State Sen. Scott Wiener. (Photo/JTA-Randy Shropshire-Getty Images)
State Sen. Scott Wiener. (Photo/JTA-Randy Shropshire-Getty Images)

Orthodoxy and medicine; Antisemitism is racism; Ethnic studies opinions; etc.

Yep, antisemitism is racism

The Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum advisory committee, in coordination with Arab American groups, rejected the latest proposed California ethnic studies curriculum, which, according to them, should include BDS and anti-Israel materials and eliminate any reference to antisemitism as racism. Once again, they insist on their way or no way. (“Ethnic studies curriculum passes 11-0 after one final day of sparring,” March 18).

While most Jews are white and privileged, antisemitism is just as common and virulent a form of racism as that experienced by Latinxs, AAPIs, Muslims, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. Antisemitism is against all Jews, not just those of color.

We do need to confront Palestinian and Arab antisemitism as not only inhibiting the peace process in Israel, but also hindering the coalition-building for human rights here in America.

The fact that Arab and Palestinian organizations in America continue to view this as a zero-sum game means they will further alienate partners for justice for all.

Jeff Saperstein
Mill Valley

Wiener backs a loser

With state Sen. Scott Wiener’s involvement, it is no surprise that the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum is a poor compromise and still reflects a one-sided, left-wing ideology (“Ethnic studies curriculum passes 11-0 after one final day of sparring”, March 18).

Yaakov Nurik

Let’s unite youth, not divide

According to the California Department of Education, the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum may be used by schools and districts “when developing an ethnic studies curriculum that best addresses local student needs” (“Final vote Thursday on ethnic studies curriculum,” March 16).

What is the likelihood that teachers and administrators will decide “local student needs” require utilizing any of the material on antisemitism and Middle Eastern Jews?

Based on the mass of the material in the most recent draft of the ESMC, addressing local student needs may very well mean “grievance studies” tailored to the predominant ethnicity of various school districts. This will further the divisions in our country.

Education reflecting “local student needs” — instead of our needs as an e pluribus unum American people — will not be constructive. But a course in civic responsibility would offer a chance to unite our youth in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Shared goals are essential if Americans are to successfully face the unknowns that lie ahead in our increasingly uncertain world.

Julia Lutch

Wine film isn’t sour at all

I watched the documentary “Holy Wine,” which was reviewed in J. by winemaker Jeff Morgan (“Documentary on Israeli wine turns sour on kosher issue,” March 10).

I’ve visited a number of Israeli wineries, including Domaine du Castel, Clos de Gat, Yatir, and Tishbi, and bought wines from others, and I strongly disagree with Morgan’s characterization of the documentary as being “a screed against kosher wine.”

Morgan’s claim that the film “marginalized” 90 percent of the wine made in Israel is ridiculous.

The filmmakers spent most of their time talking to kosher winemakers, who all said they decided to make kosher wines because of market demands in the Israeli market. There is an extended discussion of market dynamics, but its purpose is to illustrate the challenges that Israeli wineries have in serving both the Israeli and export markets.

A vineyard in Israel. (Photo/Courtesy Jeff Morgan)
A vineyard in Israel. (Photo/Courtesy Jeff Morgan)

Hinted at but left unsaid is that non-kosher Israeli wineries face obstacles securing importers to bring their wines into the U.S. market, because most of the importers of Israeli wines limit themselves to kosher only.

Morgan makes the false claim that “not one religious winemaker, wine merchant or restaurateur is interviewed” in the film. The winemakers interviewed are observant Jews by American standards; they only are “secular” in the Israeli sense that requires religious Jews have payes and dress like haredim.

Meanwhile, he doesn’t question the needless requirement that wineries wishing to maintain a kosher certificate must hire and pay “religious” schleppers who serve no value-added purpose in the winemaking process.

Morgan co-owns Covenant Winery, which states on its website, “Essentially, all wine is kosher. Because kosher wine is also a beverage used to sanctify the Sabbath and other holidays, tradition mandates that it can only be handled in the cellar by Sabbath-observant Jews.”

So is it halachic law or just tradition that requires these redundant workers?

A review by someone without an interest in the issues in “Holy Wine” might have been less extreme in his opinion of the film. This excellent documentary deserves better.

Cary Fulbright
San Francisco

Orthodoxy and medicine

I wish to respond to the article written by Shoshana Gottlieb, and distributed by JTA, about medical transplants as related to ultra-Orthodox interpretation of Jewish laws (“Why do medical dramas keep perpetuating terrible stereotypes about Orthodox Jews?” March 9).

I was in the hospital for seven day due to the Hasidic view of what is permitted as transplantable and what is not.

Two years ago, I decided to combine a trip to Israel with some dental work (medical tourism). I needed to build up the bone in my jaw prior to the implant. The usual standard procedure is to use sterilized ground bone from individuals who have passed away.

Apparently, this is not considered kosher.

Although all types of transplants are acceptable, the tissue must still be viable. A heart, an eye, etc. from the recently deceased is acceptable; however, the use of material from a corpus not.

I had an extremely bad reaction to the alternative, nonorganic substrate that had been substituted for the worldwide standard.

My point is, while the simplistic interpretation of the ultra-Orthodox by TV production companies is unacceptable, the converse of simplifying what is considered kosher (or not) is also dangerous.

Had I known the actual ultra-Orthodox rules, I may have decided to avoid using an ultra-Orthodox dental service and avoided a seven-day hospital stay for rejection of what was considered a kosher substitution.

Justin Drobenaire

Importance of Yom HaShoah

On April 8 this year — just as we’ve done over the past seven decades — Bay Area Jews can join Jews everywhere in marking Yom HaShoah, a solemn commemoration of the Holocaust.

This annual event has three foci: Past, present and future.

Past: To mourn 6  million co-religionists horrifically denied a right to die a natural death. Present: To bolster efforts to counter antisemitism, genocidal possibilities and neo-Nazi movements. Future: To promote creative options to help Jewry model post-Holocaust human potentialities, especially enhancement of Holocaust consciousness (“Why we need to commemorate the Shoah twice every year,” Jan. 25).

When deciding about participating in Zoom activities, we should consider two recent developments that threaten Holocaust consciousness.

Virtual memorial plaques are projected on the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau for Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Marcin Kozlowski-March of the Living)
Virtual memorial plaques are projected on the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau for Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Marcin Kozlowski-March of the Living)

First, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced yearlong closures worldwide of Holocaust museums, the prime tool Jewry has relied upon to help Jews and gentiles learn about the event. Zoom has enabled innovative museums to somewhat lessen the toll, but what we need now is social media attention on increasing April 8 participation, which could help bolster museum recovery.

Second, right-wing nationalism in Central Europe strikes directly at the quality of Holocaust scholarship. In early 2021, a Poland court ordered two Jewish scholars to retract and “apologize” for their indictment of named Polish collaborators. The decision is under appeal, and the scholars resolutely decline to accept it. They insist such efforts to whitewash Polish complicity ought not stand, that all people need a full and balanced history.

We can help counter such cases — and Holocaust distortion counterparts in this country — by demonstrating Bay Area commitment to honest Yom HaShoah commemorations.

Media salutes will underline the “never forget” resolve.

Yom HaShoah, in short, reminds Jewry of how vital it is to sustain Holocaust memorialization. As survivor Elie Wiesel maintained, “The only thing that can save mankind would be a real awareness of the Holocaust. I don’t believe anything else has the moral power.”

Arthur B. Shostak

J. Readers

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