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Letters for the week of March 24, 2017

Urban Adamah animals connect us deeply to tradition

At Urban Adamah, we approach everything we do with the goal of connecting people more deeply to their community, their environment and to Jewish tradition. One of the best things about our work is that we get to do it in the most diverse Jewish community on the planet.

The Bay Area boasts an especially wide range of attitudes and beliefs about the ethics of food consumption. Still, the majority of people in the Bay Area, including the Jewish community, make a personal choice to eat meat. Urban Adamah has made a choice to meet people where they are, as a first step in deepening their sense of connection.

Like most farms, we raise and care for animals, specifically a small number of chickens and goats. They provide our fellows, campers, and other visitors with opportunities to learn — about where their food comes from and how to be good stewards. And every day, throughout the cycle of their lives, they remind us to be thankful.

At any given time, we usually have about 18 chickens. When they are too old to lay eggs, we butcher them for meat in the most humane way possible. We give the meat to families in the community who do not have easy access to fresh food, just as we do with 90 percent of the food we grow on our farm.

We know that some people disagree with this choice. We respect those views and encourage the conversation. And, we feel clear that our approach is in alignment with our mission — to build a loving, just and sustainable community — and our core organizational values of chesed (kindness), tzedek (justice) and ahava (love).

Adam Berman,
Urban Adamah executive director,

‘Animal liberationists’ stomp on freedom of religion

Animal rights protesters at Urban Adamah are way off base” (March 17) properly takes “Jewish Animal Liberationists” to task for disrupting Urban Adamah’s Purim celebration. However, while noting that the protest “ruined the event for one of the Bay Area’s most exemplary Jewish organizations,” the editorial fails to emphasize the seriousness of interfering with the “free exercise” of religion.

You are quite right that “people ought to pick their battles,” but when the battle involves the disruption of a Jewish religious celebration, that should be the focus of a Jewish newspaper’s editorial commentary. (Parenthetically, you might also inquire into the background of “Jewish Animal Liberationists,” a group that does not come up in a Google search except for this disruptive protest.)

The First Amendment begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Yet your paper, ostensibly a defender of the First Amendment, lightly passes over this vital issue.

You rightly ask: “Why picket Urban Adamah, which teaches reverence for nature from a Jewish perspective, and which raises only a few hens at a time?” But do try to ask why this group feels that they have the right to interfere with anyone’s free exercise of religion. Do we really want to accept such a precedent?

Freedom of religion, which we often take for granted, is part of our great legacy from the period of the American Revolution and the framing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Your newspaper, which represents our own minority religious community, should take a vigorous stance toward its protection.

Steve Astrachan,
Pleasant Hill

Problem isn’t criticizing Israel, it’s the wrong facts

Mark Davidow’s March 17 letter “It’s OK to criticize Israel” is filled with foolishness and misinformation. After a good start, acknowledging that “Israel is unfairly singled out for its sins by the U.N. and the world community,” he veers into the absurd canard: “But many American Jews … believe that it is wrong for Jews in the diaspora to be critical of Israel.”

I have never heard any Jew say this, nor have I read it in any editorial or op-ed. And I talk to lots of Jews and read lots of editorials in both the Jewish and secular press. Yes, I believe that no Jew should be accusing Israel of being an apartheid state or of committing genocide against the Palestinians. Not because criticizing Israel is wrong, but because these accusations are false.

Similarly, when Davidow belittles as “ignorant” the statement that the settlements are not the cause of the stalemate, he betrays his own ignorance of the facts. The Arab and Palestinian leadership wanted to destroy Israel before there were any settlements, and that leadership (including Abbas) still wants to destroy Israel. Uprooting all the settlements in Gaza accomplished nothing other than making Israelis vulnerable to rocket attacks. Removing settlements in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) without a change of heart and leadership on the Palestinian side would be equally fruitless.

Dan Fendel,

Feminism vs. Zionism? Hypocrisy is astounding

Thank you for Andrew Silow-Carroll’s op-ed “The false choice between Zionism and feminism” (March 17), criticizing the organizers of the March 8 International Women’s Strike movement for hijacking the cause of women’s rights to promote anti-Israel hate.

Shamefully, the organizers issued a manifesto calling for “decolonization of Palestine” (meaning eradicating Israel) and dismantling “all walls,” expressly including Israel’s security barrier. Ironically, Israel erected the security barrier to protect its women (and men) from the hundreds of Palestinian bombing and shooting attacks targeting Israeli civilians. One such Palestinian bombing, at a Tel Aviv disco in 2001, killed more than a dozen teenage girls.

Following International Women’s Day, one of the group’s leaders, Linda Sarsour, declared that Zionism and feminism were incompatible. The statement’s hypocrisy is astounding.

Israel is the Middle East’s most egalitarian society. Women enjoy equal rights and high achievement. Most students in Israel’s undergraduate, master’s and doctorate programs are women. Israel’s most celebrated woman, Golda Meir, served as prime minister.

The Palestinians, by contrast, oppress women horrifically. Both the “moderate” Palestinian Authority and Hamas-ruled Gaza condone female genital mutilation and “honor killings” of women. Palestinian women are afraid to report being raped because they can face punishment (or death at the hands of a family member) for the crime of adultery if they cannot prove their own innocence. A woman can even be forced to marry her rapist — which, under Palestinian Authority law, decriminalizes the rape post hoc. A husband may rape his wife (or wives) with impunity. And the Palestinians’ most celebrated woman, Dalal Mughrabi — a terrorist who murdered an American woman and 38 Israelis, including 13 children — has public squares, girls’ high schools and sports events named in her honor by the Palestinian Authority, which deems her a role model for Palestinian women.

Stephen Silver,
San Francisco

World safe for Israel means a world safe for women

As Andrew Silow-Carroll noted in his op-ed, there are Israeli women who care deeply about the rights of all women and all people and who believe Zionism and feminism go hand in hand.

But he presents some questionable examples, starting with the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, “committed to ending the occupation.” The “occupation” assumption falsifies history. All of the many Jewish communities in Judea/Samaria (renamed “West Bank” by Jordan) were ethnically cleansed during the 1947-49 war against Israel. Jordan destroyed dozens of Jerusalem’s synagogues and desecrated Jewish tombs on the Mount of Olives. The area in question may accurately be described as disputed or as liberated, but it is not occupied.

Silow-Carroll also mentions Women Wage Peace, who demand that Israel restart the peace process with the Palestinians, ignoring the multiple demands Palestinians routinely insist must be met before they will even consider coming to the negotiating table. The failure of the “peace process” is not due to Israel.

Linda Sarsour’s false choice between supporting Israel or feminism is an extension of our misguided efforts to solve the world’s problems at our own expense. A world safe for Israel is a world that will also be safe for women.

Julia Lutch,

New health care plan a disaster for working folks

The congressional Republican health care plan will be a disaster for working families. Their plan will take health care away from 24 million people across the country and impose painful taxes on working people. Budget experts predict that out-of-pocket expenses will skyrocket because companies will shift prices to their employees. That means thousands of dollars less in the pockets of working people.

The proposed cuts to Medicaid will wreck our state budget and hurt people in our community who already are struggling to make ends meet. Their plan weakens Medicare. It takes three years off the life of the Medicare hospital fund in order to give a huge tax break just to people earning more than $200,000 a year. Their plan does nothing to deal with skyrocketing prices for medical care and prescription drugs.

The people cutting America’s health care under the banner of reform have never had to worry about care for themselves or their families. CEOs, billionaires and right-wing politicians get the best care because cost isn’t a factor for them. The rest of us don’t have that luxury. Congress should focus on expanding coverage for more working people, not putting high-quality care out of reach.

Eric Cooperstrom,
San Francisco

New Israel Fund’s work is misrepresented

Regarding the Feb. 24 letter “Sympathy for NIF but no empathy,” I believe some clarification of facts is in order.

As those of us committed to Israel know, the sociopolitical and geopolitical issues around Israel are extremely complex and elicit strong feelings on all sides, especially when it comes to organizations that are committed to social activism, like the New Israel Fund.

Promoting patently false accusations, such as that concerning BDS, when in fact NIF explicitly disavows BDS as a matter of stated policy, as well as the other misrepresentations listed in the letter, is not at all helpful.

In fact, NIF is an extremely worthy organization whose mission is not “to dictate their aspirations and values on Israel,” as stated in the letter, but rather to offer support to the substantial numbers of Israelis who have deep concerns about the shortcomings of their society, and the Israeli organizations that are committed to fostering democracy and respect for human rights.

Anyone who sees the value of supporting these concerned citizens of Israel should learn more about the actual, rather than the misrepresented, policies and activities of NIF by exploring its website,, and its newsletter.

Paul Wachter,