Tears on the bimah

I just read Sue Fishkoff’s “The sacred meets the profound in a rite of passage” column (Feb. 10) and it brought back a memory of my own. I was raised in N.J., where my family belonged to a Conservative synagogue. When it came time to start Hebrew school, my parents decided that “girls didn’t need all that.” So my Jewish education ended at third grade. My only “education” came in summer camp where I was imbued with Zionism.

I never felt comfortable in services from my teen years into adulthood. Then, at my daughter’s bat mitzvah, I was called for an aliyah. I went up to the bimah and chanted the blessings that I had been practicing over and over to be sure I wouldn’t make a mistake. When I started to leave the bimah, the cantor came up and whispered in my ear that that day was my bat mitzvah, too. Like Sue, I was caught off guard and found tears streaming down my face.

A few years later, I joined an adult b’nai mitzvah class to formalize my status with my teenage children watching.

There certainly is something about those rites of passage that brings you into your spiritual community.

Thanks for writing this column.

Judith Saks   |   Nashville, Tenn.

Editor, the Jewish Observer


Candidacy changes things

Now that Shmuley Boteach has announced his political candidacy, I trust that he will no longer have the privilege of writing op-ed pieces for the j. His latest piece (“Why I want to be the voice of values in Congress,” Feb. 10) is, by his own admission, his electoral platform.

He says he wants to erode the separation of church and state — e.g., with “legislation to recreate an American Sabbath” and, even worse, by abusing our public educational system by instituting a religiously oriented moment of silence to start the school day (so kids can focus on “a Being larger than themselves”) and by requiring tax support for religious schools via school vouchers.

He doesn’t seem to appreciate that parents already have a powerful voice in their children’s education (if they want one), through democratic institutions such as school boards and city councils.

I honestly don’t understand how the j. could continue offering Boteach the same op-ed privileges he has been enjoying without offering the same access to every political candidate. Unless, of course, your explicit editorial position is to support his candidacy. If that’s it, please let readers know so we can respond to such a decision.

Marty Klein   |   Palo Alto


63 years young

I want to thank the Magnes Museum for their terrific and very informative event this past Sunday, “Bridging Past and Future.” The one and only depressing aspect: At 63 I was, I aver, among the youngest in attendance.

Mike Levine   |   Moraga


Anti-BDS as litmus test

Thanks for running the op-ed piece by Guy Herschmann about his experience at the BDS conference in Pennsylvania (“BDS conference at Penn met my worst expectations,” Feb. 10). Those who maintain that there is not an organized effort to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state are not paying attention. Those who deny that  universities are not being used as launching pads for anti-Israel propaganda need to understand that there is a concerted effort to use academia to sway young people away from Israel and to establish legitimacy to the anti-Israel movement.

BDS is nothing new. The Arab boycott denied Israel many products that were available on the world market. Many countries refused to trade openly with Israel. What is new is the tactic: using schools and churches to paint Israel as a nation that is evil.

The language of the proponents of BDS is anti-Semitic, dishonest and distorted. We cannot allow the misuse of academic institutions to undermine Israel. Any organization that claims to be pro-Israel should by definition be anti-BDS. That is a simple litmus test. Those who advocate BDS see no difference between Judea, Samaria and the rest of Israel. It is all occupied territory for them.

Gil Stein   |   Aptos


Get a clue, Occupiers

The Occupy movement may have a noble goal, but it lacks a minimal program or the foggiest idea about even first practical steps toward this goal, and sooner or later, as any amorphous movement, it should have fallen prey to better-organized forces. No wonder Occupy has been hijacked by anti-Israeli groups like BDS (“Occupy Oakland votes 135-1 to support BDS,” Feb. 10), which have a clear goal of delegitimizing Israel.

Apparently the red meat of “Israel’s apartheid,” brandished by BDS, has fascinated the Occupiers. However, the term “Israel’s apartheid” is total nonsense. Forcefully responding to incessant Arab attacks, building a fence to prevent terrorists’ penetration into Israel proper, creating a network of roads where Jews can travel safely are called self-defense, not apartheid.

Apartheid is a system of oppression. One could have justly applied this notion to the more than 60 years of Arab attacks aimed toward annihilation of Israel. This is the ultimate apartheid, designed not only to subjugate human beings but to wipe them from the globe.

The Occupy movement would be much better off concentrating on internal American affairs than intruding into hot international conflicts, such as the Middle East.

Vladimir Kaplan   |   San Mateo