Zahra Billoo speaks at the Jan. 2018 Women's March in San Francisco. (Photo/Wikimedia-Pax Ahimsa Gethen CC BY-SA 4.0)
Zahra Billoo speaks at the Jan. 2018 Women's March in San Francisco. (Photo/Wikimedia-Pax Ahimsa Gethen CC BY-SA 4.0)

Myopia on race; Zahra Billoo was wronged; Can’t stop Russia

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Different narratives on oppression

It is good that Whoopi Goldberg is back on “The View” from her “time out” for expressing her opinion that Nazis and Jews were both white, so the Holocaust was not about race (“Are Jews white? Is Whoopi Goldberg Jewish? ’The View’ Holocaust controversy, explained,” Feb. 3).

Goldberg is no antisemite, and she apologized for the hurt she caused.

However, she was expressing a point of view that is unfortunately too common among some African Americans. Racism is about whites oppressing Blacks. It precludes nuance about how race has been exploited by others for hateful acts, such as the Nazi Aryan race subjugating “sub-human” races like Jews and Slavs, or the Japanese subjugating Chinese and Koreans during World War II, as they were also viewed as inferior races.

Myopia on race is important to recognize and call out. Race-based hatred is prevalent among many groups that do not fit into the American paradigm of African American subjugation by whites. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that alliances by African Americans with Jews, Catholics and all people of goodwill were critical to the success of the civil rights movement. He did not present racism as a monochromatic Black and white issue.

Stacey Abrams understood this in running Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock as a joint campaign that turned the election in Georgia to the Democrats for a Senate majority.

As we approach the 2022 election, perhaps we can learn from the Whoopi Goldberg experience that we should embrace other peoples’ own narratives of oppression, whether African American, Jewish or Asian, without our selective interpretations.

The way to solidarity is the pluralism of empathy and inclusion.

Jeff Saperstein
Mill Valley

She led by example

The San Francisco Jewish community has lost a recognized human rights leader in Rose Tamler, who passed away on Feb. 15 at the age of 102.

Rose Tamler
Rose Tamler

Rose and her late husband, Dr. Ed Tamler, were in the founding group that formed the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews in 1967. The BACSJ was one of the first grassroots groups founded that focused on liberating over 2 million Jews from the oppressive, antisemitic Soviet Union. The BACSJ became one of the prominent groups in the Soviet Jewry struggle and was highly praised by Natan Sharansky, Yosef Begun and other refusenik leaders.

Rose was a classic Jewish Woman of Valor. She was an activist for nearly a quarter of a century. She volunteered for endless tasks that would help alleviate the conditions that Soviet Jews faced.

Many people in our community attended some of the large, peaceful rallies that were held in front of the then–Soviet Consulate on Green Street in San Francisco. Rose attended over 2,000 protests on Green Street! In the 1980s she headed the daily silent vigil in front of the Soviet Consulate, which was held every day at noon. She oversaw this effort and made sure that, other than on Shabbat or the High Holidays, the Soviet consular staff saw that we were not going away until they “Let Our People Go.”

This was an example of the moral courage and the fortitude that she had for her fellow Jews who were in distress.

Rose led by example. She was soft-spoken and thoughtful.

I was honored to know her and privileged to have worked with her. May her name continue to be a blessing.

Morey Schapira
Past president, Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews

Zahra Billoo was wronged

Your Feb. 10 article about Zahra Billoo (“Zahra Billoo removed as keynote speaker at San Mateo women’s conference”) led me to reread the JCRC post in December attacking Ms. Billoo and to watch her 45-minute talk in the link you provided. (Thank you for that.)

My overwhelming and immediate response was in support of Ms. Billoo’s comments, for the same reason that people hopefully appreciate what Martin Luther King Jr. said about the “white moderate” in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Both Billoo and King were making the point that the out-and-out racists clearly need to be stopped and opposed from their violence. At the same time, organizations that don’t show up, or that only do so when convenient or when they need you, need to be called out for the injustices they are actually perpetuating, painful as that is to hear directed to you.

I also need to condemn the dishonesty of the JCRC charges vis-a-vis that speech Billoo gave. Just after minute 41, she takes Muslim entities more to task than the Zionist ones that are also throwing the Palestinians under the bus (to loud applause in the room).

When she says, “Know your friends,” she includes Jewish groups.

Zahra Billoo isn’t antisemitic at all, and she isn’t the only honorable woman of color to be wrongly attacked for standing up for Palestine.

Jim Haber
San Francisco

Love thy Jewish neighbor

I want to thank you for your reporting of the hateful flyers that were discovered in our town (“Danville rallies against hate after antisemitic flyer drop,” March 1, online).

I’m not a Jew! I am a Zoroastrian from Iran and have lived in Danville since 2002.

Our community, regardless of faith, is a quilt of neighborly, friendly and hospitable people who value and respect one another’s standing.

Group of people marching
Danville residents “March Against Hate” in a peace rally held February 26, 2022. (Photo/Tyler Callister)

Myself and my family are in full support of our Jewish neighbors and stand with them in eliminating this ugly behavior before it gains traction in this town (or anywhere else).

Parents of all faiths must educate their children that we are all human and there is no room for this sort of antisemitic display of hate. It all starts in the home.

Shahram Davani

Applause for the archives

I do not know how many people fully appreciate the wonderful gift that J. Editor Sue Fishkoff and our donors — the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund and Fred Levin of the Shenson Foundation — have recently given to all of us by digitizing and allowing access to the more than 125 years of the newspaper of the Bay Area Jewish community. (“Digitizing J.’s archives was a mission to save Jewish history,” Feb. 14).

As a J. board of directors member almost 40 years ago, I saw firsthand the hard work and dedication of the J. staff and related individuals to inform Jews and others about critical and joyous local, national and international Jewish issues and events.

Sue, there is only one word that describes my feeling when I learned about the success of your more than decade-long effort to accomplish this wonderful (and necessary) task: Toda, Toda and Toda!

Ron Laupheimer
San Francisco

‘Name game’ isn’t biased

“Frustrated” wrote in to Dawn Kepler’s Mixed & Matched column that “Many times I have been quizzed by fellow Jews asking me what my maiden name is. Trying to see if I am a real Jew. Ugh” (“I don’t have a ’Jewish’ name, and other Jews won’t leave me alone about it,” Jan. 26).

Really? Trying to see if she is a real Jew?

It is a fact that many (if not most) Jews in this country have anglicized last names, for whatever reasons, no matter whether they are of Ashkenazi, Sephardic or Mizrahi origin. So it seems ridiculous that anyone would believe that being quizzed about their “non-Jewish” last name is a manifestation of “bias against Jews-by-choice without Ashkenazi names.”

Don’t we as Jews have enough problems with anti-Jewish bias and prejudice? Do we really need to see bias where there is none?

And with respect to Jews-by-choice, I believe that most Jews are typically thrilled to learn that a new acquaintance is a Jew-by-choice.

So rather than worrying about the “onslaught of queries” about her last name, I suggest she simply relax and accept that people find the origin of last names to be an intellectually interesting subject, and that nothing negative is implied in asking about one’s name.

Ronald E. Glas

Chanting Torah is not ‘a job’

Stephen Saxon’s thoughtful first-person piece “A synagogue choir is not to be applauded … or is it?” (Feb. 8) prompted me to recall my son’s bar mitzvah in 2002 at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley.

Rabbi Stuart Kelman instructed the b’nai mitzvah families not to tell our children (during the parents’ congratulatory speeches) that our child had done “a good job.”

He explained that, just as sung prayers are not performances to be applauded, leading the congregation in prayer is not “a job.”

I cringe every time I hear a parent use that phrase.

Judy Kunofsky
El Cerrito

We can’t stop Russia

While I hope and pray that the innocent, peaceful people come through this latest war safely, there is no point in mincing words. There is little the West can do to stop the subjugation of Ukraine to Russia, and even less that its politicians are willing to do.

Is this just or moral? No on either count.

Jews are called upon to protect the pursued from the pursuer, and it is clear to all that Russia is the aggressor. That being acknowledged, are we individually obligated to go and fight in a war between two nations, neither one of which is the Jewish nation? I would argue no.

Jews from Ukraine arrive at a Jewish community center in Chisinau, Moldova, Feb. 25, 2022. (Photo/JTA-Courtesy of Rabbi Pinchas Salzman)
Jews from Ukraine arrive at a Jewish community center in Chisinau, Moldova, Feb. 25, 2022. (Photo/JTA-Courtesy of Rabbi Pinchas Salzman)

Regardless of the recent openness to its Jewish citizens (“Who are Ukraine’s Jews, and how is Russia’s invasion affecting them?” Feb. 28, online) and its remembrance of  Jews murdered by Ukrainians in the past, I remain skeptical of any true reformation of their true attitudes toward us.

Neither Russians nor Ukrainians have been historic friends to our people, and if their governments choose to fight each other over political control of the region, who am I to get in their way?

Could this have been prevented? In all likelihood yes, but we’ll never truly know. That is simply an exercise in speculation.

Is there anything the West can do to stop this or even minimize the conflict? Likely yes, but it would take true leadership and intestinal fortitude that I, for one, do not currently see in any Western leaders.

Is this a sad and tragic series of events? Most assuredly yes. Equally sad is the recognition that the rest of the world will likely do nothing to stop it.

Robert Fliegler
Daly City

Was use of ‘exited’ a sign?

So sorry to hear that klezmer artist Michael Winograd was “exited” by the online reactions to his video (“‘Gazpacho Police’ is now an original klezmer song,” Feb. 11).

Has cancel culture really gone that far, or did wildfire from a Jewish space laser, operating at the speed of The Light, burn out the “c” from your article?

Richard Tavan

Editor’s Note: The error in the original JTA article has now been corrected.

Feasible endgame in Israel

In his opinion piece “Condemning Amnesty’s flawed ’apartheid’ report won’t bring peace to Israel” (Feb. 14), Matt Nosanchuk, a self-proclaimed liberal Zionist, affirms that there is “no moral, logical or politically feasible endgame” to the current position of Israel and her supporters.

But the endgame is very much feasible.

Morally, it is steadfastly defending the ancestral land of the Jewish people, where Israel is ready to shelter and protect Jews from all corners of the world. Millennia of the Jewish history have proven that periodically even the most advanced and civilized countries become consumed by diabolical antisemitism.

Logically, the Jewish state has offered a number of plans to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All met with a resounding nyet.

An Israeli checkpoint is seen during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan as Covid-19 measures continue in the West Bank city of Hebron, April 20, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Issam Rimawi-Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
An Israeli checkpoint is seen during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan as Covid-19 measures continue in the West Bank city of Hebron, April 20, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Issam Rimawi-Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The experience of intifada that followed the Oslo Accords, withdrawals from South Lebanon and Gaza does not encourage any more “nuanced” approach from the pro-Israeli side, as Mr. Nosanchuk has suggested,

Politically, the fantasy times of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being the cause of the Middle East turmoil is gone.

The Abraham Accords have opened Arab minds to cooperation with Israel. Of course, the path to a broad Arab recognition of Israel is full of obstacles, but they are turning out to be more and more manageable.

Until a reliable and honest Palestinian partner comes to the negotiating table, Israel’s feasible endgame, probably, will remain the same.

As for the liberals’ refrain about the ominous threat of losing democratic Israel, dutifully repeated by Mr. Nosanchuk, the mere fact that after 54 years of controlling the West Bank, Israel has formed the most representative government in the country’s history speaks for itself. Quite an “apartheid” state!

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo

Bad take on Amnesty report

According to Matt Nosanchuk in his opinion piece, “In our increasingly polarized and siloed world, we too often hear only voices with which we agree and ignore or condemn the rest” (“Condemning Amnesty’s flawed ‘apartheid’ report won’t bring peace to Israel,” Feb. 14).

Hmm. Does he hear the intransigent voice of the Palestinian Authority, which has rejected every attempt to negotiate an agreement regarding disposition of the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria? Does he have a “nuanced response” to Article 9 of the PA charter, which states that “Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase.”

Does he hear the voice of Hamas as clearly expressed in its 2017 document, Article 20, which states that “Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.” That might help him understand why Israel must control its border with Gaza.

Where is legitimate criticism of the PA and Hamas? Is it fear of reprisals that keeps the New York Jewish Agenda (Nosanchuk is its president and co-founder) quiet about the murderous intent that is the founding principle of the PA and Hamas?

Is the NYJA afraid of being called “Islamophobic” if it points out that Hamas and the PA want Israel destroyed, not as a neighbor?

The Amnesty International report’s conclusions are not “controversial” — they are propagandistic falsehoods.

The NYJA’s refusal to condemn the report outright helps legitimize it and thus throws more gasoline on the fires raging in the Middle East.

Julia Lutch

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