Sen. Dianne Feinstein walks to the Senate Chambers at the U.S. Capitol Building, Feb. 13, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Anna Moneymaker-Getty Images)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein walks to the Senate Chambers at the U.S. Capitol Building, Feb. 13, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Anna Moneymaker-Getty Images)

Emanu-El is open; Shame on drivel about Feinstein; Love for Sam Salkin; etc.

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Memories and more from J.

Congratulations on being named best Jewish newspaper (“J. wins 11 Jewish journalism awards, including best newspaper,” July 12).

Mazel tov!

As a subscriber for decades, I’m not surprised.

J. (and formerly the Jewish Bulletin) has kept me informed of local, national and international Jewish news for decades. The Aug. 18 issue was a treasure trove — and a stroll down Pleasant Memory Lane. The table of contents page had a photo of Rabbi Sally Priesand. My cousins, who were members of her congregation, took me to her Shabbat service.

When I sent their daughters the photo of Rabbi Priesand holding the Torah, I learned they donated that Torah mantle in their mother‘s memory.

Then I saw my doll … my Toni doll … with a wonderful column by Janet Silver Ghent about hers. Never had a Barbie, but bought them as gifts.

It triggered a wonderful memory: My bubbe, the amazing seamstress, made my Toni doll and me matching purple-felt poodle skirts!

Sure wish I still had them … or even a photo. I now have the vivid, photo-emblazoned memories … Thanks to the award-winning J.!

Susan RoAne

Sinai’s superstar, Sam Salkin

Thank you for your recent story on the retirement of Sam Salkin as CEO of Sinai Memorial Chapel (“Sam Salkin ends 14-year watch at Sinai Memorial Chapel,” Aug. 1).

I have had the pleasure of working for Sam both at the Jewish Community Federation and at Sinai. He is the very definition of the word “mensch.”

Salkin at Sinai Memorial Chapel in San Francisco, Aug. 1, 2023.(Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Sam Salkin at Sinai Memorial Chapel in San Francisco, Aug. 1, 2023.(Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

When a friend asked recently what Sam is like, I responded, “When God has to make a difficult decision, they ask Sam for advice.”

He will be missed.

Daniel Shiner
Mill Valley

Emanu-El is open!

We appreciate J.’s coverage of our exciting building revitalization project (“Emanu-El’s centennial face-lift is underway,” Aug. 18).

Ever mindful of the beauty of our historical edifice, rest assured that specific architectural features are being preserved and will be placed in new locations in the renovated building. Throughout the design phase, we’ve worked side-by-side with the city, with the shared desire of preserving as much of Arthur Brown’s original vision as possible.

Additionally, our architectural team has restored many San Francisco treasures, such as the Legion of Honor, and we’ve hired the area’s preeminent historical preservation architects to provide additional insight.

As the High Holidays approach, I want to assure J. readers that Congregation Emanu-El is open during this period.

Our magnificent and historic main sanctuary in San Francisco is fully operational for the duration of the renovation. For the High Holidays, we’ll have the same options for both early and late services as in years past, in the same awe-inspiring setting and with all the familiar melodies, moving songs and reverberating sounds of the shofar.

Joel Roos, Congregation Emanu-El
Chair, Master Plan Building Committee
Vice president, board of directors

How to define antisemitism

I want to thank all who took part in the panel discussion about antisemitism in our schools, and Superintendent Tony Thurmond for convening this conversation (“What should California do about antisemitism in schools? State schools chief hears from Jewish leaders,” online, Aug. 23).

A recording is now up on the California Department of Education website ( It includes the message: “Schools and districts are encouraged to consider livestreaming the event at their individual sites or to play the recording for their respective middle and high school students.”

As a number of speakers noted, while antisemitism has historically taken many forms, hostility toward Israel has been the driving force behind antisemitism in our generation.

I urge our local JCRC to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism. It is a powerful educational tool to share with faith partners and school boards. No other definition comes close to spelling out what counts as antisemitism as it relates to Israel.

Please, JCRC, convene your board, watch the CDE webinar, scrap the confusing Consensus Statement on Antisemitism ( on your website and replace it with the IHRA definition.

Teach your partners that this is the gold standard definition of antisemitism, which is used by the U.S. State Dept and more than 1,000 global entities. It does not deny anyone the right to criticize policies they do not like. As the definition states: “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

Sheree Roth
Palo Alto

Stay, Feinstein, stay!

Alas, Sen. Feinstein cannot step down now (“Why Dianne Feinstein should step down with dignity,” Aug. 10).

Democrats control the Senate by a very bare majority. The Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Sen. Feinstein sits, has the critical task of reviewing nominations of federal judges. When she was away from Washington earlier this year, the Republicans blocked a temporary (Democratic) replacement for her on the committee, and this work essentially came to a halt.

There is absolutely no guarantee that the Republicans would not successfully block a permanent replacement if she resigns. Since filling judicial vacancies is crucial to rebalancing the federal judiciary, this risk is alas too serious for Sen. Feinstein to take.

Marsha Cohen, San Francisco
Hon. Raymond L. Sullivan Professor of Law
Founding executive director, Lawyers for America
UC Hastings College of the Law

Shame on such drivel

Emily Tamkin’s opinion piece about Feinstein reveals embarrassing ignorance, all while insulting Feinstein (“Why Dianne Feinstein should step down with dignity,” Aug. 10).

First, Feinstein’s seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee enables seating liberal judges Democrats want and Republicans despise. Should she step down or die, that will be the end of Democrats seating judges, and for this reason, Senate Republicans have blocked Democrats from replacing Feinstein on the committee.

Second, getting liberal judges on the bench is part of Feinstein’s lifework.

Tamkin essentially says that Feinstein should throw away part of her legacy because of old age.

Shame on Tamkin for writing such drivel, and shame on J. and the Forward for giving her a soapbox to spout her nonsense.

Jon Simon
Castro Valley

Feinstein is a vital cog

Of course, Sen. Feinstein deserves many years of well-deserved retirement and the people of California deserve a senator who is capable of representing us knowledgeably and competently (“Why Dianne Feinstein should step down with dignity,” Aug. 10).

However, there is a fly in the ointment.

Sen. Feinstein sits on the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. That committee must approve all presidential judicial nominees before they can reach the Senate floor. That committee has a one-vote Democratic majority.

Arcane Senate rules determine that were Sen. Feinstein to retire, her seat on that committee does not pass to her replacement — nor can another Democratic senator fill her spot without a 60-vote Senate supermajority.

Will that happen? Not as long as Mitch McConnell is Senate Republican leader.

So Sen. Feinstein’s retirement would, in effect, prevent any of President Biden’s judicial nominees reaching the Senate floor for approval.

Alas, unlike the grandfather of Emily, Tamkin (the article’s author), Sen. Feinstein must maintain her Senate seat for another 16 months.

William Blank

Judicial tussle bad for Israel

I am writing to express my appreciation for Martin Wasserman’s insightful and thoughtful letter regarding the Israeli Supreme Court’s authority to nullify laws passed by a democratically elected government (“Left-wingers will ruin Israel,” Aug. 18).

Hopefully, before it is too late, it will become apparent to those protesters in Israel and abroad who are troubled by the actions of the Israeli government regarding this issue that the only way to try to resolve such a contentious matter would be to sit down together in a serious effort to reach a compromise.

The alternative may prove to be disastrous for Israel. May HaShem protect Israel.

Ab Cohen
San Carlos

J Street’s hollow slogans

J Street’s mantra of “Pro-Israel, pro-peace and pro-democracy” — presented in a letter by the organization’s Sacramento region co-chairs Sarah Pattison and Brian Landsberg — sounds holistic and attractive, but in reality it is just hollow (“Holy Land’s downward turn,” Letters, Aug.18)

Remarkably, J Street has been able to connect only with Democrats’ governments, in the U.S., and Democrats in Congress, and left-of-center governments, in Israel.

This fact by itself demonstrates a bias in its activities, which are focused mainly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As for the slogan itself, “pro-Israel” means sooner or later blaming Israel first for anything what happens in the Middle East in general, and in the conflict in particular.

“Pro-peace” means no Palestinians’ faults and remaining mum when the Palestinians reject Israeli peace offers.

And “pro-democracy” means simply supporting the anti-judicial reform protests without explaining why the unelected 15 justices of the Supreme Court should control decisions of the democratically elected Knesset and government.

Maybe it’s time for J Street to realize that, sloganeering aside, not all virtues are on the left, and it should take a more balanced view of Israeli life and fight for survival in the sea of hate and intolerance.

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo

J. Readers

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