Spielberg’s message

It is unfortunate that Jonathan Tobin missed the point of Steven Spielberg’s invoking the twin towers in the closing scene of “Munich” (Jan. 6 j., “Did Spielberg betray the Jews?”).

Contrary to Tobin’s claim, the towers were not displayed to reinforce “the idea that Israel is the reason America was attacked,” an idea that Tobin finds “incendiary.”

Rather, the towers are shown to create a parallel between the eye-for-an-eye approach to diplomacy reflected in both the Israel-Palestinian conflict and America’s “war on terror.”

The ultimate non-productivity of this approach is the heart of Spielberg’s message, and may explain why so many conservatives find the film troubling.

Randy Shaw | Berkeley

Double standard?

Your Dec. 23 article “JCRC hosts a civil discussion on civil unions” perhaps inadvertently served to perpetuate a “separate and unequal” attitude towards gays and lesbians.

Therese Stewart’s quote that “people have viewed us as different for so long that when you view us as separate, even when you accompany separation with all the tangible benefits, it still says we are less” was prefaced by j.’s description of Stewart as “a lesbian raising a child in a 14-year monogamous relationship.”

Proving Stewart’s point, j. didn’t comment on whether or not the other speakers at the event — Orthodox Rabbi Gedalia Potash, Conservative Rabbi Stuart Kelman and social-conservative Terry Thompson — practiced fidelity in their relationships.

When will we stop viewing sexual orientation through the lens of our own double standards?

Debbie Findling | San Francisco

No Auschwitz

The Dec. 23 j. article “From the ghetto to the White House” on former Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal mentioned that he and his family “languished” in the Shanghai ghetto for eight years.

A correction is in order. While conditions during our stay as Jewish refugees in Shanghai were not exactly a picnic, we were quite free to live and work anywhere in Shanghai.

A proclamation was issued confining us to a ghetto as of May 18, 1943, which lasted until August 1945, when Japan surrendered and the war in the Pacific was over. It means that we remained in the ghetto for two years and three months rather than eight years.

Yes the ghetto was awful, but neither was it an Auschwitz.

Eva Hirschel | Rohnert Park

Aghast at scandal

I can appreciate that officer Andrew Cohen is perhaps a good person, especially to those like columnist Rachel Sarah who know him well (Jan. 6 j., “S.F. police officer knows how to do the right thing”).

Although I’m shocked by the scandalous videotapes Cohen was responsible for producing, in no way do I believe it reflects him as a Jew. People make bad decisions sometimes, regardless of their race, religion, etc.

What concerned me most about Cohen’s actions is that it hurt fellow officers, many of whom have committed their lives to law enforcement. I know this because I have a brother who is a dedicated policeman. He was devastated by the scandal, and worried that such a debacle would reflect on the entire police department.

I was also shocked to read of Cohen’s initial response to the scandal, when he criticized Police Chief Heather Fong for focusing too much on this incident when she has “bigger fish to fry.” Cohen’s attitude was arrogant, irreverent and unacceptable.

I sincerely hope Cohen is sorry for his actions. As a police officer, he should have known how to do the right thing so that perhaps something like this would never have occurred.

Catherine Martin | Tucson, Ariz.

Massacre recalled

Your Jan. 6 timeline of Sharon’s biography from The Associated Press omits a major item that other media distributors included. An Israeli inquiry found Sharon indirectly liable for the deaths of Palestinian civilians massacred at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Lebanese Maronite Christian militias allied to (and trained by) Israel in 1982.

Sharon did nothing to stop the militias. Subsequently, Sharon resigned as defense minister in 1983.

Omitting this fact disserves your readers who wish to understand why many Palestinians consider Ariel Sharon to be a terrorist.

Miriam L. Zimmerman | San Mateo

‘Deserved to die’

I am in favor of the death penalty in certain circumstances. In Tookie Williams’ case, there is no doubt in my mind that he deserved to die. He not only murdered four people in a savage way for $200, he also caused untold pain and suffering to the friends and families of his victims.

Sure he claimed he was redeemed while he was in prison. A person on death row will say anything if it will give them a few more years of life.

If people like Rabbi Alan Lew and Ken Kramarz (Dec. 2 opinion) had their way, Williams, founder of the notorious Crips street gang, would still be alive. He would still be writing books, working out, professing his innocence, confined maybe but still around long after his victims have been long gone.

Eugene Malin | Los Angeles

JDL lauded

Poor, misguided Mark Potok (Dec. 2 j. letters). The sad fact of his father’s family’s deaths in Auschwitz doesn’t give him the right to discount the murder of two strong, proud Jews.

Boys from the Jewish Defense League were the lions in their generation.

Long before the established Jewish community did something for the Soviet Jewry, they did it. They fought Jew-haters from all different breeds — neo-Nazis, black Jew-haters, Muslim fascists.

Ask countless Jews in New York boroughs who were terrified to venture out of their houses at night — what did JDL do for you? Or ask hundreds of thousands of former Soviet Jews — what did the boys of Rabbi Meir Kahane did for you? I guess those issues are not on the agenda of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Arthur Anchipolovsky | San Francisco

Help available

Thank you for your Dec. 2 cover story by Dan Pine describing how the stigma associated with mental illness prevents so many from getting the help they need.

When people with mental illness have access to mental health care early on, severe mental illness can be prevented and people with mental illness can recover and live healthy productive lives.

Thank you also for pointing out many of the Bay Area’s excellent resources for people with mental illness and their families.

In addition to the resources listed, the Mental Health Association of San Francisco (MHA-SF) has been a resource in San Francisco for close to 60 years.

We are the local affiliate of the National Mental Health Association, the country’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization addressing all aspects of mental health and mental illness. MHA-SF works to improve mental health for all San Franciscans through education, advocacy, research and service.

We have education materials about mental illness, information about community resources, as well as many ways to get involved with important policy issues impacting mental health.

Belinda Lyons | San Francisco
executive director, MHA-SF

Nothing wrong

There is nothing wrong with columnist Rachel Sarah’s status as a Jew (Dec. 2 column). To suggest that a halachah which states that one is not a Jew is “nasty” is to imply that there is something intrinsically better or superior about a Jew versus a non-Jew, a concept with no basis in classical Judaism.

If Sarah truly believes in HaShem, as I do, then it is obvious that when HaShem brings down each soul into the universe he does so with purpose. There is a purpose to her being born with a non-Jewish status in halachah.

Right now she does not have any Jewish obligations, to keep kosher, to keep Sabbath, to observe the various other restrictions placed on Jews. If she choose to convert, she will. This is her decision alone, and there is no “right” way.

Anyway, I hope that she can find some resolution to her dilemma.

Evan Goldstein | Walnut Creek

Didn’t get it?

In my 30 years of reading the Jewish Bulletin and j., I have never been as prompted to respond to an article. I believe you crossed the line in your Dec. 16 piece “‘Sex and City’ player amuses Emanu-El with discourse on Judaism, body hair.”

I was both astonished and offended by your coverage of this event, specifically the sexual innuendoes, references and images. I know you are now an edgier publication than previously, but I thought there were some basic standards of taste in a Jewish newspaper.

Also, I grant that I am not a viewer of “Sex in the City,” so perhaps I just don’t get it.

Jane Sedley | Lafayette

On death row

I am writing on behalf of Michael Flinner, a 38-year-old Jewish man on death row in San Quentin State Prison.

Flinner is seeking sincere, well-intentioned people to correspond with him. He is also seeking financial contributions to help purchase everything from stamps, greeting cards and magazine subscriptions to new glasses and other more expensive items, as well as for his legal defense.

Information about him and his case can be found at his Web site www.michaelflinner.org.

Yisroel Pensack | San Francisco

Letters policy

j. the Jewish news weekly welcomes letters to the editor, preferably typewritten. Letters must not exceed 200 words and must be dated and signed with current address and daytime telephone number. j. also reserves the right to edit letters. The deadline is noon Monday for any given week’s publication. Letters should be sent by e-mail to [email protected] or by mail to j., 225 Bush St., Suite 1480, San Francisco, CA 94104.