Gold Country memories
“A road trip through Jewish Gold Country” (Nov. 25) was a fabulous article, well written and long overdue. This is not a criticism, because it’s this type of information that your readers should know about.
I love Jewish history of Northern California and I have been aware of the rich history in the Mother Lode since I was a teenager. When I was old enough to drive, I went along Highway 49 and explored many of the Gold Rush towns and found the Jewish cemeteries.
Fast-forward to my 20s and then 30s, when I was in the Young Adults Division. While I met lots of nice folks, I didn’t especially like the atmosphere of the “Blue Mondays,” often held at very crowded venues. So in the spring of 1983, with the blessing of YAD, I organized a Sunday bus trip to a Jewish cemetery in Jackson, with the specific reason to remove the weeds and clean it up.
The trip sold out within two weeks of being advertised.
It was a glorious day and everyone had a great time. As I moved among the participants and the headstones, I noticed a young lady cleaning a marker with an emery cloth. I introduced myself, and it was love at first fright! I married Eleanor Siegel a year later; we have been married for 36 years and have two fantastic adult sons and a daughter.
Eleanor and I got our marriage license in Jackson — walked right into the county clerk’s office and got the paperwork done in 15 minutes!
I used to go up to Jackson, but have not been back to clean up this very hallowed ground to Jews. Depending on Covid-19 restrictions, I would like to go back in May 2021 and clean up the cemetery. If anyone is interested in joining me for a day of mitzvah, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will organize it. All are welcome: singles, families, young and old. Hope to see you there.
’Reporting at its best’
What a terrific article in J., by Gabriel Greschler, about Jews in California’s Mother Lode in the 1800s. Comprehensive, deeply documented, well written — it was reporting at its best.
Two highlights of the article are most interesting from the perspective of the overall Jewish experience in the United States.
One was the inclination of most Mother Lode Jews to become merchants. Instead of working in the mines themselves, they turned to selling clothing and tobacco to those who did. Also notable was their brief stay in the region. Most left by the late 1890s, largely moving to larger and more urban places, including San Francisco and the Bay Area.
These have been characteristics of Jewish life in small and rural communities in this country. Although we have been essentially a big-city and suburban population, with New York City as the mother ship, Jews also spread out in the 19th and early 20th centuries to hundreds of small towns throughout the nation.
As was the case in the Mother Lode, economic opportunities were the driving force, with peddlers and merchants the first to arrive. And also, similar to the experience in the Mother Lode, the Jewish presence in most small towns did not endure for more than a few decades, but because of a more varied set of circumstances — intermarriage, the exodus of young people seeking educational and job opportunities elsewhere and the precariousness of local Jewish institutions.
All of this has contributed to the richness of our American experience.
2 points on learning Hebrew
I strongly agree with J.’s editorial about the importance of learning Hebrew (“Learning Hebrew in an hour a week? It’s complicated,” Nov. 27) The depth of Jewish tradition is hard to access without a working knowledge of the language in which it evolved and continues to be lived today.
I would add two points.
First, one way to help kids learn Hebrew is for their parents to learn it, too. Kids and parents can motivate each other and connect through the shared experience. This requires more effort than shuttling kids to Hebrew school, but it is likely also to be more productive and fun.
Second, there are a variety of technologies that can help. I learn Hebrew from Pimsleur recordings when I run or drive, and the Duolingo app when I have a few spare minutes, and I’m excited that Hebrew will soon be available in the new Fluent Forever app.
My 9-year-old son learns Hebrew at Oakland Hebrew Day School, and with these tools, I’m managing to keep up with him (more or less) and support the development of his Hebrew skills.
L’shalom / לשלום
Iran has to pay the price
The recent assassinations of the top Iranian nuclear scientist and military leaders are not a sudden power grab to thwart Biden’s initiatives (“New Iranian law ramps up nuclear program — if Biden doesn’t reenter nuclear deal,” Dec. 2).
The Israelis take a long time to plan these operations. Targeted assassinations of enemy scientists or military leaders have been part of the defense strategy for decades.
These operations are not isolated events but are part of a coordinated effort to make the Iranians pay a high price for their aggression and support of Hezbollah.
The Israelis are attacking arms shipments in Syria and killing Iranians there. Accidents seem to happen at Iranian nuclear facilities with regularity. The Sunni Arabs look favorably on such acts since they do not have the capabilities to do so. As long as Iran is producing and supplying precision missiles and advanced weaponry to its proxy terror armies and threaten Israel with annihilation, their leaders will be fair game in a war they can always cease from waging.
Hooray for Quentin Kopp
I am very pleased that retired judge Quentin Kopp is still contributing to J. with his letters about contemporary political issues (“JCRC was wrong on Prop 16,” Nov. 24).
I was introduced to Judge Kopp by my late uncle, Sol Green, shortly after my admission to the California state bar, while the judge was still practicing law.
Judge Kopp went on to distinguish himself by many years of public service as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, as a state senator and a longtime judge of the Superior Court.
I consider Judge Kopp to be an outstanding member of the Bay Area Jewish community.
Trump’s Jewish fans
Thank you to Mijal Bitton for her opinion piece (“Some Jews of color are Trump voters, and other truths about political ‘diversity,’” Nov. 25).
I’m tired of progressives who preach diversity yet expect people who look and sound different to think and vote the same.
Mijal helps us avoid convenient stereotypes and recognize that, whatever the Trump administration’s flaws, many voters — including Jews — have legitimate reasons to be wary of Democrats.
I have two hopes for the new year: that our vehement political disagreements can once again be a machloket le-shem shamayim (dispute for the sake of heaven), and that appreciating the full spectrum of Jewish political opinion can help us understand voters more generally who disagree with us.
Sore about Soros
Over the past few months, I’ve read a litany of weak defenses of George Soros (born György Schwartz) or denials by so-called “journalists” of the serious accusations against Soros and his Open Societies Foundations, which have done a great deal to destabilize civil society in Hungary, Israel, the U.S., Myanmar and other places.
Not a single article you’ve published took any critical look at the credibility of the accusations.
There was no comment requested or stated from Soros’ OSF or from Mr. Soros himself, which real journalism should aspire to obtain.
The fact is Soros has been quick to fund causes that, in fact, result in more suffering than problem-solving.
He funded rioting in Israel resulting from the killing of a Jewish Ethiopian by a police officer. Soros’ OSF lines the pockets of largely “white” (and Jews were not considered “white” until after affirmative action became law) Israelis who use the suffering of Ethiopian Jews to pay for their salaries.
OSF/Soros has not created one real job (not directly involved with protesting) for any Ethiopian Israeli. OSF/Soros has not funded any job training for a single Palestinian Arab (and believe me, they need it and want it) or Ethiopian Israelis.
There are all different types of people in the world. Some want to repair it (“tikkun olam”) and others prefer to sow the seeds of misery and conflict then bring untold suffering on their own people.
Here is a website for OSF/Soros to consider: jgive.com.
Soros/OSF doesn’t fund constructive solutions, only mass malcontent.
OSF/Soros funded Aung San Suu Kyi, who justified the ethnic cleansing of the innocent Rohingya of Myanmar. One of many examples.
It’s not “antisemitic” to hold Soros/OSF to take responsibility for the destructive contributions they’ve made across the world. In the end, who pays the price? Most of us Jews, who have no connection to Soros in any way.