Big crowd at a vigil for Pittsburgh shooting victims the day after the attack (Photo/Maya Mirsky)
A vigil at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos for victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Oct. 28, 2018 (Photo/Maya Mirsky)

Reactions to our ‘appalling’ Beth Am article; Kopp Lake has a nice ring to it; etc.

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Misuse of the word ‘misuse’

I am not a member of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, and do not know Rabbi Jeremy Morrison or, for that matter, any of the individuals mentioned in the article about their board’s decision not to renew his contract, and I certainly express no opinion about that board (“Beth Am suffers ‘moment of crisis’ after rabbi’s contract is not renewed,” Nov. 22).

But as a lawyer (and, incidentally, a past president of my own synagogue), I was struck by the remark, attributed to the synagogue’s president, that the letter sent to the members of that congregation and which complained of the process used to make that decision was a “misuse” of the synagogue’s directory.

California’s Corporations Code requires the synagogue to keep a record of its membership and the addresses of those members and, unless the corporation’s articles or bylaws provide otherwise, allows members to inspect and copy that information for any “purpose reasonably related to the member’s interest as a member” (Corporations Code §9511).

It is hard to imagine that drafting a letter to the membership expressing concern about the board’s decision to not renew the contract of the congregation’s spiritual leader would not be considered such a purpose.

Sandy Margolin

‘Appalling lack of discretion’

As a Beth Am congregant and J. subscriber, I was shocked that you would publish a two-page article dealing with a confidential personnel issue concerning Rabbi Jeremy Morrison (“Beth Am suffers ’moment of crisis’ after rabbi’s contract is not renewed,” Nov. 22).

It is not newsworthy; it disrespects the rabbi and embarrasses the congregation.

Your article represents an appalling lack of editorial discretion.

Marcyl Seidscher
San Mateo

Kopp Lake has nice ring to it

I have always loved Quentin Kopp and I always will, but sometimes friends may disagree. The good judge wrote in J.’s letters section that San Francisco’s supervisors have “more issues to address than the beautiful Stow Lake’s name” (“Stow Lake of no importance,” Nov. 21).

Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park is named for William W. Stow, a forgotten California politician, who according to Steve Miller, local historian and leader of the name-change movement, believes Mr. Stow was the most openly antisemitic politician in California history!

Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park (Photo/Flickr-Patrick G CC)
Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park (Photo/Flickr-Patrick G CC)

Among other gestures, as speaker of the California Assembly, Stow argued in favor of a tax on Jews to purge them from the state.

History has taught our long-suffering people that if we don’t take the little things seriously, it will be harder to correct the bigger things. Further, Miller says, “changing the name of the lake will send a message to everyone that we take antisemitism seriously.”

In that spirit, I am proud to offer the name of a real San Franciscan who has devoted his entire life to tikkun olam, improving the lives of his fellow citizens, a real mensch in every sense of the word, and a man most worthy of honor, remembrance and praise. May this great man live to enjoy beautiful Kopp Lake with his grandchildren, and may future generations know the name and deeds of Judge Quentin L. Kopp.

Henry Michalski
San Francisco

Jews on stamps

Paul Golin, the executive director of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, noted in his recent opinion piece that this Jewish year is a great one for Jews on stamps (“From Hanukkah to RBG, 5783 is shaping up to be a great year for Jewish stamp collectors,” Nov. 1).

I’m reminded of 1893, another great year for Jews on U.S. stamps, because several Conversos serving Ferdinand and Isabella were depicted in the 5-cent and $1 stamps of the Columbian Exposition Issues, the first-ever U.S. commemorative stamps.

The 5-cent stamp showing Columbus at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella was based on a painting by a Czech artist, Vaclav Brozik. The $1 stamp titled “Queen Isabella Pledging Her Jewels” was based on a painting by the French artist Degrain. The Conversos believed to be depicted include Gabriel, Luis and Rafael Sanchez,  who helped finance Columbus’ first voyage, while serving as royal treasury officials at the time.

These were the earliest depictions of a Jewish person on a U.S. postage stamp.

Jerry Garchik
San Francisco

Israel’s lousy election system

Letter writers Charles Rothschild et al made many excellent points in their critique of the incoming Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu (“Israel’s lean to far right requires us to speak up,” Nov. 21).

Their insistence that the government of Israel “stop acts of violence by settlers on Palestinians, as well as attacks by Palestinians on Jewish Israelis” was particularly compelling.

They erred, however, in failing to recognize that the outgoing left-of-center government under Prime Minister Yair Lapid had its own problematic issues. These  included membership of the Islamist Ra’am party and support from the far-left, communist-friendly Hadash party, some of whose Knesset members have recently spoken in favor of terrorist acts against Israeli civilians.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with Jewish leaders in New York, Sept. 21, 2022. (Photo/Avi Ohayon-Israel Government Press Office)
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with Jewish leaders in New York, Sept. 21, 2022. (Photo/Avi Ohayon-Israel Government Press Office)

Never mentioned is the inherent governmental instability represented by Israel’s having had four national elections in five years.

The underlying problem has always seemed to me to lie in Israel’s at-large parliamentary electoral system combined with a low, now 3.25%, requirement for Knesset membership.

Thus, parties which would otherwise be peripheral losers in a district election gain proportional representation on a national basis. This system, as we have seen, encourages extremes on all sides of the political spectrum.

We must understand that any change in Israel’s electoral system can only come from within the Israeli polity. Furthermore, serious change would require a Herculean effort given the vested interest of the smaller parties in the status quo.

Perhaps those of us who live outside of Israel can best help by trying to identify the problem without adding more fuel to the fire.

A word of caution for letter writers: Think long and hard before calling for any further involvement of “the United Nations and other international forums” given their deep hostility toward Israel that has been so well and consistently demonstrated for a very long time.

Steve Astrachan
Pleasant Hill

Are Jewish gatherings safe?

Initially, I was excited to see the extensive listing of Hanukkah celebrations scheduled all over the Bay Area (“Public menorah lightings and Hanukkah events around the Bay Area,” Nov. 23).

What a vibrant community we live in

But on second thought, I tensed up, contemplating the possibility of attack and trauma in a large crowd of Jews celebrating their heritage in public.

Is this what America has become?

I’ve read that more than 600 mass shootings have taken place in the U.S. this year, and not a week has passed without at least four mass shootings. I’m afraid. I’m afraid to be in a large group, especially a Jewish group, out in public knowing how antisemitism has been flourishing.

Fear, hiding one’s identity, avoiding gatherings. Isn’t that what happened in Nazi Germany? Are we, as Americans, already too far gone?

Roni Silverberg
San Francisco

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