Humans before trees

Your Aug. 18 cover story on the Hezbollah-Israel war in Lebanon depicts the loss of a million trees with ecological devastation.

Jewishly and ethically, the lead story must always be the loss of human life.

Northern Israel is filled with communities known for coexistence between Jews, Arabs and Druze. It will take generations to recover.

Our Israeli poor have been the most devastated. Like the trees, these precious human beings could not flee — their roots and poverty tied them to devastating daily barrages.

On the other side, Lebanese civilians were again used as pawns — shields. Their flag carries a proud tree, ironically.

Jewish ethics attempts to keep orchards as non-combatants (Deut. 20:19-20).

As is our tradition, tashlich on the first day of Rosh Hashanah punctuates our Jewish environmental responsibility while repenting. These High Holy Days we will mourn and search for meaning in the loss of human life and sense of shalva (security/trust), which will take decades to repair.

Talmudic wisdom drove Israel’s concern for individual soldiers and our pain over the loss of every human life in this war: “Whoever destroys any individual soul is counted like

the destruction of a whole world.” (Sanhedrin 37a)

Rabbi Henry Shreibman | Novato
west coast director of advancement and outreach, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Repeating history

Your publication’s penetrating Sept. 8 article reporting that Jews are being “scapegoated” for the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the United States provides an important perspective: For centuries, Jews have been blamed for all kinds of disasters.

The point about scapegoating is reinforced by another event that took place Sept. 11.

On Sept. 11, 1941, aviator and well-known anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh gave a speech in Des Moines, Iowa. Lindbergh, speaking three months before America entered World War II, said: “The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish [sic], and the Roosevelt Administration.”

In speaking about American Jews, Lindbergh went on to say: “Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.”

Now, 65 years later, Jews are hearing, especially from America’s so-called European allies and from countries like Iran, echoes of Lindbergh. Today’s anti-Semites are saying that the current volatility in the Middle East is the result of a conspiracy among the British, the Jews and the United States.

For Jews, history just keeps repeating itself.

Richard S. Colman | Orinda

More need to be bold

Regarding your Sept. 1 story, “Conservative shul takes unique approach to interfaith weddings” — sure would be nice if more Conservative rabbis would make an effort to recognize, and perform the same-sex marriages of two Jews.

As far as I know, I can count on one hand — and have one or two fingers left over — the number of Conservative rabbis in the Bay Area who have taken that bold step to do so. We need more.

Kenny Altman | San Francisco

‘Slap in the face’?

In the Sept. 1 j., Rabbi Gordon Freeman was quoted as having developed an innovative means for interfaith couples to be wed. This involves using retired judges and permitting few to no traditional Jewish rituals.

He said, “I hoped to offer couples an option in which they felt blessed by the community and vice versa.” I do not understand how this could possibly result in an interfaith couple feeling blessed by the community. This is yet another slap in the face to interfaith couples.

This approach demonstrates a lack of understanding for the impact Jewish policies have on interfaith couples. This approach will further alienate as opposed to attract interfaith families to our community.

I am saddened for Judaism and for my many interfaith friends that must still endure this sort of treatment.

David Matz | Lafayette

No validity

I read with interest the Sept. 8 letter from Mordechai Pelta regarding the Anti-Defamation League. I have spent many years on the local and national boards of the ADL. During my time there, I learned daily about its mission to protect Jewish people. We know that words of hate count, and took those matters very seriously.

Regarding Pelta’s accusation that the ADL would use Mel Gibson as a fundraising technique has no validity. ADL continues on a local, national and international level to fight anti-Semitism and bigotry in many forms.

Norman Schlossberg | San Francisco

What ADL does

In his Sept. 8 letter, Mordechai Pelta took issue with ADL’s responsiveness to his complaint of anti-Semitism. Readers of j. should have no doubt about our commitment to advocating on behalf of victims of anti-Jewish harassment and violence.

For over 90 years, the ADL has confronted individuals, government officials, media and others when anti-Semitism has reared its head. Be it an attack on a synagogue, anti-Semitic bullying in school or harassment in the workplace, ADL speaks out and strives to hold the wrongdoer publicly accountable.

In short, serving as the “9-1-1” for the Jewish community will continue to be the hallmark of the ADL.

Jonathan Bernstein | San Francisco
S.F. regional director, Anti-Defamation League

No outrage?

When I read the most recent j., I looked for letters that would express some annoyance — more like outrage — over the anti-Semitic commentary that was recently printed in the Berkeley Daily Planet (Aug. 25 j.). The sound of complacency is disquieting.

Or, perhaps there are only a very few Jews who are blowing a shofar loud enough this month?

As a Jewish woman, I do not mind sounding like an “alarmist” because Jews are not just facing a dangerous era — we are in it. I am speaking about realistic threats to Israel’s existence, about the rise in anti-Semitic acts worldwide and about diminishing liberties here.

So, when an editor chooses to print a vile, vicious, and slanderous article about my people, in the name of freedom of speech, that editor has overstepped her bounds in the worst way. Her irresponsibility and her exploiting the Constitution for a racist agenda are deplorable.

Becky O’Malley of the Planet knew she could get by with printing an anti-Semitic article in “open-minded” Berkeley, and she did it with blatant disregard for those of us who are deeply offended. To me, this is cause for great concern.

Susan Heller-Somerville | Oakland
president, Berkeley chapter, Hadassah

Save your tears

Regarding Janet Silver Ghent’s Sept. 8 statement, “We cannot enslave another people [while fighting back tears],” I’d like to remind her the Jewish people are not “enslaving” the Palestinians — they’re enslaved by the rest of the Arab nations with which they share language and religion and who refused to absorb them since the 1948 war.

All war refugees historically have been absorbed by their respective nations or by others — the Germans of the Sudetenlands by West Germany, the Japanese of the Kuril islands by Japan, the Vietnamese boat people by many nations including Israel, the Jews of the Arab countries by Israel, the Indian Muslims by Pakistan and the Hindus by India.

I’d also like to remind Ghent that in the early ’70s Jordan killed more Palestinians than Israel did during its whole existence.

The Palestinians are the only people who are “refugees” for almost 60 years.

Ghent should wonder why I highly suggest she keep her tears for Jewish children killed in buses and pizza restaurants, and also for the non-extremist, regular Palestinians who’ve been rejected by their own for almost two generations and live in camps around Israel so that the whole world can blame the Jews. 

Filip Isack | San Francisco