Local priorities

Last week’s article hailing the S.F.-Jewish Community Federation’s partnership with our Israeli Amuta (lay leadership advisory board) rightly commends these highly respected Israelis for the tremendous work they do in recommending projects worthy of JCF campaign dollars.

However, one basic statement is misleading: The Amuta is not given Federation funds to allocate. Rather, we in the Bay Area, working with local and Israeli staff, determine which projects we fund.

The Amuta was created by the JCF 23 years ago to help the Federation’s lay leadership allocate Annual Campaign dollars based on priorities that we believe best support the values and practices we would like to strengthen in Israel. Our volunteer leaders in San Francisco work in partnership with the Amuta and regularly visit Israel at personal expense to see the results of these allocations. And like our local agencies, Israel-based programs must demonstrate responsibility and successful outcomes in order to receive continued funding.

With changing times our funding priorities change. Both these priorities and the dollars allocated are determined locally.

Mimi Gauss | San Francisco

Hopes for peace

I was pleased and encouraged to read in your pages Susie Coliver and Bob Herman of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom’s article about the window of opportunity for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

As vice-chair of Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring of Northern California, I share their sense of hope mixed with urgency — that “a mutually agreeable, durable peace agreement” can be hammered out with American Jewish support, in the final years of the Bush administration. As Coliver and Herman aptly indicate, there already exists substantial agreement on many provisions of a final status agreement.

Supporting the Annapolis Conference in November, the national WC/AR observed that the time was ripe to reach agreement on a just and lasting peace, which will include:

• An end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank

• The establishment of a viable, independent Palestinaian state along the pre-1967 borders, with adjustments to be agreed upon by both sides

• A mutually agreed upon resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem that allows for a Jewish homeland in Israel and a Palestinian homeland in Palestine, and that respects the needs and aspirations of both peoples.

I’m more likely to read j. when views that I share on controversial subjects like this one are included in your pages. I hope this inclusiveness extends to events you report on.

Diana Scott | San Francisco

A great advocate

With the death of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo), animals have lost one of their greatest advocates and the world has lost a great man. We at PETA came to know Rep. Lantos when he offered to help us with the Silver Spring monkeys, a group of animals that had been terribly abused in a Maryland laboratory.

I had the honor of interviewing Rep. Lantos and his wife, Annette, about their efforts to send these animals to a sanctuary. They showed me a photograph of themselves from 1939, when they were happy childhood friends in Budapest, Hungary. But they were Jewish, and not long after the picture was taken, Annette went into hiding and Tom was sent to a forced labor camp. Their families were killed in the Holocaust. These traumatizing experiences, they told me, helped them understand what it was like to be victimized simply because they weren’t like others.

When they came to this country, in the late 1940s, scarred but eager for a new life, they decided that they wanted to work for a new world in which no one — regardless of race, religion, or species — could be treated as an object rather than as a living being. Rep. Lantos did exactly this, founding the Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus and sponsoring or supporting dozens of pieces of legislation aimed at ending the suffering of humans and other animals. Even as we mourn his loss, we celebrate his amazing work for all beings.

Kathy Guillermo | Norfolk, Va.

Don’t displace men

Regarding your editorial of Jan. 11, (“As women rise in the Jewish World, where are the men?”), as long as the traditional roles of gender are bent, you will see less men involved. The time-based obligations to pray three times a day, put on tefillin, etc. have been incumbent upon males for thousands of years, and unless wives and mothers are seriously encouraging these types of mitzvahs, there will be a continued drop in male participation in synagogues. While women have crucial roles in the spiritual well-being of the nation, acknowledging the special place gender has in the smooth functioning of a healthy community is also necessary.

I wish there was more commitment to the welfare of the people of Israel as a whole. Displacing men from their traditional functions will only serve to generally weaken the Jewish people. And seeing ourselves as a whole, as the “clal,” strengthening our national soul, is what will bring redemption. Men don’t want to compete with women, each of us was created for a reason, with certain talents, and specific missions within the larger context. The harder we try to squeeze everyone, and each gender into the same mold, the more dysfunctional the overall community becomes.

Richard Becker | Ben Lomond

Program expansion

We were pleased to see the recent article on the PJ Library with mention of Chai Baby — two outreach programs of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. I wish to clarify that to date, the PJ Library was offered as a follow up to our initial group of 350 Chai Baby families to help them create their own Jewish libraries and incorporate Jewish themes into bedtime rituals. In addition, partial funding was provided to renew the monthly subscriptions for these 350 families for their second year of participation.

We are thrilled to announce that for 2008 we are expanding PJ Library to 800 families with children under the age of 6, on a first-come, first-served basis, within the Federation service area. This will make us one of the largest PJ Library affiliates in the country, thanks to the generous support of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Laura and Gary Lauder Philanthropic Fund of the JCEF. To sign up for PJ Library please visit www.pjlibrary.org or call (415) 777-4545.

Gail Green | San Francisco, Director, Chai Baby and Jewish Community Information & Referral

Thanks for the Hebrew memory

I read with much interest your article in the Feb. 8 edition of j. telling of novel ways to teach Hebrew.

When I taught Hebrew School in Tucson, AZ from 1950-1951, I motivated my students to learn Hebrew by telling them if they knew Hebrew they could communicate with their classmates in public school by writing English notes with the Hebrew characters. They seemed to like this idea.

Thanks for the memory.

Saul Fenster | San Francisco

Crucial support

Thank you to j. for your continued support and coverage of Shalom Bayit’s work and programs. Shalom Bayit, Ending Domestic Violence in the Jewish Community, would not be able to serve our community with crucial abuse prevention and education without the public knowing we are there. J. has been an important part of this outreach. Recently j. covered our college internship program (Dec. 18), which is an integral part of our work. We couldn’t exist without the support of our community.

For more information about Shalom Bayit, email [email protected] or call (510) 451-8874.

Zephira Derblich-Milea | Oakland, Shalom Bayit