a man in a suit stands at a podium speaking to a crowd
Rabbi Alan Lew, the nationally influential rabbi of S.F.'s Congregation Beth Sholom, died 10 years ago this year.

Remembering Rabbi Alan Lew; a march of our own; protesters pollute the Mission; etc.

A proposal for Women’s March

In her J. guest column urging that Jewish women remain associated with the official Los Angeles Women’s March, Rabbi Sarah Bassin of Beverly Hills Temple Emanuel writes: “Indeed, the Women’s March L.A. has taken great pains to distinguish itself as its own separate grassroots entity — unaffiliated with the national leadership and their controversies to drive this point home.”

Her words remind me of when President Trump blessed the participants in the neo-Nazi Charlottesville march: “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”

The president apparently was referring to the many people who marched right behind the neo-Nazis but were not affiliated. He called them “fine people.”

Those marchers were strengthening the ideology of the leaders in the front of the march whether they intended to or not. They should not have been there. They knew the leaders were neo-Nazis.

Neither should Jews march with leaders who support Louis Farrakhan or utter the tropes of anti-Semitic ideology. Jews don’t belong there.

Rabbi Bassin states, “if you have another viable way to enhance women’s rights that is uncomplicated by intersectional politics and all of the difficulty and pain that comes with building coalitions, I’m all ears.”

Yes, rabbi, try this alternative: On Jan. 19, Jews should march in a distinctly separate march. Then they can get their message across effectively and still preserve their dignity.

Gary Sirbu

Tlaib has made her position clear

Newly elected Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) had every right to be sworn in with an oath on the Quran and to wear a traditional Palestinian dress. However, she missed the opportunity to use her newfound celebrity as a bridge for peacemaking efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, she has called for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and allowed one of her guests to pin Palestine on the map on her wall in place of Israel, while not disavowing this hateful show of antagonism.

Hosting Linda Sarsour on her first day in office is yet another signal that Tlaib sees her role as a supporter of eradicating the sovereign Jewish State of Israel with no accountability for Palestinian responsibility, actions and terror. Israelis face attack tunnels, missiles and terrorists from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon/Syria. Terror tunnels are another tactic to create havoc and destruction in Israel, along with Hamas attempts to break through the border fence.

Let us hope Democratic congressional leaders will distance themselves from the rookie errors Tlaib is making from the get-go. If she wants to build bridges with the majority in the Congress, she can exert better influence in cooperation with her colleagues who seek solutions for both Israelis and Palestinians. Tlaib’s power and influence to help her Palestinian brethren can be put to positive action and reconciliation if she can transcend the slogans of hatred and dysfunctional self-delusion that have characterized Palestinian maximalism and have led to their own misery, isolation and self-destruction.

Jeff Saperstein
Mill Valley

Rabbi Lew’s impact on our lives

This is the 10th yahrzeit for Rabbi Alan Lew z”l, the most important and innovative Jewish leader I’ve ever known. He brought us back to Judaism and enriched our approach to prayer.

Before Rabbi Lew entered our lives, my husband Mark and I were irregular observers. In 1990, we moved to San Francisco and joined Congregation Beth Sholom. Rabbi Lew arrived two years later, and our religious rebirth began.

His Shabbat sermons captivated us with their symphonic symmetry. My Mondays began at 6 a.m. with his meditation, minyan, and a standing-room-only Torah study class. He inspired me to learn Torah trope. At age 61, I had my bat mitzvah, where I read and chanted about Korah, the rebel.

He was our Rock Star Rabbi with many personas: writer, Zen student, social activist. The rabbi’s best and oldest friend was Norman Fischer, a Jewish Buddhist priest. They co-founded Makor Or, the first Jewish meditation group within a synagogue. I eagerly joined and became enriched by linking meditation with prayer.

At one individual meeting, I told Rabbi Lew of my sad dismissal from a backpack group for being too slow. “But I still want to climb mountains!” He replied, ”You have the highest mountain to climb still ahead of you.”

Rabbi Lew departed from Beth Sholom to write and teach. The coda of his final sermon remains with me 40 years later. “I will carry all of you in my soul for the rest of my life … and from now on, wherever you go, you will carry me with you.”

Joan Reinhardt-Reiss
San Francisco

Manny’s protesters pollute S.F.

Are there absolutely no safe spaces left in the Bay Area for supporters of Israel? Case in point: Manny’s café/bookstore, located at 3092 16th St. at Valencia in San Francisco’s Mission District. Despite owner Emmanuel Yekutiel possessing otherwise impeccable leftist credentials, his place is now being picketed weekly on Wednesdays by a small group of extreme radicals, the Lacy Parsons Project, determined to drive it out of town. Their charming chant: “Zionists out of Palestine and Zionists out of Mission.”

This should be condemned as pernicious political polluting of public places. It is yet another example of disruptive activist bullying, priming the nation for much worse to come, if not stopped. Such behavior must receive maximum public opprobrium, via the three Ps: patronize, publicize, penalize.

Richard D. Wilkins
Syracuse, N.Y.

A human portrait of peacemaker

J. senior writer Rob Gloster poignantly captured Sulaiman Khatib’s life, from his youth to cofounding the courageous Combatants for Peace, whose members reject violence while turning their faces toward one another in human relationships. (“This Palestinian says he is a fighter—for peace,” Dec. 17)

Even earlier, in 2004 Sulaiman demonstrated his visionary determination as part of Breaking the Ice, the first, historic Israeli-Palestinian expedition to Antarctica. Those women and men navigated the dangerous Straits of Magellan to summit a previously unclimbed icy peak and name it “The Mountain of Israeli-Palestinian Friendship.” (breakingtheice.org)

In advance of the brave public announcement of Combatants for Peace, Sulaiman also was a participant in Camp Tawonga’s groundbreaking Oseh Shalom-Sanea al-Salam Palestinian Jewish Family Peacemakers Camp, co-created during 2003-2007 with the local Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group. (tinyurl.com/livingroomgroup). Sulaiman became an important part of the camp’s planning team, while helping to discover other Palestinian and Israeli camp participants who were realizing that “an enemy is one whose story we have not heard.”

May this new 2019 year find more of us reaching out across old boundaries in new ways, listening-to-learn, humanizing each other, even turning the “other” into a brother or sister — surely the life of the Shema.

Libby and Len Traubman
San Mateo

‘Reverse birthright’ won’t work

The Z3 Conference held on Dec. 9 at the Palo Alto Oshman Family JCC was designed as a cooperative effort by Israeli and diaspora leading minds to identify, as far as Judaism is concerned, shared interests and goals of these two communities. One aspect that sounded wrongheaded was the suggestion by several panelists of a “reverse birthright,” or visits by Israeli young people to America.

Just imagine: Israelis come here and visit our colleges and universities. While most have an Israel-supporting group, the number of students can rarely be counted on two hands. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, supported by Students for Justice in Palestine, is extremely visible and active on campuses. There is a group called J Street U on campuses, with a lot of Jewish students participating, that absolves Palestinians of any responsibility for their fate and blames Israel for all ills that have befallen them. The Israeli visitors return home and report their findings.

Visitors could notice one bright spot that does link the Jews of the USA and Israel, however, and it is the Ramah movement. Ramah counselors, American and Israeli, working together, engage campers in a meaningful and enjoyable experience of Jewish traditions, rituals and songs, along with sports, games, etc.

Still, our Israeli Birthright visitors may leave America in a rather pessimistic mood, since there is not much campus pushback against BDS, SJP and J Street U from either student bodies or administrations. So, “shared interests and goals,” yes; but “a reverse birthright” — no, at least, not at this time.

Vladmir Kaplan
San Mateo

J. Readers

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