Selective protection of rights

What a clever placement of articles on the same page in the May 9 issue of J. In one article (“Jewish groups decry Supreme Court’s prayer ruling”), there is a report of anger by various Jewish organizations at a recent ruling by the Republican-dominated Supreme Court. As a result of this ruling, Jews attending governmental meetings may have to listen to Christian prayers.

An adjacent article in J. reports that the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations rejected J Street for membership (“Is J Street beyond political pale for Conference of Presidents?”). Apparently, because J Street’s positions on Israel do not accord with the conference’s majority. Looks like American Jewish leadership supports protection of minority rights for Jews but not for Jewish groups whose positions make the leadership uncomfortable.

Mel Mogulof  |  Berkeley


J Street has chutzpah

Calling J Street pro-Israel is a mistake. Any organization that gets its major funding from George Soros is not pro-Israel.

J Street has demonstrated in words and in deeds that it does not support the nation and people of Israel. It repeatedly has sided with Israel’s enemies. Whether this disqualifies the organization from membership in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is up to the members of that organization.

Just because Donald Sterling says that he is not a racist doesn’t make it so. Look at J Street. They support the Palestinians in their opposition to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. They support negotiating with Hamas, which is dedicated to destroying Israel, and they blame Israel for not making peace with terrorists.

J Street talks about democracy, yet they support the despotic regime of Mahmoud Abbas and object to the democratic vote of the CPMAJO. When J Street says that they are the pro- Israel, pro-peace organization, they are saying that other groups are not. This arrogance is matched by their chutzpah in claiming to know what is best for Israelis while they sit comfortably in their American homes far away from the rockets and the suicide bombers that they prefer to protect.

Gil Stein  |  Aptos


Many paths to holistic Jewish experience

It has been my pleasure for many years to be able to say “yes” to b’nai mitzvah families that shuls had said “no” to for various reasons: cousins who wanted to do the ceremony together, brother and sister not the same age, special needs, a child already 12 or 13, and many other situations.

Yes, having my own Torah and all the other things needed is essential. But more important is being able to connect on a deep level with students for whom the standard synagogue process isn’t working. There are too many Jews walking around who felt wounded in some way by the process. Community is important, and we create that between the students and their families. I’ve been told more than once, “If I had seen a bar mitzvah like this, I would have given my child a Jewish education.”

The important thing in an increasingly difficult world is to make Judaism a stone in the foundation our children stand on. A joyous and spiritual experience goes a long way to help our kids seek out Jewish community in the decades after they turn 13. A holistic, creative approach that supports the whole person goes a long way. And sometimes you can find this within a synagogue. There is no one path for all.

Rabbi Sara Shendelman  |  Berkeley


Focus on the positives of Jewish observance

Another spot-on article in “Mixed & Matched” (“Help! My Jewish grandsons went on an Easter egg hunt,” May 2.) I love that the author made a particular key point that’s so often overlooked. As an observant (Modern Orthodox) friend recently put it, “We often focus too much on the don’ts of Judaism, when we should be focusing more on the do’s. We shouldn’t see it as ‘You can’t do all these things on Shabbat,’ but rather ‘You get to relax, spend time with family, avoid technology, and do all these awesome things on Shabbat!’ ”

Denying American-Christian culture is a near-impossible task — and more importantly, it won’t make the kids Jewish. Meanwhile, proactively bringing Jewish activities, Jewish holidays, Jewish learning, Jewish values, and Jewish memories to your children … that’s what will actually make a difference.

Ruthie Arbeiter  |  Palo Alto


Follow-up needed on South Africa ‘dig-out’ port

Thank you for your article “Goldman Environmental Prize reaches 25-year milestone” (May 2).

Desmond D’Sa is on record that he is going to use all the prize money to prevent the planned Durban “dig-out” port.

Would you be so kind as to do a follow-up article about what would happen if Desmond’s planned prevention of the Durban “dig-out” port should succeed? This would cripple the South African economy.

Desmond and the people he represents have a reason to stop this planned port, as the Durban South community is plagued by numerous environmental hazards.

Has South Africa’s Transnet got alternative plans should Durban Harbour, which is Gauteng’s logistics lifeline, does not get approved?

Or will the ANC government use legislation that was approved about a month ago which will fast track environmental approvals by drastically reducing the time in which the public can object or comment?

Francois Nortje  |  South Africa