Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus at the Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware, March 12, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Michael Brochstein-Echoes Wire-Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus at the Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware, March 12, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Michael Brochstein-Echoes Wire-Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Quibble with our school Covid coverage; Biden’s ‘career of lying’; Stop saying ‘Jewish privilege’; An ‘anti-Israel rag’; etc.

Showing schools our heart

I was disappointed by your article “Schools scramble as Covid wreaks havoc on reopening plans.” The gist, as I read it, was that parents want schools open for in-person instruction; schools want to reopen for in-person instruction but mostly can’t; and parents are scrambling and threatening to leave their schools.

I found this way off base.

First, as an Oakland Hebrew Day School parent, it would be my preference that schools not reopen for in-person instruction until there is a vaccine or treatment, period. Saving life is our highest value.

I don’t think anyone has a grasp of the parental sentiment here, but from what I’ve seen, it is all over the map, not one chorus to reopen.

Next, I think the article missed the deep relationship our schools have with parents. Most parents I know understand we are in a community with a wide range of views and needs. We would not think to pull our kids out of their community just because something wasn’t optimal to our particular child. When there is a problem, we work through it. That has been my experience with OHDS thus far.

Online learning is certainly not optimal for anyone, but given the circumstances, it is what we have. Our schools are clearly doing the best they can and, as a community, we need to show this is a two-way street and work together through these difficult times.

Laila Stone

3 cheers for seasoned citizens

Thank you to J. for featuring Fred Rosenbaum’s poignant and concise account of Poland’s dark history and present government (“Trump’s stamp of approval helped re-elect Poland’s bigoted president”) and for Evie Groch’s eloquent appeal for respect for the seasoned among us (“We’re seasoned citizens, not expendable! Don’t count us out”).

Regarding the latter, it’s a funny thing about negative stereotypes of aging — they come back to haunt us. The Golden Rule could not be more apt for this twist of fate. Indeed, do not look down upon those of higher years, as you would not have others look down upon you … for if you do, they will.

We have an opportunity to continue to learn, contribute and pursue our talents, interests and passions as our years grow higher, only if we respect the seasoned among us in the present. Rather than allowing negative stereotypes to become self-fulfilling prophecies, let us fulfill our aspirations for learning, contributing, pursuing — to make “good trouble.”

Molly Freeman

Biden’s ‘career of lying’

It disheartens me that a fine young man like Aaron Keyak (“Biden’s newly named Jewish engagement director is a political wunderkind from S.F.”) — whom we met some years ago through our friendship with his parents — perpetuates the lie that Joe Biden used when announcing his candidacy for president.

When Donald Trump made the statement that there are “fine people on both sides,” he was referring to people who did not want Confederate statues torn down, which included a Black historian who was interviewed on “60 Minutes.”

Trump made it clear 10 seconds later that he was not referring to “white supremacists or neo-Nazis.” Even the New York Times confirmed that this was so.

a white man in his 30s stands with Joe Biden, Jill Biden and a white woman in her 30s. all are smiling.
(From left) Aaron Keyak with then Vice President Joe Biden, Keyak’s wife Avigail Goldgraber and Dr. Jill Biden at a Jewish Leaders reception in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2015. (Photo/David Lienemann)

Your article failed to mention that Israel-loving Joe would reverse Trump administration policies that have led to Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank and he would resume assistance to the Palestinians.

Joe Biden has a long career of lying on countless occasions. He is the epitome of what Americans dislike about politicians. If you intend to vote for Joe Biden simply because he “isn’t Trump,” you simply aren’t paying attention.

David Berger
San Rafael

Got to denounce Israel, too

We must stop saying “All Lives Matter” when confronted with the Israeli occupation.

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 opinion piece in J. titled “Israel isn’t an excuse not to support Black Lives Matter,” Maayan Belding-Zidon voiced a shift felt by many American Jews — that BLM’s support for BDS (the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel) 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.

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

Today’s grievances vs. history

I taught African history for 40 years at Cal State University Chico and want to comment on a recent J. article (“Sides clash over competing CSU ethnic studies requirements”).

Did I provide a Jewish male perspective on the origins of the Bantu languages, the history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church or 19th-century differences between the Xhosa and Zulu responses to Christian missionaries?

Of course not.

Is there a particularly Latinx perspective on Jacksonian democracy, a uniquely Black take on Salem witch trials or a lesbian angle on the transcontinental railroad?

If so, I’d like to see that fleshed out with its benefits to students made clear.

It’s an indefensible and dishonest effort to make contemporary grievances substitute for historical narratives.

Charles Geshekter

Calling out ‘anti-Israel rag’

Kudos to J. for publishing Mervyn Danker’s opinion piece “Where is the tolerance for conservative views?,” specifically as it applies to the self-described, narrow-minded, partisan leftist tabloid of alleged record, the New York Times.

This is the same newspaper which deliberately hid news of the Holocaust on its back pages, shilled for Stalin with regular articles by the despicable liar Walter Duranty, and, since about the 1980s, has been the loudest anti-Israel rag out there.

Let’s not forget its prediction as to the winner of the 2016 election, right up to election eve.

What is even worse and mystifying is the uncritical devotion and high regard it draws from its Jewish readers, who by now really should know better.

Perhaps J. would be more balanced and realistic with more opinion pieces like this.

Dave Harris

Good topic, poor execution

In his July 24 opinion piece, Mervyn Danker made a plea for the presentation of reasoned conservative voices in today’s print media, from J. to the New York Times. I only wish that his own essay had been more well-reasoned and accurate.

While decrying the anti-conservative bias at the Times, Danker managed to characterize a disturbing but carefully argued column by Peter Beinart as an “infamous screed” in which Beinart “advocated for the dismemberment [and] dissolution … of the Jewish state of Israel.”

closeup of a middle age white man with short hair
Peter Beinart, pictured here in Israel in 2012, now advocates for one state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians. (Photo/JTA-Flash90)

In that column, Beinart, a former proponent of the two-state solution, recognized the collapse of support for the two-state solution both in Israel and Palestine. From that perspective, he argued, reluctantly, that the only solution left seemed to be a single binational state, since the status quo is antithetical to a healthy democracy in Israel. Personally, I don’t agree with Beinart, but he presented a strong, reasoned argument.

Perhaps the most misleading and unfortunate part of Danker’s essay was the last half, where he painted U.S. universities as leftist bastions staffed by faculty for whom “[a]nti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are at the forefront of [their] arsenal of bigotry [and] impressionable young students are fair game for their extremist [views].”

I am a retired professor with more than 30 years teaching experience in Oregon, and have taught and done research at universities in Israel, Ireland, Australia, Norway and Sweden. I’m not sure how much actual experience Mr. Danker has on university campuses, but I can report to your readers that his description is highly inaccurate.

The overwhelming majority of universities manage to maintain a civil level of intellectual discourse on the issue of Israel-Palestine. There are some institutions where the situation is more tense (e.g., Columbia University), and sadly, a number of these are in the Bay Area (e.g., UC Berkeley and SFSU). However, even there, anti-Zionist faculty are a minority, and faculty members who profess hatred of Jews are almost nonexistent.

Mr. Danker’s point about the lack of support for conservative viewpoints in certain newspapers and universities is a good one. It’s too bad that the arguments that he chose to present in his column were so inaccurate and misleading.

Todd Silverstein
Salem, Oregon

Stop saying ‘Jewish privilege’

Recently, both Jewish and non-Jewish colleagues told me I have “Jewish privilege.” Although I firmly believe that we need to address anti-Blackness in the U.S. as a top priority, I wonder if I need to accept antisemitic statements and behaviors in the process of fighting for Black lives.

I work at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. A seminar called “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” was created in my department to foster discussions about “diversity.” However, the leaders decided to focus solely on race.

When Covid-19 hit, classes were forced to operate remotely. Some got Zoombombed with racist, antisemitic and other bigoted content. Apparently antisemitic “bombings” occurred multiple times. However, I only learned about this through the grapevine, as the university kept it quiet.

On one occasion, a Zoombomb consisted of using the N-word, along with swastikas. Our staff was scheduled to discuss the Zoombomb in our diversity seminar. The leaders decided to omit swastikas from the discussion to avoid having anti-Semitism dominate. When one colleague questioned why, one of the leaders explained it was because Jews are wealthy and powerful.

Since that time, I’ve had multiple discussions with staff who continue to label Jews as “privileged.”

I spoke openly about how triggering this is for me, because it is the exact same rhetoric Hitler used to justify Jewish genocide. However, my reactions have been met with denial and open hostility.

In a job where I felt more accepted than ever throughout my long career, I suddenly became the object of extreme criticism; the “Jewish, white, cisgendered woman of great privilege and power” who allows my “fragility” to prevent me from true self-reflection.

I am an extremely privileged person. However, I don’t think I’m privileged because I’m Jewish.

Rather, I hold privilege despite the fact that I’m Jewish.

My parents (not my ancestors or grandparents) survived the Nazis.They were evacuated from their homes as children, to live with strangers in the U.K. My father was made to sleep on the hay in a barn because he was Jewish, while the non-Jewish boys stayed in the house. My mother had to sleep with a cross above her head and pray to Jesus.

In Robin DiAngelo’s book “White Fragility,” she labels those who want to discuss their ancestors’ struggles as “fragile” and contributing to racism in the U.S. I’m not talking about my ancestors; I’m referring to my parents.

Because I believe we should not tolerate antisemitic statements such as “Jews are wealthy and powerful,” or actions such as omitting Jews from discussions about diversity even when swastikas appear on our elite college campus, does this make me racist?

Sheila Levin
Palo Alto

John Lewis and the Jews

With the death of Rep. John Lewis, America has lost a civil rights icon, and the Jewish community has lost a great friend (“John Lewis and the Jews: 6 moments that showcase an enduring alliance”).

In 1961, Lewis became one of the original Freedom Riders. In 1963, he helped organize the March on Washington, where he spoke just before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. (My parents were both there.)

Black man and elderly white Jewish man light Holocaust memorial candle in front of audience at U.S. Capitol building.
John Lewis and Norbert Bikales, who was part of the Kindertransport from Berlin to France in July 1939, in a Holocaust remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., April 9, 2002. (Photo/JTA-Scott J. Ferrell-Congressional Quarterly-Getty Images)

Lewis personally knew Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, two Jewish civil rights workers who, along with James Chaney, were murdered in Mississippi in 1964 by Ku Klux Klan members for helping African Americans register to vote.

In 1965, Lewis courageously led a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The bloody beating he endured laid bare the barbarism of racial segregation and led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Lewis not only crossed bridges. He built bridges, too. In a Jan. 21, 2002 op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Lewis lauded the “special relationship” between African Americans and American Jews. He observed that both peoples were uprooted involuntarily from their homelands, shaped by slavery, confined to ghettos and “subjected to oppression and genocide on a level unprecedented in history.”

In that piece, Lewis also noted King’s advocacy for Soviet Jewry and passionate support for Israel. He recalled King saying on March 25, 1968: “I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of … how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”

Lewis also recalled King telling a hostile Harvard student, “When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism.”

Lewis will be greatly missed.

Stephen A. Silver
San Francisco

J. Readers

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