Satya Zamudio, 15, is urging Oakland's school board to eliminate its police force. (Photo/Rucha Chitnis)
Satya Zamudio, 15, is urging Oakland's school board to eliminate its police force. (Photo/Rucha Chitnis)

Inequality in the burbs; Our pandemic reporting; JCCs need new funding model; Jews are safe in Hungary; etc.

Redress the inequities

Hannah Lebovits’ opinion piece on white Jews moving to the suburbs (“White Jews fled to the suburbs. Black Americans could not. Here’s why that matters today,” June 23) was timely and well taken.

It is indeed true that many Jews fled from American central cities, especially in the 1960s, even as some whites remained and blacks had little choice. Lebovits points out that Jews were subject to anti-Semitism in housing, particularly in the early 20th century. But Jews increasingly obtained the privileges of other whites — we Jews “became white.” Most of us do not tighten in fear when a police car rolls down the street.

It is time to begin redressing these inequities, even if they cross city lines (which were themselves often drawn for elitist and racist reasons). A great deal of investment is needed in poor neighborhoods — in schools, in housing, in health care, in transit, in parks. It may be that the investments there will be “disproportionate” to those in already advantaged areas. It is past time to make a preferential option for the poor.

Nathan Dorfman

J.’s pandemic reporting

The staff, directors and funders of J. the Jewish News of Northern California (and all deserve a great credit for their recent issues, timely published, full of relevant local updates on the crisis in our community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

During this time, many national and local magazines have folded, furloughed or fired their longtime staffs, leaving subscribers stranded and readers thirsty for pandemic news bereft. It could not have been easy for your staff, working remotely, to succeed in giving our community the information lifeline which J. continues to provide in our time of lockdown and need.

I trust that when we can meet communally again, the J. staff will get the public recognition it has earned and continues to earn during this extraordinary, historic period of communal hardship, danger and stress.

Jerry Garchik
San Francisco

‘An inspiration to us all’

I am not Jewish, but I came across your March issue, which focused on the coronavirus. Your beautiful articles are an inspiration to us all, as the pandemic develops. Many thanks and bless you all.

Gill Mkhasibe
Johannesburg, South Africa

Outside support for JCCs

I read with interest your June 26 issue that focused on JCCs facing uncertainty, including your editorial on the subject (“We must support our JCCs in these troubled times”).

Here on the Peninsula, I was surprised to learn that 60 percent of revenue comes from the fitness center and an additional 25 percent comes from preschool tuition. These services don’t exclusively serve the Jewish community.
It’s time — past time, really — for the leadership to reach out to the broader community served by our JCCs for the kinds of large philanthropic gifts needed to sustain these valuable institutions for years to come.

Jeff Goldman

Wary of BDS supporters

Black Lives Matter is a fantastic name for an organization. Unfortunately, it is a political organization, and many people may not be aware that it is active in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and considers Israel an oppressive regime.

I think it is important that people know this when deciding whether or not to support an organization.

Another great organization is the Man Up Club. The Minnesota-based group, which offers free mentorship for young Black males, is a great way to support the Black community without the anti-Semitic politics. I am sure there are many others.

Rachel Myers
San Francisco

As for Palestinian rights …

Liberal Jewish organizations across the country have rushed to express support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and have made meaningful promises about their own diversity, equity and inclusion goals.

In a recent J. opinion piece (“Israel isn’t an excuse not to support Black Lives Matter,” June 15), Maayan Belding-Zidon voiced a shift felt by many American Jews — that BLM’s support for BDS can no longer stop us from joining the fight for Black liberation.

On the contrary, Jews who align themselves with Black Lives Matter must open their eyes to the parallel racist state violence perpetrated against Palestinians, Arab Israelis and non-white Israeli Jews.

A Black Lives Matter protester raises his fist during a march to honor George Floyd in New York City, May 31, 2020. (Photo/JTA-John Moore-Getty Images)
A Black Lives Matter protester raises his fist during a march to honor George Floyd in New York City, May 31, 2020. (Photo/JTA-John Moore-Getty Images)

White Americans working to become better anti-racists have promised to pause and listen. Let us also use this opportunity to listen to the international chorus of activists who are telling us about life under occupation.

For too long, dialogues about Israel in American Jewish communities have downplayed the persecution of Palestinians while focusing instead on the brave and dangerous work of the Israeli military. This is an “all lives matter” approach that deflects from the pressing issue of Palestinian civil rights. Regardless of how it translates into a political opinion, we must be outraged by racist violence against Palestinians.

It is simply hypocrisy to call out racist state violence here while bending over backwards to justify it elsewhere.

Eli Chanoff
San Francisco

BLM chants against Israel

The Black Lives Matter march through Washington, D.C. on July 2 should remove any lingering doubts about the foundational anti-Semitism of BLM. The BLM supporters screamed, “Israel, we know you, you murder children, too.” As Washington Examiner reporter Nic Rowan tweeted: “It was only a matter of time before D.C. protest turned anti-Semitic.”

Richard Sherman
Margate, Florida

School police are needed

How fast you forget the killings on school grounds that could have been prevented by school police and security officers, if the schools had them.

These demanding youngsters (“Jewish youth urge Oakland school district to eliminate school police,” June 24) are in error, and you ought to tell them that they will not be able to defend themselves during an attack.

We were finally able to add school security plus police to protect our schools with success.

Dr. Pablo Nankin
Beverly Hills

Jews are safe in Hungary

I want to comment on the article “Peter Eckstein-Kovacs has defended Jews and other Romanian minorities for decades. Will he survive the Orban era?” (May 26) by Charles Dunst, writing for JTA.

As a dual citizen of Hungary and the U.S., I take great interest in Hungarian politics and follow it closely. I must argue with the statement that Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s policies are autocratic. The Fidesz-KDNP alliance won three consecutive elections with two-thirds of the votes, and Orban’s party, Fidesz, maintains its popularity.

I am not familiar with Mr. Eckstein-Kovacs’ accomplishments as a former member of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, but I must say that accusing the Orban government with anti-Semitism cannot be further from the truth. The government of Hungary declared zero tolerance on anti-Semitism and has become the safest county for the largest Jewish community in Central Europe.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary at a news conference in Prague, March 4, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Michal Cizek-AFP via Getty Images)
Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary at a news conference in Prague, March 4, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Michal Cizek-AFP via Getty Images)

According to several of my Jewish friends living in Hungary, they feel safe visiting synagogues or walking on the streets of Budapest wearing a kippah. Many say that the Jewish community is experiencing a cultural and religious renaissance in Hungary. There are several state-funded programs to renovate synagogues, cemeteries and schools all around the country. The Hungarian government even financed the renovation of a beautiful art nouveau synagogue close to the Hungarian border, in Serbia.

I strongly feel that Mr. Orban supports the rights of all Hungarians, regardless of ethnicity, religion or geography. Taking pride in Hungary’s thousand years of history and traditions should not be mistaken as xenophobia.

Ildiko Pataki

Talmud training for police?

In his June 26 letter to J. (“Unfair swipes at U.S. police”), Steve Astrachan rejected “unqualified support for the Black Lives Matter movement” and the “colonial origins and the inherent legacy of white supremacy” because they represent the “concept of collective racial guilt.”

The point isn’t that all white people today are guilty of white supremacy; the point is that we have benefited from this ideology and practice, and we owe it to those who have suffered from it to address and eradicate it.

Astrachan wrote that “many Black communities suffer from a higher incidence of criminal victimization than does the general population,” adding, “It is this disproportion that should concern us above all.”

Yes, it should concern us, but not above all.

Black people should not have to suffer from Black-on-Black violence, but neither should they have to suffer violence from the police who are paid to protect them.

Finally, Astrachan disagreed with the conclusion that “police use lethal force disproportionately against Black people,” because, according to some studies, “the ratio of [police] shootings to arrests … showed no significant difference by race.”

Astrachan has confused lethal force with shootings, which is hard to believe, given that the police murder of George Floyd did not involve firearms.

But let us for a moment forget the Black and brown people that police have choked to death, tased to death, suffocated to death, beaten to death, etc. and think only about the shootings that Astrachan cites. And let us also accept for the moment the conclusion that he cites. The problem isn’t whether police shoot Black people disproportionately; it’s whether these shootings are justified.

Is it justified to shoot a man in the back, Black or white, who is running away and poses no threat? Or a man who is kneeling, with his arms out?

Remember that Mishnah Sanhedrin says, “whoever destroys a single life, it is considered as if he destroyed a whole world.” Maybe police training should include some Talmud learning.

Todd P. Silverstein
San Rafael

J. Readers

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