One liturgy?

I was reminded by Rabbi Lavey Derby (Aug. 3 Torah column) of the formal liturgy in place for Tisha B’Av (the reading from the Book of Lamentations). The destruction of the Second Temple and its aftermath several centuries ago pales in comparison to the destruction of Jewish life in the Shoah of the 20th century, and for which there is as of now no formal liturgy in place.

The annual Yom Ha’Shoah observances are formatted at the whims of the respective congregations.

I am a Holocaust survivor, and would like to strongly urge rabbis of all stripes to sit down, put on their kippots and begin formulating a unified liturgy to be recited at every congregation.

The six million (and the survivors) surely deserve more spirituality than just candle-lighting, choir singing, poetry readings and cello playing.

Irving Zale | San Rafael

Humor helps

Well, I think that the “rally rabbi” bobblehead (July 27 j.) is the coolest thing since He’Brew beer. I think that our ability to laugh at ourselves and our sense of humor has helped us survive these thousands of years.

So let’s pla … I mean, pray ball!

Linda Neska | Oakland

Blame ourselves?

I’m happy to hear about the recovery of the people impacted by the terrorist act of alleged gunman Naveed Afzal Haq in Seatttle (Aug 3 j.). However, I don’t see why he’s allowed to plead insanity when he walked into the federation, premeditated, shot point blank and murdered a woman, saying, “I am a Muslim American angry at Israel.”

For our government, Homeland Security and especially the Jewish community to remain mute is astounding.

I’m angry, and think that while we acknowledge the insanity of Ahmendinajad — with his repeated cries to eliminate the Jewish state — what will it take for Jews, Americans and the West to take people who make these threats seriously?

This man isn’t insane; he’s evil. What he said was evil, racist and wrong. His murderous act was a cry for jihad from the mullahs, imams and others who regularly call for death to Jews and Israel.

And if we Jews, and Americans remain silent and allow this type of murder to take place again, as it was attempted in Los Angeles a few years ago, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

Allyson Rowen Taylor | Valley Glen

Mixing with Asians

I am writing in reference to the controversy concerning intermarriage (“Critique provokes Orthodox debate,” Aug. 3 j). It should be noted that both Jews and Asians value education, which means that many students from these groups will be colleagues in graduate school. This is an age when students often enter into relationships, so it will not be surprising if the number of intermarriages between these groups increase.

Given that the number of Asians is on the increase, the Jewish community needs to be prepared to welcome these families.

Ingram Olkin | Stanford


We, two former members of Beth Ami, don’t think Joe Eskenazi has any historical perspective in his June 22 article about Beth Ami.

In its time, this building was an awesome structure. Those of us who’d been in rented quarters on Orchard Street and other places were proud of our new religious home.

The warm wooded, spacious sanctuary, with large blue stained windows in multiple patterns, delighted our gaze. The bimah had plenty of room to read Torah. The ark, shaped as two folded Torah with the Ten Commandments in Hebrew, made of stained glass bits, was definitely a presence. The sanctuary was airy, light and open. The acoustics were fine..

In keeping with later times, a ramp was built for those who needed assistance to get to the bimah. That it is no longer considered necessary reflects the times, the congregation and the rabbi.

There were problems for many years with the roof leaking, and the congregation never had money to fix it. The curtains were decrepit years ago.

It’s always lovely to see a beautiful synagogue revitalized, and this congregation is lucky to have had a fine architect, Dan Hoffenberg, begin the original design for this new age.

Jan Harris & Roberta Berg

Santa Rosa

‘So many memories’

Thank you for printing the June 20 story of Beth Abraham’s history. My grandfather Benjamin Wolf’s sister was married to Louie Berkovich, and so we were related, so to speak, to the Berkovich family. He told me when I was young the story of how Beth Abraham was started with money given by the family.

As Hungarians, my family revered the temple. I was bar mitzvahed there in 1935.

The picture you printed, of which I have a copy, shows my grandparents, aunts and uncles seated in the congregation. Sam Katzburg, who was an important part of the temple’s history, is seated on the left on the aisle.

I even remember, as a child, attending services in the “machine shop” building which the article cites. The building was located at 8th and Harrison in Oakland.

The daughter of Rabbi Moses Goldberg is Hadassah Kramer, a close friend of mine who lives in Piedmont.

So many memories. Thanks very much.

Harry Wolf | Walnut Creek

‘Many choices’

Thank you for Ben Harris’ July 27 article about the death of Sherwin Wine, a leader in the secular Humanistic Jewish movement. Your article indicated that there are about 30 Humanistic congregations in the United States. There are also numerous Workman’s Circle/Arbeter Ring chapters and affiliate communities of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations in North America.

In the Bay Area, the secular Humanistic organizations are Kol Hadash, Tri-Valley Cultural Jews, San Francisco and South Bay chapters of the Workman’s Circle/Arbeter Ring and the independent East Bay Kindshule. 

Those interested in cultural Jewish life rather than religious Jewish life have many choices.

Rabbi Judith Seid | Pleasanton

Tri-Valley Cultural Jews

Facing the future

In a July 20 letter to the editor by Richard Schwartz, president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, we are told that the entire world faces destruction — in the opinion of many climate scientists and environmentalists, due to global warming.

I am reminded of a portion of a speech given by a University of California professor before an assemblage on Earth Day 1970: “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but 11 degrees colder by the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice age”.

I am not sure whether I face a future in which I will freeze to death or roast to death.

But, to be sure, I will continue to eat my vegetables. Especially the Jewish ones.

Theodore R. Bresler | Fremont

For the future…

I read Ari Kelman’s July 20 local voice opinion, “Creative young Jews are building their own institutions,” with interest. He mentioned we should look at the young people under 40 and the way they express their vision of what a Jewish community should look like. Synagogues, JCCs and federations of today are not for them.

This is all very well and good. However, since they don’t want to belong and financially support synagogues, JCCs and federations, where will some of them hold their weddings? Where will their children be bar/bat mitzvah? Who will be the future leaders of the synagogues?

JCCs hold preschool/day-care classes, but without financial support they will no longer exist. Synagogues, federations and JCCs need these young people.

It makes me sad to think these young people don’t want to attend synagogues, enjoy themselves at JCCs and support the federations, which in turn gives support to many worthwhile causes. Young people are needed to belong to these institutions so that at least these places will exist for future generations.

Roz Weiss | San Lorenzo

A nightmare?

I had a bad dream last night. I dreamt we had a Democrat in the White House who formally endorsed a plan requiring Israel to give up all pre-’67 land, which includes the Golan Heights and all of East Jerusalem to the Arabs.

Then I awoke to find our Republican lame-duck president had authorized Condoleezza Rice to sign just such an agreement, along with eight Arab states.

Let’s hope Republican candidates such as Sam Brownback who understand the futility of land for peace begin to get some needed traction.

Dan Calic | San Ramon