President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in the Oval Office, March 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo/JTA-Olivier Douliery-Pool-Getty Images)
President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in the Oval Office, March 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo/JTA-Olivier Douliery-Pool-Getty Images)

Kudos on sex ed report; don’t blame Trump; a weak U.S. equals a weak Israel; etc.

Excellent report on sex ed

Kudos to the J. staff on the excellent article “Jewish Sex Ed in the #MeToo Era.” It was well researched, well written and highlighted the important work being done in youth education. At Shalom Bayit we know that prevention is the most effective way to combat violence and promote healthy relationships. Thank you for highlighting the work we do.

Linda Kalinowski
San Francisco

Counting MOTs not just for Jews

I am fascinated by Karen Galatz’s column (“Forget mahjong. My favorite game is ‘Counting Jews’”). I completely understand when she says it’s about “pride and identification” and “we look to other Jews as our pseudo-family” and “we want to be among our own, protected against prejudice, warmed by the familiar and comforted by a most primitive belief that there is some strength in numbers.” All of these feelings are what I think of as good, healthy, natural, admirable, helpful, comforting tribalism.

She also noted: “None of my non-Jewish friends, when gathered in a group, ever counts gentiles.” That’s partly because we non-Jews don’t think of ourselves as “gentiles.” “Gentile” is not a tribe. There are billions of “gentiles” in the world, but none of us considers ourselves members of a tribe called “gentiles.”

I am a member of an ethnic tribe called Swiss Mennonites, and I’m also a member of a larger tribe called Swiss, which encompasses the smaller tribe of Swiss Mennonites. I also belong to several other ethnic tribes, including Scottish and French. I might not actually count Swiss Mennonites, Swiss, Scots or French, but I keenly identify with these tribes and am excited and pleased to shmooze and socialize with members of my tribes, likely in much the same way and for the same reasons that Karen enjoys associating with other Jews. Although I may not count members of my own tribes, I would say I experience the same warm, comforting feelings from my associations with other members of my own tribes as Karen derives from associations with her tribe.

I, like Karen, have a partner who comes from a different tribe than mine. My partner is a Jew and Karen’s partner is a Catholic. Because of who my partner is, I have come to keenly identify with the tribe of Jews, too. That, too, feels natural to me.

Jim Musselman
San Francisco

A weakened U.S. weakens Israel

Fred Korr’s Dec. 14 letter “Thank you, Mr. President,” in which he says that Trump is doing so much good for Jews and Israel, might make sense if we were in Israel reading an Israeli publication. But we are American Jews living in the United States, and we need to think about the welfare of all Americans and the effects of American actions and policy on the world when we judge our leaders. We need to take a slightly longer view beyond the pro-Netanyahu stance Trump takes today. The long-term damage that Trump is doing to our country and to our status in the world weakens our country and will ultimately weaken Israel.

Korr cites the fact that Trump’s daughter married a Jew as proof that he is not an anti-Semite. OK, but his campaign of hatred has given the racists and anti-Semites license to publish their poison and to march in the streets carrying swastikas. (Trump thinks that there are good people on both sides of this issue. Uh-huh.)

On another note, what a disgrace that a Holocaust survivor, Maurice Cohen, seated in a wheelchair in a New York courtroom, has to suffer the indignity of seeing his son sentenced to federal prison while our president calls him a rat and a liar. Look up shanda in the dictionary and find a picture of Michael Cohen with his former employer.

Danny Yanow
San Francisco

Trump not culpable in shootings

I thank Danny Yanow for his response to my criticism of his letter and two others that clearly blamed President Trump for the Tree of Life massacre. It is good that we respectfully discuss these issues. His original letter may not, as he claims, have been directed at Mr. Trump but at his supporters. Nevertheless, his ascription of blame for the Tree of Life massacre to the president was unambiguous: “Look at the horror wreaked on the Tree of Life … synagogue, and be ashamed.”

This charge is not consistent with the factual history of this or other recent mass shootings. The perpetrator Robert Bowers was an anti-Trump fanatic. Furthermore, such incidents are not unique to the Trump presidency. There were anti-Semitic shootings at the JCC in Los Angeles in 1999 and at the Seattle Jewish Federation in 2006. Other anti-Semitic shootings have occurred, such as those at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009 and at the JCC in Overland Park, Kansas, in 2014.

Christian religious institutions have suffered as well. In 2015, white supremacist Dylan Roof attacked African American worshippers in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Possibly in revenge, Sudanese immigrant (and practicing Christian) Emanuel Samson attacked parishioners at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in the Nashville area in 2017. Most of these events occurred before the Trump presidency. None should be ascribed to the sitting president.

Neither is his description of my letter as having “jumped to the defense of Trump” valid. It was hardly a reflexive defense when I wrote, “Yonkel Goldstein and Martin Perlmutter were perfectly justified in criticizing President Trump’s initial failure to explicitly condemn the anti-Semitism of the white supremacist and neo-Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville in 2017.”

A more reasoned, respectful debate with less vitriol is the better course of wisdom.

Steve Astrachan
Pleasant Hill

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