A selection of Ben & Jerry's ice cream in Israel. (Photo/JTA-Linda Gradstein)
A selection of Ben & Jerry's ice cream in Israel. (Photo/JTA-Linda Gradstein)

‘Moral blindness’ around Israel; Big news about circumcision; No sympathy for Chesa Boudin; etc.

‘Moral blindness’

The opinion piece by Rabbis Nancy H. Wiener and Lester Bronstein (“Outlawing Ben & Jerry’s boycott is a distraction that makes antisemitism harder to fight,” Dec. 7) reveals its true colors when it refers to “Ben & Jerry’s attempt to hold Israel to the same human rights obligations as other countries.” What “other countries” do they mean that practice a higher standard than Israel? Are they countries whose right to exist has been threatened repeatedly, and have been attacked militarily half a dozen times (at least) in the past few decades? (Let’s not even get into the many countries with abysmal human rights records that the rabbis don’t seem to address.)

The rabbis practice a moral blindness when they care more about the aggressors — the Palestinian people who support efforts to destroy Israel — than they do about the victims — the Israelis who live with terror attacks year in and year out, as well as rockets whose only purpose is to kill Israelis. Such moral blindness encourages antisemitism, rather than fights it, by giving credence to the view that Israel is an evil colonial power.

Dan Fendel

No more half-truths from T’ruah

So, Rabbi Jill Jacobs and her T’ruah organization have a burning desire “to take responsibility for the future” of Israel (“Loving Israel or opposing the occupation? It’s a false dichotomy,” Nov. 18). To that I’d like to say: “Azochunway,” which means, in a loose translation from Yiddish, “G-d forbid,” if Jews have come to a point of relying on T’ruah-like guidance for saving Israel. Fortunately, Israel has been doing just fine since her re-establishment 73 years ago without T’ruah’s assistance.

The entire Rabbi Jacobs and T’ruah crusade looks as a Jewish neo-wokeism where the Palestinians’ lot is squarely blamed on Israel, and the “victims” are totally absolved from any responsibility for the state of their affairs. Have the rabbi and her supporters described to the American rabbinical, cantorial students and Palestinian listeners that the Arab side rejected the U.N. Partition plan in November 1947, and that five Arab countries attacked the nascent Jewish state in May 1948; that more than 800,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries in the first years of Israel’s existence; that the West Bank and Gaza came under Israel’s control as a result of defeating Arab aggression during the Six-Day War of 1967, and very often lost territories are the aggressors’ punishment; that the Palestinian leaders rejected Israel’s multiple peace offers?

Rabbi Jacobs and her cohorts would be much better off strengthening the “ardent Zionism” of the rabbinical and cantorial students and encouraging the Palestinian side to take meaningful steps toward peaceful coexistence with Israel, instead of presenting a half-truth about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and thus breeding animosity and rage toward the Jewish state. The full truth would have served all well: diaspora Jews, Israeli Jews and the Palestinians.

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo

Big news about circumcision 

While I appreciated the coverage of Gary Shteyngart’s new book (“On book tour, novelist Gary Shteyngart is happy to be out of the house,” Nov. 12), the real news was buried toward the end of the piece.

Back in October, Shteyngart published an essay in the New Yorker about his own horribly botched circumcision. I was amazed to read in J. that after the publication of that article, Shteyngart was contacted by rabbis from progressive movements of Judaism to offer their sympathies. Incredibly, several of these rabbis “pledged to present male circumcision to Jewish parents as a choice rather than a religious obligation.” Some rabbis apparently told Shteyngart, “We’re not gonna push this anymore. We’re gonna say, it’s up to you.”

Man wearing mask signs books
Jewish American writer Gary Shteyngart signs copies of his new novel “Our Country Friends” at BookShop West Portal in San Francisco on Nov. 11, 2021. (Photo/Andrew Esensten)

Even if only a few rabbis are currently making such statements, this is big news. And it’s truly great news for those Jewish families who, having weighed the pros and cons of circumcision, decide against it. It’s high time the choice not to circumcise became normative in Jewish life — one of the goals of the new Jewish nonprofit Bruchim.

Lisa Braver Moss

No sympathy for Chesa

I read your article about David Gilbert, father of Chesa Boudin (“San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin’s dad to be freed from prison after 40 years,” Oct. 28) and I just cringed at the favorable portrait of the hardened criminal.

Your article states that Mr. Gilbert only served as an unarmed driver in the armored truck ambush and murder of three people. The only reference provided of his minor participation was “multiple media reports.” I am sure that you could have obtained actual court transcripts that would have provided factual evidence instead of relying on anonymous “media reports.” You need to provide credible sources for the casual reader to trust your story.

A New York jury found Mr. Gilbert guilty of this heinous crime and he was given a 75-year sentence, one of the most severe in the penal code aside from capital punishment, which I don’t believe is allowed in N.Y.

Secondly, Gilbert received a grant of clemency from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Aug. 23, 2021, reducing his minimum term from 75 years to the 40 years he served. There was no additional evidence that exonerated him. The gift of clemency granted him freedom, but did not absolve him of the crime.

Chesa Boudin with his dad, David Gilbert, in an undated photo. (Photo/San Francisco District Attorney's Office)
Chesa Boudin with his dad, David Gilbert, in an undated photo. (Photo/San Francisco District Attorney’s Office)

Thirdly, your article focuses on Mr. Gilbert’s son, Chesa Boudin, who was affected by his father’s incarceration. That is true, I am sure every child of an incarcerated parent is missing everyday parental love, which is priceless. But what did the incarcerated parent think when he got himself involved with a criminal gang and drove off to the aforementioned armed robbery? Did he think about his children that would be left fatherless (and motherless) if they were caught? If his own father did not feel sorry about potentially leaving his children destitute and fatherless, why should we, the readers?

While Chesa reunited with his father after the clemency release, the same will never happen for Michael Paige, the son of the victim who was murdered. He is the one we should be feeling sorry for, not the man who had made a conscious choice to be a criminal.

I believe you need to share both sides of the story and have the reader make their own judgment as to who is the criminal and who is the victim here.

Samuel Nakhimovsky
Foster City

Trump never said …

Joe Gurkoff’s recent letter condemning President Trump (“GOP Jews and Trump,” Nov. 22) made factually false statements that must be corrected. First, President Trump never described the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., as “good people.” The text of the president’s Aug. 14, 2017 remarks included: “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” (as quoted by CNN). The statement on the following day regarding “very fine people, on both sides” unambiguously referred to those who “were also there … to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee” (as quoted by the Washington Post). There was never any hint of sympathy for the neo-Nazis or white supremacists. As a pro-Union Civil War buff and published author on Lincoln, I find this understanding of differing perspectives to be quite compelling.

The allegation that President Trump and his administration failed to respond to the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018 is also false. Mr. Trump, accompanied by his family, visited the Tree of Life shortly after the shooting to show support for the congregation.

As to saying nothing about the rise of antisemitism in 2019, it was President Trump who signed an executive order directing the Department of Education to focus on antisemitism on college campuses, a serious problem which had festered for decades.

There are many legitimate arguments for and against President Trump. George Orwell’s “Two Minutes of Hate” is not one of them. Such expressions only add to the hyperpartisanship and dangerous (yes dangerous) polarization in the country. Let’s all try to look at those with whom we disagree with a sense of fairness and respect. The alternative is not good, not good at all.

Steve Astrachan
Pleasant Hill

‘And the Fuhrer was a terrific dancer’

Mr. Steve Astrachan’s letter in the Nov. 9 edition (“Trump had the right idea”) bemoaning the fact that Trump doesn’t get his due from Jews in his efforts for peace in the Middle East or his executive order directing the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education to respond to anti-Jewish discrimination reminded me of the line from “The Producers,” in which the playwright tells Max Bialystok and Leo Bloom that “not many people knew it, but the Fuhrer was a terrific dancer.”

Hitler may have been a great dancer, and Trump may have done some good things along the way (he ignored his greatest accomplishment, Operation Warp Speed, which pushed the development of the Covid vaccines in record time, but he did not tout it because he didn’t want to alienate the anti-vax wackos among his base of support), but as far as antisemitism goes, his record is atrocious:

During the 2016 campaign he retweeted a right-wing meme which had the Star of David floating over bags of money.

He not only refused to condemn the hateful, murderous crowd at Charlottesville, who chanted “Jews will not replace us,” he said that there were “very fine people, on both sides.”

On Jan. 6 he told his supporters, some of whom wore T-shirts emblazoned with “Camp Auschwitz” and “Six Million was Not Enough,” erected scaffolds and carried the Confederate flag, to “go home in peace.”

Among the pro-Trump mob at the US Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, a sign reads: "PELOSI IS SATAN." (Photo/Lloyd Wolf)
Among the pro-Trump mob at the US Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, a sign reads: “PELOSI IS SATAN.” (Photo/Lloyd Wolf)

Speaking of followers of QAnon, the modern take on the ancient blood libel that Jews kill gentile children, he said “they like me very much, which I appreciate.”

Trump never condemned the antisemitism and racism so prevalent among his followers; in fact he started his 2016 campaign with a racist, hateful speech and never stopped using hate to appeal to the darkest currents in the American right. Mr. Astrachan seems to believe in the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” I would turn that around and say no, the friends of my enemies are my enemies.

In the same issue, letter writer Mark Snyder clarifies the fact that so-called messianic synagogues are actually churches. I guess the antisemites who vandalized the building in Sacramento didn’t get that memo. Still a hateful act, right, Mr. Snyder?

Danny Yanow
San Francisco

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