Against the trend

I’d like to express my sincere appreciation for Joanne Hartman’s recent column (April 20 j.) on gossip and slander (lashon hara). Her statements are not only true but also, I believe, capable of influencing a change within Jewish society.

I am a student at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto, and the Jewish laws of proper speech are currently under discussion in my school.

Unfortunately, there’s a common misconception that “it’s impossible not to gossip” and that “everybody does it” (so therefore it’s okay? I don’t think so).

In an attempt to counteract this trend, a few staff members as well as students have been bringing up this topic and trying to show its negative effects and potentially devastating consequences.

I believe self-improvement (of our middos/middot — character traits), particularly regarding how we relate to others (especially through speech), is one of the most efficacious methods for improving interpersonal relationships and improving the world. Various Jewish authorities (such as the Chofetz Chaim, a paragon of one who guards his speech) constantly emphasize these traits in classic Jewish texts.

It was incredibly refreshing to read a clear, apt column regarding the Jewish take on lashon hara.

Shira LeVine | Los Altos

Altering perception

Israelis have achieved a lot through Mogen David Adom — in sciences, research, ecology (desalination), medicine and receiving refugees through the years from Arab countries, from Russia and from Ethiopia, as well as Holocaust survivors, etc., etc., etc.

Israel needs to have better public relations, to change the world’s perception of what it is about, for it is a true democracy and, by definition, not perfect as all democracies are. But it keeps trying to achieve and improve.

It is a society open to all journalists, not a usual happening among its neighbors.

I am convinced that if peace broke out, Israel could teach African countries how to improve their lot, as did happen during the years of Golda Meir’s presence, when African students were invited to study in Israel and later welcomed her in their countries with Hebrew singing as she stepped out of her plane.

Arnoldine Berlin | Oakland

A soap opera?

I hope j. columnist Rachel Sarah noticed that when Nancy Pelosi took the gavel as the first woman speaker of the House, it was children and grandchildren who joined her on the podium. No matter how much we women want to succeed in the professional world, it is our children and family who surround and embrace us on good times and bad. I did not notice any mentors up there. 

Never would I give anyone advice on personal relationships; however, for months we have been reading of her desire for a beshert who would love her and her daughter. A pretty decent Jewish soap opera.

Think about it: If one considers sleeping warm and secure next to one loving person, opposed to falling asleep reading briefing papers, well, you can guess the rest.

Best of luck, Rachel Sarah.

Sherri Morr | San Francisco

What’s in a name?

In his April 20 letter, Gershon Evan states, “What worries me no end is that Barak Obama (as my son reminded me of his middle name: Hussein) should ever become president of the USA.”

Why is his middle name relevant? Is Evan implying that by sharing a name with Saddam Hussein, he probably shares other traits with him as well? Should Obama change his last name so he doesn’t scare away any American voters? After all, it’s only one letter away from Osama — voters might think he was involved in planning 9/11.

His middle name has absolutely no relevance to anything; by mentioning it, Evan only makes himself appear desperate to find fault with black candidates regardless of their qualifications.

I’m Jewish and plan to vote for the most qualified candidate who cares about issues that are important to many Americans — health care, the economy and the environment. I could care less about a middle name.

Julie Tishkoff | San Francisco


Regarding Gershon Evan’s letter in the April 20 j., I was somewhat sympathetic to the substance and tenor until almost the very end, when he stated that he could not “remember any influential black ever being on the side of the Jewish state.”

That statement is offensive, and the implication is obviously inaccurate.

Has the letter writer really never heard of Martin Luther King, Bayard Rustin, Walter Williams or Alan Keyes, just to name a few from across the political spectrum?

Should there be more? Yes, I agree, but to recklessly exaggerate is unproductive and unfair.

Rod Parker | San Francisco

Looking ‘beyond’

In response to the April 27 j. cover story, “Defying Disabilities,” congratulations to all the wonderful programs highlighted, and also to those not mentioned, that are making the effort to be inclusive of all members of our community.

I would like to add a reminder to look beyond early childhood. Once the children in this story have completed their bar/bat mitzvah, they will continue to be part of our congregations, and we must continue to meet their needs throughout adulthood. As we are all aging, many “typical” congregants will also find themselves facing disabilities later in life.

To facilitate this mission, the Union for Reform Judaism is offering a community forum, “A House of Prayer for All People,” on Sunday, June 10 in Oakland, hosted by Temple Sinai’s access committee. All are welcome to attend, and to learn from nationally recognized experts in the area of full inclusion within the Jewish community (for information see www.urj.org/pcw).

No individual, family or congregation is alone in this sacred endeavor. By working together, sharing the financial burden as well as sharing resources and skills, we can make the entire Bay Area Jewish community a home for all of us.

Rebecca Schwartz | San Francisco

In search of a ‘bud’

My name is De Lys Sheahan (maiden name). I was friends with a boy, Warren Chanelis, who lived in one of the Homewood Terrace houses in 1968 (into, I think, 1970). I came upon your Jan. 12 cover story tonight as I was searching for Warren.

I would visit him and his friend in the Richmond District home rather undercover, and he would come to my home in Alameda. We would go ice skating in the city, and for brief moments feel normal and act as if we were kids.

My family was broken, and Warren was at Homewood because his mother couldn’t take care of him. We were buds.

Being so young, we eventually lost contact. I have looked for him, he would be 53 now. Are there any readers who might help me find him? I’ve been looking for so many years.

De Lys Sheahan | Santa Rosa