NIF mission is meritorious

In Martin Wasserman’s letter (“NIF’s misdirected sympathies,” Jan. 27) he writes that, if the New Israel Fund were “really pro-Israel, they would be more concerned with protecting Jews from extremist Arabs than vice versa.”

Supporters of the Zionist commitments to religious pluralism and civil rights in Israel should reject Wasserman’s formula.

We dare not ignore our own fundamentalist strains if we expect the fundamentalism within other populations to be held accountable. Judaism’s reminder to treat others with fairness and dignity is based on our experience as slaves in Egypt. It is also the core of NIF’s work, a mission that speaks directly to my Zionist-activist heart.

Israel will need fewer public defenders when it embraces its own advocates for a pluralistic democracy. We will too.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor   |   Berkeley

Congregation Netivot Shalom


Perpetuating stereotypes

The Oct. 21, 2011 issue of j. included an editorial headlined “Groups that nurture Jewish diversity deserve a shout-out.”

But on j.’s Jan. 20 cover, “Mixing it up: Why non-Jews choose Jewish day schools,” the photo showed a black student, strongly indicating that she must be the non-Jew.

Please stop perpetuating the stereotype that Jews must be white. At a recent program, “Multiracial Jews: Born This Way,” every person who spoke expressed how very tired they are of white Jews assuming they just can’t be Jewish. They are.

Look here: www.bit.ly/w1MXe3. Those are all born Jews.

Dawn Kepler   |   Oakland

Director, Building Jewish Bridges


The loudest voice

Erika Dreifus’ op-ed (“Is finding a happy medium on Israel largely impossible?” Jan. 27) left me feeling deeply resonant, moved and sad for her plight.

Perhaps her plight is not just about the content and polarization of our positions, but about the prevailing ethos in our political and religious discourse. This ethos subscribes to the view that one must protect one’s position at all costs, or that whoever has the loudest voice or can use the most effective tactics must be the holder of the truth.

As I see it, this ethos disenfranchises thoughtful people of all political leanings — not just about Israel, but rather in more general terms within the Jewish and larger communities. It seems to me that sometimes winning is not the most important goal; rather, it’s protecting oneself from letting go of rigid, fear-based positions.

I am reminded of something I heard once long ago; I believe it is a Sufi saying, which I must believe has a Jewish corollary. It states that before our words leave our mouths, they must pass through three gates. The first gate asks us “is it true?” The second: “Is it necessary?” And the third: “Is it kind?” The third gate requires the greatest wisdom.

Alan Helfen   |   Redwood City


Intellectual idiocy on Israel

More than 100 years of Nazi-like hatred of the Jews by Arabs, and many leftists, has been revealed again in the JTA article on the Sundance Film Festival (“At Sundance, view of Israel ranges from critical to abysmal,” Jan.  27).

The Arabs have wasted the lives of their youth on that hatred. They cannot even say “Israel is a Jewish state.”

Yet many leftists and intellectuals want 100 percent perfection from Israel. But there is no 100 percent perfection, certainly not with an inadequate separation of church and state. I continue to be amazed by the mean and stupid anti-Israel position of many fellow intellectuals and leftists.

Gerson Jacobs   |   Greenbrae


Thoughts on Jewish surveys

A JTA short in j. (“Two studies say up to 6.6 million Jews in U.S.,” Jan. 20) indicated that the U.S. Jewish population has risen by at least 20 percent since the National Jewish Population Survey in 2000.

This is remarkable growth considering the ubiquity of intermarriage and the distancing of many younger Jews from their Jewish identity. Were there serious flaws in the 2000 population study, and/or in the recent studies indicating population growth? Maybe.

More likely, the “growth” is a function of the protocols adopted by each of the studies. Are the non-Jewish partners of Jews to be counted as Jews and how are their children to be counted? We live in a time when Jewish definition is chaotic. At the least, it would be nice if we could define out of our community those who spit at little girls of 8 for dressing “immodestly.”

Mel Mogulof   |   Berkeley


Reminder of peace

The talk at Chochmat HaLev in Berkeley (“Interfaith group holding talks about peace,” Dec. 16) by visiting Islamic and Jewish leaders covered peace tools; the history of interfaith tolerance; the roots of violence; techniques of non-violence based in Judaism and Islam; text studies, including the 12th sura of the Koran (Joseph); and a slideshow of interfaith actions.

There was also an invitation to a Sufi event (including Whirling Dervishes) in honor of Sheikh Ghassan Manasra of Nazareth’s visit to the Bay Area. No such honor was bestowed upon visiting Jewish peacemaker Eliyahu McLean, at least none that I am aware of.

In any event, the Jerusalem Peacemakers reminded us that many citizens in the Middle East hope for peace, and this is often not depicted in the mainstream media.

Malka Faden   |   Richmond