Accommodating ‘the stranger’

Martin Wasserman (“Damaging to Jewish values,” letter June 22) is absolutely right, warning against superimposing values espoused by Jews on the Jewish state as a whole. Of course, there is a linkage between these values, but not a simple extension of one into another.

To get a handle on the individual-state relationship we may go back to Hegel’s principle of the transition of quantity into quality. In essence, it establishes that increase in quantity eventually leads to a new quality. A nation is not just a large set of individuals, but a new quality carrying on certain responsibilities. While Jews as individuals may exercise all sorts of hospitality and generosity, Israel as a collection of these individuals must concern itself, primarily, with maintaining the security and tranquility of the nation 

In an ideal world, a state would be able to live up fully to the aspirations of its citizens, not worrying about mortal threats to their lives. But the reality of Israel’s environment is far from ideal. And thus, there is little wonder that the Jewish state sometimes finds itself in a situation when it can’t comfort and accommodate “the stranger,” as has been happening with the Sudanese illegal immigrants.

Vladimir Kaplan   |   San Mateo


‘Observing’ more than laws

It was indeed gratifying to read Elan Lavie’s loving account of connecting with his Jewish identity at Camp Tawonga (“Finding Jewish connection on Lost Coast backpacking trip,” June 15). We are often asked “How Jewishly observant is Tawonga?” and Elan brilliantly explains that for us, observing means more than just observing the law. It also means observing the myriad miracles that surround us, from the human community which we create to the natural world which the creator has given us.

Elan — as a student leader at U.C. Berkeley Hillel — also articulates beautifully the way Jewish institutions like Tawonga and Hillel work synergistically to form a mosaic of experience that, in his words, “keep millennia-old stories fresh for the new generation.”

Ken Kramarz   |   San Francisco

Executive Director, Camp Tawonga


Strong iPhone connection

I recently finished reading Jeff Saperstein’s column (“Mom’s gone, but she’s still a ‘favorite’ on my iPhone,” op-ed May 11), and I was very moved — I even shed some tears.

My beloved mother, Minnie Odelson, age 91, passed away too, six years ago, and I have her playing the piano and speaking on my iPhone!

The family made a CD of her playing the piano and singing, and a few months ago I uploaded it to iTunes, then transferred it to my phone. So while sailing across the Atlantic last November — and even when I’m working out on my elliptical trainer — all of a sudden Mom is singing and talking! I also did not take her contact information out of my Rolodex (yes, I still have one).

As Jeff and I both know, however, this does not substitute for “the real thing.” But it does help.

Thanks to Jeff for his sensitivity.

Marlene Levine Knox  |  San Anselmo