Circumcision is a family matter

Having grown up in liberal Northern California, I’m having trouble understanding what San Francisco is doing with this anti-circumcision initiative on its ballot. It is very obviously anti-Jewish, especially since it would not allow for any religious exceptions. My husband and sons are circumcised and they have no problems. My father was circumcised on his eighth day by a mohel, which was a covenant with his God. A practice that has been going on for over 5,000 years.

   I think that Mr. Hess (creator of the “Foreskin Man” comic book) should go back to San Diego and Mr. Schofield needs to leave all the little boys alone and in the care of their parents. Does he think that we circumcise our boys without thinking about it? I don’t want the government telling me if I can or can’t have my son circumcised. That is between his father, his doctor and myself as his mother.

   I have to wonder what the true motivation is behind this ballot measure. It does stink of anti-Semitism.

Sarah F. Baker   |   Santa Rosa


Answering questions about Gertrude Stein exhibit

The Contemporary Jewish Museum commends Sonia Melnikova-Raich on her summary of recent scholarship on Gertrude Stein’s decision to remain in France during World War II and her connections with the Vichy government (“Exhibit leaves out how Gertrude Stein survived Holocaust,” June 10). The Museum has debated the questions raised: To what degree should exhibitions address an artist’s sexual, political or anti-social behaviors, especially those that cannot be examined through art artifacts but only words? Feminists raised such questions in the 1970s about male artists whose art was undeniably important but whose personal lives were sexist.

   The team that put “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories” together decided to state briefly in the exhibition what is presently known about Stein and Toklas’ survival in Nazi-occupied France. The fuller story — the one related by Melnikova-Raich — is told in the exhibition book, citing the sources she does. For a fuller exploration of Stein’s actions during the war, the CJM store carries Janet Malcolm’s “Two Lives, Gertrude and Alice” and has ordered Barbara Will’s forthcoming book, “Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma,” due out this summer.

   As a museum rooted in the Jewish traditions of questioning, we welcome the commentary stimulated by this ground-breaking exhibition.

Connie Wolf    |   San Francisco

CJM Director and CEO


‘We didn’t know’ is no excuse

At Israel In the Gardens, as the Palestinian Intifada demonstration across the street ignorantly released a bevy of balloons into the sky, a Jewish teenager exclaimed in horror, “Oh no, the birds …”.

   So I walked across the street with hand gestures that showed “I mean no confrontation,” and with slow, careful wording, I explained that releasing balloons kill birds. But as I repeated my words, softly and directly, they stared at me and some listened and realized what they, in fact, had done.

   I was believed.

    “We didn’t know,” one of the older ones replied. “We wouldn’t have done it if we knew,” as many of the others stared at our conversation. Another repeated, “We didn’t know.”

   “I know,” I know,” I sighed, responding with my hands out and palms up and open, like a mother admonishing a child to stop doing the wrong thing — but the child never undestands and continually does it anyway.

   I think here illustrates the crux of the matter. They surround themselves with limited knowledge. The Israeli side is aware of the Palestinian suffering they cause and the dichotomy of the situation. But often Palestinians seem to have no acceptance of the Israeli suffering they cause.

Alan Barsky   |   Mill Valley


Shades of the NRA in Shomrim story

When I saw the cover of your June 3 edition, I was looking forward to reading the article by Dan Pine (“Protect and observe: Jewish cops find camaraderie”). By the time I finished reading, my already high blood pressure had risen dramatically!

   I don’t know which appalled me more: Mr. Anolik’s quote, “I’m a strong believer that everyone should [own guns] …” or the photo of a 9-year-old holding a deadly weapon.

   What is wrong with these people? This is the legacy of Shomrim? This section of the article could have been (and maybe was) written by the NRA.  I am both horrified and sad.

Judith Shmueli   |   Foster City


Netanyahu’s ‘missed opportunity’

In the words of Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D–Marin and Sonoma), a member of J Street’s most recent congressional delegation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision not to meet with the delegation’s members — all of whom have strong records of support for Israel — was indeed a “missed opportunity.” (“Netanyahu snubs Woolsey, four other House members,” June 10).

   Why, at this time when Israel is facing increasing international isolation as the U.N. prepares to vote on Palestinian statehood, would Netanyahu snub these allies? Because they believe that a negotiated, two-state resolution along the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps is in the best interests of Israel, the United States, the Palestinians, and the region as a whole.

   This is not just a J Street position, but one shared by the majority of American Jews and Israelis. No less a figure than Ami Ayalon, the decorated former commander of Israel’s navy and chief of Israel’s security service, proposes: “Two states for two peoples. Permanent borders generally following 1967 lines. Removal of settlers from Palestine. Jerusalem as an open city, capital of two states. The Palestinian state demilitarized, protected by international forces.”

   Like Gen. Ayalon, those that support J-Street are passionate supporters of Israel. They should be engaged — not demonized or ignored.

Michael J. Cooper, MD   |   Lafayette


Klein did it all

I very much enjoyed reading “Editor Klein retiring from j.” (May 27). It was insightful to get a glimpse of his early years at the newspaper. The j. was lucky to have such a skilled and knowledgable and visionary editor. From my standpoint, he did it all. One of the rewards of his effort was the j. being one of the best Jewish papers around. I look forward, every week, to the j. popping out of my mailbox! I proudly say to myself: “I’m in store for a terrific representation of Northern California Jewish news!”

Susan Cohn  |   San Jose


Israel’s problems can’t be solved

Why does the U.S. government, as well as journalists, authors and speakers, keep spinning its wheels regarding Israel, the Palestinians, Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza/Hamas situation? This may be one of the, if not the longest-standing futile exercises in history. The Israelis will not, understandably for security reasons, surrender the Golan Heights, uproot a considerable portion of settlements in the occupied territories and surrender Jerusalem. Hezbollah and Hamas will not magically decide to give up their missions not only to destroy Israel but to kill all Jews.

   Not all problems can be solved. My opinion is to acknowledge these irrefutable facts, stop wasting time and energy and concentrate on managing the problems. I say this as a direct descendent of pioneering Jews of the first aliyah in the 1860s and one who still has a number of relatives from that family living in Israel.

David Fisher   |   San Francisco