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Denying history

I am writing in response to your Dec. 8 article regarding professor Joel Beinin leaving his post at Stanford University to become the director of the Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Cairo.

Beinin has not only shown a strong bias against Israel but continues to deny the history of the Jews indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, specifically the Jews of Egypt. He publicly denies the human rights violations, arbitrary arrests, torture and loss of personal and communal property and expulsion of the Egyptian Jews.

Watch for the next coming attraction at the American University in Cairo: “Joel Beinin denies the history of the Egyptian Jews and their suffering.”

To Beinin I say: Haram Alek! Shame on you! To Stanford University I say: Mabruk Alek! Mazel tov! To the Egyptian Jews I say: You will not be forgotten.

Gina Waldman | Tiburon
chair, JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa)

‘Good riddance’

A charitable headline in the Dec. 8 j. says, “Prominent Israel critic leaves Stanford for Egypt.” What it should have said is, “Notorious and relentless anti-Israel propagandist and provocateur leaves Stanford for Egypt.”

Thank you, Joel Beinin, for going to where you belong. Thank you and good riddance.

We should not hold our breath in anticipation his impartial analysis and critique of Egypt’s domestic and international policies.

Sofia Shtil | Fremont

Begging the question

In regard to your Dec. 8 cover story, “Breaking boundaries,” the quote “halachah is supposed to be flexible to accommodate time and place” begs the question, “Why have halachah at all?”

I would suggest, as I understand from my rabbis, “halachah is solid and flowing … it is we humans who have to be flexible to fit into halachah.”

Linda Neska | Oakland

A bright future?

We were shocked and saddened to learn that bob and bob will be closing in January. They are such an integral part of the Jewish community in the Bay Area. Ellen and Shirley Bob have personally both been very gracious to us as we opened Dayenu and through our first three years.

They are a company to admire and emulate. Ellen told us it would not be easy, and we would not get rich; but being in the Judaica business is incredibly enriching. She was absolutely right.

We hope that when the doors on Forest Avenue close in January, new doors open onto a bright new future for bob and bob.

We have been fortunate to have a home at the JCCSF — we hope they find an equally symbiotic situation.

Eva-Lynne Leibman and Hiroko Nogami-Rosen | owners, Dayenu, San Francisco


Boring music?

I just want to tell you how much I appreciate Janet Silver Ghent’s columns. They crack me up every time.

Today I am reading “Why does Chanukah music sound so bim-bam-boring?” (Dec. 1 j.) and I have to agree with her. I am not into Christmas music but these days that is all you hear on the radio and sometimes I find myself humming with the music — until I say to myself, “What am I doing?”

Anyway, she should just keep writing — she’s wonderful.

Michelle Finton | Sacramento

Why Jews fled

Brian Harris’s recent article on Nicaragua reminds me of the fevered campaign by the Reagan administration to tar the Sandinista government of Nicaragua with the brush of anti-Semitism.

As a Central America activist I traveled to Nicaragua. On one trip my hostess invited me to dinner with her friend, an English teacher. Thinking her friend was Jewish, as I am, I asked her about Washington’s charges of “anti-Semitism.”

She laughed, telling me she was Jewish and that Nicaragua’s ambassador to the United States was her Jewish uncle Carlos Tunnerman.

Also, the Sandinista Minister of Tourism, Herty Lewites, was Jewish.

Imagine my ire when upon arriving home I turned on the television and saw then-Secretary of State George Shultz proclaim that there were no more Jews in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua’s Jewish population was miniscule. The majority fled for the same reasons many of the business class fled. As allies of overthrown U.S. backed dictator Somoza, they felt the new Nicaragua might not be friendly to them.

When Reagan began his terror war against Nicaragua, Israel and Argentina helped to arm and train Contras who killed thousands of Nicaraguans.

Because of that war, Nicaragua is today the second poorest country in the hemisphere.

Jan Bauman | Mill Valley

‘Man of goodness’

Thank you for your beautiful article on the life and passing of my father, Rabbi Sidney Akselrad (Nov. 17 j.). It was a loving tribute. One that my family and I greatly appreciates.

My father was a man of great faith, vision and purpose.

I believe he touched so many lives because he allowed others to be themselves and he brought out the best qualities in those people.

He was, simply said, a man of goodness.

Lisa Akselrad | San Jose

‘Recipe for disasters’

The recent initiative by the Iraq Study Group is based on a number of unrealisticexpectations and promises not rooted in the reality of the Middle East.

One of the central pieces of the report’s arguments is the recommendation to engage the leadership of Iran and Syria in order to help stabilize Iraq. Both Iranian and Syrian regimes have been instrumental in de-stabilizing Iraq — Syria by allowing the unabated flow of new recruits, weapons and money to Iraqi Sunni insurgents, and Iran for being behind material support for the radical Shiite militia leaders.

Outside of Iraq, the leadership of Syria has been behind political murders and instability in Lebanon, continuous support for the anti-Israel policies of Hamas and brutal repression of their own citizens. Iranian leadership, headed by a Holocaust denier, has been an international pariah with imminent U.N. sanctions for Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, support for terrorist groups throughout the Middle East, etc.

Both countries are the cause of Middle East instability, and by “engaging” them we would end their international isolation, encourage their repressive regimes and stifle any internal opposition. This is the recipe for future disasters not only in Iraq but throughout the Middle East.

Vadim Rotberg | San Francisco

Biblical justice

In Rabbi Lavey Derby’s Nov. 10 commentary on the parashah Vayera, he points out that our tradition teaches that justice holds the world together. Then he goes to the episode of God’s intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham’s challenge to God to deal justly by not destroying the two cities and thereby sparing the lives of 10 righteous inhabitants. As we know, God agrees, and this deal presumably shows Abraham’s and God’s appreciation of justice.

Is it justice to not punish the many evildoers while sparing the 10 righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah?

Wouldn’t justice be better served if Abraham had asked God to save the innocent 10 and, at the same time, to appropriately punish the murderers, rapists, and muggers there in the two cities?

Edward Tamler, M.D. | San Mateo

No change

How sad it is that Ukrainians don’t want Jews (Dec. 15 j.).

I thought that everything would be changed after the Soviet Union collapsed. But Ukrainians are bad people. They are Nazis. I know what I’m talking about because I used to live in the West Ukraine for 23 years.

Everybody, from my neighbors and all students in high school, hated me because I was a Jew.

I was the only Jewish student in the school, and the students put a swastika on my jacket.

I hate anti-Semitism. I hate the Ukraine, because the country didn’t like Jews — and still don’t like us even more since the Soviet Union collapsed.

As Jews we have the right to live in the Ukraine, in Israel, in the United States, in West Ukraine, in Poland and all over the world. We are a free people.

Look at us: We are barbers, musicians, lawyers, doctors, and others. We are smart. Guess what? Once they kick us from their country, their economy fell apart. And it’s difficult for them to make their economy better.

Paul Shkuratov | San Francisco

Odd statement?

I was overjoyed to hear about the new kosher deli that has opened at Justin Herman Plaza, and I wish its proprietors all the best of luck and success.

I was puzzled, however, by your writer’s statement in the recent article that “the young restaurateurs, incidentally, don’t don kippahs and beards and lay tefillin for show. All three are deeply religious, and Yisroel Freeman and Roth are both ordained Chabad rabbis.”

I’m not sure what the implication was, so I won’t presume to guess, but it did strike me as odd.

Many of us lay tefillin daily, and some of us, myself included, wear kippot throughout our daily lives. In a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to be openly Jewish, I can guarantee you that none of us lays tefillin or wears kippot “for show,” and I would assume that to be true of just about anyone else who does so.

Kenny Altman | San Francisco