Syrian Arab and Kurdish civilians arrive in northwestern Syria's Hasakeh province after fleeing the Turkish bombing on towns along the Turkey border, Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Delil Souleiman-AFP via Getty Images)
Syrian Arab and Kurdish civilians arrive in northwestern Syria's Hasakeh province after fleeing the Turkish bombing on towns along the Turkey border, Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Delil Souleiman-AFP via Getty Images)

No to reparations; yes to leaving Syria; and big yes to Livermore!

Native American reparations first

Regarding Gabriel Greschler’s article on black reparations (“Atonement: The Jewish case for black reparations”), if we’re going to use the Holocaust as the model for justifying reparations, then we need look no further than Native Americans as the worthiest recipients. They were the victims of a long genocidal campaign by the U.S. government, most notably in the decades following the Civil War, where the quote by General Sherman that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” became the marching orders for the U.S. Cavalry up till Wounded Knee in 1890. Those who survived were subjected to having their land confiscated at gunpoint, in many if not most cases in violation of treaties which the U.S. government had signed. And, under Grant and subsequent administrations, it was U.S. policy to pursue the elimination of Native American culture, language and religion. Talking about reparations for past injustice in our country without mentioning Native Americans is equivalent to talking about Nazi war crimes without mentioning Jews.

Steve Miller
San Francisco

Forever reparations?

The Jewish case for black reparations” suggested that, since victims of Nazi travesties were paid reparations by Germany, so too should the USA now pay reparations to American Blacks — at least six generations after slavery ended in America (1865). Also cited was “The 1619 Project,” which incorrectly asserts that slavery began in the United States in 1619. There was no USA in 1619! Also suggested: “Previously” governing nations should provide reparations.

North America’s 13 colonies were founded by independent, political and religious British groups. In 1776, those independent colonies joined to wage a civil war against Britain. The colonists, victorious in 1783, presented the new “United States of America” to the world.

In 1803, America purchased the France-owned “Louisiana Territory,” from which many “slave states” were eventually formed. In 1819, the USA acquired Florida from Spain. Britain abolished slavery in 1833 but never considered reparations for slaves across the British Empire. Will reparations be demanded from England, France and Spain?

Post World War II, many first-generation Jewish Americans had parents who immigrated here to escape Nazi Europe or its aftermath. Germany paid monthly reparations to many of our parents and grandparents — while alive — for the economic loss that they themselves had suffered. Neither I nor any of my American-born Jewish friends considered seeking reparations; they simply did not apply to us. Indeed, the vast majority of America’s Jewish population was not here during America’s slavery period.

How many generations after America abolished slavery would such “reparations” end — if ever?

Fred Korr

Livermore: best place on Earth

I started Shabbat Shuvah morning at Congregation Beth Emek. Founded in 1956, Beth Emek has been my Jewish home for almost 40 years, first in Livermore and, since 2005, in Pleasanton.

After Shabbat services, I went back to Livermore where I enjoyed food, music and dance at the eighth annual “Taste of Africa in the Heart of Livermore” festival. I then headed to the Livermore Airport — one of the top hundred in the country — for the 23rd annual open house and air show.

Later that day, I opened the J. to the Jew in the Pew column (“Connection and renewal at fire-damaged Chabad’s celebration of unity”), which began by comparing Pleasanton with “most of the Earth’s extremities.” If Pleasanton is the end of the earth, what does that say about Livermore, even further east? Don’t bother to answer. After spending many years at UC Berkeley, I’ve heard it all.

The Tri-Valley has always been underrated by points west. Livermore is home to more than 60 wineries, two national labs, its own element (Livermorium 116), a long ranching history, a large Latinx population, a lively arts scene and a powerful sense of community. I love it and wouldn’t live anywhere else.

With that in mind, let me extend an invitation to Jew in the Pew’s author: Join me for a Tri-Valley Shabbat. Following services at Beth Emek, we can wander through Livermore’s “ArtWalk” or enjoy the first Livermore Pride Festival, then hit some wineries and walk though some of the regional parks. You won’t be sorry.

Dr. Patricia Munro

On board with Trump strategy

Let’s give some credit to the Trump administration in its Middle East calculus. The Kurds have now allied with Assad/Russia, and it is Syria defending its territory against Turkey. The Kurds have found their solution without us, and Turkey had planned to dump 1 million Syrian Arab refugees into Kurdish regions, which would have been a humanitarian disaster.

Trump has just committed 3,000 troops to Saudi Arabia, and they will also work the Patriot missile systems to block more Iranian aggression against Saudi oil fields. This may be a geopolitical calculation that Saudi Arabia is worth defending, while the Kurds are not (I do not agree with this proposition, but from U.S. interests’ point of view, it can make sense).

There is little public interest to intervene in Syria, while there is a lot at stake with Saudi Arabia. If the U.S. can protect the Saudis, then it bolsters Israel to have more confidence that Trump will give Saudi Arabia and Israel a pass in support against Iran — the only two entities that can thwart Iran and justify U.S. support. Note that both Israel and Saudi Arabia have billions in U.S.- made equipment and technology, and so there is a bigger investment in their success.

Shifting sands, but perhaps a Saudi Arabia and Israeli tacit alliance with U.S. support is the best hope to stop Iranian aggression.

Jeff Saperstein
Mill Valley

Len Traubman, a true mensch

Alix Wall’s moving tribute to Len Traubman practically left me in tears (“Len Traubman, who got Jews and Palestinians talking, dies at 80”). Dr. Traubman was my childhood dentist. Despite his profession, his gentleness always reminded me of Mr. Rogers.

When I was around 12, I started becoming interested in trading my family tree but was stymied by being too young to get access to most records (internet genealogy was in its infancy). An offhand comment to Len during a cleaning led to the gift of his own self-published family history, as well as encouragement to keep going and not get discouraged.

Len and his wife, Libby, also embodied the idea of menschlichkeit — kindness without strings. Every time he was in the news, it was for doing something good, particularly building bridges of dialogue and understanding between groups who often saw each other as enemies. On a few occasions I saw him get verbally attacked by critics, either in the press or online. He was always a perfect gentleman, letting the other party have their say and never feeling the need to argue. He knew what was right and that was enough.

The world was a better place while he was here. The world needs more Len Traubmans. The usual comment when someone dies is a prayer that their memory will be a blessing. For the thousands of people Len touched with his kindness and empathy, I have no doubt this will be true for many years to come.

Andrew Nusbaum

Anti-Semitism, the great unifier

I am afraid that Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein’s appeal for a dignified and tolerant discourse (“May the Days of Awe help us embrace what’s important“) may fall on deaf ears. Yes, Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai hotly, but respectfully, discussed “an esoteric matter.” But they shared a common interest of advancing Judaism, especially, in modern terms, Jewish ethics.

Nowadays, the right and left share few common interests. While Jews on the right find pride and excitement in Judaism, those on the left do not always do so. As for Israel, to the right the Jewish state, with all its faults and misdeeds, is a manifestation of the Zionist dream of Jews living free in the Jewish ancestral homeland, while some on the left believe it is an apartheid state oppressing the innocent Palestinians.

Still, there is one factor that may unite the Jewish right and Jewish left. Enter anti-Semitism. And just look at the reaction of Jews belonging to both sides and no sides at all to the anti-Semitic ethnic studies curriculum draft produced by the advisory committee of the California Department of Education (DoE). The avalanche of condemnations was so swift and resolute that the DoE has shelved the draft. Although there is no concluding decree on its fate, yet.

For anti-Semites, every Jew is an evildoer and Zionist. They don’t distinguish between right and left, between Jews interpreting the Torah one way or another, or seeing Israel from different perspectives. The spread of anti-Semitism may, just may, force Jews of all stripes to realize that the common identity and common homeland is more important than winning points in the right/left strife.

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo

Civic studies, not ethnic studies

Jerome Berkman’s letter is right (“You’ve got to be taught to hate”). The evidence suggests that we are losing the war against anti-Israel and anti-Semitic content in California schools. Actually, “suggests” does not go far enough.

It is civic education that should concern the State Department of Education, not some so-called curriculum claiming to educate regarding ethnic diversity but which was “mysteriously” (read “intentionally”) hijacked. Who was responsible for this frightening fiasco?

E pluribus unum, not hostile ethnic (grievance) studies, must guide the California State Department of Education. We must promote understanding and acceptance among our diverse population by studying the contributions of all Americans as Americans, instead of divisively focusing on people as members of groups. A simple reference to a person as a hyphenated American should suffice to remind our students that we may come from many places, but we are all Americans now.

The students’ home environments play a large role, and schools might reach out to parents with the e pluribus unum message. Matter-of-fact comfort with diverse backgrounds in California will develop naturally for our children if they and their families see themselves first as Americans, instead of as members of groups.

Julie Lutch

J. Readers

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