Keep the dialogue open

I applaud j. for publishing Jeff Saperstein’s justification for respectful discussion of diverse points of view regarding Israel (“Recipe for welcoming controversial viewpoints is simple,” Jan. 20).

It is precisely leadership such as Jeff’s that will sustain and build intergenerational engagement with Israel.

J Street S.F. Bay Area welcomes lively conversations that enable the Bay Area community to be well informed about the values on which J Street bases its positions. We believe it is strategic for people of all points of view to be mindful of the values that drive their respective positions.

The more self-aware we are of our assumptions, the more open and respectful we can be of one another’s love and commitment to Israel.

Molly Freeman   |   Berkeley

J Street San Francisco Bay Area local chair


NIF’s misdirected sympathies

Leslie Kane writes that the New Israel Fund is pro-Israel (“New Israel Fund is pro-Israel and pro-peace,” Jan. 20), but she reveals the NIF’s true colors by expressing pride in its support for the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, which she writes “is famous for its advocacy on behalf of Arab families who have been evicted [from their homes] by extremist [Jewish] settlers.”

If the NIF were really pro-Israel, they would be more concerned with protecting Jews from extremist Arabs than vice versa. The Sheikh Jarrah Movement’s own website explicitly defines it as a leftist organization whose goal is to end Israel’s occupation of “Palestine.” Since the geographical region called Palestine basically coincides with the land of Israel, this can only be interpreted as a call for Israel’s destruction.

The NIF’s leftist ideology is diametrically opposed to the central values of Judaism. The NIF is filled with sympathy and understanding for the Palestinian Arabs, who are steeped in a culture of Jew hatred and whose leaders explicitly call for Israel’s annihilation, but they seem to have no sympathy for those Jews who want to live according to authentic Jewish beliefs, namely the supremacy of God, the truth of the covenant and the promise of the land of Israel.

Martin Wasserman   |   Sunnyvale


Three strikes against NIF

I read with interest Leslie Kane’s noble defense of the NIF and her attempt to paint Natan Nestel’s online-only op-ed as inaccurate. Regretfully, hers is not candid or accurate, either. Ms. Kane proudly presented the luminaries serving on the NIF board, yet she failed to mention their progressive-leftist views that oppose Israel right-to-center government policies. Strike 1.

Then, she added a spin by using the Charity Navigator agency, whose evaluation is solely based on the financial integrity of the charity, not the charity’s political position toward Israel. Strike 2.

Last, I would suggest j. readers consult an Israel-based evaluator, NGO Monitor (www.ngo-monitor.org/article/new_israel_

fund), which tabbed the NIF as a major source of funding for many leftist Israeli NGOs in par with socialist Europe. Such as: Adalah, which defines Israel as an apartheid state and calls for replacing it with a secular bi-national state; and Breaking the Silence, which encourages teenagers to evade the IDF draft. One can hardly characterize those as pro-Israel. Strike 3 and out.

It seems NIF support to Israel is like offering a tie to a boxer in a midst of a fight.

Sam Liron   |   Foster City


Hurray for opening schools to non-Jews

Thank you for “Mixing it up: Why non-Jews choose Jewish day schools” (Jan. 20). This discussion began more than 20 years ago, when a few brave leaders set out to change the face of Jewish day school education in Northern California based on vision, principle and design.

Before Partnership in Excellence for Jewish Education, the leadership of Brandeis Hillel Day School, where I was head of school from 1992 to 2005, decided to do away with “don’t ask, don’t tell” concerning interfaith and occasionally non-Jewish families in the schools. We had surveyed within our school population and begun to reach in and then out to our interfaith families.

The next step was to reach out to the non-Jewish community.

We saw the cultural, educational and social value in diversity which could be celebrated within a Jewish majority setting. In the early 1990s, some Jewish philanthropies were concerned and skeptical. At the same time, we found that school leaders from around the country contacted us out of interest. BHDS became a model both regionally and nationally.

Throughout the millennia, Jewish life and learning have proven to be progressive, dynamic and compelling in the marketplace of ideas. We are stronger when we share these Jewish cultural and educational values with the world.

Rabbi Henry Shreibman   |   San Rafael

Associate professor, Dominican University


Cover photo was a poor choice

My wife and I were both troubled by j.’s Jan. 20 cover. The headline was “Mixing it up: Why non-Jews choose Jewish day schools,” and prominently pictured on the cover was a lovely young girl with dark skin.

The conclusion we think most readers would draw from the headline and picture is that the girl is not Jewish. This may be true, but it also subtly reinforces the stereotype that children (and adults, for that matter) of color are not Jewish.

Our own daughter is Jewish, has dark skin, and at times has had to fight this stereotype. The picture reinforces a misperception that does not recognize the diverse nature of Jews in America and around the world. A better choice could have been made.

Patricia & Jerry Brodkey   |   Los Altos


No laughing matter

In the Jan. 20 issue of j., there were three letters applauding your new Tygerpen column vs. two letters strenuously objecting.

It is hard to believe that 60 percent of your readers liked her smutty, middle-school level of writing, and only 40 percent found it tasteless, boring and containing not one single sentence that was funny. The letters applauding her writing style and taste had the feel of solicited endorsements from her friends.

Your existing “Jokes” column, published for many years, has provided many heart warming chuckles and even “lol” moments — and is a much better source of the well-known heritage of Jewish humor. Please, please, please, do not waste any more of your valuable space on Tygerpen’s childish, unsophisticated scribbling. “Jokes” or recipes are much better fare.

Allan Altman   |   Kentfield


Fan of Tygerpen

The new column by Tygerpen is a breath of fresh air with her  tongue-in-cheek attitude toward things we like to think of as sacred.

Her humor is gentle and not meant to offend. She has a way of saying what we might think but would not dare to say aloud. I’ll look forward to other columns from her.

Ellen Emold   |   Walnut  Creek


Faulty interpretation of Abe Foxman piece

Letter writer Glenn Becker (Jan. 20) completely distorted Abraham Foxman’s opinion piece (“Leon Panetta puts the blame on the victim: Israel,” Dec. 9) by suggesting that Foxman considers any criticism of Israel to be bad.

What Foxman clearly was saying is that “inaccurate” criticism (i.e., criticism based on faulty information, as Panetta’s was) is “bad at any time.”

Foxman began his piece by noting that Panetta was blaming Israel for deteriorating relations with its neighbors, and Foxman stated, very clearly, that he considers this assertion by Panetta to be “more than simply inaccurate. It is disturbing and potentially dangerous.”

Foxman then went on to say that an assertion such as Panetta’s (i.e., an inaccurate statement) is “bad at any time.” Does Becker think telling falsehoods is good at certain times? I assume not. Accurate criticism is one thing; blatantly false criticism is another.

Daniel Fendel   |   Piedmont