Surrounded by blackened vegetation, Camp Newman's iconic hillside Star of David, Oct. 2017, shortly after a wildfire devoured much of the camp. (Photo/Courtesy URJ Camp Newman)
Surrounded by blackened vegetation, Camp Newman's iconic hillside Star of David, Oct. 2017, shortly after a wildfire devoured much of the camp. (Photo/Courtesy URJ Camp Newman)

Letters, Oct. 20: A poem for Camp Newman

We Are Water

Camp Newman just burned down.
My feelings are complicated.
Sad, confused,
wondering what I really did lose.

I spent my summers at camp from 1998-2010.
But, the fire didn’t take my friends, my family, my CIT-crush-turned-wife, or my memories.
What am I mourning?

A lost opportunity for nostalgia with our children?
The life’s work of my friends and mentors?
A community uprooted?
Yes, all this and more.

Yet, camp has always been more of a feeling than a place.
Our tribe has had to move before.
We know the lore: Swig. Egypt.

We call camp Home because it is where we found our best selves.
It’s not the cabins, the trees,
or any of the places of gathering.
It’s each other, and always has been.

We know this—
We make camp.
We make it with our willingness to accept, to embrace, to love.
We make it with our relationships that nobody else seems to understand.

Camp is a useful fiction
And we are the authors
Our story brings us perspective,
It shapes us between chapters.

Community is resiliency.
We are an evolving ecosystem.
Community is water, not wood.
It cannot burn or break.

We know this—
Yet, we mourn the loss of our camp because it was ours and we loved it
We are lucky to have had such a treasure to mourn.
We are lucky to know that we will still always have each other.
We create the sense of place.
We are water, not wood.

Dan Kurzrock,
San Francisco

Dershowitz respectful onstage, approachable offstage

Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz’s Oct. 11 talk on “The Liberal Case for Israel” exemplified not only how to stand up for Israel but, more generally, how to engage in respectful civil political discourse.

In contrast to the pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel demonstrators who shout down and silence opposing views, Dershowitz invited his protesters into the auditorium to hear his talk. Later, he insisted on taking hostile audience questions first. Dershowitz observed that “Israel’s birth certificate is the most legitimate birth certificate of any nation in the United Nations. Israel was born in the law. It was born by the pen, not by the sword.” Although the Arabs “invaded Israel in a genocidal war, killing 1 percent of its population” in 1948, and tried again in 1967, Israel has repeatedly sought peace. “The reason the Palestinians don’t have a state is they have always wanted there not to be a nation-state of the Jewish people more than they wanted to have their own state.”

He was “proud as a human rights activist to make the human rights, civil liberties, liberal case for Israel.” He contrasted Israel’s treatment of minorities, the LGBTQ community and women to its neighbors’ and argued: “You cannot be a feminist without supporting Israel.” He also demanded “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism from groups supporting liberal causes.

While Dershowitz was a forceful speaker, he was very approachable and soft-spoken offstage. I talked with him about his ancestral hometown of Pilzno, Poland (I have ties to Pilzno’s late-1800s mohel, Avraham Leib Kranz, and to the nearby towns of Borowa, Szczepanowice and Tarnow). He told me he visited Pilzno and lamented that no trace remained of its Jewish community — not even the cemetery.

Stephen A. Silver,
San Francisco

From Charlottesville to Israeli settlements

President Trump may have hit a new low in his response to the Charlottesville demonstration. It should be clear to all: Though he may not be personally anti-Semitic, Trump has condoned and even at times incited anti-Semitism. He is very careful not to antagonize his base, many of whom are white supremacist, anti-Semitic racists.

These are the people who would not desert him even if he openly shot and killed people. Knowing our president lacks a moral compass, his reaction to Charlottesville was not all that surprising.

It is extremely sad, as an American Jewish Zionist, to be reminded by Stav Shaffir, a leading Zionist Union member of the Knesset, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also “has lost any semblance of a moral compass.”

This is how Ms. Shaffir described Mr. Netanyahu due to his not condemning Trump over his response to Charlottesville. Most leading Israeli newspapers, with the exception of the one owned by billionaire Sheldon Adelson (a Netanyahu and Trump supporter) have condemned Trump.

Netanyahu, unlike Trump, is an intelligent, articulate leader, but sadly he has demonstrated time and again that, for him, political survival trumps doing what is right.

I think his settlement policies are a prime example of this cynical calculation. It wins him favor with the religious right and even more important serves as a payoff for the majority of settlers who move to the settlements for economic rather than religious reasons. (Housing is a lot less expensive there. Affordable housing in any society is a good thing in itself.)

The long-term consequences for Israel, however, are destructive. Settlement expansion is closing the door to the possibility of a future two-state agreement, which is necessary for Israel to remain both a Jewish and democratic state.

Mark Davidow,
Glen Ellen

J. Readers

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