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Join together for cancer support

Thank you for your insightful, informative and sometimes heartbreaking piece on young Jewish women facing breast cancer (“Breast cancer’s crystal ball,” Oct. 24). Our increased risk means our community has an even greater responsibility to address this health crisis. We have an obligation to our mothers, sisters and daughters who are facing cancer, but also to their spouses, family members, friends and other caretakers and support systems.

Please join us at Congregation Beth Am on Nov. 16 at 2 p.m. for a discussion and healing service on this important and timely topic. We will hear from local rabbis and cancer survivors and learn how to help ourselves and each other.

For more information contact [email protected].

Rebecca Schwartz | San Francisco

Secular state, secular laws

Rabbi Avi Shafran supports Proposition 8 based on his conviction that the California constitution allows a violation of the halachah and should be amended to agree with it (“Plain and simple, same-sex marriage violates halachah,” Oct. 24). According to this reasoning, he must also support constitutional amendments to criminalize driving and cooking on Shabbat and to require a pledge of adherence to the laws of niddah before a marriage license can be issued. I wonder how he would justify applying these restrictions to the Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, New Age, agnostic and atheist voters who make up most of the population of California?

Proposition 8 would amend the constitution of a secular state to remove an existing secular right from all Californians, not only Jews. On these grounds alone it should be opposed.

Nina Wouk | Menlo Park

Out-of-state view

Avi Shafran on Prop. 8? I would no more listen to an out-of-state fundamentalist Jew on any California issue than I would an out-of-state fundamentalist on anything else. This is so far out of the “mainstream.” I am glad you couldn’t find anyone in-state and mainstream to support the pro-8 side!

Debra J. Sarver | San Leandro

Not a threat

Thank you for opposing Prop. 8 (“Vote ‘No’ on Proposition 8,” Oct. 24). I remember the ’50s and being called a “dirty Jew” — when one could still express such garbage publicly. Unfortunately, I still hear it as a gay man.

To our families’ joy, I married the man I love. We are tax-paying, law-abiding Americans. Despite this, to some people, that we are both men invalidates our love, our commitment and, especially, our claim to equality before the law. Some even call us a threat to family and faith.

We’re not a threat to anything. We’re just Ben and Paul. And we want to stay married.

Our love is as deep as anyone’s. Like you, we are together for life, for better or worse. Our marriage contributes to society. There are 70,000 children with gay parents in California. If strong families are the foundation of society, don’t our families and children matter as much as yours?

We’re not aliens. We’re your relatives and friends. We’re you. Are we not human enough, not citizens enough, not good enough to grant us equality and dignity? We want to take nothing from you. We want only the same rights and respect that you have. Nothing more … and nothing less.

Ben Janken | Oakland

Drawing the line

In his opinion piece, Rabbi Doug Kahn quotes the JCRC statement that “our communities benefit when adults choose [how] to share their lives” (“We can respect tradition while supporting equality,” Oct. 24). Hmm, this is quite a broad endorsement of adult choices. Would the JCRC support polygamy? There is an old tradition of polygamy in our ancient history. How about adult incest? Remember Lot and his daughters? Would JCRC approve of sexually active adult communes? Well, maybe not this one, we all know about Sodom and Gomorrah.

These are the choices that adults can make and are making every day. Where does the JCRC draw the line? Is there a line that the JCRC will not cross?

Sofia Shtil | Fremont

No on 8, for children’s sake

My Orthodox Jewish grandparents came from a shtetl in Russia; my father grew up in a Jewish orphanage in New York. I grew up believing in human rights in America — every human.

Child welfare has become a pivotal issue for those who support Proposition 8.

According to the American Psychological Association, “there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation: Lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.” In 2006, the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote that “conscientious and nurturing adults, whether they are men or women, heterosexual or homosexual, can be excellent parents. The rights, benefits and protections of civil marriage can further strengthen these families.”

The supporters of Proposition 8 do have something right. It is about the children. We need to teach our children that they live in a world where they can expect supportive and healthy environments no matter who their parents are. And that our children can expect, should they be straight or gay, to be able to grow up and marry whomever they chose.

Please vote no on Proposition 8. Do it for the children’s future.

Ellen Rouss and Dr. Deborah Stewart | Sacramento

Where does it end?

In your Oct. 24 issue, opponents to Proposition 8 express support for same sex marriage on the basis of civil rights, equality, fairness, respect, dignity, avoidance of discomfort, hurt, and discrimination, and the existence of deep love between the two parties involved.

Are we to assume then that these same supporters of same-sex marriage would approve the legal marriage of a father and a daughter deeply in love with one another, or the marriage of a man and two women deeply in love with one another, and in each instance desirous of marriage for the same reasons?

Edward Tamler | San Mateo

The ultimate rebellion

Legalization of same-sex marriage is the ultimate act of rebellion against God, proclaiming as holy that which the Torah explicitly forbids and condemns. It’s an official declaration that when our personal desires and urges conflict with God’s explicit commandments, the former trump the latter. This is a very slippery slope. A society that worships its own desires is headed for destruction. It’s not interested in the discipline and sacrifice needed to sustain society in the long term.

The Torah’s understanding of homosexuality is that it contaminates the soul in a way that may not be visible to human eyes, but that nevertheless erodes the core of society until society can no longer stand. The fact that there’s no historical record of any society that ever successfully legitimized same-sex marriage should be a huge warning flag.

To some proponents, the issue is very personal and emotional. But personal emotions cannot override eternal truths. Supporters frame the debate in terms of “equality vs. discrimination,” and it’s true that the Torah is very discriminating. It discriminates between good and evil, and warns us never to confuse the two. But that’s exactly what same-sex marriage proponents are doing.

Martin Wasserman | Sunnyvale

‘Safety’ measures aren’t safe

Propositions 6 and 9 on California’s November ballot fall under the guise of promoting community safety, but are actually dangerous policies that will prioritize billions of dollars to be spent on prison expansion and force cutbacks on health care, education and other vital social services.

In short, Prop. 6 will implement new harsher penalties for all crimes, even nonviolent ones, that are “gang-affiliated.” Prop. 9 restricts parole, thus deepening the prison-overcrowding crisis in California. These propositions target people of color, and suggest that locking them up, instead of rehabilitating them, will make us safer.

As Jews, we are in a unique position when it comes to policies like this. We know what it’s like not to be safe, and likewise we know what it’s like when people turn on you as the scapegoat for bigger societal problems. We know we are vulnerable to attractive promises of safety, and yet we have the critical perspective to question, “Safety for whom? And safety at whose expense?”

As Jews, we urge our community to refuse to give in to the same fear-producing politics perpetuated by mainstream society that have been used against our people.

For real safety, please vote no on Propositions 6 and 9.

Sara Tiras and Talia Cooper | Oakland

Jewish Youth for Community Action

Cal Hillel kudos

Congratulations to Stacey Palevsky for her column (“Rethinking prayer: Ready to give services another try,” Oct. 17), which honestly but optimistically addressed the challenge and promise of prayer.

Palevsky’s inspiration came at Berkeley Hillel, first at the Reform service for Kol Nidre, and at the Conservative service led by Rabbi Dorothy Richman for Yom Kippur day. Having davened with Rabbi Richman on the second day of Rosh Hashanah and in prior years, I knew she was gifted and able to elevate the prayer experience. But Palevsky put into words what I felt, but had not articulated — making note of Rabbi Richman’s soulful voice and ability to bring clarity to prayer.

It is also gratifying that note was taken

of Berkeley Hillel providing Cal students with meaningful religious experiences across the spectrum of Jewish observance, in addition to a host of nonreligious Jewish and Israel-related programs.

Leonard Cohen | Orinda

Berkeley Hillel board president

Which half is Jewish?

I was delighted to learn from the Celebrity Jews column (Oct. 24) that some 25 Nobel prizes were given to “half Jews.” Jewish chauvinist that I am, I assume it was the top half of the prizewinner that was Jewish. On the other hand I was dismayed to think that the bottom halves of the male prizewinners were unlikely to be circumcised. I hope your columnists don’t start referring to “one-quarter” Jews — that would make it devilishly hard to determine whether the relevant part of the body is Jewish.

Mel Mogulof | Berkeley

‘Shame’ on Burg

Cantor Henry Drejer was so enraged after reading Dan Pine’s article about Avraham Burg and the Holocaust (“Enough with the Holocaust, says ex-speaker of Knesset,” Oct. 17) that he wanted to smash the walls of his home with his fists. “I went through hell for four years in the Holocaust,” he told me. “I lost all my family, and to say forget the Holocaust is equal to denying it. And that is something Avraham Burg advocates. Shame on the guy.”

His attitude would get him a great following if he spoke in Germany and Austria, but to have this man talk to a congregation of Jews is a top chutzpah. If Avraham Burg wants to be controversial, let him declare that the Turks never massacred the Armenians in 1894, 1895, 1896 and 1909.

I too lost my parents. My mother was 44 years of age and my father 51 when they were gassed in Auschwitz.

Soon enough the world will be as interested in the Holocaust as they are in what happened to the Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. And the disaster that befell the Jew under the Nazis will disappear without the help of Avraham Burg.

Gershon Evan | San Francisco

Portland connections

Andy Altman-Ohr’s column (Oct. 24) neglected one salient fact about Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland that links San Francisco to the Conservative synagogue: Rabbi Daniel J. Isaak, Neveh Shalom’s senior rabbi (and my cousin), is a native San Franciscan who has been associated with the congregation for nearly 20 years. My family and I have attended services there on numerous occasions and there is no way one can’t notice the Ten Commandments outside the building.

Peggy Isaak Gluck | Foster City