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Evolving Jewish practices

I’m Jewish, affiliated and opposed to circumcision (“Outcry against push to ban circumcisions in S.F.,” Nov. 26). I can understand the thinking behind the proposed ban even though I believe such legislation would be a bad idea. We now have clinical evidence that infants feel pain and are affected by it, and that the foreskin has a significant physiological function. These crucial facts — along with frequently ignored issues such as the surgical risks of circumcision and its effect on the parent-newborn bond — have yet to be incorporated into either medical or Jewish practice.

   Halachah (Jewish law) evolves over time as new insights develop. In the talmudic era, for example, deaf people were classified with the mentally incompetent and weren’t even counted toward a minyan. We learned more, and Jewish practices changed accordingly.

   It’s our ethical responsibility as Jews to embrace new information. Indeed, to ignore pertinent new data is to suggest that Judaism can’t withstand thoughtful inquiry. I am delighted to learn that Abby Porth of JCRC feels it’s fine for Jewish families to choose brit shalom — a beautiful ceremony that welcomes baby boys into the covenant without circumcision.

Lisa Braver Moss   |   Piedmont


Circumcision is health benefits

In your article and editorial concerning the proposed ban on circumcision in San Francisco, nowhere were the medical and public health benefits discussed.

   In a recent article from Cedars-Sinai in L.A. published in Current Opinions in Urology, the authors state: “Following the three randomized trials in Africa demonstrating the protective effects of male circumcision on HIV infection, studies have reported other benefits of circumcision including protection from certain STIs, including human papillomavirus and herpes simplex virus 2. An article from the infectious disease service at Imperial College, London found “ … it was estimated that circumcision confers a 46 percent reduction in the rate of male-to-female HIV transmission.”

   Another article from Australia recommended boosting infant male circumcision  to prevent heterosexual HIV transmission in 2030. Finally, a University of Edinburgh study concluded that circumcision could in the next 10 years save up to 2 million lives in those African countries with high HIV prevalence.

   The World Health Organization/UNAIDS has advised that promotion of male circumcision should be included as an additional HIV prevention strategy. I find it hard to believe that the medically sophisticated San Francisco community would consider a law that is in direct opposition to WHO recommendations intended to save lives.

Mark Glasser, M.D.   |   San Rafael


JVP was ‘inviting disruption’

Glen Hauer’s summation (Letters, Nov. 26) of the recent JVP event was misleading in precisely the same way that the

original JVP press release was misleading:

   (a) The disruption was not an organized StandWithUs event. Dan Pine was clear about this in his article.

   (b) The Jewish Voice for Peace event was held to celebrate the disruption of a speech by Netanyahu. JVP cannot and did not complain directly about the disruption, because their event was held to celebrate and promote the tactic of disruption. Instead they attempted to disparage the individuals involved.

   I remember receiving an invitation to the JVP event, and thinking that by publicly celebrating and promoting the tactic of disruption, they were in effect inviting

disruption. Perhaps they will reconsider this tactic.

Art Altman   |   San Carlos


Hecklers didn’t advance Zionist cause

As a proud Zionist who disagrees strongly with Jewish Voice for Peace, I still believe JVP has the right to peaceably assemble without heckling or harassment.

Yes, Netanyahu was heckled at the GA and that, too, is deplorable. That doesn’t justify using the same tactics against those with whom we may disagree.

There’s an obvious dispute about how the physical violence began and whether the use of pepper spray was justified. But there’s no dispute that pro-Israel activists were there to disrupt a meeting, and even though I may ultimately agree with their politics, their behavior was shameful and certainly did nothing to advance the Zionist cause.

Michael Sarid   |   Santa Monica


Poll discloses Palestinians’ true desire

The most important story in the Nov. 26 issue of j. vis-à-vis Israel was on page 36, top right-hand corner: “Poll: Palestinians eyeing one state.”

For anyone who missed it, 30 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza polled by the Israel Project chose the statement, “The best goal is for a two-state solution that keep[s] two states living side by side.” And 23 percent accepted that “Israel has a permanent right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people.”

But 60 percent of the Palestinians polled in the West Bank and Gaza chose the statement, “The real goal should be to start with two states but then move it to all being one Palestinian state.”

As Hillel might have said, “Go and learn it. The rest is commentary.”

Sue Douglass   |   Albany


Dim hopes for peace

Douglas Bloomfield (“Does Netanyahu really want a peace deal in his time?” Nov. 19) goes out of his way to say he doubts that Benjamin Netanyahu really wants a peace deal in his time.

But at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the refusal of the Arab side to accept Israel’s right to live in peace with her neighbors, not the Israeli prime minister’s position.

The “moderate” Palestinian Fatah Party declares in Article 19 of its constitution that “the Palestinian … struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.”

Palestinians have squandered all opportunities to build their own state in the name of riding on the “high” road of eradicating Israel. And, by the way, no settlements existed before 1967, but neither peace, nor a Palestinian state was then in the cards.

Until the Palestinians come to a sincere conclusion that living side by side with Israel is in their best interest and they need to abandon the plans of destroying the Jewish state, no diplomacy, however intensive and from whatever sources, will be able to bring peace to this blood-soaked land of the Middle East.

Vladimir Kaplan   |   San Mateo


An idea for settlements:

limit population growth

The Mideast talks now in progress are critical, and from the news of their continuation despite the recent violence and other indications of unrest, illustrates the determination of President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu to not allow this opportunity to be squandered.

We know that an average birth rate of 2.1 children per woman is needed to sustain the existing population level. More than that figure increases the population and less than that number reduces it. A construction plan for population growth, or a no-construction plan for population decline (<2.1/woman), can be developed following the determination of the trend.

Insofar as the Mideast situation is concerned, the freeze on settlement growth expired on Sept. 26. I suggest a compromise in which settlement growth be limited to the population growth for that settlement. A bilateral commission can report its findings regarding population growth on a periodic basis, and the corresponding settlement growth plan by the Israelis can be proposed accordingly. This does not address the planned construction in East Jerusalem — that’s another issue.

This proposal should be introduced at the conference now in session. The stakes are high.

David Negrin   |   Palo Alto