Sue Fishkoff speaks at her J. retirement lunch. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)
Sue Fishkoff speaks at her J. retirement lunch. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

Biden is no Zionist; Mazel tov, Sue Fishkoff; Why isn’t SFJFF in Palo Alto this year?

Here’s to Sue Fishkoff!

Managing editor Sue Barnett was 110 percent right in her column describing retiring J. Editor Sue Fishkoff as a “true leader” who’s made the Bay Area Jewish community stronger and more vibrant (“You can’t get away that easily, Fishkoff!” July 7).

I was on the J. board when we hired Sue in 2011, and it is rare to see a decision work out so well.

We have all benefited from Sue’s deep knowledge of the Jewish world, journalistic curiosity, political savvy, embrace of all strains of Jewish identity and skill at nurturing young Jewish journalists, as well as her superb writing and editing chops.

At a time when many Jewish newspapers have folded, J. is not only a survivor but a nationally renowned publication because of her.

I extend my thanks to her and to the entire J. staff for putting out such a great source of news and connection.

Ilana DeBare

Mazel tov, Sue

Sue Fishkoff’s retirement is a loss to the Jewish community (“You can’t get away that easily, Fishkoff!,” July 7). Her leadership, work and legacy has been amazing. Getting us through the pandemic by continuing to put out J. was a gift to us all. I know Sue is leaving us in good hands, but she will be missed by this reader. Mazel tov, Sue, and thank you.

Jill Maleson

It’s clearly anti-Jewish hate

Response to antisemitic hate crime has been lacking, or misleading in many instances. The Highland Park attack must not be dealt with in this manner (“Highland Park rabbi speaks out after mass shooting in heavily Jewish Chicago suburb,” July 5, online).

Only 2.4% of Americans are Jewish, but the FBI reports that about 60% of religiously motivated hate crimes target Jews.

According to a 2020 study of the metropolitan Chicago area by researchers at Brandeis University and the University of Chicago, about half of Highland Park’s 30,000 residents are Jewish.

The shooter’s choice of locale was not random. That non-Jews were also killed must not be misused to evade this reality. The shooter’s interest in Jews as his target is more than suggested by the fact that he was “sizing up” an area Chabad last Passover.

Let’s remember that the January attack on a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, during Saturday Shabbat services was initially described that night, by a special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas field office, as “not specifically related to the Jewish community.” This was so clearly counterfactual that the FBI found it necessary to withdraw this assessment.

In the same manner, the 2015 murders in a Paris kosher deli on the eve of Shabbat were characterized in this manner by then President Barack Obama: “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” Random? That mark also was later clarified.

Murders in heavily Jewish environments are a dangerous trend and must not be dealt with by misdirection.

Julia Lutch

Disappointed film fest fans

I was deeply disappointed to read in the July 8 issue of the J. that the S.F. Jewish Film Festival will not be presented on the Peninsula this year (“Jewish film fest lineup teems with cultural icons”). We have attended the JFF in Palo Alto for many years and the venues have always been well attended.

There are many seniors in our Peninsula community and it is inconvenient to travel to San Francisco or Albany to see a movie. Why has the SFJFF ignored us?

Joanne Arfin
Palo Alto

Jewish film fest responds to Peninsula fans

The Jewish Film Institute, presenters of the annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, understands that some in the community are disappointed that this summer’s 42nd SFJFF will not offer screenings in Palo Alto, as the festival had done in recent years. JFI’s staff and board share in this disappointment, and we look forward to a future season when we are again able to present films for our loyal and valued community on the Peninsula as well as in Marin.

The past few years have been tough, not just for the JFI but for filmmakers, the arts and the movies in general. In 2020, our longtime Peninsula venue, the CinéArts at Palo Alto Square, closed permanently due to the pandemic. The closure, coupled with the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, prevented JFI from securing another venue in the area for 2022.

The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival is thrilled to be returning with robust programming to theaters in San Francisco and the East Bay July 21-31. Your support in this pivotal year enables us to expand our footprint in the years to follow.

For our audience members on the Peninsula and in Marin who are not able to travel to the SFJFF, we are pleased to offer a selection of dynamic films and programs to stream at home Aug. 1-7. (For all festival details, please visit

Lastly, we want to hear from you about what you’d like to see at future editions of SFJFF. If you’d like to share your suggestions or thoughts about new venues and new ideas, please get in touch with us at [email protected].

Nate Gellman
JFI director of development and communication

Swastikas are not ‘peaceful’

When my parents saw the swastika on a storefront in their neighborhood on Taraval Street in San Francisco in 1977, it did not remind them of a “peaceful lifestyle” as described by a recent letter writer (“Foolish swastika arguments,” July 6).

It was the Rudolf Hess Bookstore. It had no books about the Hindu “peaceful lifestyle.”

Since they had suffered through concentration camps and the murder of their families in Poland, my parents had no ambiguity about the swastika symbol or the Star of David Jews were forced to wear. The swastika represents and promotes anything other than a Hindu “peaceful lifestyle.”

My father and brother were arrested for destroying the Rudolf Hess-named Nazi bookstore in San Francisco. When my father was asked why he used violence to destroy the swastika, he said that we could not sleep at night with uniformed Nazis coming to his neighborhood to read books. It was time to act.

The Duveneck House at Hidden Villa featured tiles with pre-Nazi swastikas, a common symbol in Eastern religions, in Los Altos Hills. (Photo/Courtesy Hidden Villa)
The Duveneck House at Hidden Villa featured tiles with pre-Nazi swastikas, a common symbol in Eastern religions, in Los Altos Hills. (Photo/Courtesy Hidden Villa)

The Nazi takeover of the Hindu symbol of a “peaceful lifestyle” is complete.

When we see someone with a swastika tattoo or the symbol on their clothes, we do  not think they are peaceful symbols.

The letter writer does not see the difference between the mural at Washington High School (depicting the father of our country and his slaves) and the swastika.

The mural reflects history. The swastika is now a symbol of white supremacy, genocide and hate.

To those who find no problem with the display of the swastika, how do you reconcile the horror of a Holocaust survivor or of one of the soldiers buried at the Presidio who gave their lives fighting people who wore that symbol?

The insurrectionists at the Capitol on Jan. 6 who were Oath Keepers or Proud Boys with the swastika tattoos were not promoting a “peaceful lifestyle.”

What would you do if a neighbor, storefront or church openly displayed this symbol in your neighborhood? Sometimes you need to do the right thing.

Norman Weiss

‘Zionist’ Joe Biden?

President Biden publicly said all the right things on his trip to Israel and the Middle East (“Biden in Israel: Ties between Israelis and Americans are ‘bone deep,’” July 13 online).

He proclaimed himself a “Zionist.” Very nice words.

But if “Zionist Joe” really cared about Israel, why does he do everything possible to reinstitute the nuclear deal with Iran? Why is he trying to give this theocracy an approved pathway to nuclear weapons? Why is he enabling a regime that will use the billions in sanction relief to supply rockets to Hamas and Hezbollah?

If Joe Biden is such a devoted “Zionist,” why is he enticing a regime that vows to obliterate Zion itself?

Scott Abramson
San Mateo

J. Readers

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