Jewish senators oddly silent on Iran

There are 16 Republican candidates for president. Just about every one has come out loud and clear against the dangerous Iran nuclear deal. There are 11 Jewish senators: Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Ron Wyden, Chuck Schumer, Ben Cardin, Bernie Sanders, Michael Bennet (Colorado), Al Franken, Richard Blumenthal, Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Carl Levin. Has anyone heard their voices in protest of the deal? But God forbid a Bay Area Jew ever votes Republican!

Scott Abramson   |   San Mateo


Look to Israel for Iran deal wisdom

In watching the American news media or reading local newspapers, one might have the impression that opposition to the Iran deal is a left-right dispute. However, in Israel there is a consensus that the Kerry-brokered deal with Iran is a disaster. Not only are the prime minister and members of the government coalition opposed to this deal, but so are members of the leading opposition parties. Liberman, Herzog and Lapid are all publicly opposed to this deal. Only the far-left Meretz and the Arab List are supporting the Kerry-Obama deal.

This is important, because it is painted differently in our media. It has become a partisan issue here and it shouldn’t be. Our local members of Congress need to understand the gravity of the situation. Loyalty to a lame-duck president should not override their responsibility to examine all the facts of this deal and render an independent vote.

They need to ask why, if Iran has nothing to hide, it needs 24 days before inspectors can examine the sites. They need to ask why the snap-back sanctions are not retroactive so that contracts can be completed even if Iran violates the agreement. They need to ask why our two closest allies in the region oppose this deal. Hopefully those answers will persuade them that there can be a better deal.

Gil Stein   |   Aptos


Deal is best option for Israel’s survival

I congratulate J. for the editorial “Iran deal isn’t perfect, but neither is the alternative” (July 17), pointing out the complexities and challenges in dealing with the Iran nuclear situation. None of us is happy with all aspects of the proposed deal. However, we need to recognize the realistic alternatives.

If the U.S. rejects this internationally approved agreement, Iran’s nuclear program would be completely unfettered, and even the current sanctions would be eroded. Military force is simply not a realistic way to prevent Iran from nuclear development. At best, it can slow things down by a few years (fewer, most likely, than the agreement), and much more likely, it would escalate into a major conflagration that would be disastrous for Israel, the rest of the Middle East and the United States, as well.

As a lifelong supporter of Israel, I am concerned for her survival and think supporting the president in moving forward with this agreement, although far from perfect, is the best of our alternatives.

Carol Winograd, M.D.   |   Stanford

Professor of Medicine Emerita, Stanford

Vice Chair, J Street National Board


Iranians back down when faced with force

I strongly disagree with your editorial support for the current Iranian nuclear deal. You argue that the arrangement “included intrusive inspections, a 98 percent elimination of Iran’s centrifuges and severe caps on enriched uranium, versus an Iran unbound by any commitments at all.”

Unfortunately, the inspection protocol for undeclared sites allows for a 24-day or longer notice period. As recently as April, administration spokespersons were clear there would have to be “anytime, anywhere” access. Now it’s become “where necessary, when necessary.”

Sanctions, which Congress imposed against the president’s wishes, have never been fully implemented but rather subject to numerous presidential waivers that compromised their effectiveness. The obvious alternative policy is stricter sanctions and more strictly enforced.

The Iranians have consistently backed down from the threat of military force. They temporarily discontinued the nuclear program in 2003 out of fear of a U.S. military intervention. More recently they withdrew a naval squadron taking supplies to their Houthi allies in Yemen after President Obama deployed Navy vessels to the area.

Let us hope Congress turns down this diplomatic accord, and there is still time for President Obama or his successor to create a more effective policy.

Steve Astrachan   |   Pleasant Hill


JCC Maccabi camp is part of the team

I read with interest the article about the new Camp Ramah coming to Northern California next summer (“Camp Ramah sailing into new location: Monterey Bay,” July 24). It is wonderful to see new camping options for our children.

I would like to correct one piece of misinformation in the article. There are more than two Jewish overnight summer camps in the area. The JCC Maccabi Sports Camp in Atherton just completed its highly successful second summer with over 200 campers. I want families to know that there are many Jewish overnight camp experiences for their children during the summer.

Adrienne Muscat Swedlove   |   Aptos


Israeli progressives hold the power

Sue Fishkoff’s column (“I’ve got the Jewish part, but can Israel be democratic, too?” July 24) is well-written yet is based on the one-sided lament of Israel’s progressives, who whine about the erosion of their dominance of Israel’s governance rooted in the founding fathers’ socialist ideology — although their influence is still pervasive throughout the higher echelons of Israel’s government, military, legal system, media, arts and higher education system.

This ongoing power struggle between the two camps of Israeli society is about the democracy’s hue, not democratic values. Whereas most of the secular left would like Israel to follow the U.S. style of pluralism, diversity and multiculturalism, the more traditional majority pulls toward a Judaic-leaning democracy.

The lack of a constitution, as suggested by Yohanan Plesner, is a red herring. Israel’s democracy is doing well, thank you. The underlying concern of the left and the Israel Democracy Institute, and that of so-called human rights NGOs that are funded by U.S. progressive Jews (New Israel Fund and J Street) and the EU’s socialists, is the right’s attempts to counterbalance the left’s legacy, especially its dominance of the media and the Supreme Court.

Plesner’s lament about the government’s initiative to up-end the composition of the Supreme Court selecting committee is a ruse. Of the nine committee members, five represent the Supreme Court and the lawyers association. Israel’s elected legislative and executive branches have no say in appointing Supreme Court judges. How democratic can this be?

Sam Liron   |   Foster City


Inspiring teens, inspiring partners

Thank you for highlighting the extraordinary teens who participated in the transformative Marcus Social Justice Fellowship, the first project of the new North Peninsula Teen Collective (“Teen collective finishes social justice project,” July 17). What makes this North Peninsula Teen Collective inspiring — in addition to the teens themselves — is the tremendous collaboration that led to its creation and ongoing development.

In addition to the four North Peninsula congregational rabbis and Union for Reform Judaism professionals, our colleagues from the San Francisco–based federation, along with 16 local volunteers within the federation’s North Peninsula Impact Grants Initiative, worked together to shape this community-wide initiative from its inception. We are thrilled to work in the North Peninsula, where we continue to marvel at the successful partnership of the local professionals, lay volunteers and, of course, teens — to work together to enable the next generation to build Jewish life for themselves and their peers.

As the Teen Collective moves into our second year of programming, we look forward to continuing and strengthening these valuable partnerships. And by focusing on social action and leadership programs, we aim to empower teens to design their own paths of engagement in Jewish life.

Dani Mahrer   |   San Francisco

Director, North Peninsula Teen Collective


Jewish schools must find a place for all Jewish students

The haggadah states that the Torah speaks of four children: One is wise, one is wicked, one is simple and one does not know how to ask. Today at least two of these children would probably be diagnosed as having “learning differences.” However, it’s important to note that these children are not educated separately.

Interestingly, U.S. public educational policy is entirely consistent with the Torah. The law is very clear: “Students with disabilities must be educated with nondisabled students” (www.tinyurl.com/33j47sk).

Thus it is with extreme dismay that I read in your June 19 article (“Bay Area shuls, schools reflect on how they serve special-needs children”) that children with learning differences are rejected for reasons such as “lack of resources” (the essence of your quote attributed to Peg Sandel, head of school for Brandeis Hillel Day School in Marin) or because they “unbalance” the class (your quote attributed to the parent of a child accepted into the school). Indeed, it would be illegal for a public school to turn away children on those grounds.

That the only Jewish day school in Marin, which has one of the highest Jewish populations in the diaspora, should reject such students, while simultaneously accepting a high rate of non-Jewish children, is unacceptable for a school that draws significant funding from the Jewish community and professes a mission of providing Jewish education.

The responsibility for this disgraceful failure of mission does not rest with these schools alone. The local Jewish community in general, and donors to these schools in particular, must take responsibility for allowing what is essentially a form of educational apartheid to continue unchallenged.

With anti-Semitism and assimilation on the rise, we should take action now to encourage these schools to return to their primary mission, namely: providing a Jewish education for all Jewish students, wise, wicked, simple and those who do not know how to ask.

David Moshal   |   Mill Valley