Commitment to Hebrew reflects school’s values

Thank you for your article focusing on Hebrew language learning in Jewish day schools (“More Jewish day schools are making Hebrew optional,” March 25). The article implies that learning Hebrew and another language are mutually exclusive, and it suggests that continuing Hebrew language requirements are somehow not responsive to the particular community.

In the first case, the emphasis at Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School is on multilingual education. While Hebrew is still required, our school also offers a Spanish elective to our middle-school students in addition to their Hebrew language classes.

With respect to responsiveness to our market, our market demands excellence in all things that we do — Hebrew cannot be the exception to this. Our decision to work under a significant grant to turn our Hebrew language program into a model of second-language learning was based on a year of studying Hebrew language models and bilingual schools across the country.  In the end, our understanding was that if we are going to teach anything — including Hebrew language — we must do so to a standard of excellence that we demand in all other subjects.

We are proud of our continued commitment to Hebrew language learning, and we firmly believe it reflects the values and expectations of the market for independent schools.

Barbara Gereboff   |   Foster City

Head of Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School


Evidence abounds that Israel is Jewish homeland

The coming Passover season celebrates when the Jews left Egypt to return to their homeland in the land of Israel around 1300 BCE. Despite recent attempts to rewrite history, Bible stories supported by archaeological findings prove that Jews are the indigenous people of the land of Israel.

Wendy Harris   |   Santa Clara


Analysis on Israel left out key point: PA intransigence

In his analysis of social issues in Israel (“Dangerous fissures must be repaired,” March 18), Daniel Sokatch omitted one major component: the Palestinian Authority. The PA, under Mahmoud Abbas, emphatically and irreversibly holds that no Jew will ever be allowed to live in any territory held by the PA.

Bad enough? No, the PA charter calls for the extermination of all Jews in Israel and occupying all the land of Israel. The PA goal is “Palestine will be free from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean).” Why won’t Mr. Sokatch and the New Israel Fund consider this situation? He is stuck only on what Jews should do without consideration of the most significant “fissure.”

Lawrence M. Weiswasser   |   San Luis Obispo


Coexistence? Not a chance

Daniel Sokatch’s prescription for healing the rifts in Israeli society is based on the leftist delusion that all people are capable of coexisting peacefully if only they try hard enough to understand one another.

It’s a nice sounding theory, but it’s unsupported by objective reality. Specifically, a culture (Israeli) that defines itself as revering life cannot coexist peacefully with a culture (Arab/Muslim) that defines itself as revering death. No matter how hard they try to “understand” each other, their differences will remain unbridgeable.

Predictably, Sokatch places most of the blame for the rifts in Israeli society on religious Jews who insist on living according to the laws of the Torah. He ascribes all the racism in Israel to the Jews, not the Arabs. He makes no mention at all of the murderous anti-Jewish incitement spewed by every Palestinian media outlet every day, or the Palestinian school system whose goal is to install fanatical hatred of all things Jewish at the earliest possible age in every Palestinian child. Instead, he castigates Israel for not making the Arab/Muslim “minority” feel sufficiently “valued.”

Fortunately, Israelis are increasingly moving away from the bankrupt ideology of the left. Even Yitzhak Herzog, leader of the center-left Zionist Union, has admitted that peaceful coexistence is all but impossible and the only answer is separation.

Martin Wasserman   |   Palo Alto


Ignoring anti-Israel events on campus is foolhardy

How are we to ignore campus activities such as “Israel Apartheid Week” when, at a panel discussion at Hunter College, a Students for Justice in Palestine leader accused Israel of using “mass rapes of Palestinian women” as part of a campaign to “perpetrate genocide” on the Palestinian people? (“New tactic for Israel Apartheid Week: ignore it,” March 18)

The same student leader said, “Israel is a state that is built on murder and mass rape of Palestinian women” and called for an intifada (uprising) against Israel. Are we supposed to just ignore that, too?

The director of a Hillel in the Northeast said, “Our biggest fear and concern is that you have so much conflict that Jewish students don’t want to do anything Jewish [on campus].” Another Hillel director spoke of powerful ways to prevent continued intimidation of  Jewish students, such as an event (in the format of a trivia game) for Jews, Christians and Muslim students about getting to know each other’s religion.

Silence gives assent, and is a powerful influence on today’s college population, who will soon shape policy toward Israel. If we are not for ourselves, who will be?

Julia Lutch   |   Davis


Inspiring story from Operation Entebbe soldier

Arno Rosenfeld’s story about a Bay Area talk by Sassy Reuven, one of the rescuers in Operation Entebbe in 1976, was a great one (“40 years later, Entebbe rescue story still packs a punch,” March 11).

I have a copy of an inspiring book, “The Letters of Jonathan Netanyahu,” about the commander of the rescue force who, unfortunately, was one of three Israelis killed that day. There’s an introduction by Herman Wouk, with a foreword and an afterword by Jonathan’s brothers, Benjamin and Iddo Netanyahu.

If Reuven returns to the Bay Area to talk, please inform your readers of the date.

Sheila Herling Malkind   |   San Francisco

Editor’s note: Sassy Reuven is scheduled to return to the Bay Area June 23-27.


Vashti was no heroine

We were shocked to see the portrayal of Vashti as a hero and feminist in the J.Kids Purim section (March 18). It described her as “brave,” someone who “stood up for [herself] and [her] values when … being bullied.”

First of all, Vashti was not a good person. According to Tractate Megillah 12b, she was arrogant and would strip her Jewish maidservants of their clothes and force them to work on Shabbat unclothed, to humiliate them.

As far as we’re concerned, these should not be considered good values, and Vashti should not be presented as a hero to children and students.

Also, Vashti did not refuse to come to the feast unclothed because of modesty. The Talmud says she refused to come because of simple vanity; she had a rash covering her body and did not want to appear ugly before her subjects.

Vashti was no heroine and we have to stop portraying her as such.

Sara Marcus & Rochel Cunin   |   Sunnyvale


Recalling baskets that helped change lives

At the time of Operation Solomon, an operation to airlift Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1991, my family bought and sold baskets hand-woven by Ethiopian Jews to help in the repatriation effort to Israel.

We sold baskets every weekend in Washington, D.C., and made lifelong friends in the international community — those who wanted to help thousands of Jews settle into new lives in Israel.

A recent J. cover story (“Ethiopian Israeli emissary building bridges at Stanford,” March 4) about Hillel at Stanford’s Israel fellow Rebecca Avera, who is Ethiopian, reminded me of this. I couldn’t help but recall the decorative, colorful and sturdy baskets we sold and the lives we helped change. The baskets have held up beautifully; they demonstrate, as does the courageous and talented Avera, the strength of the Jewish people.

James Patterson   |   Washington, D.C.


What is ‘human nature’ about killing?

J.’s editorial reported that U.N. Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon made excuses for Arab terror (“Enough blood and tears — Israeli lives matter, too,” Jan. 29). How can he say that?

In 1948, U.N. official Count Folke Bernadotte proposed that Israel give up the Negev as a compromise for peace. This proposal outraged the militant Zionist group Lehi, and Lehi assassinated him on Sept. 17, 1948. Should Ban-ki Moon write off the assassination as “human nature,” a natural response to outrageous proposals?

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion pardoned the assassins of Count Folke Bernadotte, while some were never officially identified publicly and never charged. Should Ban-ki Moon write off David Ben-Gurion’s response as “human nature,” a natural response to outrageous proposals?

Neal Wohlmuth   |   San Francisco