Students admitted to UC Berkeley under affirmative action policies implemented in the university's Educational Opportunity Program, ca. 1985. (Photo/Courtesy UC Berkeley)
Students admitted to UC Berkeley under affirmative action policies implemented in the university's Educational Opportunity Program, ca. 1985. (Photo/Courtesy UC Berkeley)

Letters of ‘no useful purpose’; JCRC was wrong on Prop. 16; Does America owe anyone?; etc.

Jewish Dems are still MOTs

This is in response to Scott Abramson’s letter (“Len was a true Trump fan,” Nov. 12) about the obituary for Leonard Greendorfer.

I read Mr. Greendorfer’s obituary in J. and was rather appalled by how his allegiance to Donald Trump was characterized, but I felt that each individual has the right to an obituary that describes who they were and what they stood for.

For Mr. Abramson to highlight the sentence ending “progressives who abandoned the Jewish faith for the religion of the Democratic Party” was truly appalling. Americans who belong to the Democratic Party have not abandoned their Jewish faith in any way! Nor have Republicans. And to characterize the Democratic Party as a religion comparable to the Jewish faith is reprehensible.

I take great exception to characterizing a political party as a religion, and especially comparing a political party to the Jewish religion. I am a proud American Jew; Judaism is my religion. An American’s political affiliation has nothing to do with his/her religion. I am disturbed by Mr. Abramson’s letter.

Harriet Fernandez
San Jose

Letters of ‘no useful purpose’

Enough already! Nearly half the voters voted for Trump. A little over 50 percent voted for Biden. Many voters detested Trump. Many (probably less vocal) strongly did not think much of Biden. Each voter had his or her reasons.

In politics and in religion, “logical” arguments are really not accepted by either side. Therefore many of your readers would appreciate your not publishing letters/diatribes against any candidate (“Why did Jews vote for Trump?” Nov. 12), whether it be Trump, Biden or even Mickey Mouse.

In this era of a divided nation, these letters serve no useful purpose. Do they?

Marvin Engel

Last word on Prop. 15

My letter last month (“Looking closer at three props,” Oct. 15) did not state, as Ms. Ochs’ responding letter (“Wrong claims about Prop. 15,” Oct. 30) implied, that Proposition 15 would “raise property taxes” on residences and small businesses.

Instead, I said it would “destroy Prop. 13’s property tax protections” for homeowners, small businesses and farms, raise costs of living, and has no accountability — all accurate.

Proposition 15 would have done this indirectly by passing the increased taxes gained from large corporations onto smaller businesses, thereby increasing rents and the costs of everything from food to products and services. This would affect everyone’s property tax, and in effect, bypass Prop 13’s protections.

Speaking of “opulent corporations,” a Nov. 6 article in Forbes stated that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, through their Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, “spent $10.8 million to advance Prop 15,” and that (Facebook) would have owed “additional taxes as a result.” The Zuckerbergs might easily afford such extra taxes, but almost all of the rest of us can’t. I’m thankful that more Californians saw through the ruse and voted it down.

Dave Harris

JCRC was wrong on Prop. 16

A recent edition of J. featured a recordation of Jewish Community Relations Council support of the late, but unlamented, Proposition 16 (“Jewish orgs back Prop. 16 despite complicated history with affirmative action,” Oct. 26), which would have reinstated discrimination on account of race, sex or national origin in California. That’s been prohibited by a California constitutional amendment adapted by voters in 1996. California voters banned preferential treatment of any individual or group on the basis of race, sex or national origin in public education, public contracting and public employment. That ended quotas at UC campuses, in the California State University system, and in civil service positions, construction contracts and the like. Jews, of all people, should remember quotas in higher education through the first half of the 20th century.

JCRC lent itself to a misleading campaign urging Prop 16 adoption purportedly to combat systemic racism and sexism by levelling the “playing field for every Californian.”

Instead of ignoring history by bolstering historic discrimination adversely affecting Jews and others, JCRC suppressed the ability and right of Jews to succeed intellectually, economically and socially. JCRC does not represent this Jew or voters who protected equal opportunity by even a higher percentage than 24 years ago.

Judge Quentin L. Kopp (Ret.)
San Francisco

A great ‘Chicago 8’ movie

Frances Dinkelspiel wrote a good piece on Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (“Abbie Hoffman’s Bay Area son, activists recall real ’Chicago 7’ trial,” Oct. 30), but she should have mentioned the movie about what really happened: “Conspiracy: the Trial of the Chicago 8.” Jeremy Kagan made that one in 1987. That movie is not “awfully quiet,” as Andrew Hoffman described the new one. And it doesn’t make the eight defendants (yes, it can count to eight) Oedipal cases.

I hope Andrew Hoffman does write his own book or make his own movie. Meanwhile, I think Kagan’s made-for-HBO movie is a good history lesson and a wonderful drama. I love Sorkin’s dialogue when he’s writing fiction, but Kagan used the real words of the real people.

Diane Moore

No in-person Turkey Day

While Daniel Treiman’s opinion piece on Thanksgiving (“We need Thanksgiving more than ever this year,” Nov. 16) was very educational, I am appalled that it was only at the very end that he mentioned anything about the need for not gathering in person for Thanksgiving this year.

This information was too little and too late.

I hope that you will run an online sidebar (near the top of the article) with the correct information about how we must do Thanksgiving this year if we want to have one next year. Our Covid numbers are increasing exponentially, and the last thing we need is for in-person gatherings for this holiday. I hope J. will take on responsible journalism in this regard.

Tish Levee
Santa Rosa

Hooray for originalists

A letter writer in J. argued we should not read the Constitution looking for the original meaning (“Originalists want the impossible,” Nov. 12), nor should we read the Torah to understand its original meaning.

I disagree.

That is exactly what we should do when reading any teaching, old or new.

How can we learn from Plato, Shakespeare or Lincoln unless we understand what they intended to say? Same for the Torah.

Sure, meanings become obscured over time as language evolves. But if we simply read old works and give them the meaning we want them to have, we are not learning from them and not being honest.

Rather, we are just using them and their authority to justify our own opinions. Is that what the rabbis of the Talmud did in reading Torah (and what rabbis in every movement do today)? Absolutely. Does that discredit the Talmud (and the rabbis)? No. Those works stand on their own. But they do not reveal what the authors of the Torah attempted to teach us.

It is a cop-out to say that finding the original meaning is impossible. We can go a long way down the road to discover original meaning. We might not reach the end of the road, but we will never reach a dead end either.

The same principles apply to reading the Constitution. Judges need to understand it as it was intended. If the old law is no longer satisfactory, amend it. When judges simply read into it what they want it to say, that usurps the role of Congress and the people and is not honest.

Alan Titus
San Francisco

Does America owe anyone?

California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum stands in stark contrast to the famous John F. Kennedy quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Since the first ESMC draft was presented to the public in August 2019, it has garnered criticism for its divisiveness and its pro-Marxist ideological leanings, including the notion of “systems of power,” rooted in critical race theory.

The latest edits recommended by the state Department of Education do nothing to move away from this detrimental model of ethnic studies.

Although the new Appendix E attempts to mitigate the dogmatic, bellicose (and antisemitic) nature of the ESMC, even this section, right after briefly describing the horrors of Holocaust, refers to the “universe of obligation.” According to this construct, there is a group of individuals within a society “toward whom obligations are owed … a society’s universe of obligation includes those people that society believes deserve respect and whose rights it believes are worthy of protection.”

In other words, in contrast to JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you.”

I have witnessed the direct effects of the Holocaust. My wife’s grandparents, aunt and cousins were murdered in the Minsk ghetto, in Belarus. In 1978, we immigrated to the United States from the downtrodden socialist “paradise,” the Soviet Union.

We have never expected that America owes us any obligation or special favors.

We were in debt to America for the freedoms and opportunities granted to us and all citizens by her unique “systems of power” outlined in the Constitution.

“What we can do for our country” is to share our experience of living through the hell of hate and racism in the past, in order to avoid repeating it in the future.

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo

J. Readers

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