Making a true community

Let me add my voice to what I hope will be a chorus from both sides of the bay calling for a merging of our federations (“It’s time to merge S.F. and East Bay federations,” Feb. 6).

As I mark my 25th year as a congregational rabbi in the Bay Area, I also sadly mark 25 years of asking, to no avail, why our Jewish communal umbrella organization cannot truly be communal, the better to partner with synagogues in Bay Area-wide initiatives of education, Israel advocacy and tikkun.

Let us use this time of economic downturn to think creatively and act with vision and vitality.

Rabbi Judy Shanks   |   Lafayette

Temple Isaiah


Embracing change

We have just witnessed 63.7 million people electing a president who campaigned for  “change.”

The j’s editorial “It’s time to merge S.F. and East Bay federations” seems to suggest a “change.”

This is the right moment for visionary people to explore, analyze and speak out for the benefits of merging, an idea whose time has definitely come.

With the synergy created by merging the federations, it’s possible that the challenging needs of the people in this entire Bay Area Jewish community could be better served.

Susan Libitzky   |   Piedmont


Time to merge

Congratulations on saying in print what so many of us have believed for so long! Federations, like so many other Jewish community organizations, are supposed to be in the business of building community. If the East and West Bay federations were to combine forces, not only would they ultimately reduce their operating costs, but they could, would and should streamline their operations and improve their overall effectiveness.

Despite the initial challenges of merging the two federations and their respective cultures, finally the unified federation would be stronger, its duplication of effort eliminated, and the community strengthened by a more focused and capable organization.

It would also be worth considering adding the Silicon Valley and its federation to the mix. In a time of shrinking budgets and reduction of services, finding ways to consolidate and streamline our provision of services makes more sense now than ever.

I hope the leadership of the various federations and communities considers how much the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and takes your words and ideas to heart.

Rabbi Allen B. Bennett   |   Alameda

Temple Israel


Begin the conversation

Having relocated to the Bay Area from Boston just under two years ago, I’ve found it striking how the Bay Bridge spiritually divides our community.

Boston’s sprawling community has texture and depth simply absent in our region. The current economic crisis only sharpens the urgency to unify our Jewish community.  We have so much work to do, and only so much means to do it. 

What follows is the perspective of a former Boston Jewish professional: The East Bay Jewish community has been grumbling for a very long time about the “way it is,” as if there’s no hope for connecting to — and uniting with — the more serious means and networks of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.

Let’s begin with a thoughtful survey for volunteer and professional East Bay Jews interested in sharing their impressions of federation funding patterns. Do they strengthen or weaken our ability to strategize and develop interinstitutional relationships and to reach those seeking Jewish connections?

Next, let’s determine how many San Francisco Jewish professionals commute from the East Bay and what that demonstrates. Then let’s begin a healthy conversation that brings us all together in a worthy way.

It’s time to cross the bridge and reorganize.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor   |   Berkeley

Congregation Netivot Shalom


Connecting teens

I was delighted to read Stacey Palevsky’s column “Close bonds with youth group friends stand test of time” (Feb. 6) in this past week’s edition of j.

The experiences teens have in youth groups like BBYO are clearly transformative and create some of the strongest bonds with friends and with the Jewish community as a whole. A recent independent study of over 1,300 BBYO alumni showed that 92 percent said they “regard being Jewish as very important.” This lifelong connection continues to be seen in the membership of the BBYO Friends & Alumni Network here in the Bay Area and in communities around the country.

In the Bay Area, with over 1,000 teens from sixth to 12th grade involved in regular BBYO programming, the Friends & Alumni Network is an active social networking resource for BBYO alumnae of all ages. Nationally BBYO has grown to over 25,000 involved teens, 92 percent of which can be expected to write stories like Stacey’s 10 years from now in the Jewish newspaper in their own community. At this time of economic crisis, Jewish youth groups like BBYO offer some of the most cost-effective options for keeping our teens connected to significant and impactful Jewish experiences.

Aaron Katler   |   Berkeley

Northwest Area executive director, BBYO


Commendable actions

While I am pleased by the outcome of your Feb. 6 story “The bad seeds” and thankful for the ADL’s efforts, I am most moved by the actions of 13-year-old Renee Torchio–Mac Donald.

Her actions are a vibrant reminder that we must all be vigilant in our response to racism and anti-Semitism, and she modeled that behavior despite difficult obstacles. She researched the origins of the seed company, discovering their Iranian origin (not Israel as labeled). She translated the vicious anti-Semitic slurs on the packaging. She alerted the store owner to the offensive nature of the product and asked for it to be removed. She contacted the ADL, j. and her local elected officials. Her efforts were relentless.

It is so much easier to simply say, “It’s just a bag of seeds.” Thank you, Renee, for alerting our community and reminding us to stand up and speak out.

Debbie Cohn   |   San Francisco


ADL did its job

Amanda Pazornik’s coverage of San Francisco’s New World Market selling sunflower seeds with an anti-Semitic label was excellent, though we take issue with one part of her article: She erroneously asserts that the Anti-Defamation League “unintentionally caught the wrong guy” by contacting the store’s owners because it turns out that they are Jewish. 

First, this fact is interesting, but irrelevant. The owners offered this product for sale, were unresponsive to the initial customer complaints and finally removed it only when we wrote to them. Second, it would have been inappropriate, to say the least, for ADL to have inquired about the religious background of the owners before writing to them. In sum, ADL did exactly what its mandate dictates by alerting the owners to the offensive item and urging them to take appropriate action. We are grateful that they did so.

Nancy J. Appel   | San Francisco

Associate Director, Anti-Defamation League


Unfair accusations

Once again, Israel has been libeled.

During the Gaza War, U.N. Relief and Works Agency director John Ging accused Israel of bombing a U.N. school on Jan. 6 when Israel returned fire at Hamas terrorists. Israel was condemned in front-page headlines around the world.

On Jan. 29, however, the Toronto Globe and Mail revealed that Israel hadn’t struck the school. Even Ging finally admitted that Israel never hit the school and “no one was killed in the school.”

J. reported this in a Feb. 6 brief, but virtually no one else cared. Israel’s efforts to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties also went largely unreported.

Meanwhile, Hamas committed the double war crime of firing at Israeli civilians from crowded Palestinian civilian areas, and stored bombs in mosques, hospitals, schools, homes and even a zoo.

Hamas is also systematically indoctrinating Palestinian children to become suicide bombers with its television show “Tomorrow’s Pioneers.” The show has depicted a series of Disney-inspired characters who die while advocating jihad, including Farfur, a Mickey Mouse look-alike; Nahul, a bee; and Assud, a bunny who vowed to “finish off the Jews and eat them.”

But Hamas’ atrocities engendered little outrage.

We live in the world of George Orwell!

Stephen A. Silver   |   San Francisco


Remembering Daniel Pearl

Feb. 1 marked the seventh anniversary of the murder of Daniel Pearl at the hands of Islamic extremists. The murder of Daniel Pearl (apparently at the hands of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, now sitting in Guantanamo) was to my eyes, one of the most grisly and horrifying crimes perpetrated in the whole post-9/11 era. Pearl’s expressed Jewish pride with his last breath was an inspiration to me, if any good can be taken from this savage crime and his senseless murder.

I think his father Judea Pearl is to be commended when he asks, “When will our luminaries stop making excuses for terror?”

Those that would pervert the term “resistance” by flying planes into buildings, firing rockets at innocent civilians or perpetrating suicide terror should be ashamed and it’s time that the world called them on their hypocrisy — Hamas, al Jazeera, Hezbollah, Jimmy Carter and the U.N. included.  Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone once said that suicide bombing is almost man’s second nature. “In an unfair balance, that’s what people use.” My response, Nonsense!

We must not be silent in the face of such perversions of right and wrong on this Yahrtzeit.  May Daniel’s memory be for a blessing.

Steve Lipman   |   Foster City