One happy Titanic ending

For me, the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy (“Story of Titanic’s kosher food service lost with the ship,” April 6) stirs questions of what might (not) have been.

In 1909, my grandfather, Aaron Silberberg, proposed to my grandmother, Rifka (“Regina”) Stetyner, in Warsaw, and then went to America. By 1912, Aaron had earned enough money to send for her. But Regina’s parents, Pearl and Hersz Izaak Szczeciner, refused to let her travel alone. So Regina went with her cousin, Chaim (“Hymie”) Gerberbaum.

Regina and Hymie obtained tickets to travel from Antwerp to America aboard the ship Vaderland. However, just before they left Russia, Hymie had the opportunity to exchange their tickets and sail instead from England on the Titanic. Hymie begged and pleaded, but Regina refused. She wanted to see her fiancé without delay, and changing ships would postpone their reunion. So they kept their tickets and reached Ellis Island on April 9, 1912.

On April 15, of course, the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic. Among poor immigrants in steerage class, there were few survivors.

Because of a hopeful young woman’s stubbornness, four months later Regina and Aaron celebrated their wedding.

Stephen A. Silver   |   San Francisco


Land of plenty

I was amused by your article in the April 6 issue concerning Rabbi Jerry Danzig’s need to create his own prayerbook (“Unable to find a perfect prayerbook, retired rabbi writes his own,” April 6).

It stated that this endeavor began to take shape when he moved to Santa Rosa, which has a “sparse Jewish community.” Indeed, our numbers here in Sonoma County don’t match those of my home shtetl, Brooklyn, nor those of Los Angeles, but we do have a minimum of six synagogues, three of which are in Santa Rosa!

While I have nothing against personal prayer (I practice it myself), I feel that there is much liturgy that does “match reason” and I find it comforting to be with my plentiful Santa Rosa Jewish community when I worship.

Marlene Stein   |   Santa Rosa


More on the rabbi’s siddur

Thank you to Dan Pine for his article on my husband, Rabbi Jerry Danzig, and his T’filotai. It is a siddur that needed to be written.

There are certain points in the article that beg for further comment. For example, Rabbi Danzig makes an emphatic point when he says, “‘I love the notion that the rabbis [of talmudic times] had that we are co-partners with God.’”  For individuals to continue to read and say aloud that God “clothes the naked” or “brings forth bread from the Earth” would perpetuate the anthropormorphic portrayal of God in human form.

In T’filotai, for which I was the copy editor of the English, we see references to God as “Source of blessings,” “Source of deliverance” and “Source of peace.”

Another salient point is that Rabbi Danzig would never claim his or anyone’s siddur to be “perfect,” a word he dislikes even more than the word “prayer.” As he states in the Epilogue, this siddur was a way of “meeting my own challenge for honest t’filah … uplifting, honest, those which I could embrace theologically.”  Nowhere does he consider the pursuit or notion of perfection.

Joy Danzig   |   Santa Rosa   


Jewish left irrational

In response to your story regarding Peter Beinart (“Pushback comes from both sides on Beinart’s call for ‘Zionist BDS,’ ” April 13), and the anti-Bibi op-ed by Democrat party shill Doug Bloomfield (“Playing the ‘Holocaust card’ could backfire on Netanyahu,” April 13), the American Jewish left increasingly makes me ashamed to be an American Jew.

Israel is facing multiple existential threats, yet they insist on reciting the big lie — over and over — to wit: if Israel returned to the “Auschwitz borders” of ’67, the Palestinians (most of whom admire Hitler) will leave Israel alone.

Amazingly, though the Palestinians are crystal clear about their ultimate goal — the liquidation of the Jewish state — most of the Jewish left pretends otherwise. Equally irrational is their claim that Barack Obama is the “first Jewish president”(supposed shared values), and that he is “Israel’s best friend.” Beyond weird.

Tod Zuckerman   |    San Francisco


Beinart is pro-Israel, anti-settlements

JTA reporters Ron Kampeas and Shira Schoenberg did well in presenting a balanced overview of “Beinart’s call for ‘Zionist BDS’ ” (April 13).

Anyone who has heard Peter Beinart speak or who has read his book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” knows how unreservedly he supports Israel as a secure, Jewish and democratic state. It is precisely this support of Israel and his concern that Israel remains secure, Jewish and democratic that leads him to oppose the continued expansion of settlements and ongoing occupation.

This opposition is shared by many prominent Israelis, such as former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, authors Amos Oz and David Grossman, and four former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s national security service.

These Israelis and hundred of thousands like them oppose the settlements as a threat to the security of Israel, a threat to Israel’s democratic institutions and a threat to Israel’s Jewish character. These are voices to be heeded — not silenced or ignored.

While the wisdom and effectiveness of a “Zionist BDS” against settlements can and should be debated by Jews everywhere, the principled commitment of Jews like Beinart to a secure, Jewish and democratic Israel should be celebrated.

Michael Cooper   |   Lafayette


Film reviews need truth, not caution

In his recap/review of “The Law in These Parts” (“Cool, inflammatory Israeli films at S.F. international fest,” April 13), Michael Fox reveals the contortions even a well-meaning reporter goes through when he must put protecting Israel’s image before journalistic integrity.

After a fair summation of this documentary, which explores and indicts the military justice system in the occupied territories, Fox concludes with the remarkable confession that “I am choosing my words carefully,” followed sympathetically with a quote from one of the retired judges: “… security comes before human rights.”

One wonders why Fox must choose his words carefully when reporting on the misdeeds of Israel, and why he highlights a quote that obliterates the transcendent command of ethical Judaism: “Justice, justice shall you pursue.”

For an in-depth review of this award-winning documentary, in which the journalist doesn’t choose his words any more carefully than telling the truth requires, see the New York Review of Books.

Carol Sanders   |   Berkeley


‘Holocaust card’ is a necessary play

One quasi-accurate statement in Douglas Bloomfield’s hit-piece op-ed on Benjamin Netanyahu is that “… American governments of both parties have been increasingly supportive of Israel …”(“Playing the ‘Holocaust card’ could backfire on Netanyahu,” April 13).

Financial aid Israel receives is in the form of loan guarantees. Israel spends most of this in the United States on technology and weapons, which in turn creates jobs for Americans, something Obama is unable to do.

If Bloomfield is ignorant of this, no wonder he no longer works for AIPAC.

Bloomfield’s screed excludes reasons Israel’s leaders and citizens do not trust Obama (such as: Obama reportedly saying to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, “You’re fed up with [Netanyahu]? I have to deal with him every day!”; or Obama saying “borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps”).

Google more, Doug.

Netanyahu reminds the world Iran is poised to do to Jews what has been attempted in every generation for thousands of years. “Never forget” applies to the slaughter of Jewish babies in Moses’ time, the Spanish Inquisition, the Shoah and now threatened nuclear attack by Iran.

Without intervention, history has a habit of being repeated.

Lisa Cohen   |   Menlo Park