Members and supporters of the United Teachers of Los Angeles union wave and cheer in a downtown Los Angeles park at the end of a strike, Jan. 22, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Scott Heins-Getty Images)
Members and supporters of the United Teachers of Los Angeles union wave and cheer in a downtown Los Angeles park at the end of a strike, Jan. 22, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Scott Heins-Getty Images)

Ethnic studies ‘guardrails’ aren’t enough; Circumcision, for and against; Etc.

Good going, L.A. teachers

A teacher’s job isn’t to indoctrinate students with a particular view, but to teach them to think critically and appreciate different perspectives in forming their own conclusions.

Kudos to the Los Angeles teachers union for recognizing that in rejecting a proposed anti-Israel resolution backing the antisemitic BDS movement in favor of hosting voluntary open forums to discuss the issue (“Los Angeles teachers union votes to postpone Israel boycott motion indefinitely,” Sept. 24).

Pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel partisans should consider how they would react if the union instead proposed adopting by fiat a resolution demanding support for Israel and condemning the Palestinians for a litany of offenses. After all, the Palestinians have rejected numerous Israeli peace proposals that could have given them a state and resolved the conflict decades ago; massacred Israeli children in schools, buses, homes, discos, malls and pizzerias; and fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities from Palestinian residential neighborhoods — a double war crime that has killed children on both sides.

The Palestinians also promote anti-Jewish hate and Holocaust denial in their schools, summer camps, mosques and media; name schools and public squares in honor of terrorists who murdered Israeli children; allow “honor killings” of women and LGBT individuals; criminalize selling land to any Jew; threaten violence against any Jew who prays, even silently, at Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount; demand Palestinian sovereignty over the Jewish people’s holiest sites in Jerusalem; and demand that all Jews be ethnically cleansed from eastern Jerusalem (including the ancient Jewish Quarter of the Old City adjacent to the Western Wall) and the West Bank (the ancestral Jewish homeland).

There are two sides to this conflict, and the better informed people are, the more likely they will support Israel.

The union deserves praise for choosing voluntary open discussion over indoctrination.

Stephen A. Silver
San Francisco

Intactivists are right on

Regarding circumcision (“We may be talking about Gary Shteyngart’s botched circumcision for a long time,” Oct. 12), not only do intactivists not go too far, it is impossible to go too far when describing the immorality, vileness and human suffering due to this “simple procedure.”

Daniel Bryce
Thornton, Colorado

‘Look it up, you’ll agree’

I have long been aware I’m part of a very small segment of your marketing target. That is, as a member of a Jewish synagogue who frequently attends traditional services, where the central feature on Saturday morning is reading a prescribed portion of our 2,000-year-old “book,” the Torah. It’s my “lifestyle.”

A New Yorker article about circumcision features an illustration by Javier Jaén. (Photo/Jewish Week)
A New Yorker article about circumcision features an illustration by Javier Jaén. (Photo/Jewish Week)

On Friday, Oct. 15, my copy of the J. was in my mail. The opinion piece you chose was “We may be talking about Gary Shteyngart’s botched circumcision for a long time” (Oct. 12), with arguments from a group that opposed the ritual. On Saturday morning we read the Torah portion Lech Lecha.

The delicious irony of your editorial timing! If you look it up, you’ll agree.

Ruth Honig
Los Altos

Guardrails are not enough

The guardrails put into place by the California Legislature in AB 101 are helpful but insufficient (“Everything you need to know about the ’guardrails’ built into the California ethnic studies law,” Oct. 19).

What we need is for the Legislature to make it clear with additional legislation that those school districts that go off the rails do so at their peril.

Possible legislation could include the loss of state funding and criminal and civil penalties. To enforce this, we could have a private attorney general statute and reward those who bring to the state’s attention that school districts are violating the law by using unsanctioned curriculum.

For example: If a district is shown to have violated the law, as a result of a private attorney general action, and the district were to lose state funding, then that individual would receive a percentage of the money that the district forfeits to the state. Medicare rewards informants who report Medicare fraud.

Without some significant punishment for violators, the guardrails will be ineffective.

Israel’s enemies have already convinced some districts to adopt their Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. The California Department of Education needs to inform these districts that this is now forbidden and they must revise the curriculum.

The state helped create this mess by creating an initial curriculum that was anti-Zionist and antisemitic. The remnants of that exercise in bigotry are still around and will continue to vilify Jews and Israel.

AB 101 will not be mandatory for several years. We need to demand from the California Legislative Jewish Caucus and others that they continue to insist on compliance to the principles stated in AB 101.

Gil Stein

Ethnic studies machinations

Recently adopted California AB 101 mandates an ethnic studies course as a required subject for high school graduation.

Its ethnic predecessor AB 2016 laid out the groundwork for introduction of ethnic studies to California students.

The stated objective was “preparing pupils to be global citizens with an appreciation for the contributions of multiple cultures.”

Sounds clear and commendable.

So, why in the world would an innocent objective, meaning mutual respect, understanding and even admiration, would demand any guardrails? (“Everything you need to know about the ’guardrails’ built into the California ethnic studies law,” Oct. 19).

All because a group of teachers and educators, united under a mantra of “Liberated,” have hijacked the ethnic studies ideas in efforts to promote a strictly ideological Marxism-type approach leading to divisiveness and resentment within our schools and outside.

Jose Medina presenting AB331 to the California Assembly Education Committee in March 2019. The bill would make ethnic studies a high school requirement. (Photo/Twitter-Jose Medina)
Assemblymember Jose Medina (left) presenting the bill that kicked off the ethnic studies saga in 2019. (Photo/Twitter-Jose Medina)

In the Liberated catechesis, Jews are the most devilish among the “privileged,” “oppressors,” “colonialists,” etc. They control the Palestinians, American administration of any stripe, media and probably weather, too.

No guardrails will be able to protect our students from the Liberated poison.

They are already pushing forward their version of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) onto individual school districts. The Liberated people know how to go around the guardrails, or even use them for their one-sided “open” discussions.

One of the Liberated group members, Samia Shoman, has developed a syllabus for teaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a high school within a framework of a history course which contained guardrails against a biased presentation.

In the Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, she displayed a Palestinian flag in the classroom, read “witness” stories and talked about the Israel’s aggressions.

More of this sort of teaching can be expected from the Liberated ESMC.

A truly enriching ethnic studies course, envisioned by AB 2016 and AB 101, can be achieved only when parents learn what their children are taught and become involved in schools’ and school districts’ life.

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo

Stop amplifying the fringe

I read your Oct. 22 online article “Jewish Googlers play key role in push to cancel $1.2 billion Israeli contract” by Eliyahu Kamisher with the frequent disappointment that I feel when reading J. for only one simple reason: J. is clearly obsessed with amplifying the most fringe, insignificant opinions that exist among self-identified “Jews.”

Mind you, such people may not even be Jewish whatsoever, with the sole exception of maybe having one parent or grandparent.

For the sake of argument, since when do only two Jews’ (Ariel Koren and Gabriel Schubiner) opinions about Israel, or frankly anything, matter at all to the Jewish People?

Where is their moral authority?

The answer is “nowhere” because their self-hating Jewish perspective matters to them, a tony, fringe group of self-identified Jews, and, I am sure, no small number of Palestinians abroad who will cultivate and spread antisemitic lies about the Jewish People and Israel, then use people like Koren and Schubiner as shields to say, “Look, here are two Jews who hate Israel just like we do! How can we be antisemites?”

Karl Marx was a rabid antisemite and he was Jewish. Some of us who know certain Palestinian activists also encounter this dialectic by the same characters since the 1990s.

Shall I name more? I am sure many of your readers can.

It is J.’s amplification of such fringe, divisive views that legitimizes them by giving them a platform and a safe space to wreak havoc on the vast majority of Jews in the USA who do not care about Israel and want to live their lives unaffiliated and assimilated into American society.

I am not one of them, but those of us who were born or grew up here know this reality all too well.

But hey, thanks J., for cultivating this unproductive invective that helps only one fringe group that matters as much to most of us as a reflector button does on a highway.

Mordechai Pelta
San Francisco

Talk to anti-Israel Googlers

Do we know if anyone from any Jewish/Zionist advocacy group (e.g., AIPAC, JCRC, StandWithUS, the Israeli consulate) has reached out to Ariel Koren and Gabriel Schubiner, the Jewish Google employees advocating to terminate the Nimbus database contract, to teach them about Israel, Zionism and Middle East history? (“Jewish Googlers play key role in push to cancel $1.2 billion Israeli contract,” Oct. 22)

Do they know that Zionism is an anti-colonialist movement, or that Jews are the true indigenous people of Israel?

Or that the only place in the world where Jews from Muslim countries and Africa — also people of color — are safe is in Israel?

Do they know that the database project is part of an ongoing effort to maintain a free society while protecting against terrorism, and provide health care for all?

Someone should tell them.

Larry Feinstein
Herzliya, Israel

Ethnic studies mandate? No!

Yasher koach to letter writers Malka Weitman, Max Samarov, Charles Taubman and David Meir-Levi for taking to task the J. editorial board (“Letters,” Oct. 15), and, by extension, much of the organized Jewish community, for not clearly opposing AB 101, the new ethnic studies requirement for high school graduation.

They point out that in a period of increasing antisemitism, Jewish students often bear the brunt of verbal abuse and physical threats. Many of them report feeling unsafe expressing either their identities or any overt support for Israel.

We should not then be creating a new mechanism with the potential to introduce yet more hostility into an already trying environment.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the “guardrails” of the legislation will be respected by all school districts. Neither is there any guarantee that the current bipartisan support for Israel will continue into the future, particularly with an American public increasingly brought up on toxic notions of inherent racial guilt which are already present in too many of our classrooms.

Unfortunately, however, neither the supporters nor the opponents of AB 101’s ethnic studies requirement focus on the real concerns of education.

K-12 schools have been dealing with issues of ethnicity in literature and social studies curricula for many decades.

Beyond that, adding yet another requirement to a system already not adequately performing its vital core educational mission will only further compromise that mission. A 2019 survey revealed that only slightly more that 50% of public school students were proficient in English and only 40% in math. For Black students, only 33% were proficient in English and 21% in math.

It is these issues, above all, that should concern us.

Adding yet another requirement for graduation diverts scarce resources and attention from them while potentially threatening the already vulnerable Jewish minority.

Steve Astrachan
Pleasant Hill

Wake up, Ben & Jerry

What is absurd is that Ben and Jerry think that Israel has broken an “international law” by allowing Israelis to build communities on land that is of religious and historic importance to Jews, land that is of strategic importance to Israel, land that was liberated from an illegal occupier (Jordan) as Israel defended her people from the genocidal intentions of Egypt and Syria, with whom Jordan had allied by firing on Israeli-controlled Jerusalem (“In TV interview, Ben & Jerry’s founders say accusations of antisemitism following West Bank pullout are ’absurd,’” online Oct. 11).

Furthermore, the 1964 founding charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization specified that the organization made no claims on the lands (Gaza and “The West Bank” then under Egyptian and Jordanian control). The aim of the PLO was to “liberate” Israel from the Jews.

Motorists drive past a closed Ben & Jerry's ice-cream shop in the Israeli city of Yavne, south of Tel Aviv, July 23, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Ahmad Gharabli-AFP via Getty Images)
Motorists drive past a closed Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream shop in the Israeli city of Yavne, south of Tel Aviv, July 23, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Ahmad Gharabli-AFP via Getty Images)

It is sad that supposed social justice activists expect Jews to allow themselves to be held hostage to people who refuse to negotiate and claim the right to use violence to get what they want.

Even sadder is the fact that social justice activists think wanting to wipe the world’s only Jewish state off the map is an acceptable goal.

Businesses that have Jewish and Palestinian workers and that serve Jewish and Palestinian consumers should be lauded for laying the groundwork for an idea anathema to the current Palestinian leadership: a Palestinian state co-existing, peacefully, with the nation-state of the Jews.

Toby F. Block

J. Readers

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