Keep politics off the bimah

If the rabbis that have joined this so-called organization truly are doing such as private citizens to show their support for the Democratic candidate and not as a spiritual leader of their religious congregation or community, then why is the group titled “Rabbis for Obama,” as opposed to “Private Citizens for Obama” (“Crossing a line?” Sept. 19).

These so-called “private citizens” are clearly trying to utilize their spiritual/religious leadership position to influence their followers.

I ask Josh Zweiback to Google the following: “rabbi.” Please review the links and see how many definitions utilize the word “political” in their definition. The answer is zero.

One last thing that is clear to me from reading this article is that the wall that I call the “Truman effect” is beginning to crumble — Republican Jews unite!

Daniel M. Epstein | Sacramento

Left is risky business

I have no built-in prejudice against liberalism, being a conservative who is also pro-choice, in favor of gay rights and for the decriminalization of drugs. But Jews run a very serious risk of allying so completely with the left, and for a collective group of rabbis to do so is even more dangerous.

Our Jewish tradition puts tzedakah and studying Torah on equal footing. It is no surprise then that Jews universally teach their own children both tzedakah and the importance of getting an education and being a responsible citizen. But the Jewish left, often in the name of Judaism, places no such demand on their fellow citizens. The left demands we provide housing, busing, food stamps, cheap home loans, a free education through college, government-paid medical care, and government-paid retirement, and yet seemingly tolerates the most egregious behavior in our society, explaining it all away as being “the result of poverty.”

For a collective group of rabbis to openly support a candidate pollutes the Jewish message. I’d prefer these rabbis occupy themselves with trumpeting all of our Jewish values, not the left’s agenda.

Ken Wornick | Burlingame

Clarifying ’14 Friends’

Just wanted to correct a few small details in the article by Amanda Pazornik on the Free Gaza Movement (“JCRC steps up efforts to counter local ‘free Gaza’ groups,” Sept. 19).

My organization, 14 Friends of Palestine (14FP), is not “an offshoot of the Free Gaza Movement.” We started in 2004, when the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) did not exist. The organizations with which I was first involved were Jewish Voice for Peace, based in Oakland, Jewish Voices Against the Occupation, and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, founded by Jeff Halper in Israel. I started my group so we could work locally, in Marin, and not have to drive all the way to Oakland.

We started by supporting 14 other organizations, of whom JVP and ICAHD are two. Our members have not grown to 24 — it is the list of organizations that we support that has now expanded to 24.

Finally, the JCRC is trying its utmost to link the Free Gaza Movement with Hamas. However, the FGM was invited to Gaza by several humanitarian organizations, including the Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children, through whom 14FP financially sponsors a 9-year-old deaf girl. The suggestion that Hamas invited the Free Gaza Movement to visit Gaza is complete nonsense.

Jane Jewell | San Rafael

‘We refuse to be enemies’

The attempt of the JCRC to link the Free Gaza Movement with Hamas is as wicked as it is absurd. I have met some of the people who sailed from Cyprus to Gaza in the two small boats, including Jeff Halper, one of the most compassionate and peace-seeking Israelis I have ever met. His motto is, “We refuse to be enemies.”

What Jeff and the other activists are trying to do is make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, trying to return that region to the state of peaceful coexistence that existed for hundreds of years.

Meanwhile, Israel is trying to starve its 1.4 million neighbors by imposing a siege on Gaza.

Not exactly a good way of making peace, is it?

Tamar Goldberg | Fairfax

Move forward for liberation

The JCRC, in its efforts to blunt the impact of the success of the Free Gaza Movement, is using old methods. Like anti-communist reactionaries who said aid to the people of Vietnam or Nicaragua or blacks in South Africa or others in the crosshairs of U.S. policy was the equivalent to “aiding the Communist Party,” JCRC now attempts to tie this human rights mission to “support for Hamas.”

The reality is that common folks are building people-to-people ties in defiance of official government policy in hope of laying the groundwork for peace. It is many in the grassroots Jewish community that play a vital role in supporting the Free Gaza Movement, just as this same community fought the misguided U.S. policies of the past.

The JCRC is working against the tide of history for liberation. It is the Palestinians and Israelis, Christians, Muslims, Jews and secular, who are working together to end this brutal, immoral and illegal siege imposed on all the people of Gaza, undaunted by threats and guided by a long progressive tradition of supporting global human rights and peace that will eventually see the good fruits of their labor.

James Harris | Oakland

Be Zionist in Berkeley

Berkeley has a reputation as a city that is hostile to Israel. The ubiquitous demonization by the anti-Israel forces has muzzled voices supportive of Israel, both on and off campus. San Francisco Voice for Israel has demonstrated several times in Berkeley and has seen firsthand that there is much more support for Israel in Berkeley than people have been led to believe.

For this reason, San Francisco Voice For Israel has decided to march in the 13th annual “How Berkeley Can You Be!?” parade. Come join us and be counted. The larger our contingent, the more impressive we will be and the more positive impact we can make for Israel.

By marching in this parade, we will be promoting a positive view of Israel. Come out of the closet as a proud Zionist and supporter of Israel. Join us in showing Berkeley that we are proud to support the world’s only Jewish state — the only country in the region that supports freedom of religion, freedom of the press and civil rights for all her citizens.

On Sunday, Sept. 28, 10:30 a.m., the parade starts at California and University in Berkeley. Look for the Israeli flags.

Faith Meltzer | El Cerrito

Is God a villain?

I have difficulty with the op-ed by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, “Why we say a blessing for hurricanes” (Sept. 19).

He writes: “I have no theological problem with God being the author of these weapons of mass destruction.” Does he really believe that God deliberately causes the death of countless human beings and the mass destruction of property? Is God then some kind of a villain?

What does he mean that “from a God’s eye view, there is really no difference” between creation and destruction and between order and chaos? And how is he privy to “God’s eye view”?

I find Hammerman’s view not only presumptuous, but unethical and theologically unacceptable.

Rabbi H. David Teitelbaum | Redwood City