Police use tear gas around the Capitol building where pro-Trump supporters breached the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Lev Radin-Pacific Press-LightRocket via Getty Images)
Police use tear gas around the Capitol building where pro-Trump supporters breached the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Lev Radin-Pacific Press-LightRocket via Getty Images)

‘Totalitarian’ school renaming; Equating twerps with Nazis; Enjoy your plastic straws!


Tova nailed it!

I was so very touched by Tova Ricardo’s eloquent article “Being a Black Jewish Woman in America on Jan 6” (Jan. 12). Her insightful, thoughtful and rational comments give me a glimmer of hope for the future.

How true her words are: “[E]veryone is an activist for equal rights until they have to support Jewish people.”

I don’t know you, Tova, but I love you.

Barbara Ash
Santa Clara


The totalitarians around us

We should commend and support the efforts of the parents of Parkside District K-5 in opposing the School Names Advisory Committee’s recommendation to rename Dianne Feinstein Elementary School based on one incident in her mayoral term (“SF school board approves plan to rename 44 schools, including Feinstein and Sutro,” Jan. 27).

Dianne Feinstein had defended the presence of a Confederate battle flag as one of 18 flags in an American history display. It had been there for 14 years before she took office. In 1984, after protestors had taken it down for a second time, Mayor Feinstein ultimately agreed to its removal.

Special yasher koach to Jeff Saperstein, who insightfully described the renaming effort as the “‘Reign of Terror’ phase of the BLM and Intersectionality movements” in his Jan. 7 letter to the editor.

In “1984,” George Orwell describes a dystopian totalitarian state in which “every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute.  History has stopped.” The objective was to completely control the lives of the population, for “[w]ho controls the past … controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

Jewish tradition lends insight into the study of history. While all people have shortcomings, they can still have great worth. We study history to understand the past and those who made it, not to wantonly cancel them out because they do not live up to the purported standards of the present day.

In a better time, we would be reading about special efforts to assist public school students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to gain competence in reading and basic math skills. But these seem not the goals of the Jacobin-like, would-be totalitarians around us.

Steve Astrachan
Pleasant Hill


Free speech gone bad

I was an activist in the Soviet Jewry Movement in the 1970s and ’80s. I was in charge of protest demonstrations, and was arrested twice for the cause, a badge of honor.

In both cases, the charges were dropped on free-speech grounds.

Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews' daily vigil in front of the Soviet Consulate, Nov. 24, 1986 (Photo/Tom Wachs)
Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews’ daily vigil in front of the Soviet Consulate, Nov. 24, 1986 (Photo/Tom Wachs)

My precious American right of free speech helped free me and, in a larger sense, helped free millions of Jews, Baptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses from persecution in the Soviet Union, and helped bring down this totalitarian communist “evil empire” by exposing their lies and propaganda.

What we are doing today with free speech is not right.

Steven Sloan
Mill Valley


Equating twerps with Nazis

In 1938, I was born in Poland. My earliest memory, at the age of 3, is of a German soldier stepping on my foot. I screamed.

Reading in current news reports that certain individuals are being called Nazis, fascists, racists and white supremacists makes me want to scream even louder.

Last century’s Nazis engaged in industrial-scale murder, theft, abuse, torture and massive destruction.

Referring to current pretenders and masqueraders who parade in swastikas (“Hate on display: A guide to the symbols and signs on display at the Capitol insurrection,” Jan. 7) to the anti-human criminals of the past elevates these twerpy and confused persons and degrades the awfulness of what was done to millions of people.

There should not and cannot be an equivalence to these abhorrent individuals and events of that past. Not now, not ever again.

Nathan Dwiri
San Francisco


Zionists in sheep’s clothing

The article by J. correspondent Rachel Raskin-Zrihen (“California progressives issue Zionism ‘litmus test,’ pro-Israel delegates say,” Jan. 25) was a perfect illustration of why “progressive” Zionist is an oxymoron.

The two Zionist women quoted consider themselves progressives, yet they would not support the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights because it covers the Palestinian right to return.

Progressive Zionists of California members Andrea Beth Damsky, Paul Kujawsky, Susan George and Matthew Finkelstein at the 2019 California Democratic party convention (Photo/Dan Pine)
Progressive Zionists of California members Andrea Beth Damsky, Paul Kujawsky, Susan George and Matthew Finkelstein at the 2019 California Democratic party convention (Photo/Dan Pine)

They also oppose holding countries engaged in routine human rights violations accountable via BDS because this includes Israel.

Hassan Fouda
Berkeley


Enjoy your plastic straws!

I read with great interest the article on right-wing Jews fleeing the state (“Why some right-leaning Jews are leaving California for redder pastures,” Jan. 8).

There were a few statements I agreed with, for sure, especially how much of San Francisco has turned into a haven for addicts. That truly is horrifying.

But in the main, it appears the primary focus was wealthy people looking for places where they can keep more of their money and not have to deal with tikkun olam or helping those who are desperate, or addressing climate change.

Cheap gas means no interest in the pollution that is causing the destruction of the planet.

Have your plastic straws that will shortly be dumped into the ocean, where fish are dying from eating plastic trash (including those straws).

Hear no evil, see no evil and have no responsibility to be part of the solution.

Now you are part of the problem in Arizona, Texas, Idaho, etc. Less taxes, lots of guns and a love for a (former) president who was and is hell-bent on destroying the fabric of this country. Go for it, or just go.

Susan Hirshfield
Santa Rosa


Trump, Israel and morality

American Jewish support for Donald Trump manifests the adage about not seeing the forest for the trees. American Jews look at the moving of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and they see a tree. Selling Israel top-of-the-line fighter jets and ground-based missile systems — more trees. Having Stephen Miller and Steve Mnuchin in the White House — trees.

But a forest is a much broader sweep, not just in expanse but in time. A forest is more than merely a collection of trees in the moment. A forest requires depth of diversity over time.

Trump’s few Jewish advisers and policies towards Israel are akin to a tree farm where, row upon row, identical trees flourish, but it can hardly be called a healthy forest.

For Jews worldwide must realize that Israel’s strength and stability is only as secure as American backing, and American backing is only as strong as other nations’ respect for the U.S.

In Soviet times, the Russians’ hegemony over their empire was predicated on an empty husk, a foundation of sand. When the Soviet mothership collapsed in a paroxysm of corruption and ineptitude, the various republics scuttled away like crabs. There was no Soviet forest, merely a motley collection of trees bound by nothing so much as fear.

It cannot just be fear of American arms that bolsters our image and makes our support of Israel respected. It must be our moral standing which commands respect.

If the U.S. acts on what are considered traditional Jewish values, our backing of Israel will be built as strong as a forest instead of the weakness of a few temporary trees. Millers and Mnuchins come and go. The embassy move did not make Israel stronger or more secure. It can only be international moral respect for Israel’s backer that makes Israel strong and secure.

Don’t look for individual trees. Israel’s security lies in the moral forest.

Larry Jacobs
Sea Ranch


Early regrets on Biden?

The Biden administration plans to welcome Iran back into Obama’s nuclear “deal.”

Thus, with sanctions lifted, and billions flowing in through new oil revenue, what can stop the Iranian regime from further pumping up terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas?

And, most horrifically, what will it be like for Israeli citizens to soon live under the threat of a nuclear Iran, capable of the Jewish nation’s extermination?

And, given that Bay Area Jews voted overwhelmingly to support the Biden agenda, let’s ask this question: Any regrets?

Scott Abramson
San Mateo


Empathize with Palestinians

Rabbi Dov Greenberg’s column on empathy (“Being there for someone means imagining what it’s like to be them,” Jan. 22) was excellent, and I especially enjoyed Ben Horowitz’s brilliant solution of switching the heads of two extraordinary but warring departments at one of his companies.

I did, however, question the relevance of the bitter herbs of slavery on the seder plate as a way of empathizing with our ancestors.

We are not in conflict with our ancestors.

Israel is, however, in conflict with the Palestinians, and it would do both sides a world of good if they could place themselves in the other’s shoes as the rabbi encourages us to do.

Charles Kremer
Berkeley


Biden-Harris’ Jewish ties

The inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris marks the ascendancy of two families with remarkable Jewish ties.

Biden’s late son, Beau, married Hallie Olivere (whose Jewish mother was Biden’s childhood friend); their children are Natalie and Hunter. Biden’s daughter Ashley married Dr. Howard Krein. (Biden has joked: “I’m the only Irish Catholic you know who had his dream met because his daughter married a Jewish surgeon.”) And his son Hunter is married to Melissa Cohen; they have matching “Shalom” tattoos and a young son, Beau.

As for Harris, her husband, Doug Emhoff, is the nation’s first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president. Harris’ stepchildren Cole and Ella call her “Momala” (“‘Momala’ Harris is good for the Jews, say Bay Area Jewish leaders who have known her for years,” Aug. 13, 2020).

Both are considered strong supporters of Israel. Biden has said: “I am a Zionist,” and has spoken often of meeting Golda Meir in 1973.

Douglas Emhoff walks off stage with his wife, Sen. Kamala Harris, at the end of the last day of the Democratic National Convention, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., Aug. 20, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Olivier Douliery-AFP via Getty Images)
Douglas Emhoff walks off stage with his wife, Sen. Kamala Harris, at the end of the last day of the Democratic National Convention, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., Aug. 20, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Olivier Douliery-AFP via Getty Images)

Harris has said: “As a child, I never sold Girl Scout cookies. I went around with a JNF box collecting funds to plant trees in Israel.” And: “Years later, when I visited Israel for the first time, I saw the fruits of that effort and the Israeli ingenuity that has truly made a desert bloom.”

Interestingly, the first Senate resolution Harris co-sponsored criticized the Obama administration’s failure to veto U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334. “I believe that when any organization delegitimizes Israel, we must stand up and speak out for Israel to be treated equally,” she later said while addressing AIPAC.

Biden’s cabinet includes Ron Klain (chief of staff), Tony Blinken (secretary state) and Janet Yellen (treasury), and his nominees include Merrick Garland (attorney general) and Alejandro Mayorkas (homeland security).

Stephen A. Silver
San Francisco

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