An extraordinary man

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Rabbi Alan Lew (“Rabbi Alan Lew, Zen master and activist, dies unexpectedly at 65,” Jan. 16).

Years ago, after reading his book, “One God Clapping: The Spiritual Path of a Zen Rabbi,” I was in crisis and went to speak with him (he was not my rabbi and we had never met before). He spent an hour with me, probing until I arrived at a place of peace. His daughter called intermittently during our conversation and he fully engaged her each time, returning to our conversation, fully present. He told me he enjoyed our talk and encouraged me to return any time.

He was an extraordinary man and will be deeply missed. May his memory be a blessing.

Laura Siegel   |   Pacifica

Bargains and tears

I shopped at bob & bob for the last time this morning (“After 26-year run, South Bay Judaica store closing its doors,” Jan. 9). The store was filled with bargain shoppers with sad eyes. After saying goodbye to the staff, I left the store in tears.

This is very sad news. Bob & bob is a Peninsula institution.  Never simply a store … a meeting place, a learning place, and advice from both Ellen and Shirley on gifts, books and life.

If I had the money, I would give it to them. I wish someone in the community would step up.

Thank you Ellen and Shirley for 26 years of giving to the Jewish community.

Jill Maleson   |   Fremont

S.F. federation is taking action

Thank you for your continuing coverage of the situation in Gaza. However, readers of your sidebar (“Federations ratchet up aid campaigns,” Jan. 16) might come away with an incomplete impression about the actions federations are taking.

The SFJCF has a long history of engagement with our Israeli partners in building a stronger, more democratic, and pluralistic society for all of Israel’s citizens. We not only have an office in Israel, but uniquely have established a committed council of lay leaders there that inform and guide our actions.

Many of our programs are located within range of the Kassam missiles and have been directly impacted. As soon as hostilities broke out, we were in contact with our office in Jerusalem, getting up-to-the-minute information and developing response strategies.

In spite of the pressure to act quickly, our team carefully reviewed our options. We’ve mobilized immediate assistance to the conflict zone to support and strengthen our programs, not only to provide immediate assistance but to strengthen the long-term needs of the communities impacted.

It is our hope that those who wish to find out more about how to support these programs, do so by visiting our Web site at www.sfjcf.org.

Richard Miles

Senior Director of Marketing

Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties

Israel falls short

As was to be expected, Hamas and Iran declared victory over the Jewish state. And they were right.

Israel may deny that its intended goal of the Gaza war was to break Hamas’ grip on the strip, but it failed for the second time to overcome an enemy whose charter, in the words of Iran’s Ahmadinejad, is to “wipe Israel off the map.”

In Israel’s fight with Hezbollah, the Israeli army was ill-prepared. With Hamas they succumbed to the outcry of countries that could not care less if Israel existed or not. Those countries may even believe that all terrorist activities would cease were the Jewish state eliminated.

Had Israel continued the war until Hamas’ leader Haniyeh had waved a white flag or escaped with his family to another country, real peace would have had a chance.

One cannot make peace with an enemy that wants your destruction.

No good intentions by the USA or any other country will prevent Hamas from re-arming with the help of Iran and Syria and this with more sophisticated weaponry. In another war Israel’s cities might be exposed to rockets that may reach every corner of the country.

Israel missed its chance.

Gershon Evan   |   San Francisco

Day schools vital

In reading Gary Rosenblatt’s Jan. 16 editorial (“Israel becoming less of a priority for Jews in the U.S.”), it became even more apparent how vital it is for the Jewish community to make Jewish day school education affordable for those families wishing to make that choice.

Recent studies (Cohen and Kotler-Berkowitz) show that support for and connection to Israel increases dramatically among those receiving a minimum of seven years of Jewish day school education (76 percent) as opposed to receiving a supplementary Hebrew school education (36 percent). To quote Scott Shay in “Getting Our Groove Back,” “There is no better assurance for the future of American Jewry [and support for Israel] than a day school education.”

The Jewish Community Endowment Fund of San Francisco is to be commended for making financial assistance for day school families a priority in their giving (“Jewish day schools get boost from S.F. endowment fund,” Jan. 2). We, as concerned individuals in the Jewish community, should follow their lead.

Karla Smith   |   Alamo

Respect for what?

Palestinians deserve respect??? I wanted to ask Mr. Koppman (Letters, Jan. 16) — for what??

For inventing the suicide bombings?

For starting two intifadas?

For begging Saddam to send more Scuds to Israel?

For passing out sweets after terrorist attacks?

For the wars of ’82? ’73? ’67? ’48?

For massacre of the Jews in 1936? 1929?

Before one chooses to accuse Israelis of pointless killings (I never knew that killing those who are ready to kill you should serve a point.) Little history learning wouldn’t do much harm. Respect is usually earned, not given. And comparing our enemies (who don’t hide their true intentions) to God-fearing Maccabees is simply preposterous.

Arthur Anchipolovsky   |   San Francisco

Thumbs-down on supplement story

The Celebrations supplement to j. often contains several uplifting, heartwarming stories. However, one in the supplement of Jan. 16 was hardly that.

I was astonished j. chose to devote two pages to describe (in the most glowing language) the marriage between a Jew to a Muslim officiated by a Protestant minister. Surely there were weddings in the Bay Area worth reporting where both partners were Jewish?

The groom’s family suggested this union “will save the world.” I would like to suggest all it will do is be another statistic of the growing rate of Jewish intermarriage, assimilation and attrition.

Dionne Lipman   |   Tarzana

Learn self-defense before it’s too late

Anti-Semitic attacks on the rise worldwide, purportedly as a result of Israel’s defensive war in Gaza, should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that there is no difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Attacks in Europe and elsewhere are not directed at Zionists but indiscriminately at Jews.

The concept of self-defense is difficult to comprehend when one is not, or never has been directly under attack. I find this particularly true among American Jews because of the relatively low frequency of anti-Semitic incidents here. I reached adulthood in South Africa so my early experience was somewhat different.

Because of anti-Semitism experienced in my youth, I understand Jews need to be able to protect themselves without waiting for help to arrive. My own solution was to study karate. Now, almost 40 years later, I have taught hundreds of Jewish teenagers and many others to rely on themselves when physically threatened. This is an ongoing part-time project and my experience is international.

The current violence against Jews should be a wake-up call to Jewish parents whose children could become victims. It is never too late to begin learning self-defense. Just do it.

Desmond Tuck   |   Menlo Park

Celebrating Milestones

Thank you for your excellent coverage of Jewish Milestones’ Torah dedication (“A scroll to share,” Dec. 12). As a deeply engaged member of my synagogue and a student of Jewish Milestones I celebrate the rich and growing texture of Jewish life in the Bay Area.

Andrew Ramer   |  San Francisco

‘Occupation is the disease’

Letters on Gaza lack historic context. For a year and a half, Gaza has been under siege by Israel, with inadequate supplies of fuel, food and medicine allowed in. The truce did not address this issue. If moderation is the goal, why has a state yet to be created in the West Bank under the “moderate” Abbas?

Instead, house demolitions, expropriations of land, expansion of settlements (all illegal) etc. continue. This is not to mention the ethnic cleansing during the birth of Israel, including the target of current rockets, Ashkelon, place of origin of many Gaza residents.

Legally, Gaza is still under occupation, as Israel controls borders on land, sea and air. Rockets are the symptom, the occupation is the disease. Let’s treat the disease.

Alfred Lerner   |   San Carlos

A true Shoah story

It’s sad that a discredited story has received more attention than many extraordinary Holocaust memoirs whose truth is not in doubt (“Publisher closes the book on phony Holocaust memoir,” Jan. 2).

One worth reading is “Roman’s Journey” by Roman Halter. Halter’s odyssey takes him from his days as a boy in Chodecz, a shtetl in prewar Poland, to the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz and other horrors. He reminds us that the genocide was carried out not only on an industrial scale, but also at the most personal level imaginable. Nazi soldiers and recruits looked into the eyes of huddling, defenseless Jewish children, and mercilessly slammed the butt ends of their rifles like sledgehammers down on these young Jews’ heads. They also stabbed Jewish boys and girls with bayonets and laughed while forcing a boy to drown himself.

Halter’s story has special significance to me because Chodecz was where my great-grandfather, Naphtali Zilberberg, moved to from Slesin after his wife Rochel died in 1896. My grandfather Aaron lived there from age 6 until he came to America in 1909.

Nearly all of Chodecz’s Jews died — my grandfather’s family among them. But Halter’s memoir provides a glimpse of a world that must never be forgotten.

Stephen A. Silver   |   San Francisco