Letters to the Editor

B’nai B’rith update

Thank you, j. readers, for selecting B’nai B’rith as the favorite Jewish men’s organization (Readers’ Choice, Aug. 10 j.). However I would like to make a couple of corrections.

First, B’nai B’rith is a coed Jewish organization, and has been one for many years (in fact, just recently a woman served as senior vice president of B’nai B’rith International, and another as president of B’nai B’rith Brazil).

Second, the membership of B’nai B’rith International has a wide age range of adults from 30 to over 90 years of age (not 30-40 as mentioned in the blurb).

Irving Abramowitz | San Francisco

past president, Golden Pacific Region, B’nai B’rith

‘Devastating toll’

Thank you for your story about the National AIDS Memorial Grove and the recent volunteer workday sponsored by local Jewish groups (Aug. 10 j.).

While your intern did a fine job reporting on the history and purpose of the grove, and the dedication and enthusiasm of the workday volunteers, she unfortunately misstated some important facts regarding the AIDS epidemic.

As reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the cumulative number of AIDS deaths in the U.S. through December 2005 was 550,400, not 10,000 as stated in your article. Moreover, the number of people in the U.S. currently living with HIV/AIDS is estimated at 1.2 million.

Locally, the S.F. Department of Public Health reports over 17,500 cumulative AIDS, deaths and a current count of 18,900 San Franciscans living with HIV/AIDS.

An estimated 11,000 Jews have died of AIDS in the U.S. since the disease was first diagnosed in 1981, based on Jews making up 2 percent of the U.S. population and a comparable percentage of AIDS cases.

Clearly, AIDS continues to take a devastating toll. Through the dedication of local volunteers, the grove will continue to be a place of healing, remembrance and renewal for all lives touched by AIDS.

Jon Zimman | San Francisco

treasurer, National AIDS Memorial Grove


I — and I would imagine many Jews knowledgeable about our religion — am offended by your Aug. 3 cover story about Karaite Jews.

Karaites are not Jews, for the simple fact (as your article conveniently skirted) that they do not believe in the oral law. Judaism is nothing without the oral law, which originated from before the Ten Commandments and evolved until it was written down (so that people like the Karaites could not pick and choose what parts of Judaism to follow).

J. is in a position of educating Jews who know very little about Judaism; to mislead them about this sect that broke away from our faith does a great disservice to your readers.

Mordechai Pelta | San Francisco

‘Severing’ Israel

I applaud the Jewish soldiers, both religious and nonreligious, who obeyed their consciences and refused to participate even indirectly in the expulsion of their fellow Jews from their homes in Hebron (“Insubordination concerns rise,” Aug. 10 j.).

The expulsion had no justification, not from a legal perspective, not from a security perspective, and certainly not from a Jewish perspective. It was merely a continuation of the failed policy of retreating under Arab pressure.

Israel’s current leaders think that the way to resolve any “friction point” between Jews and Arabs is to forcibly remove the Jews, even if it’s from one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

The truth is, they’re trying to curry favor with foreign powers by severing Israel from its Jewish roots. But they will never succeed in severing the nation from its roots, and if they keep trying, they’ll soon trigger a Maccabean-style revolution.

Martin Wasserman | Sunnyvale

A failure?

Regarding the Aug. 10 AP article in j., “Olmert, Abbas meet on Palestinian turf for first time,” were it not so morbidly brazen it would be quite entertaining to read that when meeting with Ehud Olmert, Mahmoud Abbas insisted that “after years of delay, it’s time to start talking about the terms of Palestinian statehood.”

The delays that Abbas fails to acknowledge include the Arab failure to comply with any of the previous agreements, all of which required an end to jihadist terrorism; the murder and maiming of thousands of innocent Jews by Arab terrorists over the 14 years since Oslo, many of the terrorists coming from Abbas’ own “moderate” Fatah faction; the incitement to jihad, murder, and hatred in the television and mosques under Abbas’ direct control; and the failure of all Israeli concessions to date to make gentlemen out of unreformed cold-blooded murderers.

And now Abbas, in his infinite self-indulgence, wants to skip over his obligations and graciously accept even more foolish Israeli concessions.

Abbas has had ample time to assume his leadership role by calling for the Fatah jihadists to reform themselves but has failed miserably.

Julie Sager | Los Angeles

director of campus activities, Zionist Organization of America

Spanning generations

I am so sad to see Rachel Sarah leave. She is (hard to say was) my favorite j. columnist. Her writing is funny, real and spans the generations. Even at 65, I was anxious to read about how her life was developing.

Laura Siegel | Pacifica


I read Rachel Sarah’s last column in j. today. I’ll definitely miss reading her column — her writing is so touchingly genuine and real. Perhaps many people have similar experiences, but not everyone can convey them so well.

Best of luck to her (and Mae) in the future.

Dave Rosenblitt | Mountain View

Credit deserved

I’ve been following columnist Rachel Sarah’s trials and tribulations of life with the Israeli. She deserves a lot of credit for putting herself out there, and for sharing it with the rest of us.

Sorry it didn’t work out with her and the Israeli, but hey, she tried … and probably learned a lot on the way.

Donna Lynn Rhodes | Walnut Creek

No acceptance

I read with interest recent j. opinion columns about welcoming Jews. Those articles paralleled the Jewish Film Festival’s showing of “The Longing: The Forgotten Jews of South America,” recounting many who trace their ancestry to the Jews of the Inquisition.

The film showed their difficulty of finding a teacher, Jewish resistance to their converting, and then their not being accepted by the Jewish community.

This film shows a current lack of acceptance, not the community responsibility to accept others as advocated in the j. articles.

Karen Epstein | Foster City

Kosher kitsch

The recent Jewish Heritage Night at the San Francisco Giants game marked a great ingathering of Jews of all stripes.

From the kosher tailgate party to the Jewish music jam outside the gates and the presence of multiple communal leaders who announced the game in Hebrew, threw the first pitch and sang the national anthem, the event was a proud moment for San Francisco Yidden.

Among the many locals who stopped to enjoy the Ferris Wheels rockin’ Willie Mays Plaza was a woman who was asked if she were Jewish. Her answer: “I am now!”

But Jewish Heritage Night was not, as described in previous letters that ran in these pages, anything to be embarrassed about. It was, rather, a vibrant, fun, not-to-be-missed celebration of Jewish community, vitality and “ruach.” And yes, it was best represented by the so-kitsch-you-gotta-love it Rally Rabbi bobblehead doll.

Perhaps it is the voice of the capitalist who has the last laugh. The Rabbi Langer bobblehead is already an eBay collectible!

So, to all those naysayers, we say lighten up. It was, is and will always be cool to proud to be Jewish. Besides, no matter how you slice, kitsch is always kosher!

Lisa Alcalay Klug | Los Angeles

No acceptance

I read with interest recent j. opinion columns about welcoming Jews. Those articles paralleled the Jewish Film Festival’s showing of “The Longing: The Forgotten Jews of South America,” recounting many who trace their ancestry to the Jews of the Inquisition.

The film showed their difficulty of finding a teacher, Jewish resistance to their converting, and then their not being accepted by the Jewish community.

This film shows a current lack of acceptance, not the community responsibility to accept others as advocated in the j. articles.

Karen Epstein | Foster City

No conclusions

I read with interest the Aug. 10 JTA story “Why be Jewish, anyway?” in j. but was disappointed that the article only described the event and not any of the ideas, discussions or conclusions that came out of the conference.

Joyce Gandelman | Modesto

Lying leaders?

When a yeshiva high school airbrushes its wayward son out of a class reunion photo, the issue is far greater than the community’s response to intermarriage. The issue is, do Jewish leaders lie? The undisputed answer is yes; some Jewish leaders change documents to fit what they wish were true, not what is actually true.

Gary Rosenblatt, the editor and publisher of the New York Jewish Week, to whom New Yorkers look for truth, defends the liars (“Snub may have been the correct response,” Aug. 3 j.).

Now I’m forced to wonder, what else is a lie? Is the Torah the word of God, or was it altered by some ancient yeshiva? Was the land promised to Isaac or to Ishmael? Can I trust the photographs I’ve seen of the Holocaust?

And even though I still believe, will the non-Jewish public believe?

It is not the Jews who marry potential Jews who should be shunned. It is the liars.

Steven J. Alexander | Santa Clara

Left off list

We are very appreciative of the many years of hard work that Paul Cohen gave to all the Hillels in Northern California, and we are very pleased to be working with Ken Kramarz in this new position with Hillel (June 22 j.).

We’d like to let j.’s readers know that the eight Hillels in Northern California also include Santa Cruz, which was left off your list. U.C. Santa Cruz is home to about 3,000 Jewish students, one of the largest percentages of Jews at any school on the West Coast, and it is a very active Jewish campus community and Hillel.

Rabbi Shalom Bochner | Santa Cruz


I read j.’s July 20 summer camp article, and it brought back mostly positive memories. It was great to see some people I have worked with or have known well mentioned in the article.

However, there was one major sect of Jews that was missing in this article. Where were the Orthodox Jews? Certainly, Chabad and other Orthodox Jewish organizations have Jewish summer camps.

Perhaps j. would rather cover the Orthodox Jewish community by writing about a local rabbi on a Giants’ bobblehead (which contradicts the Jewish tenet of worship towards idols and leaders).

I would appreciate more balanced coverage of all sects of the Jewish community in j. in future issues.

Ben Pastcan | Sacramento

Senior housing needed

Jewish assisted living is needed in the Oakland-Berkeley area. How to achieve this? Quite simply by finding a condo building where elders could move in by paying for their housing from the proceeds of the sale of their houses, as is done by other groups.

A builder could provide such housing by simply adding kitchen facilities, a dining room, a meeting room — all right above a garage, with one caveat: sufficient elevators at each end of the halls.

Oakland is building numerous condos all over the city, and I am convinced it would welcome such an endeavor.

Where are the able forward-looking capable people who would know how to put all this together? Is there someone out there who has the “know-how” and ability to make the above happen?

I am convinced many would be interested in giving up homeownership, and live with less responsibilities as they age. Perhaps we need to find out how many elders would be interested by doing a survey? All of us will age, and may need this, just like all other groups have done already.

Arnoldine Berlin | Oakland

Negative stereotype

I was shocked to read a joke in a recent j. (the thirsty Arab approaches the tie-selling Jew). What were you thinking?

Is it funny to read an account of a Jew’s unkindness and deception toward a thirsty Arab who asked for help? Does it make you proud to read an account of using withheld information (ties required at restaurant) to get back at an inquirer (the Arab who didn’t want to buy a tie)?

Do you think these negative stereotypes, often aimed at Jews, are funny if they’re printed by and for Jews? How funny would this joke be if the Arab sat at the table and directed a thirsty Jew over the hill and miles away for water he couldn’t have?

Mean-spirited humor isn’t funny or clever. In happy contrast, there is a wealth of humor that allows us to laugh at shared human foibles without aiming hurt at anyone. Why are you choosing the former when the latter is available?

Robin Winburn | San Francisco

New ‘inquisition”?

The foul odor of a theological inquisition is intruding into presidential politics. The media are carrying all kinds of reports about the religious views and practices of candidates.

When asked by reporters, all the current presidential candidates affirm their belief in God and their unflagging commitment to attending Sunday church services.

The United States would be well served by a candidate who said something like: “My religion is my own personal business and is not relevant to this campaign.” The candidate might add: “I am running for president, not pope.”

If Americans want to see a pope, they can go to Rome.

Richard S. Colman | Orinda

Existence at stake

When I read the July 27 story about the possibility of peace for Israel I thought that even posing the question today is ridiculous.

The Gaza strip is occupied by the terror group Hamas, and they continue to bombard Israel with rockets and injure Israelis. Southern Lebanon is occupied by the terror group Hezbollah, who under U.N. eyes has amassed an arsenal of weapons that can target all corners of Israel.

Israel and our government has thrown support behind the corrupt Fatah regime that ordinary Palestinians do not support. In fact, their hero is Saddam Hussein, as reported in the L.A. Times. Remember Saddam was paying $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, and he paid out quite of bit of money while he was alive.

In Israel, Arab children will now be formally taught that all Arabs consider the day Israel became a state, a catastrophe. If this doesn’t lead to civil war within Israel in the next few generations I’d be very surprised. Israeli Arab leaders are already demanding binational status. Mainstream media is calling Israeli Arabs, Palestinian citizens.

The question is if Israel will continue to exist. We need to do more than hope.

Howard Roth | S. San Francisco

A link to Israel

My first real association with Israel came in high school. My family’s 1975 trip had the qualities of an elaborate summer vacation. Nice place, I thought.

I wore my newly minted bar mitzvah tallit at the Western Wall with my Dad, and met extended Israeli family for the first time.

I read Elie Wiesel’s book, “Night,” in a kibbutz gift shop and was so impressed I gave it to my parents as a wedding anniversary present.

I was struck by the sense of powerlessness that affected the Holocaust generation.

Over our 1976 bicentennial weekend I had spent the night with a friend guarding my Mom’s ORT fireworks stand, and all we could talk about was the apparent selection that Palestinian terrorists had carried out on Jewish and Israeli hostages at Entebbe when, out of the blue, the news arrived of Israel’s rescue of the hostages, 2,500 miles away. Never have I been prouder of Israel and in a sense, my own Jewish identity, than that moment.

I went back to Israel in 1979 with the L.A. BJE’s ulpan, and had a transformative summer experience. Later, I lived there in grad school and remain deeply connected to Israel to this day.

Steve Lipman | Foster City