Web exclusive: More letters to the editor

The following letters were sent to j. as letters to the editor, but did not make it into the July 24 print edition because of space constraints. We are reprinting them here.


The virulent hatred, slanderous lies and name-calling being indulged in by some Jewish organizations and their members is a shaindah, something I never thought I would live to see perpetrated by Jewish people.


I am a 75 year old grandmother, raised in an Orthodox Jewish home. I was taught to welcome the stranger, listen to dissent and engage in learning. I have tried to do that as much as possible with respect for others. To then be called anti-semitic because others disagree with my call for peace and justice for all peoples in the middle east and because I support the showing of various documentaries at the Jewish Film Festival is not something I ever imagined. I have been verbally abused at rallies by both adults and some of their children, with language which has appalled me and others who suffered similar abuse. I left some of those rallies shaking my head in utter dismay that this is what Jewish children are being taught to do when they disagree with others. Shades of the KKK and yes Nazi Germany.


I fully support the rights of others to express their opinions but not at the expense of abusing and lying about others. I go to the SF Jewish Film Festival to be a part of the Jewish community and to learn and think and discuss issues that are presented. It is so Jewish! Stop the horrific noise and let’s all go to the movies and discuss our differences in a sane and respectful environment. See you at RACHEL!


Sheila Goldmacher



I am writing to express my disappointment and disgust with the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s choice to screen the anti-Israel propaganda film “Rachel,” as well as the decision to have Cindy Corrie speak beforehand. Even more disturbing is the choice to do this event in partnership with JVP and AFSC, two organizations that do not represent the Jewish community in any meaningful way and instead promote deceit.


While there are important discussions that need to be had about the future of the state of Israel, focusing on the accidental death of a young woman who chose to put herself and others around her in harm’s way is counterproductive. Furthermore giving the podium to a grieving mother, who in attempt to find blame in her daughter’s death, has gone out of her way to join forces with anti-Semitic organizations that promote hate, does not in any way contribute to a meaningful discussion.


The Festival’s mission states that “Festival programs are meant to create community and strengthen consciousness of Jewish identity, history and culture; provide a dynamic and inclusive forum for exploration of and dialogue about the Jewish experience.” Showing this anti-Israel propaganda film along with featuring this biased speaker who disproportionately blames Israel for the Middle East conflict in no way creates an inclusive forum for exploration and dialogue within the community, and it serves to stigmatize rather than strengthen consciousness of Jewish identity, history, and culture.


I am in no way admonishing the Jewish Film Festival as a whole or detracting from its positive choices in the past and present, but they do not excuse this egregious and careless act. This program in no way benefits the Jewish community and I hope that in the future the Festival will take both its role as a representative of the Jewish people and its mission more seriously.


Ryan Cohen


I am saddened at the virulent attack on the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival by those who disagree with the Film Festival’s screening of “Rachel,” a documentary about Rachel Corrie.


Daniel Sokatch, the CEO of the SF Jewish Community Federation, wrote in defending the Film Festival, that “Rachel” may not be the festival” finest hour. I disagree. This is one of the festivasl’s finest hours. The festival has once again shown the courage to screen a film and invite a speaker which may reflect a point of view that may be unpopular and may outrage some. This is precisely the highest calling of a media institution: to be a medium for perspectives, with which commercial institutions may be afraid to be associated. 

By inviting Cindy Corrie to to appear as a post-film speaker, the Festival gives an opportunity for the subject’s mother  to explain and embellish on the content of the film.  Those who attack the Film Festival have no idea what Cindy Corrie will say. To ban her from speaking would be a prior restraint of speech, a sweeping limitation on the freedom of speech. The Festival has had a glorious history of embodying freedom of expression. The festival proudly awards a Freedom of Expression Award each year.  It would be hypocritical for the festival to give such an award if it did not have the courage to allow freedom of expression itself. The Festival honorably is the appropriate group to make such an award.


This film will have its Israeli premier in October. To my knowlege, it has not screened in the Bay Area yet. It shows cowardice and extreme bias (the level of bias the Festival’s distractors accuse the Festival of having) to villify a film that in all probability one has not even seen. And, of course, no one has heard Cindy Corrie speak on Saturday yet!


If there is any complaint I have about the Festival, it is making the gesture of appeasement in inviting Dr. Harris to speak apparently representing a different perspective. This is not a political debate. This is a work of art which may reflect an opinion. There is no need nor any requirement to have a counterpoint position represented. There are 70 other films that will be screened by the Festival in the next week, some embodying an opinion of some sort. Does this mean the Festival is obliged to have someone representing a position which is counter to an opinion which may be advanced in a given film? 


The Festival has again shown the courage and independence to screen a film which may cause controversy. Countroversy spawns thought which leads to enlightenment. Having the courage to show a movie which may spark debate is one of the reasons, perhaps the most important reason, the Festival has been so enduring. If some of our Jewish friends are uncomfortable, they should go see “Mary Poppins.”


Bravo to the Festival.

Michael Bernstein


Criticism is not censorship. Those who oppose the screening of “Rachel” or the invitation to Mrs. Corrie aren’t stifling healthy debate; they are engaging in it. As both a proud democrat (small “d”) and a proud Zionist (capital “Z”), I can respect the integrity of the forum, and at the same time, condemn the views expressed therein. Accusations of censorship benefit no one.


Michael Sarid


I am an Irish American who has attended the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival for over 20 years. I have enjoyed and learned from the wealth of Jewish filmmaking and great range of Jewish experiences and perspectives presented through programs that serve not only the local Jewish community but the demographically diverse Bay Area. Most recently I participated in the SFJFF 08 as co-producer of Jay Rosenblatt and Stacey Ross’ Four Questions for a Rabbi.


I write to express my concern about the controversy surrounding the Festival’s screening of the documentary Rachel and invitation of Cindie Corrie, the mother of Rachel Corrie. Simone Bitton is an award-winning and internationally respected filmmaker, and I have complete faith in the integrity and intelligence of the Festival’s screening committees and programming staff in their decision to include her film in the Festival this year.


The health and vitality of the SFJFF—as well as the documentary tradition and of our very democracy—may be measured in its willingness to engage with challenging and controversial subject matter, perspectives and forms. The role of art, including documentary art, has always been to take on the moral dilemmas of its time. From Sophocles through Shakespeare on down, we come together and watch, not only to be entertained, but to grapple with our dark side. We aren’t in our seats to point fingers at others or congratulate ourselves. Art that is purely celebratory quickly becomes banal, whereas great art always challenges us not only intellectually but morally, bringing the community together to face uncomfortable truths and take collective responsibility. In contemporary society, documentary art has taken on this role, and we must defend its mission, even when we disagree with or decry a particular documentary’s content or point-of-view. Whether you believe that Rachel Corrie’s death was accident or murder, her death is a tragedy that must be wrestled with, not only by Israelis or Jewish Americans but all Americans.


The second part of this letter is addressed to those critics who have attacked the Jewish Film Festival and cosponsors of the Rachel screening. As public institutions and officials, the Israeli Consul General in San Francisco Akiva Tor and the Koret and Taube Foundations, are probably the biggest and highest profile if not the most vociferous. Both have engaged in not only uncivil discourse but inflammatory and irresponsible accusations and name calling. The Koret and Taube Foundations call the Quakers’ American Friends Service Committee and a Jewish Voice for Peace “virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic”. They go on to declare that these organizations are “closely associated with groups that aid and abet terror.”  These charges are not only ludicrous; they are shameful.


Consul Tor has called Cindie Corrie, invited speaker and mother of the deceased, Rachel Corrie, “a propagandist who is immune from responsibility.” On the contrary, Mrs. Corrie is taking responsibility for the ongoing controversy surrounding her daughter’s death by agreeing to speak at the screening of Rachel—an appearance that gives her no immunity from criticism or even attack and certainly requires courage. It is Israel that seeks to be immune from responsibility in Rachel Corrie’s death through Tor’s defamatory smoke and mirrors declarations.


It is highly unusual for the diplomat of a foreign nation to butt into the affairs of a United States incorporated 501-c-3 non-profit organization. This kind of outside interference must be resisted, and Bay Area residents should contact their elected representatives and the government of Israel to let them know that we will not tolerate this sort of interference in our cultural and political affairs.


While the Koret and Taube Foundations are certainly within their rights in expressing their dissent against SFJFF’s screening of Rachel, it is they who have crossed the line, not the SFJFF.  It is certainly highly unusual for a philanthropic foundation:

•    to engage in a vicious and public attack of a grantee;

•    to attempt to influence the editorial choices of a grantee;

•    to employ thinly-veiled threats to pressure a grantee to change its programs


The Koret and Taube Foundations should remember that the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival is a public non-profit organization, not a private club. It receives major funding from taxpayers through public foundations, including the National Endowment for the Arts and San Francisco Hotel Tax Grants for the Arts. As such, SFJFF cannot by law be accountable to a private foundation that attempts to influence its editorial and programming decisions. I hope that the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival will seek alternative funding sources that do not seek to manipulate its editorial choices through defamatory accusations and threats to withhold support.


Ultimately, it is the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression of the SFJFF’s audiences that these critics attempt to suppress. They apparently believe that we have neither the intelligence nor the right to make up our own minds about the film Rachel or the Rachel Corrie case. They owe all of us an apology.

Laurie Coyle


Would families of 9/11 victims allow a film festival celebrating the attacks by radical Islam to be shown at the Twin Towers site or the Pentagon? I would expect a film of this Nature to be shown at S.F. State or U.C. Berkeley where Palestinians, Muslims, Anti Semites, Jews of which there are many in the Bay Area who hate Israel and don’t care if it exists, all gather at their own Film Festival. They can all rejoice that Israel is portrayed as an evil empire. Lets face it this film was funded and supported by everyone of Israel’s enemies including former President Jimmy Carter and for Jews to get together and be subjected to watch errors in Israel’s judgment to defend itself is not a festival, its depressing and will have a backlash. I expect the SF Bay Area Jewish Community to be more divided than ever and future funding might stop. I’m not afraid of controversy Michael and yes Beverly we should let our opinions of Israel be know but at what price. There is only one Jewish Country and that is Israel. What is our future if we allow Jews to support festivals of this kind? The San Francisco Bay Area has an intermarriage rate of 80+ percent.(Los Angeles Jewish Journal 2008) Only 40 percent of the members of the new $100 million dollar Jewish Community Center in SF are Jewish. The Bay Area has one of the lowest percentages of Bar & Bat Mitzvahs. One of the lowest enrollment in Sunday School, Hebrew School, Confirmation Classes. One of the lowest percentages of young college students who go on Birthright to Israel and that’s a Freebie for all Jewish Students. For it’s size and Wealth San Francisco donations to Israel is near the bottom of the list. Few Jewish Parents send their children to Jewish Summer Camps. Some Jews are protesting against Israel every year at Israeli Independence Day Celebrations. Jewish Students were attacked at S.F. State by Palestinians and Muslim Students and the community was silent.


Israel is the only insurance policy that Jews around the world have that another mad man will come along and murder another 6 million Jews. If you can’t deal with the reality that Israel will have to use all it’s powers to defend itself and Jews around the world it’s time you started looking for another religion. It will never be easy to be a Jew, but when I hear Jews of the San Francisco Bay Area are subjecting their fellow Jews to watch a film that makes us out to be monsters for defending ourselves well it just chips away at the Jewish Future. Don’t forgive me for my thoughts and feelings on this issue, my parents are Holocaust Survivors the sole survivors of their families and many of my friends who live in the Bay Area are just like me 1st generation American. My father always said if their had been a Jewish Country called Israel there may never have been a Holocaust.


Lets dedicate ourselves to becoming a stronger more cohesive united people and one that stands and supports Israel without conditions.


Jerry M. Mendelsohn


A major reason for supporters of showing the “Rachel” film is that suppression of the film would be, they say, a violation of free speech guaranteed by our Constitution.  But free speech has limits.  You must not cry “fire”  in a crowded theatre ruled Supreme Court Justice Cardozo.  It might cause a stampede in which people would get killed.

Similarly, anti-Israel groups supporting the “Rachel” film have been shown by polls to accept the deliberate incitement of Palestinian Arabs to kill innocent Israelis and destroy the state of Israel.  This is like crying “fire” in a crowded theatre.  So why support their speech and film propaganda-especially with Jewish funds, no less.

Edward Tamler


Much has already been said about the screening of the film “Rachel” at the SF Jewish Film Festival and the importance of artistic freedoms, so I’d like just to add briefly a personal viewpoint.  


In 1994 I produced a documentary that exposed actions of violence and hatred by the Jewish settlers in West Bank city of Hebron.  The film made many in the Jewish community uncomfortable. The SFJFF had the courage to show the film, but at another Jewish film festival the director wrote me that his board would never allow him to show it.  “Inside God’s Bunker” went on to air in television in 13 countries.  A segment aired on Israeli tv,  showed at the Knesset, and  contributed to an important debate in Israel about the future of the settlements, a debate which continues to this day.  


The provocative films that the SFJFF has shown over the year have made it one of those cultural institutions which sets agendas, sparks debates, and is at the forefront of difficult, yet crucial discussions within the Jewish community. We can’t expect to love every film the SFJFF programmers choose, but we should let them do their work. I

Micha Peled 


I am very concerned about the recent uproar regarding the screening of “Rachel” at the upcoming San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF). The SFJFF is a pioneering organization that, in the Jewish tradition of discourse, argument, and talmudic discussion, puts forth ideas and portraits from around the world that reveal the diversity of opinion, personality and culture among the world’s Jews.

I am not concerned that some in the local Jewish community object to the ideas expressed in “Rachel,” or in any other film at the festival. But I am unsettled that powerful interests in our local community have accused the SFJFF of promoting an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic agenda by screening “Rachel” and inviting Cindy Corrie, the mother of the film’s deceased subject, to speak at the screening. When the festival invited Orthodox rabbis to speak at a past festival, I attended, to hear an open discussion of their views, although I don’t “support” many of them. I would hope that our extended local community would feel the same about hearing viewpoints on Israel and the occupation that may differ from their own.

It is very difficult these days to have a measured, thoughtful discussion on Israel, Palestine, the occupation, and the aspirations of both peoples to statehood. We need to elevate the discussion beyond the terms that have hindered it for so long. Those of us who critique current Israel policy or support peaceful solutions that include Palestinian statehood are not necessarily “anti-Israel” nor “anti-Semitic.”

And our support of screening a film like “Rachel” points not to our need to promote any type of propaganda, but to support organizations like the SFJFF, rare as they are. For 29 years, this festival has offered our community the chance to share in an annual, secular, intellectual, entertaining ritual. Of course it is political as well. Three Jews in a room will express 10 opinions. It’s in our nature. Let us not stunt this with our objection to some of those 10 opinions.

Ken Schneider


I’m appalled to learn that the Jewish Film Festival has become a vehicle for anti-Israel venom and that the Jewish Community Federation is using my donation for this purpose.

If the festival proceeds with this event, it will be the federation, a mainstream organization, that enables the festival and indirectly legitimizes these anti-Israel extremist groups and the promotion of anti-Israel propaganda.

The federation that we fund should not support organizations or events that help propagate anti-Israel venom and collaborate with anti-Israel groups and individuals.

I will withhold and will ask our community to withhold donations to the federation unless it stops its support of the festival if it proceeds with this irresponsible propaganda event.

Daniel Palanker


No reason to punish the SFJFF for giving space to one, among many points of view. I have not yet seen the film but in my experience, the SFJFF does not screen films that would be judged to be legally obscene, dishonest propaganda or the equivalent of falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.

I think the festival should be given a chance.

To quote a filmmaker friend of mine: “The question should be: Is the film truthful or does it bend the truth and play with the facts in order to make its point. If the film is dishonest and has a prejudiced attack on Israel, then that’s one thing (and there are lots of films that are guilty of that — especially ones originating on Arab TV) and the SFJFF shouldn’t play it.”

The subject is extremely upsetting but it should not be banned unless there is clear proof that the vehicle is unfit for human consumption because of it’s extremely poor quality or (legally) insightful nature.

So far the reviews from parties on no particular side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, like film trade publications such as Variety, have not noted an over-the-top propagandist nature.

Daniel Drenger


“Rachel Pfeffer, Board member, SFJFF” suggests that those who have been critical of the SFJFF screening of “Rachel” are “living in fear of discussion or debate” (Letters, July 17). Ironically, Pfeffer’s letter demonstrates that there is a realistic concern that the showing will not be an honest presentation of the issues.

Ms. Pfeffer fails to mention that until very recently she was listed as Interim National Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, one of the leading sponsors and promoters of the “Rachel” screening. (Her biography on the SFJFF Web site was extensively edited sometime this month, but until early July it began, “Rachel Pfeffer is Interim National Director of Jewish Voice for Peace.”) Omitting and therefore misrepresenting her role in this issue in a public forum is a staggering ethical lapse.

The dictionary definition of fraud is “deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated … to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage.” In my view Rachel Pfeffer has forfeited her right to be considered an honest party in this discussion and your readers would be wise to distrust her statements and motives promoting this screening.

Lee Jaffe


Bravo to SFJFF for having the courage to show “Rachel,” even though they surely knew the film would be controversial. The important thing is not whether it casts Israel in a good light or not but whether it brings us closer to the truth.

Esther Riley


I’m not surprised that the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival would give terrorist sympathizers a platform to justify killing of Jews. Rachel Corrie died helping terrorists dig tunnels to smuggle weapons to kill Jews. Her organization, the ISM, supports “armed resistance” against Israel. I’m not surprised because we have already seen the Hillels at Berkeley and Santa Cruz sponsor anti-Israel events. In Santa Cruz we now have rabbis at Temple Beth El urging the legitimization of Hamas and the lifting of the embargo of Gaza, which would allow them to rearm and attack even further into Israel.

Why do some Jewish organizations feel compelled to criticize Israel, or at a minimum give a platform and a mantle of credibility to Israel-bashers? Why do they justify their contempt for Jewish rights and survival by giving us BS about pluralism, free speech and academic freedom?

There are so many forums in the Bay Area where anti-Israel propaganda can be viewed. The SFJFF does not have to be one of them. Our Hillels don’t have to legitimize anti-Semitism and our rabbis don’t have to undermine Israel’s support in Congress. There are plenty of others willing to do that.

Gil Stein 


The Jewish Film Festival has now scheduled Dr. Michael Harris to speak when Cindy Corrie speaks as invited. It is well know that Dr. Harris is pro-Israel and Mrs. Corrie is anti-Israel, which is not a proper balance, if that is what the SFJFF has now intended. This is as futile as trying to balance Palestinian terrorism and Israel’s self defense against terrorism.

Being pro-Palestinian doesn’t have to be anti-Israel, but like many speakers and writers, support of the Palestinians often becomes hate and demonization of Israel. An example of this anti-Israel stance are the statements and actions by the “Jewish Voice For Peace” and the “American Friends Service Committee,” which Mr. Stein categorizes as “co-presenters” of the SFJFF. The Koret Foundation said that they are “two virulently anti-Israel, anti-Semitic groups that support boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the Jewish State.”

Mr. Stein has tried to justify the Rachel Corrie film and Cindy Corrie talk as “diversity of the Jewish people,” but many others judge the film festival by evaluating whether it aids or harms the image of Israel? The SFJFF has failed to realize that diversity which includes extreme opposition to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is unacceptable and wrong.

Norman Licht


As a journalist, a filmmaker and a Japanese American, I want to applaud the decisions of Peter Stein and the S.F. Jewish Film Festival in presenting films that expand our minds and look at the Jewish experience through a varied set of lens. I look forward to seeing the film, “Rachel,” and hearing the first-person experiences of those in the film. That’s what film festivals are for.

When outside voices try to intimate us, to limit our choices, and impinge upon our rights to show multiple perspectives … then the civil liberties of all groups become imperiled. They showed this in Tribeca and the city did not burn down. Surely San Francisco will be the better for it.

Thank you for joining me in your support of the SFJFF.

Wendy Hanamura



I am sending a email to you to express my concerns about the showing of the film “Rachel” at the Jewish film festival. I feel you and your staff are doing a disservice to the Bay Area Jewish community and Israel.

As a father my heart goes out to Mrs. Corrie on the loss of her daughter Rachel. In my opinion Mrs. Corrie does not belong at the festival. The film festival is an artistic platform, not a political one.

I remember the TV coverage of the accident. Once the film is seen the only thing people will remember was that she killed in Gaza. Everything else will be secondary.

I will not go to the film festival this year.

Allan Wofchuck


This letter is to express my deep-felt trust in the curatorial vision of the S.F. Jewish Film Festival. I have spent many years as a journalist covering film, and particularly documentary film, and believe that the festival’s decision to program “Rachel,” as well as invite Cindy Corrie, was made with the greatest integrity and a desire to engage the community in a dialogue about important issues. I understand that their decision has incurred some very negative feedback.

In the years that I have been attending the festival I have always been impressed by its commitment to Jewish stories, alongside its willingness to really think about the larger picture, which only ever invites a greater understanding and sympathy for the Jewish community. Thank you all for your support of this great event!

Hannah Eaves


The SFJFF seems rightly concerned about the hornet’s nest stirred up by screening “Rachel,” which lionizes the motivations of Rachel Corrie, opens up fresh wounds about an “occupation” that is already over, and for what purpose? To seem avant-garde and timely?

I rarely see such unflinching dialogue at the SFJFF with persons on the political right, partially because this is San Francisco and partly because the same decorum and respect we expect the right to show to the left would doubtlessly be absent were the shoe to be on the other foot.

So what we will be left with are strident voices on the left applauding Corrie’s misguided intentions, strident voices on the right protesting, both sides talking past each other and Israel getting a black eye once again. 

How can this be changed? Bring back serialized fluff like episodes of “Florentine,” or be certain that organizations that can provide sufficient context are available, or consider a less controversial and inflammatory topic.

I expect to be in line shmoozing with friends at other films this summer, and enjoying the rendition of “San Francisco” on the Castro Theatre pipe organ. This film is a little hard to swallow.

Steve Lipman 


I am writing to you all to voice my shock and extensive disapproval of the proposal by certain members of the board of the Jewish Film Festival to meddle, boycott and or close down the festival because of one film which speaks in a voice that they do not like. No single entity has the right to censor (a historic) festival because they do not agree with all the views, political and otherwise expressed in the programming.

To program a new film based on a very controversial piece of contemporary history, i.e. the death of Rachel Corrie, is exactly what we have come to expect of the festival. From what other means do we become an informed populace if these images and stories are not available in such contexts? How do we analyze and support the idea or imagined reality of a just state of Israel if certain powers beyond the designated curators declare that they are the arbiters of what can be shown?

It is impossible to protect Israel or any democracy when information in the form of art, stories and histories are withheld. What happened to the tradition of talmudic debate?

Do not cave in to this means of intolerance and cowardice. Let the film be screened. Let the festival provide the balance and forum for audience response.

Amy Trachtenberg


Sadly it appears that the SFJFF ”leadership” headed by Peter Stein is going to go through with this screening including a few regulated questions and answers to Corrie’s mother. They plan to bring in someone who will issue a “strong rebuttal” which is supposed to erase the damage giving Corrie a forum will cause. I think and hope what it will cause is, for the major sponsors, donors, and foundations to pull their financial support this year. This is a slap in the face to the slain victims of Islamofascist homicide bombings targeting Israelis. Neither our dollars nor our Jewish organizations/foundations should support it in any manner.

Pulling this propaganda is not violating anyone’s free speech, it would make a clear statement that no Jewish organization or event will be a forum for groups or individuals whose purpose is to harm the State of Israel.

Alex S. Rafalovich


As a long-standing attendee and supporter of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival I am writing to express my support for the festival’s programming of the film “Rachel” and its invitation of Cindy Corrie. I understand that there are people that are attacking the festival for this choice but they do not speak for me, nor do I think they speak for majority of people who celebrate their Jewish identity every year at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

Rob Epstein


While I understand that not everyone agrees with the views expressed in the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival presentation of “Rachel” about activist Rachel Corrie, I am appalled by the attack on an institution known worldwide for its fostering of key Jewish values — discussion and debate. At this critical juncture in our history, we need a constructive dialogue about all the issues at stake, not a censoring of “unpopular” points of view.

Kudos to the Jewish Film Festival for their courageous programming. Let those with opposing points of view participate. We’d all benefit from a constructive exchange of opinions.

Marcia Jarmel


Since when have people the right to censor an entire festival because they do not agree with all the views, political and other, expressed in the programming? Regardless of what our personal feelings may be about programming choices, we must support and promote every opportunity for open dialogue that furthers our understanding of a given subject. Rachel Corrie, no matter what her religious beliefs, publicly advocated for ensuring “justice, freedom, security and economic viability for both Israelis and Palestinians.” Killed for defending these beliefs, I feel it is important that her story be heard and the causes be addressed. Bravo to the Jewish Film Festival.

Diana Fuller



I’ve been following closely in j. the letters and commentary regarding the film “Rachel” and the program accompanying the screening at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. My wife, Sheila Sosnow, and I are longtime supporters of the festival. As mature, literate adults, we are never averse to encountering viewpoints and opinions that may run counter to our own. In fact, we welcome it. We would never expect the SFJFF to fully echo our views.

My appreciation for the film festival stems from the fact that occasionally they are willing to hit me between the eyes with controversy, along with beauty, pathos, humor, and pain. That dynamic makes me proud to be a Jew and a supporter of the SFJFF. The staff, with very limited resources, mounts a world-class event throughout the Bay Area every year. They can take the criticism, but please support the festival and the cause. Save your outrage for the long lines before and the spirited debates after.

The situation in the Middle East is complex and difficult. No one has a clear path to the Truth or the Solution. I want to hear all sides without censorship. I fully endorse and will continue to support a SFJFF that is defined as inclusive, engaging, entertaining, controversial, and challenging … kind of like the definition of waking up Jewish every day in the Bay Area.

Richard Nagler


“Rachel,” directed by the Israeli filmmaker Simone Bitton, should not be boycotted. Nor should the Jewish Film Festival itself.

What are people thinking? This is absurd.

Fawn Yacker


What is wrong with dialogue? The Jewish Film Festival has consistently brought insightful, intriguing and thought-provoking programming to Jews and non-Jews for years. I look forward to seeing films I can’t see on network TV or the multiplex. We do not need more censorship, we need more exchange of opinions in order to understand and empathize with the wonderful variety of peoples involved in this human race.

The programmers of the JFF should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing everyone together. Leave them alone and let them concentrate on what they do best.

Lucie Faulknor


I am very proud of the programmers of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival for their long tradition of providing our city with complex and varied perspectives on Jewish themes. I am especially proud of their courage in presenting all sides of debate about Israel and their courage to stand by that programming when attacked by those who want to suppress negative images of Israel or frank debate about Israeli policies.

I have attended the festival regularly for almost 20 years and I feel that in the past few years Peter Stein and Nancy Fishman have provided San Francisco with its most artistically and politically stimulating film festival. I applaud their decision to screen the documentary “Rachel” and to invite Rachel’s mother to speak. I encourage all San Franciscans to join me in showing their support for the exciting, bold, and yes, sometimes difficult dialogue that the Jewish Film Festival has brought us for so many years.

Dawn Logsdon



I am writing to support your decision to program “Rachel” this year at the film festival. I am a bit appalled at the pressure being brought to bear on the festival, given that the film itself is both thorough and even-handed. My friend and colleague Bennett Singer reports that having seen the film at the Hot Docs Film Festival, it actually made him more sympathetic to the position of the Israeli government. I think the festival should be admired for creating a forum in which difficult issues of concern to the Jewish community (and the world at large) can be aired and discussed. It is perhaps also worth pointing out that a large swath of the Jewish community in the Bay Area is very distressed and angered by the policies of the Israeli government toward the Palestinian people.

I am a longtime fan and audience member — I decided to go all out this year and have purchased a pass, rather than force myself to make arbitrary decisions about which tickets to purchase. Keep the faith, and keep up the great work. I’m sorry that a spirit of censorship is clouding the festival’s important work and spirit of collaboration, community and openness. I’m excited about the start of the festivities.

Nancy D. Kates


The Jewish Film Festival has chosen to show a film about Rachel Corrie, an anti-Israel activist that was misinformed and lacked understanding of the real situation in Israel. The movie glorifies her and shows her as a hero.

I am appalled, and so are many of my Israeli friends who live in this area.

Wouldn’t Sanne DeWitt’s movie “Bus 19” be a much more appropriate choice? Sanne, against all odds, managed to display the Jerusalem Bus 19 in Berkeley, and organized a pro-Israel, anti–global terrorism rally. The documentary tells the story of the rally, how it came about, and what obstacles she had to overcome.

Esther Andrews


As a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, the recent statement by the Taube and Koret Foundations in j. was of course quite alarming. I would hate to think that I was affiliated with a group that is “virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic,” not to mention one that “aids and abets terror” against the Jewish state. I would very much appreciate it if they would elaborate on their statement and clarify what specific things JVP has done that could be defined in this way.

They also stated that “these groups cross the line for inclusion in the Jewish community.” Unfortunately they didn’t also enumerate what the criteria are for such inclusion and who has established these criteria. If they would be so kind as to do so I could be sure to only join the correct groups.

Tom Moseley


I am an Israeli citizen who has been living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 10 years. I was born in Jerusalem and served at IBA (Israel Broadcasting Authority) for 25 years. While I was senior editor at IBA, I had to curate films and stage debates about controversial films. Our criterion was that it was well made, and we were proud of that. Our audience expected that from us.

When I got to the States, I was surprised at the lack of open debate about Israeli-Palestinian relations inside the Jewish community.

I always found the S.F. Jewish Film Festival facilitated this dialogue in a respectful way. I have known Simone Bitton as a filmmaker for 20 years and know her as a professional filmmaker whose films I welcome viewing.

I hear that the festival is under attack from individuals in the Jewish Community and this disappoints me. Have they really seen the film?

Are those who critic the management of Jewish festival able to get out of the mental ghetto they live in?

I want my voice to be heard that I support the S.F. Jewish Film Festival’s inclusion of Rachel in this year’s lineup. I am also going to be interested to hear Cindy Corrie speak after the film.

David Michaelis


Screening “Rachel” at a Jewish Film Festival is a bankruptcy of healthy Jewish common sense on the part of the Jewish organizers of this allegedly Jewish organization and an insult to the rest of the Jewish community.

If we and our Jewish organizations indulge in self-debasing and self-hating activities, we should not be surprised when we are being targeted with hateful behavior by the community at large, after inviting this on ourselves.

This disgrace should be protested and the festival should be boycotted.

Lili Naveh 


I support the SFJFF’s judgement in its programming decisions. I stand behind its decision to show “Rachel” and invite Cindy Corrie as the speaker, and I applaud SFJFF’s efforts to promote free speech and the exchange of a variety of ideas through its films and programs.

If we can’t dialogue and encounter a wide spectrum of ideas, we can’t work for peace and justice. Hence, I support the SFJFF’s willingness to provide space for a wide spectrum of ideas as an indicator of a genuine commitment to peace and justice.

Eli Sasaran McCarthy


I was disappointed to learn that an aggressive email campaign is under way that calls for boycotting, defunding, or condemning the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival preemptively because of a program decision. The SFJFF prides itself in creating a forum for discussion and dialogue around issues related to the Jewish community. While some may not like the viewpoints of others, this attempt to censor a program that by design is developed to elicit thoughtful and informed discussion.

The decision to show a controversial film and have a dialogue with an unpopular guest should not subject an organization to boycott, but should be celebrated and supported, even by those who disagree. This is the cornerstone of our democracy. We believe in a pluralistic Jewish community that embraces diversity of viewpoints and free flow of ideas. These are core Jewish values. The Bay Area is a haven for hundreds of thousands of Jews who have a multiplicity of approaches toward Judaism, Israel, and Jewish identity. SFJFF is a rare community organization that continues to serve and connect with all of these constituencies, not only a narrow one.

SFJFF is a an important independent forum with a 29-year record of stellar presentations. SFJFF is a national model for Jewish arts and cultural organizations. SFJFF’s willingness to engage even unpopular or controversial views or speakers is a crucial contribution to the quality of Bay Area Jewish life. Pre-judgment of programs and speakers is not worthy of our community. Attacking an institution’s funding is a disproportionate response to a program dispute.

Kyle Bernstein


As both an audience and filmmaker participant in the SFJFF, I am an ardent fan of the festival.  My first film “The Tribe” was screened at the festival in its early days.  I traveled with this film as part of the SFJFF festival’s presentation of Jewish films in Madrid in 1992. I am a past present of Meretz USA, a Zionist organization which supports the liberal Meretz party in Israel. These are my credentials for speaking out at this moment. Through the years my admiration and respect for SFJFF has only increased even as the change from founders to a new staff occurred and yet, happily SFJFF continued its path breaking and making programs each year.


I have not always appreciated those who chose to make the Rachel Corrie story into an anti-Israel position, and though I have not seen the film “Rachel”, I have sufficient respect for SFJFF to know that they made the right choice which is to continue a tradition of engaging with political films in the public sphere. I applaud them and may they continue to challenge the edges of what is safe to say.

Lilly Rivlin


I would like to express my on-going support for the SF Jewish Film Festival. Although I am not Jewish myself, I spent nearly a year living in Israel when I was in my twenties. I have always appreciated the existence of the SFJFF as a place to celebrate the diversity of the Jewish community, and a place to learn about the many perspectives of such a multi-faceted community. Over the course of many years attending the festival, I have seen films I loved, films I merely liked, and, frankly, some films I didn’t like at all. But regardless of my personal opinion about one film or another, it is clear that the SFJFF is thoughtful and extensive in its film search process. It is a brave and important act to book controversial films and unpopular guests that spark intense dialogue; this is a contribution to the principle of free speech upon which this country was founded. For this, the SFJFF should be deeply appreciated, not boycotted.

Janet Keller



I strongly support the SFJFF’s decision to show the movie “Rachel” and to invite Mrs. Corrie to speak. Providing voices from divergent positions can be cacophonous, but it expand the experience and understanding of all those who choose to be in the room, which is precisely what the festival should do. Moreover, those who do not wish to experience the cacophony can choose to not attend. Ultimately, I believe arts should be challenging — in that way it can prod us into deeper understandings our of relationship with the world in which we live.

I also disagree with those who condemn the festival for inviting Mrs. Corrie to speak, claiming that this creates an explicitly political experience. Art need not be separate from politics, and in this age we live in I think the most important art is explicitly political.

Finally, and most importantly, we as a community simply cannot allow institutions to be condemned for presenting voices that we find discordant. We must not allow any portion of our community to control what voices are allowed to be heard.

Alison Bernstein 


Excellent film festivals are never “safe.” My only regret about bringing my kids to Israel to be immersed in Hebrew every summer is that I miss attending the SFJFF. I support the SFJFF and its curatorial decisions even if I sometimes leave the theater feeling like I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone. I understand that the SFJFF isn’t an advocacy group; it’s a forum with a strong, established track record. History is all about storytelling, and don’t we want to know more rather than less about the stories people are telling?

Jane Gottesman 


As someone who has spoken with both Craig and Cindy Corrie and heard them speak many times, I can attest to the fact that I have never heard them utter any word against Jews or the state of Israel, but only to condemn certain Israeli policies.

The Corries have consistently worked for peace in the region for all people there, both Palestinian and Israeli. Those of us who have worked with them — Jewish, non-Jewish, Israeli, non-Israeli — have the greatest respect for their fortitude and steadfastness in their fight for peace and justice despite having lost a daughter and unwarranted attacks such as this editorial.

Misinformation can never be acceptable, especially by a well-respected journal in the community.

Edith Garwood 



I am deeply empathetic with Cindy Corrie’s loss of her daughter, Rachel. Not one mother could feel otherwise, especially after having raised and given her love to her child. However, with respect to Rachel Corrie’s mission and the inclusion of the film, “Rachel,” which shows her presence in Gaza and is a piece of anti-Israel propaganda, I join the numerous protestors of the film that will be shown at the SFJFF. Among this wholehearted opposition is the Council General of Israel, Akiva Tor. 

To my knowledge, Cindy Corrie widely tours this country to protest all for which Israel stands, let alone exists. She speaks of no redeeming qualities in the state of Israel, but instead has a perverted view of the perpetrators of terrorism committed against Israeli citizens and visitors there. I find this sickening! It is demeaning to every Jewish person whose heart and soul is bound up in the survival of our people and the land which is our heritage for thousands of years.

In my estimation, Cindy Corrie will be performing a disservice to humanity by appearing at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. And Jews in this area who support her appearance are doing likewise.

Susan Somerville 



I’m writing in support of the SFJFF’s invitation to Cindy Corrieto speak after the screening of the film “Rachel.” To characterize Cindy Corrie’s presence at the festival as crossing the line when it comes to free speech, because she will use the opportunity to be a soapbox for her daughter’s anti-Israel views, is reprehensible, and shameful. Clearly you have never met Cindy Corrie, but that hasn’t stopped you from defaming her. It might behoove the editorial board of j. to truly accept free speech and not attempt to stifle it by innuendo.

Mo Shooer 



I take issue with the j.’s editorial opposing the inclusion of Rachel Corrie’s parents in the Jewish Film Festival.

The characterization of Rachel Corrie and her parents as “anti-Israel” and “Israel bashers” is incorrect and destructive to Jewish values.

There is an American saying, “My country, right or wrong. When right, to keep her right. When wrong, to set her right.” If the policies of the U.S. are subject to democratic critique, why not the policies of our country of Israel? Jews living in Israel have disputed these policies far more than we in the U.S. have been “allowed” to do. And the Jewish tradition is one of discussion and debate.

Criticizing destructive policies of the Israeli government is seen by many of us to be a civic and cultural responsibility, as much as supporting Israel monetarily as many of us have done over the years.

We thought “Never Again” meant never again to any peoples. Ending the transgressions against Palestinians, such as the home demolition Rachel Corrie was attempting to prevent nonviolently is as important to Israeli security and the safety of Jews worldwide, as to fulfilling the Jewish justice tradition.

Maria Rivera 


Historically, nonviolent resistance to state-sponsored oppression has been a laudatory route to achieving freedom throughout the world, witnessed in colonial India, apartheid South Africa, and the civil rights movement of the United States. In that tradition, the International Solidarity Movement is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting Israeli occupation of Palestinian land through nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles. ISM’s solidarity work includes preventing home demolitions, illegal under Fourth Geneva Convention, and Rachel Corrie, in her passionate activism, was tragically killed, in clear view, by an Israeli (Caterpillar) bulldozer demolishing a Palestinian home in Gaza.

Resisting occupation is neither “viciously anti-Israel” nor “call(ing) for the destruction of the Jewish state” any more than solidarity work of CORE activists Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, killed in Mississippi in 1964 for promoting voter registration of African Americans, could be deemed anti-American. If the SFJFF presented a documentary about Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney, would j. deem their parents’ appearance “crossing a line?” Or is the underlying problem with Cindy Corrie’s festival appearance that the moral imperative of resisting the increasingly self-destructive Israeli occupation might be aired in more sympathetic, compelling light than many members of the Jewish community are willing to face themselves?

Laurie Polster 



Your July 17 editorial condemns free speech. There is nothing to fear from Cindy Corrie or ISM. Cindy Corrie bothers some Jews because a proper investigation was never done of Rachel Corrie’s death. I was hoping the film would shed some light on that. The fact is the military only investigated itself. ISM members or others who saw something about what happened need to be part of a serious investigation. Cindy Corrie is entitled to that and the Jewish people are entitled to that. Otherwise it will always appear that Israel has something to hide and likes it that way. For the ISM it is the militancy of the group the scares some Jews. They are not involved with suicide bombers. And to suggest so, suggests if there were no suicide bombers Israel would invent them. If one does not turn the Holocaust and the Israeli state into an idol, there is nothing to fear from Cindy Corrie or ISM.

Bruce Ballin 


While we all believe in free speech and the marketplace of ideas in a democratic society, one crosses the line in giving a forum to propaganda and distortions put forth as truth. This is clearly the case in the film being shown by the S.F. Jewish Film Festival which portrays Rachel Corrie’s death as a callous and intentional act on the part of the IDF. Anyone seeing the actual unedited footage and who knows all the facts behind this very sad and tragic accident would attest to the fact that the film is manipulative and vilifying fiction under the guise of a documentary. For our organized Jewish community to endorse and support an organization that uses Jewish communal funds to tear down Israel when there are so many humanitarian and social causes needing our support is a “shanda.” In the next round of allocations by our philanthropic organizations, I suggest very careful thought be put into the decision of support for the SF Jewish Film Festival.

Karla Smith 


j.’s July 17 editorial marks a new low in j. journalism. Without any factual basis for its inflammatory conclusions, j. vilifies the Corries as, among other things, “Israel bashers” who seek to spread their “repulsive ideas” to our community. Their real crime? They continue to press for an independent investigation into the killing of their daughter Rachel by an Israeli-military bulldozer as she tried to stop the demolition of the home of a Palestinian family. And, perhaps worse (the editorial reviles the Corries for being “pro-Palestinian”), they continue to work to realize their daughter’s vision of justice and peace for all people in the region.

Through the relentless efforts over the years of a small minority of Bay Area Jews, aided in this instance by j., our Jewish community risks becoming one of the most muzzled in the nation when it comes to open discourse about Israel and Palestine. I hope readers will resist this latest effort to bully us into “not knowing.” I hope they will attend the movie “Rachel” and the discussion that follows, and do what we have always prided ourselves on doing: listen, debate, agree, disagree, and, above all, judge for ourselves.

Carol Sanders 



I’ve been involved with the Jewish Film Festival for 10 years now, and have been an audience member for almost 20 years. I continue to be amazed at the work of the organization, and appalled by the criticism it receives whenever it programs anything construed as in any way critical of Israel or Israeli policies, despite the plethora of films and programs that are explicitly positive and supportive of Israel and Israeli life.

I have not seen “Rachel,” and thus hesitate to comment extensively about it. But regardless of what I think of the film or of how I feel about any of the films or speakers of the Festival, I wholeheartedly support the Festival, its role in our community, and its role in encouraging debate, dialogue and the exploration of issues.

If everyone in our community always agreed with and felt comfortable with the films presented by the Festival, I dare say it would not be doing a very good job as a community arts organization. And the moment we start withholding funding or boycotting organizations based on a portion of their programming, we risk stifling creativity, intellect and even democracy.

Doug Okun 


Like any institution, Israel is stronger when she hears and must react to co