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In praise of the eruv

I was very saddened to read the Aug. 16 letter “Does ‘eruv’ mean ‘loophole’?”

The disgust expressed and lack of tolerance can be so destructive to the community. I believe that observance of the eruv is beautiful. It is no different than the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, yoga of the Hindus and prayers of the Muslims. All these make the world a better place, both for the believers who use these as ways to connect with God and for the non-believers who are exposed to different ways of thinking.

The spiritual exercise for believers and non-believers alike is to learn to appreciate not only the rich traditions of Judaism but those of all the diverse religions in our midst. That will make the world a better place.

Alan Titus   |   San Francisco


Examining Jewish customs


Dr. Bruce Steir’s intolerant letter about the Richmond District eruv was full of opinions not borne out by fact.

Eruvs are not solely of interest to the ultra-Orthodox or Orthodox. There is interest in them from members of the Conservative community as well.

The entire talmudic tractate of Eruvin is devoted to eruvs of one kind or another. If Dr. Steir feels that the Talmud is outside of the, as he wrote, “basic tenets of the Jewish custom and traditions of intelligent reasoning,” then he must be referring to some other Jewish religion that I am completely unfamiliar with.

Jewish observance is no bar to making the world a better place. It’s a good place to start.

Henry Hollander   |   San Francisco


Just call it ‘Seniors’


I have been meaning to write this letter for years. Every time I receive an issue of j. with your seniors supplement, and see the phrase “The Good Life,” I cringe.

True, life can be good for those of us seniors who are healthy and have enough money. The reality for most seniors, however, is that we are coping, often nobly, with serious illness, losses of people, pleasures and abilities we once treasured — and often financial hardship.

Nobody is fooled by a euphemism like “The Good Life.” It perpetuates the American myth that we can stay young forever and our culture’s denial of death. And most importantly, it disrespects the courage and grace with which so many of us face the realities of our inevitable decline.

It also does not do credit to your articles, which offer a much more balanced perspective on the difficulties and the triumphs of older adults. So why not just call the section “Seniors”?

Malka Weitman   |   Berkeley


Ashkenaz owner found hope in dance


In Emma Silver’s recent wonderful article on David Nadel and Ashkenaz (“Grooving at Ashkenaz: Venerable Berkeley music club celebrates 40 years,” Aug. 16) it was recalled that he would dedicate tickets to be secretly and freely donated to the most depressed in the East Bay community.

I happened to go through school with Dave in Los Angeles, and later lived and worked in the same town for decades without realizing he was the same guy. We reconnected at our 30th high school reunion. At such events, people can often boil big things down to a few sentences. He told me how he had come to Berkeley, was totally depressed, then gone folk dancing, for free, at International House near the campus. He felt it saved and changed his life: ergo Ashkenaz.

While he is and should be remembered for the fullness of who he was, his values, his politics, his community contributions, he clearly also specifically believed that dancing could lift up the hopeless and change lives. Being healed, he paid it forward. L’chaim!

Larry S. Miller   |   Piedmont


Two pieces of dance history

The article about Ashkenaz neglected to mention the two original folk dance instructors who were instrumental in helping Ashkenaz thrive and become a success.

Ruth Browns (Gundelfinger) taught Israeli folk dancing and John Fitz taught Balkan folk dancing at a club where David Nadel used to teach. Both Browns and Fitz started teaching (on different nights) at Ashkenaz when it opened in 1973.

Browns taught at Ashkenaz from 1973 to the 1980s. She is acknowledged as a dance pioneer and one of the best Israeli folk dance instructors in Northern California.

I never attended the Balkan classes, but the Israeli dances pulled in steady crowds — which translated to money needed to help Ashkenaz flourish.

Rose G. Schlecker   |   South San Francisco


A Palestinian’s courageous path

The op-ed written by Aseel Saied (“Palestinian gets close to ‘other’ in pro-Israel internship,” Aug. 18) showcased a wonderful effort by the author. I don’t have to agree with every position of Americans for Peace Now (and I don’t) to admire the emotional and intellectual courage that it took for Aseel to intern with them. Same for her Israeli counterpart, Natan Odenheimer, who interned with the American Task Force on Palestine.

An important point about ATFP is that it openly endorses the position of the U.S. — and the Israeli — government that the endpoint of the conflict is two states for two peoples. In doing so, it joins the mainstream of American supporters of Israel and of peace. AIPAC policy conferences regularly feature speakers from ATFP.

We will have important and legitimate differences on what it will take to get there, but we all stand united against the “river-to-the-sea” extremists such as al-Awda, Students for Justice in Palestine, and their enablers in Jewish Voice for Peace.

Sometimes working on areas of agreement is more productive than highlighting our differences. And we need more voices in Ramallah like Aseel who can help lead their people to the only chance for peace — recognizing the legitimacy of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

Michael Harris   |   San Rafael