Rabbis: speak up!

I couldn’t agree more with Rabbi Allen Bennett’s article “Rabbis must take on social issues” (April 11).

What he writes in reference to Reform rabbis is, in my opinion, a mandate for all rabbis. Indeed, sometimes it is risky to speak out on issues with which some congregants may disagree. I recall that when I gave sermons very early in the Vietnam War about the folly of that venture, a few people resigned from my congregation. But so be it. That’s one of the risks a rabbi takes when he speaks out on controversial issues that are morally based.

Today, if I were still in the pulpit, I would speak out against the war in Iraq and the need to protest the genocide in Darfur.

I feel strongly that rabbis must teach support for Israel, regardless of some policies with which one may disagree. To disown Israel because of the so-called “occupation” or the measures undertaken to discourage terrorism, is, in my opinion, to betray one’s very identity as a Jew.

Look, Jews don’t always agree on certain issues, but the rabbi shouldn’t hesitate to speak out on the basis of his moral conscience and his reading of the Jewish heritage.

Rabbi H. David Teitelbaum | Redwood City

Memorial’s irony

Kudos to Joe Eskenazi for his fine article on the Camp Swig farewell (April 11). His impressionistic account perfectly captured the mood and emotion of that very special, albeit sad day.

As one of the many who were deeply affected by our time spent at Camp Swig, I am compelled to add a thought on the loss of the Jo Naymark Holocaust Memorial. This was a particularly important memorial to the Holocaust because it was built at a Camp for Living Judaism, by the campers.

Camp Swig was all about inspiring future generations of Jewish kids to embrace their heritage and preserve Jewish life — the very essence of what the Holocaust sought to extinguish. It was this profound irony that overwhelmed me every time I entered the memorial at camp. When understood in this context, abandoning it is truly, as Jack Glaser remarked in his speech last Sunday (quoted in your article), a “moral failure for the Jewish community.”

Robert Tat | San Francisco

Torch support

Since I was a young girl, I have been proud and touched by the Olympics. To me it has always represented unity and a glimpse, or at least an effort, toward peace in the world. The Olympics strives to be an island within the sea of political disagreements, war and pain. For me, that island has been a source of hope and inspiration for what the rest of the world could become.

Like many of my fellow San Franciscans and fellow Jews, I am outraged by China’s role in Darfur and Tibet. And I proudly and actively support efforts to end the pain that China is causing or helping to support. But China is only the host. The torch and its relay are not symbols of China. They are symbols of optimism and unity and peace. Why are we protesting against such a beautiful ideal?

Rachel Alexander | San Francisco

Embracing our friends

It is disappointing to see as prominent a man in the Jewish community as Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of Reform Judaism, openly disrespecting the Rev. John Hagee, a man who has made it his life’s calling to rally Christians to support Israel and the Jewish people (“After trading barbs, rabbi and pastor seek truce,” April 11).

Symptomatic of a general sentiment in some circles of American Jewry, Yoffie seems to assume that evangelical Christians are a gaggle of bigoted raving loonies. But criticism of Islamic radicalism, which finds justification for murder of Christians and Jews in the Koran, does not merit scorn from the very people who would likely be its first victims.

Unlike many elements in the evangelical Christian movement whose support for Israel has been tempered with an active campaign targeting Jews for conversion, Pastor Hagee has rejected this patronizing view of the Jewish people as out of hand. He has unequivocally rejected replacement theology — the idea that the Jewish covenant with God has been replaced with His covenant through Jesus.

If Jews are this willing to sacrifice such loyal friends to the golden calf of political correctness, we ought not be surprised when we end up having none at all.

Roman Zhuk | San Francisco