Rep. Ilhan Omar at a news conference on prescription drugs at the Capitol, Jan. 10, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Alex Wong-Getty Images)
Rep. Ilhan Omar at a news conference on prescription drugs at the Capitol, Jan. 10, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Alex Wong-Getty Images)

Insights on the Pharisees; policy hopes for Biden; anti-Semitism on the left; etc.

Insightful words lift all of us

Thank you, Rami, for sharing your Torah with us (“I do not speak, but I am listening. Talking about others hurts us all,” by Rami Kripke-Ludwig).

As one who has known you since you were small, you and your parents have helped me and many others learn to be more inclusive, more sensitive and simply better listeners. I hope you will continue to convey your insights and encourage us to set our sights high. We can all excel beyond our own and others’ expectations.

Rabbi Camille Shira Angel | San Francisco

Anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism

Your March 8 cover story “Anti-Semitism expert Deborah Lipstadt: Don’t panic, but stay vigilant,” noted the “spike in global anti-Semitism” that is “coming from left and from right.” Last week, we witnessed two extreme examples.

On April 27, during Passover and exactly six months after an anti-Jewish extremist massacred 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, an armed man stormed a Chabad synagogue in Poway, near San Diego. He murdered 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye, who jumped in front of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein to shield him, and wounded three others, including Goldstein and an 8-year-old Israeli girl, Noya Dahan (whose hometown of Sderot has been targeted by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza with thousands of rockets).

Two days earlier, the New York Times, whose reporting has long demonstrated anti-Israel bias, published a flagrantly anti-Semitic cartoon in its international edition that was reminiscent of the Nazi-era publication Der Stürmer. It showed a dog with Benjamin Netanyahu’s face and a Jewish star hanging from its collar, leading President Trump by a leash, with Trump depicted as blind and wearing a kippah. One need not support Trump or Netanyahu to find the cartoon deeply offensive. Yet the Times not only selected and published the cartoon but needed two days to admit it was offensive and a third day before finally apologizing.

How could the Times publish neo-Nazi propaganda? As Times columnist Bret Stephens astutely observed: “the almost torrential criticism of Israel and the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, including by [the Times], … has become so common that people have been desensitized to its inherent bigotry. So long as anti-Semitic arguments are framed, however speciously, as commentary about Israel,” they are deemed “political opinion, not ethnic prejudice. But … anti-Zionism is all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism in practice and often in intent.”

Stephen A. Silver | San Francisco

‘I’ll be ready to help’

Exemplary Atherton pediatrician Michelle Sandberg gave us J. readers a practical example of a life worth living that inherently includes risks and moving outside of our comfortable neighborhood and clan (“Lessons from practicing in a refugee camp”).

Dr. Sandberg remembered her recent volunteer medical service in rural Kenya: “I was 10,000 miles away from home, but I felt closer to my place in this world than ever before — as a human being, as a professional, and as a Jew.”

This practitioner, mother, spouse and community volunteer — and now a global service-learner — models and perfectly describes the fulfilling, mystical, religious (relegating, reconnecting) experience of one, echad, that is so within the reach of all of us… if we choose.

As a pediatric dentist and educator, I had a taste of this humbling life while teaching student volunteers to care for needy young patients and their grateful parents — struggling migrant farmworkers — while maximizing the University of California’s mobile dental clinic initiated by Los Altos Hills Jewish dentist Marvin Stark.

My wife Libby and I similarly experienced great meaning when “losing ourselves” while facilitating healing dialogue among violently alienated Muslims and Christians on the high plateau of central Nigeria.

Yet we needn’t cross oceans to live this life of giving beyond ourselves prescribed by our inclusive Prophets.

Right in Dr. Sandberg’s Atherton hometown, we facilitated in dialogue the eighth-grade class of Sacred Heart Schools as invigorated students excitedly assimilated their life-changing experiences of community service in agricultural communities and city centers of poverty and need.

May many of us find meaning in Dr. Sandberg’s life and adopt her mantra: “Whether at home or abroad, I’ll be ready to help.”

Lionel Traubman, DDS, MSD | San Mateo

Biden, show your stuff

Joe Biden has now entered the fray. Let’s see if he follows the Obama/Kerry policy of the perfidious Paris Conference and abstention on Security Council vote that all territory captured in 1967 is occupied. Biden needs to re-evaluate Middle East policy and come up with a fresh approach that will work for Israel and the Arab states, even if the PA rejects any deal.

What about free international supervised elections in Gaza and West Bank to determine what the Palestinian people really want? The majority seem to have no confidence in PA and Hamas to lead them forward (according to polls, 6 percent approval for PA and 11 percent approval for Hamas). Maybe new Palestinian leadership with a different approach will be more popular than endless rejection and fruitless wars with Israel.

Biden has the credibility to lead a bipartisan effort and knows the international players better than anyone else running. He has the right stuff, let’s see him show it.

Jeff Saperstein | Mill Valley

New insights on the Pharisees

I am from the Jewish maternal line of a mixed family of Jews, Catholics and Calvinists, so I read Addie Liechty’s article with great interest (“Unlearning my Christian stereotypes about Pharisees”). From my academic study of history, I can add two pieces of information that she has not yet discovered.

First, Yehoshua “Yeshua” Bar-Yosef, aka Jesus (English from French, Jésus; from Latin, Iesvs; from Greek, Iesous; from Hebrew, Yehoshua) was a Phariseean Jew. We know this because all of the basic principles he taught are identical to everything we still learn in modern Jewish thought and theology. (Nota bene: The man himself never claimed to be the Messiah; that was a label applied to him by others.)

Second, there were no battles between Pharisees and Christians. Christianity did not emerge from Judaism as a separate religion until the later years of the second century C.E. For at least a century after the missionary career of Yeshua Bar-Yosef, converts to Christian sects of Judaism (e.g., the Antioch or West Syrian Church, established 41 C.E.; the Alexandrian or Coptic Church, established 43 C.E.; etc.) were fully accepted by the broader Jewish community as converts to Judaism.

It was only after the destruction of the Second Temple and the failure of the Jewish Revolts against Rome, culminating in the fall of Masada, that the Christian community began to separate from Judaism to become a completely independent Abrahamic faith.

Rather, the big cultural intra-Hebrew cultural battle in the first century was between Jews and Samaritans, both of them Bene Yisrael and both of them claiming to be the true heirs of the Torah, etc. But Christians did not exist as Christians until a good century after the death of Christ.

Micheal McLoughlin | San Francisco

Left’s anti-Semitism is alarming

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar keeps giving. On March 20, she retweeted a claim that Jesus Christ was a “Palestinian,” tweeted by Omar Suleiman, an adjunct professor of Islamic studies at Southern Methodist University.

Rewriting history is one of the main anti-Semitic ploys. And as the Democrats’ deafening silence on the matters of anti-Semitism becomes more and more obvious, the extreme right’s monopoly on the world’s oldest bigotry is rapidly diminishing. In any case, the right’s and left’s anti-Semitism have been very much intertwined.

The left’s anti-Semitism was more or less inconspicuous up until, in former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s words, “President Obama decided to put ‘daylight’ between Israel and the United States.” That laid the groundwork for the left’s current anti-Semitism, culminating (so far) in Congress’ non-resolution after the Omar debacle.

On the other hand, the anti-Semitic elements of the left have learned from the extreme right’s demonstration in Charlottesville that it is time to go to the barricades, as exemplified by the BDS orgies on campuses and open rejection of condemning anti-Semitism in Congress.

In addition, size indeed matters. The extremists on the right make a lot of noise, amplified by the media, but they don’t affect national policies, since they lack substantial support and legislative representation. Meanwhile, the left’s identity politics where Jewish concerns have been totally dismissed, BDS’ anti-Israel/anti-Semitic activism, and now even congressional support all raise the left’s anti-Semitism to an alarming level, which among other aftereffects can decrease Jewish leaning toward Democrats.

Vladimir Kaplan | San Mateo

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