat their workers well.

We, the attendees of the meeting (Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller, Rabbi Scott Slarskey [and 5-month-old Hanan], Bob Kane, Paul Kivel, Leslie Rabine, Fran Schreiberg, Brian Garrick, Sara Bolder and Abby Levine) thank j. for covering this timely and relevant issue.

Abby Levine | Oakland
program director, PJA

Terrorist history

The bizarre summation in Cinnamon Stillwell’s Nov. 21 opinion piece on the Jewish Defense League that “the JDL’s real crime has always been standing up unequivocally for the Jewish people” comes close to the aggressive stupidity of those who today deny the Holocaust.

In fact, the JDL is a racist hate group with a lengthy record of terrorist crimes — one of more than 700 we monitor at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Stillwell suggests the deaths in prison of JDL leader Irv Rubin and follower Earl Krugel involved some kind of nefarious conspiracy. Incredibly, she never mentions the reason they were imprisoned — they were principals in a plot to bomb a mosque and the offices of a California congressman. I guess this is what Stillwell means when she speaks adoringly of the “armed self-defense” that she claims is what the JDL is really all about.

By the way, lest Stillwell contend that I’m some kind of raving anti-Semite, let me state for the record that most of my father’s side of the family died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Mark Potok | Montgomery, Ala.
Southern Poverty Law Center