Giving thanks

I am humbled by your April 4 article and editorial “A Giant Step for Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands,” however, I cannot take credit for the resolution’s success, our JCRC has worked very hard on it as well as JIMENA’s founder Joe Wahed. I want to thank my community for its unrelenting support of JIMENA and for giving me the honor to serve Israel and the Jewish people.

The passage of H.R. 185, which recognizes the rights of Jews displaced and dispossessed from Arab countries, is not only a tremendous achievement, it has empowered Israel’s advocates with our compelling narrative. Our story gives a fair and balanced view of the Middle East conflict, which is key to changing the paradigm when addressing the psychological assault against Israel.

Furthermore, our message educates the public that Israel became the biggest and most successful refugee camp in the Middle East, because it gave the Mizrahi Jews dignity and hope. Israel absorbed us under the most difficult circumstances without any help from the United Nations.

We, the Jews from the Arab countries, comprise over 51 percent of Israel’s population. We owe it to ourselves to tell the truth about the destruction of our culture. It is only with this truth that we can seek justice. Because where there is no justice, there will be no reconciliation between all people in the region.

Gina Waldman | San Francisco, Chair, JIMENA

Competition is good

As a strong supporter of Birthright Israel, I was surprised to see “Teen trips suffer from Birthright Israel’s popularity” (April 4). Apparently, several Israel programs targeting teen markets have seen decreases in participation because students don’t want to be disqualified from the free Birthright Israel experience for which they are eligible at 18. As executive director of BBYO, a pluralistic Jewish teen movement reaching nearly 25,000 young people annually and a provider of Israel travel programs, I want to offer a different perspective.

The competition is necessary, as it forces organizations trying to reach teen audiences to be more aggressive in marketing and creative in programming. For BBYO, this meant a major expansion in our travel menu, with Israel options that include European add-ons, options for younger teens and families and special service and leadership tracks. In fact, while Birthright registration is at its highest, registration for our Passport to Israel program is currently 28 percent ahead of where it was at this point last year. In my opinion, Birthright has increased curiosity about Israel travel, and teen travel providers should know that there are plenty of Jewish young people who can gain connections from all types of experiences.

Matthew Grossman | Executive director, BBYO

Lifting the veil

Thank you for your coverage of the Breaking the Silence events in San Francisco and Oakland. If we are to move forward towards a future of peace and justice for all people of the Middle East, we must confront the present with clarity and honesty. Thank you!

Simone Masson | Oakland

Recognizing a pioneer

In your March 28th edition of j., you honored a few worthy gentlemen with outstanding records of courage and honor (“Realizing the dream: Six Bay Area men and the founding of a nation”).

I, and my family were lucky to have experienced the “guiding light” of one of these remarkable men — Edward Ben-Eliezer. When we joined one of the original congregations in the East Bay 25 years ago, Congregation Beth Am, we found the much gifted Edward Ben-Eliezer. In many ways, he was always willing to share his blessings with our congregation, and bring the spirit of HaShem and the meaning of that that is incomprehensible to us in a very unique way.

He motivated our congregation as he read the applicable liturgies for the day of prayer — and conducted services so fervently and meaningfully, that tears often welled in our eyes as we listened in awe. He was given the honor of naming our grandchildren with their blessed Jewish names. His teachings of Jewish ritual and spirituality were always captivating and memorable. His lessons on how to be a “mensch” in this world will be cherished and never be forgotten. May he live a long and happy life with his loving wife, Jacqie — his “mishpoche” and many “chevrah.”

The family of David Sauberman | Martinez

‘A war for existence’

JTA correspondent Leslie Susser fails to grasp that the peace process (“Will Rice’s trip create a climate of trust?” April 4) has never been anything but a delusional fantasy on the part of those who are unwilling to face the truth: that the Arab commitment to Israel’s destruction is total, that Fatah is just as much an enemy as Hamas and that negotiations with the Arabs do much more harm than good.

Concessions by Israel make the Arab side more aggressive rather than less, while weakening Israel’s ability to defend itself. Self-proclaimed “peace groups” that urge such concessions are in fact working for Israel’s destruction.

This is a war for existence. Israel’s only options are victory or defeat, with defeat meaning the virtual annihilation of Israel’s Jews. Israel must abandon the policy of accommodation, appeasement and retreat and fight for victory, which it is very well able to achieve. If the current leadership is not willing to do what it takes to win, it must step aside for leadership that is.

Martin Wasserman | Sunnyvale

U.N.’s failings

In the March 21 j., Sybil Kessler of B’nai Brith International argues against our leaving the U.N. (“Just another day at the [anti-Israel] office”). “You can’t divorce the world,” she says. But the U.N. has divorced Israel and the U.S. and collects alimony (dues).

“We need to be there,” she says, “to counter the world’s worst voices.” But we’re always outvoted by these voices.

Kessler “sees progress” in that “the U.N. has held an annual Holocaust memorial for the last three years”. But the U.N. is always ready to memorialize us after we’re dead.

“It’s not easy” there and “there doesn’t seem to be a better way,” she says. But wouldn’t it be better for us to keep our U.N. financial contribution and use the money for constructive Jewish purposes?

Edward Tamler | San Mateo

Financial advice

I would like to remind Jewish charitable organizations it is times like these (“Jewish charities brace for financial hardship,” April 4) that they underscore the importance of diversification in fundraising even in good times. To rely solely on major gifts or some other single source of income, no matter how easily that money flows, is never a wise idea.

Although the picture painted by Richard Marker and Gary Tobin does not appear at first glance encouraging, these interesting economic times often reveal ways to strengthen organizations by streamlining operations, building new partnerships, and tuning in to expanded service opportunities.

Boards of directors, do not despair. Keep your eye on the bagel, not the hole, and fortify your organization from the bottom up, from the inside out. These times, too, shall pass.

Joyce Schriebman | San Francisco

‘Valuable perspective’

I appreciate Joseph S. Amster’s factual report on the IDF soldiers who spoke out against the occupation (April 4). It is a credit to j. that it includes this valuable perspective.

Glen Hauer | Berkeley