Inspired by solar connection

We could not be more inspired by Dan Pine’s cover story “Power to the people” (Jan. 25) about Berkeley spouses Laura Stachel and Hal Aronson engaging West African Muslims and Christians with gifts of affordable solar electricity and safe childbirth — in practice, taking light to the nations, our high destiny.

Similarly, we of the local 20-year-old Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue were invited to northern Nigeria to pass forward locally-tested tools of communication excellence for successful African interfaith relationship healing. As Camp Tawonga Executive Director Ken Kramarz once told us: “It’s time to stop importing problems and begin exporting solutions.” We find this a good prescription for innovation in the Middle East, Africa, and beyond. Laura’s obstetric skills and Hal’s solar expertise certainly make for their marriage of great meaning — for themselves, and for our African cousins and larger global community.

Libby and Len Traubman   |   San Mateo


The Torah is our Constitution

Right after the president of the United States is officially sworn in, he takes the oath of office. Consider the remarkable wording of that oath. He swears to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The president swears to defend not the people, not the nation, not the state, not the government, but the Constitution of the United States — a piece of paper.  That is a profoundly Jewish idea.

The Founding Fathers understood that allegiance to a Constitution, to its principles of liberty and rule of law, is what unites and sustains America. If the Constitution is protected, the United States will flourish; if neglected, it will falter and fall.

This is what the Jews have known for millennia.   The Torah — God’s word to our ancestors — is our Constitution, our covenant of liberty. When we study and cherish Torah we are united as a people and we thrive.

We survived because we carried the Torah with us into Israel. We are who and what we are because we have preserved, protected and defended our sacred Constitution, the Torah, a Torah that made us stronger than the greatest empires in history.

Rabbi Dov Greenberg   |   Palo Alto


Remembrance in birth notice

A recent birth announcement in j. made reference to family members murdered by the Nazis. Two letter-writers saw fit to write that birth notices should be joyous and appropriate (letters, Jan. 25).

Every child born into my family was named after a relative who died during the Holocaust. The birth of every one was a joy and blessing. My mother speaks to schoolchildren about her experiences as a teenager when all of her family suffered and died. When asked how she survived, her answer is always that someone had to live to tell the story.

At every simcha in my family, mention is made of those in our family who were persecuted, robbed and murdered. It makes the bris, bar mitzvah and wedding more joyous and appropriate. The survivors whose families flourished in this land do not forget that they had parents, brothers and sisters. Remembering them in a birth announcement is testimony that the murderers and their accomplices could not wipe out our Jewish culture. By mentioning those who suffered and died, we are doing what is just and right to make the world understand that 6 million is not just a number. To forget is the most cowardly act of all.

Norman Weiss   |   Orinda


Israeli documentary a must-see

“The Gatekeepers” is an Israeli documentary by Jerusalem-born Dror Moreh that opens in the Bay Area on Feb. 22. Nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar, the film features interviews with all six surviving former heads of the Shin-Bet, Israel’s internal security service. It’s a must-see for anyone who loves and cares about Israel.

The former Shin-Bet chiefs, charged with overseeing Israel’s security, reflect on the sum of their actions and decisions, their successes and failures. We are shown how each man individually, and the six as a group, all came to support an end to the occupation and a conciliatory approach toward the Palestinians based on a two-state solution.

For those of us who advocate for a democratic and secure Israel living side-by-side with a Palestinian state, “The Gatekeepers” comes as a breath of fresh air — indeed, a wind at our back. Because when we criticize current Israeli governmental policy in relation to the West Bank, we’re accused by some of hating Israel, or, at best, of being naïve and misinformed.

With “The Gatekeepers,” we can point to these six former Shin-Bet chiefs and ask, “What about them? — are they naive and misinformed?”

Dr. Michael Cooper   |   Lafayette


Jews must connect to survive

Rabbi Marvin Goodman  (“It takes a community to help a synagogue thrive,” op-ed Jan. 18) is absolutely right emphasizing the growing disconnect between Jews and synagogues. Actually, it is a sign of disconnect between Jews and Jewishness. And it is truly unfortunate because this is a way of losing the sense of belonging and eventually the sense of identity.

Jews have survived millennia of persecution not by assimilating with other nations, but by holding onto their beliefs. Their steadfast devotion culminated in re-establishing Israel in 1948, and her victories against Arab aggressors. Israel’s triumphs have totally debunked anti-Semites’ clichés.

At the time of Hitler’s rise to power, the famous American author H.L. Mencken wrote: “As commonly encountered they (Jews) lack any of the qualities that mark the civilized man: courage, dignity, incorruptibility, ease, confidence. They have vanity without pride, voluptuousness without taste, and learning without wisdom.” Who can believe this garbage now?

Although the anti-Semitism of the past has been replaced by the anti-Israelism of the present, Israel’s prowess has awakened Jews’ self-respect, confidence, and interest in their history. The centrality of Israel, albeit not perfect, should become one of the most important means of returning Jews to their roots and carrying on Jewishness from generation to generation.

Vladimir Kaplan   |   San Mateo