‘Celebrate diversity’

Regarding Joanne Hartman’s Dec. 9 column, I feel strongly that putting a Christmas tree in a Jewish home is wrong even if it has Chanukah symbols hanging on it.

We Jews have beautiful, meaningful holidays to celebrate all year long and our children should be taught to be proud of them. We were persecuted throughout history for our beliefs and yet we still survive. We don’t need to adopt other’s traditions.

Let the children enjoy the lights, Santa, carols and Christmas pomp outside the home. And let us understand that this isn’t a competition.

In addition, I would ask if we put a Christmas tree in our homes, why not hang a crucifix too? And conversely, would Christians put menorahs and mezuzahs in their homes? Of course not. We have our traditions, they have theirs and that is great — let’s celebrate our diversity. And let us, as Jews, not succumb to the pressures of the season.

Beverly Shapiro | San Mateo

‘Hatespeak’ spike

Regarding your Dec. 16 editorial denying a “war on Christmas” and stating that America is a secular nation, was j. aware of a recent Anti-Defamation League poll showing 64 percent of Americans believe religion is under attack?

You may not believe it, but the majority of Americans do.

While the government should remain secular, the change from a society allowing equal and open religious displays in public to one decrying those displays should be shunned.

One only has to look at Europe’s secular society and the increase in attacks and hatespeak against Jews to see the future.

There has been steady pressure over many years to remove religious references to Christmas and Chanukah in public places. Americans have awoken to this longtime gradual change. Now, we see the hazards in moving away from open references to religions and Judeo-Christian values.

In a world where Muslim theocracy is extreme and hateful, and secular societies rot, the founding fathers knew the risks. If we are celebrating the winter solstice in 20 years, instead of respecting all multicultural religious values, a soulless America will turn its secular attacks against religious minorities.

This is the challenge we face together as a nation of tolerance.

David Booth | Pittsford, N.Y.

Campus problems

The headline on Professor David Biale’s Dec. 16 opinion piece says it all: “Hateful comments do not represent all of academia.”

He is right.

But no one said “all.” He creates a straw-man argument, which he easily disassembles while leaving the real problem unaddressed.

Gary Tobin deals with the real problem: the rising tide of anti-Semitism, anti-Israel sentiment and volatile and, in some cases, violent Muslim student protest against anything relating to Israel and to the criticism of Islam in any context across many campuses all over the country.

Biale speaks of the reality on his campus. I assume he knows what he is talking about regarding his campus and only his campus.

Tobin speaks from his research and experience relating to scores, if not hundreds, of campuses across the Western world.

Biale’s assessment is worse than useless because it actually does harm. It pretends that what may be the reality in his little corner of academia is indeed reality across the world. And in doing that, it seeks to turn our attention away from the real problems on campuses, which, if left unaddressed, may create a campus environment that is overtly hostile to Jews, Judaism and Israel.

David Meir-Levi | Menlo Park

Different planet?

In his Dec. 16 opinion piece “Hateful comments do not represent all of academia,” Professor David Biale ignores the obvious lessons of history and the Jews. He insists that “anti-Semitism now is not nearly as bad as it was before and during the Holocaust.” He could not be more wrong.

Just recently Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani publicly said that “Iran should use nuclear weapons against Israel.” He said that Iran and Muslims could “absorb the damage of a nuclear exchange but Israel would effectively be destroyed.”

I don’t know what planet Biale lives on but it is obviously one without nuclear weapons. It is not the same planet that you and I live on. When they say they will destroy us, it is because they intend to do it.

Dr. M.M. Rosenblatt | San Jose

No Eddie Murphy

I feel it necessary to correct one point in Joe Eskenazi’s otherwise glowing Dec. 16 description of my speech at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.

I’m gratified he found my talk “uproariously funny,” and that he indicates “the audience couldn’t have loved him more.” However, it’s inaccurate, and unfair, to say I “utilized language befitting an Eddie Murphy stage show circa 1983.”

My speech contained exactly one expletive (other than the word “ass,” which Eskenazi uses in his own article), and that was within the context of a deeply serious passage describing the aftermath of a teenager’s suicide.

Murphy, a brilliant performer, has been known for using racial epithets, the harshest of insults, as well as language offensive to homosexuals — none of which I did at Emanu-El.

While your paper had no problem quoting all but one word of my exact text, I don’t think you’d consider printing any of the much harsher language Murphy was known for in ’83, and I don’t think it’s fair to insinuate I would have used them during my talk at the temple.

Evan Handler | Santa Monica

Irony in edition

I am writing this letter concerning the Dec. 2 “joke” titled “The slow learner.” To say the least, I found it to be in bad taste, insensitive and cruel. It makes fun of those with learning disabilities, and thus, makes it seem as if j. also endorses doing so.

In addition, it is ironic that this “joke” appears in the same edition as the article titled “Finding light in the darkness,” which deals with the struggle and stigma facing those with mental illness.

I expect more sensitivity from a paper that represents the Jewish community. Instead, I find this distasteful joke adding to stigma and struggle facing those with learning disabilities. I hope that in the future j. will be more discriminating in what it chooses to include and what it considers a joke.

Rabbi Steven A. Chester | Oakland

Sleepless night

Your Nov. 25 article “Victims of S.F pizza punch fest claim anti-Semitic attack” made me choke.

I feel very bad about what happened to Josh Feinerman and Cameron Matthews. “How did it happen?” I ask myself. Then my answer was: We have a lot of good people and a lot of poor people in our community. I’m not surprised about anti-Semitism in Europe because Europe never did like and still doesn’t like Jews. But, in the United States, that isn’t acceptable.

I agree with Tami Holzman who works for Anti-Defamation League. She said, “It makes it hard to sleep at night hearing about a case like this.”

That is absolutely right. When I read that article, I couldn’t sleep all night. I survived anti-Semitism in former Soviet Union. We have to work together not to allow the Holocaust to happen again.

I hope Andrew Crawford, who walked into the Pizza Pino restaurant in the Marina District and began making loud, anti-Semitic statements for all to hear, and who was already arrested, is put in prison or jail for good.

Paul Shkuratov | San Francisco

Be wary of Iraq

Shrieks of “kill the Jews” and “abolish Israel” are the probable outcome of Iraq’s Dec. 15 effort to elect a parliament.

While democratic elections anywhere are generally welcome, the ultimate outcome of democracy in Iraq is likely to be the appearance of a political (and theocratic) movement espousing virulent anti-Semitism.

With Iraq’s unemployment, poverty, gasoline shortages, unreliable electrical system and long history of anti-Semitism, one can predict that in a short amount of time an Iraqi demagogue will emerge, blaming all of his country’s problems on “the Jews” and “Jewish control of America.”

If this scenario sounds far-fetched, just examine the recent statements of the elected president of a neighboring country: Iran. The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, recently called for wiping Israel off the map. Earlier this month, Ahmadinejad said that the Holocaust is a myth and that a Jewish homeland should be in Europe or the United States (including Alaska).

A so-called democratic Iraq — like a dictatorial Iraq — should be regarded as a threat to Jews everywhere.

Richard S. Colman | Orinda

A f-a-n-t-a-s-y

I saw “Chronicles of Narnia” a couple of days ago and had no idea about the writer of the original story, C.S. Lewis. I had seen the previews and, like “Harry Potter,” this seemed like a nicely done fantasy movie.

I’m a little surprised about the hoopla this movie has received. To me, it did not seem to have heavy Christian overtones. Films like “The Robe” of 1953, even “Ben Hur” (all versions), and the dreadful “The Passion of the Christ” were much more blatant about Christianity.

Father Christmas appears at one time and point, and yes, the lion is resurrected, but it’s a f-a-n-t-a-s-y. I expected the lion to be resurrected.

I am most certainly not a secular Jew, but I just don’t see a big Christian message here. I was more perturbed that the wardrobe contained a bunch of fur coats and that the children were given fur coats to wear. There should have been no fur coats.

A Jewish person should not be disturbed about this film. It’s an appealing movie with terrific actors, and I especially liked the animal animation. At least it contains no anti-Semitism, and we all should be grateful for that.

Miriam F. Leiseroff | San Jose