Fan of fine writing

Every week I look forward to receiving J. One of the first things I do is turn to the back of the paper to see if Rachel Biale’s column is there. Her advice to parents is always so reasonable and so humane.

It was a special treat to read her article on the Opinions page about her mother’s experience escaping World War II (“Ship of refugees adrift at sea recalls harrowing WWII tale,” Feb. 6). Ms. Biale is such a fine writer. She made her mother’s tale come to life. It was so vivid and raw. I could feel and imagine the saga her mother and many other refugees went through.

It’s a story I had never heard before, at least with such description. Thank you for having such good writers as Rachel Biale in J.

Gail Taback   |   Oakland


‘Divine’ or not, idolatry is a sin

In “Sacred Calling” (cover story, Feb. 6), you write about the fascinating story of Rabbi Leah Novick, who has dedicated her life to teaching people about the “divine feminine.” Of course, the concept of Shechinah — the presence of G-d in the world and its being referred to as feminine — is an ancient tradition based on Kabbalah. However, I was troubled when she said she has no problem having idols in her home and that “the female deities were part of the ancient world in which Judaism evolved. … the Torah describes Rachel bringing idols from her father’s house.”

It is ironic that this story was published on the week that we read the Torah portion of Yitro, containing the Ten Commandments, including: “Do not have other gods before me, Do not make graven images for yourself.” Many places in the Torah teach that not only must we not worship idols, but we may not have them in our possession and are to stay away from anything related to idol worship. The Torah clearly states that idols need to be destroyed.

While it is true that Judaism started in an idol-worshiping environment, it started by rejecting it. Abraham was thrown into a furnace (and survived miraculously) because he destroyed his father’s idols and rejected idol worship. Rachel stole her father’s idols so he would not worship them.

Idolatry is one of the three sins for which the Torah tells us to sacrifice our lives. For thousands of years Jews have rejected anything remotely associated with idolatry, often at the pain of death. Let’s not allow our creativity to lead us astray. We must be very careful what we say in the name of Judaism.

Rabbi Yosef Levin   |   Palo Alto


After BDS victory, is Shariah law next?

How many celebrants of U.C. Davis’ anti-Israel divestment resolution really understand what they were supporting? (“BDS and Nazi graffiti strikes U.C. Davis,” Feb. 6)

The resolution does more than create campus hostility and divisiveness and direct hateful harm toward Israel. The resolution also illustrates  how well-trained, single-minded and passionate Israel-haters succeed at spotting, persuading,  pressuring and recruiting uninformed, ignorant and gullible fellow students.  

One wonders: Haven’t these tag-along fans of gloating boycotters heard of Hamas, ISIS’ friend, and seen examples of Shariah law in action?  Yet they cheer at the Israel-haters’ poisonous boast that “Hamas & Sharia law have taken over UC Davis.” What next? Resolutions for free burkas and the benefits of FGM?

June Brott   |   Walnut Creek

No place for hate at U.C. Davis


As a U.C. Davis alumnus (’92), I am appalled that anti-Semitic hate is flourishing at my alma mater.

Make no mistake: The U.C. Davis student senate’s vote calling for a boycott of Israel and the graffiti attacks on Jewish institutions that followed and preceded it were anti-Semitic. The senate resolution, for instance, singled out Israel for condemnation, ignoring Israel’s repeated offers to the Palestinians of a state born in peace, which the Palestinians rejected. The resolution also ignored the Palestinians’ response to Israel’s peace initiatives: sending terrorists into Israeli schools, buses, discos and pizzerias to murder Israeli children en masse, and launching almost 20,000 rockets and mortars at Israeli homes, hospitals and neighborhoods from the Gaza Strip since Israel unilaterally left that territory.

The resolution also ignored the Syrian government’s ongoing murder of 200,000 of its own citizens, Russia’s seizure of Crimea and occupation of eastern Ukraine, China’s occupation of Tibet, Iran’s threats to annihilate Israel, the flight of Jews from France in response to surging European anti-Semitism, and Palestinian hate-incitement against Jews and Israel.

Why was Israel alone targeted? As Martin Luther King Jr., observed: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”

Following the vote, a U.C. Davis student senator boasted on her Facebook account: “Hamas & Sharia law have taken over UC Davis” and “Israel will fall insha’Allah.”

Hate has no place at my beloved university.

 Stephen A. Silver   |   San Francisco


Football is no fun

I just read Janet Silver Ghent’s column regarding football (“When it comes to football, I don’t see the attraction,” Feb. 6). That’s just how I feel about the game!

A game is supposed to be fun. I had no fun when I attended a game or two in college. I worried about the players who limped off the field. I wondered why they put themselves through this dangerous ritual to make the university rich.

Another thing that I’ve never understood is why fans root for “our” professional team when “our” team is not made up of local people; it’s made up of the best players across the nation whom the club owners’ money can buy.

Thanks for expressing a responsible person’s opinions on this subject!

Karen Bergen   |   Sunnyvale