PJA’s mission

In an otherwise laudable letter commending the Jewish Community Federation on its selection of Daniel Sokatch as its next CEO (Letters, April 25), David Blumberg seriously mischaracterizes the Progressive Jewish Alliance, the organization Daniel has served as executive director for the past eight years. Mr. Blumberg describes PJA as employing “separatist tactics.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

PJA’s work, community alliances and reputation attest to our role as a responsible and respected member of the Jewish community’s family of organizations. Since our inception, we have worked proudly and closely with our Jewish Federation, JCRC and Board of Rabbis on issues of mutual concern. We have worked in coalition with organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Jewish World Watch, American Jewish World Service, and with numerous congregations from every denominational background. We have also consistently articulated a pro-Israel/pro-peace position that reflects the ideals enshrined in the May 1948 declaration establishing the State of Israel.

Douglas Mirell | Los Angeles

President, Progressive Jewish Alliance

Different wavelengths

Regarding the review of our book, “Radio and the Jews” (“A lot of static,” April 25): Having spent 35 years as an educator, I learned long ago that it is far better to let people draw their own conclusions based on being exposed to facts rather than having them spoon fed by others interpreting the facts for them, an approach the reviewer appears to have preferred.

If anything, the “conclusion” of our book was obvious without needing to be said: Whatever positive influence radio may have had on gentile America’s image of Jews, it was not enough to change our government’s response to events in Europe.

Our goal in writing “Radio and the Jews” was to shed light on a subject that has been all but ignored. We wanted to break the mold of the typical “who’s who” of Jews in show business-type book. We wanted to whet the intellectual appetites of popular culture historians and Jewish studies scholars by pointing them in the direction of a neglected subject worthy of further exploration.

How ironic to criticize the very first serious attempt to document how Jews were portrayed on network radio as being too textbook-like (scholarly?), particularly as the reviewers last sentence reads: “‘Radio’ and the Jews isn’t very good reading, but I’m mighty glad to have read it.”

David S. Siegel | Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Stick to Judaism

In a recent op-ed (“Rabbis must take on social issues,” April 11), Rabbi Allen Bennett urged rabbis to speak out more on social and moral issues, because if they don’t, who will?

Actually, many people do. And they often do it better than our rabbis. There’s no shortage of issue advocacy in the media. Anyone who views the Internet, or listens to talk radio, or reads a newspaper knows this. We go to a synagogue to escape from this, not to have to listen to more of it.

The moral and social issues of the day are so complex, and the demands on our rabbis’ time are so great, that rabbis usually don’t have the chance to form knowledgeable opinions on non-Judaic issues. This is especially true in the Reform movement, to which Rabbi Bennett adheres, where only one political view is actually heard.

Rabbi Bennett argues that rabbis shouldn’t be afraid to be controversial. Maybe so. But congregations have the right to hold them responsible for what they say.

Or rabbis should stick to what they know — traditional Judaic issues.

Allan Yannow | El Cerrito

Israel recycles

I was surprised to see misinformation pop up twice about recycling in Israel in the April 25 issue.

The new JNF emissary (“Jewish National Fund plants an emissary in Bay Area”) is quoted as saying that “in Israel … they recycle only bottles, not paper.” And in her excellent editorial about environmental concerns in Israel (“Let’s start fixing Israel’s environmental woes now”), Naomi Kaye states that “there are very few places where I can recycle my paper.”

Neither statement is accurate. I lived in Jerusalem from 1999 to 2004, and by the time I left, there were plentiful separate plastic bottle and paper recycling bins. “Plentiful” must be taken in context — Jerusalem households dispose of their garbage in public bins placed along the streets (not your own private garbage cans), so you’re already shlepping garbage. You just have to shlep it a little further to find the recycling bins. On a visit in 2006, I was so charmed to see the paper recycling bins had been decorated, presumably by school children in an effort to raise consciousness, that I took photos!

Yes, Israel has a long way to go in this area, but efforts are being made. And let’s remember she’s had other priorities for the last 60 years!

Sara Heckelman | San Francisco

J Street vs. AIPAC

People of the J Street would be well advised to acquire a good GPS system because they are going in a wrong direction (“New pro-Israel lobby muscles in on D.C.,” April 18). There is no need to convince the American government that the Palestinians must have a state of their own — the administration and the Congress are working toward this goal. And there is no need to apply pressure on the Israeli side to accept the two-state solution since the Israelis by an overwhelming majority support the land-for-peace approach.

The question is, who on the Palestinian side is ready to accept the relinquished land and guarantee peace? So far the lands vacated by Israel have become fertile grounds for terror attacks against the Jewish state. If J Street can exert pressure on the Arab side, then it can serve a useful purpose, but this is highly unlikely.

For the last 60 years AIPAC has been able to connect American people with the Israeli public. Throughout government of all stripes, left, right or center, AIPAC has remained committed just to one goal, i.e. survival of Israel in the sea of hatred and anti-Semitism. There is no need to divert resources from this noble goal by J Street or any other substitute.

Vladimir Kaplan | San Mateo

Too much influence

The launching of J Street, the new “pro-Israel peace lobby,” is bad news for the Jewish state. People of this ideology already have far too much influence in Washington, as shown by the constant American pressure on Israel to refrain from taking the kind of decisive actions needed to overcome its foes.

What all the Jewish peace groups seem to have in common is their rejection of Judaism’s core beliefs. Instead of worshipping God, they worship “peace,” and sacrifice every Jewish principle upon its altar, including the principle of Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel.

When confronted with pure evil, in the form of suicide terrorists who love death and hate life, and who make no secret of their genocidal intentions toward Jews, they seek to negotiate with them, to compromise with them and to appease them, rather than to take the proper course and obliterate them.

Perhaps in their own minds, the “peace lobbyists” really think that they’re helping Israel. But if their policies were carried to their logical conclusion, it would surely mean the utter destruction of the Jewish nation.

Martin Wasserman | Sunnyvale

Say no to Joe’s

Trader Joe’s made a business decision to not stock matzah nationwide this Passover. I recommend all Jewish Trader Joe’s customers take the year off from shopping at Trader Joe’s to re-evaluate a store which fails to support a major ethnic community. Instead, shop at those stores which value their Jewish customers by carrying Jewish foods year round and for Passover, including Diablo Foods, Safeway, Whole Foods, Lunardi’s, Lucky and Mollie Stone’s.

Robert Engel | Lafayette

End the silence

“Since Syria and Hamas will have to be involved in a final peace agreement,” Jimmy Carter says, “they have to be involved in discussions that lead to a final peace.”

J.’s reply: “Cue laugh track. To believe Hamas secretly desires peace with Israel is to take on tooth fairy levels of naiveté” (“Jimmy Carter’s meddling must end now,” April 18).

One need not believe in tooth fairies to favor talking with the enemy.

What is it j. prefers? Endless confrontation?

Lester Gorn | Pacific Grove

Standing up for Carter

President Carter’s title, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” was not an accusation against Israel, as the leaders of the American Jewish community have trumpeted, but a prophesy to Palestine that if they would not choose peace (a two-state solution), then they would surely be creating their own apartheid (within an Israeli state) with its accompanying suffering. Read the book!

Accepting money from Arab leaders, for President Carter, is simply a step in the ongoing dialogue of mutually indebted, mutually trusted individuals.

To paraphrase your sentence, “To believe Pharaoh secretly desired to release our people is to take on tooth fairy levels of naiveté.” If Moshe had taken your advice, we would still be building pyramids.

Nothing in the present administration’s vernacular has done more to discourage innovative solutions than Reagan’s “There he goes again.” Silicon Valley is filled with geniuses whose first memories of similar parental taunts caused them to put their projects back under the bed. Carter deserves an opportunity to move toward peace, beyond your narrow parroting of national Jewish norms.

Bernard A. Goldberg | Sacramento