A group of Reform Jews reading Torah during a mixed prayer at the public square in front of the Western Wall, Nov. 16, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Noam Rivkin Fenton-Flash90)
A group of Reform Jews reading Torah during a mixed prayer at the public square in front of the Western Wall, Nov. 16, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Noam Rivkin Fenton-Flash90)

Time to end Orthodox monopoly; Whoopi is not wrong; etc.

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Don’t forget severely mentally ill

The Jan. 21 cover story, “Jewish housing crisis: Aging parents fear for their special-needs kids,” presented a photo of an older mom and her young adult son that touched my heart. When I read the article, however, it became apparent that the very few services available (in our large and predominantly affluent Bay Area) for the autistic and developmentally disabled excluded the severely mentally ill, especially those living at home with their families.

The severely mentally ill (SMI) also exhibit features of autism as well as developmental disabilities, yet our Jewish community seems to have closed its hearts and minds to families who are in the same predicament as the honorable lady and her son on the cover of the J.

Abysmal as the services for the autistic and the developmentally disabled people described in your article may be, there are no longer such services for the people who suffer from SMI, and zero support for their family caregivers. It seems as though the compassionate Jewish community has deserted us and our loved ones have become invisible. The proud, progressive people of our community have perpetually ignored the plight of those suffering from SMI, preposterously pretending to provide mental health to patients with severe mental illness who desperately need wrap-around care. That would be true progress!

Esther Fuks
San Francisco

‘Learn to live with less’

Thanks to David Arfin for his opinion piece (“How to put viable climate solutions into the hands of the people,” Jan. 7) on the need to work for solutions to our climate crisis.

His example is inspiring. He is right that the wide range of areas to tackle can seem overwhelming, and he was insightful to choose to work in the area of energy.

Through study of this issue, I have learned that the ever-increasing growth of world population, coupled with society’s mandate to constantly increase consumption in order to grow the economy, combine as the two principal causes of our problem.

David Arfin at the Arava Institute in Israel.
David Arfin at the Arava Institute in Israel.

In fact, the world population remained fairly constant over 200,000 years until, in the last 200 years, the use of oil for energy became commonplace. After that, population growth became exponential, as abundant energy overcame many of the prior impediments to human survival.

Now we have surpassed the planet’s ability to sustain us, and we must learn to conserve.

Developing technological efficiencies is important, but we must also learn to live with less. This is a big ask of human beings, but nothing else can solve our environmental problems. The remaining reserves of fossil fuel are finite.

Miriam Menzel
San Francisco

Time to end Orthodox monopoly

I note with distress the decision of Israeli Prime Minister Bennett to renege on the 2017 Kotel Agreement! (“‘Infuriating and upsetting’: Liberal Jewish movements condemn Israeli PM’s decision not to implement Western Wall agreement,” Feb. 1)

Christians in Israel enjoy freedom of religion, sharing access to their holy places among their diverse denominations. The government does not tell them what to do. Similarly, Muslims in Israel enjoy freedom of religion. They also share access to their holy places, in many cases with the support of the government. But Jews, the majority of Israel’s citizens and the reason the world has one, tiny, “Jewish” state, do not have freedom of religion!

Israel is the only “western” nation that denies Jews freedom of religion. The State determines who has control over the sacred places of our people and it chooses the haredim, who use insult, disruption, and physical violence to obstruct the peaceful, prayerful pursuit of Judaism by those with whom they disagree. The State determines which Jewish streams enjoy financial support, choosing the Orthodox disproportionately. And the haredim don’t even serve in the IDF and many don’t even work! The ultra-Orthodox don’t have a monopoly on truth and should not have a monopoly on the holy places of k’lal Yisrael. Nor should they enjoy the financial and legal preferences bestowed on them by the Government. Right now, with the religious parties in the opposition, is a rare opportunity to right the sectarian wrongs that have plagued Israel since its founding. I implore the Government to act now to create an Israel for all Jews. For the sake of the Jewish people, please save Israel from theocracy.

Richard Tavan

Whoopi is not wrong

When I was child — lonnng ago — I would reiterate, “My nationality is American, my religion is Jewish, my race is white.” (“Caucasian,” when I got older). Now I’m an old lady, and I haven’t changed my mind.

I’ve thought most of my life that labeling Jews a “race” was not only inaccurate but also a gift to racists. I haven’t checked recently on the latest scientific niceties of the whole issue, but whatever they may be, they won’t affect racists’ epithets or the fact that Ashkenazi Jews look pretty much like their non-Jewish neighbors, just as is true of Sephardic Jews.

So, it seems to me that Ms. Goldberg was censured for no good reason.

Aren’t we all pretty jumpy?

Serena Bardell
San Francisco

(Editor’s note: ABC suspended Whoopi Goldberg for two weeks from “The View” after her statement that the Holocaust “was not about race.” )

So much for the ‘guardrails’

The first draft of California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum presented the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement as a protest movement aiming to free Palestinians living under “apartheid,” and referred Israel’s rebirth as a “Nakba,” Arabic for “catastrophe.”

So-called guardrails were added as amendments to a revised ESMC to “ensure that [ethnic studies] courses will be free from bias or bigotry and appropriate for all students.” Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of the Amcha Initiative, accurately described the guardrails as “purely optics” that “carry zero weight when it comes to preventing school districts” from teaching anti-Israel content.

The revised ESMC stipulated that schools don’t have to use the revised version! Like the Hayward School District, Castro Valley recently decided to use the original and blatantly antisemitic version of the ESMC (“Castro Valley school board approves contract with ‘liberated’ ethnic studies group,” Jan. 20 online).

A Jewish student reads a statement in opposition to a resolution for a consulting contract between the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Coalition and the Castro Valley school district. (Screenshot)
A Jewish student reads a statement in opposition to a resolution for a consulting contract between the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Coalition and the Castro Valley school district. (Screenshot)

So much for that shiny object off in the corner, referred to as “guardrails” and cited by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council and members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus as key to their endorsement of the revised (but not required) version of the ESMC. The Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California also celebrated those chimerical guardrails.

Apparently easily distracted, the aforementioned groups failed to notice that individual school districts are autonomous and can use any ethnic studies curriculum they choose, including the original anti-Israel version. So much for guardrails and ethnic studies courses free from bias or bigotry.

Julia Lutch

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