We must educate Holocaust teachers

 I commend Aliza Craimer Elias on her thoughtful piece “Critical thinking on Holocaust starts with ‘why’ not ‘if’ ” (May 16). I must add, however, that we cannot expect meaningful Holocaust education in our schools until we educate the educators.

California standards require teaching of the Holocaust but they do not require any teacher training for this difficult subject. I have been in hundreds of classrooms over the years and seen many well-meaning teachers misinform and confuse their students trying to tackle this subject matter when they are ill-equipped to handle its complexity.

Before teachers can ask their students to think critically about the “why” of the Holocaust, they must not only study the Holocaust themselves, they must also learn how to approach the subject matter with the students they teach, in their particular school environment. Effectively implementing a Holocaust curriculum requires building a historical framework, facilitating personal connections to the past, and creating an atmosphere in which students can engage with the confounding questions studying the Holocaust must raise.

The United States Holocaust Museum and other national institutions provide a vast array of resources and large-scale programs to select teachers. But we cannot leave the work of teacher training to distant institutions. Teachers who want to teach about the Holocaust need local support. They need to work with Holocaust educators who understand the particular challenges of their school districts, and who will give them ongoing and personalized training as they adapt their lessons to the realities of their classrooms.

So while I share the sentiments in Elias’ piece, I would add that if we want students to learn about the Holocaust, we must teach their teachers first.

Liz Igra | Sacramento

President, Central Valley Holocaust Educators’ Network


Peaceful coexistence also includes animals

Though veganism is the Jewish ideal and the truest form of kashrut, I obviously can’t stop those who choose to eat animal flesh and secretions. I come from a long line of rabbis and have always been taught that Judaism is kind to animals. As the former British chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, says: “I don’t miss the chicken soup, and life is short enough without my inflicting pain on innocent chickens.”

So, there’s no reason that the Jewish leaders we entrust with the spiritual and moral guidance of our youth should be those who promote and personally do the killing of God’s creatures. Yet, that’s the troubling situation we find ourselves in with respect to Urban Adamah and Hazon, and even leaders and rabbis of the West Coast BBYO and Berkeley Hillel (“In private, Urban Adamah slaughters 15 chickens at center of ethical battle” and “Conscientious meat eating isn’t an oxymoron,” May 23).

Since Hazon and Urban Adamah came into existence, they have started recruiting Jews into the “locavore” and DIY-backyard-slaughter craze of cruel and needless killing, under the guise of what’s “humane” and “sustainable.”

With the limited resources our community has, let’s put our money, time and energy toward positive endeavors that enhance our world, promoting our values of justice and compassion, and a peaceful coexistence with all.

Judith Gottesman | San Rafael


Stop scorning the omnivoresin our midst

I appreciate vegetarians and vegans who have made a choice that is far more sustainable than eating meat. Sparing animals from suffering is honorable and I commend all who do so. But let us live by example and not by condemning others who do not share our beliefs.

I applaud Urban Adamah for its generous acts of kindness as it donates much of the food it produces to the needy in our local community. I’m grateful that my 3 1/2-year-old son has been able to learn a bit about farming there and feel blessed to have this resource.

There are a number of options to deal with hens that have passed their egg-laying years. Urban Adamah has chosen to slaughter the animals as part of an educational program and to give participants the opportunity to eat food that they witnessed being slaughtered. While finding a permanent home for the hens would be gentler to them, doing such would only obscure the reality of meat production even at its most humane. This experience is honest; it shows us that we must consider the cost to the animal that comes from our eating it.

We humans are omnivores and have choices about what we eat. We can eat in ways that are more sustainable or less, more humane or less. That’s a personal decision.

As we advocate our different opinions, let us not make personal attacks but rather have compassion for the choices that each person makes and appreciate their unique contribution to our community.

Rudi Halbright | Berkeley


Slaughtering chickens is not ‘responsible’

I was so disappointed to read your editorial (“Urban Adamah is a torchbearer for responsible farming,” May 30). I don’t agree with your stance to support Adam Berman’s decision to slaughter the chickens privately. It was extremely underhanded to do this when he knew there so many people hoping to save these lives. What makes it even worse is that there were a number of sanctuaries happy to take the chickens and allow them to live out their lives in peace.

I am proud to be Jewish and associate myself with  people who care about others, whether human or not.

You state that the chickens at Urban Adamah enjoyed happy lives. What gives them the right to decide when they will die? Just because they have the “right” to kill these animals, does not make it right.

I am extremely disappointed that you support this.

Elaine Silver | San Bruno


J Street projects have marginal impact in Israel

Reading Dan Pine’s fine report (“J Street draws top names to S.F. national summit,” May 30) it is like reading a sport column of your favorite sport team. J Street’s cheerleaders, Jeremy Ben-Ami and fellow presenters, provide a colorful show, the fans cheer loudly from the bleachers. Yet their impact on the game, i.e., the actual relations between Israel and the Palestinians is negligible; actually their “noise” may embolden the opposite team to play harder against Israel.

Unfortunately, J Street’s pro-peace objectives, as much as they are desirable, have marginal impact on the actual events 9,000 miles away. J. readers may agree that it will be far more beneficial to the people of Israel if J Street and its donors will spend all these funds and energy on more meaningful social projects, such as providing disadvantaged Israeli youth vocational training, or summer camps in areas like Karmiel, Ussefiya and Arad. These resources invested in Israel’s disadvantaged youth, regardless of ethnicity, will improve the life of thousands of poor families, and contribute hundredfold to their quality of life in the future. Thus, the momentary cheers of this show will be replaced by enduring cheers and heartfelt thanks of the youth in Israel.

Sam Liron | Foster City


Rabbi Ed Zerin’s book well worth reading

Rabbi Ed Zerin is a special guy, most unusual member of the human species. He continues to have fun and recall meaningful life experiences over his 94 years. I loved his latest book, “A Tribute to My Teacher” (“Rabbi wraps up another book, ready for next project,” May 30). Get his latest book. It is well worth reading. Personally, I think it’s Ed’s sense of humor that fills his active life. It was my pleasure and honor to serenade his wife on a milestone birthday years ago.

Richard Aptekar | Burlingame


Don’t expect Hanan Ashrawi to be objective

Despite answers to the questions asked by the Media Line (“Fatah, Hamas sign unity accord,” April 25), Hanan Ashrawi will never have an objective and positive view regarding Israel and the Palestinians, in my opinion.

Whatever Israel does or does not do will always be wrong, and the Palestinians will always be right in whatever they do or don’t do. And who is the Media Line, and what are their qualifications to ask such questions, anyway?

Laurence Cosden | Los Gatos