Cortez smiles and waves at a supporter
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrates her victory as the youngest woman elected to Congress at La Boom night club in Queens, Nov. 6, 2018. (Photo/JTA-Rick Loomis-Getty Images)

Ocasio-Cortez is wrong; Berkeley is an alternate universe; our cover art is bad; etc.

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Make a call, save the world

Thank you for your moving editorial “After the wildfires, we know what to do” on Nov. 16. In this season of giving, I could not agree more that disaster relief is imperative.

As the Union of Reform Judaism urged in its resolution on addressing the impacts of climate change, passed in December of last year, it is also imperative that we “advocate for the Canadian and U.S. governments to … decrease the human impacts of climate change.” Fortunately, substantive bipartisan legislation to do just that has finally been introduced in Congress. By forcing polluters to pay to emit greenhouse gasses, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 7173) would reduce such emissions in the U.S. by 40 percent by 2030. In addition, by returning all net proceeds to the American people, it would create 2.8 million net new jobs while protecting those most economically vulnerable as we transition to a clean energy future.

As Rabbi Rebekah Stern said in her Jan. 23 op-ed “Why Jews need to save the planet our children will inherit,” paraphrasing Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13: “If we spoil and destroy this world, there will be no one after us to repair it.” The legislation we have been waiting for has been introduced. The time to act is now. Contact your member of Congress to urge action on HR 7173.

Ted Obbard

It could definitely happen here

I am a Modern Orthodox Jew; some might even call me Conservadox. I dress secularly and swim like a fish in the secular world. Recently, a terrorist tried to car-ram some haredi Jews outside their synagogue in L.A. on Shabbat. At first I thought to myself this couldn’t happen in the Bay Area, where there is no haredi neighborhood. And then I thought — hold on, I attend an Orthodox shul in Palo Alto attended by many haredi Jews who don’t dress much differently than those attacked in Hancock Park.

Recently, I circulated an article about synagogue security to local rabbis, and a non-Orthodox rabbi suggested I was overly concerned. All American Jews need to be in the fight against anti-Semitism together. No Jew is excluded from the risk of being targeted just because they don’t “look Jewish.”

I hope that J. continues its coverage on the disturbing increase in anti-Semitism throughout the U.S. and the world. We must be vigilant and stand united if we are to prevent our people’s history of persecution from repeating itself. United we stand, divided we fall.

Isaac Winer
Palo Alto

Tree, yes. Menorah, no.

I work for a large health care organization in San Francisco. As you enter the medical office building lobby, you are greeted by a large, decorated Christmas tree. In past years, there was also a menorah on display, placed there by one of the Jewish employees. This year, the menorah has been removed, as it was identified as a religious object. The Christmas tree remains. Is this acceptable?

Rebecca Goldfader
San Francisco

‘It’s on fire, it’s not pretty’

I receive the J. and have read it for years, since before it was the J. I grew up in Pittsburgh. Tree of Life was my first synagogue. I live in Sonoma County where burning trees are a scary, real thing.

I was startled by the cover of the Nov. 30 J. Why do you have a burning tree on the cover? It’s on fire, it’s not pretty.

Please ask folks’ opinions before you put such a devastating piece of art on the cover. Hanukkah is a happy time for our family and friends. This cover is not happy; it’s very sad.

Margie King

Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t get it

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez imagined she was schooling Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) when she tweeted about the DC Holocaust Museum: “The point of such a treasured museum is to bring its lessons to present day.” This, after she offered that the situation of those in the caravan from Central America is equivalent to that faced by Jewish families fleeing Nazi Germany.

She seems unaware that Nazi Germany threw its full administrative and technological power into rounding up and murdering every Jew it could get its hands on. That is genocide, and it is not happening anywhere in Central America.

The newly elected congresswoman apparently does not understand that she has made an utterly false comparison. This is frightening, and it does not bode well.

Julia Lutch

An alternate universe (aka Berkeley)

When I read the letters by Carol Sanders and Elliot Helman (Nov. 30) praising Hatem Bazian after Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin appropriately deplored Bazian’s appointment to the city’s Peace and Justice Commission, I thought I must be living in an alternate universe. Then I remembered this is happening in Berkeley.

Mayor Arreguin’s comment was utterly sane. Bazian started Students for Justice in Palestine, which enthusiastically supports BDS. BDS has been widely condemned in many countries and defined as anti-Semitic by 26 states across the U.S., including California. Anyone associated with either hateful movement, whose ultimate unspoken mission is to rejuvenate the Holocaust, deserves all the opprobrium one can muster.

It’s difficult to become accustomed to hearing self-proclaimed Jews who hide behind their religion to dignify their support for anti-Semites. Sadly, this has characterized Jewish life for centuries and will no doubt continue ad nauseam.

All that can be done is to ensure that they are clearly identified as haters of everything Judaism stands for and denounce their appropriation of the religion to their own dysfunctional ends. As for Bazian, I can think of worse things to say, but this is a family newspaper.

Desmond Tuck
San Mateo

Bazian is no friend of the Jews

It’s hard to know what to say to those letter writers who defend Hatem Bazian and deride Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin for calling him out for denigrating Jews and being a divisive force in our community.

Bazian is not just a kindly professor who attends Passover seders. He is an internationally known leader in the BDS and anti-normalization movement and has no problem vilifying and encouraging viciousness against Zionists. It’s all the rage right now: Proclaim your love for Jews and the Jewish religion on the one hand, and undermine the centerpiece of Jewish peoplehood on the other.

There is little one can say to Jews who refuse to see the connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism — even while it is staring them in the face. One can intellectualize it away, but the gut knows it’s all too real.

As for criticism of Israel, no one is trying to shut that down. What we object to is when Israel is judged by a double standard, when Israel is held solely responsible for the painful stalemate that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and when Palestinians are supported in clinging to victimhood and excused from any responsibility in perpetuating their own very real suffering.

Mayor Arreguin has been nothing short of courageous in standing up for the Jewish people, better than some of us deserve. I take this opportunity to publicly express my gratitude to him.

Malka Weitman

Pick a side

I do not claim to know the mind of Hatem Bazian. But I am sure that the two letter writers defending him in the Nov. 30 issue cannot both be right.

Elliot Helman calls Bazian “a brilliant political theorist … He has a great respect for our Jewish traditions and values.” I believe that the foundation of any interfaith work is to pay close attention to what you say and how others may understand it differently than you do. It’s a matter of respect to one’s fellow human beings. And yet, Carol Sanders says that Bazian “retweet[ed] an offensive post without paying sufficient attention to its content.” Someone fitting Helman’s characterization would not do this.

Sanders also admits that Bazian’s retweet “identifi[ed] Israel’s crimes with Jewry itself.” But here’s Helman again: “He … speaks in support of and solidarity with all oppressed groups…” I suppose this must include, for example, Iraqi Sunnis who after liberation from ISIS have suffered retribution from Shi’a militias who consider them complicit. Or Kurds, whom Turkey considers to all be enemies, by association with PKK rebels. So I expect that he would be familiar with the imputation of collective guilt on a sectarian or ethnic basis.

You can’t have it both ways, folks.

Ilya Gurin
Mountain View

Thank you, Mr. President

The overt hatred for President Trump shown in recent letters prevents their authors from seeing the good Trump is doing for Jews and the Jewish national home of Israel. An objective review of that reality appeared in “Thank You, Mr. President,” a Dec. 6 JNS article by Michael Oren, former Israel ambassador to the U.S. Oren noted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has maintained a pro-Israel stance, placing Middle East instability squarely on Iran; he said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has been one of the strongest pro-Israel American voices for years, always defending Israel’s right to defend itself.

Furthermore, on Dec. 7, the U.S. sponsored a U.N./General Assembly resolution, demanding that the U.N. condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization. (The U.S. and European Union have already done so.) Only through parliamentary shenanigans did that U.N. resolution fail; instead of passing by a simple majority, a two-thirds majority vote was required on the day the G.A. voted.

Given the reported declining relationship between American Jews and Israel, it is essential that we are all aware that Hamas’ charter demands the murder of every Jew on Earth, not just in Israel. Dear reader, that includes you!

President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism to marry Jared Kushner, who remains a close adviser to President Trump. None of the above actions are those of a president who is anti-Semitic. Conversely, the 2016 Democratic National Convention almost removed support for Israel from its political platform. PLO flags were prominent at the DNC, but no Israel flags were seen.

Fred Korr

J. Readers

J. welcomes letters and comments from our readers. To submit a letter, email it to [email protected].