The Neve Menachem settlement in the West Bank. (Photo/JTA-Gili Yaari-Flash 90)
The Neve Menachem settlement in the West Bank. (Photo/JTA-Gili Yaari-Flash 90)

God bless ‘Crip Camp’; annexation is reckless; ethnic studies is bad for the Jews; Israel’s role in police brutality; etc.

‘God bless those counselors’

A couple of issues ago, I was flipping through the pages of J. and my roaming eye came upon an article headlined “Crip Camp: disability rights activists and their summer of love.”

“Wow!” I exclaimed to no one but myself. I read it with dazzled eyes.

It was meaningful to me, since I attended a camp such as the one described in the article. It was for campers with disabilities.

My summers at camp started in the early ’60s. Back then, a flock of extraordinary counselors were on staff. I like to think that they didn’t see us as persons who lacked, but as individuals who deserved and were seeking experiences beyond the ones we’d had in our everyday lives.

By doing this, they gave us 12 days to be “normal.”

Personally, I felt safe to try out different roles, things that I saw my peers in the outside world doing. They didn’t all necessarily work, but they didn’t fail me, either.

Attending loud dances, being asked to dance more than once, and circumstances turning kooky and wild — that was the ideology of Camp Easter Seals in the Santa Cruz Mountains back in the ’60s. God bless those counselors!

Susan Cohn

By the power vested in me …

As a California Superior Court judge for 10 years, I officiated at about 50 secular weddings. My proficiency increased with repetition, but I agree with Rabbi Stephen Pearce (“Who is officiating — and why?”).

While I may have satisfied marrying couples, their families and friends — most recently last year with two couples stranded by a temporarily closed city hall! — I never assay to replicate the rabbinical or ministerial knowledge of anyone in the clergy.

Modern trends in Judaism and other religions possess little or no theological alternatives.

Judge Quentin L. Kopp (Ret.)
San Francisco

Annexation is ‘reckless’

With national elections coming up in this country, it’s difficult to focus on global problems. But we must pay serious attention to the issue of Israel-Palestine.

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are distracting the world and enacting an extreme agenda with disastrous long-term consequences. Decades of bipartisan U.S. support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are being ignored.

The new Israeli government, under Netanyahu, has set July 1 as the date to illegally and unilaterally annex Jewish settlements located on occupied Palestinian territory. Israel’s “unity government” has become a vehicle for Netanyahu to push ahead with annexation, with the encouragement of the Trump administration and against the overwhelming warnings of the Israeli security establishment.

All pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans must be clear in their opposition to this disastrous path.

The annexation plan prevents a realistic two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, millions of Palestinians would live in disconnected enclaves, surrounded by Israeli territory, and would be subject to indefinite military rule without civil or political rights.

It mocks the shared democratic values underpinning the U.S.-Israel relationship, and imperils Israel’s long-term security as a democratic, Jewish homeland. As 25 former high-level Israeli security officials wrote in a letter to Congress, “any unilateral annexation of territory or extension of sovereignty to the West Bank will put Israel’s security, along with the well-being of its citizens at risk.”

Lawmakers must make clear that annexation would be a reckless, destructive step with serious long-term ramifications for the region and US-Israel relationship. Democrats must ensure that their 2020 party platform includes Israeli security, recognition of Palestinian rights and their right to a state, and opposition to annexation, settlement expansion and indefinite occupation.

For those of us who care about Israel as a democratic Jewish homeland, care about Palestinian rights and dignity, and a healthy U.S.-Israel relationship rooted in shared interests and values, now is the time to take a stand.

Eva Seligman-Kennard, San Anselmo
J Street SF Bay executive committee member

A curriculum that divides

The Los Angeles Times staff editorial on Aug. 4, 2019 (“California’s proposed new ethnic studies curriculum is jargon-filled and all-too-PC”) observed that the ethnic studies curriculum felt like it was more about imposing predigested political views on students than about widening their perspectives.

Recently we were admonished that your vote reflects whether you are truly a member of a particular ethnic group.

School districts will be free to pick and choose from the ethnic studies curriculum that is eventually approved. But cherry-picking from a huge document (that omits many small groups lacking political clout) can result in “grievance studies” tailored to the predominant ethnicity of various school districts.

While Jews are told to work to repair the world, many in the world work to destroy the Jews.

Rabbi Dev Noily and Hazzan Shulamit Wise Fairman — in their oped in J. (“Why Jews should support the state’s high school ethnic studies curriculum”) — admonish us that “it’s essential that white Jews in the U.S. also embrace the truth of how our whiteness joins us to the dominant culture and its privileges in critical ways.”

Hmm. Once anti-Semitism sought to justify itself by claiming that Jews were “Christ killers.” Then Jews were a separate “race” from Europeans, and “parasites.”

Now “whiteness” is the ultimate form of villainy, Jews are “white people” and part of the evil of “white privilege/supremacy.”

“Whiteness” is a racist doctrine. Let’s not buy into this kind of anti-Semitism camouflaged as “social justice.”

A close look at racial and ethnic history, if honest, will reveal that human nature is deeply flawed. The much-maligned Founding Fathers understood this. Their profound declaration, that all men (generic, inclusive usage) are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, announced a struggle against the worst in human nature.

Part of American history has been our inevitably ongoing effort to realize this ideal, which runs counter to all human history. We must prepare high-schoolers to honor this vision if we value it, and the proposed ethnic curriculum will only further divide us. Whatever our origins, only if we are united as Americans will we be able to overcome the challenges and the unknowns we face.

Julia Lutch

Whose side are they on?

I don’t understand how rabbis who should be leading, supporting and protecting our Jewish people can possibly support the current ethnic studies curriculum draft, as did Rabbi Dev Noily and Hazzan Shulamit Wise Fairman (“Why Jews should support the state’s school ethnic studies curriculum”).

The troubling anti-Semitism and dishonest narrative about the Israel-Palestine conflict that are included in this draft, not to mention the support for BDS, should be fought tooth and nail by our leaders, not overlooked by anyone who cares about truth and justice for all — which must include the Jewish people.

Do not clergy such as Noily and Wise Fairman read a parashah from the Torah every Shabbat? How is it that some miss that this is our story, the story of the Jewish people indigenous to our homeland? Jews are from Judea. And our rabbis must insist that an ethnic studies curriculum reflect this fact. This does not prevent our fighting for others, as well.

We should not allow Israel’s critics to portray Israel as a thief that can be made to surrender stolen property. Especially in a school curriculum. That is shameful.

There are many ways for us to show that Jewish sovereignty in Israel is moral and just. Many people are fond of citing Hillel’s ethical statement, “If I am only for myself, what am I?” But too many of us forget the rest of this wise saying, “If I am not for myself, who will be? And if not now, when?”

Sheree Roth
Palo Alto

Police brutality … via Israel?

Does your heart break over the brutal murder George Floyd by former Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin, but not even skip a beat over the murder by the Israel Defense Forces of Eyad Hallaq, an unarmed autistic man who was walking to school in East Jerusalem on May 30?

If that is the case, this is the moment for you to look deeply into your soul and decide what you really believe, and if your beliefs are consistent or selective.

And while you are soul-searching, consider this: For nearly 20 years, Israel has been sharing its tactics, weaponry and surveillance techniques with police officers from across the United States. These exchanges are sponsored by U.S. and Israeli government agencies, as we as nonprofits like the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

But this is not to single out Israel, or to suggest that it is responsible for racism in America. Racism and violence against people of color has been a part of America since the first colonists appeared. And Israel and the U.S. are not the only repressive countries sharing their “expertise.” It is a worldwide pandemic.

So think carefully about the implications of all this brutality when you consider where you stand.

Lois Pearlman

J. Readers

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