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A door to dialogue

I’d like to thank Rabbi Doug Kahn and Yitzhak Santis of the JCRC for their fine work at S.F. State University monitoring the Palestinian students’ Edward Said mural (Sept. 29 j.).

They, along with the ADL, Israel Center and others, provide tremendous support for the Jewish faculty and staff of S.F. Hillel, all of whom work daily to represent the local Jewish community and help ensure a secure environment in which Jewish students can be comfortable on this vibrant and sometimes troubled campus.

S.F. Hillel Director Alon Shalev, as well, must be commended for his role in staying connected with President Robert Corrigan as the issue of the mural has unfolded.

But most of all, I want to pay tribute to the students themselves. In the face of major demonstrations, they stand proudly at the S.F. Hillel and Israel Coalition tables on campus, advocating in their own quiet and respectful way, and continue to hold open a door to dialogue with their fellow Arab students. They are the front-line representatives of the S.F. Jewish community, and they need to know that the S.F. Hillel board and the entire community are proud of them.

Mimi Gauss | S.F. Hillel board

Finding her place

For the past couple of years I’ve really wanted to prostrate as my rabbis and cantor do during Yom Kippur services at my synagogue. But I haven’t. I’ve always felt too embarrassed to do this.

This Yom Kippur, I debated with myself about whether I should, and asked myself why I was uncomfortable. The reason suddenly dawned on me: There were no other young women prostrating.

I felt weird for wanting to at my young age. I questioned my motives for wanting to prostrate intensely. Being young and female, I felt like I had to justify my wanting to.

Why was I questioning myself so intently and feeling like I had to justify my decision when I was not requiring the same justification of the older men in my synagogue? Is Judaism a religion just for old men?

Being young and female, I don’t know what my place is at my synagogue.

When I finally let myself go and prostrate as I wanted to, all of a sudden, whether or not I had a place at my synagogue didn’t matter. All that mattered was that my place was right there, at that moment, prostrating before God.

Sara Jacobsen | Oakland

Rebuffing our own?

It is saddening to read in the Oct. 6 j. the quote by Barbara Lane, the new JCCSF lecture director, that “part of the mission of the JCC is to be multicultural.” Different cultures have different values. Some may run counter to our values.

We should concentrate our JCC funds on featuring our own Jewish values.

Edward Tamler | San Mateo

Internet support

I am writing from Israel, from ZaraMart, an Israeli online Judaica store. I would like to tell you about the strong support that our customers from the diaspora gave us during the recent difficult days when Israel was fighting Hezbollah. The realm of Internet shopping enabled them to show their support to Israel in a new, immediate and effective way. They preferred to buy, especially those days, from Israel. 

We received countless letters of encouragement. Our customers’ responses warmed our hearts and made us stronger.

Albert Zara | Tel Aviv

No protection

In a recent j. article “Novato woman jolted by anti-Semitism,” Joan Hangarter stated she didn’t think many people knew she was Jewish and “her family is Jewish but not practicing” — as if these were reasons why she should not be subjected to anti-Semitism.

Such comments always make me think of the assimilated Jews of Germany and the fervently religious Jews of Eastern Europe. Did it make any difference what they were when it came time to kill them during the Shoah?

Hangarter perhaps thought that by simply assimilating would keep such incidents from happening. As that has clearly not protected her, perhaps she now should consider strengthening her Jewishness and that of her two children as the best form of protection.

Jack de Lowe | Ra’anana, Israel

D.C. thrill

Your recent report on Ehud Olmert’s speech and discussions with Washington leaders was impressive. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), a longtime friend, invited me to that recent joint session of Congress. The thrill of going into a gallery filled with Jewish activists from around the nation was a never-to-be-forgotten experience.

The full range of pomp and circumstance gave me a new perspective on our government at work.

The session was called to order by Dennis Hastert, speaker of the House. Both he and the vice president announced the escort committees which included all the Jewish senators and congressional representatives.

Prime Minister Olmert was announced, and the whole chamber rose as one for a standing ovation. I felt incomparable pride and excitement as a Jew and as an American. I thought, “The government of my country is honoring the leader of the Jewish state.” The old cliché, “only in America,” came to mind. As Jews, it was an affirmation of the greatness of America.

As the prime minister proceeded through the hall, I said to my seat neighbor, a rabbi from Minnesota, “Is it time to say Shehechiyanu?” He nodded and said, “Yes.”

Jon S. Levinson | San Carlos

Poland’s past

Thank you for the recent j. article on Poland President Aleksander Kwasniewski’s speech of atonement at the site of the Jedwabne massacre where Polish villagers slaughtered innocent Jews.

However, it was misleading to imply that the president was apologizing for the participation of Poland “in the atrocities of the Holocaust” as a whole. This is because Poland as a nation was not responsible for the Holocaust.

It was Nazi Germany that invaded Poland and terrorized its inhabitants and then planned and carried out the mass murder of European Jews on Polish territory, where for many centuries Jews had flourished. It is true that many demoralized Poles participated willingly in these atrocities. In this they were not unique in Europe.

But need I remind your readers that assistance to Jews was uniquely punishable by instant death in Nazi-occupied Poland. Let’s remember, too, that the Polish underground army executed Poles known to have betrayed Jews to the Germans, while the largest number of the “Righteous Gentiles” celebrated at Yad Vashem are also Poles.

So, yes, Poles should apologize for individual atrocities and should combat anti-Semitism in their own country but they cannot take responsibility as a nation for the Holocaust itself.

Wiktor Moszczynski | London