ADL approach to anti-Semitism is global collaboration

Robert Rubin’s op-ed “Anti-Semitism may be ‘canary in the coal mine’ of intolerance” (Dec. 19) illuminates the powerful role diverse intergroup coalitions can play in confronting the challenges of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, as highlighted at the recent Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League helped lead the broad coalition of 25 U.S. civil rights organizations represented at the conference.

With alarming rates of anti-Semitic attitudes in Europe — 24 percent of Western Europe’s adults and 34 percent in Eastern Europe hold anti-Jewish views, according to ADL’s recent Global 100 Survey — the conference was more than timely. At its conclusion, the coalition issued a list of 10 commonsense recommendations to help OSCE nations more effectively address anti-Semitism and other forms of xenophobia.

These include calling on governments to publicly and forcefully condemn all manifestations of anti-Semitism; train law enforcement, prosecutors and judges to investigate and prosecute hate crimes; implement effective education against anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry; and equip law enforcement officials to address security needs at sites of hate crimes, such as Jewish schools and synagogues.

Such action by member states together with coalitions of NGOs can help ensure a Europe fully committed to counteracting the scourge of hatred and discrimination and actively engaged in the day-to-day work required to achieve meaningful results.

Seth Brysk   |   San Francisco

Central Pacific regional director, Anti-Defamation League


Step out of your comfort zone

In regard to the injustices permeating the lives of people of color in our society, I read with great interest the recent op-eds in J. by Rabbi Ayelet Cohen (“Our moral duty: to oppose system that harms people like Eric Garner,” Dec. 12) and Rabbi Mark Bloom (“There is a Jewish response to Michael Brown and Eric Garner,” Dec. 19). These rabbis’ salient words spoke to my heart, to my quest for social justice, as well as to my Jewish identity. Unlike your readers who voiced opinions to the contrary, I appreciated and was inspired by these two rabbis’ words of wisdom.

Rabbi Bloom spoke of our need to pursue justice amid our broken, biased justice system. Rabbi Cohen cited the words of Leviticus in saying, “Do not stand idly by while the blood of your neighbor is shed.” Both of these rabbis spoke about empathizing with our brothers and sisters who live in fear every day — and stepping out of our comfort zone to support a cause that ultimately benefits us all.

We do need to step out of our comfortable existence, recognize the privilege inherent in our white skin and be a collective voice with and for those deemed by the dominant culture as “less than.” Black lives do matter!

Sharon Brown   |   Walnut Creek


Stand up and demand change

I have been glad to see your continued coverage of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but was troubled by views expressed in two letters to the editor in your Jan. 2 issue. These letters are grounded in misinformation and shallow analysis.

First, they ignore the African American community’s legitimate fears of law enforcement. While the majority of law enforcement personnel are principled and selfless, the sad reality is that institutionalized harassment in our country’s law enforcement systems has tragically killed too many African Americans.

Second, they inaccurately blame #BlackLivesMatters protesters for violence. These assertions fail to acknowledge that the vast majority of protests have been peaceful. One author even slanderously asserts that protesters enabled the recent New York police murders. In fact, this act was perpetrated by a mentally ill man who also shot his girlfriend and, ultimately, himself.

Third, one author misses the point entirely when he argues that African Americans should focus their attention on so-called “black-on-black” crime. While it is true that most African American murder victims are killed by other African Americans, it is also true that most white murder victims are killed by other white people. Neither of these facts erases the tragic fact that African Americans face disproportionate violence from law enforcement.

For many of us, it is because of the Jewish memory of persecution that so many Jews support the #BlackLivesMatter movement. But first and foremost, it is our duty to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement because it is a matter of justice. I pray that we arrive at a day when all law enforcement personnel are accountable to the men and women they are entrusted to serve. Until then, it is our Jewish obligation and duty to stand with our African American neighbors, friends and family members, and demand change.

Rabbi Michael Rothbaum   |   San Francisco

Co-chair, Bay Area Regional Council

Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice


What does Oren candidacy portend?

In the Jan. 2 edition of J. there was “buried” a story of great importance to those who care about Israel. Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., is running for the Knesset under the banner of a new political party. According to the article, Oren has also called “for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank” (“Ex-U.S. envoy Michael Oren runs for Knesset”).

There is only one person in Israel able to match Oren’s combination of political and academic experience — former ambassador and Tel Aviv University president Itamar Rabinovich. Oren’s current effort to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu can be read as an indictment of Netanyahu’s policies leading to a binational, nondemocratic state with the eventual loss of a Jewish majority. J.’s editor needs to keep her eye (and our eye) on what this portends for Israel and world Jewry.

Mel Mogulof   |   Berkeley


Israel must not surrender identity

Saudi Arabia and Iran define themselves as Islamic states. Article 26 of the constitution of the Islamic State of Iran requires all parties and associations to adhere to the “criteria of Islam” and not violate “the basis of the Islamic republic.”

According to Saudi Arabia’s Basic Law of Governance, Article 1: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sovereign Arab Islamic State. Its religion is Islam. Its constitution is Almighty God’s Book, The Holy Qur’an.”

We in the United States do not need to advise the government of Israel regarding the Basic Law proposal (Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People), which states that the right to self-determination in Israel would be unique to the Jewish people (“U.S. Jewish groups oppose Israel’s ‘Jewish state’ law,” Dec. 5). Any “consensus” must take into account that it is Israel’s Jewish identity that created the only stable, democratic state in the Middle East, the only state where the Christian population is actually increasing and where Christians, Druze and Arabs have all flourished.

Israel is the reconstitution, in its ancient land, of a nation defined by thousands of years of rich and unique history. Is it undemocratic for a country to refuse to surrender its unique national identity?

Julia Lutch   |   Davis