Respect is urged

As I read the Aug. 17 letter in j. by Mordechai Pelta regarding “Karaites are not Jews,” Maimonides’ words came to mind: Karaites “should be treated with respect, honor, kindness, and humility … One may enter their houses, circumcise their children, bury their dead and comfort their mourners.”

The Holy Days are a time for reconciliation, teshuva, return. This mandate includes not only the Karaites, but millions of Jews worldwide who, like the Karaites, do not embrace the Oral Law. Within Judaism there is a multiplicity of spiritual paths.

As we enter the spirit of the Yamim Noraim, let us welcome the return of our brothers and sisters in the Karaite community rather than cast them aside as suggested in the letter.

And may we all, including our Karaite brethren, be inscribed for a Shana Tova.

Shelley Waldenberg | Oakland

rabbi emeritus, Temple Isaiah

Fervent Zionists

We are sorry to learn that Mordechai Pelta of San Francisco (Aug. 17 letters) was offended by j.’s Aug. 3 cover story. We write to address his divisive remarks that the Jews of the Karaite congregation of longstanding Egyptian Jewish heritage are not Jews.

One researcher into the ancient origins of Karaite Judaism, professor Daniel J. Lasker of Ben Gurion Unversity, wrote: “And for the Karaites themselves, the real question has always been not ‘How did Karai[te Judaism] arise?’ but: ‘How did rabbinic Judaism break away from the Torah-true Judaism?'”

The Rambam would be surprised to learn that Karaites were not Jews, for he instructed other Jews to “visit their sick, and bury their dead.”

For a detailed treatment concerning Maimonides’ views of Karaite Jews, see Gerald J. Blistein’s “The ‘Other’ in Maimonidean Law,” and Lasker’s articles: “Maimonides and the Karaites,” “Maimonides’ Influence on the Philosophy of Elijah Bashyazi the Karaite,” “Maimonides’ Influence on Karaite Theories of Prophecy and Law,” and “The Influence of Karaism on Maimonides.”

Karaite Jews are fervent Zionists, and our sons and daughters fight and die as Israeli soldiers alongside our brothers, the rabbinic Jews. Would Pelta deny them a proper burial?

Am Yisrael chai.

Shawn Lichaa | Berkeley

dean of academics, Karaite Jewish University

Eliezer ben Ephraim haKohen Great Neck, N.Y.

dean of students, KJU

‘Right to fight’

With agreement on the SFSU mural (Aug. 10 j.), and a film sponsored by the S.F. Jewish Film Festival honoring so-called moderate Columbia University professor Edward Said, we should understand just what this man stands for.

He is known for such grossly inappropriate comments as “Uprooting trees and razing buildings are as dehumanizing — dare I say, more dehumanizing — than suicide attacks” and “Judaism is just a religion, and a religion cannot be the basis for a state.”

Alan Dershowitz wrote about Said: “It all started with the late … Said, who by Columbia standards was regarded as a moderate. When Arafat signed the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993, Said broke with him. Said absolutely refused to recognize the right of Israel to exist.”

I believe that we were right to fight this mural for two years, and that we are crazy to accept the image of this man without a very large plaque attached telling the rest of the story. I suggest that, since the layers of propaganda surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict are so deep at this point, the SFJFF film selectors do a better job researching the subjects of the films that deal with it.

Sheree Roth | Palo Alto


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

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

Full of shame?

I’m not satisfied with the decision from the N.J. Superior Court about Eric Hunt, who allegedly attacked Elie Wiesel in San Francisco. If Hunt is sick, in my opinion, he should be punished by going to a mental institution for the rest of his life; but if he’s not, I feel bad for Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, that Hunt can plead not guilty.

Wiesel is a very important person in our community, and people like Hunt should be full of shame because they are Holocaust deniers.

I feel a lot about this case because my grandfather was killed during the Holocaust.

Paul Shkuratov

San Francisco

Clarifying ‘Warriors’

The Israel Project has a policy of refraining from making comments on coverage of the Middle East. However, given that Christiane Amanpour’s Aug. 21 piece on CNN, “God’s Warriors,” likely left the misimpression that Israel is not committed to peace, we are issuing the following fact sheets to ensure that the record is clear.

Indeed, Israel is committed to a two-state solution in which both sides — Israelis and Palestinians — can have a better future. Israel gave up all of the Sinai for peace with Egypt, made peace with Jordan and recently gave up all of Gaza in hopes of peace. The Israeli government now meets regularly with Palestinian leaders who want a peaceful future.

The majority of Israelis want a two-state solution. Sadly, rockets are still hitting Israel from inside Gaza almost every day — more than 1,500 since Israel left Gaza — and many Israelis still live in fear of attacks.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi Washington, D.C.

founder and president, The Israel Project