A view of downtown Placerville, county seat of El Dorado County. (Photo/Wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)
A view of downtown Placerville, county seat of El Dorado County. (Photo/Wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

‘Erasing the truth’; broken hearts; Putin is sneaky; etc.

See my pain

All I ask is that you recognize my pain and loss. Is that so much to ask?

While I was waking up to the news of Hamas’ invasion of southern Israel and massacre of innocent civilians — families, children, women and elderly in their homes, teenagers and young adults at a musical festival — and the abduction of so many more, you were crafting statements meant to erase the truth as it was happening, and you believed the lies spun by Hamas supporters.

I am grieving — for my family, for my friends and colleagues, for their neighbors, for their children, for Israel, for all the innocent beautiful lives lost to evil, for the ignorance of people here who can equate the escalation of war with barbaric atrocities of innocent civilians and have no moral compass.

I am also grieving for Palestinian civilians — families, women, children, elderly suffering during this humanitarian crisis in Gaza, their lives in danger from the bombings, with nowhere to hide. I grieve for those innocent lives already lost in this escalating war.

But make no mistake. This conflict is different. It started with a massacre of my people. With acts of barbarism by a terrorist organization. This was not activism. This was not resistance. It is a lie, a fabrication, to call it anything but crimes against humanity.

I can recognize your pain and suffering, in this escalating war. Can you not recognize mine?

Rebecca Golbert | Berkeley

Executive Director, Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies

Hamas is barbaric, ‘pure evil’

There is a portion of the Yom Kippur service called Eleh Ezkerah. It recalls horrors visited on the Jewish people over millennia, from the Roman conquest of ancient Judaea and martyrdom of its rabbis, to the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust.

In the future, High Holiday liturgy also will recall the savagery we just witnessed in Israel.

Hamas’ invasion of the Jewish state and mass slaughter of Jews was less a terrorist attack than a czarist pogrom or Nazi massacre. The more than 1,000 Israelis slaughtered is the most Jewish civilians killed in a single day since the Holocaust. Hamas’ barbarity is beyond comprehension.

More than 260 young Israelis slaughtered at a desert music festival celebrating peace. At least 40 Israeli babies butchered at the Kfar Aza kibbutz. Reports of rapes. An estimated 200 Israelis and citizens of other countries, including Americans — men, women, children, babies, elderly people and entire families — kidnapped at gunpoint and abducted to Gaza as hostages and human shields.

Hamas has threatened to murder these prisoners of war, one by one, on camera. This is beyond humanity’s pale. They are genocidal monsters — pure evil.

Some will claim that this is a response to the failure of peace efforts. Not so. Israel has repeatedly offered the Palestinians a state; Palestinian leaders invariably rejected it and responded with terrorism.

Our broken hearts are with Israel, and all civilized people must stand with Israel.

Stephen A. Silver | San Francisco

Overcoming the helplessness

I understand the terrible feeling of helplessness (“‘I’ve never felt such helplessness’: Israelis living in Bay Area react to war back home,” Oct. 9, online). My children and grandchildren in Israel have decided to leave the bomb shelter and organize a large cooking operation, and are gathering English speakers who have no automatic way to help those fighting and in need of help.

They have closed their cooking school, Citrus & Salt, and pivoted to this. I am raising funds so they can do this. You can help at tinyurl.com/cs-donate23.

They are in Tel Aviv but sending meals everywhere, including to the elderly and Holocaust survivors. I am also praying for peace for all.

Rabbi Sara Shendelman | Berkeley

Drawing a line from Hamas to Iran to Putin

It is easy to call the bloodthirsty, diabolical, murderous, premeditated and unexpected invasion of Israel  by air, sea and land “inhuman.”

Yes, it is hard for the mind to grasp how human beings can lay ravage to a people, killing children, concertgoers at a peaceful music festival and the elderly; taking hostage or killing whole families; raping the women and killing their husbands or boyfriends; capturing innocents from their homes; randomly executing people in their cars or on their bicycles.

But it is human. It is far too human.

It is as human as the 11 Israeli athletes and officials that were murdered and kidnapped at the Munich Olympics in 1972. It is as human as Jews being forced to dig their graves and then being executed and pushed into them during the Holocaust. It is as human as the war crimes being perpetrated upon Ukraine by Putin, a man whose ruthlessness and hate equals Hitler.

There is no doubt in my mind that this terror takes place with the knowledge and encouragement of Putin. It deflects attention from Ukraine. Putin is an ardent supporter of Iran, which is the funding source for Hamas.

This bloodthirsty madness of Hamas is not about Palestinian statehood. All sides agree that this intransigent tragedy has to be solved. And there is plenty of blame to go around for the Palestinian plight.

Rather, this terror is the ultimate fundraising opportunity for Hamas. In my judgment, the money from Iran will be flowing after this.

The Hamas reason for being is to destroy Israel.

“Never again” is what Jews said with the creation of Israel. And today, Israelis say it again as the country faces survival. 

Bruce Farrell Rosen | San Francisco

Readers show up for farmworkers

On behalf of the FarmMitzvah Task Force at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, I want to thank J. readers throughout Northern California for generously responding to our ask of $15 Safeway gift cards to supplement farmworker meals — a request mentioned in Jamie Beckett’s opinion piece (“California’s farmworkers feed us. This Sukkot, let’s return the favor,” Sept. 18).

We knew that the article would help to raise awareness locally here on the Peninsula about the challenges faced by farmworkers just over the hill in Half Moon Bay.

What we did not expect was the generosity and handwritten letters from caring folks in Mill Valley, Novato, San Francisco and other cities even further from the coast.

Thank you to J. for printing the article, and thank you to everyone for responding so warmly.

If you still want to help, you can reach out to us, or go to this website that’s been set up to serve farmworkers on the coast: alasdreams.com.

Lauren John | Menlo Park

‘Infuriating screed’

I just finished reading Rabbi David Cooper’s infuriating screed against the “occupation” of Israel (“Telling harsh truths about the occupation is not antisemitic,” Oct. 2, online).

He tells us he first visited Jerusalem as a teenager — shortly after the Six-Day War in 1967.

I can’t begin to imagine what kind of Jewish mindset is required to look at the long-overdue reunification of Jerusalem (at the cost of many Israeli soldiers) and return of the Western Wall — then wonder “what happened to the people who lived there.”

Not one word in there about the 800,000 Jews from Arab countries who had to flee for their lives when Israel was established.

Instead, sadly, he is taken by the self-inflicted misery of the Palestinians, hoping to demonstrate he’s not like other Jews.

I take some solace in the fact that, as rabbi emeritus, he is presumably no longer in a position to poison others with his delusions about events in the Middle East.

Dan Levine | San Francisco

Golda Meir is a hero

I am writing in regards to SFSU professor Eran Kaplan’s piece on Golda Meir (“50 years later, one thing is clear: Golda Meir was a bad prime minister,” Oct. 5, online).

It is incredible how he attacks Meir’s leadership with sweeping, unsubstantiated statements.

For example, I know of no credible “later events” that prove Anwar Sadat was very serious in his intentions to engage with Israel.

In any event, Golda Meir remains a hero for her unwavering contributions to Israel.

She was far from perfect, but does not deserve this revisionist history labeling her a bad leader. Would it have been preferable for Israel to lose the war, or should they have been more aggressive? It can’t go both ways.

Reggie Griner | San Francisco

Fentanyl, Jews and you

I am grateful to Dan Pine for his article “The fentanyl crisis is taking the lives of young Jews” (Sept. 1).

Mr. Pine does not discuss the situation for those who are addicted to fentanyl. Not every Jewish user of fentanyl is an inadvertent user. Some are addicts. It is a horrible drug to be addicted to.

The experience of a fentanyl addict is different from the experience of a heroin addict.The high comes on faster and more intensely than heroin, and passes more quickly. This means that the sick feeling of withdrawal comes on faster, as well.

Every use is a crap-shoot for the user. They never know whether the dose will be too much for them — and it only needs to go wrong once.

I offer two takeaways.

  1. As many people as possible in the Jewish community should learn how to administer Narcan (naloxone) and should keep some where they can get to it. It is a lot easier to provide than giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The only real challenge is having the courage to act in an emergency.
  2. It is time for the Bay Area to step up and create an institution like Beit T’Shuvah here in Los Angeles.

Beit T’Shuvah is an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center for Jews. It has not solved the problem of addiction here, but it has provided a culturally sensitive place for Jews to seek treatment.

The lack of cultural sensitivity is one of the barriers that people experience in seeking treatment for addiction.

Their website is beittshuvah.org.

Henry Hollander | Los Angeles

Israeli court’s oversize clout

You publish many articles about the protests in Israel, and also about the protests surrounding Bibi’s visit to the Bay Area (“Hundreds protest ‘Crime Minister’ Netanyahu during his Bay Area trip,” Sept. 18).

It would be a great service to your readers to explain the following:

Israel’s Supreme Court hears over 10,000 cases per year. Unlike the U.S., it is not necessary to have standing to file a case with the Israel Supreme Court. Thus, this unelected body can and does influence all aspects of Israeli life. The court routinely overrides the democratically elected Knesset and the will of the people.

For reference, the U.S. Supreme Court hears between 50 and 100 cases per year and hands down an average of 75 decisions.

Most U.S. critics of Bibi have no idea about the 10,000 case number and the undemocratic nature of the court’s power.

Jody Gessow | Woodside

Not a Christian nation

I will be dan l’chaf zechut (give the benefit of doubt) to letter writer Ms. Julie Lutch (“Which religions get their own month?” Sept. 26) and assume she is legitimately confused as to why proclamations of Muslim, Hindu and Jewish heritage months are not the same as the American Christian Heritage Month recently proclaimed and then retracted in El Dorado County.

Specifically, I would encourage Ms. Lutch to read to the end of Sue Fishkoff’s article (“California county reverses course on controversial ‘American Christian Heritage Month’ proclamation,” Sept. 19).

It is there where Rabbi Evon Yakar explicitly explains the difference:

“ … Yakar added that the supervisors didn’t correct their fundamental error, which was promoting the idea of America as a Christian nation. … ‘This was not about celebrating one group’s heritage’ in the way of Pride Month or American Jewish Heritage Month, he told J. ‘This is about the clear use of language in the proclamation that our country was founded as a Christian country, and that is what we are celebrating.’

“Supervisor John Hidahl, who introduced the proclamation, said before the July vote … ‘This great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians. Not on religions but on a foundation of Christian principles and values.’”

The issue is not double standards. The issue is pushing false history to push a Christian nationalist cultural majoritarianism. No other religious heritage month makes a similar (and false) claim about America’s founding principles.

Andrew Nusbaum | Denver

A high court that ran amok

JCRC’s statement earlier this year regarding the Netanyahu government’s judicial reform legislation made some valid points but missed the forest for the trees.

“Joint Statement: On Israel, Leading with Shared Values” in February rightly criticized the proposed override clause which would allow a simple Knesset majority to nullify Supreme Court decisions.

However, its emphasis on the court’s role as a “constraint on the concentration of power” completely failed to recognize that it is the Supreme Court that has itself become an abusive “concentration of power” by extending its authority to include issues of policy as well as legality.

This newer formation, which began in the 1990s, resembles more the philosopher kings of Plato’s Republic than it does a judicial body.

Furthermore, the “reasonableness” criterion has made Supreme Court decisions both subjective and unpredictable, compounding the problems inherent in its inappropriate extension of authority.

As the rule of law should bring a sense of predictability to society, we should applaud the clause’s removal for strengthening the rule of law in Israel. The legislation’s lack of greater support simply reflects the sadly toxic nature of Israeli politics and should not be a basis for criticism.

Then there is concern about the possibility of greater political input in the selection of judges. Such a change, if it occurs, would no more violate the independence of the judiciary than does the “advice and consent” clause of our own Constitution.

Differences on these issues are within bounds.

Encouraging the local Jewish community to lobby Congress toward greater involvement in Israel’s internal affairs is not. This campaign violates not only the principles of democracy but also the very sovereignty of the State of Israel.

Hopefully this ill-considered idea will not become a precedent to haunt us all in years to come.

Steve Astrachan | Pleasant Hill

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