black and white: three men in IDF uniforms gaze up at the wall
Israeli paratroopers reach the Western Wall in this iconic photo from the Six-Day War.

Letters for the week of June 23, 2017

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SFSU students need us — but the silence is deafening

Abraham Miller’s June 9 Local Voice perspective about anti-Semitism at SFSU was sobering. The article brought me back a bit more than two decades when my daughter was a Steinhart Fellow based at the SFSU Hillel. Anti-Semitism was at a boiling point. She and Jewish students were harassed regularly.

It seems that as time has marched on, SFSU has remained stagnant. The visiting mayor of Jerusalem is shouted down with obscenities. Hillel students are excluded from a human rights fair. And SFSU’s president, Leslie Wong, has no interest in taking on these issues. If Wong believes he has no ability to change the culture, then SFSU needs new leadership now. If Wong disagrees then, simply acta non verba, please!

SFSU has many notable former students. Where is the outcry from people like Willie Brown, Peter Coyote, Danny Glover, Annette Bening and others? Certainly, many of these former students have sufficient influence to facilitate change.

What about our political leaders such Gov. Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee? What about the hordes of Sacramento politicians that earn livings off of our public dollars? What has been their response?

And finally, where are the myriad Jewish organizations on this issue? Why are they so ineffective? I have no doubt that if similar behavior was directed at other disenfranchised groups, many Jews would, rightfully, be vocal in their defense. And the mainstream media … the silence is deafening!

Earl Agron,
Walnut Creek


Getting support for adoptees in navigating dual identities

Thank you for publishing Rose Teplitz’s story about navigating her adoptive identity. All adoptees have the inner challenge of merging our two identities, one by birth and one by adoption. It can be even more difficult for those who look different from their parents in a still-racist society.

Even though my birth and adoptive parents are all Jewish and I was born in an era when children were “matched” to their adoptive parents racially, it has still been a long inner journey to integrate my two “real” families, one by adoption and one by birth, into my identity and my life.

Our ancient adoptee predecessor, Moses, also experienced the challenge of a dual identity. Raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses knew that his family of birth was among the Hebrew slaves, yet his upbringing was apparent to others, including in Midian, where the inhabitants saw him as an Egyptian. In “The Torah: A Modern Commentary,” Gunther Plaut recognized Moses’ dual identity, noting “…the awareness of his double status must have weighed heavily on his mind. To be able to walk amongst the privileged while his kinfolk were serving as slaves must have put a severe emotional burden on him.”

Adoptees’ identity challenges are made more difficult when state laws or international adoption practices make our original families invisible to us. Yet we are not alone; numerous internationally or transracially adopted people have described their experiences in books and films. The locally based Adoption Museum Project mentions some of these resources in its newsletters. And I have described the secrecy of sealed birth certificates that still affect many U.S.-born adoptees in my book “Growing in the Dark: Adoption Secrecy and Its Consequences.”

Janine Baer,
El Cerrito


Gender-diverse rabbis are strong, brave, a blessing

Thank you for publishing the article “Gender Diversity in the Rabbinate” (June 9). All the rabbis you interviewed have a special sensitivity to those whose lives they touch because they have all faced challenges and pain — just because of who they are. They bring to the rabbinate a dimension of empathy and understanding that is unique and precious. They are so brave.

Although I am not privileged to know all of the people you mention in your article, I count Maggid Jhos Singer as one of my dearest and most special friends. I am blessed to have known him for a long time and admire his brilliance, talent, joyfulness and courage.

We pray each day, “Blessed are You, O Lord, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has made me in the image of G-d.” I don’t believe that G-d values or devalues us based on our gender. Rather, G-d judges us on what we do to help others and to heal our world — no matter our gender. I can only hope that we as human beings judge those around us in the same way.

To the rabbis in your article: Yasher koach. May you continue to grow from strength to strength, and may you always be for a blessing to the Jewish people and to the world.

Patti Moskovitz,
Foster City


Six-Day War was forced on Israel

Thank you for your June 2 editorial “Six-Day War was when history shined its light on us.”

It bears emphasis that the war was forced on Israel by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. In May 1967, Nasser, emboldened by Yasser Arafat’s terror attacks from 1965 to 1967 against Israel, demanded that U.N. peacekeepers withdraw from Egypt’s border with Israel.

The United Nations shamefully complied. Nasser then massed 900 tanks and 130,000 troops along that border, while another 100,000 troops from a dozen more Arab countries massed along Israel’s borders with Jordan and Syria.

Egypt also blockaded Israel’s port of Eilat — an act of war under international law. On May 26, Nasser boasted, “The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel.”

Once the war began, Israel begged Jordan to stay out. Instead, Jordan attacked — firing 6,000 shells into Israel, killing 20 Israelis, wounding 1,000 and striking Israel’s Knesset building and Hadassah hospital. Only then did Israel respond in self-defense. Israel captured east Jerusalem and the West Bank, including the Temple Mount and Western Wall, from which Jordan had barred Jews since 1948.

Immediately after the war, Israel sought peace, but its offers were spurned. Despite incessant Palestinian terrorism and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel achieved peace with Egypt and Jordan. Israel offered the Palestinians a state during talks in 2000, 2001 and 2008, but the Palestinians rejected peace and responded with more terror.

Israel owes no apology for defending itself from annihilation in 1967, and the Palestinians have only themselves to blame for their failure to obtain a state.

Stephen Silver,
San Francisco


Keep partisan politics out of Torah columns

One of my favorite features in J. every week is the Torah column. For me, Torah is the greatest of the great books and the parashah is the treat of the week. The lessons in Torah are vast and profound, teaching us where we came from and how to be the best persons we can be. These lessons can and should unite Jews from all corners of the spectrum.

So it is with more than a tinge of regret that I have noticed politics creeping into the column from time to time. The column is used as a cheer for the writer’s particular politics. In effect, the clergy appropriates God to their partisan point of view.

However, God is not a Democrat or a Republican (nor Reform or Orthodox). Torah speaks to us all, and the Torah column, at its best, speaks to us all. So I plead with our clergy: Leave politics out of Torah study. Let’s learn those lessons that speak to us all.

Alan Titus,
San Francisco


A magnitude of evil, immortalized as heroic

When I saw the movie “Exodus” as a child, the moment that horrified me the most was the murder of Karen, the beautiful Danish girl whose throat was cut by Arab infiltrators while on night guard duty at a kibbutz. The grief of her boyfriend, Dov, amplified the horror.

The recent murder of Hadas Malka, a beautiful 23-year-old Israeli Border Police officer, by three people pretending to be human brought that memory flooding back. In a French publication, Alyaexpress-News, the mother of one of them is quoted as saying “I thank Allah, I would have liked him to kill 10, 20, 30, 100 Jews and that the earth opens at their feet.”

The three murderers have been immortalized as heroes by the PLO and Hamas. Mahmoud Abbas calls their killing by Israeli security forces in order to stop their vicious attack a war crime. This magnitude of evil should trigger a sense of revulsion in any sane person. One cannot seriously use “settlements,” the “occupation” or the “right of return” to rationalize it.

Desmond Tuck,
San Mateo


Don’t blame president for climate of hate

The mind reels at Mark Davidow’s assertion in his June 2 letter to the editor that President Trump is “responsible for unleashing the worst instincts of many Americans. This has resulted in a spate of hate crimes.”

What we are witnessing in America grows out of something increasingly commonplace today and which has its origins in the unchallenged resurgence of anti-Semitism worldwide.

Consider that the tactic of murdering children was legitimized by the world’s silence when the dead children were “only” Israelis. Nowadays Europeans toss around candles and teddy bears to cope with the mystery of why “non-Islamic” Muslims explode nail-laced bombs to inflict maximum carnage on young girls or use a huge truck to massacre people on holiday. No wonder confident Islamic supremacism is attracting so many with hearts of utter darkness.

Meanwhile, Mr. Davidow is concerned because someone representing the New Israel Fund, which works to delegitimize Israel and thereby justifies attacks against it, is given a “hard time” when trying to enter Israel.

Humanity’s worst instincts have been given increasingly free rein for some time now, and in no way is this attributable to the current administration. In 2010, Barack Obama told voters that “we’re gonna punish our enemies” was an acceptable political attitude.

Meanwhile, anything Israel does to protect its future and the safety of its people is the focus of Mr. Davidow and others who block out the murderous mayhem that has been loosed pretty much everywhere else on our planet.

Julia Lutch,
Davis


Yes, we can slow global warming

It was Archimedes who said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I can move the world.” We have the lever and fulcrum that can save the world. We just need to start using it.

The threat is global warming, as detailed in J.’s June 2 article “Trump pulls out of Paris climate accord: Bay Area Jewish community reacts.” The Paris Agreement was always going to be too little too late, but we have a simpler, faster, more effective and realistic market solution with a global impact.

It works on the principle of self-interest. It doesn’t ask anyone to give up anything or make any sacrifices — except for polluting, fossil-fuel corporations. It makes them pay an escalating carbon pollution fee, all of which goes to every taxpayer in equal monthly “carbon dividend” checks. And the amount of those checks keeps going up every year.

Solar and wind energy prices and energy storage prices keep dropping exponentially. That will allow people to make more and more money each year by using their “carbon dividend” money to buy cheaper clean energy. And that will increase the U.S. GDP $75 to $80 billion annually and create over 5 million U.S. jobs (Stanford University’s solutionsproject.org).

It’s been successful in British Columbia for eight years, as noted in the Economist, and uses conservative economics so it can have bipartisan support in Congress. Google the Republican Climate Leadership Council’s video “A climate solution where all sides win” and “CLC unlocking the climate puzzle,” which explain how to use the market to incentivize other nations to cut their emissions as much as we do or be economically disadvantaged.

We really can save the world while making the vast majority of middle-class and low-income Americans financially better off with this simple policy. It’s genius.

Lynn Goldfarb,
Denver