Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Guy at the front of the room

With all respect to Jaclyn Deitch and Ruth Levine, whose feelings are absolutely valid and who are indeed students at U.C. Davis (unlike myself), I disagree strongly with them on the subject of the IDF event in February (“Davis students speak out,” letters, Oct. 26).

As the moderator of that event, I watched for an hour and a half as various students from SJP, MSA and MEChA trashed the notion of an academic space. They shouted, banged on the walls, walked back and forth, waved flags and booed. Many of those who got up in the “silent, respectful walkout” returned and continued to heckle. Those responsible for said walkout very respectfully (and anti-Semitically) referred to a Jewish professor on their (SJP) Facebook page as Professor Sh—stein.

Amid the many diatribes hurled at the speakers, my Jewish star necklace was audibly compared to a swastika. They guffawed when a Druze Israeli woman shared her painful memory of hiding in a bomb shelter from Hezbollah rockets, and even berated the Chabad rabbi’s wife, who was with child, when she tried to calm them. The infamous “main heckler” (who admitted to being paid to carry out his disruption) is what sticks in everyone’s memory, but as the guy at the front of the room, I’m surprised at how quickly people are willing to forget or not even realize how the rest of the anti-Israel protesters continued to harass and interrupt for the entirety of the event. This isn’t hearsay — again, I’m saying this as the moderator of the event itself.

Matthew White   |   San Francisco

Campus coordinator, StandWithUs


A chilling precedent

It is unclear whether U.C. Davis students Jaclyn Deitch and Ruth Levine were at the Feb. 27 event “Defending the Israeli Image” that they comment upon; I know that U.C. Davis professor Diane Wolf was not (letters, Oct. 26). They present a totally different picture from what I witnessed. That they blame it on outside agitators is inaccurate and attempts to dismiss what occurred.

I have been a faculty member at U.C. Davis for 17 years. I should be able to attend a campus event without being subjected to planned and consistent heckling, interruptions and harassment. Many other U.C. Davis students and faculty share my views. Despite Wolf’s desire to present a different impression, I have witnessed this disruptive behavior on several occasions. It only occurs at events that portray Israel in a positive light.

Although most of the protesters confined their opposition to occasional hooting and jeers, six to eight individuals felt empowered to prevent any collegial exchange of ideas. Disgracefully, campus security and the U.C. Davis police did nothing. This sets a chilling precedent for future campus public events. Immediately afterward I called on the campus administration, particularly Chancellor Linda Katehi, to investigate and to take appropriate action to prevent similar occurrences in the future. I renew that call now.

Dr. David Siegel   |   Davis

Professor and Vice Chair

U.C. Davis School of Medicine


‘Paltry’ scholarship level

I applaud the Jennifer Gorovitz opinion piece on affordability for Jewish education in the Bay Area; however, the current scholarship fund level is paltry relative to the challenge (“How to keep Jewish life affordable for Bay Area families,” op-ed, Oct. 26).

The hope is that day schools, synagogues and camps that provide for Jewish knowledge, identity and consciousness will get more financial support to offer stand-alone, innovative, authentic and transformative experiences that can reach a much larger segment of those families who want to participate, but may not want to commit to institutional membership.

The federation and foundations, such as the Jim Joseph Foundation, already are seeding such programs. Let’s hope our community will take the lead in meeting the scalability and affordability challenge by taking this on as a community priority.

Jeff Saperstein   |   Mill Valley


Another ‘leader among leaders’

In reading the wonderful story of Jason and Matthew Goldman’s reincarnation of their grandfather’s firm, I notice while the story rightfully reflects the legacy of Richard Goldman and refers to their parents, Doug and Lisa Goldman, their cookie-baking maternal grandmother, Eleanor Myers, is not mentioned by name (“ ‘Insuring’ a legacy,” Oct. 26). Nor is there mention of the Goldmans’ grandfather Larry Myers, z’l, who, like Richard Goldman, was an extraordinarily dedicated Jewish community leader and philanthropist.

Among a long list of local and national agencies served, Larry was San Francisco-based JCF president 1986-88; presided over and saved the SFJCC from financial ruin, setting it on a course to become the center of San Francisco Jewish life; and served as president of the Bureau of Jewish Education, American Jewish Congress, the Jewish Home and Menorah Park, whose creation he spearheaded and shepherded.

To quote another past JCF president, Harold Zlot, he was “a leader among leaders.”

Both Richard’s and Larry’s memories are a blessing to the family and to the entire Jewish community.

Mimi Gauss   |   San Francisco


A blow for religious freedom

One can make a case that it’s unjust to prevent women from praying aloud at the Kotel (“Anat Hoffman arrest at Wall is a shanda,” editorial, Oct. 26). However, there’s a far greater injustice taking place in Israel, and that’s the prevention of any Jews, either male or female, from praying atop the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. If a Jew so much as moves his lips silently in a way that could be interpreted as a prayer, he’s immediately arrested and removed from the Mount. If Anat Hoffman wants to strike a real blow for religious freedom, she should take her prayers to the top of the Mount and not just the Kotel.

Martin Wasserman   |   Sunnyvale


Prop. 34: Death penalty’s cost to society

I read with great interest the opinion of Matthew Golde, senior deputy DA for Alameda County, on Prop. 34 (“Cost is a red herring — proponents using trickery, emotions to achieve goals,” op-ed, Oct. 12).

Golde states that the death penalty is too profound an issue to be reduced to shady cost arguments in a time of fiscal emergency, yet offers no accounting for this statement or any others that he makes. Several studies document the enormous costs associated with the California death penalty, far beyond the costs of LWOP.

He also states the pivotal issue should be the morality of the death penalty, but that would only be true if the death penalty was perfect. It is not. The pivotal issues, which he does not touch on at all, are:

1. With 729 inmates on death row, 13 executions in 34 years, and an average wait of 25 years to impose death, the system is broken and dysfunctional. Why continue to invest in it?

2. DNA has illuminated the fact that innocent people are wrongfully convicted and sent to their deaths. Is it right to turn a blind eye to this?

3. Victims’ family members find themselves trapped in decades of appeals with the inflated expectation that an execution will happen, when it rarely does. Is this fair?

Whether one is for or against capital punishment, these are the issues to be acknowledged and understood.

Nancy Oliveira   |   San Francisco


Prop. 34: Set a moral example

With regard to your coverage of capital punishment and Proposition 34 in your Oct. 12 issue, it is well and good to argue about the fairness, inequality, inefficiency or cost of our judicial system. But Proposition 34 itself is simply about the punishment: the fact that We the People currently endorse the killing of human life.

Whether by stoning, burning, strangling, guillotining, hanging, shooting, electrocuting, poisoning or drugging, the execution of securely incarcerated human beings in the name of justice is barbaric. Nevertheless, it is an approved practice in California, and when applied, it is carried out in our name.

Proposition 34, which replaces execution with life in prison without the possibility of parole, presents us with a rare opportunity to set things aright. Pikuach nefesh, the saving of human life, is now in our hands. Votes in favor of abolishing death as a penalty are needed to ensure that our system of justice, itself, makes the statement and sets the moral example that human life is really sacred.

Rabbi Bernie Robinson     

San Rafael


Prop. 37: What’s in our food

Proposition 37 is quite simple. It would give Californians the same right enjoyed by citizens in 61 other nations, including China and Russia — the right to know if our food is genetically modified.

Hourly TV blasts of “No on 37” are filling the airwaves, trying to create doubt and confusion. Monsanto, Dow and DuPont are putting $1 million a day into these negative ads. These pesticide companies and their allies in the junk food industry are trying to distract us from a simple issue. Why don’t they want me to know if my food has been genetically engineered? It is these same companies that developed Agent Orange and DDT and told us those were safe as well.

Since the FDA has decided not to test the safety of GMO foods, we, the consumers, must take this into our own hands. Did you know that GMOs have been slipped into our food supply since the 1990s, from your baby’s formula to corn chips and soy milk?

We have the right to know and choose what we are eating. As one of millions of Californians who want their food labeled, I ask you to stand with me and vote yes on Proposition 37.