President Donald Trump during a break in an NBC News town hall event at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Oct. 15, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Brendan Smialowski-AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump during a break in an NBC News town hall event at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Oct. 15, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Brendan Smialowski-AFP via Getty Images)

State propositions, for and against; Trump, for and against; Bad mask-wearing on our cover; etc.

Bad form on mask-wearing

How could you do it?! How could you put that image on the Oct. 16 cover of J.?

In a time when our health is at great risk and everyone should be wearing masks properly, you put an image on the cover modeling someone wearing their mask incorrectly, putting everyone at risk, not just the Trump supporter.

Infectious droplets exit our noses as well as our mouths. How many people do you see on a daily basis wearing their masks just like your cover image?

Please do a better job modeling for your readers or, better yet, write an article in your next issue explaining the correct way to wear a mask.

Lore Winterman-Sturm
Union City

Editor’s note: Readers, please do NOT wear your mask as pictured on our Oct. 16 cover. Noses must be covered as well as mouths. This image was a cartoon, created according to the needs of the article it illustrated; it was not an educational vehicle. Stay safe!

120,000 ‘todahs’

For decades, local food banks and the communities we help have benefited from the passion and generosity of the Bay Area’s Jewish community. Few efforts embody that like the annual High Holy Days Food Drive to support the Alameda County Community Food Bank. In 2019, East Bay synagogues collected 21,000 meals’ worth of food to support the one in five of us experiencing or at risk of hunger — ranking the “HHFD” among our food bank’s largest annual food drives.

Covid-19 dramatically changed the way our food bank operates, including not being able to accept most traditional food drive donations. But with food insecurity in the Bay Area practically doubling because of the pandemic, the East Bay congregations weren’t going to let a lack of food drive barrels stop them from helping. Instead, this fall the synagogues hosted “Virtual Food Drives” that raised funds to help us purchase our most needed items.

We’re thrilled to report that the 11 East Bay congregations participating in this year’s drive — Beth El, Beth Israel, Chochmat HaLev, Netivot Shalom, Shir Ami, Kehilla, Beth Abraham, Beth Shalom, Beth Torah, Temple Israel of Alameda and Temple Sinai — raised enough to provide 120,000 meals’ worth of food. That’s nearly six times what previous drives raised!

On behalf of our entire food bank, 300 agency partners in Alameda County, and tens of thousands of households turning to us for help during these challenging times, “todah rabbah!”

Michael Altfest, Oakland
Alameda County Community Food Bank

Wrong claims about Prop. 15

I wish you would fact-check letters before printing them. Dave Harris (“Looking closer at 3 props,” Oct. 15) falsely claimed that Prop. 15 removes property tax protections for “anyone who owns a house, small business or family farm” and “raises costs of living for everyone.”

Actually, Prop. 15 does not raise property taxes on residences or small businesses. Its target is huge corporations whose buildings are owned by partnership interests where a change in ownership is not recorded when the partners change, so that there is technically never any change of ownership.

What this means is that a wealthy corporation may currently be paying lower taxes than a family homeowner.

Based on the most recent report by Blue Sky Consulting Group, 10 percent of the biggest corporate property owners will pay 92 percent of the funding, and more than 75 percent of total revenues will come from properties that have not been reassessed since prior to 1990 — just 2 percent of all commercial and industrial properties!

Proposition 15 will maintain the existing commercial and industrial property tax at a 1 percent limit and will also maintain existing exemptions for small businesses, homeowners, agricultural lands and renters.

It is the opulent corporations that are spreading false fear-mongering about Proposition 15. J. readers deserve the facts.

Elisabeth Ochs
San Francisco

Rabbi off-base on Prop. 18

Proposition 18 isn’t vital or justified for teens who want to vote, contrary to an op-ed co-written by Rabbi Katie Mizrahi (“Prop. 18 is vital for teens who want — and deserve — to vote,” Oct. 14).

It violates California’s constitution and federal law. A 17-year-old can’t join a field trip without signed permission from a parent or guardian, because age-related brain development adversely affects reasoning, analysis and understanding cause and effect.

Until their 18th birthday, 17-year-olds are subject to explicit restrictions on driver licenses. Allowing 17-year-olds to vote in special and primary elections if they’re 18 by the next general election means they can vote for new and increased taxes plus bond measures, which won‘t result in taxes on them, unless a 17-year-old has sufficient independent income for taxation or pays sales tax.

Studying Talmud and bar mitzvah preparation don’t justify voting by minors who aren’t subject to military conscription. The last time a rabbi told congregants like me in a sermon how to vote in a statewide election resulted in my departure from that synagogue until she was replaced. That’s what Roman Catholic priests used to do with their parishioners.

Don‘t change constitutional law because most Jews are upset with Trump even in face of U.S. aid to Israel in military, economic and foreign relation matters. Vote “No” on Proposition 18.

Judge Quentin L. Kopp (Ret.)
San Francisco

Deception and Kamala Harris

In his recent letter to the editor, Dave Harris (“Looking closer at 3 props,” Oct. 15) performed a valuable service by highlighting the dishonesty of the California ballot initiative process.

However, a bit more detail and historical context is in order. Prop. 17 is titled “Restores right to vote after completion of prison term,” which implies an initiative for ex-convicts who have completed their sentences. However, the body of the measure reveals that it actually applies to “people on state parole,” i.e., persons still serving their sentences for felony conviction. Intentional dishonesty of this magnitude is shocking.

Sen. Kamala Harris waves to supporters with her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and her niece, Amara Ajagu, 2, during her presidential campaign launch rally in Oakland, Jan. 27, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Mason Trinca-Getty Images)
Sen. Kamala Harris waves to supporters with her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and her niece, Amara Ajagu, 2, during her presidential campaign launch rally in Oakland, Jan. 27, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Mason Trinca-Getty Images)

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra is responsible for naming, in this case deceptively, ballot initiatives and should be held to account. Unfortunately this practice precedes him and was clearly in effect during the term of his predecessor, Sen. Kamala Harris. In 2014, SFGate noted that her description of a measure to raise the ceiling on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits was so disingenuous as to “raise the question of whether the responsibility should rest with a less-partisan officeholder.” The following year, her description of a public pension reform measure was so distorted that the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board concluded that the issue was for the public and “not the attorney general’s decision to make.”

If former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Harris win the election, she will most likely take an enormous role in the leadership of the executive branch. Given Mr. Biden’s age, she may very well become the acting president. Take a step back from the daily “sound and fury” to which our public discourse has descended and consider well the actual records of those running for our highest offices. Sen. Kamala Harris’ record should not propel her to the presidency. Elections have consequences.

Steve Astrachan
Pleasant Hill

Reach out to our seniors

Dr. Jerry Saliman correctly described the devastating effect loneliness has on seniors in our community (“How curing loneliness can increase longevity and health,” Oct. 13). While older populations are Covid’s biggest casualties, the pandemic also has victimized seniors through the debilitating isolation it has caused. So long as these conditions continue, all of us have a moral duty to reach out to seniors in our neighborhoods to remind them that they are valued and appreciated.

Jonathan Bernstein
San Francisco

How can they be for Trump?

I’m dismayed that so many Americans support the dishonest, dangerous, racist and misogynist words and actions of an egomaniac like Donald Trump (“Jewish Bay Area Trump fans eager for the president’s re-election,” Oct. 15). He is the antithesis of what a good leader should be.

A good leader sets a good example, acts to help the less fortunate and downtrodden, welcomes the stranger and doesn’t betray allies, like Trump betrayed the Kurds. He or she wouldn’t call dead soldiers “suckers,” nor belittle heroes like Sen. John McCain. Nor would a good leader lie, cheat, embolden those who hate, encourage division and make a mockery of justice and our democratic ideals. A good leader wouldn’t let a horrible virus run rampant, dismiss science and watch thousands die.

And a good leader acknowledges that the end doesn’t justify the means, especially when those means lack compassion and ethics.

Celia Menczel
Walnut Creek

‘A coward and a fool’

I am in disbelief that any person, Democrat or Republican, could possibly endorse Donald Trump (“Jewish Bay Area Trump fans eager for the president’s re-election,” Oct. 15). He is a coward and a fool who only loves himself. Sad for those who see him differently.

Annette Bronstein
Daly City

What I see from Trump

You report that some Jews do not feel safe under Trump because he encourages antisemitic white supremacy groups (“Jewish Bay Area Biden supporters work feverishly to get out the vote,” Oct. 16). I have never heard him encourage any such groups.

Rather, I see him soliciting trailblazing peace deals between Israel and Arab countries, deflating tensions over Israel. I also see a much larger Trump constituency, Christian conservatives, increasingly embracing Israel and taking an interest in Judaism.

In contrast, Obama created much anti-Jewish sentiment with his obsessive personal vendetta against Israel, his aggressive affirmative action and discrimination against those perceived as “privileged,” and his winking at the resulting BDS movement.

You also report some Jews feel Trump is too divisive. Obama was all about identity politics and balkanization of the country. That was divisive. Trump is trying to heal some of the divisions created by Obama.

My worry is that a Biden administration would be influenced by similar groups as Obama and would revive the destructive antisemitic policies of the Obama years.

Alan Titus
San Francisco

Trump deserves Jewish vote

I get it that there is a strong anti-Trump current in the local Jewish community, partly driven by overwhelming Democrat Party affiliation and partly due to specific Trump animus (“Divided we vote, but our Jewish bonds prevail,” Oct. 16).

What I don’t get is any acknowledgment that it’s President Trump that has a Jewish daughter and son-in-law and Jewish grandchildren. No president has ever had so deep a personal connection to the Jewish community.

Supporters of Donald Trump hold signs in Hebrew and English as the president speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas, April 6, 2019. (JTA/Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of Donald Trump hold signs in Hebrew and English as the president speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas, April 6, 2019. (JTA/Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump did not kiss the anti-Semite Al Sharpton’s ring. Trump did not canoodle with segregationist senators. Trump did not disrespect Prime Minister Netanyahu. Trump fulfilled decades of empty political promises to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Trump midwifed and signed the historic Abraham Accords.

To rephrase the infamous Biden slur: “If you don’t vote for me, you ain’t Jewish.” If Jews give 90 percent of their votes to the same party, they shouldn’t be surprised if their votes are taken for granted and their real concerns just get lip service.

Jack BenAry
Mill Valley

What is J. implying here?

In the article about Rep. Doug Lamborn’s call for a criminal investigation into SFSU for hosting a terrorist speaker (“Congressman calls for criminal investigation after Khaled talk at S.F. State,” Oct. 12), you quote from a response from a national security attorney who said that this case lacks precedent, and that it would amount to stifling free speech.

You say nothing about the fact that this attorney does not represent the government but rather is well known for defending accused terrorists. His opinion is most certainly not to be taken at face value.

Furthermore, you end the article by telling readers that Lamborn has taken a conservative stance on many issues, including health care, gun control and same-sex marriage. Clearly you are implying that his claim that SFSU is guilty of violating the law is not to be taken seriously because he is on the wrong side of issues that your readers think are more important than fighting against terrorism. It looks like more biased fake news to me.

Ruth Parker
San Francisco

Building after the fires

After reading your article “North Bay artists built a sanctuary, then fire wiped it out” (Oct. 7), my heart goes out to Caryn Fried and Wayne Reynolds and all the other victims of this horrendous fire season.

Many years ago, my parents had a fire in their Hillsborough home, and although they were lucky and did not lose their house, I can still remember the shock, the smell of charred wood, and the cold, black, cavernous feel of what had once been a warm and welcoming home.

Wayne Reynolds looks through the rubble of the home and studio he shared with his wife, Caryn Fried. (Photo/Courtesy Maya Reynolds)
Wayne Reynolds looks through the rubble of the home and studio he shared with his wife, Caryn Fried. (Photo/Courtesy Maya Reynolds)

My son is living in the Sierra Foothills, another fire-prone area, on a 4-acre parcel. Like Caryn Fried and Wayne Reynolds, he and his partner are artists. He is a photographer and she is a painter and potter. He has had to evacuate a few times in the past couple of years. I know what a stressful and scary time that has been.

Now he will be building a house with Faswall blocks and a metal roof. Though nothing is totally fireproof, his home will be more fire resistant, energy efficient and well insulated.

Many of the homes that survived the Santa Rosa fires a few years ago were straw bale. I hope that everyone who plans to rebuild in a fire-prone area will not rebuild a stick frame house but will consider alternative materials, such as straw bale, cob, rammed earth and ICF (insulating concrete forms), including Faswall, which are more fire resistant.

Diane Rauchwerger

Ethnic studies must be fair

Gov. Gavin Newsom has demonstrated common sense in vetoing AB 331, which mandated teaching ethnic studies in the state’s high schools starting from 2029 (“Gov. Newsom rejects high school ethnic studies mandate,” Oct. 1).

But the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) is still on the California Department of Education (CDE) agenda, and some school districts have been voting on it without waiting for the final version.

The ESMC authors’ pro-revolutionary, strictly ideological incline, a promise for the inclusion of a sample lesson about Arabs as an ethnic group and a claim that Jews belong to the category of privileged all make the ESMC a hot topic.

No guardrails will prevent our high school students from teachers venturing into controversial territories.

One of the teachers at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo (who later became member of the ESMC advisory board) taught her students, for 12 years, pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli propaganda. And there were clear guardrails against it in the CDE instructions.

According to U.S. News and World Report, in 2020, California K-12 schools are ranked No. 37 in the nation.

As Gov. Newsom suggested, the new ESMC should be a balanced document. To compensate for diverting personnel and financial resources from math, English, physics and history to ethnic studies, the ESMC should include not just grievances of some groups, but also achievements and opportunities open to all minorities in the land of California.

Only in this way can ethnic studies contribute to rising in the national standing and preparing our students for the real world.

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo

Gal Gadot a worthy Cleopatra

The recent “flap” over having Israeli actress Gal Gadot play Cleopatra in an upcoming film (“Celebrity Jews,” Oct. 13) is just one more example of how antisemitism has entered nearly every aspect of world culture.

Criticism of the casting decision is not based on Gadot’s acting ability or her box-office draw, but rather her ethnicity and national origin. She is not Egyptian or of North African descent. Cleopatra’s father was European, but why does it matter?

It is no secret as to why selecting Gadot has created this uproar. She is a Jewish Israeli who is proud of her people and her country.

Gal Gadot at the premiere of “Wonder Woman,” May 25, 2017 (Photo/JTA-Frazer Harrison-Getty Images)
Gal Gadot at the premiere of “Wonder Woman,” May 25, 2017 (Photo/JTA-Frazer Harrison-Getty Images)

Judaism comes from the Middle East. Our forefathers were slaves in Egypt centuries before Cleopatra was born.

To say that Gal Gadot is not worthy of the role of Cleopatra because she is not ethnically suited is an insult to the acting profession and to our Jewish history.

It is one more attempt to deny the relationship between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.

I am confident that “Wonder Woman” will once again rise to the occasion and make us proud. Meanwhile we need to speak out against this attempt to denigrate our people and the Jewish state.

Gil Stein

Israel spurns the Armenians

The tragic conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has roots going back to the Ottoman Empire, when Armenians were a despised Christian minority and suffered massacres and persecution throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, similar to the pogroms against Jews taking place at the same time in Russia.

The culmination of this persecution was the first genocide of the 20th century, when the Turks killed approximately one and a half million Armenians.

Ironically, today Israel is siding with Azerbaijan in its war against the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. While many may see this as simply good business and good politics in a region where Israel has few Muslim allies, it is a relationship based on arms sales. Israel has sold great quantities of drones, anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan in recent years.

The leader of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has refused to recognize his country’s genocide against the Armenians, and is relentlessly encouraging and supporting the Azeris.

As Hitler replied when asked how the Final Solution would be judged by history, “Who remembers the Armenians?” The terrible answer today is “Apparently not Israel.”

Danny Yanow
San Francisco

J. Readers

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