(From left) Karaite Jews of America President David Ovadia, Ambassador Daniel Rubinstein, Maryellen Himell-Ovadia and Eli Eltachan, president of the Israeli Karaite community. (Photo/Courtesy KJA)
(From left) Karaite Jews of America President David Ovadia, Ambassador Daniel Rubinstein, Maryellen Himell-Ovadia and Eli Eltachan, president of the Israeli Karaite community. (Photo/Courtesy KJA)

A Karaite miracle; Synagogue security help; Israel perspectives; etc.

A small miracle

I am a secular Ashkenazi Jewish woman married to the president of the Karaite Jews of America, David Ovadia. I was never more proud of my Jewish identity than when I stood by his side last weekend as we dedicated KJA’s new Torah at our synagogue in Daly City. Andrew Esensten wrote a commendable article (“With unique new Torah scroll, Karaite Jews hope to inspire next generation,” Oct. 25) providing the broad outlines of the weekend’s events.

What most people don’t know is that a small miracle took place that weekend.

Like most mainstream American Jews, I knew nothing at all about the 1,000-year-old Karaite Jewish community in Egypt before I met David, who had fled from Cairo with his family in 1962 at age 12. But we were two branches of the multifaceted Jewish family tree, and with the Jewish world forever under threat, every branch must be preserved.

That conviction led me to stand by David’s side in 2018 as we celebrated the reopening of Congregation B’nai Israel, the only Karaite synagogue in the U.S., following his long efforts to renovate and expand it.

I stood by his side again in 2022 when we honored the Karaite Jewish Community of Cairo by opening the Garden of Remembrance at Basatin Cemetery, the second-oldest Jewish cemetery in the world after Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

And I stood by David’s side for last weekend’s Torah dedication weekend. It almost didn’t happen. Hamas invaded Israel, and Israel declared war. The Torah scroll had arrived from Israel, but Eli Eltachan, David’s counterpart in Israel, was unable to leave. Though a few community members questioned proceeding at this time of tragedy, Eli and his team in Israel, Maor Dabah and Avi Yefet, agreed we must proceed.

That’s when the small miracle happened: Eli, Maor and Avi somehow were able to book the last three seats on an El Al flight, arriving in San Francisco just days before the weekend’s festivities began. And Samy Ibrahim, our partner on the cemetery project in Egypt, overcame almost insurmountable obstacles of his own to fly from Cairo.

All felt that it was more important than ever to be together, despite the tragic circumstances unfolding in Israel and Gaza. And so, together, we dedicated the new Torah, learned from each other and prayed for peace

We mourned those lost, and together we looked to the future. That is what the Jewish people have always done, and it is what we must continue to do.

Maryellen Himell-Ovadia
San Rafael

Synagogues need security help

As the president of Temple Israel, a small congregation in Alameda with an understandably anxious and scared membership these days, I humbly ask any foundation officers or funders reading this to please consider adjusting your funding criteria to help pay for the hiring of security personnel — and not just the building of fences — for small congregations.

It is a job-creation opportunity and a way to counter anti-Jewish hate, in addition to protecting Jewish people.

Since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, my phone and email account have been overflowing with scared congregants demanding to see an armed guard at anything happening in our temple.

(Photo/JTA-Drew Angerer-Getty Images)
(Photo/JTA-Drew Angerer-Getty Images)

Yes, there are foundations that might cover the cost of security enhancements for buildings, but won’t provide funds to hire guards — which is not something a 100-family-member congregation can cover from dues alone.

Far too many foundations will fund Jewish organizations but not synagogues, leaving our affiliated communities vulnerable.

We need help!

If you are a funder, please consider reaching out to small synagogues to offer assistance and emergency grants. Since many small congregations like mine are almost entirely volunteer-run, they are likely too overwhelmed to reach out to you directly or review your website for funding guidelines. Thank you for understanding.

Kimberlee MacVicar

‘Antisemitic gaslighting’

Thank you for the article by Yehuda Kurtzer of the Shalom Hartman Institute (“The Hamas attack must be understood in terms of Jewish trauma,” Oct. 18, online).

I praise him for allowing Jews to feel anguish as part of a shared history of bloodshed and discrimination. He allows us our imperfect analogies to the Holocaust. Furthermore, our victimhood enables us to possess sensitivity and awareness without resorting to actual revenge.

Our instinct to interpret events based on a past history should not be disallowed by others.

It should be noted that there has been more news about atrocities that would be committed by Israel in a ground offensive than there has been about the years of violence and disregard for human life by Hamas.

Mr. Kurtzer calls this, aptly, “antisemitic gaslighting.”

Karen Levi
Potomac, Maryland

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 Oct. 7 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.

Protesters sit at a protest tent in Tel Aviv erected to draw attention to the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. (Photo/JTA-Eliyahu Freedman)
Protesters sit at a protest tent in Tel Aviv erected to draw attention to the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. (Photo/JTA-Eliyahu Freedman)

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

As a human being, as a Jew …

As a human being, I am heartbroken and devastated by the violence and horror unleashed by Hamas, a fundamentalist ideological group dedicated to the destruction of Israel with little to no interest in improving life for Palestinians in Gaza.

As a Jew, I am heartbroken and devastated by the violence and horror unleashed by the Israeli government in the many years of occupation and now the acts of revenge that do nothing to increase safety.

As an American, I am heartbroken and devastated that instead of Jews and Muslims and Arabs coming together in support of each other — in the face of the anti-Jewish/Muslim/Arab attacks of hatred in tweets and graffiti — too many local groups persist in bringing the religious sectarian violence to our Bay Area streets which forces division (‘Disgusting calls to violence’ against Israel surface in Bay Area graffiti,” Oct. 16, online).

We need actions and statements that support our common humanity. The situation cannot be resolved by violence here or there.

Caroline Lehman

Israel’s ‘genocide’ in Gaza

In the days since the Hamas attack on Israel, my grief for those killed has been multiplied by my horror over their deaths being used to justify retaliation against all Palestinians.

The last time Israel fought a major military campaign in Gaza, in 2014, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed over 50 days. At this writing, the reported death toll is already past 3,500 — a number sure to be outdated by the time this goes to print.

This is nothing less than genocide.

And any reporting that fails to mention the occupation — the fact that Gaza has been materially cut off from the world for 16 years under military blockade, that the far-right government in Israel has been escalating and inciting violence against Palestinians — is fundamentally misrepresenting the situation.

The Al-Abbas Mosque in Gaza City, Oct. 12, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Momen Faiz-NurPhoto-Getty Images)
The Al-Abbas Mosque in Gaza City, Oct. 12, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Momen Faiz-NurPhoto-Getty Images)

The violence did not start on Oct. 7. It started over 75 years ago, when the creation of the State of Israel forcibly evicted Palestinians from their homes.

“Context” is not a dirty word, and it is crucial that publications like J. not succumb to the right-wing propaganda that criticizing Israel is antisemitic.

I have appreciated J.’s coverage of the pro-democracy movement in Israel this past year — for providing insight into Israeli politics and showing that so many Jews in Israel and in the U.S. do not support the actions of the Netanyahu government.

I urge you now to not give in to the impulse to equate being Jewish with supporting the State of Israel.

It is not antisemitic to call for peace and justice.

In fact, it is from the depth of my Jewish faith that I hold all human life sacred, Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Mariyama Scott

‘The socialism of fools’

The mea culpa from Jewish progressives is no more than the chickens coming home to roost (“The Jewish left is grappling, sometimes painfully, with how to respond to Hamas’ attack,” Oct. 13, online).

The “socialism of fools” (antisemitism) that August Bebel warned of more than 100 years ago now pervades the left and has been purposely cultivated by Bakunin, Marx and any number of progressives today, including so-called moderates such as the Democratic Socialists of America.

Leftists promote ideology over facts, many intentionally.

As the chief rabbi of Moscow said: “It’s the Trotskys who make revolutions, and it’s the Bronsteins who pay the price.”

Yaakov Nurik

Two states? Not a chance.

Now is the time to recognize that there is no viable two-state solution.

It is no secret that Hamas wants to complete the work of the Nazis. The moderate Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas proclaimed that the Nazis were justified in killing Jews. These are the Palestinian leaders, those who control the education and media in the areas under their control.

If you think that Israel can allow a Palestinian state with an army to surround her borders, then you are either suffering from delusions or you don’t care about the survival of the Jewish state.

We have seen what the Palestinian state of Gaza is like, and the terror coming from Jenin and elsewhere in the West Bank.

Enough is enough.

Gil Stein

Identify proudly as a Jew

The article you posted from the Forward, “UC Davis prof tweets threat to Zionist journalists and their children” (Oct. 19), presents an astounding example of how far people think they can go when mainstream media present a “balanced” view of the recent Hamas massacre near Gaza. I wonder if Jemma Decristo, allegedly the offending professor, ever saw the horrific photos of the victims, or whether she thinks they were Photoshopped.

This is not merely a Jewish issue, and balance is not possible. If any justification or even “perspective” or “context” are able to explain why murder, mayhem and kidnapping are accepted, even celebrated by supporters, then humanity is doomed.

If there was ever a time to identify proudly as a Jew, it is now. In 1948, Israel offered the promise that Jews would have a refuge from the persecution inflicted on us for thousands of years. Diaspora Jews would betray that promise if they were cowed by those who are consumed by hate and proud of it.

Desmond Tuck
San Mateo

Our rights to our homeland

Torah portions read aloud in synagogue each week draw us to the stories of the Jewish people. I am always surprised that there are rabbis who read these stories to us, who know our history, and yet declare that we are “occupying” Palestinian land.

Since UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member state in 2011, it has approved resolutions denying a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount (Judaism’s holiest site) and put the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron (the burial place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah) on the World Heritage List as a “Palestinian” site.

Recently, UNESCO voted to designate Tel Jericho — where Jews fought to enter the land of Israel (1400 BCE), as described in the Book of Joshua — as a “World Heritage Site” in the “State of Palestine.”

Tel Jericho, also known as Tell es-sultan, in the West Bank. (Photo/Wikimedia-Fullo88 CC0)
Tel Jericho, also known as Tell es-sultan, in the West Bank. (Photo/Wikimedia-Fullo88 CC0)

In his oped, Rabbi David J. Cooper lamented that a Muslim neighborhood by the Kotel was demolished after the 1967 war (“Telling harsh truths about the occupation is not antisemitic,” Oct. 2).

Might he also have mentioned that during the 19 years of Jordanian rule, prior to 1967, a third of the Jewish Quarter’s buildings — all but one of the 35 Jewish houses of worship in the Old City — were demolished? Or the Jordanian destruction of the Mount of Olives?

Why aren’t our rabbis and Jewish leaders defending our history and asserting our rights to our ancient homeland?

Muslims are currently sovereign in 56 countries. Israel, the size of New Jersey, is all that we Jews have. Why are some rabbis so eager to give it away? It’s not as if we have anywhere else to go if our current situation with antisemitism becomes untenable.

Sheree Roth
Palo Alto

Author isn’t anti-Mormon

I grew up around members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We played baseball in the streets, had overnights, and shared our kid-views of our religions and practices (“Author James McBride’s anti-Mormon remarks contradict spirit of his new novel,” Sept. 28).

Today, I too have an admitted prejudice and unease with some of the practices.

When the practice of “baptizing” victims of the Shoah to “save” them and count them as members of the church became public, I was sickened.

To admit a dislike of policies and practices, to me, is not wrong. To self-identify one’s prejudices is, I think, more honest. It’s information. No one, to my knowledge, has ever died of information.

Barbara Fritz

J. Readers

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