Dr. Anthony Fauci listens to President Joe Biden at the National Institutes of Health, Feb. 11, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Saul Loeb-AFP via Getty Images)
Dr. Anthony Fauci listens to President Joe Biden at the National Institutes of Health, Feb. 11, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Saul Loeb-AFP via Getty Images)

Hooray for Dr. Fauci; Wise up, progressives; More on SF school renaming; That Gabe Stutman sure is great; etc.

Wise up, CA progressives

I agree with Oakland City Council member Dan Kalb that having two out of the five questions that the Progressive Delegates Network asked Democratic Party delegate candidates focus on Israel was overkill (“California progressives get pushback on Zionism ‘litmus test,” Feb. 9).

Of the myriad issues that the party should be considering, attitudes toward Israel and Palestinians are far less important than indicated by the 40 percent represented in the questionnaire.

More critical, however, is the continued effort to conflate two separate issues, being pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian. It is time to move beyond thinking that to be pro-Palestinian one must, for example, also support the BDS movement and “right of return.” Palestinians must have a state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza, and Israel must accept its responsibility to end the conditions that Palestinians suffer each day.

However, BDS clearly has not been an effective advocacy tool, and “right of return” simply will never happen. There are better ways of building a just and lasting two-state peace in the Middle East. Creating a faulty litmus test for would-be Democratic delegates is counterproductive.

Personally, as a member of J Street, I advocate for meaningful measures to build support in the U.S. Congress for a pro-Palestinian as well as a pro-Israel foreign policy. I think that with the Democratic Party in Washington now in the leadership role, we can make real progress. We don’t need the red-herring litmus test that the so-called Progressive Delegates Network was offering.

Jon Kaufman

Memories of Stella D’oro

I grew up in the Bronx, in the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative, fairly close to the Stella D’oro bakery (“Why American Jews love Stella D’oro cookies,” Feb. 5 print edition).

When the wind was blowing in the right direction, you could smell the cookies baking. Stella D’oro also had a restaurant in a building next to the bakery. Our family used to go there frequently for Sunday dinner. My mother often got lasagna, and I typically ordered the fried, breaded shrimp with spaghetti (for some unexplained reason, kosher did not come into play in restaurants).

This was gourmet heaven for an 8-year-old Bronx boy.

There were only two choices for dessert: spumoni or tortoni. But there was always a plate of cookies for the whole table. My mother would bring home the leftovers. As far as I know, you can still get Stella D’oro Breakfast Treats and Swiss Fudge at Safeway.

Dr. Robert Golomb

Muslims play victim card

The First Amendment is invariably cited to justify what is always termed “legitimate criticism” of Israel, no matter how untrue and/or hateful the verbiage may be.

However, even Bari Weiss and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, women of great intelligence and impeccable integrity, are incapable of presenting any legitimate criticism of Palestinians or Islam (“Commonwealth Club event goes forward, despite CAIR criticism of ‘anti-Muslim’ speakers,” Feb. 12).

Bari Weiss (left) and Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak at a virtual event hosted by the Commonwealth Club, Feb. 11, 2021. (Screenshot/YouTube)
Bari Weiss (left) and Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak at a virtual event hosted by the Commonwealth Club, Feb. 11, 2021. (Screenshot/YouTube)

An impenetrable deflector shield of victimhood sanctity protects these entities.

Criticism of Palestinians or Islam is and apparently always will be anti-Muslim, racist and/or “Islamophobic.”

Julia Lutch

Mazel tov, Dr. Fauci

Kudos to Dr. Anthony Fauci for receiving a $1 million prize this week from Israel’s Dan David Foundation for his lifelong work in vaccine development (“Fauci wins $1 million Israeli prize,” Feb. 16).

In its statement, the foundation said he was receiving this award, among other reasons, for “courageously defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging Covid crisis,” a direct reference to his turbulent days under Trump as he tried to uphold the work of science, as opposed to the divisive politicking going on all around him.

In opposing anti-mask and anti-distancing in Trump’s many unsafe gatherings over the last year, and therefore ostensibly sidelined, Fauci stood his ground against the “anti-scientists” as the U.S. continued to witness the highest death rates in the world.

Not only did he receive this prestigious award, but he is now once again fully recognized under the Biden government for the important work he continues to do on behalf of all of us.

Mazel tov, Dr. Fauci!

Yvonne Boxerman
Palo Alto

Impressed by J. staffer

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

I want to commend you on the addition of Gabe Stutman to your staff.

As someone who had been engaged as a journalist many years ago, I am most impressed by the quality of his reporting on controversial issues, his journalistic high standards and excellent writing style. He is a true professional in the best sense of the word.

Ruhama Lipow
Walnut Creek

Progressives’ prerogative

For 70-plus years, Jews who believe in things like protecting the environment, health care for everybody, equality under the law, etc. have been able to call themselves “progressives” even when they turn their backs on Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians (“Progressive — with some strings attached,” Feb. 12).

But now, the times they are a-changin’.

Now there are organizations like the Progressive Delegates Network that expect progressives to be consistent in their beliefs in order to win an endorsement.

Is it too much to ask of a candidate for public office that they support the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, freedom of speech in all matters and for everyone? And what about the rights of refugees to return to their homeland if they so choose? Is that also not a basic human right that all candidates should support, especially if they call themselves “progressives”?

There was not a single word about Israel or Palestine in the Progressive Delegates Network’s questionnaire for (people seeking to become delegates for the California Democratic Party). There were only two general statements about protecting freedom of speech and the rights of refugees.

Organizations have the right to establish their own criteria for endorsement. If candidates don’t agree with the criteria, they can seek endorsements elsewhere. That is their right.

Lois Pearlman

More on S.F. school names

The Torah teaches us that leaders are not perfect.

Noah saved the world but in his old age became a drunkard and debased himself.  Jacob, also known as Israel, our namesake, deceived his father (that he was Esau) and tricked his uncle/employer Lavan out of his sheep (causing the lambs to be born speckled and spotted after making a deal to get the speckled and spotted ones).

Aaron was the first Kohen Gadol (high priest), but before that he fashioned the golden calf. Even Moses, in a fit of frustration during the 40 years in the desert, disobeyed God’s instruction and was forbidden to lead the Jews into Israel.

Sutro Elementary, named for Adolph Sutro, a Jewish Gold Rush-era philanthropist and mayor of San Francisco, is on the list of schools to be renamed. (Photo/Google Maps)
Sutro Elementary, named for Adolph Sutro, a Jewish Gold Rush-era philanthropist and mayor of San Francisco, is on the list of schools to be renamed. (Photo/Google Maps)

Yet, despite their flaws, all these forefathers remain eternally to be invoked and honored for their accomplishments.

The idea that the school board would strip school names honoring such accomplished leaders as Washington, Hamilton, Madison (my elementary school) and Lincoln shows a failure to understand the importance of true leadership (“S.F. school board approves plan to rename 44 schools, including Feinstein and Sutro,” Jan. 27).

It teaches a bad lesson to our kids and to the public and degrades the whole city.

Alan Titus
San Francisco

Politicians quoting the Bible

Politicians quoting the Old Testament has come back into fashion (“Joe Biden’s inauguration was replete with anxiety, and a lot of it was Jewish,” Jan. 21).

The roots of American exceptionalism rhetoric began in Colonial times, when our Founding Fathers often spoke of our country as the “American Zion” and the 13 [sic] colonies as the tribes of Israel who were chosen by HaShem to be a “light unto the world.” That ended with the Civil War.

Some of the uptick in Old Testament quoting is a good sign, but some is dangerous in that it represents a mischaracterization of HaShem and Mosaic law as authoritarian and universal. The question is why now?

I think that American politicians across the spectrum turn to biblical authoritarianism to fill the void when there is little political consensus. Politicians argue that a cause or action is justified on “moral grounds” or a “higher authority.” It is a sign of a liberal democracy under stress. One road to fascism goes through biblical authoritarianism.

In other cases, citing a verse from the Old Testament can be viewed as a heartfelt expression of religious faith by our political leaders. I liked all the faith talk during the inauguration. I get a kick out of three former presidents wishing Joe Biden “Godspeed” on national TV.

I even gave our newly elected president the benefit of the doubt when he cited Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “a time to every purpose under Heaven,” to signify that HaShem had a hand in his win.

Larry Abrams
Monterey County

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