Sen. Bernie Sanders and youth climate activist Sarah Goody.
Sen. Bernie Sanders and youth climate activist Sarah Goody.

Justice for Sarah Halimi; Inspired by young activists; Abbas is a liar; Etc.


Proud Boy got raw deal

The article about a 19-year Fresno police officer fired over his past membership in the Proud Boys group was troubling to me (“Proud Boy police officer is off the force, Fresno mayor says”, April 9).

At no time was he accused of breaking any law, much less convicted of it. The article’s only reason for his dismissal was his past affiliation with folks who hold unpopular ideas.

The labels placed on the Proud Boys by politicized groups like the ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center have led to this man’s guilt by association, and this is a very dangerous slippery slope.

The history of our own people should make us vigilant to support everyone’s rights to their own opinions and only judge people for their actions. After all, our own religious teachings have been attacked time and time again as unpopular regardless of our actions.

I’m reticent to label this a “witch hunt,” but I see chilling parallels.

Robert Fliegler
Daly City


Justice for Sarah Halimi

Last weekend, more than 20,000 people gathered in Paris to demand justice for Sarah Halimi. Other rallies were held in London, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere across the globe.

Halimi was a 65-year-old retired doctor and schoolteacher. She was an Orthodox Jew, and the widowed mother of three. In 2017, Kobili Traoré entered her apartment in Paris, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” and beat her for nearly an hour, breaking every bone in her face. He then tossed her body from a third-floor window.

The French high court recently ruled that Traoré would not be charged with her murder, as he was unfit to stand trial because he had smoked cannabis and it had made him temporarily psychotic.

About 20,000 people showed up for a rally in the French capital objecting to a court ruling about the killing of Sarah Halimi. (Photo/JTA-Cnaan Liphshiz)
About 20,000 people showed up for a rally in the French capital objecting to a court ruling about the killing of Sarah Halimi. (Photo/JTA-Cnaan Liphshiz)

France has betrayed the trust of the Jewish community. Traoré must be held responsible for the murder of Sarah Halimi.

Add your voices to the multitudes and come to a vigil in front of San Francisco City Hall at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 2 to demand justice for Sarah Halimi.

Faith Meltzer
El Cerrito


Inspired by young activists

Thanks to Gabriel Greschler for his article “Sarah Goody: The Bay Area’s very own Greta” on April 2. The piece highlighted the incredible impact of young activists such as Sarah (and Greta).

At Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley, an informal group of mothers of children ranging from infants to high-schoolers formed a book club to focus our desire to learn and act around climate justice. We selected a newly published book, “All We Can Save” (allwecansave.earth) — a collection of essays by women about the climate crisis and climate justice.

Similar to Sarah’s story, the pieces in this book highlight the power of women as change-makers as well as young women’s power as activists. We were moved by the content in the book and our sense of urgency to build environmental awareness followed by action.

We are using the seven weeks of counting the Omer, between Passover and Shavuot on May 16, to provide a weekly communication to help our broader community take action for climate justice. Each post is framed in the week’s kabbalistic sefirah and includes an invitation to engage with your heart (feelings, reflections), mind (learn, study, understand a concept) and hand (an action to take).

Our goal is to share how the ideas of climate justice can be more integrated with our community and Torah life.

The Omer is traditionally a time of mourning, tied to the environment and the vulnerability that we face in the seven weeks of counting. This year, we are taking that vulnerability and “counting on” all of us to take action for climate justice.

You can follow our posts at tinyurl.com/CBIClimateOmer.

“All We Can Save” Club, Congregation Beth Israel
Berkeley


‘Insulting’ part of school saga

The article about the S.F. Board of Education repealing its Jan. 26 resolution to obliterate 44 San Francisco school names (“Facing litigation, S.F. school board rescinds renaming plan,” April 7) omitted the crucial activity of attorney Paul Scott, who had filed a lawsuit against the board for violating California’s open-meeting law, commonly called the Brown Act.

Sued by George Washington High School, Abraham Lincoln High School, the San Francisco Taxpayers Associations and two individuals, the board surrendered after the S.F. Superior Court issued an instant order to the board to repeal the illegal resolution or show cause on May 6 why it had not done so.

The “surrender” resolution, however, included an insulting paragraph about the plaintiffs and characterized the suit as “frivolous.”

Scott understandably has demanded the board adopt a new resolution without denigrating and falsely characterizing the victorious plaintiffs. Three members of the board are now subjects of a recall petition because of their childish response, which has cost taxpayers, not the board members.

Judge Quentin L. Kopp
San Francisco


My take on the Orthodox

In response to “Tired,” Mixed & Matched columnist Dawn Kepler stated that she is sorry for the treatment “Tired” has received from his/her fellow Jews (“I’m tired of my fellow Jews insulting my Orthodoxy,” April 14).

I would suggest it may be that Ms. Kepler is somewhat naive in taking Tired’s complaint at face value. That is, she may be jumping the gun with what I take as her apology on behalf of our “(liberal) diversity-embracing Bay Area community.”

Rather, I believe there may be perfectly rational and reasonable reasons why this individual is experiencing this type of negative reaction.

To start, it has been my experience that Orthodox Jews, in general, often exhibit a hostile if not virulently antagonistic attitude toward non-Orthodox Jews. Secondly, the majority of Orthodox Jews in this country tend to be politically right wing and support Donald Trump. These Orthodox Jews think nothing of expressing contempt for those of us who do not agree with their brand of politics. Some of them, such as Aaron Mostofsky, went so far as to join in the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C.

Thirdly, we know that a number of very Orthodox Jews, both in New York and in Israel, do not even recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Fourth, those in the Orthodox community seem to be particularly intolerant, if not hostile, to those in the LGBTQ community.

Finally, how are we “liberal” Jews supposed to feel about the fact that Orthodox Jews in Israel, while in the minority, still maintain a stranglehold on the reins of political power in Israel and the Knesset. And they are in complete control over dictating who is allowed to marry or divorce, or who is even considered a Jew.

So while “Tired” may be tolerant of divergent belief systems, and may believe that Orthodox Jews are being unfairly criticized, I would suggest it may instead be that Orthodox Jews are being criticized not merely for their religious beliefs but for the way they tend to “insult and disdain” those not in tune with their religious, political and/or social beliefs.

Ron Glas
Concord


‘Legitimate’ border concerns

Rabbi Lee Bycel made a compelling case for compassion for those seeking entrance to our country at the southern border. (“Yom HaShoah and the importance of welcoming the stranger,” April 7).

Wisely he acknowledges that we cannot accept everybody. It would have been better, however, to also address the legitimate concerns of those for whom the massive surge at our border is itself problematic. The more than 171,000 Border Patrol apprehensions in March was the largest number of such cases since 2006. We cannot know how many crossed undetected.

The United States as a sovereign nation must control its borders and determine who may cross them.

While the majority of illegal aliens here lead otherwise lawful lives, a significant minority do not. Approximately 18 percent of those incarcerated in the Federal Bureau of Prisons system are aliens imprisoned for non-immigration crimes. The ratios at state and county institutions are likely higher.
Compassion should also extend to their victims.

Twice in recent months, U.S. Border Patrol arrested persons on the terrorist watchlist. We have every right to expect the government to screen out potential criminal and terror threats at the border. This process becomes vastly more difficult as the volume of crossers overwhelms our capacities.
The chaos at the border also incentivizes human trafficking, some portion whose victims are forced into prostitution. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many young, impoverished Eastern European Jewish women suffered the same fate at the hands of organized Jewish criminal gangs. Then it was called “white slavery.”

Let us work for comprehensive immigration reform that not only makes reasonable, humane accommodations for real refugees, but also provides for the security of our sovereign borders and the safety of the American public. When the rule of law breaks down, as it has at our southern border, it is the very worst who thrive.

Steve Astrachan
Pleasant Hill


Opiate of the classes

Here is a one-question quiz related to the J. editorial “Ethnic studies: A meaningful victory in a complicated fight” on April 1.

Where is the following excerpt from? “[C]ritique empire-building in history and its relationship to white supremacy, racism and other forms of power and oppression. [C]challenge racist, bigoted, discriminatory, imperialist/colonial beliefs and practices on multiple levels.”

A. Marx’s “Communist Manifesto.”
B. Lenin’s speech to a Bolsheviks’ convention.
C. Mao’s program for “Cultural Revolution.”
D. California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.

The right answer is D. These are the tenets within the ESMC’s “Guiding Values and Principles of Ethnic Studies.”

There is not one good word about America’s past and present — no Civil War to liberate slaves, no civil rights legislation, no affirmative action, no U.S. decisive role in defeating fascism and communism. Just doom and gloom.

We Jews may be happy that references to the Nakba and BDS were removed from the third draft.

But the teachers/advisers who guided the overtly antisemitic first and second drafts are still at the lecterns of schools and universities, and most probably will bring their favored antisemitic routines to the classrooms.

Shockingly, the ESMC third draft, a divisive and racist instructional document, was unanimously (!) approved by the California State Board of Education, and now is on the march through California Assembly committees. We live in truly amazing times.

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo


House bill is not anti-Israel

I take issue with Yehuda Kurtzer’s op-ed “A House bill on Israel is flawed, but our Jewish civil war is worse” (April 22).

It is not the bill that is flawed, it is Kurtzer’s view that even though he believes the bill will not pass, he also believes it will lead to cutting aid to Israel.

The bill, HR 2590, the “Palestinian Children and Families Act,” as Kurtzer writes, “would prohibit American dollars from being used for actions by Israel that involve the detaining of Palestinian children, the appropriation or destruction of Palestinian property, the forcible removal of Palestinians or toward unilateral annexation” that violate relevant international law and U. S. standards of foreign aid.

The bill does not call for reducing or conditioning aid, but restricting it from being used for purposes that violate U.S. and international law.

I would argue that if U.S. aid is used for these practices and it is not stopped, we will then see increased efforts to cut aid to Israel.

The bill is not anti-Israel. It calls for transparency in how U.S. aid is used. Today there is no transparency. The oversight this legislation calls for is not unique to Israel. It is oversight required for all U.S. foreign aid.

Kurtzer writes that this legislation does not balance criticism of Israeli policy while genuinely supporting its security. That is false. Nowhere in the legislation is there a call for reducing or conditioning aid for Israel’s legitimate security needs; only that the aid should not be used to support efforts to deepen the occupation of Palestinian territory or violate Palestinians’ human rights.

I also object to Kurtzer’s claim that the bill takes “some of the most extreme and egregious moral failures of the occupation — the detention of minors, for instance — and makes them emblematic of Israeli policy rather than exceptional.” The bill does not claim they are “emblematic” of Israeli policy, rather that they are exceptional and must not be funded by U.S. aid.

The bill is targeting only, as Kurtzer writes, “the most extreme and egregious moral failures of the occupation.”

If Kurtzer really believes, as he writes, “in the fundamental legitimacy of Palestinian self-determination and advocating for Palestinian human rights as part and parcel of our commitment to the State of Israel,” then he should not misrepresent HR 2590, which is consistent with support for U.S. aid to Israel.

Also, the photo with the article (depicting a demonstrator calling for “No U.S. aid to Israel”) misleads your readers into believing the proposed legislation calls for ending aid to Israel. The photo is not relevant to the article.

By arguing this legislation should not pass, Kurtzer risks exactly what he warns against: “If it shuts out progressive values — including, most importantly, a concern for Palestinian human rights — the pro-Israel camp may win the political fights in this generation and lose the entire next generation. More important, we also will be complicit in turning human rights for Palestinians into the inverse of political rights for Jews.”

Rabbi Chaim Schneider
Aptos


Good pastor, bad bible

In the Rev. Jim Mitulski’s opinion piece (“Christian pastor: This Holy Week, I’m giving up antisemitism,” March 26), he called upon his fellow Christian clergy to begin the process of rejecting the antisemitism of the Gospels, especially at Easter time, when its expression is most frequent.

Finally! A concrete proposal to end Jew-hating. And by a Christian leader!

Since the fourth century, when Rome adopted Christianity as its state religion, the New Testament has been the primary source of antisemitism. It’s all there in the four Gospels, up front in the very beginning, each repeating the essence of the story, which is: When the Roman governor Pontius Pilate asked the assembled Jews whom he should crucify — this convicted murderer here, or Jesus? — they shouted “Jesus!” Thus the Jews doom themselves. Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Also, Jesus labels the Jews children of the devil in John 8:44).

The Rev. Jim Mitulski is the interim pastor of the Island United Church UCC in Foster City, co-president of the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition and a member of the Peninsula Solidarity Cohort. 
The Rev. Jim Mitulski is the interim pastor of the Island United Church UCC in Foster City, co-president of the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition and a member of the Peninsula Solidarity Cohort.

When I first read the New Testament, I was amazed at how much I should have been hated. Such teachings state that we, as well as our newborn, are as guilty for the killing of their lord as the original Gospel Jews. In other words, it’s in our make-up, our genes, that compel us to be that way. The pattern emerges ultimately down to Hitler, who convinced Germans (and many others) that the Jews needed to be totally eliminated because we are genetically programmed to destroy Germans and Germany.

The Rev. Mitulski’s efforts to remove the antisemitism within Easter services are fantastic, but what about all the people reading the New Testament, the world’s most well-read book, efficiently stowed inside every night stand of every hotel room? And the creation of new Jew-haters by picking it up and reading it?

If the reverend is successful in his endeavors, hopefully one logical eventuality might be a new New Testament that starts with an antisemitism disclaimer. Alevai!

Gerald Aaron Gerash
Walnut Creek


Abbas lies to J Street

Ron Kampeas of JTA wrote that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ declaration at the recent J Street conference — that he was ready to “remove obstacles” to revive U.S. ties — meant that he was “apparently signaling a willingness to stop the payments to the families of Palestinians who have killed Israelis” (“At J Street conference, Abbas says he’s ready to ‘remove obstacles’ to relations with US,” online only, April 20).

In August 2019, Abbas gave a speech at the Jalazone Refugee Camp, saying in part: “We will enter Jerusalem as fighters by the millions. We will all enter it, all of the Palestinian people and all of the Arab and Islamic and Christian nations! Everyone will enter Jerusalem! We will not agree that they consider our martyrs terrorists — our martyrs, the homeland’s martyrs! And we will not agree that they [Israel] deduct one penny from their money [referring to Israel’s anti “pay-for-slay” law]. All of their money will return to them — because for us the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners are the most sanctified … Give us our [money by] right or we will take it by all means.”

Maybe the J Street audience believes that Abbas will concede his “pay-for-slay” payments to terrorists in Israeli jails and to the families of deceased suicide bombers, but I sure hope our elected officials aren’t that gullible.

Sheree Roth
Palo Alto


You say bigotry, I say racism

In her recent letter to J., Lois Perlman argued that antisemitism is bigotry but not, by definition, racism, because most American Jews are white (“Antisemitism is not racism,” April 15).

This incorrectly identifies race with skin color.

The word “race” originally distinguished various European peoples. Well into the 19th century, it was roughly synonymous with modern “ethnicity” or “nation,” and to this day, the notorious “Aryan race” excludes lily-white Russians, French etc. — and, of course, Jews of any color.

Some readers may doubt the need to clarify this fine point of language.

Antisemitism may not be racism, but it is bigotry, which is equally bad, right?

But I doubt Ms. Perlman would have written in to make a distinction without a difference. Although she correctly pointed out that Ashkenazi Jews are rarely victims of bigotry today, there are those who want to change that, in both far-left and far-right circles.

In particular, many leftists believe that racism is only worthy of condemnation if the perpetrator is white and the victim is not. Otherwise, it’s justifiable (if it even qualifies as racism).

These people are ready to seize upon a claim that antisemitism is not racism and use it to legitimize their antisemitic behavior.

Ilya Gurin
Mountain View

J. Readers

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