Jewish film fest is not anti-Israel

Last week j. published my criticism of the S.F. Jewish Film Festival for inviting Cindy Corrie, but none of my balancing comment (“Film festival under fire for scheduling ‘Rachel,’ inviting mom,” July 10).

Please allow me to correct this.

The festival erred in inviting Mrs. Corrie because difficult issues require dispassion. Just as it would not be appropriate for Israeli terror victims to be featured in the festival program, neither is it correct that Mrs. Corrie appears. She escapes responsibility for intolerable positions because it was her daughter Rachel that was accidentally killed. This doesn’t advance insight or justice.

But I reject the contention that the S.F. Jewish Film Festival is somehow anti-Israel or anti-Zionist. The festival is screening over 20 Israeli films, including documentaries on Gilad Shalit and Ehud Goldwasser, a retrospective of the Ma’aleh film school and groundbreaking works of Israeli animation. The festival has become one of the most important expressions of Jewish culture in San Francisco and an essential venue for the presentation of Israeli cinematic creation.

While I believe it was a big mistake to invite Mrs. Corrie, that should not cancel out the excellent achievements of the S.F. Jewish Film Festival as a cultural bridge between Israel and the wider Bay Area community.

Akiva Tor

Israel Consul General to the Pacific Northwest


Boycott the festival

Showing the film “Rachel” is not about “free expression and public debate” as the organizers defend it. Rachel Corrie was a radical American sympathizer and supporter of Hamas. Her death was an accident. But even if it wasn’t, ugly things happen when simple-minded children step onto a battlefield and expect to be treated like they’re on a playground.

Welcoming this woman’s mother will not spark debate any more than inviting child molesters to hear their “side” of the story would. Sometimes there is right and wrong.

Israel has a right to exist and defend herself. I’m not interested in supporting anything, much less a Jewish festival, that questions that.

Our federations, as well as the many prominent members in our community, should put a stop to this nonsense by cutting off funding for next year unless this practice ends. Precious community dollars should not be squandered on allowing a minority of Jewish activists to stage their anti-Zionist protests at our expense.

My direct complaints to the organizers have always fallen on deaf ears. Therefore it comes with much pain that I urge all proud Zionists to join me by boycotting the entire festival to send a message that enough is enough.

Jonathan Wornick   |   Berkeley


Corrie will give insight

The 29th year of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival opens July 23rd at the Castro Theatre. We will be treated to a wide range of films from 19 countries, including 37 films from Israel.

One of the festival’s themes is social justice, including a film about Rachel Corrie. The film “Rachel,” directed by Simone Bitton, takes a hard and unflinching look at the controversy surrounding the death of an American peace activist who was protesting Israeli military actions in Gaza.

We are honored to have Rachel Corrie’s mother as our guest at the screening. Cindy Corrie will provide additional insight into her daughter’s activism — something we will all benefit from.

There is nothing to be gained by censoring ourselves, by living in fear of discussion or debate. By now it should be clear that everything we do affects someone in another part of the world. If we vote for change, if we protest …

I am thrilled that “Rachel” will be screened, discussed and debated because I want to be part of a fearless, vibrant Jewish community committed to creating the world I want to live in.

Come to the movies and let’s talk.

Rachel Pfeffer   |   Oakland

Board member, SFJFF


‘Appalling’ choice

The stifling of discourse is against the very tenets of the American Jewish Committee’s principles, but this matter totally exceeds the norms of acceptable discourse. While the Jewish film festival director, Peter Stein, and his staff have assembled an exciting array of films, their attempt to be provocative has resulted in an appalling and outrageous choice.

The subject of the film, Rachel Corrie, has been a rallying point for the most venomous opponents of the State of Israel, while her mother, Cindy Corrie, has been an outspoken proponent of divestment from the country, as has the director of the documentary, Simone Bitton.

We urge the SFJFF, its director, staff and board to reconsider both its decision to screen the film and its invitation to Cindy Corrie.

Mervyn K. Danker   |   San Francisco

Executive director, American Jewish Committee


‘Joy’ to know Tobin

I was deeply saddened to read of the sad passing of Gary Tobin this last week. Gary and I met in the 1990s when I became his research assistant for his book, “Opening the Gates,” which dealt with proactive conversion to revitalize the Jewish community. Gary was always supportive of my work as a Jewish educator and a writer, and we were alike in actively welcoming all who seek to know more about Judaism and to embrace it. It was a joy to know him and to work with him.

My heart goes out to Diane and the family. Our San Francisco community, the Jewish people and the world have lost a sweet soul who embodied the essence of “menschlikeit” on every level. He will be greatly missed.

Patti Moskovitz   |   Foster City


A Fillmore factoid

The article “Jews of the Fillmore : Exhibit honors a once-thriving S.F. Jewish neighborhood” (July 10) was a well-researched and well-written study. One important point was missed. While most of the restaurants in the city practiced discrimination during the Jim Crow period and wouldn’t seat African Americans, the Jewish Fillmore generally did. Jazz legend and Fillmore resident Earl Watkins Jr. make a reference to this. It can be referenced online under “KQED Earl Watkins Jr.” Scroll down to “Race Relations in San Francisco.” Earl talks about discriminations in most of the Fillmore’s restaurants and says, “the Jewish community always made you feel welcome.”

Raphael D. Peck   |   Albany


Happy memories

Thank you so much for the article on Jews of the Fillmore. It brought back such happy memories. My favorite spot was the Ukraine Bakery. They made the best rye bread in the world. 

Ruth Nadel Schafran   |   San Anselmo


Stop glorifying pot

Your July 10 column by Andy Altman-Ohr about Oakland’s proposed “marijuana tax” (“Oakland’s proposed marijuana tax has a Jewish connection”) and the Jews who are responsible for it is startling. Your constant glorification of such activity and connection to Jews should repulse readers. It surely does this one.

Quentin Kopp   |   San Francisco


Roddick’s a mensch

In tennis, “love” means nothing. But the word “mensch” clearly does mean something to at least one professional tennis player who isn’t even Jewish.

Andy Roddick is one of the top tennis players in the world. Last year, he won one of the sport’s richest prizes, the Dubai Tennis Championships. This year, with favorites Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both injured and unable to compete, Roddick was expected to repeat as champion and win the tournament’s $2 million prize.

But when the United Arab Emirates refused to grant a visa to Israel’s top female tennis player, Shahar Peer, thereby preventing her from competing in Dubai, Roddick withdrew from the tournament to protest the exclusion of the Israeli player. “I really didn‘t agree with what went on over there,” Roddick was quoted as saying.

Roddick demonstrated his formidable talent a few months later at the sport’s most prestigious tournament, Wimbledon. He rocketed all the way to the finals, where he lost a thriller to Federer, 7-5, 6-7(6), 6-7(5), 6-3, 14-16.

Nice guys don’t always finish last. Sometimes, they win by standing up for what is right.

Stephen A. Silver   |   San Francisco


No place for empathy

The headline of the op-ed by Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe in the July 10 j. asks the question “Should our judges have empathy?” The answer is, of course, yes — but not in making judicial decisions. We should all have empathy in personal relationships, but legal cases call for justice embodied in the law. Our tradition tells us to pursue justice and to choose judges who will not favor the poor or the rich.

The main question is: can Judge Sonia Sotomayor put her empathy aside when she is on the bench. Empathy is not an asset for judges on the bench and therefore most of the rabbi’s article strikes me as irrelevant to the basic issue of interpreting the law.

Edward Tamler   |   San Mateo


Rabbis shouldn’t undermine Israel

With alarming frequency some Jewish leaders are collaborating with Israel’s enemies to undermine support for our Jewish state. Under the guidance of two rabbis from Temple Beth El in Aptos, the Middle East Interfaith Dialogue Group has issued a 10-point plan that they publicly presented to the local member of Congress, Sam Farr. Among the points was the legitimization of Hamas in peace negotiations, an end to the embargo of Gaza (no exception for weapons), and an end to any settlement construction.

What is missing from these 10 points is a call for Palestinians to end anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement, to cease terrorism, and for Hamas and Fatah to change their charters that call for the destruction of the Jewish state.

The Middle East Interfaith Dialogue Group, including the rabbis, have a right to their opinions. It is not a free speech issue. It is an issue of Jewish religious leaders acting to the detriment of the Jewish people by playing into the hands of those who wish to destroy her. If these rabbis choose to work with those who condone terrorism against our brethren, then perhaps they should find a different line of work.

Leila Beckwith   |   Santa Cruz



In last week’s story “Earth Day inspiration: Palo Alto boy creates song for a generation,” the Web site for the Kid Earth project should have read www.kidearth.us.

Also, j. learned after press time last week that Bevan Dufty did not attend the signing of the sister-city agreement as reported in our story “San Francisco, Krakow celebrate sister-city partnership.”

Jerry Flamm’s name was misspelled in the July 10 article, “Jews of the Fillmore.” Also, Flamm’s comments on the Jefferson Market originally appeared in his 1977 book, “Good Life in Hard Times: San Francisco’s ’20s and ’30s.”