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Letters for the week of Feb. 24, 2017

‘We cannot be silent’

This letter is in response to the Feb. 17 op-ed “Keep synagogues a safe place, free of political advocacy” by Rabbi Raleigh Resnick.

It is understandable why Rabbi Resnick would like to keep the synagogue from taking positions on politically divisive issues to avoid alienating some members. However, Judaism is not silent about what is right and wrong.

Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy, tells Israel what is expected of them in order to remain in the Promised Land that they were about to occupy. It included looking after the widow, the orphan and the poor as well as the stranger (e.g., a non-Jew). Later prophets also warned the Jews of Judea that they would be exiled from the Land if they failed to do what is right in the eyes of Hashem.

These basic societal issues are under attack in the current political environment and rabbis cannot ignore them out of fear of alienating some members. As Jewish Americans we cannot be silent when the Torah is clear that our action is demanded.

Richard Diamond, Fairfield


Rabbis’ responsibility is to speak up

Rabbi Raleigh Resnick “resolved” to keep his “Chabad center free of tumultuous political tension” in his Feb. 17 op-ed.

Sometimes he is right, if the issue is not that important. But there are times when the issue is important enough that the Orthodox rabbi should state a position publicly. There is no way around it. Unfortunately, most Orthodox rabbis stay away from controversial issues publicly. They don’t want to make waves. Bad things could happen if they speak up.

Queen Esther had the same issue, although with much more at stake. Go before the king or do nothing. It was not easy. She could die by doing the right thing. Mordecai said to her that she has to go anyway and go right now. If she doesn’t, her father’s house deserves to be exterminated and the Jews will be saved in a different way. It was a harsh statement to the queen, who did not want the job in the first place.

But these rabbis want their jobs. From the chief rabbis in Israel to a pulpit rabbi in any U.S. city, no one forces them to take the job. With the job comes responsibility. For those who choose not to do their job by speaking up in public when appropriate, just remember what Mordechai said to Queen Esther.

Neal Wohlmuth, San Francisco


Gaza airstrip makes sense

I was excited to read the Feb. 17 op-ed “I propose a U.N. airport in Gaza, for the benefit of all” for many reasons, including the fact I’ve become very friendly with its author, Ahmed Alkhatib, over the last months.

When I first heard about his project I thought, “pipe dream.” But then you get to know him. While I still think it’s a dream, given his progress thus far — he has more than 230,000 likes on his Facebook page, including what are said to be more than 80,000 Gaza residents; he has already had high-level discussions with Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and the Israel Defense Forces; and he has some impressive people on his board — I no longer think “pipe dream” but instead “what if this could work?”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken about the need to build an airport in the Gaza Strip. Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman has done the same. It is well known the IDF leadership strongly believes building up infrastructure both in the Strip and West Bank is a significant component of avoiding conflict.

Ahmed’s personal history is an important component of this. His family still lives in Gaza, but his sister is currently at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, not a typical experience for a Gaza resident. When he was 11, Ahmed lost hearing in one ear from an Israeli bomb that fell too close. Two of his friends died. But his passion for his people led him to realize they were better served by being equally passionate for the needs of Israelis.

As a lifelong pro-Israel activist, I have no delusions about the U.N. nor Hamas. But I also know the Strip is a powder keg and the people who live there are suffering. If Ahmed’s organization, Project Unified Assistance, can be successful, and if the IDF and the other parties agree, this project could do a great deal to alleviate suffering on both sides of the border. There are no easy solutions, so I’m hoping a complicated one can bring some hope.

Sam Lauter, San Francisco


Sympathy for NIF but no empathy

I sympathize with Jennifer Gorovitz’s experience (“Being detained at Israel airport fortifies my resolve,” Feb. 17) at Ben Gurion Airport. Yet my empathy lies with Israeli citizens, who suffer unduly at the hands of the New Israel Fund’s $30 million funding of leftist NGOs, and the damage they inflict on Israel’s standing in the world.

Here are a few examples of the anti-Israel activities employed by the NGOs that get NIF funding. For the full list, see this report by NGO Monitor (

B’Tselem is the main agitator of anti-Israel activities in Samaria and Judea, providing a) guidance to Palestinians on how to confront and provoke IDF soldiers and b) free communication and video equipment to record it.

Breaking the Silence contributed unverified “IDF atrocities” from the war in Gaza for the debunked Goldstone report of 2009. The group also actively supports BDS activities and encourages young Israelis to dodge IDF enlistment.

Yesh Din is a lawfare group that uses the courts to subvert Israel’s ability to detain and deport illegal Ethiopian and Sudanese infiltrators who cause undue suffering to southern Tel Aviv residents. Yesh Din also aggressively pursues frivolous lawsuits against Jewish settlers, causing the eviction of several villages (including Amona) in the West Bank.

Further, the chutzpah of New Israel Fund executives living comfortably in the U.S. while trying to dictate their aspirations and values on Israel is preposterous if not hypocritical.

Sam Liron, Foster City


Islam is not ‘banned’

In her Feb. 17 op-ed, Jennifer Gorovitz stated that President Trump “banned Muslims and refugees from entering” the United States and that it “breaks her heart.”

What breaks my heart is the lying and distortions the Trump haters spew forth.

The ban is for seven counties, not the religion of Islam. The ban is to protect us from jihadists; it has nothing to do with legal immigrants nor Muslims who wish us no harm.

When the PLO stops teaching Jew-hatred and promoting the murder of Jews as a Palestinian’s highest obligation, the checkpoints Ms. Gorovitz so loathes can be dismantled.

Mike Levine, Moraga


Kudos to new

J. has not been affirmed enough for its “one giant step” for Jewishkind — and for everyone, for that matter — by creatively redesigning its now-gorgeous web platform. is easy to navigate, with beautiful photos that better bring the stories and authors to life.

Even less acknowledged, but of huge historical value, is J.’s decades-long devotion to maintaining a searchable archive — a quality the makes this news journal distinctive and a precious resource for citing the people and events of our notable, collective success story.

Len and Libby Traubman, San Mateo


Smells like status quo

There has been a lot of talk about alternatives to a one-, two- or more-state solution.

In the past, leaders have urged concessions by Israel with no corresponding demands on the Palestinians, who must stop preaching and teaching hatred and stop the terrorism. The result has been Palestinians increasing obstinacy and going to the U.N. instead of negotiating directly with Israel. It’s time to stop this one-sided approach, which has failed.

Israel can’t approve a new Palestinian state unless it is demilitarized, or it would be like Gaza after Israel withdrew the settlements there.

Alan Dershowitz recently wrote that President Obama put pressure only on the Israeli side, not on the Palestinians. He said the U.S. should tell the Palestinians in no uncertain terms that they must negotiate with Israel if they want a Palestinian state, and that they must agree to end the conflict permanently and unequivocally. Otherwise, the status quo will continue, and there will be only one state and that state will be Israel.

Norman G. Licht, San Carlos



Trump deputy had better rethink his wardrobe

Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to President Trump who has an office in the White House (just like Jared Kushner), is someone to fear because of his beliefs — and not only because he was an editor for Breitbart.

Gorka has worn a traditional “bocskai” jacket, associated with the pro-Nazi Hungarian Arrow Cross, and a medal linked to the Nazi collaborationist regime of Hungarian Regent Miklós Horthy many times. This is serious.

Comparing Trump to Hitler, I think, cheapens the memories of those who suffered in the Holocaust. I am not taking a political position. However …

Gorka has said wearing this jacket and medal (which he said belonged to his father) are indicative of a resisting oppression. But the getup also can be interpreted as a hatred of Jews and a justification of the murder of 800,000 innocent Hungarian Jews.

Gorka should be required to pay a visit to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and see what the Arrow Cross did to Hungary’s Jews. If that does not happen then we have a very serious problem, and there is no explaining it away.

Mordechai Pelta, San Francisco


Ancient slabs tell truth

Thank you for John Rothmann’s Feb. 10 op-ed “Continued denial of Jewish ties to Jerusalem is obscene.”

Jewish history in Eretz Israel is well documented in ancient sources and archaeological finds. The Merneptah Stele (an inscripted granite slab from the early 1200s BCE) mentions a people called Israel in Canaan. The Mesha Stele records Moab’s 840 BCE revolt against Israel, and the Tel Dan Stele (between 870 and 750 BCE) commemorates an Aramean victory over the Judahite King Ahaziah from the “House of David” and the Israelite King Jehoram.

Contemporary Assyrian sculptures depict the Israelite King Jehu in 841 BCE and Assyria’s siege of the Judahite town Lachish in 701 BCE. An 8th century BCE Hebrew inscription from Jerusalem’s Siloam tunnel records its construction, purportedly by Hezekiah, the Judahite king during Assyria’s sieges of Lachish and Jerusalem.

The Temple Mount’s ancient Jewish ties are likewise indisputable. In the 1990s, the Waqf Islamic trust removed 300 truckloads of excavated Temple Mount earth to a Kidron Valley dump. Since 2004, the Temple Mount Sifting Project has recovered thousands of Israelite antiquities from the discarded earth, including ancient Jewish coins and seals from biblical families dating back to David and Solomon’s time.

Moreover, population genetics studies tie present-day Jews to a common ancestry from the ancient Levant.

Most Palestinian Arabs are descended from people who migrated into the region, particularly in response to economic opportunities created by Jewish immigrants, as Sheree Roth observed in a 2016 Middle East Quarterly article (

Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco